Catalysis, Part V


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Scene Title Catalysis, Part V
Synopsis Twice is coincidence.
Date January 15, 2020

It’s been a merciful winter for snowfall so far. One big storm the week before Christmas and thanks to unseasonably warm days and a little rain, most of that has come and gone. What’s left are disgusting heaps of brown slush piled up off of walkways and on the sides of roads.

The air on a late Friday afternoon in January is bitter but damp, the air clinging with a wet cold that comes just after a rain shower. The ground is slick with a mixture of water and ice, making it perilous to be nearly anywhere without properly maintained sidewalks. In the less fortunate areas of the Safe Zone, that might as well be everywhere.

Thankfully, one porch in front of a very specific trailer is clear of all ice and snow. Standing under the small awning in front of the trailer door, Nova Leverett waits for a response but finds none coming. Perhaps, as she had suggested, Finch finally moved out of the park.

But, sometimes, people's lives don’t go the way they hoped.

Spring Creek Settler’s Park
Ferrymen’s Bay

January 15th
4:04 pm

When Eloise Finch was a little girl, her father instilled in her one lesson (among many) that she remembers today. It’s a simple phrase with cautionary truths rooted in paranoia: Once is happenstance, twice is coincidence, three times is enemy action.

It’s an Ian Flemming quote, admittedly, but one that Finch is reminded of seeing the familiar face of Nova Leverett loitering around the park for the second time in as many months.

It's seen through the small window on the side of her paint-streaked trailer, past the big heart of carefully cut sticky notes stuck against what passes for glass. Finch herself waffles, remembering the hope she'd had for moving last time they spoke.

But it's hard to convince someone to let you live somewhere when you basically live on a barter system sprinkled with charity.

Even still, shame was never particularly something Finch knew what to do with. And so, a moment later, she braces herself against the anticipated cold and soured memories both with the comfort of an old, knitted quilt she's already grabbed and slung across her shoulders when she opens the door, smiling wide. "Supernova! Hi! Ohhhmygosh it's cold."

Only then does she allow herself a crumpling of her eyebrows, in what looks to be both concern and sheepishness. "Whatcha doing here?"

Bouncing on her heels to keep herself warm, Nova looks like she might be just about to give up, running slightly away just as the door opens. Pivoting back, her smile blooms beneath the rosy cheeks and nose, pinkened by the frosty chill in the air.

“Hey! Scout Finch!” she says back, and then it’s her turn to look a little sheepish, her cheeks flushing a little more, glancing down at her boots and considering them for a thoughtful moment, before looking back up with a shy smile.

“So it’s my birthday and I’m 21 but literally everyone at school I hang out with already has plans,” Nova admits. “I didn’t tell anyone because, I mean, I’m not five. I don’t need a party, or anything, or cupcakes, but, you know. Not sitting in my dorm room would be cool, I guess, and buying a drink without having to use a fake ID?”

A silence washes over the space between them, Finch's brightness drained from her in one - two - three blinks of stunned speechlessness.

"Wait wait wait—" she stammers, staring at Nova as if she'd just spoken in another language entirely. "It's your birthday?" But Nova doesn't get time to answer. She's already enveloped in a hug of bright quilted squares. It's as tight as it is quick, because just a second later, Finch nearly trips over herself on her way back inside, shouting happily, "IT'S YOUR BIRTHDAY," as if it's the best thing she's heard this whole month.

She rushes into the small space, through a beaded curtain that glitters with shiny plastic stars as they're moved. "WE'RE CELEBRATING!" She calls back, landing herself on the edge of a fairy light lined bench as she shoves her feet into some boots. One foot, "WITH DRINKS!" Two feet! She stands up tall, beaming, yanking her yellow jacket from a hook on the wall. "THAT I'VE DEFINITELY HAD BEFORE!"

It’s lucky that there’s no ice on the steps to this trailer, or Nova would probably have slid under the hug hurled at her, and taken down the hurler in question. She hugs back just as Finch flits away again to grab her jacket. She giggles at the enthusiasm over her birthday, and shakes her head with admiration.

“You’re literally Buddy the Elf but like, in concentrated and cuter form,” she says, reaching up to push a strand of dark hair behind her ear. “Please tell me you don’t make spaghetti with Pop Tarts and maple syrup?”

Whatever Finch’s answer is, unless it’s that she does, Nova will be skeptical.

“I should have made plans earlier. And called you or something,” Nova realizes, a little belatedly, “but I didn’t think it was a big deal until suddenly I realized that turning 21 without acknowledging it is pretty sad, especially since I’m probably lucky to have lived this long, you know? Wait, are you old enough? I figured maybe but I think Roxie’s only 18. Shit. I mean, I don’t care if you’re not, but if not, we can just buy some at a liquor store instead of a bar or something.”

Nova doesn’t notice it, but she’s bleeding. A red smudge under her right nostril.

The questionable spaghetti recipe yields no answer beyond a laugh. "I'm older than you!" Finch answers with a thread of delight running through her words, throwing the quilt onto a pillow-strewn excuse for a bed. "My 21st was last year, I just—!" She reemerges, prepped and ready (give or take a shoelace) with her head held high and about fifteen different keys she pulls from a pocket to lock the door behind her.

"It was a weird year? One of my friends was…" A tree. "Maybe dead, we thought," she elects to say instead, sort of quietly, before immediately tacking more words on in an exaggerated sigh of relief, "She wasn't! But anyway, all of that happened and I'd only been in the city for, like, eight months, and I'd never really had a birthday party so I didn't really think to do ooooHNO!"

Having turned around, she freezes, clasping both her hands and the keys still in them to her face. "Did I punch you when I hugged you?" Her eyes lock onto Nova's face, remorse taking over her expression and voice both. "I'm so sorry."

“I think all years are weird, these days,” Nova says, with all the wisdom her 21 years bring to her. Her blue eyes widen at the mention of a maybe-dead friend, and she echoes that sigh, if a little less dramatically when the short version of the story is that the friend turned out to be okay.

“You never had a birthday par- what?”

Her eyes widen at the look on Finch’s face, and the two girls stare at one another frozen on the steps for that moment. “Punch me?” Nova echoes, before bringing her hands up to her face to feel what’s brought on the concern and apologies from her friend.

When they come away, her fingertips smeared with blood, she stares at it for a long moment, before tipping her head back to keep any from dripping on her coat. “Shit. No, Maybe it’s the cold weather.” There’s a hint of doubt in her voice, but she moves off the steps of the trailer, ready to plunge ahead with their lack-of-any plan.

But Finch's keys come down again in a jingle of the metal against their ring, and she wastes no time in unlocking and then pushing the poorly fitted door open to duck quickly back inside.

"Maybe the blood was bad!" She jokes aloud, over the sound of rummaging. "When I was little someone told me that! That, like, sometimes your blood's just kinda weird, and it's better to get out. Silly. Oh! Here!"

She rushes back out, throwing an unopened pack of tissues in Nova's direction with her smile gone wide again. "Catch!"

Nova emits a soft, uncertain laugh, more for the politeness factor than she thinks the little anecdote is an amusing one. It feels a little to close to the truth, maybe, with what the tests have revealed about the Sundered’s blood and brains.

That isn’t a word she’s uttered, herself — she didn’t have an ability to have stripped, just the genetic marker. She’s not Kaylee, so long at sea without her ability anchoring her, nor Daphne who is crippled without hers, nor Nicole who lost something even greater than a power to whatever happened to them.

She reaches up to catch the pack, but her gloved hands are shaking so it lands on the icy ground instead. Her chipper “Thanks” is not meant ironically in the least, and she kneels down to scoop the pack of tissues up.

“It’s not great blood, I’ll be honest with you, but I’d still like it to stay the fuck inside,” Nova says, her tone less bright than before.

That’s when it hits, the first wave of disorienting pain. Finch can see a reflexive look of discomfort wash over Nova followed by a sense of disorientation and confusion. The brunette’s legs buckle and she nearly collapses but somehow manages to right herself. At the same time, blood vessels in her right eye rupture, leaving the sclera a warning red color. Blood starts to track out of Nova’s right nostril, dripping like a leaky faucet to run down her mouth and chin.

The world fractures into tripartite vision, blurry and overlaid. There’s a jabbing, icepick sensation behind Nova’s right eye and a blossoming blind spot in the middle of her vision. But she can also, somehow, see herself as if standing in front of her own reflection. Blonde, smiling, scared.

Up becomes down and Nova collapses onto her hands and knees, dropping the pack of tissues. Her head swims, her right hand trembles uncontrollably, but the mirror image of herself is gone from her field of

“Hi! Sorry, you scared me,” is probably an unnecessary announcement from yellow parka to yellow puffer, and Nova rights herself back onto her heels. “A kitten,” she says, making a pouting face. “It’s muddy so it’s hard to see, but… there, do you see the eyes?”

And sure enough, two blue eyes can be seen staring back at the two women. “I almost had it but it’s clearly got a black belt in mew-kitt-su.” Nova shows her hand where the small cat has clearly scratched her, an angry red welt rising across the back of her hand.

There's a moment where Finch freezes, her eyes widening at Nova's plop backwards. But as soon as it's clear the other woman's okay, she brightens right back up, even if her eyebrows slant higher in apology.

Her hands slide up along the red straps that lead around her shoulders, hoisting up the backpack they lead to. "Oh my gosh," she whispers at the mention of a kitten, and immediately turns her eyes to look for it, slowly lowering herself onto a knee on the muddy ground. "Mew-kitt-su, oh my gosh."

"Does it belong to someone you know? I didn't see any, like, momcats around."

Nova is torn between knowing she needs to rescue the cat and also confused as to why she’s on her hands and knees. Her vision blurs. She isn’t sure what she hears. Sees.

The door to the trailer is not shut again, because as soon as her shock will let her, Finch rushes forward. Down snowslush-soaked steps, managing only a small sound of alarm while sweeping a panicked scan across the camp. Despite seeing no one within direct line of sight, she shouts with desperation clear on her voice, "Someone help!"

She sinks heavily down onto her own knees when she reaches her destination, lightly grabbing Nova's shoulders in order to try and steady her— or to help her up, or— anything. "Nova?" She asks, much more quietly but every ounce as urgent and scared at once. "What happened? What's happening?"

Staring at the blood that’s dripping from her face to the ground, Nova struggles to understand Finch’s words, to separate the Finch beside her and the Finch of her memory. “Friend.. Trailer…” she murmurs, broken lines from the next bit of dialogue from the memory.

She shakes her head, trying to clear it of everything but the now. “That happened,” she whispers to herself, quiet admonishment. One hand comes up to her face, pressing the palm hard against the temple, like it might stop the pain.

It doesn’t.

“Right pocket. Phone. Call 9-1-1. Call,” Nova struggles to remember the names of the others, the scientists, the SESA agents, the DOE agents. She shakes her head. She mentally reaches, grasps for a name of one of her fellow ‘Sundereds.’ Just two short syllables. Her mouth struggles to say them.


That’s not right. Her eyes close with frustration.

People in adjacent trailers step out into the January cold at the sound of Finch’s raised voice. Seeing Nova slouched over on the wet ground, many dip back into their homes while others reach for phones on hand but don’t do anything immediately. A couple of neighbors Finch knows better come running over, concerned.

“Eloise?” One asks, a woman in her mid to late sixties named Patricia—though she insists everyone call her Patty. She’s genuine as a sunny day, her concern evident. “What’s the matter love? Is your friend ok?”

Patty’s husband John comes ambling over next, a little slow without his cane. He looks down at Nova on the ground, then around to see no one else coming to help. “Oh don’t call 9-1-1. They’ll just send an ambulance and your poor friend here will be out ten grand. We can take her to the hospital.”

“Don’t be stupid John,” Patty says with a slap at her husband’s arm. Neither of them are terribly helpful in the crisis, though both mean well.

Nova can’t really hear or see either well as a rushing sound fills her ears, a throbbing noise, like the sound of her own veins beating to the jackhammer pace of her heart. The triple-vision she’s experiencing starts to condense back down into one, but the headache only worsens when it does. Her hands tremble, the pain drives deep behind her eye, and she feels herself starting to black out.

As if she can either help or answer but not both at once, Finch's open mouth yields no words while she frantically looks Nova over and then quickly leans to get her hand in the aforementioned right pocket, past visible distress and dripping blood. Only then does she manage to speak, rattling off, "I think she's— a seizure? What does a seizure look like? Nova, what about the kitten? Fate? Can you look at me?"

Retrieving the phone, she does as she's told, dialing 9-1-1 with shaky hands while pleading, "Patty! I don't know what to do! We have to help, I'll pay," somehow, "I don't know what…" The phone is raised to her ear, her other hand remaining on Nova's shoulder, fingers dug deep into fabric, "Hello? Please help, my friend is— she's all wrong, she's bleeding and she fell down and, and— Spring Creek Settler's Park."

Nova’s hand at her temple curls into a list, nails ripping into the hair there and digging into her own palms as she tries to focus, to hold on to her consciousness, to think.

She can’t hear over the sound of her blood thrumming to argue with the neighbors or to answer the question Finch asks. “Is-” it sounds like ice not Isaac, even in her own skull, faint as it is, washed over by loudness of pain and pulse. The second syllable breaks in a sharp gasp that doesn’t sound like any word or even a part of a word.

The hand at her temple falling limply as the other arm, the one holding herself up, collapses, and with it, Nova down to the bloody, icy ground.

Finch’s heart beats rapidly, blood rushes to her ears, as she watches Nova collapse only one though keeps hammering through her mind:

The flood is already happening, it is too late for the raindrops to vote.

Blood running out of Nova’s nose, her convulsions. The voice on the other end of the phone is a muffled roar.

Finch's flesh boils, erupts in molten pustules like hot pizza in an oven. A reflexive scream erupts from her throat, while at the same time the soft tissue in Lashirah's body begins to break down. Collagen turns to water, causing skin to dislodge from muscle and bone, causes joints to fail, causes her to fold into a seething heap of ruptured entropy. Finch paws at her face, reaches out helplessly for Isis and Yi-Min.

Finch fumbles the phone, it falls from her hand and hits the sidewalk. Terror grips her in the throes of traumatic memories.

Was this now?

Was it too late?

Only time would tell.

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