In Somnis Veritas, Part II


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In Shadows:

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Scene Title In Somnis Veritas, Part II
Synopsis The journey into the realm of subconsciousness to stop the Nightmare Man continues.
Date February 19, 2010

The Nightmare Man's Dreamscape

"And during the few moments that we have left, we want to talk, right down to earth, in a language that everybody here can easily understand."

The voice of Malcom X playing over a radio is the first sound Catherine Chesterfield hears as her eyes flutter open, a dull aching sensation running through her body. She's laid out on a couch, staring up at a ceiling as the sounds of an electric guitar blast out of a stereo speaker right near her head.

Look in my eyes, what do you see?

The guitar riff is a familiar one, but the setting is not. An old model picture-tube television sits on a wooden bench flanked by a pair of windows that let sunlight in to a cluttered, but comfortable looking living room. When her blurry eyes focus, she can see a familiar young blonde curled up in the recliner nearby, it looks like Helena managed to wind up with her wherever this is.

The Cult of Personality!

Cat's mouth in dry, and she can feel the tightness in her throat as the noise of the song playing on the radio pounds between her ears. Everything's blurry still, and she's having not only a hard time focusing her eyes, but also focusing on much of anything else, as if she were drunk or sick. It's an odd feeling of lacking equilibrium that is slowly— gradually— fading.

I know your anger, I know your dreams!

Kaylee Anne Thatcher wakes up somewhere else entirely, behind the couch and in the ajoining kitchen, face down on the table with a bowl of cereal in front of her. The music's slamming drum beats and screaming guitar is what startles her awake and nearly causes her heart to leap out of her chest. She can barely make out Cat's brunette head poking up from the back of the couch, and Helena just now rising to wakedness on the recliner.

I've been everything you wanna be! Oh!

In the tiny and cramped kitchen, a young blonde woman in her twenties is dancing around in her socks and a pair of cutoff jean shorts, her bright pink tanktop decked out with neon green writing on the back that displays the words In Living Color. There's a pan on the old stove, the sizzling sound of something cooking— bacon. She turns around, blonde hair thrashing in front of her face as she skids across the kitchen floor towards the refrigerator, opening the door and pulling out a carton of milk, her lips flashing along to the lyrics of the song.

I'm the Cult of Personality, Like Mussolini and Kennedy!

She pours a little bit into a bowl, then starts cracking eggs on the side of the counter, one by one adding the pair into the bowl iwht the milk and applying a whisk. The sound of that stereo blasting is absoutely deafening, she's going to go completely deaf listening to it. Bobbing her head up and down, the blonde draws her hair back into a ponytail and pulls a fuzzy scrunchy off of her wrist, tying her hair back from her face as she continues ot dance to the song.

I'm the Cult of Personality, the Cult of Personality, the Cult of Personality!

In the living room, the television is on, showing a few people running across a track field. There's a flash of an Olympic logo on the screen, and then aerial shots of the city of Barcelona, Spain. It's really the first thing that seems clear in Cat's head, because this apartment and its dancing blonde resident don't look familiar to her at all. But outside the windows that sun is filtering through, she does recognize the skyline of the city of Boston Massachusetts.

Neon lights, Nobel Prize!

Kaylee's situated at the table, watching the blonde dance around, singing into the whisk like it were a microphone. She can't be much older than Kaylee is right now, and there's something about her that just seems strangely familiar, like Deja Vu in that haunting familiarity, much like the whole apartment. It's only when there's motion on the periphery, when a tiny little five or six year old blonde girl comes walking down the stairs that it hits Kaylee, this tantalizing confusion starts coming into focus.

When a mirror speaks, the reflection lies!

The woman in the kitchen looks familiar, because it's Kaylee's mother.

You won't have to follow me!

And that little girl…

Only you can set me free!

Is Kaylee.

"1992," Cat remarks after the blurriness fades, having taken a look around. "It's summer, in Boston, and I feel like shit. This must be some form of Hell," she muses, "since I'm in Harvard's city." A brief shiver is permitted, then with being uncertain she can be heard the stereo controls are looked for. So she can maybe reduce the volume.

Time is also spent looking over at Helena, then Kaylee, finally mother and walking child.

Try as she might she cannot summon Cameron; this leaves Helena feeling quite perturbed. The weather starts to reflect it to, a faint rumble of thunder. "I think I was…three? Math is hard." Helena remarks, frowning as she looks around. "We've been separated from the others. We're going to need to find them. If we're seperated, he can pick us off."

Head lifting slowly off the table, a soft groan from her lips, since well… falling asleep with your head on a table tends to result in sore necks. Pushing long blonde hair out of her face, Kaylee blinks blearily at the woman dancing around the kitchen. When her vision focuses, blue eyes widen some.

Of all the things.. and all the people to wake up too " Or is it really waking? " seeing your mother as you barely remember her, bopping around the kitchen is not one of them. The young telepath can only watch her mom with an amused look, as little by little she remembers how much her mom loved that band.

Of course, the tiny figure beyond her mom, makes Kaylee's smile fall. Then she looks around her, brows furrowing in confusion… she… didn't remember an apartment. Her head turns towards the window and there is a sharp intake of air as she stands, chair scraping on the linoleum. A hand presses to cool glass. "I… I don't remember this." Her voice hardly a whisper, her cheek pressing against the glass as if trying to see more of the skyline. "Where…?" We're not in Kentucky, Dorothy!

So caught up in the images, she hasn't noticed the other two in the apartment until they speak up. Twisting around to look in the living room, she blinks again as she sees the two woman… one of which the last she saw was when she stood by the side of a certain centuries old British man.

Cat finds the stereo, across the living room in a bookshelf by the door, an old Kenwood thing and it's pretty clearly a tape deck playing the song. When she manages to get up off of the couch, Cat notices that the peal of thunder from Helena's subconscious atmokinesis didn't draw a reaction from either the giggling toddler or the oblivious mother. Maybe she didn't hear it, maybe she did and just didn't consider a thunderstorm in the middle of summer to be all that odd. But it's when she turns, whisk set down and crouches to talk to her daughter that she sould have seen both Helena and Cat, and doesn't seem to have in the slightest.

Halfway to the stereo, Cat's halted in her progress by the apartment door swinging open and someone coming rushing in from the hall. A hand reaches out, pressing stop with a click on the tape deck, and it's practically that very motion that makes Cat's heart stop cold in her chest. "Karen." The voice is like nails on a chalkboard from the memories it elicits. "Karen, I need you to get Kaylee and pack your bags." Pushing into the apartment, a man in his late twenties or early thirties shouldn't look so remarkable, his receeding brown hair and glasses shouldn't be something strange. The way he slams his briefcase down on the kitchen table shouldn't cause such an astonished reaction from onlookers — and for wholly different reasons.

"Ray, what the hell is going on?" Karen takes a step forward, eyes wide, "what— what on earth are you doing here?" She oves in front of her daughter, and the spectacled man takes a step forward to Karen Thatcher and rests a hand on her shoulder, squeezing once firmly.

"I need you to leave Massachusettes right onw, you have to be out of the city by five this afternoon." The demand makes Karen stare with a gaping quality, head shaking from side to side slowly. "I'm sorry— Karen— I'm so sorry but I just— I can't explain right now." Flipping open his briefcase, Ray pulls out a white envelope and offers it out to the blonde. "Take this, take our daughter, and go to New York."

She swats the envelope out of his hand, knocking it to the floor. "What the fuck is going on?" She demands, blue eyes wide and furious. "You just— You can just keep jumping into her life like this and— " Tears well up in her eyes, "For God's sake Ray wh— " she's almost on the verge of breaking down in the kitchen in front of her daughter, "For fuck's sake Ray!" The shout causes little Kaylee to come to a halt, immediately beginning to noisily cry.

"Please you have to listen to me just get out of the State. Go to New York, start over, make sure Kaylee gets into a good school." Ray crouches down, picking up the envelope again before holding it out towards her. "You won't ever have to see me again, I promise."

Kaylee recognizes his voice, recognizes it from the day Midtown exploded, when he so desperately wanted to see her to tell her something.

Helena and Cat recognize him too.

Because he's Edward Ray.

"That's better," Cat remarks when the tape is stopped and she can make herself heard without shouting. "And of course, he would be here, since this is Boston." It was a surprise which gave her a jolt, but she's recovering. Next she eyes the telepath, asking with raised brows "This man is your father? Or is the entity trying to make you believe he is?"

She eyes the predictor dubiously. "Go away, you bore me, Ed."

Helena's mouth does the hangdrop thing as she stares at the dream figures. "Well. I." Wow, she's genuinely flabbergasted. "Huh." she says, and looks over at Cat and the actual Kaylee. "I'm, um…not sure what we need to do here. Aside from find the others. And feel sorry for Kaylee's paternity."

Maybe it's the odd look on Kaylee's face that answers that question, shock and surprise. Even as they figures in the room talk, the young telepath moves around people getting a good look at the man. "Oh.. my… Oh my god. It's him." She looks at the tiny version of herself. "I.. why don't I remember this?"

A glance goes to Cat. "I have a photo.. Just one picture of my dad.. Ray. Mom never.. really talked about him too much." her look turns to confusion as she looks between the two adults, backing away from them until the table stops her when it bumps into her, goosing her. A hand drops to the table.

"This just… isn't right. He.. was a lawyer in New York… Refused to acknowledge me.. Until… Until right before Midtown." There is a flash of anger in her eyes as she stares at the man who is her father. How often as a child she had stared at that one hidden photo.

"That is my father." She confirms angrily, but then she frowns again. "But.. when I was around this age.." She glances at the widow again, twisting her body to look. "I was in Kentucky? The tornadoes." Her eyes go a bit distant as she scours her mind for the memory…

"This isn't right." Eyes turn back to the scene. Then that confused look again. "Is it?"

"Ray you're a son of a bitch! Where the hell do you get off telling me to do anything after you just bailed on us!?" Karen comes to take several steps forward, hands balled at her sides into fists. "Get the hell out of our house, get the hell out of my daughter's life! You never wanted her why the hell— why— " Tears stream down Karen's cheeks as she winds up and smacks Edward across the face, sending the younger man staggering back. He holds his cheek, jaw working open and closed as blue eyes angle back towards the somewhat younger woman.

"Karen… Please, you have got to get Kaylee out of this city. She's going to— " he cuts himself off, a hopeless and equally helpless look crossing his face. "Karen please, I know I hurt you but I didn't have a choice, I have to— I had to do what is best for her. That much elicits Karen taking a step forward, picking up the briefcase and slamming it into Edward and sending him staggering back against the apartment door.

"You son of a bitch don't you dare try to tell me what's best for my daughter!" All the while, Kaylee's just watching them argue, crying in the kitchen while her mother and the man she doesn't even really recognize as her father shout at each other. "You are a bastard Ray, you are a heartless bastard and you can't just buy us out of your life! Where'd you even get that money from!? Did you steal it!?"

Ray's blue eyes stare up widely at Karen, tears in his own eyes not from the pain of being hit with the briefcase. "I— No I did not steal it. It's— " saying he won it at the horse races would be a bad idea, "it's from my avings. Just— God, Karen please listen to me. If you don't get Kaylee out of here she's going to hurt someone."

A look of abject confusion and disbelief comes from Karen as she stares at Edward after what he said. Her brows twitch and her mouth opens, but words just don't come. "Yy— " the first sound is a croak of emotion and shock, "Get the fuck out of my house!" And that's when Karen punches Edward square in the mouth, sending him down to the floor. "Don't you ever talk about my daughter again! Don't you ever! Don't you even so much as talk about her! Don't come near us, don't call us!" She's grabbing for the door, opening it out into the hall and sending Edward tumbling into the carpeted corridor. "I don't want you near my daughter ever again!" Her voice rings off of the walls, her scream cracking at the end.

Edward scrambles ot his feet, one hand out to try and shield his face when she throws the briefcase at him. The envelope lays on the floor behind her, money having spilled out of it, a stack of hundred dollar bills fanned out on the floor. He looks like he wants to apologize, to say he's sorry or to explain. But he just can't. Instead, he crawls up to his feet, eyes glassy as he takes a step back and away from the hall, before Karen slams the door on him and turns her back, slouching against the door and breaking into a sob.

"A lawyer in New York? No, he wasn't that," Cat assures as she watches the battle and the ejection. "His name is Doctor Edward Ray, a science professor at MIT. Helena and I know him, he helped us with a critical problem. Months later, he came back. Twice. One version of him came from 2019, and the real one escaped from Company hands. They were both at Pinehearst, on the roof. Old Ed tried to empower everyone in Fort Lee, young Ed stopped him. Both appeared to have died, but the bodies went missing."

"So no, Kaylee, this isn't right. Remember, the entity's purpose is to confuse, disorient. Manipulate." Cat raises her voice, and calls out clearly "Lame show, man, really. I suppose you'll claim this is all to do us a service? Please." She yawns.

Moments later she's solemn, seeming a bit subdued, as a piece of information to pass along surfaces in memories. "I met with Mother just a few days before she was murdered," Cat shares, "and she told me the Company had troubles with it years before Hokuto did. She said the psychological profile they had done indicated it's something of a child throwing a tantrum."

Helena considers their options. "I think we're wasting time even interacting with this." She sounds tense. "We need to focus on trying to find the others; clearly this is just a distraction. Maybe I can do something with the weather that others can see in the dreamscape - Kaylee, you're a telepath, you've got the best chance of any of us to break through this. See if you can push the illusion off or away or get rid of it."

Okay.. now she needs to sit down.

Kaylee grasps blindly behind her, till fingers find a chair. Pulling it out she drops into it heavily. Staring at the door and her mother on the ground. Then slowly almost hesitating, the blonde telepath swallows and turns to look at the tiny version of herself. She studies the little girl. "Why.. don't I remember this?" There is a helpless hitch to her voice.

She looks at the others in confusion. "Why… would the Nightmare Man show me this?" It makes no sense to her, brows twitching down as she looks at the tiny blonde again.

Her head shakes looking at Cat, she surges to her feet and points at the door where Ray when. "That… Cat.. that is my dad." She gives the woman a look. "Don't you think I wouldn't /know my father if I saw him? I have a picture of the bas…." Her voice trails off.. What she just saw was not a man being a total bastard. A confused look going to the door.

It takes a moment for Helena's words to penetrate he skull and she glances at Helena. Stares at her for a moment as if she has two heads. Turning to look at her mother on the floor and then the tiny girl. "Um…." It's hard for her to think for a moment.. It's like trying to tell someone their not wearing any clothes after you've been told your whole family died in a car crash.

The gives a little shake of her head as she tries to think straight. "Right.. Um… " She frowns a bit. "I've only ever attacked the whatever it is head on… How the hell am I going to try and dispell this?" Kaylee frowns a bit. "Weather?" She gives Helena a look. "When I was six there were tornado's that tore our place a….part." A glance goes to the room… "Know what… nevermind."

Closing her eyes, Kaylee's head tilts a bit, that tell tale way they know too well. "I'll try…" Kaylee murmurs, pressing her ability to try and find something anything that she can. She tries to push at the illusion, tear it apart… something!

Surprisingly, this mental construct — whatever it's intention was — is surprisingly fragile, like it was all very delicately placed together like a house of cards, and Kaylee's mental push sends tham all collapsing. The world around Helena, Cat and Kaylee vanishes like so much colored smoke, everything blurs and distorts and wafts away like reality was dust caught on the wind. Whatever else would have transpired in that apartment, whatever deep and repressed memory Kaylee was reliving fades away into nothingness, replaced by a strange and yet also familiar sound, the noise of a heart-rate monitor beeping in the utter blackness Kaylee had banished herself and the others to.

"She's not doing very well, I'm afraid. Her condition is known as Libman-Sacks endocarditis, it's a form of Lupus— a disease that attacks the muscle fibers of the heart specifically…"

As the dark fades away, it is to the diffuse gray lighting of a hospital during a cloudy, wet day. Rain patters on large glass windows, and Kaylee, Catherine and Helena fade back into reality seated in chairs around a hospital bed, upon which lays a tired looking Asian woman of indiscernable age, perhaps somewhere in her mid forties. At the side of her bed, Hokuto Ichihara sits with her hands holding one of the older woman's, while a severe looking Japanese man in a black suit stands behind her chair, his beard neatly trimmed into a goatee, dark hair swept back.

"Li's immune system ot attacking the tissue of her heart, and… this late in the disease, especially after the furthered complications of the stroke, there may not be much we're going to be abel to do for her." Opposite of Hokuto and her father, a doctor stands at Li Ichihara's bedside, looking over a chart in his hands. "We're going to put her ona treatment for the Lupus, but… the damage has largely already been done."

Both daughter and father seem to greive in their own ways. Where Hokuto looks to wear her heart on her sleeve, showing the emotion in her eyes and the tears welled up in them, her father shows it only in his abject silence and stoicism. In a way, he's very much like how Mason was to Catherine, always silent and rocky on the exterior when he was hurting.

At least they've changed the scenery, but they still haven't found everyone else.

"I didn't say he wasn't your father, Kaylee," Cat reminds, "only that he wasn't a lawyer in Midtown. And I told you his name. Edward Ray, of MIT. Probability manipulator." Having said that, she lets it ride to watch as Kaylee dispels the apartment and the hospital room forms in its place. "Perhaps the same thing applies here," she mutters, as concentration is applied. Cat's panther appears, pacing at her feet and snarling, then approaches a wall as if to claw through it. The beast seems less patient than before, more feral. Perhaps even vengeful.

Cat herself, meanwhile, seeks to pick up and read the patient chart to see if it really says what the doctor claims it does.
"Well done, Kaylee." New scene? Helena closes her eyes and pulls, and with a pop, the lanky form of her heart-brother appears. "'Bout time." Cameron snorts, rolling a small ball of flame casually in his hand. "New scenario, huh?" He peers at the woman on the bed, and as if he heard the earlier diagnosis concludes, "It's always lupus."

"Stop being helpful." Helena tells him wryly, but considering where they are, can't help but walk over to Hokuto and wave a hand in front of her face. "Hokuto? Can you hear us?"

Eyes open slowly, there is almost a sadness to them as Kaylee glances around, there was so much she wanted to know. If what she saw was true…. everything her mother told her was a lie. It left the blonde telepath with so many damn questions, eyes close again briefly, before finally looking around the new room, with a sigh.

"Well…." Kaylee starts, brows lifting a bit as she says with a little bit of a lift to her voice. "We're out of there at least." No persona forms for Kaylee…. nothing ever has. Though she does eye both curiously.

The patient chart is full of backwards letter and numbers, nonsensical symbols and shapes that do not in any way make up words. It's just a cluster of jibberish, but that may not entirely be anyone's fault, more so than whatever unstable dreaming reality this is. While Cat is busy viewing the records, Helena seems to be trying to get through the Hokuto. Behind them both, the scratching at the walls does leave marks from the Panther's sharp claws, as sheet rock is wont to do under pressure. But it's Helena's inquiry to Hokuto that does eventually elicit a look of recognition from the brunette.

Her dark eyes lift up to look at Helena, and for a moment there's a mixture of confusion, pain and disbelief on her face before her irises slowly turn a yellow-gold coloration, and that confused look in her eyes changes to furrowed brows and frustration. The scene around them grinds to a halt, as if time itself had stopped. "You're more persistant than I'd expected…" Gold eyes turn to view Kaylee, narrow, and then settle back on Helena again.

"You shouldn't be here," the Shadow comments as it leans back slowly in the chair, hands folding and brows tensing. "You don't understand the irreparable damage you're doing to Hokuto by insisting on humoring her ridiculous crusade. She's only injuring herself like she's done time and again to no measurable point."

Motioning with her nose, the Shadow directs attention to the wall where the panther was scratching, and the white wall soon ripples and distorts, revealing an alvoce with a tall wood-framed mirror of black featureless glass. "There, it's a door out. Return to your own minds and leave us be… you've already won, whatever it is you think you wanted to accomplish it's done, just like before. Now go before you do any more harm…"

The Nightmare Man seems decidedly less… aggressive now.

"We aren't leaving," Cat replies, not even looking at the offered way out. "We're going to find the others who came through with us, and bring this all to an end. We don't fear you. And we certainly don't buy any of this crap you keep trying to feed us about doing damage while you perform a service." Her vocal tone is sharper than it had been, a hallmark of how she's been less patient than before over the past few days. "If you don't like being fought, tough shit. That's the consequences of having picked this fight by makng people kill themselves."

The panther, having clawed at the walls which shift into alcove and dark mirror, paces a bit restlessly, evidence of a strong desire to sink claws into Sasha Koslow over and over again.

Helena takes a few quick steps back at the revelation of the Nightmare Man, but when he speaks, she pauses, chews her lip. "No." she decides. "There's so many of us in this space, even if we can't get to each other, that we're making you weak. The less of us there are, the more powerful you become and - " she takes a breath, and it's Cameron who finishes for her, " - And we know just how much Hokuto wants to see you gone, and what she'll sacrifice to do it." He turns his head and offers Kaylee a smile. "Hey, Blondie. Can you do that trick where you make him take a hike again?"

As the demeanor of Hokuto changes, Kaylee's eyes narrow at the thing in the woman's body. Her head tilts a bit as she studies the Nightmare Man, almost as if considering something. Then she turns towards the mirror, her head tilts slowly as she moves towards it but she doesn't touch it or go through it, but she studies it. "No… " She finally says stepping away from it ad turning back to Hokuto. "I " don't think so."

"Not till we find the others. Want to help us with that?" She asks with a small smirk, "Or do I keep shredding realities?" Kaylee's brow lifts as if awaiting the answer.

"To what end?" The Shadow asks of Cat, crossing one leg over the other and folding her hands in her lap. "A satisfactory one? Pushing this issue any further is not going to bring that about, I assure you." Her golden eyes narrow, glancing down at the panther persona, then back up to the brunette.

"I never made anyone do anything, except when I was acting in self defense. You've killed people in self defense before, Catherine, I wouldn't be one to judge me for that. Teodoro and Aaron were all very unfortunate casualties of this, and while I am heartened to see Johnathan having survived his encounter with that errant bus, he should know when to fold his cards."

"You people just come barging in here, not understanding for a moment the gravity of the situation unfolding before you. Hokuto is fine, she will recover, and I am once again forced to receed away from this miserable world of sick minds while plenty of more people refuse to admit to their own faults and grow emotionally diseased."

There's a sense of pride, somehow, in there. "I never made anyone kill themselves, and if it weren't for the sickening and cruel people that you seem to trust, like John Logan, my power would never have had that… unexpected influence of the body. Logan and your precious dragon Doctor Cong are the ones who put Refrain on the streets. And little miss Thatcher here helped her beloved Adam Monroe steal Refrain from that laboratory in New Jersey so that he could sell it."

The Shadow offers a look back to Cat, one dark brow raised slowly. "So before you climb atop your moral high horse and begin pretending to know what is going on here, know that I admit defeat, and I surrender. Leave," she motions to the black mirror, "and you will not see me again. Stay and I will defend what is mine." Those gold eyes move to Kaylee, brows rise, "I will defend myself if threatened, like any strong person would."

She turns to one side, facing Helena, then to the other and Kaylee. "Doesn't sound much like surrender," she murmurs, "sounds more like delusions, trying to convince itself of doing good. If this entity's attacks are a service, making people strong, well, we're providing the same by helping them find the strength to cast it out. It seems odd that way."

"Fact remains, despite things done to let this thing out of its cage, it still made choices to enter dreams against the will of the dreamers and torture them. It can claim it's beaten all it wants, just sounds like lies to me."

"You call us sick, when you're the one casting judgement. You're a bald-faced liar is what you are," Helena says, "Because I remember you twisting my Shadow against me. No. We're not going anywhere. You are the one who's going to leave." She looks to the others. "If there's a way to keep pushing him away, maybe I can create some sort of signal that will guide the others. Like a lightning storm, or a twister. Or maybe you can try reaching out to them all Kaylee, and Cat and I will protect you. I have a feeling we're keeping him at bay now, but get us properly together, and he's done."


"I call bullshit…. whoever….. you are." Kaylee waves a hand at individual before her. "I don't believe you'll go away. I think you'll lay low." She takes a barefooted step towards Hokuto. "Then return when you think we have forgotten."

"And I am very well aware of my part in helping Adam getting Refrain on the street. And I regret it everyday.. More so now that my friends are involved with it." Her jaw works slightly as she stares at the Nightmare Man. "Trust me.. I'm paying for it." She hisses those words, fiercely.

She suddenly throws an arm across the space between them in an angry gesture, loose ringlets swinging against her cheek, her ability pushing away this image as well. Her voice raising as she asks, "Where are the others, dream manipulator?" She growls, "I will shred each one of these dreams until we find them." Glancing back at Helena, Kaylee slowly backs up her white dress shifting around her legs, until she stands behind them, putting them between her and Hokuto.

"I'm trusting you guys to have my back."

Then the telepath closes her eyes,chin lifting as she casts her mind out searching for everyone, she'll push through every new dream if she has too.

Golden eyes narrow, and the Shadow of Hokuto Ichihara breathes in a deep, vestigial breath and exhales a tired and impatient sigh. "I was defending myself, from the aggressor." But then her pale hands come up the moment Kaylee's mind begins to reach out, fingers spread and brows lowered, dark hair hanging in her face as shemakes a submissive motion. "No!" The Shadow yelps, "N— Not here. There is no need for violence, not in this place, not where you can do the most harm to her." The Shadow casts a look over to the black mirror, lifting a hand and spreading her fingers. The black mirror that Helena, Catherine and so many others had entered this fractured dreamscape through clears. Like smoke blowing away from the surface of water, revealing the image of a spiraling concrete stairwell and rusted metal girders beyond it, and the vista of a burning city skyline.

"If through the looking glass is where you wish to go, then allow me to take you to it…" Her hand lowers, golden eyes fearful if not for a moment. "Go, if you wish to put this to its final end. Go and do what Angela and the others refused to do last time…" there's a scowl on the shadow's face, gold eyes narrowed. "But I will not let you kill me, not without a fight."

The creature dissipates into a wisp of smoke and black thready shadows, vanishing from the chair along with the images of Mr.Ichihara and Hokuto's mother and the doctor, leaving the room empty save for Helena, Cat, Kaylee and their two Persona. Beyond that mirror, there is a brief flash of Corbin running across the field of view, hastily climbing the concrete steps, followed by Meredith, and a red blur of someone moving at superhuman speed.

Kaylee, through the mirror, can feel their minds, see them ascending that strange tower, the one they'd seen from a distance in Hokuto's library that night she disappeared from the dreams, the night the hall of mirrors turned into the tower's lobby.

"Looks a little like a strand of DNA," Cat muses as she eyes the mirror. "See you on the other side." Untroubled with taking the lead, she watches the panther hop through the mirror, then follows. Soon both woman and persona are climbing stairs with confident steps.

"Cat, we should form up around Kaylee. Give her openings when we need them but otherwise, we shouldn't let anything get between us and her." And since Cat went first, she'll wait for Kaylee and move alongside, letting Cam watch the rear. "Y'know Hel," he says casually as he steps back, twin spheres of flame in his hands, "This is the Dreamworld. You can do anything that's in your purview that you think you can do. And haven't you always wanted to have a bit of a spark?"

Helena stares at her Avatar for a moment, and then turning her hands outward, concentrates and gives them a shake. Crackles of lightning form an aura around her hands, and for a moment, she can't help but react like anyone her age. "Sweet!" she declares, and full of vim and vigor, takes off after the others, Cameron grinning like the cat who ate the canary coming in from behind.

A small smirk touches her lips and her chin lowers again eyes opening in time to watch the room change. "Well… seems whoever it is.. depends on Hokuto I think and actually.. cares." Her head tilts a bit, then she gives a little shake, turning towards this new opening. She approaches it with caution, even as Cat steps through it. "Good.." She murmurs. There is a pause and Kaylee turns to look behind her again, as if expecting something.

Her expression falls into a sad one, eyes casting down for a moment. So many questions…. Turning back to the stairs, Kaylee moves to follow Cat, letting Helena take up the rear. This wasn't the place for answers…. there was something much more important to do then the revelation presented her tonight. Thought Helena's school girl glee does break that moment of saddness and Kaylee can't help but grin. "Live it up.. cause hopefully we'll never have to do this stuff again."

This place they've strong-armed their way into is a crumbling wasteland of apocalyptic proportions. All of them had seen it once before, by now, sometimes out of a window in another nightmare, sometimes far off on the horizon. This place, this tower is a nightmarish construction of rusted metal scaffolding and I-beams interwoeven with the detritus of the end of the world for insulation; charred bodies, smashed cars, broken pieces of concrete and rebar, all packed tightly between the metal framework that surrounds the spine of the tower like a shell.

These concrete stairs are old looking, weathered and wornm spiraling up a central concrete shaft that runs thorugh the middle of the tower a seemingly infinite distance up and down. They are directly above where they entered the black mirror, but below them all they can see are rolling black clouds that flash with atomic fire within, the fiery black clouds that blanketed the skies in Hokuto's nightmarish vision of the day the bomb happened.

Somewhere at the top of this tower, at the end of this infinite ascension, lies the answer that they have been seeking since the Nightmare Man first emerged into their dreams. Who is he?

At the top of this tower, in the deepest layers of whatever subconscious mind this is…

…they will find the answer.

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