In Somnis Veritas, Part III


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In Shadows:

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Scene Title In Somnis Veritas, Part III
Synopsis A journey through the Nightmare Man's subconscious reveals memories of the past from Hokuto's dream walkers on their way to their final confrontation…
Date February 19, 2010

Nightmare Man's Dreamscape

Are these times contagious?

The soft acoustic guitar echoes through a void of blackness and light-headed disoritation. A breathy voice singing a solemn song about the past, even as eyes slowly open to the blurry image of a white painted ceiling and a motionless fan. Breathing feels hard, and as Doctor Bao-Wei Cong sucks in his firts breath, his chest aches as though a great weight were sitting upon it. His blurry eyes feel like they are wet, like he'd woken up from sleep in tears, but there's no semblance of a sorrowful emotion in him.

I've never been this bored before

The music is clearer as they awaken, and Alex — the unified form of Mortimer and Jack — first opens his eyes curled up on the carpeted floor of the apartment, cheek pressed against the blue-gray fabric, the noise of the soft song lingering in his ears, head rather close to the stereo speaker. He can see Bao-Wei asleep on a sofa nearby, even as he tries to work the dryness out of his throat. It feels like waking up from a coma.

Is this the prize I've waited for?

Laid back in a leather recliner, John Logan's fingers curl against the supple material beneath his palms at the armrests, a tingling sensation in one of his legs as he rouses from sleep in a place of haunting familiarity. Under the music, a song he recalls from not far enough ago to be painless, John can hear the sounds of muted cheering and clapping. When his eyes adjust to the dim light of the apartment, he can see the television is one, showing a home video footage of a football — soccer for the heathen Americans he has to deal with these days — match. There's a proud woman cheering on the recording, the woman holding the camera. At the bottom of the screen, the time and date stamp of the recording says Oct 12, 1996.

Now as the hours passing

The only real unfamiliar face here is Angelina Jackman, someone only the gestalt of Mortimer and Jack are even aware of in more than passing familiarity from before everyone entered the mirror. Her awakening comes at a breakfast nook near that living room everyone else is awakening in, a large window at her side showing the rainy streets of London from a brownstone flat on a quiet street. As she lifts her head from her arms, she can feel a wetness on her cheeks, a dampness in her eyes, an inexplicable sensation of having been crying but not feeling sad in the least.

There's nothing left here to mature

Situated directly in front of the television, is another — different — Johnathan Logan. This one looks several years younger, his hair longer and swept back from his face, eyes reddened and puffy, jaw set stern and one leg propped up and in a cast where he sits in a wheelchair. In front of him, he can hear the voice of his mother screaming happily on the recording, "Go on Johnny boy! Go on! Come on Johnny boy!" She was so proud of him back then, and when the camera zooms in, that pride is focused on a blonde young man of sixteen with moppish blonde hair in a powder blue jersey with a unicorn on the back, the name Logan written across the shoulders.

I long to find a messenger

From the sofa, Bao-Wei can see the television now that his vision is clear, see the crippled and younger John watching moments of glory on the television, watching the young blonde boy kicking a soccer ball across the field, charging ahead of other children, trying to win the game all on his own and make a name for himself, to do the one thing that made him happy. The older Logan seems to have not lost the sadness in his eyes that his crippled counterpart bears.

Have I got a long way to run…

The rain patters down on the apartment's windows, and the music from that stereo keeps filling the apartment, a distant and lonely song, accompanying the memory of triumph unrealized.

Have I got a long way to run…

This isn't what they'd expected to be inside the Nightmare Man.

Yeah, I run…

Angelina frowns a little as she wakes up, not only in an unfamiliar place, but in a /house/. This isn't right. Where's her abandoned warehouse?! She wipes at her cheeks, then looks at the moisture on her fingers, before she glances out the window, studying the foreign city for a moment. She slowly rises from the nook, to begin exploring, and her first destination seems to be the living room. She moves slowly, and as quietly as she can, not calling out as most would.

Home probably shouldn't have echoes of a nightmare, but the past usually does.

The recliner creaks a little, Logan shifting his weight like he might get up, until familiarity sets in on him like gravitational force and he only sits and stares. First at the figure in a wheelchair, then past him, towards the grainy image on the cheap TV screen, hand going up to curl against his own chest in an absent and nervous gesture as if to try and quell the old familiarity of crushing disappointment and anger. This feels like Hokuto, this, all of it, and so it's at first for her that he casts a dilutely pale gaze around the room like a cornered animal looking for an escape route.

What he sees are strangers. Not all strangers, one he knows better in dreaming, another he can recognise, and one he knows not at all. All— fucking— strangers in his home, and colour rises on his cheeks as he flows to his feet with a start. The demand to get out! is on the tip of his tongue and plainly in the set of his shoulders, but the words never leave him. They came here to do something, didn't they?

Alex slowly sits up, rubbing his silvery eyes, straightening the white buttoned up dress shirt that hangs over his neatly fitting blue jeans. "Our head hurts, combining like this can be a bit of a pain." he groans slightly as the pain slowly starts to drift away. It's still rather jarring, something they've only practiced a few times. He coughs lightly and shakily stands, heading over for the couch so he can sit on the arm and stare down at Bao-Wei. "Nineteen-ninety-six. Deep Blue defeats Garry Kasparov in chess for the first time, Carl Sagan dies, and the final episode of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles airs Interesting year for us. Now, everyone wake up so we can find Hokuto." He still has a dual voice, and that odd mixture of both personalities.

Bao-Wei is the first one to wake, sitting there on a stranger's sofa; he is the last one to move or say anything, however, first taking stock of the one person that he does not recognize creeping past, before looking over to the television and catching Logan as he springs animatedly out of where he was idling. A look of mild interest comes over the doctor at that, as if he was waiting for John to continue. And he does not, leaving the older man sitting on the seat to observe only.

When Alex perches beside him on the arm of the furniture, Cong glances up past the edges of his glasses, eyebrows still bent in critical thought. The only thing that he can devise so far, is that perhaps the Nightmare Man is resorting to low blows- because the young John Logan is obviously upset, leaking it onto the rest of them. Finally, Bao-Wei does lift a hand to bring the cuff of his shirt across his features, hardly realizing what was supposedly on his face until it is already rubbed away.

"This is certainly not what I was expecting."

Angelina glances over Mortimer, but she knows him, so her gaze doesn't linger long. Logan and Bao-Wei get longer looks, complete with frowns, and she stops where she's at, well out of reach of all three men. Then she focuses on Bao-Wei, saying in a flat tone, "You're lucky. I had no idea /what/ to expect."

When Logan moves up from the chair, and has that momentary notion of get out, there is a noisy creak in the apartment, as if the brownstone building was obeying his will and something broke from the thought. It's clear that his crippled and wheelchair bound self is wholly unaware of the events transpiring around him, sitting down with his hands cupped over ihs mouth, watching the football game play out on the screen. This place feels unstable, like a floor with too many loose boards, because there's no stereo in the apartment for the music to be coming from, just the speakers that are attached to the television, that seem to be sending out this tune over the airwaves.

The video ends, with a raucous cheering from the mother on the other end of the camera, and the screen turns blue, with a green indicator at the corner that says STOP. Beneath Angelina's feet, the floorboards of the apartment under the carpet creak, a more literal realization of the fragility of this dream, perhaps echoed in the fragility in the younger Johnathan Logan's eyes. There's a tragic uncertainty in the way he just keeps staring at the television, even as the wills of everyone around seem to continue to batter against this illusion of the mind and window into the past.

But it becomes evidently clear, as Bao-Wei, Angelina and Mortimer talk, that this reality isn't under their control— or perhaps anyone's control— when the world floods to a momentary blackness, but the music keeps playing in the dark, just as it had before. There's a distant sound, in this darkness, of glass cracking under pressure; the creaking snap of splitting panes of glass, accompanying a larger crack before reality tries tob lur itself back into another configuration without seeming to have any sense of continuity.

Is there a cure among us?

Disappointment shows in wet streaks across the face of a tired woman sitting at a small kitchen table by a window, her thin hands holding back her hair from her face, eyes reddened and puffy, tears dribbling off of her chin at the end of their journey. Her eyes are distant, focused on a less physically present problem. "She got into another fight again, Stephen." Her voice hitches as she speaks, nose snuffling as one of her hands moves from her hair, wiping her nose on the back of her hand.

From all this processed sanity

A tired looking man steps into view thorugh the kitchen door, walking in quiet and uneasy steps towards his wife to lay a reassuring hand on her shoulder. She sweeps messy hair back from her face again, lips tightly pressed together to keep them from trembling. Her eyes move to stare out the window to the foggy New York streets beyond the front of their condo, drizzling rain dripping down the windows in rivulets. "She's going to get expelled, she's— Christ, where did we go wrong?"

I weaken with each voice that sings

Stephen squeezes his hand on her shoulder a bit more firmly. "She's not taking her meds," and the explanation makes his brown eyes go distant, unaware of the slender form slinking behind him from a stairwell towards the back door of the condo. "Marie," his voice attains a tightness to it, "she just— she just needs help." Disappointment in his voice is so clear, but the pain is also evident, that this hurts.

In this world of purchase

Awakening to this memory like another slice of reality, Angelina finds the kitchen familiar. She finds the whole condo familiar, right down to her mother and father sitting at the kitchen table, and her mother crying again. The expulsion notice sitting on the table and the warning about her daughter's continued violent tendencies weren't something she'd ever seen. But here, in this moment, she knows the day in 1998 this is, when a fifteen year old girl runs away from the family that was trying to help her.

I'm going to buy back memories

Seated around a larger dining room table adjacent to the kitchen, Alex, Bao-Wei and Logan awaken side by side, as if sitting out for an arranged dinner, three places set at the table with empty plates and no one to occupy them save for the dreamwalkers. They can hear the muffled conversations from the kitchen, hear the saddened sounds of a moruning mother, but only Angelina can hear the back door opening, as she catches a glimpse of her younger self making the biggest mistake of her life with a backpack over one shoulder, and a door slamming on the last few normal moments of her youth.

To awaken some old qualities

"This is my fault," Marie breathes out, her fingers braced at her temples and head down, "she got this from me, she— God, Stephen, all I wanted was my baby to be happy." Her voice cracks at the end of that difficult sentence, and a woman who has secretly suffered fromd epression all her life slouches forward, forehead resting on the heels of her palms, unaware of the darkly dressed young girl running through the back yard to her freedom, and to a violent life on the streets that will nearly claim her life.

Have I got a long way to run…

Somehow, this hurts a little more than the beatings did.

Have I got a long way to run…


This is spoken at a whispered sigh, Logan's hands laying flat again the dinner table upon 'waking', and he casts a glance towards the kitchen. Relief has him shutting eyes for all of two seconds, and upon their opening, he's managed a tremulous smile to broadcast at the other two men at the table. They're dryer, too, lacking the pathetic glaze of unshed tears, but only just. "'s a bit like Russian roulette, innit?" he says, quietly, beneath the muffled sounds from the kitchen. "If you find the gun at your head, just will it away."

"We're starting to think that none of us have had a very good life." Alex says with his arms crossed, sitting back to listen to the muffled voices. His head shakes, and he stares down at a plate with a look of deep thought. "We have to wonder if this Nightmare Man will show our past. One half of us doesn't care, the other just wants to find Hokuto. But who knows what this Nightmare Man has in store."

"I would say more like fixing a die."

Bao-Wei answers Logan when the other man chirps his piece, eyes narrowing somewhat suspiciously at the other room where the voices are coming from. Then, his gaze draws over towards where Angelina is standing. He feels a swelling sense of morbid nervousness in his chest soon after, coming to also realize that this is neither roulette nor tossing a die, but methodical yanks of a slot machine, for one dreamer after another, putting together something that the nightmares know that will strike harder. All he can really do is listen to his surroundings and inspect them as they occur.

Angelina looks down at the floorboards, taking a step back, wary of things moving and making noise for no reason. When it goes dark there's a mutter of, "NOW what?" She goes perfectly quiet, perfectly still as she sees the two figures, and seems to have forgotten that the other three exist. She certainly doesn't seem to hear them. She glances towards the younger version of her, and she looks pained, before looking back to her parents. "No…/No/," she says, shaking her head and taking a step back. "I don't want to see this again. I won't share this with them," she says to herself, her hands curling into fists. Then she yells, to her parents maybe, or maybe to no one in particular, "STOP IT!"

Angelina's piercing scream comes with the sudden orange-white glow of the walls near her parents. Mottled splotches of dark orange and brown swirl across the surface, followed by wisps of smoke, before the walls of the apartment detonate in a fiery explosion that floods the kitchen. FLesh is peeled away from bones, skin turns parchment thin and blows away from char-blackened skeletons, and as the flames come surging into the dining room, the entire condominium shudders from a violent earthquake.

Have I got a long way…

When the flames come rolling away, peeling back seemingly harmlessly to the dreamers from Angelina's fit of fear and rage, they are no longer sitting in a kitchen, sitting in a girl's memories. They're on the stairs in a dark basement. It is a damp one, leaky pipes and a noisy boiler making the distant sounds of someone whimpering somewhat hard to hear. There's only two light sources down here, one of them a single lightbulb swinging back and forth on a chain, glowing a warm gold and casting dark shadows across the old brick walls. The other comes from the basement doorway, where a broad-shouldered and large figure casts a long shadow across the basement floor, to a single chair situated below the swinging lightbulb. A man is bound to the chair, with a black cloth bag duct-taped over his head, hands cuffed behidn the back of the chair, legs duct'taped to the chair.

Have I got a long way…

One dark-haired Chinese man stands behind the bound man, short and wiry, face weathered with lines deeply wrought into old flesh. Chang Ye never looked like a young man, not ever in the years that Bao-Wei Cong ever knew him. "«Doctor, it's good to finally meet you…»" even the first day they met, he looked like a tired old man, and that tiredness and sadness in his eyes remained as a constant through his life, growing heavier and deeper with each year. Somehow in dreams, the separation of languages is non-existant, and Mandarin seems to be as intelligible as English.

Have I got a long way…

"«I was hoping you would show us some of your medical expertise on this gentleman,»" Chang's brows rise, and one wrinkled hand motions to the man with the bag on his head, as Bao-Wei's large frame come sstepping down into the basement, a doctor's bag in one hand, and an armed member of the Flying Dragons walking behind him, curiously inspecting the large doctor's back. "«Consider this, a test.»"

Have I got a long way…

Logan, Mortimer, and Angelina are on the stairs, watching the two Triad members and a considerably younger Bao-Wei Cong moving into the basement. The old boards creak under their feet still. But the Bao-Wei they know— the one who belongs to their side of the dreaming and reality divide — is standing behind Chang Ye, on the far end of the basement, faced with his younger self and his initiation into the Triad, the single largest turning point in his life.

…to run.

Logan's pale hands perch like spiders upon the stairwell railing, as if steadying himself from the sudden shift in space and time. Bright eyes dance towards Angelina, a look up and down as if it say, you broke first, but he's not quite heartened by this enough to smirk. His attention goes down towards the basement, and that's when mirth breaks, a dry sounding chuckle that winds all the way down towards the good doctor's ears. "I knew I knew you. Flying fucking Dragons." Jesus, that's—

Really obvious in hindsight. "How are we meant to find anything if he keeps switching it? And can someone turn off that fucking song?" the Brit mutters.

"Maybe he's asleep and hears it playing next to his head." Alex theorizes, sitting on the stairs to watch as the initiation proceeds. "A part of us finds this exciting, another part of us is slightly horrified. But we both expected something along the lines from Mister Cong."

It is not the worst of memories. In that, he has been spared somewhat.

"It took you long enough, John Logan." The older Bao-Wei's response is rather tightly wound, as his eyes are on Chang Ye- who had frankly grown to be as close to a brother as it could have gotten. Though there is a sudden mote of sadness in his own face, Cong is not so much distraught as he is suddenly wistful. But, as told to him by himself, many times over the course of this- the past is past. He can still hold fondness for it, but dwelling on it is what otherwise drew him into these nightmares. And the Refrain, of course.

"Doctor." A prim correction to Alex. And a sigh through his nose to the dank room itself, eyes on his younger self- this was so many years ago, and it is bizarre to look at himself from nearly thirty years ago. He's getting old, huh? "I do not regret it, if that is what you're getting at." He speaks to the walls, rather than any one figure in the darkness.

Angelina goes wide-eyed when she sees the first hints of the explosion, and she shakes her head again, but what's done is done. Time isn't part of her ability, just making things go BOOM! Her eyes squeeze shut when the explosion actually occurs, and remain that way as the scene changes, and until Chang speaks. Then she frowns in confusion as her eyes open, before she looks to the other two with her. "What the hell is going on, and who do I have to blow up to get it to stop?" she asks, voice cold, hard. Because really, she hasn't had THAT much experience with the Nightmare Man.

Have I got a long way…

Bao-Wei's younger self sets down the doctor's bag ona bench near the chair, and Chang takes a step around the man in the chair. "«He is in dire need of an extraction of infectious information…»" Chang's lips downturn into a frowm at the comment, slapping a hand on the bound man's shoulder. "«It is inside of him, coiling and burning behind his eyes, secrets that need to be extracted before they make him more infirm, Doctor. I fear our patient may be a terminal case,»" For being in his late forties, Chang simply seems so much older, the weight of his age crushing down on him. "«but we'll do whatever is necessary, won't we, Doctor?»"

Have I got a long way…

The display doesn't seem to be stopping, like the others, the lack of a mind wishing it to come to an end causes the show to linger, the projector to keep running, and the song to keep playing out. When the younger Dr.Cong moves to his doctor's bag and opens it, a white cloth bundle is carefully taken out and laid down, rolled open to reveal a collection of pristine surgical tools. A muffled yelp of fear continues to come from the man bound to the chair.

Have I got a long way…

"«I am pleased to see I do not long for disappointment.»" Chang notes in a humble tone of voice, stepping away from the bound main in the chair, moving to Bao-Wei's side as he angles a dark look over towards the soon to be victim. "«Ask him what he knows about Hao Tse-Tsan…»" There is a tightness in the corners of Chang's eyes, and the name resonates years down the line to Bao-Wei. Tse-Tsan was a man that had suspected to have an affair with Chang's wife before the birth of their children. It never was true, interrogation proved it, but Chang was like a man possessed until he had discovered the truth.

…to run.

Thirty years seems like an eternity ago.

"Not yet," Logan says, a vague handwave at Angelina as if she were talking through a good movie, distracted as he listens to Chang's words floating up on the edges of their hearing. "It's just getting interesting." Especially because for all the heart strings the Nightmare Man fumbled around for when it came to the miserable childhoods of at least two of them— he squints through the darkness at the present day form of Cong Bao-Wei, watching him as much as the Nightmare Man is probably observing them in turn.

Alex is watching for a while, though he starts to phase out as Logan's voice rings in his ears, two fractured memories coming together like the missing pieces of a puzzle. The memory is seemless, and he peers at Logan. Something suspicious about that man, that man and a stripper. "Now we're both impressed and disgusted at what seems to be coming." he comments on the dream again, putting Logan to the back of his mind.

Knowing that the man knew little or nothing is one thing; and also knowing that this is a memory is another. Even if he wanted to, doing something to stop the scene from running it's course would do nothing tangible. It serves no practical purpose to waste such energy. As Logan watches him from afar, Bao-Wei meets the other man's gaze with a steely one of his own. One might call it icy, in a way, but iciness promotes carelessness, and that is inaccurate.

Lack of caring what the others see, however, is more than existent, and the doctor is still uncertain as to what the snippet intends to prove to him. Could be this, could be that, could be nothing but showing that Bao-Wei is not, nor really ever was, any sort of 'hero', and that his neutrality took him into shaky, evil places.

Angelina gives Logan a not so friendly look. Quite the opposite in fact. "Gee, then why don't we just sit here with our thumbs up our asses and wait to see what gets thrown at us next," she says, sarcasm dripping from every word.

Yeah, I run…

The tools are taken out from the bag, shiny and silver and sterile, beginning with a pair of scissors within is used to cut away the prisoner's button down shirt from his chest, revealing the tatoo of a pouncing tiger spread across his chest, the old green ink rather faded, hair on the man's chest gray, belieing his age. Chang's brows furrow in consideration as he watches, and the delicate balance of this display continues without the forceful shove to shatter it like the others.

Yeah, I run…

Placing the scissors down on the tray, Bao-Wei picks up a scalpel in one hand, and a pair of pliers in the other and begins to move over to crouch at the side of the chair. Chang's brows furrow, head leans back, and it is with a steady hand that Bao-Wei applies the pliers to the man's chest, pinching a piece of flesh tight in it and pulling it out, distended away fromt he body as sagging skin is wont to do.

I run…

It's clear where this is going, and beneath the feet of the dreamers they can feel how fragile this prison of the past is, how little control the Nightmare Man seems to actually have on this region of consciousness, and the longer they stay here the more obvious it becomes. But for the moment, it seems to be lingering as they do, and without a big bad wolf to come blow this house of cards down, the memory keeps playing like a broken old film reel.

"If you want to go in swinging at something that you clearly don't understand," Logan says, now looking at her and letting his English drawl do all the sarcasming for him, "then you can be my guest, love. It's getting," and his attention catches on the gruesome display in front of them, "interesting. You can feel it, can't you?" Now, he restlessly starts moving down the stairs, sliding his lanky frame around Angelina and Alex, Italian leather shoes making cautious creaks down the steps.

Trailing his fingers down the wall, too. "You'll want to think quick," he says, over his shoulder, pale eyes catching Alex's. His lip curls in a sneer. "Both of you will, that is. It's you that's next."

"There's nothing we can do." Alex says with his arms crossed, watching Logan with now suspicious stares whenever he has to address the man. "It's entirely unpredictable what will happen with us. The memories are clearer when we're this way, but we have about seven years of hallucinations that could pop up."

When Bao-Wei finally decides to do something about it, he can already feel the brittle build of the place around him. It is his, after all. He acts not because the scene has bothered him, but because he is getting tired of waiting for something else to come along.

"I think we are done here." His sheer irritation rumbles its echo through this particular bit of underground, the demand very clear.

Angelina looks as though she'd very much like to do violence to Logan. "Gee, no one wants to explain, but just want to sit and watch reruns of torture? No wonder I want to do /something/ Not my fault if you're a sick fuck," she says before she begins to stride forward towards the 'show'. Or rather, she starts to, when Bao-Wei speaks up, and for a moment it looks as though she'll applaud him.

The intonation of Bao-Wei's desire to be done with this particular display and Angelina's subconscious approval of the intention causes the walls of the basement to rattle, bricks coming loose and lights flickering. The light at the top of the stairwell goes out first, and that rumbling, like some distant beast shaking the building between its massive hands, only grows more profound. The light-bulb dimly illuminating the basement pops and goes out, floowing the world to darkness again.

Yeah, I run…

A single yellowed lamp pops on in its place, shining down on a workbench, above which an old radio sits, playing a tinny tune that has been haunting the dreamers since they first emerged in this realm of subconscious forms and shapes. There's a dark-haired man hunched over the workbench, soldering iron in one hand, eyes made of liquid mercury that reflect the bench. A toolbelt hangs at his waist, filled with screwdrivers and pliers and little tiny picks and also a toothbrush for whatever reason.

Yeah, I run…

Silver eyes rise up to the radio, and as the man that clearly resembles Mortimer Jack narrows them, he reaches up to turn the infernal noisebox off, a scowl crossing his lips before those mercurial eyes focus back down on what he's working on, a long piece of wires and steel and pistons and hydraulics shaped like a skeletal hand. He pauses, smoke rising in a puff from the soldering iron to spin on his stool, staring up at the ceiling.

An old and rusted 1967 Chevrolet convertable rests in this old garage, with John Logan rousing to consciousness in the front passenger's seat, and Bao-Wei Cong wedged between Alex and Angelina in the back seat in the most uncomfortable road-trip conditions possible. The car is up on blocks, tires taken off and hood popped open, windshield nothing but spiderwebbed and shattered glass. Notably, there's no one in the driver's seat — how appropriate.

As Mortimer twirls on the stool in this rusted garage, it becomes readily apparent that the man is missing an arm, from the way one sleeve blows weightlessly as he twirls on the stool. The garage around him looks like part of a salvage yard, with husted car engines, plastic bins full of mechanical components, circuit boards, toasters, an entire metal shelf full of easy-bake ovens and blenders, an open cabinet stocked with assault rifles, and three progressively smaller black and white televisions all stacked atop one another.

Alex recognizes this place, his workroom in building that had become the Locos hideout on Staten Island. This is after he lost his arm, after he destroyed himself because of his own insanity, and began building that damnable mechanical arm that has trapped him as a prisoner inside his own flesh. When he stops the stool with both feet, Mortimer picks up the soldering iron again, mercurial eyes focused on the piece of machinery as he dutifully returns to working on it once more.

But behind him, each of the three stacked screens of the black and white televisions pop on, each of them displaying a wholly different face on them. A young man in mid twenties with nose and ear piercings, chin length black hair and dark eye makeup. His chin lifts up, eyes assessing and judgmental. Below his head, in the next television down, is an attractive woman with light hair and high cheekbones, lips glossed with glitter and a small star-shaped sticker on her right cheek, hair worn in curly locks almost evocative of Marilyn Monroe in her heyday. Lastly, on the largest and bottom-most screen, is an overweight Chinese woman with dark hair wound back into a bun, oval glasses resting on the bridge of her nose, and a small pin on the lapel of her blazer in the shape of a serpentine dragon.

«You're not supposed to be here.» Echoes all three voices from the television at once, Mandarin, English and one woman with a Cockney accent all speaking in tandem. None of the three faces are familiar, none of them seem to be anyone recognizable save for their passing — if albeit gender reversed — depictions of Angelina, John and Bao-Wei.

«You should leave,» The television demands again, and across the room the mechanic working on the robot arm agrees. "You heard them, get out." He hunches forward more, continuing to soldier circuitry into place inside of the arm. "I don't have time to wipe the snot out've your noses or whatever."

It figures, the madman has nothing to be used against him. It would be hard to drive a lunatic insane.

It's a good distraction, with Angelina and Logan pooossibly coming to blows even before they can find the correct battlefield. The latter has no opportunity to sneer right back up towards the young woman, his particular intolerance for the mouthy breed of the opposite gender igniting but catching on nothing when he is abruptly waking up— again— in the front seat of the car. A hand goes up, angling the mirror so as to take a gander at the dreamers crowding the backseat.

"Cosy, back there?" he asks, before he looks out the windshield and into the workroom proper, simply staring at the screens, and then at the man depicted before them. "Fuck me, you weren't kidding, were you?" He directs his mirrored gaze towards Angelina. "I take it back — if you see something to light on fire, go ahead."

"Mortimer," comes the voice of Jack, a second head suddenly sticking from the front of Alex's neck, or perhaps it's Mortimer's neck now. "I'm going to kill the us that made this arm! Let me split apart!"

"No, damnit! We have a chance to get out of here before something strange happens." He reaches a hand up, smashes Jack's head back into his, both their eyes going silvery once again. "We apologize, this gestalted form can be difficult to maintain."

He opens the door, stepping down out of the car, then looks around at the room, a room he'll never see again after moving away from Staten a few days ago. "We're ready to go, let us out of here." he calmly commands, though there's a heavy bit of anxiety, knowing he could possibly snap in his ow— "No, damnit!"

A bloody arm with a sword suddenly stabs through Alex's stomach, and Jack drags himself out of Mortimer's body, suddenly crawling, then running for the Mortimer on the bench, raising his sword to stab him. "Die you crazy fucker! This is why we can't play guitar!"

"No, stupid, don't do anything!" Mortimer exclaims, holding his stomach as it starts to heal. Their eyes are no longer silver, the gestalt is completely broken.

"One of you had best get out of this car." Bao-Wei's reaction to being stuffed in the backseat is unhappy, to say the least. He scowls at Logan in the read view mirror, and the car seems to rumble just from the lividness. Luckily, Alex gets out seconds later, and the doctor gladly moves away from the young woman. He remembers the situation with Mortimer and his arm- and it was quite sad in the general sense, but he could not just replace the limb. The doctor gets out of the car to follow after the fused man, partially prepared to do something about it-

-but the screens that flicker on past Mortimer working on that strange mechanical arm only cause him to pause; the pause allows Jack to wrench his way out, in the meantime.

"I don't light shit on fire, I blow shit up. Boom, not crackle," Angelina says as she shifts around, trying not to be so squished in the backseat. Then she looks to the dynamic duo. "Oh will you chill out? I think we need to do /something/, but what the fuck is this?" she asks before she sighs and climbs out after Mortimer, muttering to herself.

When Jack goes charging for the version of himself that built the arm, Mortimer's Shadow whips around on the stool, mercurial silver eyes replaced with golden irises floating in black and hollow sockets. Instead of a soldering iron in his hand, there is a tarot card depicting a mn in a robe holding a candle with an infinity sign floating over his head. At the top of the card is the Roman numeral I and at the bottom of the card it is titled THE MAGICIAN. The moment the card is held out towards Jack, the sword-wielding version of Mortimer breaks apart like smoke caught in the wind, blowing away in stringy tendrils of umbral threads.

"You people," Mortimer's Shadow grouses, sliding down off of his stool, flipping the card he held out back into his sleeve. "You come, you fight, you destroy and you don't ever bother to question why?" A gold-eyed look is offered towards the televisions, and with a snap of the fingers on his one arm, there is a television static that forms three silhouettes in the room.

Femenine or masculine gender inversions of Angelina, Logan and Bao-Wei stand silently, fading from black and white to bleedingly rich technicolor, all their eyes a bright golden coloration. The three figments walk one by one in front of Mortimer, and with each one that passes, his features soften and change, turning into a young dark-haired woman with wild shirt hair and dark circles from sleepless nights beneath her eyes, a female version of Mortimer Jack.

The other three Shadows move to stand behind her, while the screens of the three televisions turn black. "I didn't bring you here, and I most certainly don't want to fight you. I've lost, I concede defeat, and you'll never have to worry about me in your dreams again…" A pale hand waves to the televisions, and their body forms shift, morph and change, splintering wood and popping glass, until they become a wood-framed black-glass mirror six feet tall.

"That door leads you out, back to your normal lives, away from here and away from me." The femenine Shadow's eyes narrow, and she rests her one good hand on her hip, staring down the bridge of her nose, chin tilted up, regarding the dreamers. "You don't have a reason to keep on with this… Hokuto isn't even hurt, she'll recover on her own in due time, just like she did the time before this. You've won, now leave."

As easy as that?

Nothing is that easy. Last to get out the car, Logan remains standing behind the open wing of the door, before he's slamming it shut with an irritated crack. His pale gaze sweeps on over the three begendered forms, and then the fourth. "Oh fuck off," is a growl from the Englishman, hand curling like he'd like to picture the hilt of his usually everpresent sword in his hand. "Maybe being away from you isn't enough. Maybe we want to hurt you like you've hurt us."

Us kind of sounds like me from his mouth. "You tried to kill me, you stupid bitch. If you know so much about me, you'll know I don't let people get away with that kind of thing." He makes it sound like something that happens often! … 8(a

A hand is held to Mortimer's head as Jack swirls in those tendrils, soon vanishing completely. Who knows where Jack is or what he's doing now, but all that's left is Mortimer. He reaches behind himself and draws a golden Desert Eagle, pointing it at the female version of himself. "You're wrong, it's not over. Even considering for a moment that I believe Hokuto is safe, you hurt her, you killed those children, you've probably killed more. You die here, one way or the other, you are going to die. I'll hammer away at your mind as much as I can possibly manage, then I'll find out where you physically are and drag you to the government so they can do whatever it is they do to psychopathic Evolved."

The gun starts to twist and bend, extending as it suddenly forms a sword, and his serious frown curls up into a slasher smile. Jack. "No, I'll drag you back to the government, tell them what you've done, then get special permission to carve up your body, very slowly, and drop you into a pit finely dusted down with fiber glass. Oh, what a glorious day it'll be!"

If there was one thing that has actually upset Doctor Cong, it would be this particular junction. There is no clue as to why, exactly, but the seething anger in his expression says it all. He says nothing while Logan and Mortimer offer respective bits of input, idly rolling up the sleeves of his workshirt as if he was getting ready to stick his hands into something questionable. In a way, he is. He does not take his eyes off of the golden ones of his personal doll, mouth rooted in displeasure; the hand belonging to his tattooed forearm clenches into a fist while the other draws back his sleeve.

Bao-Wei says nothing as a warning before he moves his feet, choosing silence to go over to the mirror, grab it by the hinge on the side, and heave it at the floor.

That's his response, if you hadn't guessed.

Angelina looks skeptical. "Yeah, right. You're just gonna stop hasslin' us? Why don't I believe that? Why would you do it anyway?" Then she's tilting her head at Bao-Wei breaks t he mirror, and looking a little upset. After all, if he broke it, she doesn't get to blow it up!

There's a momentary startled look on the faces of all of the Shadows when Bao-Wei furiously grabs the black mirror and throws it to the ground, smashing face down on the floor. They hold their collective breaths in lurching horror, before the mirror moves of its own acord, beginning to right itself, slivers of black glass flying back up into place and sealing back together. However it's strange, in that when the mirror shattered, there was a fist-mark in the glass, as though someone had punched it, not thrown it to the floor.

The Shadows all collectively seem to ease when the mirror restores itself under seemingly no conscious effort of their own. But then the female version of Logan snaps a gaze at her male counterpart. "I tried t'kill y'because a'was actin' in self d'fense, Johnny." She opines in a dirty Cockney accent, one dark brow raised and gold irises settled on the Brit. "Don' tell me y'aven't 'urt nobody in y'life t'protect wha' matta's t'you. Maybe tortured a bloke o'two? Cut ou' someone's tongue? You ain't got no right t'chastise m'bout m'choices when you're more'n a monster than a'ever could be."

It's here where the male analogue of Angelina furrows his brows and shakes his head. "All I've ever done is push you all to confront your pasts, confront your weaknesses and turn them into strengths. That is what I've done, Doctor Cong even figured it out, and found inspiration in his own Shadow…" Gold irises flick over to Mortimer, and the male Angelina stops speaking, in turn to be replaced by the female Mortimer.

"You can't drag me anywhere, Mortimer. Not in the way you're thinking, not in the way your addled little mind processes information by bodies and faces and textures and parts. You can't disassemble me because I already am, what you see is a part of a greater whole." The dark-haired Shadow cocks one brow up, scowling at Mortimer. "Just return to your miserably lonesome life, and perhaps take with you the comfort that I have shown you what life would be like if you reconciled your divested halves." The Shadow's look changes to something less harsh. "Be thankful you can enjoy that dream."

"If you don't like what you see…" The large Chinese woman who is clearly an analogue of Bao-Wei states in a deep voice, "you can leave. Through the black mirror, back to wakingness…" Her golden eyes angle towards Angelina, one brow up. "You have become stronger for what I did, and you survived. After the encounter whereupon Hokuto trapped me again, I have been unable to affect the waking world. You see," the large woman holds her hands out to the side, "I am surrendering. But I will warn you, if you refuse to listen to reason and refuse to leave, I will defend myself. But I urge you to reconsider… Strongly."

"What are you gonna do, destroy my mind?" Jack suddenly lets out a maniacal laugh, dragging his sword against the floor as he slowly approaches, like a predator getting ready to pounce on its prey. "You've screwed up our head so much, Mortimer can't even keep it together. I'll savor this, this moment where people get to know, that in the end, I'm the original."

His smile gets wider as he gets closer to the female version of himself. "Go ahead, do what you will. I don't care about Hokuto, I don't care about these people, I don't care about anything except killing you in the most artistic way possible."

Somehow, the accent generates a greater response from Logan — never mind the gender switch and the startling addition of gold eyes. His jaw sets and his hands curl into fists, keeping his eyes on the image of even more glittery version of himself standing in soldier formation with the Chinese woman and punk kid to her right, until he drags his attention to the gender-switched Shadow of Cong. His teeth gleam pearly when he pulls his lips back in a sneer, a hand delving into the depths of a pinstripe jacket to remove a gun from the shoulder rig beneath it.

The silver revolver, the one Richard Cardinal almost convinced Logan to stick in his own mouth, wavers with uncertainty from Shadow to Shadow before settling on 'him'self. "You only taught me there's consequences," he grits out. "So don't mind me if I pass the message on." And he pulls the trigger with a thunderous bang.

"I found inspiration from myself. Last time I checked, that shadow was a part of me." And so is this Jungian nonsense. "I'd have come across it with or without you- I am not a fool." Bao-Wei addresses all of them, or whichever ones are left, though his irritation centers on …well, himself, only- herself. Dream pronouns are just terrible. "Nor am I foolish enough to think that just because someone claims to be bringing something to an end, they also mean it- The end is -never- the end!"

Cong's temper hardly ever flares- but here, it does, just at the same time that Logan's gun flashes and fires at his opposite.

"Oh, well, if we're getting to the destruction part of the evening…" Angelina smiles slowly, looking to her male counterpart. "I really don't look good as a guy. But you're safe." Then she focuses on the mirror that Bao-Wei tried to smash and this time she's not losing control of her power, but directing it. Glass exploding and flying everywhere would HAVE to do some damage to these shadow puppets, right?

And in a single instant, the Nightmare Man's words of coming to fight and destroy come to fruition. There's a sudden eruption of red as John Logan's Anima Shadow jerks her head to the side, hair, skullf ragments and brain matter spraying against the wall behind her. She falls backwards, like a lifeless doll as another gunshot sounds off, this time punching thorugh the left eye socket of Bao-Wei's Anima Shadow, a spray of crimson mist and thicker, sloppier chunks spatter over the inside of the open hood of the 1967 Chevrolet, pieces of skull with bits of hair falling inside the exposed engine. Mortimer's Anima Shadow and Angelina's Animus Shadow both recoil in abject horror, and as the explosively psychotic evolved begins focusing her power on the mirror, the copy of Mortimer dives into it, sending watery ripples through the black glass.

The Animus Shadow of Angelina does not move quick enough, and when the mirror explodes like a grenade, fragmentary shards of black glass lacerate his form, spraying blood and glass across the room, but somehow these shards harmlessly perforate Logan, Bao-Wei, Mortimer and Angelina, passing like smoke thorugh their bodies.

The exploded mirror bounces back and forth on its wooden frame, smoke rising from the burned pieces, before it begins to contract in on itself. Blown out pieces of glass and wood fall backwards as if the mirror was somehow the center of gravity, each piece snapping into place like some giant puzzle. Glass shards solidify, liquify, and then ooze together to form that smoky pane of black glass once more, before the shadows on the surface begin to recede, drawing back like smoke over water caught in a strong breeze.

The reflection on the mirror clears, looking more like a doorway now. The destination on the other side, however, is not where they came from. Depicted on the other side of the reformed mirror, is a massive spiral staircase of concrete slabs, corkscrewing like a DNA helix up a central stone pillar. Beyond which, rests a rusted metal scaffolding packed with the detritus of the apocalypse— burned cars, broken concrete and rebar, charred bodies, ash, dust and bones.

Between some exposed pieces of the metal framework, an endlessly burning horizon can be seen, nothing but a sea of jet black clouds with flashes of pyroclasmic orange fire within, like miniature nuclear explosions detonating within plumes of black ash set against a burnt orange sky without a sun.

Bao-Wei and Mortimer are familiar with this place, as is Logan. Thy had seen it in other dreams, the demolished tower rising high above the apocalyptic nightmare wasteland of New York City, a tower of ruin that stretches up over a mile above ground zero in Midtown. But this— this part of it is above the jet black clouds, and briefly, they see the image of a young blonde woman followed by a man carrying a ball of fire in one hand, running up the stairs. Helena Dean rushes past the mirror, followed by her Animus Persona Cameron, and then Catherine Chesterfield and her panther, and Kaylee Thatcher following just beyond, racing up those concrete stairs as fast as their legs can carry them.

Whatever lies on the other side of that mirror, everyone else has made it there…

Oh, that felt good. Logan's eyes are wide and bright when the Marilyn'd Shadow avatar goes down, and then flinching back from the explosion despite himself when sharp glass and wood splinter-sprays outward. By the time he's lowering his arm, he blinks across at the depiction within the mirror, the darkness replaced with the familiar landscape and recognising the figures in it, some puzzle piece clicking into place, making sense of the last encounter he'd had with this particular Morpheus.

Hopefully it's not a trap, because he moves without any of the hesitation he's displayed in past instances. He's changed, too, by the time he's at a run — golden silk lined with scarlet billows from his shoulders, the rest of his garb appropriately romantic and princely, Middle Eastern patterns in white and gold and English cuts and flourishes.

Swinging up onto the back of a unicorn that's appeared from apparently no where but a gunshot-like flash of white light, Logan and mare both charge into and through the mirror, headed for the tower at a lithe gallop, golden hooves making thunder.

"Oh, so you're gonna run?" Jack laughs, starting to stalk toward the mirror, basking in the gore all around him. Then there's a throb all through his body, and he suddenly freezes. Forearms rip from his elbows and grab his wrists, boots and thins step from his knees and stop him from stepping forward, and finally they sword drops as the limbs begin to once again blend.

Behind them, a bronze clockwork sphere is clicking and snapping around like a puzzle, and Alex opens his silvery eyes. "This will be the end, we will not lose control again. The Nightmare Man will die, and Mortimer will have his date with Hokuto, and Jack will… well, to be determined."

Be reaches down to pick up the sword, then sticks the sword through the newly-formed mirror, testing the waters.

Logan has it right. Bao-Wei barely gives a second glance to his downed counterpart, lips pressing thinly as his eyes flash into a brilliant rusty orange behind the lenses of his glasses. There is only one door left, and they need to go through- to follow those others winding at high speeds up the stair, soon to be joined by Logan on his horned mare. He will definitely miss this next part, of all the things that he has done in these dreams.

Rather than a transformation in whole, this time, Bao-Wei's features contort into something draconic- horns sprouting and face curling over lengthening teeth. That is the only real warning that either Angelina or Mortimer get before a blink goes by- and then in the otherwise negative space in the garage, the roughly horse-sized form of his dragon rumbles in midair, two big paws grabbing at the backs of the others, clutching to clothing and heaving them through the mirror when he dives headfirst into it. If they struggle, they can wriggle out of his clawless grip, but this will only make it much easier.

The mirror doesn't change to accomodate his girth- it simply just sucks him through, a vacuum where there is no matter to contort.

Angelina doesn't seem too very worried about the glass flying about, but then, she does have scars that show that she's probably been hurt because of her explosions before. She DOES however look rather surprised at Logan's change in wardrobe and the appearance of his unicorn, then the transformations of the others. Then she sighs. "That damn mirror was supposed to /stay/ exploded," she mutters, before she's grabbed and glares at the dragon-Bao. "I can walk you know," she mumbles, but she doesn't fight. This time.

The thunderhead of galloping hooves carries Logan atop his white steed up those stairs on the heels of the others who arrived. Through the literal looking glass and into the other side of the mirror, Angelina and Mortimer are deposited by the colossal and draconian form of Bao-Wei Cong, quite literally become what the namesake of his Triad ties had once been known as; Flying Dragons. Slitted eyes view the nightmarish apocalyptic landscape beyond, and the sounds of shouting, screaming and battle from higher up in the tower that the silent mirror did not convey before they emerged onto this landing.

Wherever they are now, they have found the path to the heart of the Nightmare Man, to the core of his mind where he has retreated to— or perhaps been imprisoned in— the details simply aren't clear enough on that point. But what lies here, amidst the still burning carcass of New York City is an unending memory of the day Midtown was destroyed, a picturesque vista of the end of the world, from the crown of which the Nightmare Man himself must reside.

With Logan already ascending the tower, and a battle seeming to have already begun at its top, Bao-Wei, Angelina and Mortimer are presented with the obvious decision of their ascension. Onwards and upwards, as the phrase goes, but what they will find at the pinnacle of this tower is more than just a man, more than just a dream manipulator. They will find the truth.

They will find the answer.

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