vf_elisabeth_icon.gif vf_ruiz_icon.gif

Scene Title Overture
Synopsis After the events of someone's ill fated return, a room has suddenly come available. And Elisabeth has a request of Ruiz.
Date November 10, 2011

The Hub

The heavy metal door swings open. The lighting inside had been turned off, so Ruiz moves to hang a handheld electric lantern from an overhead pipe as he motions the blond further inside. He'd said they had another room open up, that she didn't have to room with Magnes if she didn't want to, and led her down a few corridors to this one. The steam pipes aren't far— it's warmer in the winter months than some, but there's still plenty of blankets.

The room, a little bigger than the original broom closet sized room, has a single, twin sized bed, a single pillow, a few blankets that look to be decent quality— but the most notable thing about the room would be… sheet music.

Sheet music decorates the walls. Sheet music of all kinds, all printed. Probably not the music she wanted, but… "There's some clothes, but I doubt most of them will fit. You're— more than a few inches taller." Than she was.

He leaves that part unspoken. But there's an obvious feminine quality to the room. He's less smiles and jokes than normal, fidgeting with injection scar on the side of his neck, wearing a new wrist watch he'd not been wearing before.

A watch that ticks away the seconds in perfect time.

Elisabeth is honestly uncertain that she'll stay in the room, but she agrees to at least try it out. She does need a little privacy. But being in the same room with Magnes also feels safe. And it's about the only time she actually feels that sensation these days. She's in a constant state of watchfulness still, and it's taking its own toll on the blonde. As she looks around the rooms, she tilts her head thoughtfully. "Ruiz… can we talk frankly?" She slants him a Look. "And not have it make its way to Edward Ray?"

Though she's paying close attention to his body language and his tone of voice, she also moves almost on autopilot to touch the sheet music, humming bars of the handwritten music under her breath.

The sheet music mostly veers toward the classical. Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, Chopin, Mozart, Tchaikovsky. Someone had been eclectic in their gathering of sheet music, even if most of the compositions are incomplete. Some for piano, some for harpsichord. Almost as if they had been taken from various locations, ferreted away, and kept, as the world fell apart. Not exactly the music that she had asked for— but music.

Mateo smiled as it seemed she understood them, gesturing toward the bed and chair, letting her pick which one she wanted. There was once a place for shoes, but they're long gone. Not even dust stains showed where they had been set up, but there had seemed to once be a small shoe rack. "Of course. No recordings here." He does push the door closed behind them, and flick on the interior lighting, so they have more than the handheld lamp to see by. Once she's seated, he'll take the one she doesn't choose, of the bed or the chair.
Turning to look at him, the blue eyes study him with laser-bright intensity. She's deliberately put off her dose of drugs just a little bit, because she wants to monitor the man's heartbeart while she asks him questions. Not to mention having the subtle advantage of her ability if she has to try to sway him. She's hoping it doesn't come to that.

"I have a great many thoughts and questions — and very few people to trust in all this," Elisabeth tells him in a quiet, blunt tone. "There is no 'of course' when it comes to any of this." She blows out a slow breath and lowers herself to sit on the bed. "Let's start with this… How contagious is the virus when we're down below like this? Is negation an absolute necessity for everyone, or just those who go outside? And do they go through quarantine to get back in?"

With a sigh, Ruiz sounds genuinely exhausted before he sits down into the chair. There's something off about— all of him. As if he's not as together as he's trying to appear. The topic also makes him shake his head. "Like I told Magnes, you'll be risking your own life. Edward and a few others get away with it because they can account for things— but even I didn't go without the injection without wearing a suit and getting checked through an airlock. Same for Magnes, when we did our ability test."

He holds up his other arm, not the one with the watch. "Those who go outside wear bracelets. They do a blood check before you can re-enter. But even then— days before you arrived we had two people get infected. And they never even went outside. I was throwing their bodies into el umbral right before you two came through."

She nods slightly, seeming unsurprised. "I won't put anyone down here at risk through foolishness," Elisabeth promises him quietly. "I just needed to know the extent of the risks." Pulling her feet up onto the cot to sit cross-legged, she rests her elbows on her knees. "Tell me about Edward Ray. I need a clearer picture of the man as he is here in your world, without the lens of my world's Edward clouding my judgment. I want to understand why you and Woods called him 'the old bastard' and yet… you still seem to trust him."

"You'd be mostly putting yourself and anyone not on the injections at risk," Ruiz had to admit, looking up at the music plastered to the wall. "The— the one who had this room before. She was a little stubborn about her injection sometimes. Skipped it. Thought she was lucky." Apparently that luck finally caught up to her, in some manner.

With a shake of his head, he tries to let his emotions settle— whoever she was, she meant something to him. A friend, a family member, a lover, something.

"Woods calls everyone names," he adds with a laugh, looking back at her, that smirk finally returning. "I'm sure he has some colorful ones for me, too. But Ed— he does risk his life. Not taking the injections. So he can predict things. Like where to get food. When to hide. When the virus will strike. He's the one who found the two infected before it spread beyond that." With a hand wave. "And he's why you're here. Instead of… wherever you'd be."

Elisabeth listens intently. And she nods slowly. "Yeah… well, that's true in both worlds," she tells him in a quiet, slightly bitter voice. Looking around the room, she has so many questions.

Looking back at the man, she tells him in a gentle voice, "I'm sorry for your loss, Ruiz. Truly." She bites the corner of her lip and asks, "I understand why you trust him. I hope you understand that… I can't do that yet." She's not sure she'll ever be able to trust him.

Leaning back against the wall, she sighs heavily. "I want to take the time to let you get to know me before I start bombarding you with a mountain of very specific questions. Edward…. is trying to piece together where things went wrong here. And honestly? I'm of the opinion that it's the wrong question. It doesn't' matter. What matters is how we … step sideways again. But…. I know that if I disagree with him, no one here has reason to believe in me. In this world, I died — you have no reason to think I know what I'm talking about with anything. So… the only way I know to build trust is to give it. Tell me what you'd like to know about me. I will answer everything as fully as I can."

"I didn't have a history with him before coming here, so I understand. I'm just grateful that I have a place here. I'd be dead without it," Mateo responds, reaching up to pull down one of the sheets. This one has childish scribbles on the side, like a kid had made notes. It's Chopsticks, the duet version. This one had been intended for the left hand side of the piano. He nods as she acknowledges his loss, "They estimate ninety some percent of the world has died already— what's one life compared to seven billion?"

Even as he says it, he sets the sheet music down on the desk in front of him, obvious he intends to take it with him. One last souvenir.

"There's hope. Which is more than we had a few weeks ago." Hope of escape. And… "You and your friend represent that, you know. Hope. In more ways than just escape."

"Do we?" Elisabeth asks softly. She's clearly worried. Watching him with the sheet music, she smiles just a little. "You're welcome to take any or all of the pieces if you like. What was your friend's name?" Because clearly the room and its former occupant are both familiar and saddening for him.

"I wish I could promise you anything at all, Mateo," Liz tells him softly, using his given name for the first time. "Edward… is the only mind that I know of who might be able to direct the abilities that we need to be able to even attempt all this. There are… several others, but until I can see a list of who we have here, I just don't know what abilities we might be able to work with to perhaps boost it. I don't think it was as simple as an interaction between just you and Magnes, though."

"Oh I know it wasn't." Mateo responds, not showing surprise at it, even if he's still worrying and feeling more than he is giving away with his visible emotions. He's good at hiding what's under the surface, but she can hear it. "I'm sure he has plans. I'm sure his plans have plans." He almost sounds like he's making fun of the man he respects for a moment, before he looks back at her.

"But you're wrong. Even if you two don't get us out of here— even if we can't recreate that miracle. You being here? That's hope. Hope that somewhere out there there's a different me— a different you. A different her," he gestures at the sheet music.

"That somewhere, we have a different life. That when the path laid out before us, we picked the right one. That somewhere. We're who we were meant to be."

Cause to him? This wasn't it. "Though I guess that's not hope for you probably."

Elisabeth smiles just a little. I wish it were that simple, she thinks to herself. But she doesn't share that thought with him. She is barely beginning to understand what they're facing here — both in terms of the virus and in terms of where the hell she and Magnes are. Some part of her wants to believe that it's a nightmare. That she'll wake up in the hospital… or wake up dying under the facility they came to destroy. In some ways, even that would be preferable. Shoving a hand up into her lank hair, she asks him, "Hey… do you have a knife on you?"

The non-sequitur might confuse him, but she brings the long blonde braid around from behind her, its purple streak an incongruously joyful color in all this gray. "It's impractical, at best," she murmurs. "If you have a knife or a good pair of shears or something… I'd like to cut it off." Long hair is a luxury that anyone can ill-afford in a place where water is at a premium.

"Tell me about your friend while you cut?" she invites him.

"You're in luck," Ruiz responds, moving to stand so that he can open a drawer of the desk. It had a few small things that he'd left behind. A set of scissors had been among them. When he'd done inventory on the room he hadn't removed them, figuring that a lady might need them more than some— there had also been a small handheld mirror and a couple hair ties. He'd reclaimed the hair dye, knowing that, perhaps, others might wish it in the future. And the chemicals were not exactly practical anyway.

Moving to the bed, he grabs an extra sheet, drapes it over her shoulders and on his leg to catch the hair as he sits down behind her. "I won't claim to be good at it, but I've cut some hair in the past." And knows enough to catch the hair. As he starts to cut away, using fingers to measure length, he simply says, "Her name was Odessa."

She jerks slightly under his hands as he slices through the first locks of her waist-length braid. Elisabeth's own heartbeat stutters just a little bit. Odessa. A flash… of the woman she met in her own time. Of the woman she shared a dream with… who said she had been worried for Liz. Whose life was so fucked up that honestly Liz wasn't sure she could ever be loyal to anyone at all. Her jaw clenches and she nods slightly, remembering that she also saw the name on the box in Edward's office. "Somewhere out there… she's maybe still alive, Mateo. I'm sorry you lost her."

She is going to have to be very careful, and although she knew it before… now she's feeling rather like she's under siege mentality. "Tell me about her?" And later, she'll search this place for every scrap of anything she can find. Because Odessa …. was never one to be without a plan either.

With just a nod, Mateo focuses on the hair cut, trying to make sure he doesn't butcher the poor woman's hair too badly. She's been through enough as it is— "She was— different." She can tell he's holding back, but that's pretty obvious anyway. Most people do when they talk about someone they just lost. "She loved music. There's actually a small piano in the community room— she retrieved it. She was teaching the kids how to play it sometimes."

Some things belonged to the community as a whole, and that small piano had been one of them. She had wanted to get it personally. It had been a bright spot in the last year or so. Hearing the kids learn to play.

"She was out, on a trip for a few days, to find a stash I think, of the drug. We don't have an infinite supply, and she's one of the few who has the skills to recognize it— had the skills. She physically made it back, but…" he trailed off.

He didn't see the body, but Edward had given him enough evidence to prove she was gone.

The blonde flinches, but the movement is kept to her facial muscles. She's already told him that she's sorry… but Elisabeth finds herself wanting to keep saying it. "There's a piano here?" she asks instead, focusing on something that she too considers to be an amazing gift. For the first time since she arrived, there's a spark of something other than wary suspicion to her body language, as if just the thought of having access to something like that lightens the load.

"I used to teach music… at Washington Irving. I'd resigned as from the NYPD because I didn't want to Register," she tells him quietly as he snips. "I lost my mother in the Bomb. I met a man named Norton in a support group fo cops afterward, and we became friends. He told me that he'd gone to Register and they'd tortured him. So I didn't… really trust what was happening. I knew he was involved with some underground Evo people, but … I didn't ask very many questions. I knew him to be a good man, and I didn't want to know anything else." Elisabeth goes silent for a long moment.

"The Vanguard attacking the school… in my world, I was evacuating the kids as best I could. I took some damage from the first round of explosions. Broke my arm, I think maybe a concussion. But we managed to get out into the hallway. I was pushing them ahead of me, when … I'm not sure if it was other explosions or if the first one just weakened the building. It came down on us, and a shockwave threw me into the fire door, and blasted the door right off the hinges. I woke up in the hospital the next day. They were trying to make it look like PARIAH did it, but… Norton insisted it wasn't the people he was working with. That was how I got involved in fighting the Vanguard. I … needed justice for my kids."

"Well, since you're stuck here a while, maybe you can take up the kid's lessons. And some adults too, probably," Mateo responds, nodding at her words even as he continues to clip clip, taking careful care around her ears. It really isn't the first time he's cut someone's hair besides his own. He's being sure to leave decent length so she can look in that small mirror later and decide if she wants it any shorter, but it will certainly save water.

The very mention of Vanguard causes fluctuations in his heart rate, in his breathing— but they were responsible for the deaths of billions— of course even just the mention would cause an emotional reaction. "I can understand that. Vanguard…" He trails off. "At least you stopped them." Somewhere, they were stopped. Somewhere, the virus was not released. Somewhere, Kazimir Volken is no more.

"The kids would really appreciate continuing lessons. I left all the sheet music in here, so you can go through that." Except, apparently, chopsticks. Which me plans to keep. "I could teach them, but I have a lot of work I have to do around here."

There's a faint smile while he works on the cutting, and briefly she reaches up to check the length. Looking up at him, she says quietly, "Take it as short as you can without scalping me please?" Elisabeth leans down momentarily to take the long braid in her fingers, struggling suddenly with a significant lump in her throat as she remembers Jaiden asking for a lock of her hair… to bury in case she didn't come back.

It takes everything she has to stifle the panic that comes to life in her belly, but she's shaking as he resumes cutting, the braid clenched so tight in her fingers that her knuckles are white. "It needs to all go." She can't bear to look at it, can't bear to remember how much Richard loved brushing his fingers through the strands. It's too much.

Fighting for something approaching control, she chokes out, "How many kids live here down here?" It gives her something to focus on. Something to fight for, and she needs that right now.

"I'll try not to scalp you," Mateo responds with a laugh, but he adjusts the length to a finger width and keeps going, making sure most of it is caught on the sheet. He's part janitor after all, it would have been his job to clean the damn thing up, probably—

As she asks about the kids, he hesitates, thinking on it, "Under the age of sixteen, about two dozen. None younger than four, though, I think. Babies didn't fare well, I'm afraid." And no one's been in the mood to be making more in a while, it seems.

Or perhaps that's one of the side effects of negation, he doesn't know exactly. Both the evolved and the non-evolved take them, though. It's only ways they know to keep the infection from setting in— So far it's worked.

He also leaves out that almost none of them have parents— people didn't often get found together. Most families got separated. But she already knows there's not even two hundred of them.

He doesn't have to say they don't have parents. The woman whose hair he is lopping off is a soldier — it's hard to miss. Especially as he cuts the masses of blonde off, lightening the weight from her scalp significantly, and it bares several old scars and newer scrapes, cuts, and bruises along her collarbones where they show. They're healing to varying degrees at this point. Clearly having trouble sitting still, the trembling getting worse as he works, Elisabeth murmurs, "I would like to do that, actually. It … helps. I can't feel the music around me anymore and I always feel stifled. Like I can't breathe. But maybe helping them will help me get past that." Her jaw clenches. "Being negated is … hard." It not only makes her have to deal with her panic and flashbacks, it also makes her feel vulnerable. Something she does not like here. "Do you think you can get me some of my original gear back? I had a phone tucked inside the armor that had some music on it, too… for as long as the battery lasts, anyway."

The scissors finally come down and Ruiz inspects his work, checking the front before he nods and standing, gathering up the sheet so that he doesn't spill hair all over the place. "About your things— I'm afraid… apparently my portals don't work well with electronics. Your phone was fried. I don't think we'll be able to get any of your music off it." And he had checked it, he would hate to admit. Then again, he'd also cleaned them both, bandaged their wounds, that sort of thing— so he would have seen far more than their phones content, even though it was probably locked.

"I'll give it back to you, though, of course. If you want a charred paper weight." Cause that's about what it was. As he balls up the sheet into a bag, he looks back at her and raises an eyebrow. "I do have to ask, though, what was that thing you were wearing?"

The scissors finally come down and Ruiz inspects his work, checking the front before he nods and standing, gathering up the sheet so that he doesn't spill hair all over the place. "About your things— I'm afraid… apparently my portals don't work well with electronics. Your phone was fried. I don't think we'll be able to get any of your music off it." And he had checked it, he would hate to admit. Then again, he'd also cleaned them both, bandaged their wounds, that sort of thing— so he would have seen far more than their phones content, even though it was probably locked.

"I'll give it back to you, though, of course. If you want a charred paper weight." Cause that's about what it was. As he balls up the sheet into a bag, he looks back at her and raises an eyebrow. "I do have to ask, though, what was that thing you were wearing?"

Great. Elisabeth would sigh, but … well, you know… he's using scissors back there. When he comes around to talk to her after literally lopping off a mountain of blonde hair, she reaches up a little self-consciously. "Do … I think if you don't mind, I'd like to color it when I next grab a shower… at least for a little while until the danger of recognition is a bit more unlikely." After all, Zarek recognized her. Others might as well. She's clearly a little uncomfortable with all that hair gone — she feels rather naked.

Turning her attention to his question, she tells him quietly, "It was body armor. You're sure it's entirely fried? It hasn't been … taken off somewhere to be torn apart to see if people can replicate it or use parts or anything?" She really doesn't want that stuff getting into anyone's hands. Especially if there is any possibility that information leaks out of this refugee camp the way it does out of most prisons. Her blue eyes on him are wary. "I want you to destroy it. And don't go tossing it into the shadows, okay? Given the fact that we have no fucking clue where things land when you put them through there… for all we know, you've infected a whole other world with this virus and my armor could land there and start some kind of world war or something. Generally speaking, it's not really our problem, but… let's just not borrow cosmic-level trouble, hmm?"

"I knew that. But I've never seen body armor like it. For a while I was sure it was leaking something toxic." Mateo responds with a grin, putting the balled up sheet on the desk. "I can get you some hair dye. It won't be difficult. The old owner of the room had a small stash, for various reasons. Hiding identity possibly one of them. Too bad he hadn't kept one, he could just hand it over. "I don't think they go anywhere, normally. In fact, I'm reasonably sure they don't."


It could be there's worlds out there he's infected, even if all the bodies and other things had been sealed. There's a lot of space. Who knew where they came out. They'd been in the sky above Alaska, not underneath the streets of New York city.

"I did hold onto the armor, though. I had to cut you out of it in a few places, because it was fuzed, but I didn't toss it. You'll have to ask Woods for that."

He hadn't given it to Edward, but the guy in charge of security who knew the situation.

With the shortest pixie cut she's ever worn in her life, Elisabeth keeps rubbing the back of her head like she's fascinated with the sensation. "It was," she tells him when he comments about the leak. I don't think it's toxic, but it was leaking liquid metal, basically. We had begun perfecting the armor to withstand some of the bad things in our world." Looking up at him, she offers a rueful grimace. "I didn't promise paradise… I only promised no Volken. Things for Evos aren't terrific where we came from either. Matter of fact, we landed here while in the middle of a battle against … essentially the later incarnations of the place that you guy probably got the negation drugs." She shrugs a little. "In our world, we stopped the virus, but that meant other people with other agendas rose to power."

Human nature being what it is…. does it really surprise him? She wouldn't expect it to.

"I'll talk to Woods about the armor," she murmurs, her eyes tracing along the musical scores on the walls. "Tell me about your Odessa?" she asks him in a soft tone.

"I don't think there is any such thing as a perfect world. Just a better one," Ruiz says quietly, looking at the music notes on the wall, at the place where he no doubt spent a lot of time in the past. When she says she would ask Woods, he nods, leaving it at that. He'll bring by her phone, at some point, too. As well as show her where the piano was, so she can get to the lessons for the kids… but for then…

She asks about Odessa. "She was…" he starts, when suddenly the door bangs and someone's calling out.

"Ruiz!" He sighs, opening the door with a heavy groan of metal, and the woman with short cropped black hair sees him. "Oh there you are— we— oh. This is. Sorry. I heard. But— we need you. Bring your mops, too."

With a sigh, Ruiz picks up the sheet holding hair and the sheet music that he'd pulled down. "We'll take later, Lizbeth, I need to go be a janitor. I hope it's not more puke."

Or worse.

Elisabeth isn't startled by the knock, not with the yelling in the hall. And she nods slightly to Ruiz. "All right. Good luck, Mateo." She smiles just a little. "I'll slip out and have someone point me toward the piano… I'm sure Edward will find me if he needs me." Because God knows, having one thing in this place that she can actually do to ease her own stress? It's a priceless gift.

Her blue eyes shift to the dark-haired woman in the doorway to greet her. "Hi. I'm sorry to have kept him so long…"

The woman, in her late thirties at least, does not look familiar. Her hair is longer than the other's quick cut, but not by much. Blue eyes meet for a moment, and then she looks at Ruiz with a hint of— who the fuck is this? on her face. So at least that's better than their meeting with Kain.

"This is Shanna. Shanna, Elisabeth. She's one of the staff members. You'll probably get to know her a little bit. Lizbeth's one of the newcomers. She's gonna take over Dess' lessons, too."

And she might take the room. Unlike the other, this one has a built in lock to keep people out— cause that was totally Odessa's doing.

"It's fine. He wasn't technically on duty, we just— had a small accident. Nothing to worry about." Her heartbeat might clue in otherwise. She's lying, or being evasive. Or just not sharing everything with a new comer.

With a nod, Ruiz exits through the door. "I'll show you the piano later. And bring you the other things— talk to you later." With that, the two disappear down the hallway.

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