squeaks5_icon.gif zachery2_icon.gif

Scene Title Peculiarity
Synopsis n. an odd or unusual feature or habit
Date August 21 through September 29, 2020



It's a deviation from Jac’s normal announcement, that's punctuated with a box of the deliciously greasy food being set on a fairly clear stretch of counter space.


Small Laboratory

August 21, 2020

3:39 pm

In the last two and a half weeks, Jac Childs’ afternoon arrival has been accompanied by a predictable selection of sandwiches or soup. Simple fare that was easily consumed without much of a mess or requirement of focus so that energy could be spent on making sense of the work that has claimed their days. One time she brought in Chinese food which turned into more of an inconvenience than the welcomed change had been worth. However pizza, it can be reasoned, is simple and kind of like a sandwich. Something different that shouldn't require any more attention than two slices of bread with stuff mashed between.

“Did the results for the bone marrow or spine fluid come in?” the teen asks as she flips up the lid to help herself to a slice. She plants herself in a chair and wheels partway across the small room to check a binder already packed with papers for anything new since she left yesterday. “I was looking through some books at the library about… how sometimes people get injured somehow and suddenly can't do something.”

Pizza in one hand, binder opened in front of her, Jac is her usual whirlwind of thought and question. She takes a bite, flips a page, then continues while working melted cheese and pepperonis around between her teeth. “Like it's just so bad they forget.”

"Some people tell me I have no patience," answers Zachery, as he wanders over from the other end of the counterspace, still the image of discomfort with his broken leg but leaning a hand on the counter every other step rather than gather his crutches like he should be. He holds four envelopes, opened cleanly but still with their contents intact, and slides them down beside the pizza box. "But here I am, having waited for you and everything."

The pizza box is snatched up wholesale as he lands himself onto a chair, picking out just the right slice before flipping the lid shut and peering over it to Jac with his eyebrows raised. "As for collective social amnesia, that way interesting things lie, but relevant ones?" He attempts a look of extreme skepticism and also shoves half of the fucking pizza slice into his mouth at once.

“We just went from being slice to not and you want to say collective social amnesia is impossible.” It's the same song, just a different verse. Jac doesn't need to look at the old man to know he's shooting that angry eyebrow doubt at her. Luckily, she's developed an immunity. And there's the distraction of potentially new information.

The girl turns, chair and all, wielding her own dubious look that Zachery actually waited with results this time. “Botswarf,” she counters, around a second mouthful of pizza. Then, when she sees the envelopes, opened but not looking like they'd been restuffed, she scoots closer.

“What do they say?”

Fair's fair, Jac's comment about impossibilities earns her a cant of Zachery's head, and a tired, lopsided grin once he's worked down his first mouthful of pizza. It's a wordless and reluctant admission of defeat.

"'Botswarf'," he repeats in a mix of chuckle and scoff both, the word unfamiliar and unwieldy in his rusted over accent, and hearing it aloud in his own voice doesn't do much to soften his expression. After he lands the box back onto the counter with a bounce of its cardboard top, he leans to the side to pull open a drawer, rummages for a moment, and then tosses a pack of wet wipes onto the counter in front of Squeaks just as he's done every time she's over in the lab.

He's just cleaning his own hands with a wipe of his own and tossing it into a countertop bin when he answers suddenly quite cheerfully, "Let's find out and compare, shall we?" Not that he waits, wheeling himself a little closer to Jac before snatching one of the envelopes back up and relieving it of its contents to unfold the pages and, hopefully, part of a story both.

He seems, for once, actually hopeful for the latter.

The teen smirks at the old man’s use of slang and tears off another mouthful of pizza. “You wouldn’t understand.”

The half finished slice of pizza is dropped onto the closed box so she can get to work too. Hands are cleaned of grease and crumbs with the wet wipe before Jac regards the envelope that Zachery is already digging into. She almost hesitates on opening one of the others. It doesn’t do her much good to puzzle over the medical coding — it’s a cipher she hasn’t yet cracked — but her eagerness to move forward overrides her lack of knowledge.

Besides. It’s also dividing and conquering.

Jac leans over and picks up one of the remaining envelopes. The pages inside are liberated and folded out flat on the counter in front of her.

The documents are as comprehensive as they are dense with jargon that only makes some sense to Jac. There’s a lot of medical codes, numbers measured out to the tenth decimal place, and pages of chemical analysis. Some of it is a little foreign to Zachery, but he knows where to find the distillation of the results rather than the raw data.

Most of the numbers are in line with what he’d expect, until he gets down to where it starts discussing the white blood cell count of the bone marrow. The white blood cells data is… impossible. A healthy person has anywhere from 4,000 to 11,000 WBC per microliter, but these numbers are—

WBC: 80,000

It’s horrifying.

In healthy people the highest WBC comes during pregnancy in the hours surrounding delivery it can spike to 25,000 WBC. A WBC rating of 80,000 is what he’d expect to see in someone who had terminal leukemia. But neither he nor Jac or any of the other crash survivors he knows of are suffering anything like that. There was the one man, the one who was impaled, who may have different readings. But for their charts to read like this is alarming.

It only gets worse when he looks over at the data from the lumbar puncture. Analysis of the cerebrospinal fluid shows mostly normal readings until it gets to the chemical analysis.

Name Chemical Symbol Plasma CSF
Sodium Na+ 136.00–146.00 (mM) 325.00 (mM)
Potassium K+ 3.50–5.00 (mM) 6.30 (mM)
Chloride Cl– 98.00–107.00 (mM) 225.00 (mM)

Plasma electrolyte levels are normal, but in the spinal fluid the numbers are twice as high as they should be. All three of those chemicals are related to brain activity, indicating that everything happening inside of the skull is some sort of demonstrably elevated soup.

By all accounts both Zachery and Jac should be dreadfully ill if not dead.

Between the occasional flick from page to page, Zachery goes still as he reads, the continuous hum of the lab equipment continuing as background din to fill the silence.

Several times he frowns, looks as though he's about to say something, then stops again and checks the numbers against one another to the best of his capabilities. He had prepared for this, he and Jac both had, he thought - but none of that quite dulls his quiet bewilderment.

He barely even realises he's snatched Jac's pages away from her in some greedy attempt to see if maybe it's just his results that were fucked up - but at least it only takes him a matter of seconds to lay the paper back out in front of them with a vaguely apologetic tone to his voice when he starts to say, "I, ah- …"

It's not often he's rendered speechless, and he doesn't quite seem to know what to do with himself in the face of it, laying his own results beside Jac's. By all accounts, he understands the information before him, but the implications…

"Call your mum, will you," he eventually says. "This will take a while."

two weeks later…

Dirty Pool Pub

6:03 pm

"By the way, maybe don't—… don't tell your mum we met up here. It's just… it's like home, a little bit, for me, and it's not like they haven't also got juice."

With a tall glass of Guinness in his hand, Zachery stands beside one of the pool tables in the back of the Dirty Pool Pub, a dive bar that smells of smoke and holds a reputation almost as disreputable as its clientele. Still, it's an early, quiet evening, with only a single group of bikers raucously laughing near the bar before they continue their conversation, keeping to themselves and the bartender.

They're standing far enough away to where Zachery doesn't need to raise his voice when he talks, leaning into a pool cue and floating a glance over to Jac and the nearby table. It holds a wayward collection of heavy books he's taken it upon himself to bring, based on prior conversations had over the phone. Two notebooks and two separate binders lie in the middle, still growing every time they meet.

He raises his glass, asking just before a healthy glug of his drink, "Is that the right book I brought, or was yours better?"

“Why? This place isn’t worse than Cats Cradle.” And Jac has been there, even during some of their late-hour festivities. There’s a strange comfort in the company the bar keeps — bikers are a rough crowd, but they’re rarely known to be a danger to kids, at least in her experience. Her life on the street brought her to know all kinds of people, and bikers were loud and mean looking, but always welcoming whenever she wandered into their circle. Her eyes are on them now, a sort of vague and nostalgic longing for those simpler times in the way she watches their conversation.

“It’s a good book.” They’ve all been good books. Jac turns to the table and the books on it. “It’s just…” dry, technical, “missing the point.” She’s mentioned that before, some ambiguous something that she hasn’t been able to explain yet. It leads, as should be expected by now, “Everything we keep trying is wrong. I think we’re looking at this the wrong way.”

Stepping away from the pool game and to the table, the teen sweeps off three books, and opens the fourth to a marked page. It’s something on electromagnetic waves. Two more books are set aside so another can be opened to a discussion on medical techniques on brain patterns from fifty or more years ago. Soon after, a pad of paper is produced from her own binder, several pages of it written on it in a nearly scribbly hand. “What if the answer isn’t in modern technology and medicine?”


One of the pool table balls goes flying into another, before hitting the inside of the felted table with a dull thunk and disappearing summarily into one of the holes on the opposite side. Unfortunately, that was the one ball that wasn't supposed to do that.

Zachery stands, cue still in one hand. "What, you want to try leeches now?" He scoffs, then sets the cue against a wall behind him so he can stretch his arms upward and straighten his back, adding to no one in particular— "Actually, I do know a guy. They can be quite useful."

But for this? He looks both doubtful and expectant.

“Ew.” Jac looks up from her own writing, nose half rankled and a very slight grimace tugging her mouth to one side. “That’s gross. No. We aren’t… I mean if you want to.” Because she’s been working long enough with the doctor to know he’s not above leeching himself. “I’ll pass.”

She holds out her notes. A lot of it looks like gibberish, reiterations and summaries of articles she had to have found somewhere. It’s all in her own words, as her own understanding, but small reference notes fill margins, probably for second looks later. But the first pages are similar in subject to the first book she’d opened. “I mean like… instead of trying to reverse everything, we need to know what it’s doing. Because obviously everything we’ve seen isn’t killing us. So what’s it doing? Why are we putting off such high electromagnetic waves and how do we get past them?”

The notepad is tossed onto the pool table. Zachery lost his game anyway so it’s okay. Jac grabs the books she’s opened next. “A lot of things put off those waves, even us normally just at really tiny levels.” She points out a paragraph that’s been marked with a pencil. “Radio waves are electromagnetic. It’s how they travel. And you can increase their effectiveness with salt water. And since our levels are so high we can’t find anything in even xrays, then I think we should try simpler.”

The teen turns the next book around so Zachery can have a better look at it. It’s clearly about older techniques that didn’t use magnetic imaging, ways of measuring electrical pulses and neurological activity from the mid 1900’s without the advancements of today.

Zachery grabs his drink off of the table's edge, then leans forward to thud both elbows onto the green. With a quick glance to check that bar owner Bruce isn't looking, naturally. When his gaze comes back down again, it's aimed at the last book offered. He tugs it closer by a corner, studying it from under the bright light shining over the table.

"… I don't know anything about radio waves," he admits, soured and a little sluggish for the drink already in his system, before suddenly shooting a glance back up into Jac's face with his attention and energy suddenly doubled. "You mean like an EEG?"

Despite the disbelief now in his voice, he yoinks the book wholesale, leaving his drink behind to leaf through its pages as he stands somewhat unsteadily upright on a still healing leg. "We could look for - patterns or…"

“Mister Pines taught me some about radio waves.” The rest she’s only begun picking up again, from books and internet searches. Nothing too extensive since the spectrum she and Zachery are searching is so wide and varied, but enough for things to start making sense. Jac lets the topic hang between them as the doctor goes off into the books she’s presented.

She’s staring at him expectantly when he looks into her face. “With the cap, and the stickers connecting wires to your head,” the teen confirms, nodding. “It works when you’re awake or asleep, and sometimes these are used today still, just usually it’s digital or…” Her head tips toward the book. Not like the antiques she’s proposing.

Also,” Jac balances between the two ideas like a cat on a wire, transitioning from one to the other as smoothly as that cat crosses between buildings. “What if because of these electromagnetic waves that’s causing all the problems, we’re transmitting things back? Just like a radio.” Her brows raise up toward her mop of red curls. “We could check. With enough salt and a strong enough receiver.”

"Just like a radio…" Zachery echoes absentmindedly, flipping to a page he's already skimmed previously. "Like a fucking radio." He repeats again, laughing quietly to himself as he shifts the weight of the book onto his arm while lifting a hand to rap a knuckle against the side of his head.

"That is… out there, Jac," he angles a what looks to be a condescending quirk of an eyebrow over to the teenager, but he can't stop a somewhat addled grin from forming amidst racing thoughts. It's not as though what's happened to them wasn't out there either, after all.

And so it isn't long before he continues to say, "But it is also doable. And easy- I can make a few calls, see what's available at Raytech, and we could get this started tonigh— well, ah-" He glances off to the side, to a cheap clock hanging on the wall near the bar. "Tomorrow afternoon, probably? If we prepare, and plan this out. Radio or not, it's… it's an angle."

His grin ebbs away a little, voice dipping into something that almost sounds… impressed? If a little confused. "It's a good angle."

It is one of her further fetched ideas, but Jac owns it with the level look she maintains while Zachery processes through it. Only when he’s agreed, decided it’s a good idea, does she crack a grin and a nod, allowing herself a moment to feel like progress might actually be made.

A scrap of paper is placed near the paragraph on salinity and radio waves, so it can be found easily, and she pushes it aside for later. They’ll need it again soon.

“And the EEG?” It’s also an unusual idea, if not so much as the other. “Do you have books on brain waves and patterns? Maybe on sleep, too.” She’d seen something, mentioned it in fact, about those weird and wired caps being used on sleeping and coma patients. “Because I think we should look at that since all the other scans are just blobs. We don’t even know if there is weird activity happening in our brains like the rest of our bodies, or if it’s all the time or only certain times?”

Jac leans over to look at the book with more antique tools of the medical profession. “I mean… what if… what if that’s how we figure out what’s being found. Using these old methods because the current ones don’t work.”

"Fuck all is working!" Zachery answers loudly albeit inordinately cheerfully, before the book he was holding is slammed back down on the pool table with one of his palms pressed flat against its cover. Some of the bikers go quiet for a moment, but they only float a glance over before continuing what they're doing.

"If I can't fucking read people," Zachery starts again, undeterred, liquid courage seemingly doing its job of strengthening his resolve a little too well tonight, "I'm going to read every single fucking book and paper and thesis on every single fucking subject I can find that might be even remotely fucking relevant until the day I fucking die."

He snatches his glass up from the pool table's edge, and downs what's left in it in one fell (but slightly messy) swoop. "If we're living on borrowed fucking time," he slams the glass onto the felt too. "Then we're fucking spending it!"

//several days later… //


Small Laboratory again

10:56 am

"I'm having some minor amount of regret about volunteering," says Zachery, with a lot less alcohol in him than some foggy time prior.


Jac’s question, posed as she looks up from a small wading pool filled with a very translucent white colored liquid, adds depth to the baffled expression in her face. They had been talking about this for nearly a week. Zachery himself had insisted on being the one to act as a transmitter.

“Look, it's just salt water.” The teen sticks her hand into the pool, swirls it around to stir up the granules of salt and make waves for a plastic boat and pair of rubber ducks floating on top. “It just looks that way because… I mean the ocean isn't perfectly clear either. And this isn't ocean water.” It's just really salty water.

Standing and stepping away from the wading pool, Jac motions for the doctor to get in. “I borrowed a short wave transceiver for this too,” she explains. It's also in the lab, waiting on a counter. “Once you're in, I'll see if I can pick up anything that… might be your electromagnetic waves.”

"As if I wasn't already salty enough." Zachery sounds back while squinting at the water, dressed in swimming trunks and a t-shirt. Whatever gods, if any, were responsible for any of his colleagues being here in the lab at this moment - he is quietly grateful for them.

He plonks one foot after the other into the pool, one ankle still slightly discoloured from having been constrained daily until recently. On his way down, he snatches up one of the rubber duckies out of the way and sits, wrinkling his nose as the salty water starts to saturate his shirt immediately.

He pulls up his knees, casually deposits the grabbed rubber duck onto one of them, and sinks onto his elbows while leveling a heavy look at the bit of plastic as though it might save him from drowning if it came to that.

"Yep. This is fine." Is all he has to offer as last words, apparently, before taking a deep breath and just letting himself fall all the way back, his eyes closed and his whole head just below the surface as displaced water threatens but fails to spill over the edge as a result.

While the old man is busy with his part of the experiment, Jac goes to the counter where the radio equipment waits. She climbs onto a stool and begins setting dials to a common channel, adjusts antenna until the sounds of WSZR come through clearly on the over-the-ear headset.


Whatever gods Zachery is relying on for that purpose have an awful sense of humor, because it isn't even forty seconds later that the door to the room cracks open, revealing Dr. Yeh.

There is a manila folder clasped in her hand, which she rapidly stops paying any attention whatsoever to when she spots the….. wading pool, Zachery's fully submerged face, the sailboat and ducks, and then Jac.

With the most skeptical of all unvoiced sighs, Yi-Min lets the folder drop on the countertop next to her without even looking, gives her head a minute shake, and then just slides the door closed again.

When the door opens, Jac turns in her seat to blink owlishly at Yi-Min. This can't be the strangest thing ever seen here; however, she poses no questions about it, even though her wondering why the woman is visiting is plain enough on her face. Blue eyes follow, tracking the folder, trailing when Yi-Min leaves.

“Okay,” she breathes, half laughing. “Weird.” The teen pulls the headphones onto her ears and gives Zachery a thumbs up. Then she turns to the transceiver, gives her fingers a flex, and begins the careful and fine tuning.

It’s the weirdest of the weird science that’s been done in this particular lab. Maybe the image of a teenager tuning a shortwave radio while Zachery takes a saline bath looks sensible to the people practicing the ‘science’ but from an outside observer’s perspective it looks like confounding absurdity. Up one side of the dial and down the other, Jac doesn’t pick up anything that seems like a signal being transmitted, though it’s hard to say if the radio would be able to parse what a signal is if one is being broadcast.

Perhaps with the energy being emitted in the electromagnetic spectrum, the shortwave simply might not be able to pick up its frequency if it’s too low or too high. Unlike the spinal tap, this particular endeavor seems to only have done one thing: make Zachery saltier.

He re-emerges after about a minute with a sputter of an exhale and a quiet ploink of the rubber ducky sliding off to meet the water beside him. Dragging himself upright while sucking in a new breath, he runs an arm over his nose and mouth before angling a drowned-cat look over at his unconventional lab partner.

Let it never be said that he doesn't commit to drunkenly made agreements.

He coughs, and then asks with the most careful sort of hope and curiosity lifting his tone, "How's that rapid descent into madness— I mean— the sea looking, Jac Cousteau."

Jac isn't usually dissuaded by failure; it's how so many great things end up being accomplished. But her frustration toward this one is evident in a sigh and reluctant twist of the knob to shut off the radio. She pulls the headset from her head in time to hear the moniker from Zachery, and she turns to give him the oddest of looks.

Who?” She's never heard that name before.

Not that she dwells long on the unknown. At least not in regards to the saltiness that has become Zachery Miller. She twists around and stares at the transceiver, trying to determine without further tests and trials what could be wrong. Maybe the location. The lab could be interfering somehow. Or the radio could simply be the wrong sort.

“Either it really doesn't work, or something in the setup isn't right,” she thinks out loud. “I think it's still plausible, but… I wonder if Lene would let us use the radio station.” Jac shrugs as she looks at Zachery again.

Chest rising with the draw of another catch-up breath, Zachery's brow knits with a plgh of salt water and a vague, throaty noise of disappointment that follows.

He slowly sinks back into the cold water with his arms spread out at his sides - not quite all the way down, this time, but enough to stare up at the ceiling tiles with racing thoughts narrowing his gaze.

"Okay." He concedes, leaning off to the side to snatch a towel folded and waiting on the wading pool's edge "But first, we do something dry."

//a warm drink and a couple hours later… //

Another, smaller Raytech room

Zachery drags the towel once more over a mess of still damp hair before draping the fabric over the shoulders of the lab coat he is wearing. Blessedly, he is fully dressed again, seated at a desk in a dark space and staring into a computer screen with thin lines darting chaotically up and down several rows of slowly replaced readable data.

He glances to the top left of the screen, focusing on a camera feed which shows Jac's face where she lies on a gurney. Dozens of colourful electrodes are carefully attached by salt paste to her forehead and placed carefully along her scalp, wires leading out from between her curls and out of sight.

Zachery pulls a binder closer in the dim light of the adjacent room he's in, checking the notes he'd left himself over the previous days of research. He glances again to the screen, but… finds himself looking decidedly less than satisfied.

Approximate knowledge of many things or not, Zachery still hasn't had experience with all of them. Maybe if he were able to check what he's seeing against what he might have once been able to intuit

But no.

He looks at the screen again with marked disapproval, then leans toward a desktop microphone beside the monitor and says, firmly, "You need to relax."

Jac huffs and makes a face at the disembodied voice. Any more relaxed and she'd probably be dead. But she tries anyway, after spending a second getting a restless feeling out. It begins with an itch on her forehead, which travels to her shoulders and then her feet. It produces the expected picking finger near an electrode, evolves into a shrug and shimmy which is resolved in the sound removal of her shoes.

One after the other is kicked off, allowed to fall wherever they will that isn't anywhere near her feet.

Only then does the teenager seem to have herself under control, especially once she takes a deep breath and sighs it all out again. Her arms fold beneath her head, eyes travel from the darkened ceiling to her toes, then finally settle on an indistinct point in space, unfocused on anything in the room.

No more criticism follows for a while. In fact, for what seems like several minutes, there is nothing but Jac herself and the room going silent - at least in so far as any room in a Raytech building ever seems to be.

But things are not quite as peaceful nearby, where Zachery, lit starkly by the monitor, pulls a large book riddled with sticky notes onto his collection of handwritten notes. He flips it open with more energy than is required, runs a finger down a page until he finds what he's looking for, and clears his throat while glancing between it and the screen. A little longer at the screen, each time.

Once more, he leans off to the side and activates the microphone.

"Oh, Jac?" He sing-songs with a straight face, much more gently than before, the microphone barely able to pick it up before the speakers sound it back out.

Meanwhile, Jac is nearly motionless. Except for the subtle movement of her chest from breathing, and the occasional blink of her eyes. She could be sleeping. One or two deeper breaths might support that theory, as well as the small shift of her head when Zachery calls on her again. Except

“I'm relaxed.” She's still wide awake, and the teen’s statement is almost a complaint in tone. Now the old man is just expecting the impossible.

"No," comes back over the speakers, despite the fact that Zachery has visual evidence as to her relaxed state.

He sits, squinting at the monitor. "You're asleep."

The gurney creaks with movement as Jac props herself up on an elbow. She'd be looking at Zachery like he'd finally lost it, if she weren't in a dimly lit room without windows. So it takes her a second to side eye the camera instead, it's the next best thing.

“No. I'm pretty sure I'm completely awake.”

A clipped laugh is the only response Jac gets before the sound is cut short, and she is left in silence.

Meanwhile, after impatiently flipping through the pages of his book one more time, Zachery promptly straightens and roughly yanks a different monitor off to the side to face him, then flicks its display on. He squints at the light, then pulls it closer on its stand with ill-advised fervor. A keyboard is pulled free from beneath frantic scribbles, and used immediately to tab to a different window and to start a whole new set of notes.

"Alright," he tells himself, amidst this - the latest of what feels like countless shots in the dark of late. Then, one more time, with a slightly crooked grin spreading gradually across his face, "Alright!"

Without looking, he reaches and taps the microphone on one more time, and doesn't switch it back off when he returns to typing.

"We did it." Gladness hastens the words that spill out from the speaker in Jac's darkened room, and it pulls his voice into an uncharacteristically enthusiastic timbre. "I don't- I don't know what we did, but we found something. I'm giving it a few more minutes for data, then we can… I don't know- we need more tests, for both of us, asleep, awake, we can call in others to help set it up now that we know we're onto something, but—"

And his voice is gone again, without warning.

Jac pushes herself upright, still squinting suspicion at the camera. Laughter of any sort begs the question of what's going on, but laughter following an insistence that she's sleeping is just insanity at work.

“Zachery?” She calls into the abrupt silence, cautiously and almost sing-song. Half a beat later she decides to not wait for an answer. What if the old man had finally cracked? In the semi-dark and weighty silence, she starts following the fine wires that tug at her head, fingers fussing with the connection to find the manipulation needed to disconnect them.

It startles her more than it should when the voice returns. Her heart leaps into her breastbone and tries to climb out her throat, hands jerk as shocked by one of the electrodes dangling from the net still connected to her head. She takes a breath to process and regroup.

“Wait. We… really?” Jac isn't sure she believes it, heart still fluttering, but maybe for new reasons too. As Zachery’s words sink in, she resumes struggling with escaping from the wires around her head. “What… Hey come back! What is it?”

Light floods into the room and washes over Jac's form as the door opens all at once, Zachery bursting into the room as if in some sweeping gesture onto a stage.

This undoubtedly disrupts their experiment even further, considering the calm that was called for earlier, but he doesn't particularly look like he cares, swept up in whatever's pushing his shoulders back and what's making him look happier than Jac's ever seen him before — especially considering he is, presumably, sober. They'll start over, it's fine!

"We — " He starts, catches himself with a dart of a look to the side, then says, "Hi, hello," and continues in a spirited ramble while beaming, "We've got something now! This is something. This can't be coincidence, this- this… this dreaming but not, you're making memories far too quickly, too— something, someone is interfering. And these are tracks." He takes a step eagerly forward, his eye searching Jac's expression as he exclaims, as if he's only just now realising, "We can get this figured out."

The light is equally as startling as the voice, but more invasive after the dimness of the room. Jac covers her eyes with a hand and makes a vexed sound, distracting from Zachery’s sashay.

“Warn me first,” she complains, raising the hand to shade more than shield her eyes until they adjust.

Head and eyes both turn to Zachery when he crosses closer. His energy becomes more of a balm than her hand blocking the light. The teen stares, first squinting and then eyes widening slowly as he explains his findings. “Making memories, dreaming…” That part is confusing, but the bit about someone interfering makes sense.

“Like… like someone is keeping us in a dream?” That seems strange but not impossible. Jac has been pulled into a dream before, while she was still in Praxia. Instead of being afraid, though, she's feeding off Zachery’s excitable energy. This could actually be a thing. She tucks her legs underneath so she's sitting on her knees, instead of trying to rid herself of the net around her head, she leans forward to meet the old man’s eyes.

“Okay. Okay what do we do first?”

Jac's first question is met with a shrug, Zachery offering it up freely but - most of all - carelessly. He doesn't fucking know. He hasn't felt like he's known anything for a good long while.

But this. This is new. This is just strange and sudden enough to feel like progress.

He takes a deep breath, and then answers, "We finish this," he gestures broadly to Jac's whole situation, his grin widening even as he notices the electrodes askew and realises the need for adjustment all around. No matter! "Then we repeat the process again, as science dictates, then we repeat it some amount of times more but slightly differently, and then we check, check again, maybe check thrice for good measure, and report. To everyone."

The use of 'we' is deliberate, as is the lift of his chin and the pause that precedes the question that follows. "Are you ready to continue?"

For a minute, Jac studies the old man’s face, like searching just to be sure she heard right and understands what's being decided. The emphasis isn't lost on her. The nod that follows is slow, but no less enthused.

“I'll let my mom know while you set things up.”

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