Plan (B)ella


bella_icon.gif ruiz2_icon.gif

Scene Title Plan (B)ella
Synopsis The Institute gets their hands on a new Evolved and things do not go as planned and they need to call in a consultant to assist.
Date May 17, 2011

An Institute Lab in New York City

It started as a simple power test. Or at least that's what the Institute branch of New York had thought they had on their hands. Just test a power and move on. But then something went terribly, terribly wrong.

And now the whole room's a hostage situation. They tried funneling negation gas into the room, but he somehow seemed ready for that and did something entirely unexpected, they don't dare risk going in armed in such a small space with the subject's back to the wall.

Not after what happened to the first soldier that shot at him.

Like all hostage situations, he has demands. He wants out.

That's not an option. It never is. The hostages actually matter less than the man himself, at this point. After all, the Institute doesn't wish to lose a potential asset like this unnamed man has already proven himself to be.

It took a few calls, but they found and brought in someone who might be able to give them an option B. Or in this case, the Bella option.

In no one's good graces these days, more prone to keep her head down than to speak up (save when forced to defend herself), Dr. Isabella Sheridan is more than a little surprised, and more than a little chagrined, to find herself thrown into precisely the kind of high-stakes situation she's striving to avoid. God help her. Though why would He?

Bella is left to wonder if taking a shot of whiskey before this encounter would be a good idea or a terrible one- a purely hypothetical concern as she's hustled by security to the site of the standoff. She's dressed professionally, though she's not as crisp as she's been in her prime, her makeup spare and her colors muted, an adaptation of an organism not trying to draw attention to itself. She takes a moment before stepping over the threshold, into view, raising a 'please wait' hand, and taking three slow, measured breaths. Then her hand drops and…


She enters with hands raised, universal semaphore for 'meaning no harm'. She's not smiling. She's not stony-faced either. The mask she wears is one of materteral concern.

For a moment, when the door opens, there's a static in the air. The lights in the room flicker. They'd warned her about this. It's the first sign that he's using his ability, but at the sight of a doctor with hands up, the static dissipates, the lights return to the soft hue of emergency lighting.

Dark hair, clean shaven, dark eyes, the man has an ethnically ambiguous look about him. The brownish skin tone could come from many sources, but either way, he looks impatient.

And the scientists look tired, scared, and hopeful at the sight of someone not carrying guns. Surely that means they're negotiating, right? After what happened to one of their colleges, they haven't tried to move much from their corner.

"They're actually sending more people in here when all I want is out?" the man comments, even as he keeps a hand pointed up at her as if that hand were the weapon. No, the weapon is in the air around him. His lowered eyebrows are tense, but there's a moment when he looks at her he shows a hint of hesitation. Perhaps he's tired. This showdown has been going on for hours already.

A point of common interest. Always best to start there. "Believe me," Bella says, hands still raised, "I don't want to be here either." She slowly lets her arms drop, making the deliberate motion seem as fluid and natural as possible. She keeps her distance; she's not at the point of offering this guy a handshake. But normalcy is what she is striving for, here.

"I'd like for us both to emerge from this safe and sound." Her tone is not quite conversational. There's a touch of coax to it still, an acknowledgment of the tension that fills the air as surely as the background static charge. "That's my goal. One I hope we share."

"What you and I want doesn't really matter, does it," the man mutters under his breath, looking past her toward the door as if expecting a sniper rifle to show up over her shoulder. From the sounds of the brief, he had been ready for that the last time. They don't know how long he can keep up what he's doing, though, but they hope to end it somewhat peacefully. They hate to lose good scientists when they don't have to.

"No one would have been hurt if they hadn't brought me here in the first place," he responds in harsh tones, the men, and women in the corner flinching. "I didn't want to hurt anyone." Hurt is an understatement to what happened, though there's absolutely sign of blood in the room.

"It matters a great deal to us, doesn't it?" Bella says, gesturing to the situation, one hand ending extended towards the hostages, "it certainly matters to Fiona there. And Harry. Everyone in this room has a stake in this. And we're at the point where we need to think hard about optimal outcomes…

"That's why I'm here. To have this end optimally. For both of us."

The doctor clasps her hands before her, adopting a subtly beseeching aspect. "Look- I know you didn't mean anyone harm. I also know you can hurt me if you wanted to. You have… a remarkable burden. Something else you didn't ask for. But what's happening here, and now? It doesn't have to be this way. It doesn't have to go further." Please let this go no further.

"I'm Bella," she says, making the play. Trying to change the register. "What can I call you?"

"Wonderful. Had to give them names, didn't you," he says with a glance in their direction as he settles back against his corner. His English is perfect. With barely a hint of a discernable accent. "Bella," he responds to her name by repeating it, with a small nod. They all have names now, except for him. They hadn't found an ID on him when they found him. Could not get anything in a quick scan of the database. They would do a more thorough check later, but names…

"Ruiz." First or last name, he doesn't specify, but Ruiz is certainly a far more common surname of Hispanic origin. Less common as a first name.

"All I want is to leave. Your scientists, the soldiers— all they have to do is let me walk out those doors and this is all over. Nothing else needs to happen."

"Ruiz," Bella repeats, insisting on their mutual recognition. A human being is easy enough to dispense with- we feel worse seeing pets die than faceless bystanders in movies. But a person, a name, a character, a life? Harder to dismiss. For most, at least.

"I'd like you to walk me through this plan- the one where you walk out of here." Bella continues to speak in a level tone, her hands still clasped before her, a silent and constant appeal. "Where will you go next? You don't have to be specific of course but… I'd like you to understand what you're really asking for here. What it will mean for you."

Plan? What plan? Why does there always have to be a plan?

Ruiz runs a hand through his thick curly hair for a moment where he leans, before he shifts his eyes back to the door, looking for a crack, any sign that they might try to pump that gas in again. This could be a distraction, or they're just waiting to tire him out. He's already displayed his power a few times, some people can't keep it up all day. They could be waiting him out— in some ways they are.

But they also have Bella.

"I didn't exactly have a plan. I'll just try to get home and you'll never hear from me again." But there's that doubt in his voice. Like he doesn't think that will happen, even if it's what he wants.

"Consider-" Bella begins - her turn is towards the rational, as ever. She doesn't trust feeling, feeling can lead to outrage, to acts of self-harm. But get him thinking- beyond just this moment… "You have the thing that is of most value here: your burden, this thing you can do that no one else can. That's why you're here." Her face grows grave. "And if you leave, if you go home- how safe will you feel?" A gambit, this- to play with implicit threat. But nothing wagered, nothing won.

"Ruiz- I'm a therapist," a modest understatement - Bella'd bristle if a date called her that, dismissing her doctoral credentials, but she guesses the scientific and medical associations are not what she should lean on in this particular encounter. "I'm here because I want to help people like you. People with extraordinary potential. Potential that can be frightening, to everyone around them, and to themselves." Another broad gesture, letting the standoff frame her argument, and vice versa. "All this- is a product of fear. Their fear, but also yours. And I think you know, Ruiz- it's a fear you will not escape, not without help. Not even if you leave."

"Always a therapist, aren't you," Ruiz mutters something quietly under his breath, still watching the only door and the vents. They would have to drill through the walls to get the gas in any other way. But he does settle his eyes on her a little longer than he probably should. "Home's not safe, but it's home." Most people would define home as a place of safety, but not this man. No, home is something else entirely. It is as if 'safe' is actually a foreign concept to him.

"They wouldn't be in this mess if you hadn't attacked me on the street and dragged me in here," he gestures at Harry and Fiona. He is just glad he didn't know the third's name at this point. "I can control what I do when I'm not attacked or experimented on like a lab rat."

But even as he says it, even as anger starts to come through the cracks, there's definitely a hint of fear under there— something he is afraid of. More than anything else.

"Institutions are rarely subtle," Bella admits with visible chagrin, though at the same time making a slight distinction between 'IT' and 'her'. Like any employee in an awful, faceless organization, she will insist on her separation from it, even as she works to do its bidding. "I'm sorry you were treated that way. Again- they acted out of fear. Fear of what you could do.

"Because it's frightening, Ruiz. I'm frightened of it. I've been frightened so often. I'm frightened now. Frightened you'll decide it's easier to kill us. Frightened that you'll decide it's easier to die." A beat. Two. "I can only imagine how you must feel.

"What do you feel, Ruiz? Right now? Do you feel in control?"

"If I was in control, I'd already be out of this place," Ruiz sighs, finally letting the exhaustion creep through in his voice. He looks past her again, but he's not exactly looking at the door, so much as something… not there. Something out of reach. "I'm not going home, am I?" He's not asking just because she's working with the big nameless cooperation that decided to drag him into a testing room to play with like a toy, but… because of something else.

Because home's too far away.

"What's the best case scenario here, Sheridan?"

Bella can read the surface of his body language at the very least. The fatigue, the strain, the way his posture changes. She may not discern the full depth of his realization, but she doesn't have to. Knowledge can come later. Now she needs to act, while the momentum is hers.

"Thugs in scrubs aside, this is quite possibly the best place for someone like you," Bella insists. And she's only half lying, her preferred amount. Now that they know he exists, there will be no rest for him. She's sure she's doing him a good turn- more or less. "You know what the world is like. How violently it reacts to change. But this- this here is your chance to take control. To forgive our errors, and to forgive yours. It's our chance to work together." And now she extends her hand, an offer of a compact.

"That's the optimal outcome-" wait-

Did he just say her surname?

He did, but Ruiz doesn't seem to have noticed the hiccup in the situation yet as he nods, looking over at his hostages. Safety won't be found, and he doesn't seem to believe what she says, but at the same time, there's something that has registered in him. A kind of acceptance. Or like he's willing to be patient.

"Get them out of here," he gestures to the flinching hostages, even if the lights don't flicker this time. "They at least deserve to go home. Sorry about— whatever his name was."

He doesn't even realize that this comment solidifies another thing— that no, he doesn't know everyone's name.

Just apparently Bella Sheridan.

A situation like this emerges from the face of the intolerable. You don't start making fatal decisions unless you sense fatal consequences coming on. The key, then, is to change the terms, to make the future something that can be, if no welcomed, then accepted. To coax the desperate back away from the wall, and the fall that would follow; to defuse the bravery of absolute fear.

Because you can live your life afraid, just a nice normal amount of day to day fear. The fear you share with the world's Harrys and Fionas, the fear of living between the gears of a vast, impersonal machine. Bella knows that well enough herself. All the more reason to make sure that machine runs smoothly, to prevent surprises, a sudden catch or jam.

"Thank you, Ruiz," Bella says, because it's polite and because politeness matters in civilized settings, in a world with walls and laws, in a world where you do as your told. "You've done the right thing. Know that." She steps aside to let the hostages pass, lingering in the room, not wanting to reveal how her own fear surpasses normalcy, how her own heart continues to hammer in her throat. She can't back out.

"If you ever need to talk-" she adds, "you know who I am."

When she says that, he looks up. Ruiz perhaps did not even realize he'd used her last name until just this moment. "It's Mateo. Mateo Javier Ruiz." It's offered as almost his kind of a white flag, a full name for the lab coats to write down as he spreads his arms and steps away from the wall. "Tell them if they want me to talk to anyone, it's gonna be you." It's said simply, with a small smile, even as he looks past them as the hostages' exit and—

"Not going to enjoy this part."

Even as he says it, a new lab coat comes in, with a syringe. The negation injection. The vaccine they've been working on as they call it, that negates for a much longer time than the pills. "She does it," he simply says, nodding toward the redhead brought in to negotiate. "I won't hurt her."

It might be a threat, but, well, he also seems to mean it. The labcoat looks back, as if to verify with his superiors, and then holds the syringe out to her.

Remembering syringes is remembering layers of Bella's life. Back in pre-med, up through med school. And then behind her veil, in the dimness of the converted warehouse. This, here, now, is a meeting of the two. Prison context, but a measure of trust. It makes her guts roil a little.

Not that she shows it. Her hand is steady as she takes the needle, balancing it between fore and middle finger, thumb keeping the plunger steady. She approaches Ruiz - Mateo Javier, to be precise - twisting free the sterile plastic needle guard. "I wish we had the traditional alcohol swab," she says, in the low tones of conversation, "but we both know this isn't a booster shot. Your arm, please?"

"If it gets infected I'm sure they'll be on hand to treat me," Ruiz responds with an ironic twist of his lips into a smile as he uses one arm to pull his sleeve up on the other all the way to his shoulder. He doesn't know what the shot entails, muscle or vein, so he just waits for it, either way. No, he's not going to like this part. There's even a flicker of the lights for a moment as the stress levels make his eyebrows furrow, but it stops soon enough.

He meant it when he said he wouldn't hurt her. "You should really find different bosses," he adds on with a soft whisper. Almost a 'so you know.' "In fact, if I were you, I'd get out if I still can."

Bella steady's Ruiz's elbow and finds the vein, taking her time to let her muscles remember, letting mental technique give her body the room to do what it knows already. Once this is done, she'll feel safe; even if she 'is' safe, technically, the feeling of tension still suffuses the room, prickling against her skin.

The advice doesn't get an audible response. She doesn't want to lie, but she also doesn't want to speak any disloyalty to the organization that she, too, now lives within the belly of, trying her best not to get digested. So she gives the man a single, significant look- wry and strained and unmasked. I know - that look says - Heaven help me, I know.

And in that mood of solidarity, she presses the needle home.

Almost as soon as the needle pricks skin, there's that flicker again. The air off to the side seems to solidify for a moment an electric hum in the air that tries to form, that pulls static out of the air, that hums and hisses and gnaws. The air starts to shift, as if the entire world decided to inhale, ruffling clothes and hair in the tight confines of the room.

And then it stops.

Ruiz exhales slowly and looks back into her eyes. That look that he recognizes. "And tell them to be more careful if they want to play around with what I do." And perhaps, if they review the tapes, they will try to avoid what happened to that poor, unnamed scientist.

Harry and Fiona won't forget anytime soon.

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