Primum Non Nocere


bella_icon.gif calvin_icon.gif

Scene Title Primum Non Nocere
Synopsis In which Calvin's sense of humor proves to have a half-life and Bella is accommodating on the subject of one've her previous accomplishments whether she likes it or not.
Date April 5, 2011

Bella and Deckard's Digs

It's late night at Chateau de Sheridan and all is well at a cursory glance. There's no sign of forced entry because there was no forced entry and all the lights are off as she remembers leaving them, city ambiance cutting cross the floor through the blinds at a regular slant. A car alarm trills in the distance; tail lights warm along one wall and fade out again slow. Hopefully sight and sound are not directly related.

It's the little things that are out of place. The remote control is on the couch rather than situated atop the television. There's a squat tumbler situated on the coffee table with ice melting itself all to slivers in the bottom alongside a few familiar scraps of paper puzzle-pieced carefully back together.

And there's someone leaning against the jamb of her open bedroom door, all shadow and bristly mane and a pair of eyes ringed lurid blue against the dark.

This doesn't even give her time to dread. That's the worst thing about it. No spotting of shattered glass, no splintered lock. Bella moves into her house with the ease of the wholly distracted, mind in that space that drifts just above her head and a little to the left, the approximate altitude of preoccupation.

You need to cross the room to turn on the living room lamp - the switch by the front does nothing except maybe make the microwave not work; Bella is uncertain, and thus tends to leave it alone. Her hand is gloved against the lingering cold and the threat of rain making the air humid and chill. As light careens off the ceiling and into the corners of the room, Bella sees the tumbler not long enough to register its significance before she sees, in the vaguest upper region of her vision, the significance itself.

So there is no time to dread. Bella cuts right to heart palpitations - breath catching in a half shriek, half squeak - hand going out to grip the lamp to steady herself as her leg gives a tremble. Understand, dread serves as a cushion, a time for adrenaline levels to rise and for panic to blossom into sustainable fear. The sharp jump Bella feels is, just for a moment, more akin to the suddenness of terror. Overreaction? Calvin Rosen is, you have to admit, a rather ghastly person to find waiting for you in the dark.

Maligned and much-liked, act-u-ally, by many (if not all) of those who've come to know him in recent weeks, thank you, Calvin Rosen is nice (NICE) enough to wait for Bella to steady herself before he acknowledges her presence. He does so with a shift of his weight and a bland look, eyes sliding level and chill from the closed door to the grip she has on the lamp.

"Evening," he says. Once it seems certain that she isn't going to fall over or. Break anything. A pause follows like an overhang after a slope, the promise of unpleasantness on the other side looming invisible just under the lip.

"Ssso. I know we parted on poor terms but I was hoping I could stay the night?"

Bella's first line of defense is a remarkably bright smile. She is not nearly in possession of herself enough to make the smile rise above the bridge of her nose - she's drawn around the eyes and she can hear her own heartbeat whudding in her ears.

"This- has an explanation, I'm sure…" she says, her voice a tonal match to her expression - jocular but hollow. She releases her grip on the lamp, though it almost takes force for her to free her fingers from their clench. Her eyes swoop down, again, to that tumbler. Which he must have left, and sitting on- what? Bella find some small retreat in her curiosity as she puzzles out as to why those bits and pieces look familiar. The handwriting maybe. Her own?

The detritus of her strained mind and strange situation, those notes are thoughts, not open to perusal. Bella doesn't quite have the self possession to bristle, not yet, but she does begins to slowly but steadily sidestep in an arch towards the door to Flint's room.

This is where she imagines she is most likely to find a gun.

The little sigh that filters through Calvin's nose is tight, polite and controlled. Not loud enough to be heard — just a dubiously-patient rise and fall about his shoulders. He doesn't even roll his eyes.

His restraint is to be commended.

It isn't, of course. She's moving to Flint's room with its scattered cache of armorments blunt and ballistic alike and he lets her go, scuffed boots taking up an arc of their own to follow at a less pressing pace. A kind of complimentary parabola that leaves her room to emerge with her weapon of choice while he waits.

"Well," he says, watery tumbler recollected and examined on its way to being sipped at, "I know there's the complication of my estrangement from the company to consider, but I figured seeing as I'm sad and alone and you're a doctor. Primum non nocere~." His accent's rough on the latin. Maybe intentionally so.

Also he intones it with just enough singsong to entail a tilde.

"A problematic principle with a much more recent past than people think," Bella says, archly, a fragment of some undergrad history of science class floating out from the fallout darkened veil of before-the-Bomb memory. "But I don't think medical ethics are really a particularly coherent notion for employees of the Commonwealth Institute, presently serving or otherwise."

Her words are covering fire, keeping him at conversational bay as she disappears through the door, tread unhurried to the last visible step. In the perpetual dark of Flint's room, Bella must use the light that manages to strain through the opening to the living room. Looking for something. Something she can use. Something she knows how to check is loaded, that she has any sense of where the safety is. Process of elimination burdened by simple ignorance.

"I'll be right out…" is Bella's attempt to buy time, as she stoops over the crumpled canvas husk of a duffle, skeletal with weapons. "If you want to talk, if a therapeutic intervention is what you're after, you should have consulted me through private practice." With the rest of the wackjobs.

Most of them aren't. Loaded, that is. Safety conscious as Flint isn't, guns in a duffel bag are typically best left empty, checked and double-checked. Of course, there's ammunition in there as well: various calibers and gauges boxed neatly in some cases and scattered at an assorted rattle like spare change through the bag's bottom in others. 12 gauge, 9 mm, .45. The gang's all there. A sweep of the rest of the bedroom may prove more fruitful: there's a revolver left behind on his pillow like a mint that is loaded, and familiar. One that's seen other episodes of drama within the same apartment.

"No rush," Calvin's voice assures from out —-> there, long toes splayed in his boots while he rocks on his heels and surveys the living area in proper light.

He's tattier than she may recall, leaner and longer about the face: the way things and animals tend to get when left out of luxury to fend for themselves, suddenly. But he's still got the crest of hair and the make-up and the wardrobe, long coat swept dark over a vest and tie. "And not quite." He drops the glass carefully, so that it cracks itself against the floor in an exclamation point of splinters and ice.

In the pressing darkness and the fear of her little light suddenly becoming eclipse by a the shape of lean intrusion, Bella isn't exactly in fit state to pick a gun, hunt down the right ammo and then load the damn thing. Gauges of shells, points - some hollow, some not - metal jackets full and otherwise - it's a nightmare of unit conversions, death done in decimals, at least to someone for whom gun control was once a hot button issue.

This was going to be Bella's plan - take a shotgun, loaded or not, and bluff Rosen out the door. Who, after all, is going to argue with two (as far as he knows) loaded barrels? That the recoil would almost certainly stagger her, that she might very well miss despite the close range of the weapon, that she doesn't actually know if the gun has a safety and where that safety might be, all these details would be moot since she'd never have to shoot it, right?

And she might just be crazy enough to go through with it. But the shattering of glass that punctuates Calvin's answer, and the awful finality of that sound - shattered things never mend fully, if at all - makes her hands fumble the stock of the weapon as her head twists around to check the doorway. But he's not there; only now, heart hammering once again, Bella has lost track of her chosen weapon and now finding it again seems an insurmountable task.

"Then why, exactly, are you here? I- I don't know that there is anything I can do for you, but-" but what, she'd like to keep him talking, getting to her feet to project her voice better, "I can- I can certainly try."

She hates how she can only sound helpful, not assertive. She hates that she is frightened by the simple sound of breaking glass. She hates that she doesn't know how to fit a clip into a submachine gun and that she's reduced to fumbling in the dark in this miserable, empty bedr-

This is when she spots the gun, displayed on its cushion. She has to stop herself from diving over the mattress for it. Instead she picks her way and leans over, gripping the handle and pressing the revolving chambers open. Those six circles of copper are unmistakeable, even to her.

Half of Bella appears in the doorway. Her visible hand is empty, innocuous, playing ignorant of what the other is up to. "If you'd clean that up, also," she adds, nodding at the ice that will melt and the glass that will not, "I'd appreciate it."

"I am here," says Calvin, "to recognize your worth."

Having waited (patiently) for her to emerge, Calvin's still standing where Bella saw him last, shoulders squared to the cut of his coat and expression levelly unimpressed. He complies with her request to clean with a sideways sweep of his boot tread: right to left. A slow, deliberate Swiffer kick that snaps sharp at its end, sending glittery glass askitter across the baseboards that separate him from her.


There is something soothing, Bella must admit, about being armed. She is not quite sure when she stopped being less afraid of the weapon than appreciative of its power - she could give a pretty decent guess, but it is now that she realizes the calming effect of that weight in her hand, still hidden.

"That," she answers, with a much more substantial smile, "is one of the least descriptive answers I've ever heard. And it has some stiff competition."

The kick wipes that expression clean off her features, her eyes sliding down to follow the comet-tail spray of tumbler remnants. Tiny, clear caltrops make treacherous the space between them. Or would were it not for Calvin's boots.

A single sidestep reveals the gun, which rears up in Bella's hand, muzzle forming a jabbing finger - very attention-getting. "The smallest reason," she informs him, lips drawn tight over her teeth, "or the first answer I don't like." Words ifs, bullets presumably thens. "What are you doing in my home?"

"Well I'm having a gun pointed at me, naturally." Brows twitched into a crooked knit and lift in the pause where the comma is, Calvin fails utterly at masking amusement at her expense. The fact that he made an effort to (mask it, perhaps for the sake of her dignity) might make it all the more infuriating. He turns his hands out away from his sides though, left scarred thin across the palm.

"I was wondering, though," and conversationally reflective as he is, this is not even remotely in line with answering the question how she'd like, "I was wondering if you thought I like — only searched your little room with the fluffy bed," he mimes fluffiness with a muffled gesture of his right hand, "and the angry — scribbles — and overlooked entirely the one full of guns," his brows tilt a degree or two higher towards each other, "or if I just…let you go in there to rummage around. For refreshments. Or. …Condoms." He trails off with his mouth still slightly open, at a loss for ideas of anything else she might like to find in there with a handsome intruder on the premises.

Infuriation appears to be, if not a talent of Calvin's, then at least a weakness of Bella's. It doesn't help, either, that she's having her much vaunted intellect pissed on. Insane, pointless, she mounts an interior defense - that threadbare line about not having experience with this sort of thing - breaking and entering, being 'on the run', guns pointed at anyone in any case. An excuse that may need a new coat of paint after such heavy use under quasi-constant clandestine conditions. How steep can her learning curve be, if she's so bright?

So she resorts to ad hominem. "Not if you were in a full body hazmat suit," apparently, so one can assume that's a 'no' to the condom search, "so fine, so you're at gunpoint by choice apparently. And so I guess you'll be bleeding from the gut by choice, too, which I'm sure, Dr. Rosen, will be a vast comfort."

She just now notices the gun is uncocked and, hoping that he hasn't noticed that she just noticed, tries to pull the hammer back like she's saying she means business. "What do you want?"

"I was never officially accredited, actually. Just 'Mister's fine." Calvin shows his teeth for her error, intentional or otherwise. Understanding of the mistake under a film of old rancor dusted brittle white across his grin. Like anthrax.


If in the first act you have hung a pistol on the wall, then in the following one it should be fired. So the old saying goes.

Sensing, perhaps, that Bella is having some difficulty in this arena, and with a desire to change the subject, Calvin splays the more exciteable of his hands into a slow these are not the droids pass across his tender breast. The blunt nose of Bella's revolver adjusts its angle obediently, widening its scope somewhere harmlessly off to Cal's left, clammy metal warming sour under her grip.

It happens quickly enough that she's probably still holding it when it fires on its own, grey lead going smack against something in the next apartment over once it's passed through a wall in this one.

"I would like to speak to you about Amphodynamine."

But it's not Chekhov hand that leads Bella's weapon astray. Wondering for one dull normal moment if she is perhaps having some sort of psychosomatic reaction, it takes a half beat for her to notice the tilt of Calvin's fingers in complimentary course. Then the gun fires as Bella's palms sweat in a reaction quicker than the registering of heat. She'd have dropped the gun either way, the noise horrible, loud, and not the result of her will. Bella flinches and leaps back into the dark room behind her as the revolver falls with every bit of gravity it can borrow, landing on the ground with a heavy thunk.

I'd hate to call what Bella's doing cowering, but she certainly was concerned that the gun would have the bad fortune to go off (again) when it struck the ground, spinning around to face her like a fixed round in a hellish game show; as such, she is seeking cover behind the frame of the door, just her head and hand visible.

When it's clear she's in no immediate danger, Bella steps back out slowly. She doesn't move for the gun. It doesn't appear that it will do her much good.

"Very well," she says, with a starched stiffness that implies all the fear it doesn't show, "what would you like to know?"

Helpfully, Calvin calls the revolver back to his waiting hand. Fleet enough for there to be an audible smack in the second before he flips it over and begins his advance, grip extended in silent offer as he goes. Barrel pointed inward. At him.

"Awwuh," he says. Brows knit, sympathetic to the fear she has fortitude or pride enough not to scatter everywhere in a panic. Maybe a touch hurt that she doesn't seem to trust him when he's been such a (relatively) good boy so far.

"Everything, I suppose. Mainly the recipe, though."

Reasonable in his proposal, Calvin keeps up if she retreats, waiting to offer the gun proper-like until he's within half an arm's reach. There's that disregard for personal space, again. Especially when he bumps her with the blunt of the butt. Dropped this!

She doesn't retreat so much as shrink back, and this is only initially. The elaboration - an answer whose price has been artificially inflated - is sadly, or perhaps impressively, enough to make her hold her ground. Beside create an environment of what Bella experiences as constant unease, discomfort and disrespect, Calvin hasn't done anything.

That besides, Bella understands, is both a big thing (he broke into her house, her house!) and no matter at all - he has the gun. He is returning it to her. It's of no use. The situation is within her control only insofar as she speaks. So she speaks.

Only what does she say?

"I-" she had expected this to be easy, as she's found all her coerced confessions to date, but this one is not so easy because she does have something to hide, something she's hidden. And how much pride can she afford to lose in one meeting?

The jut of the revolver's rounded handle answers her question. She takes it with fingers feeling just slightly numb. There is a fine line between paralysis and holding your ground. "It was an accident-" she states, "a- unexpected reaction under other test conditions. A- a reaction between Refrain and Adynomine. With- a metabolic catalyst of dextroamphetamine-" a beat, "all applied intravenously."

Calvin's hands do not withdraw once she's taken the weapon back. Rather, he brings his left up to join into the equation, thumb guiding hers to pop the cylinder and spill the rounds contained therein easy into his waiting palm. They click and roll and he nudges her thumb over to the safety instead, the miasma of acrid metallic stink about him near indistinguishable from ammunition's brassy warmth. It's an intimate operation.

Personal. Invasive. Or at least familiar.

"Safety's on, now," he tells her, plain and even. A tick of lean muscle pushes her to flick it off again. "Off." And then on once more. "Cocking it reduces the trigger pull but isn't necessary to fire, on this one. Should you be pressed for time during your next home invasion."

It's worrisome, in a way, that he doesn't acknowledge her admission right off. Like something about it doesn't sit with him and he's trying to decide whether or not to round on her again.

Probably because that's precisely what's going on.

And this is how paralysis wins. Bella observes the impromptu tutorial with the disassociated numbness of someone on ketamine, right there but high above herelf. Another change in mental altitude, this one windy and cold. When the cylinder pops free, her leg twitches, a motion she experiences at a marionetteer's remove. When the safety slides back on, her arm jerks up to grip the door frame.

She is poor mannered enough not to thank Calvin for the lesson. Instead she utters four words she hopes will be imperative. "Step. Away. From Me." It sounds much less commanding for the tightness of her throat, and the thinness of breath.

Cccllllack. The cylinder locks back in empty and he releases her and the gun alike, smooth carved angles of nose and cheek and brow turned down after her. There's bourbon on his breath in the slow beat he wallows in inscrutable introspection.

Then he says, "As you like," quiet between them and turns to arc his way back to the couch, five rounds and one spent casing dropped into his coat pocket as he goes. "You were saying, about an unexpected reaction."

The doorway remains Bella's anchor for the moment. She's not super confident about her stability. The gun feels much too heavy, but she's not about to drop it again. She clenches the grip, the barrel pointed at the floorboards below, and squeezes 'til her knuckles whiten. This helps a little.

"Yes," Bella confirms, continuing a conversation she hopes will keep him receding, "it was- almost instantaneous. I- I nearly died. Millions of dollars of equipment was destroyed.

"But it- saved my job." The pause here is not hesitation due to fear, it's thought. She's spent some time still thinking this was a good thing. A silver lining.

"I trust you kept records of the doses to replicate the outcome." More interested in investigating the couch than he is watching her, Calvin traces a hand across the back as he walks, content for the moment to invade the sanctity of her furniture in lue of more direct contact. "The more quickly you provide me with the information I desire and the more quickly I'll be out of your life. And," he finally looks back at her to account for the gun, "your armory."

Oh, he trusts her, does he? Bella wonders how deeply those initial figures - hastily marked down in a foreman's perch after her near-beheading (she still remembers the impatience with which she threw her veil aside, the impossible irritation that linen caused when it obstructed the clarity of her vision) - have sunk into the database of the Institute, the formula bumping from organization to organization and now, to enter the hands of this man.

And this begets a question. One that "I know you have no real reason to tell me," Bella says, gun still held but serving no function beyond another physical object around which she can rally herself, "but just who are you working for?"

There is an answer to her question. There are two, actually, both honest in different enough ways that Calvin's given pause while he eyes her. Kohl black, eyes blue.

"I'm self-employed," is his final answer. The truth with a touch of a bite on it.

"What difference does it make to you? You don't want me as a client and I've already given you the parameters you need to save your own hide." What else is there? A closed not-quite-shrug of his shoulders sees his stare off onto the paintings on the wall, and then back to her. Waiting.

An answered question is a straw, and Bella grasps at with a clutching hand. "When what do you want this for? And why that formula it's- accidental, unrefined, and it worked on one person."

"I am given very little agency in my life," Bella says, menacing the space beneath her feet with the jabbings of her gun, viable as a prop at least, "I'm sick of it," of hiding, of jumping at shadows, at strange men appearing in her home uninvited, of guns fired by her hands or by others, "the least I am owed is an explanation. Knowing makes all the difference in the world."

And a client? My God, what does he think he's saying, this perching, leaning, lurking creeper of a man? "I just want to know why it's me, and why this-" she gestures, vaguely, at some gestalt, "-production? The intimidation?" A slight break in her voice. "I'll do as you ask, I just want to know what the consequences are. What I'm being involved in."

Calvin sighs again. The second time tonight. Less lofty this go around. Longer. More resigned. This is becoming less straight forward and in and out than he'd hoped. And he is tired, sleeping at all manner of odd hours perpetually in some state of catching up with him. But there's something else there too. A mild, dragging internal waylay for the fact that she's asking. Recalculation and uncertainty accordingly.

"I already have it," he says at length, hedging accommodation. Willing to see how things go for the benefit of his curiosity, if nothing else. He's also on the approach again, if a little nicer about personal space this go round. He stops to size her up head on while still out of arm's reach, scruffy goat chin lifted, light eyes heavy-lidded. "I have all of the Institute's Archives. Project Icarus and the downfall of Doctor Cong. Your work with Refrain. The execution order out on Flint. But I'd like confirmation from the ass's mouth before I go injecting chemistry into people I like, you understand. Consider yourself," he adds after a moment's hazy thought, "absolved from responsibility."

That Bella is not worthy even of equine comparison would not normally pass her by. She might have flipped Calvin the bird, demonstrating defiance for defiance's sake, meaning what it is - fuck you. But she lacks presence of mind, said presence lagging behind in the procession of Calvin's words, a relevant point slipped in among the tattered parade of bad sins and worse associations.

"Execution order?" Bella wants to lift the gun, menace him a little - there is something enamoring about the emphasis having a weapon can lend to your words - but she's sure that, empty, it will produce the opposite effect, "is this access or copies you have?" that she needs any such clarification spawns from a single detail, previous, "what do you mean 'all of archives'?"

Nostrils pulled thin, eyes narrowed, Calvin stands quiet for a moment while his patience frays. It's a visible, tangible process: tension steeling out across the backs of his hands and locking hollow through the familiar slant of his jaw. He is not of a mind to be menaced. "Tell me what you know."

"What I know?" Bella resounds, the pronoun and verb lofted along a narrow, high parabola of interrogative, "Jesus. Fine. You'll need all the details for absolute safety," needle sharp, her snideness, "First we administered a standard dose of adynomine, injected atypically through the upper arm, into a subject exhibiting signs of fear, rage, suggesting a heightened adrenal state before and upon the injection. Moments after, a cocktail of Refrain and dextroamphetamine was administered, also injected in the upper arm," the details are projected at Calvin, aimed at him, "The precise composition of the cocktail is in the report. I can't recall them with confidence off hand."

Enough information already, but Bella is relentless, a precise, tight fisted aggression propelling each word. "The subject exhibited fever symptoms - increased body temperature, flushing and tachypnea. It's unclear how many of these symptoms were the result of the subject's emotional state, pre-existing medical conditions, mental or physical," her mouth twists like copper wire, "we possessed none of the subjects previous medical information. She was in our custody under duress."

Snideness in the form of italics provokes a rankle at Calvin's nose, temper temporarily making it hard to listen through the spike of static bristling in his ears. It's subsided by the time she's sloped down from start to finish, adynomine to dextroaphmetamine. Enough for him to punctuate her confession of duress with a, "Naturally," that's at least as icy and edged as the glass he shattered moments ago.

"Like a mad doctor, right? Your words," he informs her before she can think to draw herself up against them. Like. A puffer fish. Or siamese cat.

If he's read her personal diary, then he should know - she reasons - the extent to which she's progressed from that point of regrettable instability. She experiences a brief impulse to remind him as such, in case he missed it. She then wonders why he might have missed it, and begins to wonder if it really serves as such a fine testament to sanity and ethics regained.

On fifth thought, then, Bella reconsiders this line of offense. A few seconds pass in which she is about to say something, a promise delivered on only when she says, instead: "You don't fucking know me."

"You're right," says Calvin. "I don't."

But he has gotten what he came for.

So with one last look plain up and down her person, revolver and all, he turns to leave. Boots crunch on shattered glass for the first couple've steps; the five live cartridges in his pocket are removed, presumably to be deposited on a kind of end table thing in the entry ahead of him.

"Thank you very much for your collusion."

And he wouldn't like to get to? Bella feels as if something is unfinished, undone, or unstated - a potentiality hovering, but tenuously, ready to annul itself. She chases it, tries to outline the form of this thing, before Calvin reaches the door. When he's gone, it will be gone - that is the only thing she knows about it.

And then he is - gone that is - and of course she then remembers. Access. Archives. Execution. Some brief puff of pipe dream smoke, an unresolved notion. And when it's gone, she feels- ill. Each step is as much haste as speed, her motions both economical and fretful, their energy frenetic. Locks slip, slide, snap and click into place, for all the little they've done. Lights go off next, the visible inhabitance of this place flickering into a darkness playing at absence - the last gleam is in the bedroom, a shaded lamp on a bedside table, illuminating open pages and a pen, poised - tip to paper - but still.

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