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Also featuring:

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Scene Title Purge
Synopsis Between cleansing and sacrifice, there is purging.
Date July 12, 2011


It's summer, in this section of the world. That much Tania can determine.

The rest remains a mystery.

That said, there is not a lot of mystery in broad daylight, sunlit gardens, the blinding glimmer of light off water and the hum of bumblebees. The lay of the land sprawls itself plainly around her, a neat and fastidious place where bursts of orange flowers congregate in their allotted section, a pond dug into the ground with iron railings and a sign that bids people to PLEASE DON'T FEED THE DUCKS even though the complete absence of ducks makes this notice almost comical. Tilting a look back towards the sky, the blue dome briefly glimmers silver and the sun burns of yellow stagnant orb of pure light to something less pure, a dark ring within it aslight fixtures might have, like a cataract, refocusing, a manmade light beaming down on her and the shadow of someone peering in, blocking the sun, immense, a giant without a mouth.

The world stabilises, birds twittering. The grass tickles her bare feet, the pavement clean of trash and broken glass, promising to be warm and as rough as a cat's tongue should she journey towards it. The pathway veins through the gardens and finishes in a spiral, an outlook over the lake, and in its centre, resplendant in the sun, is the harp her brother bought her.

Summer is not an entirely familiar season for the girl. At least not Summer like this. Not sunlit gardens and the freedom of barefeet in the grass. No mother shouting for her to come back in, not to over work herself. And Tania takes advantage of the fact slowly, standing still, eyes closed, savoring the feel of the grass tickling her toes. But it isn't too long before she's draw toward the garden, toward the flowers as the skirt of her simple, modest, ivory dress billows behind her a bit, like a flag in a soft breeze.

Long fingers touch petals here and there, barely disturbing them at all, but unable to pass them by. It's only that darkened sky that succeeds in drawing her attention away from them. She glances up in time to catch a glimpse of the disturbance above, but blinks it away as the sunshine returns. Her mind playing tricks on her. And when she looks forward again, there sits her harp; beloved more for who it's from than what it is. Although she does love what it is, too, enough that her fingers rest on nothing else in the garden until they can reach those strings.

"Nothing like this city on a nice day, huh?"

The voice of someone coming up on Tania won't startle her — it is made of the fabric of this world, as natural as the green shine to the grass and the coarse feel of harp strings beneath her fingers when they touch down light on it. A blink will summon the speaker into being, a woman leaning on the rail, her light hair faded with age, her clothing a nondescript pair of faded jeans and sandals, a pale blouse, a ring on her finger. "I've moved around a lot, but I've always enjoyed this weather. Winter days can seem like spring, and summer never peaks too warm. The best weather is the kind you don't notice until you admire how beautiful it is."

She looks back at Tania then, taking her in for the first time. "Now, I haven't seen you here before. You're welcome to stay, of course — this place is usually packed, on an afternoon like this? What's your name, honey?" Her voice and accent is one of education, a national kind of American that isn't as crisp as a television presenter's, but warm, well-practiced.

The voice does keep Tania from actually playing anything, as she glances up toward the woman. Her lips curve into a touch of a smile as she nods to the sentiment. She doesn't answer, as the woman seems to need a moment to wax poetic, but with the less rhetoric matter of her name, the girl straightens up some to answer.

"Tania," she offers in clear English, despite an obvious Russian accent, "My name is Tania. I did not mean to intrude, but as you say… it is very beautiful today." Too much temptation for a young girl.

"Oh please, play," the woman urges, without particular emphasis or urgency. "I don't even know when the last time I heard music was. Out here, anyway."

The world bucks beneath Tania's feet, a vertigo-like sway, an impression of one world attempting to hedge into this and though the sky above remains blue and unchanging, it seems t move, rushing up and above her beneath the sun like a backdrop being rotated, only to reveal more blue, endless blue, something wheeling on by. Tania, can you hear me? My name is— "Carol," and the woman's smooth voice clips across the echo of another voice, something distant and fair away in Tania's head. "My name is Carol."

You're going to be just fine. Where is Bennings? I need her under.

"It is hard to go without music," Tania says gently as she moves her fingers along the strings. It really isn't hard to talk her into playing. Unfortunately, it's short lived as she stumbles a bit, losing her footing and clinging to that harp to stay upright. It's then that she recalls—

"I apologize, Miss Carol. I sometimes feel very weak." It's all too familiar, that dizzy feeling, but hard to dismiss. Her head swims in all that blue and voices where they shouldn't be and she slides down to sit on the ground, her back to the harp. A hand presses to her forehead and she just tries to breathe through it for a few moments.

The last she sees of Carol Praeger before her controlled collapse is a startled widening of blue eyes, her mouth hard and inquisitive. Then, the woman is in front of her in an easy kneel, hands hovering out between them. Tendons stand out against the delicate skin of her knuckles, her fingernails clean and trim. "Are you sick?" Carol asks, her voice measured — more nurse than concerned friend. "I can help, sometimes. I'm gifted." The air in front of Carol's face grows smokey— no, more like steam from breathing, collected on an invisible pane of glass, and Tania can see— without moving her hands— her palm slap against it, drag down, trying to seek balance. Ghosts on the other side of the glass observe her.

She was asking for Michal Valentin. The hallucination— or whatever it is— ends without Carol having acknowledged it, not deigning to touch the younger woman without permission.

"I…" Tania pauses as she looks up, brow furrowing as she watches her hand move without her, glancing from it to the faces beyond before Carol's face refocuses in front of her. She takes a moment, squeezing her eyes shut and swallowing hard. "Yes, since I was very young," she says, voice a little strained, "I have something they call Addison's? It is not like the flu, not sick this way."

She looks at the woman's hands for a moment, just making sure they're going to stay and not fade off. But her hands slip into Carol's after that moment, and she looks up to the woman, confusion in her gaze. "Where is Michal Valentin? I am not sure… why I care that he is not here, but he should be here… yes? I was with him, before this garden…" Maybe. She's not entirely sure, actually.

Carol shakes her head, slowly, letting a little bit of concern filter into her blue eyes. "I'm sorry, I don't know who that is," she says, enunciation deliberate, in case the girl who clearly speaks a different language has trouble understanding her in the throes of— fever or headaches or whatever this appears to be.

Or maybe something else completely. The pain that quite suddenly stabs through Tania's abdomen doesn't feel like it comes from that ghost world she sees glimmers of, nor does it quite match the pleasant surroundings of the Baltimore gardens. But it's there, all the same, like a fire, something inside her twisting around in corkscrew agony.

"He is… He is with the soldiers. They came to the brick house." That is, apparently, suppose to make sense, as if anyone would know what house she means. But there's no time for her to elaborate, because in her experience abdominal pain is not a good sign. It is, in fact, a very bad sign. Panic does set in, her hands tightening around Carol's as her breathing goes from steady to staccatoed in short order. But it all just seems to make her more tired, more lightheaded even as fear flashes into her expression.

"I want my brother," she manages to get out, voice trembling for that pain, "Where is my brother?"

"I'm sorry, I don't know," Carol insists, her voice even, and level, almost irritated at the panic being displayed, but there is sympathy in her expression, softened in the lines that age has set in around her eyes, her mouth. Hands grip onto Tania's, then, tighter, and she concentrates. At the same time, the world bleaches white, bleeding in light and sensory overload to wash away the details of the garden, the woman in front of her, and it doesn't actually seem to be anything Carol is doing, but a wash of straining memory.

A figure in the door, a lanky young man, a soldier's silhouette in his uniform. His hands reach down for Tania, to sling her up on his back, filling her senses with his scent and his strength and security.

The world breaks apart like leaves in the wind.

The Commonwealth Arcology

With gentle care, Maddox takes Carol Praeger's next-to-lifeless hand off the slender fingers and knuckles of Tania Kozlow, observing the blue veins like worms beneath Carol's skin, and the fluid drip digging a needle taped into the back of Tania's. "It's done," he says, his voice sounding too loud to his ears, and strangely hollow. There are certain things he does these days that still continue to surprise him. This one is no different. He has changed out of a necessity — he can no longer be himself in a place like this. There is no talking your way out of much. There is only doing, following orders, chasing a light at the end of the tunnel that warps distance and represents freedom. At this rate, it's likely to be a train.

"Thank you. You can go," says the voice through the speakers.

And he does, gladly, stepping back from the two women and moving through the examination room before two nurses are quick to descend on the specimens. Carol is secure, ever-lastingly so, wired into the open coffin with wisps of smoke-like ice edging out the sides of her electronic tomb, glowing white. She has wasted away to something thin, eyes sunken into shadows and lips chapped, and one of the nurses makes a note to up her fluid intake and keep a careful monitor on her dehydration levels. It would be an idiotic thing to do, to let this woman die.

Tania is less elaborate, placed like a sacrifice or something that's already been sacrificed upon a metal table. Her hospital gown is all she wears — all she wears save for the tape that straps in tubing wound up one nostril and needles into her arms, and the bandages that seem to cover her torso from ribcage to pelvis, although as the other nurse shifts aside the fabric of her gown and the bandages beneath, he can see that her post-surgery stitches are healing away nicely, the bruises faded around that sickle gash over her abdomen.

From the other side of the glass, Simon Broome's eyes hood, still relishing the warmth of the Baltimore gardens, and even the comfort of a little girl seeing her older brother coming home. Then, with a touch of his fingers to his temple, both consciousnesses are plucked out of the caging mindscape of his mind, replaced in their bodies.

Heart rate monitors flutter. And then stabilise.

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