Run Blind II


df_cardinal2_icon.gif colette_icon.gif maddox_icon.gif

Scene Title Run Blind II
Synopsis This wasn't the way it was supposed to happen.
Date October 7, 2011

Whirling snow whips through fifteen foot tall cargo doors. Floodlights from a tracked vehicle spill into the dimly lit maintenance bay, and the BV 206 tracked carrier that rolls in is crusted with ice and snow. As it clears the bay doors, they begin sliding down on an automated closure protocol. One door on the tracked carrier swings open, and a tall man in a heavy winter jacket steps down the runged ladder at the vehicles side before dropping to the floor with a clap of boots. A pair of white-uniformed security staff meet the arrival, and as the future-spanned Richard Cardinal draws down his fur-trimmed hood, the security operatives dip their heads into a deferential nod. A science officer standing nearby swiftly approaches, clip-board in hand and Cardinal moves to greet him with a measured quickness.

"It all checks out," Cardinal affirms, motioning with a jerk of his thumb to the closing bay doors. "You did damn good." The science officer manages something of a weary smile at that praise. "It's not that I didn't believe you that it worked, but I had to see it in action for myself. Good job, Benning." Cardinal claps a hand on Doctor Benning's shoulder, then pauses mid-stride to look around the maintenance bay. "So, I want five more of those operational before the end of the month. The whole perimeter's gotta be locked down." Dark eyes scan the room, then go back to Benning as he gently lifts his hand from the doctor's shoulder. "Yeah?"

"Yeah," Benning is quick to agree, even if he isn't certain the order can be filled by then. "I'll — Industries and engineering will make it top priority sir. Oh uh," Benning hesitates, stepping in front of Cardinal as he was about to move away. "Maddox wanted me to let you know that he's ready to see you. They've got the photokinetic prepped for the first trial run." The knife-like smile Cardinal offers back to that news is enough to send Benning slipping away from the facility director. Cardinal, to his credit, only meant to affirm a job well done, but his reputation has become sharper in the past few months. Watching Benning retreat with clip-board in hand, Cardinal's smile grows subtly and he turns to resume his brisk stroll through the compound.

Mount Natazhat Compound

Saint Elias Mountain Range, Alaska

Richard Cardinal leaves a trail of melting snow in his wake as he heads down the adjoining corridor connecting the maintenance bay to the primary research center at the heart of the Natazhat facility. A mixture of mercenaries and scientists file down the halls in both directions, interspersed by the metallic clank of quadrupedal leonine robots with glowing eyes. Beyond reinforced glass walls on either side of the hall, Cardinal can see clean rooms working round the clock to produce and perfect that hardware necessary for his crowning achievement. Moving through a pair of sliding metal doors marked central lab, Cardinal emerges into a nerve center of activity. Technicians work on racks of server clusters thrumming with activity, physicists and mathematicians stand behind another glass wall, marking equations and comparing notes. Following a fork in the corridor, Cardinal heads through two more security checkpoints without so much as pausing for the teams to inspect him. When he passes through the final doors, something is already in progress.

"// — me go you motherfuckers! Let me go!" The screaming, hoarse voice comes from a sweat-slicked young woman strapped to a padded examination table, electrodes connected by soft adhesive to her forehead and neck. A medical team is scrambling past Cardinal, hauling an injured doctor away on a brace board along with a clear plastic baggie containing four severed and cauterized fingers. One of Cardinal's brows raise, and he approaches the cylindrical glass room the wild-spirited young woman is in. Stepping through the door, Cardinal sees Bruce Maddox looking harrowed as he keeps a firm hand pressed to her shoulder. A bandage covers the meat of his palm at his thumb, pink with blood. "I'll fucking kill you, you motherfuckers! Let me go! Let me go!//"

"Colette," is Cardinal's greeting as he sees the trail of blood running from the side of her mouth where she clearly bit Maddox. Colette turns mismatched eyes to her captor, clearing her throat and spitting as hard as she can in his direction. It lands on the floor, she doesn't have the strength to cover two meters. "I see you're not sedated anymore," Cardinal shoots a look to Maddox, who looks frantic and frustrated. Even as Colette continues to scream profanities and thrash about in her restraints, Maddox tries to cover for himself.

"She — the last sedative wore off sooner than I — sooner than the anesthesiologists thought! She played coy, and I just — " Maddox grimaces as Cardinal cuts him off.

"You underestimated a kid." Cardinal's brows furrow, and he looks to the orderlies waiting at the door, giving them an affirming nod. Both sweep in at the motion, one with a syringe and the other with a taser baton in the event things get bitey or lasery again. Colette fights to the last moment, bare legs kicking, sweat-slicked arms buckling and thrashing at her restraints. The reddened and swolen stitches on her arms and neck weep blood, stitches torn from her protest. Cardinal's brows furrow, lips downturn. "For the love of god fucking fix those stitches," he instructs with a motion to her injuries. "Get her sedated and I swear to god if she gets an infection and we have to push this back…" The orderlies listen, at least in part, knowing full-well the severity of the situation they're already in. As the needle goes into the side of Colette's neck, she screams and kicks and Maddox keeps his hand clamped down to her shoulder, even after the thrashing stops.

After a few minutes and a test with a sharp needle for reflexes, Maddox slowly removes his hand and gives Cardinal a sharp look. "Why do we need her," he asks with a wave of his bandaged hand to the now unconscious form of Colette Nichols on the examination table. "I understand, about the lasers, but — with your ability you could — "

"Bruce," Cardinal frowns disapprovingly. "Just because I swap an ability, it doesn't confer practiced skill to the new host. You saw what happened with Lauden when we tried that. He literally exploded. It was fucking awful, for everyone." Maddox flinches at the reprimand, averting his eyes to watch Colette wheeled off from the room. "She's gifted," Cardinal draws his attention back. "She was gifted in my time, she's gifted now. But this isn't going to work if we just turn her on and off like a light switch. We need her compliance," he moves one hand in a measured gesture. "We need her skill," his other hand sweeps out, coming to meet the first in a handshake. "And we still need a power source."

Nodding repeatedly to Cardinal's points, Maddox sweeps his uninjured hand at the back of his neck. "Bishop," Maddox affirms, then wipes sweat from his brow. "I've already — "

"You're already not." Cardinal is swift to correct. "I'm taking care of this, and a couple other loose ends. I'm going to be recalling Aria Baumgartner to Natazhat, I've found a replacement for her work at the Ark. She's going to take the lead making our guest more pliable. We just need you to do your job and make sure her ability is off when we don't want her blinding or dismembering people, and on when it matters." Cardinal's expression shifts to one of severe disappointment, and he claps a hand on Maddox's shoulder, feeling a flinch as he does. "We can't pull this off running blind."

"Yeah," Maddox rasps, barely able to find his voice. Then, more firmly, "Yeah. Yeah you're absolutely right sir. I'll uh," he's trapped, by the hand at the shoulder and the walls around him. "I'll work on it, sir. It'll — this won't happen again." At that, Cardinal offers a weary and feigned smile, squeezing Maddox's shoulder more firmly.

"If it does, we're all dead, Bruce. We don't get many more shots at this." The warning resonates with Maddox, the severity of the situation is felt in ever-increasing gravity on a daily basis.

"Yeah, I uh. Yeah, I know, sir." Is Bruce's weak reply. It's enough for Cardinal to release the hand from his shoulder, though, to give him some semblance of personal agency. But Maddox can tell that Cardinal's patience is wearing thin, that while there hasn't been a countdown to when this project was completed, there was in his mind. Maddox had no way to know if Cardinal had tried all of this before, in any configuration. He had no way to know just how blindly they all were, hoping on what amounts to a message in a bottle. But Maddox could also tell hope was the only thing keeping Cardinal together.

And keeping him alive.

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