Stage Five


isis_icon.gif faulkner_icon.gif zachery_icon.gif

Scene Title Stage Five
Synopsis Calling for… help?
Date August 24, 2019

Sometimes, a person’s world can be changed by a single sentence.

«Yes, hi.»

Sometimes a promise.

«This is Zachery Miller calling.»

Other times, it's putting your trust in someone you shouldn't have.

«We have a situ— Emergency.»

But sometimes, all it takes to change someone's life forever, is being in the wrong place…

«We have an emergency on our hands…»

…at the wrong time.

Isaac’s Apartment

(The Wrong Place)

9:37 am

(The Wrong Time)

«Mr. Garza is indisposed at the moment.»

The woman’s voice on the other end of the line is unfamiliar to Isis, and she can't blame it on Zachery’s ears. She can hear fine. Is just, this man, it isn't one she knows from Shedda-Dinu. But the network is big, sometimes larger than feels comforting — too big — but yet at this moment, large enough for a person, any person to answer the call.

«Doctor Miller, please state the nature of the assistance you require. There are forty-eight remaining seconds of secure line.»

Isis’ presently monocular vision pans around the room, a heart that isn't hers racing in a chest that belongs to another man. How she answers this question could be the difference between life and death.

She just isn't sure whose.

45 seconds…

Tick. Tick. Tick She twitches the borrowed nose.

30 seconds to trust a stranger with a life… or three.

Tick. Tick. Tick. The lid around the opaque eye twitches before the borrowed face takes on a strangely placid expression. Then comes the spill…

"Isis is dying. Raytech says she has Hydra Syndrome. I'm good, but I can't fix this. We're in Park Slope." Pause. Tick. "What do I do?" The last is a level tone - the question of a soldier seeking orders.

Isaac remains quiet, listening and watching. Hydra Syndrome is… a very unpleasant sounding name, though he's not quite sure of the significance behind it; he's fairly sure that he's never heard of a disease that makes people grow additional heads…

…though there's a certain sense of profound unease as he realizes that he's also never heard of a disease that does what's happened to Isis's arm. Hydra Syndrome. Alright then. Maybe he'll pay a visit to Raytech at some point and ask about it, since they apparently know what it is… but that's something for another day.

Isis' body stirs from beneath the blankets nearby, chest rising and falling a little too quickly, eyes pressed shut beneath a clammy mess of hair against pale skin. Fighting off delirium's grip seems all it's able to achieve, for a moment.

But even now, Zachery can't help himself. "Diagnosed with… Hydra -…." the words spill out quiet and slurred, a click of a tongue preceding a weak grin and an extremely American pronunciation of "'Parrrk Slope'."

«I have your location,» says the unfamiliar voice over the phone. «You are fortunate for Yamagato Industries’ expanded cell network offerings. Your geolocation has unreliable service, she may have died.»

Then, inexplicably, the cell phone service on the mobile phone shows full bars instead of one.

«Remedied. Please provide photographic geolocation information, two pictures overlapping the same location from two angles will suffice. An extraction team will be inbound.»

“Yamagato?” Zachery’s bushier borrowed brow pops.

A quick scan to the nigh incoherent body on the couch, stamps down the uncertainty. “Yes, yes. Photos…” Isis-in-Zachery sets the call to speaker and adjusts the angle of the phone with one hand, giving Isaac a furtive shooing gesture with the other. She aims the shot at the sickly body with stringy red locks. “~Smile!~” Snap. Shuffle, overlapping the main entry. Snap. Two pictures, absent the apartment’s proper owner, hover as little attachment icons on the screen. A thumb hovers over SEND.

“Where is Garza, anyway?”

Isaac raises an eyebrow at the shooing motion… but he's not about to offer any protest. There's still a life on the line, after all… so he gives a lazy salute — one that's only half-sardonic, and missing the smirk that might otherwise accompany such a gesture — and moves out of the phone's field of view, leaning up against a wall and listening to the conversation as it unfolds.

The first picture sent over shows Isis' form, still half burrowed in blankets on the couch, one eye open slightly more than the other as if in blearily inspection of what's going on.

The second might be from a different angle but is near identical… save for the one functional arm, hand up in a weak salute all of her own - it might be a peace sign if only the palm was turned toward the camera rather than inward.

All is silent. The phone’s reception drops back to a single bar, birds chirp outside in the verdant grasp of Park Slope’s abandoned splendor. The world moves on around them, in a heartbeat, in a moment, and then that moment is disrupted by something as unexpected as a heat mirage rippling around the area near Isis’ prone body. It swirls like a small cyclone, a column some six feet across, that has blurred images of an unfamiliar cityscape within.

But then the filaments of bent light come unwound, like a spinning spool of thread cut top to bottom. As the shimmering mirage disappears there's also a displacement of hot air as a trio of unfamiliar faces come into crystal clarity. One of them is a bald Asian man dressed in a tailored black suit, his face cut into a perpetual scowl. The other is a slim brunette woman in her early twenties, hair tied back into a ponytail wearing casual dress. A Roman numeral IV is visible in a faded tattoo on her wrist. The third figure, though, is a tall and thin old man with wire-framed glasses and sunken cheeks. His features are rodent-like, with bright blue eyes beady and narrowed.

ivy_icon.gif stefan_icon.gif zhao_icon.gif

“Ivy, secure the perimeter,” the man in the black suit says, and the brunette — after offering a quick look to Zachery’s physical form — shoots a suspicious look over to Faulkner.

“You just take a seat, friends,” Ivy says with a crooked smile. Then starts looking around with her hands in her pockets.
“Doctor Miller,” the man in the black suit unknowingly says to Isis, “Wenzou Zhao,” he introduces himself. “My associates, Ivy and Doctor Stefan Ford.”

The closeness of the mirage effect near the limp body elicits a quick step forward. The mirage becomes something more substantial… somethings, rather, and Isis does not puppet her borrowed body forward any further.

Ivy is given the curiously narrowed one-eye attention first, followed Zhao and Doctor Ford in due process. The suggested seat warrants a quick side-eye towards Faulkner and an agreeable nod, but the form of one Doctor Miller simply moves forward with subtly open arms. “Now it’s a party. Glad you could make it despite rush hour.” The twitch of a nervous smile is subdued to something more aptly serious with a quick clearing of the throat.

Since introductions had been made on the appiritioned party’s behalf, it seems only appopriate: “Doctor Miller. Patient 0. Nurse Isaac.” There is an absense of any gesturing towards the named attendees. “Though, most of that it appears you know.” Another pace towards the invalid etches lines of concern a little deeper. “I had been lead to believe she was in Raytech’s care, but it appears she’s been camped out on the couch for nearly a week now.” Another glance is spared between Ivy and Isaac protectively before that singular pupil turns back to Zhao and Doctor Ford under a lofted brow.

There is sparse movement from the sickly Patient 0 on the couch, whose elbows are pushed against cushions in order to try and sit up with a vaguely distressed murmur and a sinking of fingertips and nails into blackened, nerve-starved arm.

Isis' face is turned to each new figure, one by one, until that attention drifts over to the most familiar face present - Zachery's. Finding that, the bundle of blanket and sick person gathers back up against the couch's arm rest again, seeming smaller for it, eyes fluttering half closed with exhaustion. "… I'm an idiot," is offered weakly, with a chuckle that doesn't sound like it's got enough lung capacity behind it for take-off.

Isaac is still leaning against the wall, his mind wandering, when that eerie heat-mirage distortion first starts to materialize. His eyes widen… and suddenly the distortion disintegrates and suddenly there are people in his apartment.

Isis — or Zachery, from a certain point of view — just summoned guys into his apartment. Okay. Sure, why not; the whole point of this exercise was to get help, it's just… he'd been expecting them to trundle Isis off to said help, not for them to just… materialize in the living room like they'd been beamed down from the starship Enterprise or whatever.

The new arrivals are… quite an interesting mix. The first is a well-dressed man that Isaac immediately thinks of as the high-roller; he's dressed sharp enough that he could probably cut someone with his lapels, and looks like he's currently slated to play the lead for the next Men in Black movie. Beside him is a decently pretty brunette in a much more casual outfit; she's got a tattoo — Roman numeral four? — on the inside of her wrist, but the feature that most jumps out to Isaac is the suspicious glower she favors him with off the bat. Isaac immediately dubs her Grumpy Spice — not that he's about to say that to her, thank you very much. The third, though… the third is an unpleasant-looking old man with a look that Isaac can only characterize as ratlike.

Grumpy Spice — Ivy — wants him to take a seat; despite the rather tense smile, it's obviously not a request. That's fine. These people came in response to Isis-in-Zachery's call for help, came via teleportation no less, and with next to no notice; they're definitely taking this seriously, at least. If they can do something about Hydra Syndrome… well, that's a goal Isaac can support whole-heartedly, and he's willing to do whatever he can to get it to happen. "Sure," he accedes, settling into a cross-legged sit on the floor. He notes again that tattoo, and his lips twitch a bit. IV, Ivy. Clever. Alas, probably not a good time for banter; there are more important matters are afoot, and something about the way she's prowling around with what may or may not be a gun in her pocket suggests she's a bit tense at the moment… probably due to having to teleport into a strange place on such short notice. Ah well.

The high-roller is polite enough to provide introductions, at least. Wenzhuo Zhao, Ivy — no last name given, isn't that interesting — and… Doctor Stefan Ford. It seems the rat-looking man is a doctor… which means he's the one they called in to treat Isis. Isaac is a bit more worried now; it's true that looks aren't everything, but if Zachery looks like a shady guy who sews up bullet wounds and doesn't ask questions, Dr. Ford looks like the kind of guy who would gas you and steal a kidney.

But there's a saying about beggars not being choosers… and, being honest, being down a kidney and healthy would probably be a step up from where Isis is at right now; if Doctor von Shadystein can cure Isis, so be it. He offers a polite nod at Isis-in-Zachery's introduction of him, not speaking… though he does favor Zachery-in-Isis with a carefully bland expression at their comment. There's definitely some truth to that statement.

Doctor Ford takes a knee beside where Isis’ body lay on the sofa, reaching out with a gloved hand to take her by the wrist, finding the bones there pliable and limp like partially-cooked pasta. His brows furrow and he fires a wide-eyed look back at Zhao, before returning his attention to the patient. “This is significantly advanced,” Ford muses aloud, laying Isis’ arm across her chest.

“Can you reverse it?” Zhao asks with a stoic look to the redhead’s predicament, then a look back to Zachery.

“I don't know,” is Ford’s quick appraisal, “because I've never seen this condition outside of a clone, and that degradation is neurologically linked to their regenerative— I don't know.” Ford is quick to turn his attention to who he believes is Zachary. “How did this happen? I've never seen this outside of a laboratory environment and control samples.”

Truth be told, Doctor Ford has barely seen this at all. This is more Doctor Cong’s territory.

“Hey Peaches,” Ivy quietly addresses Isaac while the doctor throws questions around, “how's about you just keep your eyes on the floor and try to pretend you're not seeing most of this. Okay? Because, really, you shouldn't be.” She smiles, but in a way that's meant to be threatening. A predator baring teeth.

“Ivy.” Zhao says flatly but firmly, causing the brunette to back off.

"I don't know." Comes Isis-in-Zachery's deadpan reply. Crisp. Factual. Easy. But, there's more on the line here. A response more detailed and elaborate required. She begins to toe a precarious tightrope where a misstep might mean death… or worse, for… someone.

"She got a hold of a sample. Something Raytech was toying with. Something about Richard Ray's adopted son…" The walking, talking Doctor Costume pauses here, briefly looking for a reaction. "She thought it was like some Fountain of Youth shit. I never got a chance to properly analyze the specimen before she decided to take it." This is where she excels: the weaving and the knotting, a choice word here and another slightly lilted connotation there. Oh, truth - such an abstract art.

Then there's Ivy's comment. Snap, goes Zachery's borrowed and singular good eye. Out in the wilds of the great wide world, there’s a certain look that passes between women… among lesser animals it is scientifically known as a 'sign post'. But, in instances like these, the same rules apply…

Sign-posts may communicate information by olfactory, auditory, or visual means, or a combination of these. If an intruder progresses further into the territory beyond the sign-posts and encounters the territory-holder, both animals may begin ritualized aggression toward each other. This is a series of stylised postures, vocalisations, displays, etc. which function to solve the territory dispute without actual fighting as this could injure either or both animals. Ritualized aggression often ends by one of the animals fleeing (generally the intruder). WARNING: If this does not happen, the territory may be defended by actual fighting, although this is generally a last resort.

Luckily, the male countenance isn't naturally suited to translating the female warning sign-post. Unbeknownst to its current temporary occupant, Zachery's body instead shoots a look that is some parts constipated, some parts subtle eye-twitching, and several parts confused - then simply looks back to the fevered redhead body splayed on the sofa.

Isaac listens as Isis-in-Zachery gives the rundown; it sounds to him very much like an Obi-Wan Kenobi version of things. He occupies himself by studying Isis's body — all the better not to give anything away — until Grumpy Spice speaks up, clearly addressing him.

Peaches. He's Peaches now. Ha ha ha. How very cute. To be fair, turnabout is fair play… but Grumpy Spice's teeth-bared go back to whatever rock you crawled out from under grin is somehow actually less pleasant than the last one. Great. This is getting better and better. His eyes narrow slightly at Ivy, and his lips curl up into the kind of faint smile that never quite reaches the eyes, the kind of smile he'd give someone he doesn't really like all that much, but that he's not quite ready to tell to go undertake some innovative and exciting exercises in anatomically improbable contortionism.

It's a relief when Zhao speaks up, calling Ivy to heel before she can try to bully him any further; that kind of power — authority — is something that Isaac can't help but be impressed by. He offers a tiny nod of gratitude in Zhao's direction, but makes no comment. As far as he's concerned, the less attention paid to him, the better. There are far more important things at stake here.

Like that arm. That bendy, bendy arm, which is grabbed and then relinquished without any complaint from the person it's attached to. Too many thoughts racing through an already feverish mind, exhaustion clearly written across Isis' features.

The explanation of how this whole situation happened does apparently warrant a response, though, lips twitching into a weak sneer, eyes closing. The very picture of someone willing themselves into being quiet, either for the purpose of not throwing up, or to keep themselves from saying something stupid.

Possibly both.

Doctor Ford fires a look over his shoulder at Zhao when talk of Raytech experiments come up, and for a moment they exchange a silent look between one another that ends when Zhao shakes his head in the negative, looking uncertain at best. The bald old man walks to come beside Ford, looking down at Isis’ body.

“I can't do anything about this here,” Ford explains with a shake of his head. “I'm going to— this might have something to do with Cong’s last project. But if not we may need Doctor Yeh’s expertise. Regardless, live or die,” Ford says as he slowly stands up, “this is far too advanced to handle now.”

Zhao exhales a sigh through his nose, then turns his dark eyes to Ivy and past her to Isaac. For a moment he seems to be contemplating the younger man’s fate, but ultimately says nothing and looks away from Ivy to Zachery instead. “We will take her with us and see what we can do. You did the right thing contacting us. If she survives,” Zhao briefly glances back at Isis’ body, “we’ll return her here.”

Ivy, flicking a look over to Isaac, purses her lips in a feigned kiss and turns on her heels to walk back over to Zhao. It seems that, in spite of his lack of direct involvement in these events, Zhao has chosen to call off his attack dog. To allow him to see what he's seen here.

“You will tell no one about this,” Zhao says to Zachery, clear enough for Isaac to easily overhear. “Am I clear?”

In general there's an instinctual this gut reaction when someone finds it entirely necessary to remind another that they did, in fact, do the right thing. It's a twisted, jarring, knee-jerk reaction that suggests quite the opposite. Zachery's stubbled jaw tenses at as the Puppet Mistress within grinds borrowed teeth. The nod starts as a small, barely perceptible thing and builds before the perpetually hunched shoulders straighten, drawn back by a deep resolute breath. Isis-in-Zachery turns that one good eye on Isaac, a voice better lent to sarcasm-disguised-sincerity given a brief pointedness. "She's going to be okay…"

Risking only a half-heartbeat more, the body-swapper lifts Zachery's brows in the subtlest twitch towards the middle: part willful, reckless optimism - part "catch my drift". Then the Zachery meat suit is moving towards the shadier co-professional, talking as he does. "Gotta wrap her up good." He starts to move the blankets just so…

"Hey there, Charming…" A tilt of the head to try and catch the redhead's glassy gaze. "Shit got real, eh? But, it isn't your fault, 'kay? It's going to work out. The craziest rides always do, yeah? Now, then…" A little nod. "… Time to go." And with that there's a pat-pat and a secreted little brush of Zachery's more dexterous fingers as the blankets are adjusted by an ankle…

The redhead, seemingly in response to Zachery's only semi-convincing words of support, utters a pained groan and clenches her eyes shut.

Isaac's expression becomes impassive as Zhao takes a moment to actively regard him; he has the distinct feeling, as that silent gaze rests on him, that the look Zhao is giving him right now is almost exactly the same look an old tiger would favor a particularly loud insect buzzing about while it's lounging in the shade. Then Zhao's gaze passes on, and Isaac lets out a tiny breath. No attention is the best attention right now, as far as he's concerned.

And then Grumpy Spice does that little feigned kiss thing of hers, which in this case Isaac is entirely sure has exactly the same intent as the smile he'd given her earlier. He has to fight a sharp and sudden urge to giggle at the incredulity of it; she's such an absolute bitch that it's almost endearing. She owns it, at least. Well, whatever. As far as Isaac is concerned, Ivy can be as bitchy as she wants, so long as Zhao and his coterie of doctors are able to save Isis.

Isaac offers a single nod at Zhao's directive; it wasn't directed to him, but it was pitched loud enough he could hear it, and he isn't about to disagree… then, as Isis-in-Zachery speaks, he looks back to them. He holds their gaze for a moment, then nods. "Thank you," he says to Isis-in-Zachery… but it isn't until Isis-in-Zachery heads over to start adjusting Zachery-in-Isis's blankets that he realizes what's going on.

They're switching back. Of course they are. It only makes sense; aside from the fact that Zachery's delirious babbling coming out of Isis's body might raise some questions, there's also the fact that getting stuck in Zachery's body for an extended period of time would… probably not be great. Especially given that they have no idea where these guys are taking her body. Shit. Which means she's going to be okay is actually I'm going to be okay… which is actually goodbye. Shit.

Isaac rises to his feet to get a better view; he doesn't leave his place by the wall, but he wants to at least steal one more look at her before she goes.

But as Isaac rises to get a better look, Zachery appears to rise to do the exact opposite; he pulls back with the sort of breath one might draw upon resurfacing from a slightly-too-long stay under water, and holds it for a moment.

Muscles visibly stiffening, and - shoulders twisting to lead the motion - he steps back from Isis' form on the couch before doing so much as letting his eye refocus. For a moment, it looks like he might just leave before he manages to do even that.

But first, with a wrinkle of his nose in a failed attempt to keep a straight face, his attention floats from Isis to Isaac, and then finally to Zhao. "… Yes." Raising his voice to something a little more confident, he adds: "We're clear."

Zhao motions to Isis’ prone form with a nudge of his chin and Ford steps nearby along with Ivy. Zhao joins them, turning to look back at Zachary and Isaac as he does. “Expect a follow-up,” has all the tone of a disappointed parent not wanting to start an argument in the middle of Target. Clenching his fists, Zhao looks as though he's concentrating, and at the same time his dark brown eyes begin to fluoresce with an internal yellow light. Soon his irises burn gold like hot metal and the world around him begins to ripple, bend, and distort like a curving heat mirage.

Just as the distortion reaches its peak, the effect snaps back and Isis is nowhere to be seen, nor is Zhao or any of his company present. The blanket Isis was in falls limply to the couch as though they all ceased to exist, leaving the space quiet with tension.

Isaac's eyes widen slightly as he stares at the empty space where Zhao, Ivy, and Ford had been standing a moment ago… then his head turns, regarding his now empty couch. Then, finally, he turns to regard Zachery. He's not entirely sure about just what he's stepped into, but he's got the feeling that it's some very dangerous waters indeed. He considers Zachery for a moment before he speaks.

"So… what now?"

Zachery stands as still as he can manage when Zhao addresses him, and waits with feigned patience while the visitors (and Isis with them) make their strange exit. After the oh-so-interesting effects of the teleportation trick have gone, he lets go of a breath he didn't know he was holding.

"Now, we - ah…" he begins to answer Isaac, before fingers curl inward into fists and he pivots to make his way in long strides toward the door. "We drink, I think. Yes. Come on," spoken curtly, "we'll only be a few."

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