This Is (Not) Fine


alix_icon.gif chess_icon.gif luther_icon.gif lynette_icon.gif

Scene Title This Is (Not) Fine
Synopsis A wayward clone adjusts to her life in the most unlikely family environment possible.
Date April 28 – August 26th, 2018

The Benchmark Center

Safehouse Level

Red Hook, NYC Safe Zone

April 28, 2018

6:11 pm

Dinner is a social contract.

The experience of sharing a meal brings people together, fosters community, and builds bonds that were the backbone of civilization in days when people sat around fires in caves and hunted the mammoth. Though society has moved up in its technological and social advancements, there is still a powerful social bond created by the presence of shared meals. Though humans no longer hunt the mammoth, they still gather around what equates to a fire, in a cave of modern conveniences.

There is no dedicated eating space in the safehouse floor of the Benchmark Center, but that doesn’t stop the dedicated from sharing that communion with one-another. Legs crossed on a sofa, plate of quick to prepare pasta heaped on a plate, Alix Glass looks down with an expression of both uncertainty and bewilderment. She pokes with a fork at the pasta with one hand, examining the butter sauce and reconstituted mushrooms mixed with dried oregano seasoning. It is a simple staple, an easy meal able to be made for dozens of occupants. “They fed us meal replacements…” Alix says, more to herself than the others who have come to check in on her and share in the community of food. “Powdered meals, came in two vacuum-sealed bags. We mixed it with water or… if we were lucky, milk. A package would last us a month. Kept us able to move.”

Alix twists a spool of pasta around her fork, amused as the motion works the way she’d seen others do it. “They didn’t let us eat proper meals… or… or have things that weren’t approved by Command.” Alix looks up, nose wrinkling. “We’d sneak sweets, from time to time,” then looks back down to her plate. “I’ve never had this many real meals before…”

Chess rarely sits properly in a chair — if she does, it’s with feet cross-legged or a leg dangling over the arm. Today, she’s on the ground with her back to the sofa that Alix sits on, a couple of feet away so she can make eye contact without doing an imitation of Linda Blair in The Exorcist.

Her brows draw together when Alix speaks and she nudges a mushroom around with a fork, not eating for a few minutes. There’s guilt, there on her face, which doesn’t do much to make the food more appetizing. Chess’ childhood wasn’t perfect by any means, at least not after she found out she was evolved. But it was a lot better than Alix’s.

At least she had one.

“Where did you live?” Chess asks quietly, not looking up at her sister-of-sorts. She hasn’t asked these very simple questions often — only when Alix seems to be in the mood to share.

Sitting in a chair nearby, Lynette has her own plate and although she seems a lot less reluctant to eat than the girls are, she isn't getting too far ahead of her guests. She also took less than she gave them, playing it off like she needed to watch her figure. Really, she wanted the sisters to actually have plenty to eat because as much as she might have denied it all her life, there is a small bit of mothering instinct in her. Somewhere.

"That sounds awful," she says simply, but with sympathy, since she can only imagine what growing up that way must have been like. She lets Chess lead the questions, though, instead of piling more onto the girl. "I wish I had better to offer you, given all that."

In stark contrast, Luther has no qualms with the food presented before him. The man has been partaking of pasta while the others have stalled, the steady quiet jab and lift only interrupted on occasion by a pause for a sip of water. His eyes have been focused down on what’s in front of him, working at making it disappear in a somewhat speedy fashion. It’s a habit born of necessity, and one hard to break. Plus, he’s a big guy comparatively speaking.

Belatedly and with a short mouthful already in progress, he looks up from his dish to glance to the others. And none of them are eating. This is slightly awkward. After swallowing roughly, he reaches for another sip of water to wash the bite down, and takes a moment to evaluate the state of his plate to the others. “It’s not bad,” he says in an attempt to encourage appetites as much as the conversation going on.

“Butter sauce could actually be made from real butter.”

That’s probably not true.

Luther's comment earns a smirk from Alix, and she seems slow to eat the food in front of her, in spite of the rarity that it represents. “We lived all over the place. Until I was thirteen, it was a Jīn Jièzhǐ Corporation facility near Tibet. That's where we all lived,” Alix says with an askance look to Chess, then back down to her plate. “Once we were thirteen we were moved together to a military installation near Shanghai, then… traveled wherever we were needed.”

Slowly, Alix takes a bite of her food and thoughtfully chews. “When Praxis bought out Jīn Jièzhǐ everything changed. We moved back to the mainland and started performing national-level work inside the Chinese government. Political assassinations, espionage, blackmail. We lived in safe houses, usually ones without easy physical access, because we could just get… whisked inside.”

Alix stops picking at her food and looks troubled for a moment. “That's— not— what you asked. This— this isn't a debriefing. I… I'm sorry.”

“Shit,” says Chess quietly, words tinged with something like awe. But when Alix apologizes, she reaches up, to touch the other’s leg lightly. “No, it’s fine. I wanted to know. I want to know.”

She sets down her plate and tips her head to look at Alix, her dark eyes seeking her half sister’s green. There’s a quiet moment, before she asks, without her usual bluntness, “Do you miss them?”

Her eyes drop again, and she pushes her plate toward Luther to finish her uneaten portion.

"It's alright, Alix," Lynette says at her apologies, "you can talk about it if you want. Whatever you'd like to talk about." The idea of assassinations and the like don't get anything like judgment from Lynette. Instead, it's a sort of warm acceptance that she manages to exude. "But this isn't a debrief, so you also don't have to say anything you don't want."

She flicks her gaze over to Chess, to her plate, then back to her again.

"It isn't your fault, Chess."

That kind of guilt, Lynette understands that. She knows that the words won't solve it, as they haven't solved it for her. But she still says them. They're important to hear. It's important for her to know— both of them really— that there's support for them.

Likewise, Luther silently echoes Chess’ sentiment in a slow nod. He wants to know too. And a driving sense of guilt, he understands. The man watches the pair of sisters, Chess particularly, as they interact. With the plate of uneaten pasta pushed at him, he looks to it a moment before he shakes his head and nudges it back. “You gotta eat, keep your strength up,” he insists. Both Alix and Chess get the same expecting grey-eyed glance from Luther, as once might have expected such an expression from a father at a dinner table not allowing excuses from it until a certain amount of dinner had been consumed.

He further adds to Lynette’s words with less warmth, but still accepting of circumstances which Alix was raised in. “It’s good to talk about it, but you don’t have to. And if you have any questions you want to ask yourself, you can.” It’s discussion, not debrief, he tries to imply.

Quietly scraping the tip of her fork against the plate, Alix remains quiet in the face of support. It's clear she hadn't known this sort of structure in her furniture years, let alone anything close as an adult. “I do miss them,” she admits, reluctantly. “Even Violet,” she clarifies.

“I've… lost so many people it's hard, you know?” Alix briefly looks up, catching Luther’s eyes, then settles her attention back down to her plate. “When Victoria died a couple years ago, I… That hurt so bad. We were so close, but Command wouldn't let us grieve.” Alix looks to the side, and her tone becomes bitter. “Violet… she got so angry after Vic died. They were so close.”

There's a moment where it looks like she might keep talking, but then relents. She turns, forgetting her injuries, then moves a hand down to cover the spot where her side is bandaged, grimacing as she sucks in a sharp breath through her teeth.

The plate, Chess ignores, and she lowers her eyes while listening to Alix talk. She remains still, reaching up to touch Alix’s knee in a gesture of sympathy, just as that wince comes. Her own eyes flinch a little, as if she can feel the pain that stabs through her half-sister’s body. It’s only her own sympathy, though. And maybe a little guilt, knowing Alix earned those wounds protecting her.

“I can’t imagine what it was like for you,” Chess murmurs. Worry colors over her expression, her brows knitting together as her knees draw up to her chest. Her arms wrap around them and she rests her cheek against one knee. “Maybe we can help them. Do they believe in what they’re doing or just…afraid of the alternative?”

Command wouldn't let us grieve. That hits Lynette hard enough that she also puts her plate down. Luther is going to end up very well fed by the end of this meal.

"Or they don't know there is an alternative," she comments, letting out a bit of a sigh. "They're your family, Alix. We'll try to help them, too." Because it sounds to her like they all need the opportunity to grieve. And to find out who they are without Command whispering in their ears.

Lynette looks over at Luther, her hands folding together. Her expression is stoic, but he knows she only gets that way when she's upset. They've all had their share of loss— and then some— but there is something different about Alix's situation, that collar she grew up under. They didn't grieve, but it was their choice not to, their choice to fight. Not these girls, though. Her expression tells Luther one simple fact.

I don't like this.

Ultimately they'll know Luther doesn't let decent food go to waste. But even he pauses in shoveling the sustenance away to listen more intently. His gaze narrows at the mention of another sister's death and the loss of others. A hardening of his gaze, when Alix speaks about Command not giving them any moment's peace to process, let alone grieve. And there's a shared look between Lynette and him. He tilts a nod to Lynette's expression, his own grim, a look in want of action on his part, but what to do being the question.

The answer comes when the other women state an intention to help the others. The man sits up, chin lifting slightly and blinking with surprise. "Would that work? If we offered something to the others. Convince them to leave? I mean, if we took out the Command… it might start a war with the Chinese government. But you know, we've already fought one war with our own." He twitches up of a lip corner in attempt to be a little encouraging with humor, though wry and dry.

When Alix starts to move and feels that pain, he winces sympathetically, then he's setting his plate down too and starting to get up, intending to help if she needs to get up or shift position.

“Maybe,” Alix says with a slouch of her shoulders. “I… we haven’t really ever known anything other than this. Than…” she makes a vague gesture in the air, trying to encapsulate her experiences into a small sentence. She fails. “I just couldn’t do it anymore, and they’re going to want to kill me for… for turning on them. I don’t know if they’ll be able to see past the anger, past everything we’ve been told our whole lives.”

Alix then grows quiet, first staring at her food, then Chess. “I don’t know if they believe in anything,” is a quiet and fearful admission, because Chess can tell there’s a double meaning behind it.

Alix is afraid she doesn’t believe in anything either.

The Benchmark Center

Safehouse Level

Red Hook, NYC Safe Zone

May 6, 2018

10:45 AM

Thanks to damaged infrastructure, news isn't passed nearly as quickly as it used to be. Gone are the days of mere seconds between real life events into hashtag creations and memes, or the relentless 24-hour news cycle. But still, even in this day and age, events that rock the Safe Zone find their way around via word of mouth, courier, or simply waiting for the news to catch up. One of those old methods, getting the paper, is a tried and true method that Luther still relies on. It is with one such paper, tucked under arm, and a couple of boxes of the delectable, coveted, Rings of Juniper pastries and donuts.

The first box is donated to the Benchmark's daily needs at the front desk, where he requests for Lynette's presence in the safehouse portion of the private areas of the Benchmark. The other box accompanies the man up the safehouse elevator. And the first stop, outside of looking for Alix and Chess in the common area, will be the bedrooms.

The latter of the two is in Alix’s room — she’s still declined offers of a room to herself, probably to Alix’s dismay. Chess comes and goes and when she sleeps in the room, it’s in the chair or sometimes on the ground, and usually at odd hours — and not for many hours at once.

Today, she’s curled up in the chair, socked feet tucked against the armrest, knees loosely folded against her chest, and head resting on her shoulder. She’s only been there since about dawn when she snuck into the room, cautious of waking the convalescing Alix. On her lap is a book on Foucoult she’s borrowed from the new books on philosophy Lynette’s added to the common room library — pages facedown against her lap. Hopefully Lynette doesn’t mind her books being treated so haphazardly.

Alix is seated on her bed, eyes up to the doorway with one brow raised when she spots Luther. In her lap, a copy of the Safe Zone Siren is creased back to day-old news about fears over human trafficking. She sets the paper aside, slowly sitting forward with a careful hand at her side. Her injuries still haven’t completely healed, but she’s doing considerably better, all things considered.

“Luther,” Alix notes with a wrinkle of her nose, noting something unseen in his posture. “It’s really early, aren’t you supposed to be at work?” There’s a shift of her weight, legs folding beneath herself, hands moving to tie long hair back into a ponytail with an elastic slipped from off her wrist. Neither seem aware of what’s happened.

Lynette comes from down the hallway instead of from the elevator. Sure, she should be at work, but she isn't. Her husband is still healing and she hasn't been sleeping very well at all. As the sisters know well enough. She's as likely to be caught asleep at odd hours in any spot that's remotely comfortable. She's even still in pajamas, although she did get a robe on before she came to join them.

"Are those donuts?"

The question is asked before she even says hello because she has priorities. And a delicious pastry would do a lot for her mood— and to make up for getting woken up by a call from the intercom. It's only belatedly that she thinks to add, "Are you okay?" Because he definitely should be at work.

Without answering the questions of his well-being, Luther works the lid of the box of pastries open and presents it to Lynette like a jewelry display. Or a suitcase full of a cash ransom. "Yeah. Gotta get there early enough while the getting's good. Courtesy of Juniper," he states of its origin, holding it there for the lady of the house (so to speak) first selection. Casting his gaze towards the bedroom and open viewing threshold, the man peers towards Alix and there's an extra pause, a lingering beat, before he sends Lynette another glance. This time, there's a crease to his brow.

"I've got the team on alert state," he adds in accompanying that look. "Because of what happened at the company…" Mateo's injury hadn't gone unreported to the security chief. "And, because of the… bombing at Yamagato Park." It's loud enough that the two ladies in the bedroom can hear him. With it, a rough clearing of his throat and taking the newspaper tucked underarm and surrendering it to Lynette's review as well.

“You ladies doing alright otherwise?” He notably hasn’t answered their questions about him. And given that he can’t see Chess from his angle in the common room, he starts looking about for the third.

The voices rouse Chess, for whom the term light sleeper is much too euphemistic. She jerks her head up and the book on her lap falls to the floor. There’s a moment where she visibly takes in her surroundings to get her bearings before she stretches and yawns, her joints cracking in protest after being curled up for so many hours.

“…having a meeting?” she murmurs halfway through the yawn, so really only the last words of the question are clear. Her hands rake through her choppy dark hair, only to get tangled and caught halfway through.

More importantly, she follows that question with, “Is there coffee?”

Alix latches on to something else entirely. “Yamagato?” She goes ghostly pale at the implication, connecting dots in her mind as she swings her legs out of the bed so hard she accidentally kicks chess in the leg. An apologetic gasp slips from Alix before she hops out of the bed and steps around Chess, moving to where Luther and Lynette are in the hall.

What happened?” Alix asks with a frantic quaver to her voice, eyes wide and glassy with emotion. “Did— did someone— did they attack the Yamagato building?” They, implies some foreknowledge, if not suspicion of guilt. She turns her pleading stare from Luther to Lynette and back again.

Lynette lifts her eyebrows at the selection of baked goods and plucks one out for herself, which seems to indicate that he is forgive for waking her. But the good mood doesn't last long. She's been trying not to let Mateo's injury leak out to the whole building, keeping up appearances and all. But there was no hiding it from the man who monitors RayTech's security. The blood in the lobby was hard to miss.

But now, a frown comes to her face.

She seems almost grateful when Alix leaps onto the other incident and she looks toward the sisters. "There's always coffee," she says first, to answer Chess. The easier question. For Alix, she doesn't have as satisfying an answer. "They didn't put much out in the press. There was a bombing at a company meeting. An… alarming number of their leadership was caught in it. I can't tell you who set the bomb or why, but Yamagato Park has been upping its security since it happened."

Steady as the presence of coffee, at least for the moment, Luther turns to Alix and only confirms her fear with a small nod. The rest is pretty much stated on the headline of the newspaper he brought. “Someone bombed Yamagato, but the details are still being sorted even now. All we’re hearing is that,” he says, glancing over at Lynette. “The main thing is, though, if we were going to go see about asking them for help… it’s probably not a good idea right now.” He still offers out the box of donuts and other pastries, because if there’s anything else steady about Luther it’s that he can eat at any time, even during a crisis. Especially during a crisis.

The man ducks his head slightly at the completed delivery of news, a few silent beats from him passing before he looks back up to the three. “I figured… I’d check up on you three.” It’s a sheepish sort of admittance, the worry he has harbored the past few days battling with the trust and understanding that they could handle themselves if needed.

The reaction from Alix shakes away Chess’ grogginess much more quickly than coffee or sugar might. She eyes her sister when she all but climbs over her to get to Luther, and she too stands, the rest of her body ticking and cracking as her joints settle back into place. It’s as if the woman doesn’t believe in sleeping in a bed anymore.

She moves closer to the others, looking from Alix to Luther. “So it was them? Shit.

Her brows draw together in a frown and she tips her head to look at her sister. “Did you know it was going to happen?” It’s not accusatory — not quite. “If anything else is planned… we need to know so we can help stop it,” she adds, a little more gently.

Alix looks horrified at the revelation, one hand up to her mouth and eyes wide. She backs into her room again, guilt evident on her face and dread swiftly replacing it. “T-they… They had me… I spied on…” When Alix looks up to the three, it’s with a defensiveness and anxiety that has her continuing to backpedal away, as if afraid the people she’d been trusting to keep her safe would throw her to the wolves — quite literally in some senses.

“I didn’t know,” Alix whispers sharply, “I didn’t know,” comes again with more force. “I— I thought they just wanted me to— I thought they were— I didn’t think they were going to— ” Whatever it is she did, whatever it is she’d been told, Alix seems reasonably certain that her team may have been responsible for the attack. That she was somehow responsible for the loss of life, for the deaths of people Chess was going to turn to for help. She’d driven the nail into her own coffin.

"It's alright, Alix," Lynette is quick to say. "We don't know it was them. And even if it was, it isn't your doing." She glances over to Chess, an eyebrow lifting. To pass the baton to her. At least on the matter of reassuring Alix.

She turns to Luther next, her free hand moving to her hip. "We've been working on the security here. If this has anything to do with the girls, they're still safe here." She doesn't sound convinced that it is, but more like she's saying it for Alix's sake. Maybe just so she knows she's still welcome.

She's keeping any real fears she has buried, at least for now.

Nodding to the note of additional security measures, Luther looks reassured and tries to reflect it in kind to the younger pair of women, from Chess to Alix. "Hey, hey. Nobody's certain who's claiming the act. The only thing we can pretty much count on is Yamagato's going to secure their borders 'til they find out more info." It's what he would do, at least.

The security chief rolls his shoulders in a short shrug as he looks more pointedly to Alix, backing up Chess' suggestion and Lynette's continued welcome. Shifting the box of delicious looking donuts and pastries to a hand. The other, now freed, he holds up to stay the backpedaling Alix. "And more importantly is that you're all safe." He glances over to Lynette, gratitude for hosting expressed in a light nod.

The next glance is to the still full box of pastries and a furrowing of his brow. "Second most important? That you know what a donut tastes like." And with that free hand he motions Alix forward and points for her to make her choice. Whether it's any less pressure than giving up info about her former compatriots is yet to be determined.

“It’s okay,” Chess murmurs, when Alix repeats that refrain of I didn’t know. “It’s okay.”

She reaches for Alix’s hand, leaving one free to grab one of the doughnuts, at least. Her fingers intertwine with her half-sisters, and she finds herself looking down to study them — their similarities, their differences. They look almost identical, but for the slightly darker shade of her own skin, and the chipped dark blue nail polish on her fingers.

Not for the first time, Chess wonders how and where their genetic codes differ. Who their parents were.

“It’s not your fault. Okay? You didn’t do it. You saved me, Alix. We know you’re good. Promise,” she says, squeezing the hand held firmly in her own, before reaching with her other hand for one of the doughnuts herself.

There's a look in Alix’s eyes, a glossiness that is somewhere between sadness and grief, but the furrow of her brow shows anger in there too. Resentment. Swallowing audibly, she backs up through the doorway to her room, hands balled into fists at her side, no smile for donuts.

“I'm not,” Alix barks out in a tight voice, slamming the door shut in anger like someone not quite her age. The sound echoes for just a moment, but longer yet in memory.

She'll need time.

The Benchmark Center

Safehouse Level

Red Hook, NYC Safe Zone?

June 21, 2018

11:15 pm

In the common room, Lynette sits in one of the overstuffed chairs, still dressed for work, with a drink in her hand. It looks like water, but smells like liquor. Ice clinks against glass as she brings it up for a drink.

All is not well in the Benchmark. Hasn't been for some time. Lynette has done what she can to keep it away from the pair of sisters— and everyone else, really— but it's been hard to miss that she's been drinking over the past few weeks. And avoiding her apartment over the past few days. Even for people who haven't seen it personally, the gossip has made its way around.

Tonight, she seems to be passing the time by staring at nothing while some slow, sad jazz plays in the background. Fly Me To The Moon echoes through the room, sang with a melancholy twist on the normally upbeat song. It fits her mood lately.

Chess comes into the room, followed by Luther. “So of Sabrina, Kelly, and Jill. which one am I?” she asks, laughter curling around the words. Someone’s been getting a lesson on Charlie’s Angels from her surrogate father figure. “Eve-” she stops when she sees Lynette’s thousand-yard stare. “Sorry,” she murmurs, voice dropping to a softer pitch.

“Is, um, Alix awake, do you know?” She turns slightly, ready to head back down the hall, toward the room her half-sister might be already asleep in. “There’s some developments.” All the light-hearted humor of a moment ago has dissolved. “But it can wait,” she adds.

“You okay?” she asks, brows drawing together, before she glances at Luther.

The door to Alix’s room rests partly ajar, a lone light on from inside. She's up on her bed, that much is visible from the common area, one leg crossed over the other, laying on her back, with one of her feet bobbing up and down to a steady rhythm. It isn't the same one that Fly Me to the Moon has, that much is readily apparent.

“If we’re going by straight one-to-one comparison, I’d put my vote in for Kelly…” Luther’s rumbling voice follows Chess, the rest of the man a pace behind. He’s a little bit unsteady for all the drink he’s had, but it’s only enough to have loosened him up some. Given how much has been going on, and what’s been spoken of in the evening, he’s needed it too. At that moment, he’s glad to hear the young woman in front of him laughing. That good vibe falters, as do his steps as he nearly runs into Chess when she stops.

Peering over her to spot Lynette as well, Luther frowns slightly at the sight of the woman. He reaches a hand to tap Chess’ shoulder and nods in the direction of Alix’s room. Go on, his silent nod indicates. The two of them can take the other pair on once they’re collected in the common room. Upon recognizing the song playing and the clear liquid resting in Lynette’s hand, he steps over to fill one of the other overstuffed chairs, his frame making it seem less so. Silence fills another beat or two. “Got any more of that?” asks the man.

Maybe if he’s the one drinking it all, she won’t have further temptation to. Or, drinking alone just seems less productive. Which is kind of the point.

The pair entering do get Lynette's attention, if a bit belatedly. She glances between them, but settles on Chess before she points in the direction of Alix's room. From her vantage point, she can see the the young woman is awake. "I'm afraid she's settled into this house's poor sleeping habits," she offers, her tone subdued, but friendly enough. It's Chess' second question that gets a more normal expression out of her. She even remembers to smile, if tiredly. "Oh, yes. Everything's fine."

Of course, however she might try to leave the sisters out of her own troubles, Luther ruins the illusion she has going for herself that she was at all successful when he nods Chess off. His question makes her sigh. Heavily.

"Cabinet above the coffee maker."

“Yeah, I tell myself that, too,” Chess says a little wryly — but not unkindly.

She turns to head to the hall, leaning in the doorway of Alix’s room. The sight of her half-sister, still mostly a stranger to her, rocking out actually makes her smile, despite the worry she’s been wearing in expression and posture for the evening. Or last couple of months, really.

“Hey,” she says, and tips her head toward the common room. “We have some questions and news, I guess. If you wanna come chat. It could wait, if you’re not up to it.”

On seeing the door moving, Alix slips off a pair of headphones and sets down a dog-eared paperback copy of Harlan Ellison’s Dangerous Visions on her chest. She scoots up a bit in the bed, threading a length of hair behind one ear. There’s worry in Alix’s face, not just for the notion that Chess has questions and news, but Lynette’s growing disquiet that she’s had to shut out with the aforementioned headphones.

“Is she okay?” Alix asks ahead of any inquiry, motioning beyond Chess with a tip of her chin to the common area. “She’s… I mean, not that I’ve been snooping,” is said in a lower voice, “but she’s been drinking kind of— a lot?” Alix looks from over Chess’ shoulder to meet the brunette’s eyes. “She’s fine, right?”

Luther pushes back up off the chair once Lynette’s confessed to the location of her stash. Once he’s by the cabinets, he reaches in, grabs the vodka out along with an accompanying, available coffee mug, and retreats back to the seat previously vacated. After he pours himself a couple, Luther tucks the bottle close by.

They get at least another couple moments of no conversation while he drinks a good portion of what he’s poured himself. The song is slow enough that he takes note of what it is, and lets out a long reminiscent sigh for it. Then, comes the man’s quiet rumbled voice. “We’ve got problems.”

Lynette watches as Luther crosses the room, watches as he pours himself some, watches as he keeps the bottle to himself. She eyes that a little, but consoles herself with a long drink from her own glass. A lack of conversation seems to be fine with her, as she settles into silence easily, if with something of a dark expression on her face.

That doesn't go away when he speaks up.

Her gaze flicks over to him, gauging for a moment before she sighs and sits up straighter. "Alright," she says plainly. "What's happened?" Clearly, she'd rather talk about these problems than whatever is driving her to drink. She's not okay, but she is functional. Which might be as good as it gets these days.

“Are any of us?” says Chess a little wryly, but it’s softened with a shrug. “Not since Mateo got shot, I don’t think. I don’t ask much. I don’t think she wants us to know she’s not okay.” Which is something at Chess can appreciate and respect, after all.

“It has to do with that bombing. Praxis. Other stuff. Come on,” she says, moving toward the bed to offer her sister a hand in getting out and a shoulder to lean on if it’s one of the bad days. From her leather jacket’s pocket, she pulls out a chocolate candy bar to press into Alix’s hand.

“Brought you something,” she says with a small smile. Since the woman had spoken of the MREs she’d eaten, Chess has started bringing her little culinary gifts — though the challenge of finding things in the Safe Zone (or anywhere) mean the gifts are small tokens.

Eyeing the candy bar, Alix furrows her brows and mumbles, “I'm not a child, you don't need to bribe me with candy” but then goes about hastily h wrapping it as she takes the offered hand and eases up to stand. The knife wounds have healed well, but the soreness — especially without regular painkillers — has been difficult. But mostly, these days, she's okay.

Biting off the end of the candy bar — or more pointedly snapping off a triangular wedge of it — Alix looks at the beige wrapper and red writing, pondering over what Toblerone means as she walks behind Chess. Mouth full of chocolate, Alix eyes Luther and Lynette, worried still for her caretaker’s well being. It isn't like walls and doors can hide much from Alix, and she's seen enough to be concerned.

Hey,” Alix offers quietly, teeth toying at her lower lip. “How, uh, how’s… stuff?”

Stuff could be better.

Luther wipes a free hand down his face, leaning back in his seat as Lynette prompts him to start untangling the mess. It’s a mass of mental knots for the man still trying to pick at one knot let alone unraveling the whole. But, that’s what the vodka’s for. To grant him the patience, or at least assuage the guilt-ridden denial. “Ducky says the bomb at Yamagato was Praxis’ doing, and I believe it. But there’s not much we can do about that, now,” he starts, finding another drink out of his mug necessary.

As the two ladies enter from the bedroom, he looks down into his coffee mug that doesn’t hold any coffee, and sets it in his lap. A genuine smile comes up for the pair, chin tilted in a greeting gesture. “Hey yourself. Make yourself comfortable.” Because there’s stuff to go through that will answer her question shortly.

Lynette glances over to the door when Alix and Chess appear and she manages a smile, too. Even if it is a tight expression. It's shortlived, though, because Alix's question has her nodding toward Luther. "I gather this pair have come with some bad news," she comments dryly. Because of course they did. Does anyone in this group ever have good news?

Seems unlikely.

When Luther starts to explain, she lifts an eyebrow as if something in his words has her a bit suspicious. Not of him, exactly, but rather of what he's leading up to. "That's a step up from corporate sabotage, isn't it?" Bombs. Not very subtle. But, seeing as that is very much above her pay grade (because no one is paying her at all, actually), she looks between him and Chess and back again. "So. That isn't what you two came here to tell us." There's a get on with it quality to her tone as she fixes Luther with a flat gaze.

“I’m not bribing. Not everything is about give and take. Sometimes it’s just about giving,” Chess says over her shoulder with a roll of her eyes. “Besides, maybe I want you to be the fat sister,” she says more lightly, before settling on the arm of a couch.

Lynette’s tone isn’t missed, and Chess glances to Luther, and then Alix, before cutting to the chase. Sugar-coating is not her forte.

“What do you know about Adam Monroe? Can you use your ability on him?” she says, with a jut of her chin in her sister’s direction.

Alix is nervous to engage this entire conversation. Her hands become hidden in her sleeves, head down and bangs hiding her brows, a few errant locks framing her face in the way a privacy curtain might hide her disquiet expression. The wrapper of her chocolate crinkles in one hand, forgotten for now.

“It doesn't work like that,” Alix explains to Chess without making eye contact. “I can't just… see someone. I have to know where I'm looking, and it's not terribly long range. My instructor… handler… whatever. He— ” She stops that train of thought. “I can see about six hundred and twenty-five feet in any direction from where I am. When I'm remote viewing I can see about twenty feet around the point I specify. Everything beyond that is hazy and blurry. Each viewing after the first within the same hour is like…” she wrinkles her nose, “try crossing your eyes a lot. And holding it. It hurts.”

The name Adam Monroe though, it's clear the mere mention of it has Alix tense. She looks at Chess, fear evident in her eyes. “We call him Director.” She's firm about that. “I only know the name because I've heard other people whispering it in conversation around him. I've only ever met him in person once, six years ago.” Alix breathes in deeply, gripping her chocolate like a life preserver.

“What do you want to know?” Is the hardest thing Alix has ever had to ask someone. Fighting conditioning and leaning fully into betrayal.

Lifting that mug full of vodka to drink down a larger portion of it, Luther rolls out a steadying breath. “Were you ever made aware of plans for starting a war?” His question leans on the last word heavily, the man exchanging a glance to Chess before turning back to Alix. “It’d make sense, if he’s got control of company that’s about industry. Ain’t no better industry than war.” He looks around at the grouped ladies then, eyes narrowed.

“And,” he adds in another thoughtful look back to Chess and Alix, “we need to know how far the Director is going to go to try and get at you two. At all your… sisters.”

Listening to Luther's set of questions, Lynette looks down into her glass. The industry of war is certainly a profitable one; the cost is in lives and blood, not money. It brings to mind steel gears and black smoke— and memories it would be easier to forget.

Lynette takes a drink.

"I doubt this Director shares the details of his plans with the girls," she ends up saying, "they get orders, not intel." She looks over at Alix, her expression dulled, but concerned. "The part I'm worried about is keeping you safe. I imagine he's starting to worry about you and Chess. The others are probably being kept on a tighter leash. The ones he doesn't have— they'll have no idea what's happening if his people come for them."

Chess reaches to take one of Alix’s hands and squeezes it, noting her sister’s nerves. It’s a rare show of affection. Bringing chocolate bars is easier — even with a food shortage.

Her eyes move from Luther as he asks his questions to Lynette as she makes her comments, but she doesn’t add to either this time. Her sister’s words make her study the other woman’s profile for a long moment. She can’t understand what it’s like for Alix, not really — she can only imagine and she can only know what she’s told. But she can tell it’s significant, that offer to help. As meaningful as Alix’s warning to Chess in the Armory that almost got her killed.

Her hand tightens again on her sister’s, a silent thanks.

“Lynette’s right,” is Alix’s belated response to Luther’s inquiry, eyes averted to the floor, one hand firmly holding Chess’ for support. “I… we didn’t know him directly. He didn’t share plans with us. Our handlers maybe? But— they’re all dead now.” Alix glances up at Chess, then back down to the floor. “I don’t know about a war, or… or anything. I know what I was asked to do, places I was asked to… to look. Usually businesses, corporate executives, sometimes diplomats. We traveled, a lot.”

When Alix finally manages to meet Luther’s stare, it’s an uneven and anxious gaze. “I know that Praxis considered us property. Proprietary genetic information is what they called us. That’s… that’s why they wanted to cauterize the project once Chess’ cluster escaped.” Alix’s dark eyes briefly meet Chess again, then find the space on the floor between her feet again. “We’re property.”

Furrowed brow mixes with an uptick of one, causing Luther to look even more disturbed with Lynette's remarks followed by Alix's statement when she meets his gaze. "That mentality… you've got to change," he rumbles his response to the young woman's statement about being property. He sends a long look to Chess and Lynette. The former, long regarded as a part of his family, and the latter, in much the same way. Both would have his help, no questions asked. When he turns back to Alix, the expression the man wears stays. "You're a human, Alix. Like the rest of us." Glancing down to the mug of vodka, he considers it, distantly.

"And, you're family, now."

The man lifts the mug to drink.

Lynette listens, sipping at her drink and glancing over at Luther. A mental note is made to ask Joseph to come talk with her, but she knows better than to drop that into this company in the middle of this conversation. Later. Privately.

"Listen to Luther," she says, he words coming on a sigh, "he'll just keep going until you do." That's a tease, although her tone misses the mark. "You're not property, whatever they say. And they won't get you back." The three of them sitting in this room with her have the experience to back up the claim.

When the escape of “Chess’ cluster” is mentioned, Chess glances down, scowl deepening. She’s struggled with survivor’s guilt since the war — this is a new kind: Guilt that she’d had a life, one she may have taken for granted, that was safe and suburban and pleasant, at least until her teen years when manifestation and registration and all that entailed made it dangerous to be alive and evolved.

That Alix doesn’t know is something of a relief. Chess tightens her grip on her sister’s hand, and nods at both Lynette’s and Luther’s sentiments.

“You’re ours now,” she says, simply.

The Benchmark Center

Safehouse Level

Red Hook, NYC Safe Zone

July 30, 2018

10:00 pm

Chess comes and goes, but Alix doesn’t. So the fact there was a note left on Alix’s bed — in Chess’ handwriting, if anyone knows the difference between the two — that they’ll BBIAB! (signed C & A) is a strange occurrence. Video cameras, if checked, will only reveal the women leaving in sunglasses and wigs, going incognito on their venture.

Even more rare, though less so, is the sound of laughter when the women return, stepping out of the elevator that opens to the safehouse level. It’s late enough that they stifle the sound as they step into the hallway.

“Shhh,” murmurs Chess to Alix; the wrist belonging to the hand that reaches up to tug her sister in the direction of their room is wrapped in cellophane that wasn’t there when they left. A honey-blond wig is clutched in her free hand, pulled off before the sisters approached the security cameras, so their hostess wouldn’t think a strange blonde (Chess) and redhead (Alix) were trying to infiltrate the safehouse. Chess’ cheeks are flushed with the heat of alcohol, though she’s not drunk — just buzzed. She may not have many social graces, but entering a rehab facility drunk is below even her standards.

Alix, on the other hand, has no such standards. Two beers shouldn't have put her in the state she's in, but the admission — two drinks in — that she's never had alcohol before came a bit too late to course correct. Giggling and with one arm around Chess’ shoulders, Alix stumbles into the rehab clinic with a constant “Shhhhh,” of her own back at Chess as though she were a deflating balloon between giggles.

Wig crooked and posture to match, Alix seems blissfully unaware of the faux pas she's perpetuating. As she comes in beside her half-sister, it's clear that the sleeve of her right arm is rolled up to her elbow and a patch of cellophane has been taped to her wrist over a fresh tattoo that looks to have modified the old IX there.

Lynette is awake. Has been, by the look of things. She stands in the hallway, wrapped in a robe with a coffee in hand. When she sees the girls, there's a relieved sigh. She's not mad, even at them arriving tipsy (or worse). She's hardly going to chastise them for that.

What she is, is worried. Shaking it off now that she sees them in one piece, but it's clear that's what has kept her up. Being the worried mother it's possible neither of them actually had before now. There's a glance to Alix's tattoo, then to Chess with a lift of her eyebrow.

"Would you girls like some water?" One of them, at least, is gonna need it.

Possibly partly responsible for Lynette still being awake is Luther, the man appearing from the kitchen area behind the coffee-carrying electrokinetic. He hasn't come from work, the major part of that reason being the sight of his off-hand arm wrapped in a cast and tucked in a blue cloth sling across him. Upon seeing Chess and Alix return, brow arching in his assessing gaze at their inebriated states, he doesn't even comment, yet.

His coffee lifts. He takes a drink.

No 'where were you young lady's, no 'what have you done's. One might even muse there is a microscopically faint glimmer of amusement behind his grey-eyed gaze. "Where," he notes after he swallows down the coffee, "did you even find the wigs?" He has to ask. That's the most perturbing thing, at the moment.

“You’re the one being-” oh, hey, there’s mom and dad.So to speak. Chess gives up on shushing Alix and laughs at the questions, each so perfect in this moment and so representative of their owners.

“Never underestimate a society’s need to cosplay, Luther. We may not have food, but there are wigs and costumes. Priorities, man,” Chess says with a grin, bringing her wig over to Luther to set it on his head, maybe taking advantage of the fact he only has one good arm with which to ward her off.

“What’d you do?” she says, with a nod to the cast and a disapproving frown, as she arranges the wig artfully on his head — she has to step on her toes to do so of course. So close, he gets an eyeful of her new tattoo beneath the cellophane, a black-line mandala cuff design with the words I belong deeply to myself along the bottom.

“Y’look like… like…” Alix stares at Luther for a solid minute as things happen around her, and he can see through the cellophane over her tattoo it's been changed in both orientation and meaning to say EXIST. The brunette finally finds her words, fingers pointed up at the wig on Luther's head.

L’nette.” Is where Alix finally lands on this. “Y’look like L’nette!” There's a flurry of laughter, hysterical and delirious with both tiredness and alcohol. Slouching against Chess, Alix threatens to collapse where she stands, giggling so much she breaks out into snorts that only further throw her into fitful laughter. She seems surprised at her own laughter.

As if she isn't familiar with the sound of it.

Breaking her gaze from the sisters, Lynette looks over at Luther when Chess sets the wig on his head. Her head tilts, as if she really has to consider his new look— especially as Alix declares their similarities.

"I think I've just been insulted," she comments, but not without a hint of a smile.

Stepping away from Luther, she comes to slide her free arm around Alix's waist, turning to guide her into the common room. "Come on, I'll get you something to eat, too." It might just be crackers, but it'll be something. "Seems like you girls had a fun night." The tattoos are noted, of course, but she isn't going to begrudge them that. Given their situation, it's sort of a mild reaction. And an understandable one.

Luther's angled brows lift at the remark about cosplay and priorities. Someone (Chess) once had to explain what cosplay meant, and the man truly showed his age for what he ultimately understood as simply people disguising themselves (but not) to playing pretend (but not?) as some definitely not for actual disguises purposes. Conclusion: the queens would be tickled by it, maybe, but it wasn't for him. Still, he indulges Chess by bending down some so she can top him off.

"My hair used to be this color, when I was younger," rumbles the otherwise stern-looking Luther. But to explain the arm cast, he answers simply, "Was out with Ducky at the Gardens, and wound up trying to stop a burglary." He glances down to the cast, the injury still fresh. "The lady was stronger than she looked." A rueful glance shoots towards his war-daughter. Getting into unwanted trouble has been the M.O. of their past and present.

He clears his throat, gives his wig-covered head a comical shake as Alix bursts into laughter. Luther smiles, cheeks pulling up, and he looks back to Lynette. "I don't know, have you seen this pretty face?" Good thing Mateo's not here in the room, though, because Luther will have lost that battle dramatically. He reaches over to clasp his good arm around Chess' shoulders, intent to nudge her along with the other pair. "So, let's see what it says," he means of the tattoo. He's seen the words, but looks over to Chess, wanting to hear her explanation.

Alix’s assessment earns a snort of laughter from Chess, who’s definitely had a few herself, though holds it better than her sister — not a surprise, given it was the first time Alix had imbibed. She smiles at Lynette when the rightful blonde woman takes Alix under her wing to get some solid food in her.

“Sorry, I didn’t think she’d be that much of a lightweight,” she says with a laugh, and the sound is a rare one for her, too — it’s a hint of what she was probably like before the war, before the shadow of grief and guilt was draped over her shoulders.

“That woman,” she says, with a shake of her head, though her expression is a fond one for their mutual comrade in arms. “I’m glad it wasn’t worse, at least,” she says, before tipping up her wrist to show off the tattoo, her skin puffy and red against the lines of the cuff.

“It’s a mandala cuff. In Jungian psychology, mandalas represent the self. And the words are from a poem,” Chess murmurs, glancing up at him. “I thought depending how many people look like me are out there, it’d be good for you to have a way to know which one is really me.” In case any of her clones are working for the enemy. In case any of her clones show up dead by the enemy’s hands. “And a reminder I’m not anyone’s property.”

The last is said with a defiant lift of her chin.

Alix watches Chess as Lynette mindfully guides her into the common room, and the inebriated brunette rests one hand tentatively on Lynette’s forearm to steady herself. There’s a little sway in her step, a little shimmy too, though thanks to the electrokinetic she’s staying upright and not teetering into walls. For all that Chess has a detailed description for her tattoo and its symbolism, Alix seems to be lacking any such plan.

As she settles down onto the couch with an awkward grab at Lynette’s shoulder for balance, Alix blinks a few times and swallows dryly, then in sort of an unsolicited interruption between Chess and Luther says, “Mine says, uh, exist. Because I do.” There’s a heartfelt but drunken smile at that, and Alix holds up her arm to proudly show the simplistic modification of her IX marking.

“It’s green.” Alix adds, in case that’s important.

Lynette falls easily into the role of caretaker. She doesn't let go of Alix until she's seated, and she chuckles a little at her explanation. But it's a warm sound. "They're both beautiful, girls," she says, straightening up to look over at Chess. "Don't worry about it. The night out is cheaper that way," she says with a crooked smile.

Breaking away from the others, she moves to get water and food for both of them, even though Chess isn't in as much danger of a dreaded hangover. Her attention moves to Luther when she comes back, the wry expression on her face probably giving away that the spectre of Mateo's handsomeness hangs over the room even without him currently there. But she's polite enough not to bring it up, at least. "More coffee, Luther?" is what she offers instead.

Upon the explanation of the mandala cuff, Luther nods slowly, absorbing that bit of info and remarking, “That was a great idea. Smart. The both of you.” A shared look goes to Chess, about the reminder. He takes a quick drink of his coffee, but doesn’t hide the pride in his eyes. It’s only slightly marred by the fact that he’s got an outrageously blonde wig upon his head still. He only remembers it when Lynette remarks upon the tattoos as well, and starts to reach with his hand to pluck off the wig only wince a little with the movement to his arm. Nevermind then. He’ll keep it on, til there’s a freer moment for his good hand when it isn’t occupied by the cup.

He’s lucky, then, when Lynette offers more coffee. “Please, and thank you,” he says gratefully as he passes the mug over. As Luther pulls the wig off once his hand is able to, he sets the fake hair lightly on the table beside the water and food. Once Lynette’s back, he settles into one of the comfy chairs and bids the others to do so in a warmed rumble of a tone.

“So. Tell us how you got the idea for this night out…”

The Benchmark Center

Safehouse Level

Red Hook, NYC Safe Zone

August 26, 2018

1:13 am

Laying on her bed, long hours after the other residents of the safehouse have gone to sleep, Alix stares at the glow of streetlights coming in through her window. It is pale in her room; white walls cast in night shades of indirect illumination. The sounds of the street outside muffled by thick panes of insulated glass. She hasn't been asleep all night, and it isn't the silence of Benchmark keeping her awake. She's been crying into her pillow enough that it's stained the white fabric of the pillowcase. Not loud crying, no sobs or sniffles that neighbors could hear, but the silent fall of tears practiced from a young age, when emotional "outbursts" would be punished by stern caretakers.

It's like this every night, until she can't keep her eyes open any longer. It isn't fear, it isn't dread, or guilt, or shame. There's no discernible why to the crying, and the hollow feeling of emptiness and worthlessness that comes with it. But it's there.


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