Threading The Needle, Part I


bf_cassandra_icon4.gif ff_remi_icon.gif ff_stefan_icon.gif ff_trask_icon.gif

Scene Title Threading the Needle, Part I
Synopsis Tasked with lifting the negation field on the Ark, Cassandra and Remi seek out Norton Trask.
Date January 12, 2019

Once, the Commonwealth Arcology was a dream of a better future. Somewhere along the way, that dream became polluted beyond recognition, somewhere along the way, it became an Ark, and later a prison.

Physically, the arcology was designed to evoke positive emotions and lighten spirits. Its walls were once a sterile white, now filthy with the passage of time and the intrusion of saltwater. Yet in the botanical garden in the central concourse of A-Ring, plants still grow in dimly lot alcoves to add a splash of what was once natural splendor, now looks more like urban decay. Everything was tailored to feel like a paradise away from the troubles of the real world.

That paradise is destroyed.

«Security Alert. Intrusion Detected. Arcology Environmental Containment Breached

The warning has been echoing from loudspeakers since the first gunfights started down in the prison cells on B-Ring. One level up, the fighting has only just begun and bodies are already littering the floor. The insurrection against Donald Kenner is in high gear, and Ark security clashes openly with residents and dissidents within the massive facility.

Once pristine white walls are stained by streaks of rust and grime and now, pockmarks from gunfire and explosions. Fresh blood pops brightly against the white tile floor, corpses of security forces dressed in dark riot gear contrasting sharply. Security lighting bathes most of the halls in flashing shades of warning red.

«Security Alert. Intrusion Detected. Arcology Environmental Containment Breached

Just past the concourse where a riotous gun battle is taking place, Cassandra Baumann and Remi Davignon have broken away from the main group in pursuit of the most critical piece of this escape plan: Norton Trask. When the fighting began, Cassandra and Remi were able to track Trask’s flight from his residence on A-Ring and through the promenade where they were confronted by Ark security still loyal to Kenner

Once there was a lull in the confrontation, they found themselves able to pursue Trask’s path. They'd never laid eyes on him, not once, but Remi knows where he's heading and she doesn't need a telepathic gift to be certain of that. He's undoubtedly headed for the medical wing.

«Security Alert. Intrusion Detected. Arcology Environmental Containment Breached

He's going to find his brother.

Why is it always gunfire?

It seems that ever since fate decided to set Cassandra on this whirlwind adventure across time, space, and dimensions, that one of the constants is the methodical pop of gunfire. At least in the echoing wilderness of the wasteland Cassandra came from the sound didn’t hurt, able to be dissipated through sheer distance. Here, in the once-sterile walls of the Ark, sound ricochets almost as well as the bullets do, the sound of each shot feeling almost like a punch to the chest that sends ears ringing if they’re not covered properly. That dull, aching pain brings memories of another exodus through cramped tunnels with armed troops pressing forward unbidden.

God, she wishes she had some of the ear protection from the firing range in Colorado, earmuffs, or something like that, but she has to make due with what she could find. As a stopgap measure, wads of formerly sterile medical cotton have been stuffed into Cassandra’s ears to muffle the crack of gunfire echoing off walls.

Man, is it ever a relief to get away from the fighting. Thankfully, Remi has followed Cassandra’s lead on that, shoving medical cotton into her ears to keep the gunfire in close quarters from killing her hearing. Taking refuge next to one of the trees in the alcove, the telepath pauses long enough to simply take a breath and gather her wits about her.

After a moment, she moves over to one of the plants they’ve found themselves resting under, hands digging into the soil at the base. After a moment, she comes back out with a pair of kitchen knives; one is offered to Cassandra, the other is wiped on her clothes and clasped in one hand.

“Let me talk to him when we find him,” she murmurs, glancing over the gleaming blade, before turning to Cassandra with a nod. “He’ll be in medical — Odessa told me that Ford has been keeping his brother there, and that’s why he’s been compliant. I think we can help him — then he can help us, I hope.” She doesn’t waste any time, making her way toward the garden with the medical wing in mind.

How she managed to get involved in this part is something that Cassandra didn’t understand viscerally but had it explained. Trask, she had learned, had an affinity for helping those who needed help - specifically ladies, and specifically blondes. While Remi fit that bill rather well, dammit, if a 23 year old traveller from another dimension didn’t fit that bill, who would? The other knife is taken, the mud left on it to hide the flashing of the blade, the length of the thing slid into Cassandra’s sleeve, the hilt just below the curve of her wrist, held in her jacket sleeve out of sight. The handgun she picked up while fleeing the gunfight was, technically, a weapon, but due to age and the fact that it was scavenged from a fallen guard doesn’t make her very comfortable firing it. A check of the cylinder shows it is loaded with two bullets, but there’s the chance the gun might blow up if looked at funny. That’s tucked in her waist in the small of her back. Hopefully they won’t have to use it to bluff their way past anyone or anything because shooting, if it does happen, will end very, very quickly.

“The last thing I want to do is kill anyone. Before all this, I was a student.” She conveniently leaves out that she was partially responsible for Looking Glass in her world, but that’s not information she’s comfortable handing out. Cassandra leans against the base of one of the trees, shifting her pack to the center of her back. The smoke from the fighting is starting to infiltrate this peaceful place, Cassandra looking over at the airlock separating this ring from the rest of the world. “Let’s go.”

She starts following behind Remi, through the garden, towards the Medical wing.

Another handgun, this one with a single bullet, is tucked in the back of Remi’s pants — she only has one person in mind to use it on, if she needs it, but hopefully she won’t. As she moves, she tucks her own knife into her sleeve — thankfully, multiple layers means that the blade doesn’t have to rest directly against her skin.

The telepath snorts as she walks. “Tell me about it. Before all of this,” she gestures widely as if to indicate the state of the world they’re in, “I was a socialite, then I was an A-list actress. They trained me to do pretty martial arts and fly around on wires, but the most action I really got was protesting dolphin hunting in Japan.”

How far she’s come from home.

She smirks, shaking her head once. “I miss hot showers the most. When we get out of here, that’s the first thing I’m going to do.” A bit of hope can’t hurt anyone, right? “What about you?” She continues to move as she quietly murmurs out her plans.

“You know, I really haven't thought much past getting out of here since hitting that submarine” Cassandra responds, her expression all business as they move through the garden, side stepping the well-tended but wilting beds that keep the food supply in this place from dwindling to nothing, the residents starving to death. Still, she considers and murmurs back. “I think I miss home the most. I think a shower, a good meal, and a week off my feet in a bed somewhere that's not 45f is a good place to start. Somewhere with pillows. Lots of pillows.” She considers. “And then a trip to Louisiana to see if I have any family running around. Try to meet myself.”

Pillows tend to not be much of a thing in this world - comfort is fleeting and dirty heads soil clean cloth quickly.

It’s easy to get lost in the possibilities of what could be, in the moments between firefights. The sound of gunfire echoing behind them makes it feel distant, like a loud movie rattling at their backs. It makes delving into the hypotheticals that any of them are making it out of this alive easier. It doesn’t make the other end of that hypothetical easier, though. That lingering sense of dread creeps forward on every rifle report.

The garden doesn’t extend for too far, just enough for the meandering concrete walkway to deposit them at a stairway access down to B-Ring, where the medical wing is located. The door to the stairwell is left open, propped with a twisted piece of metal by a lax security officer days ago. It allows Remi and Cassandra access to the switchback staircase that descends one hundred and forty-four concrete stairs under crimson security lighting. The klaxons are harder to hear in the stairwell, speakers spluttering static more than anything, given their age and disrepair.

Once they descend to the upper level of B-Ring, Cassandra and Remi exit out into a red-lit hallway following clear, if tarnished, metal signage indicating Medical Research Wing with a bold black arrow. Eventually, they reach a steel security door left wide open, indicating it is their destination in a stencil above the door. Through the doorway, they can see a long hall lined with partially open doors, most unlit, save for a few down at the end of the hall.

There’s also a metal clang a moment later, a distant crash, and shouting. Perhaps they weren’t the only ones to come down here.

“Not sure which one of the worlds I saw,” Remi replies as they quietly descend the stairs, eyes ahead, “but I think I’m dead where we’re headed.” She lifts one hand in a gun shape, and presses on her own forehead. “But a trip to France would be nice. I haven’t seen home in well over a decade.”

She falls silent as they arrive at the security door, pausing outside and staring tentatively down the long hallway. She reaches back behind herself, pulling out the gun that she hopes she won’t have to use, making sure the safety is off and ready to go in case she needs to use her single bullet; she also ensures the knife is easily accessible, as well.

The shouting causes her blue eyes to widen slightly; a glance is cast back to Cassandra, one finger pressing to her lips in a ‘shhh’ motion, and then the telepath edges forward toward the noises, gun pointed at the ground. Whoever is inside doesn’t need to know that there’s only one bullet.

Man, she longs for the days when this shit only happened in her movies.

“Well. Here you're not. Let's try to keep it that way so we can have a good chance to try and figure out whatever insanity we're going to jump into next.” A little dry humor from Cassandra there as they make their way down the stairs. Trepidation creeps in as they head down the steps, their feet echoing in time with the claxons echoing from above and the pitiful *wah wah* coming from the less maintained ones. It’s like walking into a horror game, and every fiber of Cassandra’s being is telling her to stop and go the other way. To polish it off, the signage for medical research is never a good thing in stories. Colorado had a research wing staffed with creepy people that looked too pale and had skin that seemed too tightly stretched across their faces. Or maybe that's just what Cassandra imagined. A diet of horror movies before coming here gives one all sorts of ideas. “God, I wish you had your ability. Being able to talk without talking would be super helpful right about now for stealth purposes.”

The noise? That definitely puts Cassandra on edge. Hiding from authority figures and marauders is a thing that she has gotten pretty good at in her time fleeing from danger over the past few months. One of the things she's learned is to stay quiet and watch. After all, sometimes the best thing to do is to not do anything at all. Her gun stays where it is, out of sight, with the knife in her sleeve staying there, too. She shrinks back against the wall, crouching down, listening and watching. Being told to shush is kind of underlining something already highlighted in bold. She knows that silence is kind of an important thing right now, as is surprise. She remains silent, though, listening to the shouts and the noise before looking to Remi. “Bet you a shower that’s where we need to go.” She frowns and grits her teeth before stealthily moving toward the noise to gather information - not something she wants to do. Better to know what they're facing than running in all willy-nilly with guns blazing.

The doors Cassandra passes all lead into small, unlit examination rooms with tables bolted to the floor, identical cabinets with faux wood facing, exposed wires hanging from the ceiling add a touch of dereliction to their appearance. It doesn't look like much of the medical wing is in use these days, but it raises questions on what they were for when it was.

The noise comes from further down the hall, where a pair of double doors lay pushed open into a spacious room about as large as the mess hall upstairs. There's abandoned medical equipment here; centrifuges, electron microscopes, and additional machinery Cassandra can't quiet pin down the function of. Most of it is in bad condition, barely visible under the low lighting levels here. Emergency security lighting at the corners of the room is all she has to see by unless she sweeps her flashlight through the darkness.

Deeper into the room, though, there's a long stretch of counter space up against the far wall, lit by a pair of desk lamps. There's stacks of paper folders on the countertop, a stack of plastic boxes marked First Aid, and other medical ephemera. The room is silent by the time Cassandra gets to the doorway, but it becomes quickly clear the source. Doctor Stefan Ford — memorable from both the banquet and the communicable disease screenings all of the Travelers underwent during the first day of their stay — is pulling himself up from the floor, a hand at his jaw and glasses crooked on the bridge of his nose.

Norton!” Stefan shouts at a door open to a darkened hallway across the room from Cassandra. Doctor Ford winces, working his jaw left and right and frustratedly sweeps his hand across his desk and knocks his paperwork to the floor with a crash. He mutters something after that, then retrieves a snub-nosed revolver from somewhere on top of the counter. He looks intent on heading in the direction he was just calling after.

The telepath stops in her tracks upon spotting the doctor, tightening her grip on the gun and turning to lean against a wall, eyes wide. Remi lifts her gun into the air with a frown on her face — she really doesn’t like using these damned things, but when in Rome.

She leans close to Cassandra, speaking in a hushed whisper as quietly as she can. “Nous allons prendre son arme, et nous allons l'emmener avec nous pour trouver Norton.” She doesn’t really know exactly what she’s doing here, but letting the good doctor shoot the man who has stolen their abilities doesn’t seem like the best idea in the world — at least not until she’s sure how his ability works.

Taking advantage of the element of surprise, Remi slips forward, pulling the hammer audibly and aiming the gun straight at the man’s head. “Stop right there,” she hisses, eyes narrowed, as she slips into the light — he could try to shoot her, but logic dictates that she’s likely to get a shot fired off before he can even lift his weapon. “Put your gun down and slide it to me. Slowly.” She holds the gun steady, thankful for the formal gun training she received over the course of many, many action movies.

“We can go find Norton after that.” In a true flex of her acting chops, none of Remi’s nervousness shows through on her face, her features menacing and resolute. Nor does her hand shake as she aims the gun at the man — she looks like someone who wouldn’t hesitate to shoot the man in the head.

This is very much not a position Cassandra wants to be in. Stefan seemingly was just punched and is in pursuit of Trask with murderous intent if the gun has anything to do about it. Two women showing up out of nowhere and pulling a gun on him? That just has bad things written all over it.

Remi’s whisper gets a wide-eyed response from Cassandra that might be easily missed, and the other woman’s already moving when the negative head shake comes, which means that yes, it was certainly missed. As Remi moves, so does Cassandra, her internal monologue cursing a blue streak as she goes. She uses desks and cabinets as cover, hopefully moving so she can get another angle on Stefan while his attention is on Remi, finally ending up with an angle on him and an old wooden chair to her right.

It starts going south and Stefan pulls his gun, or tries? Cassie’ll smack him in the head with a wooden chair, probably while saying ‘hey!’ to get his attention. Or ‘have a seat.’ Something witty. That’s how it works, right?

There’s a lizard-like expression on Stefan’s face as he stares at Remi, large eyes partway lidded and mouth in a flat line. He doesn’t drop the gun in his hand, but keeps it sensibly pointed away from the telepath. Tongue pressed against the inside of his cheek, Stefan levels a lidded stare at the telepath, seemingly unaware of Cassandra’s approach.

“It’s going to be awfully hard to find Norton…” Stefan says as he slowly begins to crouch, one hand — missing most of a thumb — held up and palm flat, the other very slowly lowering the gun to the ground as he begins to crouch, “…without that pretty little head of yours.” Stefan’s brows rise to the brim of his knit hat, and Remi feels the sudden pressure of a hand at the back of her head, followed by a foot at her ankle, and she’s swept down to smash her face against the adjacent desk. The impact causes her vision to blur and she loses her grip on her gun, sending it skidding across the floor not far from Cassandra.

Cassandra can’t see anyone, and for a moment it feels like perhaps Doctor Ford has some sort of telekinesis, until the air ripples and a smug-looking blonde man fades into view from a shimmering field of invisibility behind where Remi was, his short hair messy and jaw unshaven. “Anders,” Stefan hisses at him, “for God’s sake get her gun!


The telepath shrieks as she’s clotheslined straight into the desk, sliding to the ground with a bloodied nose. Shit, that hurt. She smartly doesn’t say anything to give Cassandra away, instead leaning against the desk with a dazed expression on her face. Fucking invisible assholes.

With a wince reaches up a hand, touching her nose and wincing. In her mind, she’s screaming for Cassandra to shoot them both, but she doesn’t have her ability, so the message falls against the fuzzy wall in her brain. Instead, she turns a glare up to Anders, fingers pressed against her nose to stop the bleeding.

It's readily apparent that Cassandra and Remi weren't expecting someone invisible to show up and ruin their parade. Invisibility, inherently, has an advantage for ambushes but hopefully, in this case, Cassandra's sneakiness paid dividends. Stefan’s hissed order to Anders is all the signal Cassandra needs. While the two men's' attention are on each other, Cassandra takes the chair she posted up next to and hurls it at Stefan with all the force she has. “Take a seat, Assshole!” She yells, her right hand moving to her belt where her revolver, her scavenged one, has been patiently waiting.

Remembering her training, she draws the weapon and pulls back the hammer, aiming at mister invisible with both hands and sending a shot toward center mass. The recoil isn't insignificant, but she uses it as best she can to pivot toward Stefan, who should be recovering, or at least off balance from trying to avoid the chair. If she can get a bead on Stefan, she sends her second and last bullet toward him, aiming for big areas. She's no sharpshooter, so headshots aren't a thing unless she's really lucky.

Stefan topples over like a brittle old man hit with a folding chair. He helps, smashes into a table, lands hard on his elbow and scrambles backward with one hand on his bleeding head. The gunshot that comes next surprises both he and Anders significantly. Mostly Anders.

The once-invisible man jerks like he was stung by a bee, then paws at the middle of his chest where fingertips come up dark and red. “Why’d— ” he mumbles, “why’d you— y-you shot me.” He stares at the blood on his hand, the dark spot spreading at the middle of his sweater, and then stumbles, and finally collapses down onto his back on the floor at the same time Cassandra is pivoting toward Stefan.

The second shot misses, though, as Stefan scrambles away and the bullet ricochets off the concrete floor into the wall. “Wait!” Stefan shouts, ducking behind a desk. “Wait!” He isn't aware Cassandra is out of ammunition.

“Stop— for the love of god stop fucking shooting!” Stefan hollers from behind a desk, his knit cap visible over the top. “I'm surrendering. This is a surrender. Don't— fucking shoot me.” His hands, one missing a thumb at the first knuckle, rise above the desk.

Anders isn't moving.

In the resulting confusion of Cassandra’s attack, Remi snatches up her dropped gun — which still has its single bullet. She turns briefly, frowning at Anders as he reacts to the knowledge of his rapidly fading mortality, then back toward Stefan — who she quickly trains her gun on. “You threaten that I will lose my head, then act surprised when my friend acts like you’re going to kill me?” She sneers, wiping the blood from beneath her nose with the back of her hand.

She edges forward, gun still raised, and grabs the snub-nosed pistol that Stefan once brandished, tucking that into the back of her pants — the man still doesn’t know about the limited ammo situation, and he doesn’t need to know. Hopefully, she won’t have to use it at all — but she’s not holding her breath. And now, that single bullet won’t be an issue.

Get up,” she hisses to Stefan, jerking her head toward the door that he was initially heading toward. “Keep your hands up and take us to Norton,” she adds, her gun trained on the doctor. “Now.” He knows that they mean business after this, so hopefully he won’t cause any more problems. “And don’t think we won’t kill you if you make one wrong move.”

She’s probably going to cry over this whole affair later, but that can wait until there’s time.

The force of the shot travels down Cassandra’s arms and settles somewhere in her chest, almost like a punch. Her getting off two shots - one a hit - used a great deal of her luck up for the foreseeable future. The now empty handgun is trained on Stefan, or rather, the desk where Stefan is cowering, the sights starting to tremble. She only realized that she actually hit one of her targets when Anders protests being shot and falls over backwards with a sickening thud, and it's only once Remi has her pistol trained on the other man that she lets hers fall, her shoulders slumping, her eyes as wide as saucers.

To her credit, what little breakfast Cassandra ate before the coup attempt stays down, although just barely.

What Remi is saying registers but her attention is fixed on the other man on the floor - a man she just put a slug into. Glancing over to make sure Remi has things well in hand, she moves over to where Anders lays on the floor, gazing sightlessly into the air, pool of blood on the floor around his body that is slowly expanding. “I'm sorry.” She whispers quietly as she crouches near his head, reaching out to close his eyes with a gentle movement of her fingers. A moment of silence punctuated by the sputtering of the alarms and a murmured prayer follow before Cassandra pushes the sickening sensation down and starts checking his body for anything useful - a gun, a knife, an access card - and then stands.

“You could have just not.” Cassandra says through gritted teeth, taking a step toward the other man. “We didn't come down here to shoot anyone. He didn't have to die.” Stefan is fixed with a deadly gaze that, were she Medusa, would have turned him and everything within 500 meters to solid stone. “Now you're going to make amends.” She holds her now-empty revolver loosely in her right hand, not pointing at him but certainly threatening. “You're going to lead us to Trask, and then you're going to do whatever he wants, up to and including telling him anything he wants to know about his brother.”

A conversation with Liz has seemed to pay off.

Stefan slowly rises from behind the desk, standing with a stooped posture and hands raised. He's with, wrinkled, and softly wheezing as he approaches Remi with a few slow steps. Briefly he turns his attention to Cassandra, eyes narrowed in consideration, then looks back to the telepath. “Your lip…” Stefan says with a motion of one grimy finger toward his own mouth, “is split.”

Remi can feel it, her upper lip sore and swollen, throbbing with pain and wet with blood. It'll leave a scar, undoubtedly. Stefan, however, voices other concerns. “You could get an infection…” his brows raise, but he knows she isn't here for medical attention. Instead, he ducks his head down and motions to the double doors opposite the ones they'd entered the room from.

“Your man, Trask, is that way. Being a coward.” Stefan eyes Remi, then Cassandra. “He's going to his brother, Sergei. I could lead you, but I…” he motions to himself, “am a slow, old man. You'd be better off without me.” He looks over to Anders’ body in the middle of the floor, a growing pool of blood beneath him. A twitch creases Stefan's lips.

“I walk away, unarmed.” Stefan offers, wiggling his fingers with a hesitant smile. “You move faster that way, yes?”

In another world, Soleil Davignon would be intensely concerned about her split lip, and would seek immediate medical attention. She would make sure to get her the best medical treatment, so her face wouldn’t be ruined by all of this, as scars can be a blemish on one’s acting career. The instinct is still there, but it’s rather quickly shoved down, ignored until a less pressing time.

With a shake of her head, Remi jerks the gun threateningly toward Stefan, eyes narrowed. “I might have trusted you with that before you got your invisible man killed, but now, not so much,” Her French accent is thicker after all has been said and done, less attention paid to making it sound less…well, French. She sneers at the man, jerking her head toward the door — his comment about her lip is ignored. “As fast as you can. Walk, or you’re next.”

Something about her demeanor tells Stefan she’s not kidding.

In any other situation, that might be considered as a good idea. Moving quickly meant being more mobile, and that’s always a good thing in situations where being nimble is an advantage, but in this case, it’s probably not. “Wow.” Cassandra says, deadpan. “That sounds like a really good idea.” The idea is not, to be clear. Leaving the man behind who just sacrificed his invisible compatriot like a pawn in order to attack them is probably one of the worst ideas that could be had in a place like this.

Cassandra pauses, staring Stefan down for a few wordless moments before lifting her empty gun in his general direction, motioning with it toward the door that he indicated, using the power of fear to motivate him. “Get moving. Trask may be cowardly in your eyes, wanting to rescue his brother from whatever hell you’ve put him through over the past few years, but I can’t say I wouldn’t do the same. A brother’s love is a brother’s love. Besides.” Cassandra motions with the gun again. “I’m sure Trask will want to talk with you before we go.”

Stefan turns partly lidded blue eyes over to Cassandra, sliding a tongue slowly across his lips, then raises his brows as he shrugs in a helpless what can you do gesture. “Allow me to… lead the way then.” There's a distant pop-pop-pop of gunfire and then silence, somewhere too far away to be a threat, but a reminder to Cassandra and Remi of the fighting happening across the enormous facility.

Ordered to walk, Stefan does, hands held up in the air in slouched surrender. The double doors he approaches don't require hands to open, and he just twists and presses a shoulder against one side and pushes them open until there's a soft click and the door locks into the open position. He then continues into the dimly lit hall, flooded red with security lighting.

In this illumination, Stefan looks like a bloody skeleton, with dark hollows where his eyes should be, sunken cheeks, and a toothy smile. “It's not far,” he says with a twitch to the smile, turning his back on Remi and Cassandra as he begins shuffling off toward their ultimate destination down a long, gradually curving corridor lined with rusted metal doors with closed viewing slats in them.

“You're Cassandra Baumann, aren't you?” Doctor Ford asks as he walks, hands still raised. “I recognized you when you arrived. Was your father’s name Alphonse in the world you came from, too?” He glances over his shoulder, eyes barely visible in the shadows created by the extreme lighting. “I am so curious about this all.”

Something about Doctor Stefan Ford doesn’t sit quite right with Remi — part of her feels that shooting the man now would be a good idea, but yet another tells her that maybe Trask might want to have that honor — so she saves her single bullet for him.

As he starts talking, Remi sneers, ignoring the smell and taste of blood from her lip. If they get to where they’re going — well, hopefully there will be some first aid there. A glance is cast back toward Cassandra, then Remi advances an extra step, pushing the gun in between his shoulder blades.

“Don’t talk to her,” she hisses. “Don’t talk to either of us. Just walk like your life depends on it. Save your voice for Norton.” She pushes him again with the muzzle of gun, nothing hard enough to knock him off balance, but enough to speed his steps.

Since her travels had pulled her from her world to two others, with a third on the horizon, part of Cassandra had always wondered about the Cassandras of the worlds she’s visited. After all, she had seen doppelgangers here and there of people she had heard of or known, and the stories that she got from Elisabeth on how the whole branching off of timeline thing happened did a lot to make her head hurt, but she did understand how it worked better than she might have if she didn’t have her ability to look back.

Despite Remi’s order for the good Doctor to keep quiet, Cassandra answers. “Yes, I am.” From what she understands, this cross worlds thing creates entirely new lines to follow. Instead of a train going either left or right, a second train is created at that moment and goes both directions at the same time to different destinations. “Yes, my father is Alphonse Baumann. Still alive and happy with the family, working as a district attorney in Louisiana in my world as far as I know. Why? Get into trouble in the swamps a few years back?”

Cassandra’s gaze flicks to Remi as she pushes the gun against Stefan’s back, remaining behind the pair as they’re led through red-tinged halls to their final destination with Trask and, hopefully, his brother. She’s afraid of what Stefan might say about her father, how he might have known him or worked with him or something. It’s amazing how people can change when the world around them changes so drastically. And the thought is there, quiet in the back of her head, that they’re going to turn a corner and there he’d be, working away in B ring.

What would a lawyer do down here, though? Probably best to put it out of her head.

Stefan fires a glance over his shoulder to Cassandra, then Remi, and draws pinched fingers across his lips in a zippering motion along with a sarcastic raise of his brows. He says nothing else, bathed in the steady crimson security lighting, ambling forward to the end of the door-lined hall to a t-junction.

Stefan doesn't say anything, but he points to the door to the right of the junction. There’s a sign above the door that reads Communicable Diseases and features a biohazard symbol in stark black. He waits for just a beat before turning to the door and pushing into it with one shoulder, opening into a small room lined with white nylon suits that zipper in the back with gasket-sealed dome-visored gas masks. NBC suits, according to a sign that warns in bold suits are mandatory past this point except there's one glaring contradiction…

…none of the suits are missing, and the door on the other side has been forced open and the lock shot off. Red security light bleeds out from the room beyond, and the sounds of footsteps and a murmuring voice.

Stefan stops at the room filled with the suits and looks back at Remi with one brow raised.

Now this is a conundrum. There’s nothing more worrisome than communicable diseases and an open doorway. They could risk it, but that is a rather terrifying risk to take. Briefly, Remi turns to peer at Cassandra, before turning back to Stefan with a frown on her face and a glower set into her brow. She almost asks him what Sergei has, but thinks better of it.

She glances to her companion once more, before gesturing to the open door with the gun. If it is a sealed environment that has already been opened up, they’re already at risk just by standing here. She lifts her shirt, covering her nose and mouth with it, and nods to the man. “Whatever it is that Norton’s brother might have to land him in here, we may already be at risk when the door is open like that.” She nods her head toward the door.

“Why is Norton’s brother in there?” She asks, staring at Stefan. Even as she asks, she reaches behind herself with the hand that isn’t brandishing a gun at the doctor, pulling out the pistol she took from him and handing it off to Cassandra, presumably under the notion that it needs to be on the outside of the suits — if they put them on. She then glances to Cassandra, frowning. “We need to move quickly,” she adds.

There may be no time, but Communicable diseases and NBC suits require at least taking a second to find out what lies ahead. A t-shirt pulled over mouths won't protect them from infection. Potentially turning wherever they’re going into a disease-ravaged wasteland is not something Cassandra is willing to do. And counting on the place they're arriving being able to deal with whatever comes through in their lungs or on their clothes? Well, Cassie's not a betting sort, but she'd take the under on that one.

She takes the gun from Remi, checking to see if it's loaded - it is, fully - and takes a seat on one of the benches.

“So tell us, then.” Cassandra holds up her empty hand, the gun still pointed in Stefan’s direction, gesturing toward the door. “What's can we expect to find in there? Is anything in there still infectious? Is Trask’s brother infected with something. We need to know this.” She apparently has no qualms about asking about Stefan.

While waiting for an answer, Cassandra peers at the suits - even she should be able to tell if they’ve been used recently, slipping off her backpack and leaving it there on the bench. Clean rooms generally have one way in or out, and with the door wrenched open, the difference in pressure should keep most of the nasty bugs inside. So when they come back, she should be able to grab her pack.

“Answer truthfully, please. How you answer directly determines whether or not we give you a suit, before heading in there.” Because that's where Trask is.

Stefan laughs, a hoarse and spiteful belly laugh. “Oh, I don't need a suit to go in there…” he says with a crooked smile, wide eyes leveling down to the barrel of Remi’s gun. “It's you who are already in grave danger. If the seal here is broken, it may already be too late for all of you.”

There's a hyena-like wheezing laugh that spills from Stefan as he takes a step aside so as to clear the way for Remi and Cassandra. “Sergei contracted an unusual disease in his youth due to… poor life choices. He was admitted here, many years ago, and the virus he is infected with once escaped containment after the flood, and Director Cardinal sealed the infected in their rooms to die.” Stefan’s brows raise slowly. “This virus, one lethal to your kind, has a one hundred percent mortality rate without…” Stefan’s smile grows broader and his yellow teeth look particularly bright in the red light. “…inoculation.

Grinning from ear to ear Stefan says. “Now, put away your guns away. I believe we’re on an even negotiation footing now, yes?” In the distance beyond this room, Remi and Cassandra can hear a muffled man’s voice.

Turning to exchange a look with Cassandra, Remi frowns; she doesn’t lower her gun as Stefan requests, though — in fact, she jerks it toward him for a moment, briefly tempted to shoot him in the foot. She thinks otherwise, however, and reaches into her sleeve, retrieving the knife she stashed there earlier.

“Not yet. We’ll worry about that part later. For now, we need to speak to Trask,” she replies. “Cassandra, let’s suit up.” She briefly glances toward the knife, gun still trained on Stefan. Then, after ensuring Cassandra has her gun trained on the doctor, she begins putting on the suit. If they can get to Trask, if they can lift the negation…she can find out more, and be sure that the man isn’t tricking them.

Once she’s suited up and the helmet is locked on, she takes the knife — the gloves make the gun a bit more cumbersome to use — and presses it against Stefan’s neck. “You’ll be patient a bit while we take care of our business, oui?” Her words drip with what can only be described as hatred. If she has the virus already, so be it — she’s already lost everything, so what’s her life in the grand scheme of things?

If she dies today, at least she’s doing something to help others have a better life. If for no other reason, the children trapped in here deserve it.

As Remi pulls on the suit and helmets up, Cassandra keeps the gun trained on Stefan until it’s her turn to get dressed. It’s surprisingly easy, thanks to the faded instructions printed on the wall opposite, and Cassandra quickly pulls the bright yellow suit on over her clothes and boots, tucking her hair into the hood. Rubber gloves are pulled on, too with a snap beneath the inner gloves of the suit. The air here is stale - not moving - so they’re probably okay standing right here from anything infectious, but in there? All bets are off. So why go in there at all? She looks to Remi for a moment and then gets a crazy idea.

Her backpack is tossed into the hallway behind the clean room that they came from. “If we can hear them, maybe he can hear us?” Keeping the gun trained on Stefan, Cassandra calls out. “Mr. Trask? Mr. Trask!” She pauses to see if the noises stop. “We have Stefan out here and we want to get out of here, but we need your help.” And then she steps back from the door, covering her face with the mask, making sure it’s completely sealed against anything that might come out on Trask.

Hopefully the helmet doesn't muffle her voice too much when Remi adds, “We have him at gunpoint, so you and your brother are safe, Norton!” She glances to Cassandra. “He can't speak.” A gesture is made toward her throat.

Stefan’s eyes widen when Cassandra calls into the communicable diseases wing for Trask. The rail-thin old man back up against a wall, teeth clenched and snarling with frustration and anger. His eyes move away from Remi and her gun and instead to the open door beyond. Stefan moves his hands up to his mouth, tense, and—

A single gunshot.

Stefan jumps at the sound of the gunshot, looking to Remi and Cassandra to see neither woman fired. Instead, there's a dull ringing coming from the room beyond. Then, a distant and metallic clack followed by a rasping and yet mournful series of sobs that do not sound like they come from a person, and yet, Remi imagine they do. That must be what sound Trask can make in response to whatever just happened in there.

Fuck!” Stefan lunges at Remi out of nowhere, grabbing her wrist and wrestling for the gun. “You stupid, worthless little bitch!” Stefan screams, unable to wrest the gun away from her quick enough.

He shot him. He shot him. Fuck, fuck, fuck! Stefan’s voice reverberate through Remi’s mind like a tinny, hollow echo. No, not his voice.

His thoughts.

She and Cassandra aren't negated anymore.

Thoughts. She can hear his thoughts.

Her ability is back.

Even as Stefan is lunging at her, attempting to steal the gun from her, Remi suddenly has a grin on her face. A horrible grin, one that reflects all of the hatred and anger for her captors that she’s built up over the past two weeks or so. She’s back.

The knife, gripped in her free hand, is slashed toward the deltoids of Stefan’s shoulder as he grapples with her, her main objective to get away. “Get your fucking hands off of me,” she commands, putting every bit of her telepathic weight behind her words. “Get on your knees, and put your hands on your head.” Another command, backed by the full weight of her freshly restored ability. “Where is the inoculation?” She hisses this last question, a sneer on her face.

At the same time, she reaches out toward Trask with her mind, attempting to skim the surface of his thoughts if at all possible — if he isn’t immune to her ability like Liz mentioned. “Norton — Norton, are you okay?!”

The gunshot, muffled as it is, makes Cassandra jump, the little snub nosed revolver brought to bear on the doorway that it came from, the woman wary. The sound of utter despair from Trask chills her to her core. “Damn….” She says. “I think you're about to have a problem…”. And then Stefan charges Remi - a surprise! Cassandra takes a few steps back toward the doorway, her empty revolver in one hand, pointing towards the door; the other pointing towards Stefan and Remi, unwilling to fire at such close quarters.

And then, it's like a switch has been thrown.

Being negated, for Cassandra, is a little different than Remi - at least in her view. She and the starlet never talked about abilities, other than Cassandra’s ‘I can see the past’ and Remi's ‘I can read thoughts,’ but the underpinning or Cassandra's ability is iron will and control. The first time she experienced her power was after one too many drinks at a high school party lowered her inhibitions and mental wall, and after being negated for as long as they've been here, memories start weeping in, unbidden. There's no hand on the brake, so to speak.

“Shit, shit!” Cassandra scrambles back, her eyes clouding over, blinding her, the black tears spilling over her cheeks like too much mascara on a drag queen in a rainstorm. Past events fade into view - construction of the ark, doctor' milling about as they get ready - ghostly after-images, swarming over themselves for a few moments, the more emotional and powerful forcing themselves to the fore before Cassandra can rein it in, the little seer scrambling back on her butt towards the entrance.

Who knows what they’ll see?

“Get him to isolation!” Many feet clatter on the floor, squeaking wheels of a gurney glide down the open corridor. A writhing, sweat-covered man with shaggy blonde hair is held down by two white-jacketed physicians. One of them, Stefan Ford, dressed head to toe in a white NBC suit shines a light in the man’s eyes.

Stefan looks up at Remi with ghostly blue eyes, lips twisted into a deep frown as he watches her. There's a seething quality to his posture, an awkward stiffness and struggle. But he can't refuse the telepathic commands drilled into his mind.

“Where is his brother?” Another doctor asks as they continue.

Stefan grits his teeth together. “A drawer,” is his spiteful answer, but Remi can see that drawer brought to mind, a tall refrigerated cabinet of vials and petri dishes. It's in the communicable diseases wing.

“Surgery. He nearly bled out on the sub they came in on.” Another doctor says with a look to Stefan. “I don't know if he’ll make it. He's a negator, it'll be hard to manage his injuries.”

“What are you waiting for?” Stefan stares up at Remi through the haze of visions, his eyes focused on the barrel of her gun. “Do it.

“I thought this one was a negator?” Stefan says with a wide-eyed look down to the man on the gurney, shivering and convulsing. “They're both negators?”

Do it.” Stefan hisses at Remi, eyes bulging and wide.

Cassandra had said a little bit of what her ability could do, but this…this is wild. With the gun still pointed at Stefan’s head, Remi’s blue eyes turn to watch the memory unfold, brows raised. Two negators, and the negation lifted after Norton presumably put his brother out of his misery. The telepath’s eyes widen at this realization, and the implications that it brings.

Perhaps Norton was just the light switch.

She turns her wide blue-eyed gaze to match Stefan’s wild stare, though her expression is filled with barely-contained rage. “You…what did you do to Sergei? What did you do to these poor brothers?” Her eyes widen a bit. “Is there any virus, or was that a lie? Tell me everything. Tell me the truth.” Again, the full weight of her ability comes to bear behind the question — lies will not be tolerated, or even allowed to escape his mouth, it seems.

Confess your sins, Doctor Ford.” Another telepathic command. “Loud enough for Norton to hear, he deserves the truth just as much as we do.” This is said much louder, for the benefit of the man still within the communicable diseases ward. She turns her blue eyes toward the door. “Norton…are you okay?” She calls out to him, turning wide eyes to Cassandra, then back to Ford.

There is no release of death for the doctor — yet.

Scrambling backwards until she can’t feel herself going any further, Cassandra clamps her eyes shut and grits her teeth, trying to force her power back into the Pandora’s box that it came out of. Were this a social situation, she would be horribly embarrassed for losing control like this, but in this case, blinded with unfamiliar memories swirling all around her, Cassandra is absolutely terrified. Her ability overwrites her senses - what she sees is the past, not the present. While inanimate objects may be mostly in the same place, they do tend to move over time, and they are very real obstacles to someone who literally can’t perceive them. Thankfully, living beings in the vision do appear, and Remi’s words do register. So does the pleading from the good Doctor, but being able to say anything is a little beyond Cassandra’s abilities at this point.

To her credit, she has enough sense of self to not pull her mask off, to try and clear the blackness from her eyes but she’ll be a mess until she manages to find something to wipe her face off with that’s preferably not infected with Shanti or whatever infectious stuff is floating around down here.

“I’m trying to stop it!” Cassandra finally manages to wail through her mask, her head jerking back suddenly, impacting the wall behind her with a muted thud - not enough to knock her out, but certainly enough to shake the cobwebs loose from where they’ve made homes over the past few weeks. Slow breathing helps, as does visualization of the places that bring her calm, and finally, mercifully, the visions slow and then fade away completely, the guns held loosely, one in each hand.

“What did I do!?” Stefan hisses at Remi, his eyes bulging in his head and blood vessels spotting red in their whites. “I did my job!” His voice is a ragged howl. “I saved him!

“That drug addict came to me with an illness the world had never seen before! It was eating him alive, stripping him of his ability. The Sergei Virus was named for him! But I— I saved his life! Sustained him!” Stefan spits wildly, struggling to no avail against Remi’s psychic grasp. “Donald turned him into a living security system! Donald leveraged him against his brother! Donald made me keep him alive through his suffering!

“I am a doctor! I am a scientist! I am above your moral post— ” Stefan’s head explodes with a blast of crimson from his right temple. He jerks to the floor with a heavy slap, blood pulsing to the rhythm of his still-beating heart out of the hole in his head. Remi and Cassandra only register the gunshot after.

When Norton Trask walks into the room, it is with tiny flecks of blood on his face, pushing away Cassandra’s vision around himself like a sphere of clarity. There is no light in his eyes, no life in them, just grief. Norton’s tried blue eyes level on Remi, then Cassandra.

Shadow, shapes, insubstantial forms whisper and drift around Cassandra. They aren't coherent memories, aren't coherent echoes of any one past, perhaps an amalgamation of them all, or perhaps something else entirely. She can't make out the voices, a susurrus of human tones, a murmuration of conversation. It comes with a sensation, alien and other, that they aren't alone. That it isn't Cassandra that is seeing the vision.

It is the vision that is seeing Cassandra. A pair of gold eyes in one of the shadows. A voice, a whisper, a call to—

Norton Trask’s hand on Cassandra’s shoulder ends her visions. Silenced her ability back into the depths it came from. Trask isn't wearing one of the NBC suits. He's holding a gun limp at his side. She needn't see the past to know what happened.

Trask looks over to Remi, brows furrowed. Even with her telepathy back, his mind is a blank slate hidden behind his negation field. Much like Cassandra, Remi doesn't need telepathy to understand what he's saying with his eyes.


“You made him suffer. You’re a doctor, you swore an oath when you accepted that job to —” Remi’s argument is cut off as Stefan’s blood splashes over the helmet of her NBC suit, eyes suddenly clenching shut as relatively fresh memories come rushing back over her. For a moment, she has to fight down a mild wave of panic, taking a few deep breaths.

Then, she opens her eyes again, turning a rather sad expression to Trask as he stands before the two. She doesn’t need to read his mind to know what he just had to do. And for a moment, she just looks at the mute man, tears sparkling in her eyes behind the blood-spattered helmet.

She steps toward him, reaching out and enduring the brief negation as she places one hand gently upon his cheek. “I’m so sorry for all you’ve had to go through, Norton.” She frowns up at him. “J'espère que vous trouverez la paix, en quelque sorte.” After a moment, she pulls closer, wrapping her arms around him in a tight hug. “I wish we had met under better circumstances.”

Cassandra’s visions weaken in time for her to witness Trask shooting the good doctor on the head. And the way he does it is methodical - the easy, practiced motion something he almost certainly dreamed about over the years of being held hostage. She blinks hard, unable to rub the remnants of her visions away without taking the suit off, sitting up, her ears ringing from the shot.

The eyes in the corner, the whispers, draw Cassandra's attention, the swirling darkness beckoning. It's only the touch on her shoulder and the nimbus of negation washing over her that snaps her attention to the man standing above her, his hand resting on the outside of her suit. The empty gun is left on the ground as she's helped up, the snub-nosed pistol held loosely in her right hand. She doesn't touch Trask, stepping back and out of the room, peering in as Remi comforts the man.

Trask watches Remi with dead eyes, staring down at her with the broken sadness of a man who has lost everything dear to him in this world. He is, and will remain, a cypher to her. His tension in their embrace is awkward, his expression when she releases is gentler, if only just. Norton Trask nods once, then, turns to walk back into the communicable diseases wing in silence.

He will not leave his brother alone. Not anymore.

Remi turns, reaching to help Cassandra to her feet. “We have to go — they’ll be expecting us.” She offers Trask one last sad look over her shoulder, before she turns to go. Once Cassandra is with her, she’ll make for the rendezvous point as quickly as they can.

After getting in the shower and removing the NBC suit, that is.

They are expected, and with Trask’s brother no longer with them, and Trask here, powers should be coming back on all through the Ark. “Remi.” Cassandra urges. “We can't stay. We’ve got to go to the scrubbing shower, otherwise we can't take these suits off.”

She may be immune.
She may not be.
She's not willing to take that chance.

Checking her gloves and suit for blood and finding none, Cassandra reaches into the room past Trask and grabs another set of heavy gloves, still sealed in their plastic package. Her backpack might be contaminated, even being outside the room - but what's inside it shouldn't be. “Thank you.” Cassandra says to the man, her mask muffling her voice. “I'm sorry we couldn't do more.”

Cassandra runs to the airlock separating communicable diseases from the rest of the Ark and follows the faded, but visible signs to the chemical showers. When she arrives she throws her pack and the gun into the shower and slams the cracked red button on the wall. When the shower rumbles to life, Cassandra leaps into the showers with arms up and lets the nozzles spray disinfectant all over the suit and backpack, turning in a circle until it stops.

Finally, Cassandra pushes out of the other side of the shower to strip off her NBC suit, leaving it in a pile on the floor by the shower. The sealed gloves are ripped open and pulled on, her backpack pulled out of the shower, still dripping with disinfectant. It's opened and what can be salvaged - a sheaf of papers sealed in a Manila envelope inside a plastic bag, a spent brass cartridge, a thumb drive - is pulled out and stuffed beneath her shirt, her face wiped off hurriedly. Anything else is left behind - clothes, food, trinkets all left in the backpack. She’s got her ability - the memories can come from anything. The pistol, still dripping, is taken up shaken off and finally, a paper-wrapped package is left on the bench next to her suit, the glitter-covered paper faded but the inscription “To Mr. Trask - Love, Eve.” still visible on the tag. Hopefully he'll come this far and see it. She couldn't risk pulling it out and giving it to him with the danger of infection. “Come on, Remi!” She yells. “Move it!”

Remi follows suit, quickly hurrying to the showers after Cassandra and lets the chemical showers rinse away the blood from Stefan and Trask away with disinfectant. She stays in a little extra, because blood is not really something to mess with, especially in a communicable diseases lab.

Then, she pulls off the suit, shoving it into a corner; she was carrying much less, all of her belongings lost in the sinking of the Sayonara. The only thing she carries is a necklace around her neck with a ring on it — the last thing she has from Jasper, and it is around her neck where it belongs. Let’s go, is sent wordlessly to Cassandra’s mind, and the telepath reaches for her hand so they can flee together.

The telepath appearing out of the darkness gets a sagging of Cassandra’s shoulders in relief. There was always the chance that she might have stayed with Trask - it seemed she had soft spot for the man, even though he was the cause of a lot of their troubles. It could be forgiven, knowing the metaphorical gun he had pointed at his head. She stays well back as Remi hoses off and removes her suit, wanting to keep anything infectious over there and herself over here. She’s cleaned off already, and she remains near the entrance, watching as Remi gets ready.

The psychic signal sent from Remi draws a shiver from the Cassandra and a nod. “Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more…” she whispers to herself as they close the door to the disinfecting room behind them and head down the ravaged hallway towards the staircase leading down, the door marked with an ominous “C-Ring.”

Back down winding halls, up flights of stairs, past corpses and bloodstains, Norton Trask emerges from the communicable diseases wing with a blanket-wrapped corpse, spotted a dark red where the head is bound. He carries Sergei like a cross past Stefan’s remains, then notices the incongruence of the package left sitting with his name on it.

Brows furrowed and lips downturned into a frown, Trask slowly bends to take a knee and lays his brother’s body on the floor. Confused and still in shock, he reaches for the package and begins to peel back its corners and reveal what is bundled inside.

A light wooden frame and a photograph of two blonde, teenage boys sitting side by side. It is a weathered, sun-bleached photograph. Trask’s jaw trembles, tears well up in his eyes as he touches the glass of the frame.

Trask hadn't seen this photograph in years, and for just a moment, seeing the face of Sergei smiling… brings him something he hasn't felt in years.


Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License