a wretched wonder Read 28571 times


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a wretched wonder
« on: September 15, 2013, 02:50:19 pm »
that is closed.

There would be sunlight for her through the window of her claustrophobic cell. White walls with a blue spirit. That hue was invisible in the morning, that crashed against the surfaces and pooled in the corners. In all honesty it was serene, but waking up in it might not feel so gentle. Clothes folded by her feet, black for familiarity; a gift that might settle the nausea. When she decided to walk through the frame without a door, a larger floor would open up. Empty shelves. Chairs and a table off to one side. Brushed steel bolted down. There had been a forest stretching beyond the window by her bed. There was no window here, only what relief and freedom the accentuated cold of the walls could offer. A fridge in a small kitchen solution beyond the sitting area.

And a door in the most distant wall. Like a matte silver taunt.

They all greeted her with unheard voices. We are the questions you don't know. They did agree on that her other life, where she payed taxes for protection, and had lunch at work, was not here.

He'd come in then, when those voices were the most poignant, wearing what always here wore. Faded jeans and a red t-shirt, worn pink. Brown hair tied back, its length barely supporting this venture. Blue eyes, like she might remember. He was a rather substantial ghost in the revealing light. The door closed behind him with eternal clicks, refined but without forgiveness. He smiled and it lifted the brush of dirt around his jaw, same darkness that covered his scalp. One or two days old, at most. It was most likely she'd notice the black knife in his right grip. She might also see the silver box in his left hand, after that.

He sat by the table. The body stretched to lay the objects down and slide them both over toward the chair opposite his. There were digital numbers on the box. A simple, clean contraption. The knife must be a challenge. He'd not reach it if she sat where he wanted her to, not before her. No fear or readiness in his eyes. Slight joy maybe. Like

a boy at a drive-in asking her if her radio worked.

"Please. Sit. Ask your questions." Hand, all its fingers, at the gifts outside of his immediate capacity. Calm brow without tensions. It would be against this image if he became violent. It had been against the image of her world that she'd be taken here, in the first place. "I'll tell you the rules."
« Last Edit: September 15, 2013, 02:54:39 pm by Verse »


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Re: a wretched wonder
« Reply #1 on: September 15, 2013, 02:54:36 pm »

...introduced tomorrow.

She was awake.

Sterility in her nostrils. Head a dull throb. Hangover from hell—but she’d had—what, one? One Jack Daniel’s over ice? And only because it had been a shitty day. She hadn’t gone out. She hadn’t—

The thin fabric of the basic black bra she’d gone to bed in, and another. This was not her 1000 thread count sheet. Not the light quilt she’d thrown open on the bed and never covered herself again with. The matching basic black panties, clinging below her hips. But not the spaciousness of her own bed.

She heaved in a startled breath. Did not open her eyes. Her hand slipped to her right side and easily felt the edge of a bed—no, no, not hers. She couldn’t reach the other fucking side. Her heart started to slam. Her head aching with each beat. She refused to open her eyes, could feel brightness against them, but couldn’t bear to look.

She breathed slowly. There was an explanation. A rational explanation. Maybe she hadn’t just had one, maybe more than one. Maybe Nigel, or—even better—Dallas dropped by and they had a few and maybe they did go out and maybe she was in one of their beds—

Except that none of that was true, and none of that was possible, and this shitty bed and these shitty sheets did not belong to Nigel or Dallas or anyone she knew whose bed she could have ended up in. It had been a regular night just like most regular nights, she made a salad and called her parents and dicked around on the internet and watched Graveyard Carz and had a whiskey and went to bed. She had one day off, today, but she was going to work on a project, anyway, from home.

Home. Where she was absolutely not.

She sat up. She opened her eyes.

She immediately closed them—the fucking brightness—and waited and opened them again. Blinked hard.

The window.

She threw herself out of the bed with alarming speed and her fingers searched the window, forced it, she slammed herself against it and clawed at it, trying to open open open. There was green outside, but it didn’t fucking matter what was outside, she just needed to get out, to get anywhere. She didn’t think, there was no rationalization. And there was no escape.

She turned suddenly, her long black hair grazing her shoulders and falling into her face. There was a neatly folded pile—a tank top and some dark jeans. She suddenly felt starkly naked, ashamed. She felt her shoulders, abdomen, thighs, frantic—searching for wounds or bruises or indications. Nothing.

She didn’t want to put on the clothes. But they were there for her, they were clothes laid out for Channing Jane Majors and hot damn if she didn’t put them on, whatever was beyond the door was—

She didn’t want any more of that. Slowly, she put on the clothes. They fit perfectly. This disgusted her. As did the obvious intention for her to come out of that little room, where she couldn’t go out of the little window, and there was nothing to grab or hide or take. Not one of her familiar possessions, no shoes, no nothing.

So she went out. Tensed and rabid and ready to fight.

And she barely had time to take in her surroundings, stark and bare as the bedroom, when He entered. The Psychopath, no one she recognized. She labeled him such because she was here and not at home and had no memory and no recollection and no understanding and nothing but fear turning into blind rage.

He was so calm and so arrogant, he had a knife because of course he fucking did. And something else, vaguely like an alarm clock.

She was prepared for war, but he sat by the table and so sat his only two possessions.

“Please. Sit. Ask your questions.”

She hesitated. And then, “I’ll tell you the rules.”

“Rules?” She spat, ever-hateful of authority. Especially undue authority. Unrecognized. Disrespected. Unwarranted. But. The knife. The knife warranted all authority.

For once in your fucking life it might be pertinent to do as you are told.

She moved toward the empty chair. Mechanical. Stiff. Ask her questions. She could only think of one.

“What the fuck is this?”
« Last Edit: September 15, 2013, 03:09:16 pm by paris »


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Re: a wretched wonder
« Reply #2 on: September 15, 2013, 02:56:01 pm »
There she was, with all the appropriate uproar radiating from her expression and sticking out like thorns from her posture. In every movement. They could be hard for him, their first moments. Animals are confused, sometimes lulled. Human beings are distressed, angry, because they understand. Those eyes were quite different today, than when he'd come to her in the night. They didn't have to be the sole source of illumination now, and worked with the pipes from above to create their usual effect. Not half disappeared in forced sleep.

He received one of his focal words back, thrown hard. It questioned everything all at once. What an impressive ability. She did eventually sit down. Everything had been designed so that she would. He gestured for the knife and for the box, which at her current distance would reveal a display with a single row of digits. The number currently living on the screen was 4357. There was room for seven digits. He scratched the back of his head, releasing exactly two strands of kind dark to cut his forehead and line his right eye. This would have been more familiar to her, if she'd known him at all.

Summer in his background. Youthful banter with silly references.

"This?" he asked back, hands collected, bladed, held between his thighs. Hunched over he seemed comfortable, casual. The swords of hair that had fallen down whipped in the opposite direction of his head, as he turned it to see the room and then the things he'd brought. "Well those are one knife and one box." He swallowed and sighed comfortably, leaning back instead. The chairs were sturdy in their thin design. "I like your hair." It was almost polite. Fact, not a compliment. Barely any sound of air drums in the silences. Expensive system, if she'd care to ask. He looked her over with some nostalgia, the bravado unclasping his cheekbones and leaving his lips with a little less curl. "Always did." It all came crashing back, obnoxious persona adhering, when he put his elbows on the table.

"You'll find more knives in your kitchen. I just wanted to see what you'd do with that one." My throat's still right here, if you want, was what he was really saying. "But the kicker is that box, Channing." He didn't call her that. That's not what she'd called herself. "I'm Angel, by the way." That wasn't his name to her either. Inhale, voice intentionally empty. Fifties infomercial, to the best of his ability. "You can buy things that you need with it. Or things that you want. Food is important. And water is cheap. You can even have things from your old life." He bit his lip and frowned with what flesh his teeth hadn't caught. Playful, always a jester. "But I'd suggest you never be without clicks - that's what we call them - since there'll be... situations presented to you, where you might want some fast currency." He leaned forward, closer, looking at the gray container beside the blade. His shoulders became impossibly wider to support him, elbows on the steely surface again. More dark swords fell out of their bind to line his face.

"It's a Memory Box." And everything was about to become a little more clear, and a lot less real. He lifted an arm and covered the table with its shadow, hand traveling all the way over to her. If she didn't pick up the knife, or slide back on her chair, or ran into some corner, his index finger would touch her forehead. "We'll buy your memories. You'll receive clicks for them." He'd sit back. "You should already know this, but you of course had to fuck with us yesterday." Looked down at his thumb, scraped the cuticle. Cross, or annoyed. "You'll notice you already have some clicks. You got creative."


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Re: a wretched wonder
« Reply #3 on: September 15, 2013, 02:57:21 pm »
Always did.

Her face blank and her eyes unblinking. She couldn’t seem to force herself to understand that this was real. I like your hair. Always did. As it currently fell in a mess around her shoulders and past her shoulder blades and into her eyes. He liked her hair, he always did. That was intentional. That was supposed to mean something. I know you, you don’t know me. Or, maybe she did and had forgotten. But she couldn’t think of a time when she’d done something so rotten to someone that they would put her in a stark place with a knife and a box.

More knives in her kitchen. That should have snapped her out of it, but she laughed, instead. A short bark, really, that hardly qualified as laughter—a tone more of disbelief. Nothing was funny, but Jesus Christ—her kitchen. More knives. And that he wanted to see what she would do with the one on the table.

She sat with her hands two dead birds in her lap and imagined herself killing him. Just taking the knife and stabbing him and running away. But where? Run away? If the window didn’t open, what in the blue hell made her think anything else would? So, she kills him, and then what? No. Let’s Not Be Hasty. Take it easy, figure this out, and get out. Alive.

Her mind was moving rapid-fire. No part of her could accept what was happening. He said her name, she snapped to attention. But didn’t they, the psychopaths—the real ones—didn’t they always know the names? The first, middle, last; with ceaseless diatribes in leatherbound journals or shrines or whatever it was that men like this do?

Angel. She barked laughter again, not really laughter.

“You can even have things from your old life.” She had only been half-listening and that was when it finally hit her. Her old life. Oh yes. Real. This was very real. She had been taken from her home in the dead of night and removed and trapped with a psychopath who was trying to give her a new fucking life. She had no idea where (or when, really) she was, and there was a box and a knife and a promise of things from her old life.

make a decision, you stupid bitch. if you play along you might not die. if you freak the fuck out you probably will. freak the fuck out later. figure this out now. don’t be stupid.

He continued to talk and he moved to touch her and in spite of her skin crawling, she allowed it. Clicks, he said. What “we” call them, he said. Her arms burned with desire to stab him right in his fucking smug face.

She swallowed. She said, “I hope you can see why this sounds completely fucking insane,” unable to help the wry smile that wasn’t really a smile at all. “Memory selling? Clicks? Come on. Why did you bring me here, really? And wouldn’t it just make more sense to let me go? I assure you, my memories aren’t worth a damn.” She leaned back. “I have real money. We can go straight to the bank and clean me out and you can have all of it.”

unless you want them to be, for fuck’s sake, i’ll make up any memory you want god damn it just LET ME GO
« Last Edit: September 15, 2013, 02:58:12 pm by paris »


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Re: a wretched wonder
« Reply #4 on: September 15, 2013, 02:58:01 pm »
The struggle she made herself endure would rise and sink behind her nighttime strands. Wouldn't be swept away by his facts, wouldn't believe. She had to pick every tidbit up and turn it in her hands, had to open them if she could and learn about them. Angel got stuck on the sounds she made, of dark, frustrated amusement, when he introduced himself. She could have seen it then, a slit in his armor, right over the chest plate. A swirl of clouds in those skies, staring at her. Not so tough and then, to erase that mistake, tougher still.

It would be a fabulous lie to say he didn't enjoy how she all but willed the knife licks on his person when his finger contacted with her skin. He could dance like this forever. Here's the carrot you're hungry for, but oh, it's behind my back. Angel listened to when she spoke. Her eyes weren't here yet. Those silvers rimmed the stars, somewhere, in a dream - that's all her hopes could be in this place. His thumb bled as he ripped the skin by the nail. She was adamant about that dream. It had been her reality not too long ago. Did he nurse some visible sympathy then? She might not like seeing that. Maybe it could help underline the gravity of her incarceration. The blood tasted plastic when he sucked on his knuckle.

"Mm, insane." he mumbled, lips lifting from his self inflicted scratch. "It is. Wacky." He got up and rounded the table to sit on the edge by her side, hands on his elbows as he crossed his shoes. Always this, getting comfortable no matter the situation. Or guarded, too afraid not to be exposed. Too afraid to hide. Asinine agreement in the nods he gave. "So you'd like to leave, Ms Majors? And you'll make me rich?" Angel had to look away for the rest of the act, fix eyes in the sterile corner. It could not look like anything but bitter escape. Ah, there was the iron in his mouth that his blood could no longer provide. "Your memories aren't worth a damn?" Maybe there was something stubborn in her that hadn't forgotten what she'd sold yesterday, that still wanted to punish him because it could. Shoulders dropped and fingertips rested on steel.

She was fantastic still - angry, jagged. So much life in so little color. Beauty wasn't enough now, to have her back in his grace. But he kept his properties as a hand strayed, drew an invisible line over the handle of the knife. Lingered there. That steel felt different, until he continued the pursuit for the memory box. Angel looked at it, rolled it to see its blank backside. "I would love to have some spending money. I like your deal, Ja--" Swallowed his lower lip. "Channing. Let's go to your bank. I'll drive. We can part as friends." Hard not to laugh at this construct. He held the box out for her, shaking it so she'd take it.

"But since we're not worth a damn" He was getting upset. Some breaths to add oxygen to the fire. Maybe it would burn out. "maybe you could humor me? Pick a memory. Then let it go." This wouldn't count. The rules were that you had to give it up intentionally, freely, or out of self-interpreted necessity. You'd only be without for a minute if you were tricked into it. "I suggest you pick breathing. It's only worth about fifty thousand, but it's a real eye opener, let me tell you." Angel imagined though, for a mind like Jane's, there could be many outcomes to this challenge, with any number of options. He looked down at the knife again, to remind her of that particular choice. Always instigating. She would remember forgetting but not the lost thought, or in this case, ability, itself. Smile of a wolf around reasonably even teeth, hungry. He wanted to see her like that, confused as to why she was dying for what she'd done. What did it matter? The ability would return before onset of consciousness. Then maybe she would believe him. He wasn't sure this would make her easier to deal with, though.

He'd sit with her on the floor, on his knees and caress her hair. Give poisonous words for comfort. Maybe talk about getting coffee while they were out, until her lungs were allowed to pump again.
« Last Edit: September 15, 2013, 03:07:15 pm by Verse »


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Re: a wretched wonder
« Reply #5 on: September 15, 2013, 02:59:00 pm »
Her fingers twitched with the need of nicotine—a need tripled by anxiety, fear, anger. He sat nearer to her. She became more statuesque. He teased her ruthlessly. Lobbed her statements back at her with careless ease.

He touched the knife.

She exhaled sharply through her nose at his near-Jane mistake, staring straight down at the table until he shook the box her way. “I suggest you pick breathing.”

And yes, she knew exactly—EXACTLY what that meant. Should she not play along, sure, she could give up breathing. Via his hands around her neck, or maybe a nice ghetto grin. Maybe he was the tried-but-true, knife-through-the-heart kind of classic killer. Give up breathing. Yes. She understood him to mean that she didn’t have a choice but to play the game, lest his suggestion be wrought.

Her arms muscles burned with her tension, her refusal to move an inch. Her eyes were on the box but her mind was on the knife. Really, how daring was she? How valuable was her life to her? What difference did these crucial seconds make?

But in the end, and against every part of her screaming, she accepted the box.

what i’ve got to lose in this situation is my whole fucking life. oh, i’ve got one, she wanted to say, how about i just forget this entire fucking thing ever happened? how would that be? how many fucking clicks is that shit worth?

“When my mother caught me smoking,” Channing said suddenly, feeling brilliant. “Ninth grade. Have it.”
« Last Edit: September 15, 2013, 02:59:59 pm by paris »


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Re: a wretched wonder
« Reply #6 on: September 15, 2013, 02:59:42 pm »
He burned her into remembrance then, for himself. All the fight sparkling in the fibers that made her. For a moment he toyed with dragging his tongue over her shoulder, beyond the protection of the strap, to see if small lightning would shoot from her angry self so he could taste that electricity. She would have no choice but to stab him, if he saw that thought. Angel decided it wasn't a good thing to do. Instead he hung there, held by the box, like they both were, and not vice versa.

She took it. His heart was alive with ruckus. Tension on his stomach, where he'd guess she'd put the knife if her hand meant to go there instead. A weapon superior to any blade looked at him from her hold, like a dog he'd lost in a divorce, ready to eat him, or a snake, uncharacteristically loyal to her. In a sense this was a worse option for him. He would have like to see some passion in her eyes when she ended him. Closure, as final as he could ask for, if yesterday hadn't been enough. At least this time she would do it herself. Laughter when she decided on a memory. He took out a packet from his pocket. He was sure she'd disapprove of the motion until she saw the rumpled wrap and the lighter.

"A little hard to prove. But alright." He put down the new gifts by the very edge of the table, so she could reach it easily. "These are your favorites, right?" He looked proud then, not smug, for having remembered. Favorites, not usual. The box had raised the value. An even 5000. That was good pay. "That's it." He nodded for the small screen. "You sold it. Got paid." The moment would be gone, memory of what she sold would be gone. The deal for something would still be as fresh in her memory as anything else just spoken. He pretended to examine her, tilting his head this way and that. "You feel any different?"

He patted the packet and would lift the lighter if she drew a stick from it. He'd leave the rest, too. Only worth ten clicks, anyway. Good faith, all that. Flick of his thumb for a moderate to small flame, if she'd have it. The important thing was that she took a drag, not that she took his fire. "I'm guessing there used to be a tinge of guilt, might be small by now. Not sure you felt it in every drag. You can remember remembering, but not what." It really was a challenge to prove she'd lost that kind of memory. If nothing else, he was grateful for whatever tension the cigarette might ease.

After a while it would be hard to keep track of what you sold and for how much. This second sell and its accompanying blank should be easy for her to locate. Memories on either side of the blank would fuse together, leaving no discernible scar but the feeling of nostalgia when she broached that patch in her mind. They were sick bastards but he was used to it by now. "The point of all this?" He rolled his foot on the heel, leaving more of his weight on the table. "These people have a use for people without memories. Imagine it--" he almost said it again, her middle name. Some wrath reflected in his eyes, it was directed inward. "I mean, unwritten pages are useful if you want to write your own story, right?"

He grinned. Thought he was clever in his words and it showed. When it shows it's not as clever. "The point of this you ask?" When she had asked nothing of the sort, again. He stood, finally, but didn't move much from where he'd been. "Thirty clicks to open that door. You can hang with people in the same situation. Some of them have really pimped out homes here, behind their doors." Chuckle. Dry. "They get pretty trippy when they hit five hundred K." With his arms crossed he was left with his forehead to point at where he'd come from. Thirty clicks for the freedom to see the other prisoners. "And a million to open the door that leads out to the woods." The grin wasn't for his cleverness anymore. Cruel, tight. Arctic eyes to match. "It's not so far to the parking lot. Just over the path. And they leave the keys in the jeeps."
« Last Edit: September 15, 2013, 03:08:00 pm by Verse »


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Re: a wretched wonder
« Reply #7 on: September 15, 2013, 03:01:36 pm »
When he moved for his pocket, she had a moment of regret—she’d chosen the wrong answer and he was pulling yet some new and unpredictable way for her die from his pocket, pockets she hadn’t even considered having been so distracted by the items he’d so kindly put on direct display.

A somewhat rumpled package of du Maurier Lights. Yes, her favorites, and not her usual Marlboro Lights. du Maurier Lights were getting harder to get, so she more often smoked Marlboros in the good old gold pack. She went a little out of her way to a specific gas station that often had them a bit cheaper than most places. If she knew where she could easily get du Mauriers, and they weren’t so damn expensive, she’d have them more often. But He knew. The “Angel” knew.

He asked her if she felt any different, and without thinking she knew the answer was yes. The feeling she could only relate to the way your mouth felt when your dentist injected you with Novocaine, except deep within her brain. An inexplicable numbness that seemed to gradually fade as soon as she’d recognized the feeling. And what part of the brain was responsible for long-term memory? Channing had aced Anatomy in college, and yet, she couldn’t—yes, Hippocampus, a word that had sent a few stoners giggling and the professor rolling his eyes in his long-suffering way.

Her hand slipped to the pack in an automatic way. Her eyes still on the box, which had clicked over from 4357 to 5000. Without taking her eyes on the box, cigarette to her mouth, right hand toward her back pocket where there should have been a lighter. Instead, she heard a click and a flame from his hand.

She glanced at him for just the shred of a second necessary to lean forward, drag, and be lit. Channing inhaled deeply, exhaled smoke right onto the box. Tendrils spread beyond its corners, enshrouded the box in a curled, vague crown.

“You can remember remembering, but not what.”

“Remembering what?” Impatiently, expecting and wanting no answer. She recalled speaking the words about getting caught smoking, but now, as the last of the inexplicable numb feeling began to fade and the intense pleasure of the cigarette increased, the sentence nagged at her. It felt now like a story she’d made up. Channing tried to conjure up an image of her mother—she could, but Channing had no grasp on location, time, the weather on that day—things she could have sworn up and down she had the clearest picture of in her mind but moments ago. It felt unreal.

She couldn’t remember.

“These people have a use for people with no memories. I mean, unwritten pages are useful if you want to write your own story, right?”

These people. No memories. Unwritten pages.

He continued speaking. Tightness in her throat. She tapped the cigarette and ash drifted to the floor. As he spoke, she couldn’t look at him.

30 to open the door to what she now considered her cell.

500k gets you your dream house.

One million to escape.

And it finally came to her as he reminded her, 30 clicks to see the other prisoners. What this was, exactly. Some kind of bizarre fucking 1984-esque mindfuck camp. Sure, you want to leave? Go right on ahead. 1,000,000 clicks, please. That was the trap, ladies and fucking gentlemen. And how many memories does it take to get that far, and what is each memory worth? What’s worth 50,000 clicks to you is probably worth only 3,000 to Them. By the time you get to 1,000,000, through a process of trial and error, do you even remember who you are or why you wanted to leave?

Your New Life.

The memory she’d given up—what had she said? The time her mother caught her smoking in ninth grade, something that had seemed such a solid moment in her life now seemed like a lie, and she couldn’t be certain now that it was real at all—but the count had gone up, what, 643. 643 clicks was what that little one was worth. 30 clicks was probably shit like the time you dropped your keys in a puddle juggling groceries and shit getting into the apartment. The name of your apartment complex was probably worth something like 2 or 5. Your own phone number, probably 10.

She was beginning to understand in spite of her ever-growing desire not to. After all, this entire fiasco just couldn’t be real, even though she’d seen the numbers click over with her own two eyes and she was left to question herself on her own fucking memory, this couldn’t exist. And what if she didn’t want a fucking new life?

But she knew the answer to that one, it didn’t matter. She and the other prisoners, people on the other side of the 30-click door slowly forgetting who they are and becoming something else. And what influence did this They have on that? When do you fucking win the game?

And yeah. 30 clicks to meet these other sad fucks. Probably 30 clicks every time. Probably those people out there already knew how to game the system, at least, as much as they were allowed—let’s say a 30 click memory was what you ate for breakfast, though that price seemed a little high to her for something so stupid. You eat breakfast, and when you want to leave the room, you go and give it what you ate for breakfast. The door opens. Inconsequential to you, but you get out of your fucking room. And surely it didn’t require any clicks at all to lock yourself back in again.

Anxiety. Anger. Fear. She didn’t fucking ask for this. Her thoughts were rapid-fire, trying to grasp and work out this insanity into which she’d been unwillingly placed. It couldn’t work, and yet she’d fucking seen it work. She understood now—he suggested she give up breathing. You forget how to fucking breathe, maybe your body forces you to remember—like how you can’t kill yourself just by trying to hold your breath. You pass out and come to. But she sure as shit couldn’t be sure she’d ever remembered the memory she’d clearly given up at all, so how could she be sure she’d remember how to breathe?

jesus fucking christ, what is this.

They leave the keys in the jeeps. Of course they leave the keys in the jeeps. One million clicks probably leaves you a drooling fucking mess.

She inhaled deeply again. “Do I get a fucking owner’s manual, at least? Or do I have to figure this shit out as I go?” Bitterness.

play the game.
« Last Edit: September 15, 2013, 03:02:06 pm by paris »


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Re: a wretched wonder
« Reply #8 on: September 15, 2013, 03:03:18 pm »
Emotions, none of them fond, flitted across her with what he said. He wondered if it was pride that kept her from saying some of the the insults that coiled at the corners of her lips and barked from the rings of her eyes. Channing had always been practical and fierce equally. Which of those kept her quiet now? She'd given him enough to deduce that the memory was gone. He knew the feeling. Point made. Angel made no secret out of looking at her. She could handle anything with du Maurier. Inhale, expel. Channing versus controlled fire, ringside seat.

Of course she would ask. Knowledge is control. Palm from his cheekbones to the back of his head, swords back, as long as he didn't move. "This is the twenty first century. Everything's intuitive and user friendly." He wanted a cigarette too. Didn't take one. Instead he took a stroll toward the kitchen, give her some space, or worry her with what he'd do next. "Learn as you go." he admitted. She'd been right after all. "And you have me, don't you?" Surely, that would be a tremendous support in her mind. "I brought you here so I'm your handler, kind of." Did she know that? Well, now she did.

He opened the fridge. Basic number of things among the stuff she couldn't live without. He'd insisted. Could have been a cute gesture in a 80's movie. He grabbed a coke light and closed the door with his heel. At least this was the most exciting ward he'd had since-- forever. "A lot of this will work like magic." That's what they said. It was really just about good funding. "You say my name, touch the box, I'll turn up if I'm available, free of charge." It didn't taste like coke at all. He drank enough to make the bubbles burn. A single hiccup after the last swallow. "If you're wondering something. If you feel cold at night." Bright smile. Not hard to know when he was proud over his jokes.

The lighting in these basic cells was dreadful. Turning blue eyes into faded, lemonade pipes, he could see them vibrate a 'yes, it is' back. "And the prices of things you buy will be deducted from your clicks. If you don't like the number, you can change your mind directly. It's a way to check the price. Sold memories can be purchased back for double the clicks you got paid." They were crazy, sadistic bastards all of them. And you, Angel, what are you, strutting around like you're some kind of god of the prison.

Summer day, again, like there had been no hard winter. Motorbike, his first love. Grey eyes with blue in them. T minus forever till the honest to goodness accident. Or so it seemed. du Maurier and Jack. Exhaust.

He stuffed that falseness right back into his spine. They weren't his, those shards in time. Cut like shards, too. Empty can on her sink. "The real tests are the ordeals." Usually he'd make them work for it - wasn't like he was giving it away for free to her either - but he'd like to see her make it, at least for a bit. "You see a fire, you throw some clicks at a wish, around the corner you'll find a hose, or a blanket. Gotta think fast." He chuckled and nodded. "You shouldn't have a problem with that." He put his hands in his pockets for comfort, and because it looks cool. "Wanna go outside? I'll spot you the door. You can ask whatever while you meet fifty shades of crazy."

It would be the regular somber madhouse. No new arrivals so there might be a lovely lack of those running around like squirrels, calling for people, authorities and deities that wouldn't come. Silver doors, large, open rooms for fraternizing. Game room with cheap games. Some clever people had discovered they could read some of the times from the wars they sold for the consoles. He came to her again, went around to stand by his seat.
« Last Edit: September 15, 2013, 03:08:43 pm by Verse »


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Re: a wretched wonder
« Reply #9 on: September 15, 2013, 03:06:49 pm »
“I brought you here, so I’m your handler, kind of.”

There it was. So, once upon a time, he might have been just like her. Taken away from a job, friends, possibly family. A life that he had built for himself. Forcibly removed and told, Welcome To Your New Life. Maybe they’d put a gun on the table for him, maybe he’d even grabbed it and aimed it at his handler. Maybe he’d even shot his handler. Maybe his name wasn’t even really Angel. She wondered how many clicks your name was worth. How much the price went down every time you forgot your name and gave yourself a new one. She could imagine that age was a factor. If you’d gone 29 years with the same name, 29,000 clicks.

What’s in a name, some people might think, after being trapped here for who knew how the hell long. It was all about the clicks. Your name, one of the main signifiers of your Old Life, something she wondered how many people held on to for how long. As with anything, though, your possessions were only worth what someone would pay for them. Your services, your talents. Angelina Jolie’s memory of her name was probably worth a lot more clicks if she sold it than Channing Jane Majors, just an editor at a boutique publishing firm.

“A lot of this will work like magic. You say my name, touch the box, I'll turn up if I'm available, free of charge.”

She was reminded then of a story she’d read a long time ago in some anthology. A high school dropout recruited by a mysterious corporation because he had some bizarre talent for making people commit suicide via strange drawings and symbols. This corporation had him send these bizarre images to people they selected via e-mail, and in exchange he was given essentially whatever he wanted, along with a weekly stipend—so long as he didn’t ever try to see who it was that dropped the money in the mail slot every week. And so long as he destroyed whatever money he didn’t spend when the week was up.

This kid also, in the story, could get whatever he wanted by tacking a photo of that thing up on his bulletin board. He was required to leave every week when what was called the “housekeeper” came to clean. Whenever he’d come back , the “housekeeper” had left him whatever expensive ass thing it was he’d posted on the bulletin board.

It appeared to her that this was kind of like that. You sold off your memories and bought shit with your clicks and some mysterious entity made sure you had whatever shit it was that you wanted. The boxes also somehow acted as communication devices.

Except, she wasn’t hired to kill people. She wasn’t given a choice. She knew not her purpose.

And, like magic, he’d said, indicating he’d been here long enough to figure out that it wasn’t magic, and was in fact a finely-tuned system. Okay. So Angel was a Guy Who Knew Things. Good.

So, you can price check by changing your mind—directly. You probably didn’t have too long to think about it. Refunds available for a limited time. She’d figure out the time limit as she went on. She didn’t much care how or when the things you purchased appeared. Probably within the day, depending. And of course, you could buy back your memories for double.

Channing decided that the first thing she was going to buy with clicks could be a five-subject notebook and an extra-fine point pen with wet black ink, until she could figure out how to afford and to buy a computer.

It seemed to her that you had to think on your feet , here, and writing all this shit down would be important. One section of the notebook would be to write down some of her memories, should she decide to sell—especially in the case that she decided she wanted them back.

And people created new memories all the time, didn’t they? Sure they did. It would be easy enough to go for a morning run and sell the memory of the route when you got back. Your run would seem new every day, and you get a handful of clicks. She bet they caught on to that kind of fucking around fast, though. She was willing to bet that the clicks you were paid for such mockery shrank every time, until the memory of your morning route you ran was but 1 measly click.

Well. She’d find out. She wasn’t about to ask. Channing decided it would be better to play like she was still awkward and mystified rather than admit that the wheels were turning. And fast.

“The real tests are the ordeals. You see a fire, you throw some clicks at a wish, around the corner you’ll find a hose, or a blanket. Gotta think fast.” He chuckled and nodded. “You shouldn’t have a problem with that.”

So, they would be tested. They weren’t just being watched, but they were being watched. That was okay, too. She’d focus on performance, just like everything she’d ever done, ever. This was no different, with the exception of having it all forced upon her. How else does one rise up in the ranks? As she could tell with Angel, you became more privy to certain types of information the better you performed. You were given responsibilities.

And of course. They chose certain people, people like Angel, that they allowed to leave for the purpose of kidnapping others. Through these opportunities it appeared to her that one could construct a method of escape. Certainly. Most definitely. The More You Know, and all that. Great.

He stood near her again and offered her to see the rest of what she was already coming to know as The Complex. He offered her to ask these questions she was wondering, and she hadn’t yet decided whether it would be safer to keep these musings to herself.

She also stood, crushed the cigarette out directly on the table. Looking at the package, thinking how long it had been since she’d seen one, she realized that this was her favorite brand, which was very hard to get and very uncommon where she lived. And she usually smoked Marlboro Lights—those Gold Packs were the ones she was most frequently seen with. She didn’t often mention du Mauriers. She didn’t want to ask how he knew and she decided she didn’t want to know the answer. So instead, she said,

“Yeah, let’s get the fuck out of here. I guess it would be in my best interest”—fuck if i can actually say what’s in my “best interest” at this point— “to learn exactly where I’m allowed to go in this hellhole.” And coffee. Surely in one of these common areas, there would be coffee.


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Re: a wretched wonder
« Reply #10 on: September 15, 2013, 03:09:22 pm »
The fear was the first thing to go. She wouldn't like a pat on the back, wouldn't know what it was for. More than likely she would take offense. Hard not to, seeings as the gesture in essence came from a slightly elevated place. Channing Jane Major and all her drive. Black in gray eyes. He could see the smoke corkscrew outward below her skin, marking out the veins it took over, giving her power. Glass human, filling with soul. That power would have come anyway. Cigarette's were psychological. In here psychological was survival, currency, every bit to take you further.

She drew deeper at his words and took claim of the axons attached. Good thing he knew what he could and couldn't say. How much had she figured out behind that silence? What did she have in her possession now? Crocodiles map your habits at the water and wait for you. He thought of that, when she listened like this. The woman in the chair filled with his basic run-through. Her nails weren't in his legs, her throat wasn't raw with words like 'please' and 'why'. Life with new things that she understood. Purpose with possibilities. All of it iron scaled. He knew why they had picked him for her. They were too optimistic. It had been proven yesterday. Useless, he didn't know anything, anyway.

Minced the smoke. It resisted but it's burning head was flattened. He had to agree with the minuscule pile of ashes with its small tail on the surface that had also hosted knife and silver box - can't really go on without a head. Image of dented, cratered carbon material, shattered paint and an unmistakable cold, numb, glittering hurt that said his leg was gone while he was flying. She had stood up. Eyes on the packet. Thank you. You're welcome, Channing. He looked around in the standard configured room until it was time to go.

Patric had worked at a major grocery store in life. He had been next in line for manager when chemicals and blue eyes had woken him in the night. He remembered coming too and taking in a load of information. Angel wouldn't tell anyone, he'd said, but Patric had begged for his life, pulled at the bolted fast table and then bought a gun to try and shoot his way to safety. He'd have to sell his fifth birthday and the ability to cycle for the appropriate medical care when the bullet ricocheted off every piece of cheap basic furniture to make a home inside his shattered tibia. He didn't limp anymore. That was three years ago, or so they said.

He couldn't remember mom, but dad was crystal clear. Beaten to a pulp. Patric liked to talk about how his upbringing had prepared him for this, and usually did not like to mention his dwindling social life and how laid he hadn't been during his time closer to his stay at The Complex. So here he was, walking over the dark, clean floor in the broad corridors, lined in tall white walls. The ceilings of glass were cut through by supporting beams of characteristically rusted metal in the otherwise sterile designs that always showed a sky they wouldn't get to breathe. He'd always thought the connections between their common areas reminded more of landing strips than corridors. The square, giant, white pots of grass placed by the walls helped a little, though. Everything looked like an expensive park, without the park.

He was on his way to the exercise room, waving at Ann and Garry as he passed them. Going to the café, as always. Was everything a date with them? A huff of jealousy, singed in frustration older than his stay here. The downward trajectory of his demeanor was intercepted by Angel and the new prisoner in Andrew's old cell. Sneakers squeaked to a loud stop in front of the short, thin woman. Teeth, one hundred clicks white, showed as he took her hand. "You're new, right? I'm Patric."

Angel smiled at Patric's bravery. Of course, he didn't know her yet. Maybe his self promoting personality was just what she needed now. A slice of the world outside, as real and obnoxious as it could be. He leaned down to whisper. "Oh, I see the local know-it-all likes you." That part was meant to be heard. The last bit "Condoms are complimentary, if you'd believed it." was said even lower. Like they hadn't all been put on reproductive hold. This was a facility, not a colony. He chuckled and raised his posture. "This is Patric. He knows everything but math beyond multiplication and how to tie shoelaces." Those trainers did sport velcro.

Angel would make sure to follow her if she'd let him. Patric wasn't known to be very helpful if he could help it, least to people he liked, but it didn't seem distant from the Channing he knew to flick him some comment and leave with the stranger - like angel himself hadn't been rendered a stranger, now - to find her own way in The Complex. He'd take offense of course, but then again, that would be her point.

"Fuck off, Retriever. Don't you have a person who's life you can destroy?" Furious wrinkles around Patric's eyes. Thin skin, too. A lot of miles on the treadmill, then. The anger was painted on, for her benefit. Angel smirked at the act. Good angle, he had to admit.


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Re: a wretched wonder
« Reply #11 on: September 15, 2013, 03:14:12 pm »
No sooner had they stepped out into the hall of doors than had they run into another.

“You’re new, right? I’m Patric.” He extended his hand and she did not take it. Raised her chin a little. Distrust.

“Channing,” She said, “For now.” Wry, sarcastic. She had jokes, of course; not sure that they would get it—her musings on selling your name had been purely internal. Without humor in her bizarre situation, what did she have?

She couldn’t hide her disgust at the “condoms are complimentary,” comment. These assholes wished. Sex was the last fucking thing on her mind—she already felt like her mind had been raped, stolen from her sanctuary, the life she had built through sweat, blood, fighting. This Angel had seen her nearly fucking naked, already—that was far enough. Not this Patric with his blinding white teeth, and not Angel, handler he may be. But of course, who knew when last these idiots had touched a woman, if that was even allowed in The Complex. Probably it wasn’t. Probably if you dared try, they came and got you and hooked you up to some electro-shock machine and tortured you until you agreed to give up the memory of sex for free.

She couldn’t blame them. But it still irritated her.

Angel pointed out his Velcro, and she couldn’t help but laugh—again, somewhat humorless. The only adults she’d ever seen wear Velcro shoes were somewhere around 70 years old.

“Fuck off, Retriever.”

Channing was amused at Patric’s ire. More amused at the term he’d used for Angel. Retriever. So, there had probably been others before her. Just like her. Or, not just like her. She’d somehow managed to kill the desire to completely freak the fuck out, play it cool, and wait until she was alone again to process through her wild emotions.

“Don’t you have a person whose life you can destroy?” Patric shot. Likely because she’d laughed. She closed her eyes, further annoyed. Her bare feet feeling dirty on the floor. She hadn’t cared about shoes before, but now she felt particularly exposed.

It amazed her, how easily one of these people, this Patric, seemed to have slipped into this life. Maybe he’d gone with her idea to sell the memory of being stolen away and had someone tell him some lie about living here in a lovely, permanent, vacation retreat—one where you sold your memories. She wondered how many people clicked away their kidnapping memory. If they were even allowed to. If she ever felt that she could trust Angel, maybe one day she could ask him all of this.

“It was nice to meet you,” Channing said to Patric. Cold. A condescending smile. “But I don’t have a fucking clue where I’m going, and Angel was just going to show me around. And you look terribly busy. I’m sure we can run into you later. Dinner. Maybe.”


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Re: a wretched wonder
« Reply #12 on: September 15, 2013, 03:14:50 pm »
Patric did not understand how her name could be temporary, as she'd put it. He guessed it might mean he could call her something else if things changed. It was easy to water his thirsty ego. The hand offered came back unshaken. It was a bit of a display too, from her side, like he might have one of those buzzers that zapped her on impact. That was a good, useless memory. He could sell that soon. He'd found it strange how the loss of memories didn't free up space for him to use for other things. He didn't remember things better because he had less to remember. Surely that realization too would be worth something to them.

Her smile did not shine of the words she said. The rejection bounced off his white teeth. Patric was not to be discouraged so quickly. She had been amused at both his shoes and his wit at Angel. It was damn clever, wasn't it? He had to write that down before he sold that too. Patric nodded and all but offered his hand again. There he went again, memory as shot as ever. "Nice to meet you too." Concentrate on the good. He walked past them, jogged slowly. He was going to the gym, after all. "See you" Singular. "at dinner." And soften the bad. Angel didn't receive any acknowledgment whatsoever.

"There you go, making friends." Angel said, shoulders jumping twice but laughter never coming, though the grin put it out there. "Guess we're going this way." And it was the opposite direction of where Patric had gone. She had a descent room, which meant placement, since the original set-up was always the same. He let her have her silence if she wanted, throwing her attentive mind at the surroundings. He really did love the ceiling. It almost felt like a kindness from the people in charge. Sunlight and sky, if the weather pleased.

"When it rains the pipes let down water and the floor smells like warm asphalt during the summer cycle of the temperature program." It was for variety, the seasons. Some precautions had been taken to tend to the prisoner's mental integrity. He tried to be in here for the rains of the warm cycle, sometimes dancing around outside tasks to make it so. It was only here that you could be in the rain and hear it hit the roof above you at the same time. The walk might have seemed long the first time. She'd be grateful for that distance eventually. Billion dollar facility or not, incarceration was incarceration.

The area here was another way for people to spend their clicks. Food, movies, games. Some of these pleasures could be unused for months before someone decided they were the new craze. Sometimes Angel thought these open halls of leisure went on forever, out, up and down, underlining the absurdity of a world inside a world, and begging the question; if your memories had enough value, did you need to go anywhere else? The café at the beginning of the leisure area was the most popular one. Location, again. "Thats the Bar Café." A play on a prison theme that never really went out of fashion here. "Awesome coffee, but the macaroons are soggy." Ann and Garry waved. They were absurd, playing suburbia in lock-down Eden. Their stories hadn't been squeaky clean, exactly.

He waved back at their window, received nods and waves from the table behind them. If she had her head about, the group consisted of three men and a woman in various stages of worn, despite their healthy physiques. Working people, coming off a shift, with appropriate amounts of caffeine by them to keep them up for whatever they planned to do next. Despite dressing like others, they seemed out of place in their equally professional and detached enjoyment of this world. Retrievers, surely. "Or you could get a coffee maker. Good one goes for 2k clicks. Everyone ends up regular at The Bar Café though." He jabbed his thumb backward, at Patric who had long since disappeared. "That way's the activity center, where you can get your sweat on. Here's where the drinks are though." He laughed and put his hands in his pockets. "You sort of pick what person you want to be depending on which way you go in the morning." Maybe that wasn't so different from the outside world.

He had stopped and looked around to encourage her to do the same. Same old things for him, but she wouldn't recognize any of it. "There's a store to the right after The Café, if you want to pretend at that. Still just clicks off your box, so I don't know." Ann and Garry looked away, more interested in each other's company than a Retriever and a stranger. Blue eyes at the ceiling again. Might rain, actually. "Anything you need?" Sky was white and gray. Felt like test weather. "Anything you want?"


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Re: a wretched wonder
« Reply #13 on: September 15, 2013, 03:16:17 pm »
She was glad to see Patric go. She had little patience for his aggression. Yes, she figured that some were curious every time a new beast was brought to slaughter, new and exotic. They could probably smell new blood a mile away. She wondered if they were curious about the outside world. How much access they had to news, to reports.

“When it rains, the pipes let down water, and the floor smells like warm asphalt during the summer cycle of the temperature program.”

He spoke of the ceiling, as he looked up. Her gaze followed his. She thought of rain and suddenly felt a sharp pang of horror. She and Dallas, kissing in the rain like stupid little middle schoolers outside the steps up to her apartment, wet and laughing, slightly buzzed on champagne. She smiled coyly at him as he left her at the top of the stairs.

Today had been an off day for Channing. She’d told Dallas and a few others she’d be working from home, everyone would know not to bother her. But how long before people realized she wasn’t answering texts? What about when she didn’t show up to the office, early as always, or ever? When her flamboyant neighbor, Nigel, didn’t pass her on the stairs off for a morning run, would he knock on the door, surprised?

She was a creature of habit. There were people who would miss her immediately. Channing swallowed, hard, having neglected to consider most of this in the constant barrage of fucking bullshit coming her way.

not now. now is not the time for this. keep going. keep figuring this shit out. play it cool if you want to get out.

So, she thought she would concentrate on coffee. Angel carried on, pointing out things here and there, all of it terribly enclosed in the foreboding of The Complex. All of these people, just carrying on. So accepting.

“Coffee,” She said. “Coffee sounds great.” Maybe a White Mocha latte with nonfat milk and sugar free whipped cream, if she could get it. “And a doughnut would be nice. A sour crème donut.”

Caffeine and a little sugar. She was starting to have more and more questions, but they were very likely unsafe to ask where they could be overheard. What in the blue hell were they trapped there for? How in the hell did people ever just adjust to this without having any answers? Why was The Complex so clearly well-maintained? How did the boxes and clicks actually work?

She, of course, noticed the couple. What were the rules, and what if you disobeyed them? How did these Retrievers receive their orders? And how many of them successfully escaped when they were going out to kidnap someone else? How often did they kidnap people?

But most importantly, it all came back to why. Why why why. What purpose were people kidnapped for and forced to stay here? And how long? How long before their purpose, whatever it was, was deemed time served?

As far as anyone in her life knew, she had just disappeared. Channing had seen things like it on what she and her father termed “murder shows” (and watched with a somewhat mocking eye). Men and women whose apartments were left unlocked, their purses and wallets and keys untouched inside, their cars left parked. Not a trace. Just gone. Maybe a little blood, but nothing significant enough to tell what happened or why. Strange DNA that can’t be traced to anyone.

“I’m sorry,” Channing said as they moved into the Café, apologizing for her silence. Inside, she was screaming. “I don’t know what the hell to think.”
« Last Edit: September 15, 2013, 03:16:46 pm by paris »


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Re: a wretched wonder
« Reply #14 on: September 15, 2013, 03:16:59 pm »
There was a reason he had stopped here, and it wasn't just because it was the beginning of rec. Nicotine, caffeine; things people in here could control. He himself was something of a sugar fiend. Obviously he was projecting, and doing so successfully. Most of this acclimating business was common sense about empathy. He'd not taken the time in the past. It was hard not to take the time this go-around. How often had he left them with some cryptic stuff about a silver box that ate your memories while the new prisoners were clawing at his shirt asking 'Why' and 'Where?'. Not my problem, see you at the next briefing. If they did well he took credit, if they didn't, there was an affectionate shrug and a wink for them every time they messed up. When they used clicks to get time with him the Board of architects would usually reprimand and tell him to shape up.

He wouldn't be this douche with Channing Jane Majors. Angel raised a friendly 'really?' eyebrow when she expressed there might be something in the Bar Café that she liked. He moved toward the establishment, pushing the door open with his forearm. She came along, of course. Despite her taking it all like a champ, she seemed sullen as she passed and had apologized of all things. He wore a smirk that reached for his left ear as he let the door shut behind them. "You're doing pretty well actually." And it was true, though not completely unexpected. What can you anticipate, though, in the mother of all stressful situations? "Haven't tried to stab me and hold me hostage to get out yet." Low laughter as they reached the desk. "Don't, by the way. Nobody would care. Retriever is a kind of dog, right?" The guy stacking mugs by the far left came, young and strapping, just barely above the age requirement here, uniform complementing the current white and brown theme of the establishment. "I'd also probably mess you up for it." He was amused, but not joking.

He repeated the order for-- Jacob, as the apron said. Her tastes hadn't changed so much as they had shifted, he supposed. Refined was a word she'd like, if he had to guess. She might have seen it then, when he assessed her up and down, that he wondered who she was now. She didn't wear many traces of herself on her person, not material, anyway - he had seen to that. Sure he had all the cold facts, and could derive a descent profile out of them, but he didn't have time to read every file they had on her. That also wouldn't be the point. Who Jane was could not effectively be answered by what had been observed about Jane.

Her reservations had saved her, made her transition from clueless to somewhat informed easier. Bottled up emotions were the enemies in here, though. The Complex was the perfect place to go crazy. When he realized they were still standing he gestured for a place by the window. This wasn't exactly rush hour with two other tables taken. It was easy to accommodate her desire to be left alone if she should harbor that desire. "Unless you'd rather walk." he suggested. And the hidden option, that he leave her alone so she could decide for herself.

He would sit down by her and ask if there was anything he could do. Stare at her for a while before he'd have to turn his head and look out the window at the neon signs. A super sized mall wasn't a far off description of rec. He'd taken vacations in here, insane as it might seem. Something about how this place shackled his soul was attractive to him. Like holding your breath for the comfort of the pressure. Jacob came with a tall, black coffee and a butter croissant eventually. Her order, as well. The doughnut smelled like childhood.

Angel would follow if she wanted to talk too. He'd ask the same question about what he could offer her. This was an interesting time in rec. The cinema and arcades and almost all the stores were wide open but empty. They could probably stand in the middle of the floor of the club, dauntingly named Daylight, and talk without anyone around. It was like peeking behind the curtain, without the moody darkness and lasers flicking together with some good music. At least the bar was always open.

"It's not so bad here." he'd say, walking or sitting, or not all if she sent him away. "The parties are crey--" he inhaled. "tzay." Sounded like a sneeze and it was still an understatement. Even Retrievers went at it hard. "Don't like the images of yourself puking over the popcorn vat at the cinema? Sell'em. Hell, if you have one good memory and cut around it, you'll think the entire night was awesome." He chuckled, slurping the bitter and smoothing the taste with a chunk out of the croissant. Perfectly baked. What else was new? "You're used to dealing with the booze fumes though, aren't you, Jane?" His tongue was so busy he'd not been able to stop it from slipping. "Channing." he corrected quickly. Didn't mean much, shouldn't, but for himself.


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Re: a wretched wonder
« Reply #15 on: September 15, 2013, 03:18:08 pm »
They sat, and their orders were brought before them. By a window. The window was an amusing mockery. You could look out and see, yes, but you were only seeing further inside your own confinement. He told her she was doing well, and if only he knew the strain—though, he probably did. He told her not to bother flipping her shit and trying to escape. This she had figured out on her own, even without his explanation that you had to pay to leave your cell. The window to the room of her cell with the bed (she still couldn’t bring herself to call it Her Bedroom) couldn’t be opened, and surely the glass couldn’t be broken.

She wondered absently how many clicks would have come off her box when she got back for the drink and the snack. But the first sip of her extravagant latte made her not care. She felt more real with the taste, exactly as it would have been had she gone through the drive-through of her favorite coffee joint—overpriced, but easy and comfortably consistent. She picked a small bit off the donut. Good, but obviously a few hours old.

Nobody would care, he’d said, if she had tried to kill him, or maybe even succeeded. He would be dead and she would be done away with, and both of them would be replaced.

Not so bad, here. Crazy parties. Though, parties were the last thing that interested her. Nothing interested her. She was distracted by her prior thoughts of being missed. Distracted by her former life. And how did one build a new life here? Clearly, there were some in employ, as the Jacob that served them. How was he paid? Free clicks? Clicks that once belonged to someone who tried and failed to escape?

“We should keep walking when we’re done here,” Channing said, somewhat vague. “I do want to see more. And I’m not ready to go back to that room.” And yes, maybe they’d happen by a place where she could ask these questions. But maybe she could think of a diplomatic way to ask the ones most pressing to her. She had always had a talent for cold diplomacy. Eventually, she would need to be alone to process through this fucked up day. But not yet.

“You’re used to dealing with the booze fumes though, aren’t you, Jane?”

And there he went again, doing a thing that she’d previously ignored in an attempt to keep her cool and stop her from lashing out. He called her Jane, again, and ever-hinting that he knew her in ways she wanted no one to know her.

She said, “Yes, and the bitter divorce and jail time and fuck-all that comes with them. Yes, I am.” And considered the conversation closed. Whatever he thought was his business was none of his fucking business. She realized the appeal, suddenly; the reasons why some people in here could so easily adjust. Everyone had plenty they’d rather forget, and to get a reward for it? Sure. Sell your own self-loathing. Sell your pain. Sell your unsavory moments, as Angel had just suggested. Even if other people remembered, so what? Maybe that sick memory of you was chump change to them, a few clicks for a new pair of shoes. You pick and choose what you want your story to be.

But what was that life?

A way to ask a question finally came to her, “Residents are under observation. How frequently, when, and where?” The answer was probably always, and the concealed question as to whether they were allowed a modicum of privacy was probably never.


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Re: a wretched wonder
« Reply #16 on: September 15, 2013, 03:19:15 pm »
He derived some pleasure from seeing her enjoy her order. Good food and drink, someone might say that coffee and pastries did not qualify, could make any situation tolerable. He guessed it helped her rearrange her thoughts too, or hoped so. There was a stream of thoughts causing ripples on the stone surfaces of her eyes. No chance to read them. Their quantity said something he understood well, though. Stress. It would have been very odd if she wasn't some kind of negatively affected. Smart though, that she let him have exactly what he would have known anyway.

She'd not sent him away. The opposite, actually, at least for now. It made him irrationally happy. The way she mentioned her room struck another chord with him. He had his own quarters here. What's some luxury for their good minions? He loved it there, in the most shallow way possible. He'd put her inside thist cage, gilded if she decided it to be. If he felt bad he didn't notice. Not yet. The coffee was cool enough that he could slosh it around before he swallowed. Didn't mean it wasn't painful. They did make a good bitter.

Hands around the mug, he leaned back into the rest of the chair. A shield made from the same metal as her eyes. Not pressing the alkie jokes then. Not now.

On the opposite building - a towel store that was one of his favorite jokes in the entire Complex - a triangular cloud shone it's outlined reflection. He could swear the echo of that light was displayed on the side of his cup. Made him think of drive-in theaters. Angel turned his head back to look at her. Black hair on her shoulders, along with the gravity of this nowhere-adventure. She would fight the world, wouldn't she? Without shoes, like John Mcclane.

He was trying to unroll the rim of his cup when she asked her questions. He'd been rather intent on the task. The nail flicked off the paper boarder when he smiled, eyes rolling her way again. Eyelids strained slightly so the brows wouldn't raise. Some humor in his demeanor. "Weaker the numbers are on your box, the less they see and hear." He took a big drink and sighed at the welcome heat. "It fluctuates regularly at certain places, it's not mapped out." He pointed to the woman they had walked by on their way in. "Half Ann's room is in shadow. We replaced her box so she wouldn't know."

He tilted his head and looked Channing over. Really he was looking through her, at the implications of what he was about to say, and whether to speak those things at all. "You can feel the differences on the boxes. It's subtle, the ones that don't have a direct feed like yours are lighter." He shrugged and turned his cup. The sound was louder than he'd expected. "The bathrooms of the cells closest to the old wing, just opposite of the rebuild and exercise area are private." Trouble piling up. See if he cared. They were probably not even listening.

He picked up the croissant. Big mouthful, lots of crumbs on his hand and tumbling to float on his dwindling coffee. "Now you answer something for me. Channing." muffled until he could swallow. He wiped with the free palm. "What makes you afraid of motorcycles?" There'd be a scar there, too. It was a low blow. He shook his head and used the pastry to move his cup. Precarious, said the liquid that swayed the paper vial until he stopped. He remembered something else. Something real, that was his, this life. He'd be a coward this time, but he'd try again, soon. "Oh, I meant to tell you, as a freebie." How to word this. To her it might have looked like he was counting crumbs. "You should invest in a oxygen tank soon. Easy to get to, mini rebreather, maybe. There'll be a test soon." The smile was crooked as he looked at her. He rubbed his eyebrow in embarrassment. He worked for these people. "A prayer answered costs you 100k. Automatic revival, which happens anyway, is 200k." A lot to throw at her. Not like they were going anywhere soon. "It's better not to be in the hole. People sell all kinds of stuff to get out and start buying things they need again."


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Re: a wretched wonder
« Reply #17 on: September 15, 2013, 03:21:25 pm »
“Weaker the numbers are on your box, the less they see and hear. It fluctuates regularly at certain places, it's not mapped out.”

This piece of information intrigued and surprised her. She would think that it would be quite the opposite—that failure to participate, failure to start to rack up clicks, would indicate that you were some kind of problem. She supposed, not, though—they did have a purpose, remember? The people they were really looking at were the ones who so willingly gave up their memories. How had he put it?

Unwritten pages are useful if you want to write your own story, right?

Right. Your own story. Here. Within the confines of The Complex. It still didn’t quite add up. If you did what they wanted, they were all ears. If you didn’t, sucks to your ass-mar. Maybe they eventually got rid of you.

“The bathrooms of the cells closest to the old wing, just opposite of the rebuild and exercise area are private.”

Channing wondered if these bathrooms had been overlooked after the rebuild, or if leaving them private was intentional. They’d surely know if someone wandered over that way, especially if ig was more than one someone. Especially if they visited with some frequency.

Before she really had much time to consider it, “Now, you answer something for me. Channing. What makes you afraid of motorcycles?”

If I help you, Clarice, it will be turns with us, too. Quid pro quo. I tell you things, you tell me things. Not about this case, though. About yourself. Quid pro quo. Yes, or no? Yes or no, Clarice? One of many scenes she remembered exactly, a memory she could never sell. And like Clarice, she believed that it would be, again, prudent to divulge a memory she might she consider selling the moment she returned to her box.

She cleared her throat. “I was married to a man who loved drinking and motorcycles as much as I did. He drove a Ducati Diavel Dark. All the best components. It’s not meant for two to ride, but we rode two anyway because we could. And he always drove too fast. And we always fought to outdrink each other because we could drink anyone else under the table.”

She was staring at him but not seeing him at all. Her tone was callous and cold. “He lost control one night after 4 AM after a car veered over into our lane. We were both thrown from the bike. As I’m sure you noticed,” She was referring to the scarred skin of her shoulder that slipped well under the tank top, slightly down her arm, and, hidden under the shirt, down her left side and back, “I ate pavement. My teeth are mostly porcelain veneers. He lost his right leg. I’ve had around 20 plastic surgeries. He never got over the fact that he lost a limb and I didn’t. We divorced a year later.”

Channing, in spite of the emotional sanity she now struggled to hold on to, repeated the story exactly had she had numerous times in a very robotic, detached manner. Her eyes were not wet with tears. She had never seen so much blood in her life, and didn’t think she ever would again. She dragged herself over to him spitting chunks of her own teeth. He was laughing when she came upon him, his leg completely snapped off mid-thigh.

“That’s why,” She snapped. Bitter.

are you happy, you son of a bitch?

He told her to invest in a mini oxygen tank. He knew of an upcoming test, like the ones he mentioned earlier. An answered prayer cost 100k she didn’t have, and if she somehow failed the test, Game Over, as they say, it was 200k. You could get in the hole, but you couldn’t have jack shit until you sold your way out. How wonderful. If she failed this test, she’d had the option of starving to death or selling a good chunk of her brain to just break even at 0.

“Then show me where I can get one so I can see how much they cost and decide how I’m going to afford it.”


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Re: a wretched wonder
« Reply #18 on: September 15, 2013, 03:21:39 pm »
Something crackled. An uncomfortable spread of arson around the edges of something he'd built. Not quite a wall, nothing that solid, raised too recently. Fast though. Accelerant with a different purpose. He'd expected a different story, but should have known this was the one she'd give him. This one was still hers. It was a good one, as far as woes went. Angel managed to pull the rim of the cup up, a little spout, useless and torn. Good bike, that one. Drinking and driving was a good pass-time, too. Channing had never had very good luck with men, and even worse luck with vehicles. He'd read that file, at least.

He suppose he should be grateful for the stare they shared through the dying, rising steam of his cup made pitcher. It was more bitter than the brew. If he felt bad he didn't let it slip. He suppose it was a fabulous poke, if he'd meant it as one. He could apologize, but he wasn't sure he didn't enjoy this. Sadism was part of the job description. One finger slid along the outside of his ear shell. Death doesn't cure idiosyncrasies. And through it all, he still thought she was pretty. Anything this often broken was pretty.

"Thank you for telling me that." It was the best he could do, blue eyes stubborn before they dove into the blackness of his drink. She would find that he liked the topic of the re-breather better. Yes. He found her interest in the subject reassuring. He held out his hand and waved the fingers for her to give him the box. Angel was quite adamant about this. He had decided to be. An important lesson, even if it could be learned by herself after a few tries. He'd look at her box. They all had a choice of individuality here, but the boxes would always be a blaring reminded of what they were. And a what they could not be until they weren't anymore.

I'll show you where you can get one.

"Magic." he said and held the screen up to his toothy smile, like she should see some resemblance between the youthful shapes and the important device. She'd see something else soon. The flicker of the digits. The anomaly he had told her about in the zones where the Board of Architects couldn't see. The outlines of the 5000 blurred, nothing deducted for coffee and treats, faded. Weakened. He parted his lips and pushed the silver corner into his cheek. The screen would be empty now. "Retrievers." His voice deep, a descent imitation of the 90's trailer voice. "Better than you." Close enough to a retriever meant invisibility, to a degree. They trusted their Retrievers. He chuckled and held the box out for his own scrutiny. 5000, bright and black. Back. "I'm sorry. I can be obnoxious sometimes. Immature." he mumbled. "But I'm actually only 5 years old. Five hard years. Body like 30, they gave me. Dead before that." Horrible disfigurement, life instead of leg. Revival for their purposes. It was actually all in those cryptic sentences. Channing was smart enough to understand with so few words. I was dead for a considerable time, now I am reassembled with all the skills they need and I work here.

Angel closed his eyes with both his thumbs on the box. One second. Two. At the return of the blue orbs there would be a dull clang by the counter where Jacob stood. If she turned when her box was returned to her, a small yellow re-breather with a forest green shoulder strap would be waiting, served up like the doughnut, along with the smiling Jacob. "Some stores here are just racks of magazines and posters. You just need to hold your box and wish it, and you'll have it." Gesture for the bright cannister. "You just have to know what to wish for." There would be no charge. Officially, he supposed, the re-breather was his. He was sure he didn't have to explain the concept of a gift to her. Ten clicks she wouldn't have to play.

He took more coffee, finished it. "Expensive gear goes on super sale when the upcoming test requires it." He laughed and shook his head at the concept. It was really messed up, when he stopped to think about it. "So if you're randomly thinking of things to see what they might cost, and the 50-pack bear trap is twenty clicks, marked down from 5000, you know that door is going to open and you'll have Kodiak, Grizzly or Polar trouble." He held a flake up on his index finger, rubbed it until it fell like snow onto the table.

"My turn." Got comfortable in the seat. "What was the plan, Channing?" Yes, Channing this time. He was a king. "What will the plan be be? Work, hang out? Did you have something in mind?" Future. Hopes. There was no file on that, despite their best efforts. Buying pasts did not supply futures.


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Re: a wretched wonder
« Reply #19 on: September 15, 2013, 03:23:46 pm »
She decided as he conjured the tank seemingly out of thin air (though she recognized that as impossible, this was a very finely tuned system, he’d told her) and decided that she needed to become a Retriever. Sooner, rather than later. She wondered how many points—clicks, damnit, clicks—he had or didn’t have, or whether he was past the point of having to pay for things with clicks.

“But I’m actually only 5 years old. Five hard years. Body like 30, they gave me. Dead before that.”

Channing elected not to probe further. He had had some sort of accident. For some reason, they’d chosen him. Whether he’d had his accident here in The Complex or in the real world, she couldn’t decide. If the former was the case, he’d clearly shown himself capable on the proving grounds, valuable, that they took their opportunity. He had had something they wanted, and for his life, his debt was to be a Retriever.

“Expensive gear goes on super sale when the upcoming test requires it. So, if you’re randomly thinking of things to see what they might cost, and the 50-pack bear trap is twenty clicks, marked down from 5000, you know that door is going to open and you'll have Kodiak, Grizzly, or Polar trouble.”

This shocked her, but she felt it shouldn’t have. These tests were in no way a fucking joke. And they would revive you, sure, but what if they didn’t? How many people did they decide they were just going to write off? How many free restarts could you get? If auto-revival cost 200,000 clicks because you failed, would they test you again before you could get out of the hole? Or were people so quick to throw away their memories?

She had thought from the beginning that she’d been slick throwing away a memory that didn’t matter much to her—what had it been, again? But you couldn’t get on that way, not for long. You had to up the ante. That was how they got you, the tests. Sure, you could throw away petty little bullshit memories just to stay alive, but when the stakes were raised and you still had the same 5000 clicks you started with, then you were the asshole suddenly -195000 clicks with bruises and scrapes and bandages. She was starting to piece it together. If you wanted to win the game, you had to play. If you tried to cheat or cut corners, you were only fucking yourself raw. It was quite a system.

So, she’d lost that round already, trying to skate around with throwaway memories. Okay. Fine. She’d give them a real zinger next time she felt ready to give one up. The day she still considered to be the happiest day of her life, in spite of all the fucked up shit that drained it of its life and color.

But, what if your remaining memories where dependent upon one that you sold? Such was the case with the memory she was thinking of giving up. No memory of this certain event would change the very nature of so many of her other memories. She had forgotten a memory she recalled involved her mother, but she hadn’t forgotten who her mother was—what if she chose to? Wouldn’t her mother then become just a woman in every other memory of her? Would she wonder who the woman was, figuring that she HAD to be her mother because she had so many memories involving her, but still consider her just a woman? No emotional connection? What about the memories that involved an emotional connection?

Channing frustrated herself with these wild thoughts. But such was her mantra: question everything. Remain suspicious. Never let someone get away with something they shouldn’t .Don’t be naïve and stupid and accept everything you hear without seeing it work.

“What was the plan, Channing?”

finally, you call me by my name, you fuck.

“What will the plan be be? Work, hang out? Did you have something in mind?”

“How could I have anything in mind?” She said. Incredulous. “The original plan was to work from home on a project, have some coffee, possibly go cycling, fuck my boyfriend in the backseat like a teenager, make him dinner and watch gore horror with him over a few brews. But now, all that’s out the window. The plan now?”

Her feet were cold on the immaculate tile floor. She exhaled sharply. Aggravated Sigh.

“I guess I will have to get some kind of job in here to avoid going completely fucking insane. So sure, that’s part of the plan now. Part of the plan is to get some necessities. Shoes. A Hair brush. Some other shit to wear, I guess, I don’t know.” She ran a hand through her hair, leaned back in her chair. “Prepare for war,” She jerked her thumb toward the oxygen tank. “But to do all that, the first thing would be to offload some memories. 5000 isn’t going to go very far.”

Channing almost thought she needed a fucking shopping list to get all this done.

“That’s the New and Improved Plan,” She said, seeing as that was the way this joint ran. New and Improved Angel, New and Improved Patric. New and Improved every-goddamn-body.


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Re: a wretched wonder
« Reply #20 on: September 15, 2013, 03:25:20 pm »
He appreciated the strength of the sledgehammer that was The Complex crash course. Right in the center of everything you were, it hit, and stayed there, rolling around with its blunt head, wrecking things. You would have to be a rare crazy to take to this place from the get-go. Those crazies lasted long but never left. Talent, Native, Nutbags - the Retriever team liked them, collected them for inside competitions. BOA was neutral on Natives. A person who liked their set-up couldn't really be all that productive, but wouldn't be trouble either. A steady stream without real increase of memories.

And despite all this he had to clip his eyes closed tightly and lower his head, finger between his brows so he wouldn't laugh when she barked his question back at him. How indeed. Silly of him to ask. There was something in him that enjoyed her sharpness, her tight words. Primal almost, like a captured tiger growling at soda cans thrown through the bars of her cage. Angel shook his head at himself, mouth small and to the side when he lifted his face to look at her again.

She did paint a pleasant afternoon. Woman going about her life. Paid her dues of growing up, enjoying the freedom of adulthood. He could go for some of that himself. Heavy on the food. Thanks 'flexible working hours'. The new plan was modest, as it should be. Essentials. Shelter was provided. She was setting herself up to do bigger things, play at larger schemes. In her position that was the best she could do, without serious inside know-how. Perked up, chin out, he listened visibly. "More memories? Sounds exciting." Always half truths and some part mockery. He'd been told he enjoyed his position and rank too much.

"You can still have a lot of that, you know." He nodded and stretched his feet out underneath the table, reaching both arms for the ceiling until the strain made his body shake. Angel sighed and let one hand drop into his hair, ruffling it forward to obscure his eyes with its nest before the other hand forced it back. Restless or comfortable or both. "Get a bike, get a tv, some movies." Lethargic head laid down on forearms so he could look out the window. "And from what I could see, Patric was pretty keen on you if the fucking part is important." He didn't hear the first patter or register the first cuts of water on the glass through his dulled vision.

He focused when he realized she had said 'war'. Sat straight again. That was right. Today was that day. Many new memories for BOA. Another clang when Jacob put a second re-breather on the counter. "I like the way you think, Channing." he admitted as spots started to make patterns on the ground outside. "I can put in a good word for you, wherever you want to work. Some people wait years. Hard to get employed in here too." He laughed. How could he not? Jacob had been lucky, or just perky as all hell. Channing would be able to see the excitement in Angel's eyes, looking at the weather outside.

As he stood a man came in, worn clothes and white beard. Even Angel looked away from the window. The Retrievers a couple of tables away seemed cheerful at the appearance of the distressed man. The largest in the pack started clapping and cheering. The rain was coming down harder outside. "That's Ian." Angel mumbled at her. "He sold the wrong memory." Ian didn't like the mention of his name and frowned at Angel. The old man rubbed his bony knuckles against the side of his beard. He looked like a draw in a tug-of-war between flesh and death.

"The sky is opening." thin lips stated. Ian was scratching his shoulder now.

"Woo! Here we go, baby!" The sizable Retriever called from their table, clapping harder to drown out the drumming of rain. "Say it, Ian! Let's hear it!"

Ian lifted his hand on que, fingers spreading. Conviction in those large, black beads. Inhale with a whistle. Angel looked on in silence when he returned from the register area to stand by her side, putting her tank down in front of her while he hung his across his body. "This is gonna be intense." he muttered and leaned his leg to the table. Angel did not seem pleased, despite the affection he'd expressed for the rain before. Channing was free to deduct that his lack of amusement might have been caused by either Ian or the animated table of Retrievers. Or both.

"We are stuck here in The Between!" Hoarse voice, what did you expect? Raspy gasp for air as Ian continued. "It's the sky!"

"What about the sky, Ian? What will it do?" the woman of the pack called. Angel frowned deeply and took hold of Channing's arm. "Tell us about the sky!" He was strong, she'd discover as he would pull her through the café and past the frantically breathing elder. Blue met with black. Black did not seem to notice. Outside had only water for them, if she hadn't broken free from his grip and stayed behind. He would not force her to come, but he quietly insisted with his grip. She said they should walk, right, when they were done here. He felt sufficiently done.

When the door closed behind them, Ian said "The sky is falling. The world is ending!" and the pack laughed loudly before their sounds were muted by the sealing of the metal and glass. If she was still with him, he'd let her go.

"Old man's not stupid. He's messed up by some code. If you're smart you'll listen to him. He's not your run of the mill wacko. He's usually right about the tests." Angel pointed up, at the rusted pipes making rain. There was no rain above the transparent ceiling, which was in odds with what he had said about matching weathers. His red t-shirt was fast succumbing to a darker color as the water impregnated it. The heavy sound of everywhere-pour diluted his annoyance, and his eyes were light as if the sky wasn't milky above their giant prison.

A first little song of metal bending. A mass of people coming to Rec, deafening mumble to follow. He looked at her and then up again. One of the metal pipes bulged and broke, letting out a rich fall of froth. That pipe spun thrice on its way down toward the bustling crowd. Screeches, hollers, when it landed. "That's at least 400k." which meant two lives lost. The smile he gave her did not suggest that he cared. He seemed happy. At peace. More pipes bursting, more water free to fall. Ankle deep, now. Yellow cannisters littered the collection of bodies. Not all of them had known and were now holding their boxes, wishing reverently. New canisters would bop up to the surface under them.

If she was with him, and she was looking at the equally calm and dreadful crowd, he'd shove her. The water, perhaps knee deep now, wouldn't let her brace herself very well. He was of course hoping that she'd fall, and be part submerged, so he could laugh and fall back himself, arms out. It was cold but not icy. And clean. He never understood how they could keep it so clean. Magic. A tidal would come and the ones who chose to float would be pressed up against the glass ceiling until every space was water. "Never a dull moment at the the Complex, Jane." he called, fiddling the muzzle connected with a tube to his cannister.


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Re: a wretched wonder
« Reply #21 on: September 15, 2013, 03:26:16 pm »
His suggestion that she get a bike was a real laugh riot. In here? What was the point?

“Patric was pretty keen on you if the fucking part is important.”

“It’s not,” She said. Firm.

He said it was hard to get employed here, and that also did not come as a surprise. Some people wait years—of course they did. She wasn’t going to go from editor to waitress, and she couldn’t imagine most others could totally give up their college-education-required ideas of employment for shit like that, either.

When Angel stood, so did Channing, and in entered a familiar sight to her, an old man looking disheveled, homeless, and half dead—

“That’s Ian.”

A group at a table started hollering as though they were watching an exciting sporting event, but they were all laughing at Ian, goading him on. She absently followed suit with Angel, strapping the tank to her chest—tightly. Angel grabbed her arm and she fought herself, wanting to resist, as the old man ranted. Channing didn’t make much of an effort to understand him. She willingly followed Angel with little desire to find out what the table’s amusement with the crazy old coot was.

“The sky is falling! The world is ending!”

And the doors closed behind them.

“He doesn’t like rain,” She said. Angel released her.

“Old man's not stupid. He’s messed up by some code. If you’re smart, you’ll listen to him. He’s not your run of the mill wacko. He’s usually right about the tests.”

Angel pointed upward, then, and she followed his finger. Raindrops fell all around them, yes, but the sky above was clear, blue, white and puffy clouds here and there. Channing didn’t mind the rain, in fact, found it quite refreshing. But what had Angel said—right, the weather in here was the weather out there. She was only momentarily confused, she started to say, “But I thought—”

And then she followed his own gaze and saw one of the heavy pipes burst at two ends and fall mercilessly without much fanfare. Screams. Water beneath the pipe suddenly mingling with blood.

“At least 400k,” He said. She knew what he meant. They stood there uselessly, her hand flew to her mouth in shock. It was then, as the water swirled around her ankles, her black jeans now more wet, she noticed other oxygen tanks. So, it wasn’t just one person at a time tested. Sometimes, they’d test many at once. She wondered if a lot of those people had done just as Angel had said, noticed that the tank was suddenly on sale and snatched it up quick as you pleased. But those under the first pipe, one of the heaviest—

He shoved her and she fell back, fully submerged, came up quickly. He was down, too, when she came up, adjusting the mask. She realized quickly that the water was suddenly waist-deep.

“Never a dull moment in The Complex, Jane,” He said before fully fitting on the mask.

She, however, waited; looking back at the crowd. There was a frailer man with his leg crushed under the pipe, as the water was rising and he was in a sitting position, just his arm and his head were above water. Helplessness in his eyes. She watched as the water rose up to his nose. Clear, clean water. And nobody moved to go to him, everybody was focused on themselves. And maybe he was out of prayers to be answered.

Something came over her then and she franctically looked around for something, anything floating in the vicinity. She was a very strong swimmer but not at all a rescue swimmer, but she knew that drowning people often grabbed their rescuer and would drown them as well. She just needed one thing.

She ripped off her shirt while there was still standing room, tore it into two long strips, threaded and tied them through the strap on her oxygen tank, and she swam at high rate of speed—perfect form , perfect breathing, always—toward the man with his ankle trapped under a pipe, a heavy pipe impossible to move alone even in the best of circumstances.

And now she had no choice but to use an Answered Prayer, 200,000k—setting her back to the pretty little sum of -195000 she herself had tidily come up with earlier.

She looked left, right, treaded water desperately—

and there, floating toward her in an expensive black leather pouch. She hastily grabbed it and pulled it out by the hilt—a beautiful serrated edge. She tossed the pouch, adjusted the mask, and dove under.

She grabbed the man’s head as he held his last breath and put the knife directly in his vision. He understood.

With only the notion of necessity and exceptionally little knowledge, she swam down to the man’s right ankle and immediately started sawing. He was beating at her back uselessly in the water. She didn’t stop. Blood drifted in gushing tendrils around her vision. The beating stopped, he was likely out from lack of air, shock, the sudden pain. This made her work easier. She had always known from watching murder shows that it was not easy to cut through tendons and particularly bone, but the sort of knife she’d wished for and the adrenaline power behind her own muscle did the job quickly enough.

She tied off one of the strips just above his knee as tightly as she could, grabbed him and swam toward the surface, pressure in her ears. He seemed so heavy for being of average build, blood leaking from the stump of his ankle.

They reached the surface and they were close to the ceiling, now. She grabbed one of the emptying pipes to steady herself, pushed him up against the wall to hold him up while the water continued to rise. She forced her weight into his chest, he coughed water. She forced her oxygen mask upon him, her wet hair clinging to her face. Knife in her back pocket, she realized, thinking she had let it sink.

The man’s heavily lidded eyes barely flickered open. She knew he would probably die. But she had tried. She couldn’t stand there and count off the clicks as people one by one were killed off by an unsuspecting test. She was vaguely surprised They’d answered her own prayer, wondered if They themselves were surprised by her.

The water continued to rise and she continued to hold the oxygen up to Their victim, so close to the ceiling. And she would probably drown if they didn’t let the fucking water out soon, down a whopping 595000 clicks for an answered prayer AND a revival all in the same test. She didn’t look around for Angel. He had been through this a million times. And she had made her own choice.


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Re: a wretched wonder
« Reply #22 on: September 15, 2013, 03:27:27 pm »
The pain had been all-encompassing, replacing the appendage it had crushed. Oliver had seen it too, that heavy thing moving down like it would never hit the ground. He'd looked around and thought about how sorry he was for the bastards that would be hit in this puddle of prisoners just like him. And then he didn't have to send that sentiment outward. Sorry for being alive as he could feel the vibrations lingering inside the metal shake his leg as the pain ate and ate at his consciousness. He didn't know exactly where his ability to feel all of this came from. Oliver would have thought he'd capped out somewhere around 'this is enough pain to kill me', but he was wrong.

They hadn't even formed a ring around him. They were just out of reach playing with their tanks. Here he was, a stream of screams pulling at his vocal chords when he wasn't taking gurgling breaths. In certain moments of madness he pulled himself back to get free. He gasped and muttered words he didn't know, most of them not even attempts at cusses, when the parts of him that weren't mangled let him know they were still injured. Oliver, with all his plans and hopes placed somewhere far beyond the white walls and the lying ceiling, Oliver with his brown eyes under blond hair and usually hidden forehead that his mother had kissed fourteen years ago, was coming to a conclusion.

He fought for his life in the water, drinking it between his screams, when a shark came for the supply of blood. He tried to scratch at it's back and quietly hoped the lightness in his head would take him away before it decided other parts of him had more meat. He was afraid of sharks. So afraid he had to get into the water when they got out to the beach. Five hour ride. It would have been a waste not to. Anything to prove anything, to himself. That's how he was going to beat The Complex. Just one foot in front of the other. Hah.

Angel had stood right there, laughing in his mask when she splashed around for something. What could she possibly have dropped? She didn't own anything yet. The fog on the inside of his muzzle was left to dissipate without new breaths to hinder when she tore her shirt to bind the tank to herself. He followed her stare and shook his head, about to grab her again when she dove. He knew she could move like a fish and cussed to himself when she broke the surface by the mostly drowned man. Some Schmo under the first pipe. When Angel tried to do the same, the increase of water he had been waiting for pushed him back. A number of 'fuck' went through his mind while he breathed evenly, following the current to wherever it might want to take him. Powerful stuff. Couldn't fill this facility without a real influx.

Oliver woke with something in his mouth, the sky looking ever closer. Cold. Everything was numb. The shark. It had bitten off every limb he couldn't feel. BOA had outdone themselves. Sharks in the water-test. He'd find a way to get them. He'd wish for it, as soon as he paid for whatever the shark had taken. It wouldn't even put him in their debt. A wave disturbed his madness, danced with his body, he could tell by how the ceiling swayed. To his side, who was she? Why was she holding a mask to his face? The dark hair. The shark?

People were screaming. Not too many on the surface. Every now and then a splash of water would roll up against his ears and quiet them. He let the woman do what she wanted. He drank heavily from the oxygen and stared half lidded on a cloud that looked like a six-winged butterfly. The muscles in his arm wouldn't comply when he tried to reach for the second left wing from the bottom. A hard splash broke the surface, must have been something to be heard through his own breathing and the usual panic of the others.

He held on to the pipe too. Blue eyes in the clear water, looking at her with her cargo. "Really?" he said, chin on his arm and mask hanging over his back. "This is important to you?" Sardonic. Calm. Oliver, cargo's name was Oliver. Face in the crowd. One of the hopeful. Angel could not care less. "And what are you going to do next, eh? A woman got caught in her cell. She's got about five minutes of air in the pocket of her 70k click skylight." He moved closer shrugging out of his tube. "Kid. About eighteen. Can't swim. Dropped his breather climbing the wall with the rise of the water. Now he's paddling about one hundred and fifty meters that way." He hung his arm over one side, clutching his breathing equipment for counter weight so the other arm could splash a frustrated sheet of water at her. "All this is going to fill, Jane!" he called. "What then? This guy lives and you're out, what, 2k for the knife?" He obviously didn't know she'd used a wish on it.

With a gruff he moved closer, hanging his breather on Oliver. "You can't save anyone in here. It's the first thing you learn." His head bumped the glass as he stared at her. He raised his palms against the clear surface when the remaining people started to call at him. Fucking Retriever, shut up, son of various of things. If words meant anything in here they'd charge for those too. Mask of pearls, just staring at her as the other prisoners swam closer. The ones with breathers. "I guess I'll see you, Hero." He said clearly and reached to ruffle the blond hair. "You too if you live, Oliver." Finished with a shove. Childish. He dove without his tank. She was right. He would be just fine.

Oliver came too when the water was everywhere. He was still breathing. There was no refuge for the ceiling. He gasped, infernally cold when she saw the cloud of darkness shrouding his foot. Thinning at the edges, perhaps, but filling from the center. He still hoped there was a foot somewhere in there. The floating bodies marked where the ceiling was. The sky was still pretty far overhead. He saw a plane distort the wing he had wanted to touch before. Where was the shark? He felt just about ready to pay for its company right about now.

Twenty minutes in full flood, pumps would let it all out as fast as it came. Patric had hurried to his room fast enough, where he stored three tubes just inside the door. He would live to hear the water drain. Oliver might very well not.


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Re: a wretched wonder
« Reply #23 on: September 15, 2013, 03:29:05 pm »
He splashed her in the face. “All this is going to fill, Jane! What then? This guy lives and you’re out, what, 2k for the knife?”

He said she’d be out 2k as though she’d been able to go out shopping for it. Wistfully drifting among aisles of knives and price-guessing and making a reasoned choice. No, she hadn’t had time for that, and the only way to get what you wanted in an emergency was to have a wish answered.

As he ticked off a couple of people also suffering, likely to drown, she grew angry. Certainly this was their way of thinning the herd, giant, near-inescapable disasters. Just like in nature, one might say. Those who hear on the news that the hurricane is coming and you should get out now and actually follow that advice—they survive. The ones who board up their windows and clog every hole and take a few valuables and get the hell out. The ones who know to prepare. The ones who choose to sit by and take their chances? The herd gets thinned. The ones who drop their oxygen tanks? The herd gets thinned. The ones who don’t even see it coming and remain trapped in their own skylights? Dead.

But why not try? When you know and think you can do something about it? For fuck’s sake, the value on her own life now, to her, was ridiculously small. No, you can’t save everyone. You shouldn’t even try. But what was that phrase, that verse?

there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents, than over ninety-nine righteous people who need no repentance.

He had been trapped, for fuck’s sake, and everyone else was so concerned with their petty little lives in this fucking horrible nightmare that they couldn’t be bothered to even try and help. Except for her. Channing only had so much will to survive in here, fueled only by a desire to escape which she supposed it was Angel’s job to continue to temper by trying to convince her Everything Is Fine, Nothing Is Ruined. Become like us, New and Improved.

And people do great and terrible things in the midst of an adrenaline rush. Hers had not yet ended.

And he swam away, leaving her with his oxygen tank. Water inches from the ceiling.

She couldn’t fucking save everyone, but she could perhaps buy them a few more minutes before the place was drained. She slipped on the oxygen mask and abandoned her rescue as he finally held onto the pipes himself and had his own air. Channing swam against the ceiling back toward the café, knowing this idea was likely a fool’s errand, but who was she is not resourceful, someone who did not let go of fucking anything before she’d tried her way? If she failed, fine. But there was no sense to her in not trying.

Her hands on the large glass window of the café. Underwater, she thought that maybe she could see people in there. That it looked to her perhaps the café hadn’t filled—yet. She was going to help things along, to release some of the water from the main area to give a few more precious seconds. She figured They gave fuck-all about the damage, probably had a crack team ready to go to fix everything right up before anyone’s eyes. Her fingers on the glass. No, the windows to the outside were not breakable. But why wouldn’t these windows be?

get ready. yippie-ki-yay, motherfuckers.

She started to force the butt end of the tank against the window over and over. She thought maybe she saw a few cracks. She kept slamming the tank against it over and over, waiting for the glass to break, water to pour in, and hopefully stabilize the giant common area for just a few more minutes, maybe long enough to ride it out until the end.


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Re: a wretched wonder
« Reply #24 on: September 15, 2013, 03:31:49 pm »
The were all sipping their coffees and admiring the view. Tommy Bola, the one who had excited Ian, had a double espresso. They made fun of how small it looked in his hands. He'd grunt something back, intellectual repartee not really his strong suit. Being strong was, actually. He got off on it too, if he were to be honest with himself, them underlining his size. They had all stayed together, the pack, because they realized they happened to be fairly close at the start of the test. Bola had debated whether to go out or not. The water-test was fun. He had a larger re-breather that he liked swimming around with as a middle finger to the prisoners. Mine is bigger than yours. And you're dying. His sense of the dramatic was as juvenile as his attraction to Ian's rants.

They were just about to get bored, or feign boredom, at the sinking bodies on the street. Around the holidays when new prisoners were plentiful, the count would be higher. Summer was slow. A lot of veterans had the time and even mood to take care of the low trickle of new blood. This made for worse business. Since they were the suppliers and high ranking leg-men, the Café stayed dry, courtesy of BOA. That's how it usually went. That's why Ian would live to be paranoid another day. Irna, with the red ponytail and her thick rimmed, barely-necessary glasses, had thought it was odd when Angel chose to go outside.

"Holy shit! Look! It's Angel's new ward." Bola called, pointing with his cup and sending everyone a foot from the table as they avoided getting splashed by the strong drink. He hissed eventually. Even giant Tommy wasn't impervious to the scalding liquid burning his hand. The group laughed and two came closer to the window. "She's got the right idea, huh?" he continued, standing by the counter, pulling napkins out of the dispenser. "Cold bitch, too, swimming around like it's her vacation while others would be afraid. Maybe Angel can Handle after all."

After the first muted attempt, Irna told the others sternly to get their tanks. Jacob produced an accurate amount on the counter for them. Tommy didn't understand that she meant it until she drew out her 30s. His first thought was that he'd never seen a glock that small. Only on the second try did he arrive at the decision to listen, when she pushed by Wilson to get to the window where the newest prisoner was banging away. She had somehow already gotten herself a tank. "What are you fucking thinking, Irna?" He called as he drew the straps to expand them to fit his body. She looked back and smiled at him.

"She'll get in if she wants to. Just a matter of time." Barrel held to the mermaid with an uncertain agenda. "This is not one of our safe rooms, Bola. Doesn't mean we have to make it easy for the bitch." She gave a smile, as white as Patric's before she put the mask on with her free hand. The first shot would send snow all over the window. Before the pressure of the water had the time to take advantage of the weakened barrier, Irna had sent half her mag Channing's way. The redhead was caught by the force of the water first. She had braced herself best she could.

Angel pulled off his mask. It still tasted of the blood of the person he'd taken it from. Not his kill though. This one had been crushed by one of the machines for sale in Rec. A fridge. One man's last breath is another mans re-breather. He inhaled the moist air as the floor drank up the puddles. Angel remained laying for a while, staring up at the sky. Scratches on the glass overhead. The ceiling might as well be miles away now. Not too long ago, he could have touched it effortlessly. Everything had that drowned sheen, moving slow, glowing in a muted, drawn out way. Starlight legs around every source of light. Just like when he went to the swimming hall with mom. Mom and her giant hat wither bathing suit, even indoors. The empty rooms would be dry. Funding was endless but there was no need to be overzealous just because. Soon there would be no trace of today's test, only empty cells for new prisoners, and millions in revival clicks.

He sat up and lifted the tank over his head, flinging it through the broken store front of the towel shop. It was even funnier now, all wet. His left eye shivered. New knowledge came in like it had always been there. It was still confusing sometimes. Bio-frequency communication and storage. Sure R14, you have always known that there will be a meeting in two weeks. It wasn't a summons this time. Angel rose and pulled his soaked t-shirt off. Black, almost. He wrung it out until the seams creaked, his hands burning from the friction, and then hung it over his shoulder. Body of scars, nasty ones, but fully healed over the chemically fed muscles. Just like they liked their dogs, performance over aesthetics. Some of the curdled, white lines were from his former life. He'd inspect those often. The stars along his right side, where his ribs had broken outward - like some skeletal hand reaching to get free from his insides - were the only real family he recognized. Irna had named them. He hated that.

When that side of his vision had stilled he sighed, wiping drops off his face as an excuse to rub the skin hard. "Phhhhootch." he tried through his palms before her dropped them. And here he thought he was going to help her out. As he trod The Complex and all it's finesse turned into it's former self around him. Magic in space-age material and up-to-date drainage. When no one saw, little minions would put things back into place. Dramatic but effective. It upheld the illusion of an all-mighty force, governing them.

He'd have to find her. Maybe ask her Why. It was more crucial to make sure the pack didn't get to her first. He supposed he should start around The Bar Café and go from there.


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Re: a wretched wonder
« Reply #25 on: September 15, 2013, 03:32:19 pm »
Her shoulder was suddenly white-hot pain and the glass shattered.


Channing forced herself to swim over to the wall, away from the window, as water rushed into the Café. Maybe They would kill her for this, but better to be killed for doing shit when no one else would than to die in some stupid fucking drowning test. She forced herself up against the wall as water slowly drained.

Her head above water, she pulled off the mask, “Let go of the pipes!” She called, blood running out of her mouth. She spat. If they held on, they’d be trapped on the ceiling and a possible drowning would turn into two broken legs, or worse, if they continued to cling to the remaining pipes while the water started to drain. She noticed that the bleeding pipes were starting to slow to a trickle. She closed her eyes, kicking her legs and bleeding from the shoulder.

Channing wondered exactly how much lawlessness there was in the place when it came to gun violence. The group of Retrievers, were they supposed to be armed at all times? Were they licensed to kill?

She thought about using up another wish—because, really, she was so far in the hole at this point, what was 200,000 more?—on a machine gun. A bloody sweatshirt with the words, Now I have a machine gun. Ho ho ho. Another film memory she’d not soon let go of. She laughed, there in her bra and jeans and gunshot wound, blood pouring over scar tissue, her back flat against the wall to keep herself afloat while the water—

Yes. The area was beginning to drain. She closed her eyes. The knife was still jammed in her back pocket. Bringing a knife to a gun fight, that was a laugh. But she had something. She figured it was more important to run immediately. It would take them a moment to get their bearings as water drained. The water was low enough now that she could swim toward a hallway.

With searing intense pain, she forced herself forward, slowed severely by wound. It was the only way to get moving before they would get up and start sloshing through the water. She suddenly remembered that this was the hall to her room, they had not walked far before they hit the common area.

She couldn’t swim anymore as she bled, the pain was far too intense and the adrenaline buzz was beginning to wear off. She began to trudge through chest-high water, nearly impossible to hurry through. Channing refused to look behind her, would wait until the whizz of a bullet by her head before she’d face any one of these fucks. She passed doors and doors, suddenly unable to remember which exactly was hers or how to find it. Her mind was a blur. Short of recognizing her room somehow, she was not sure she would be able to escape, or if they were even yet following. Her breathing. Labored. Gurgling with blood.


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Re: a wretched wonder
« Reply #26 on: September 15, 2013, 03:34:18 pm »
Tommy had wondered about the specifics of being hit by the water. Irna had sure been certain this would at least not be life threatening. He had seen her go for things that she wanted though. Maybe he should not feel so assured she considered his safety if she thought she could accomplish whatever goal that she had. Driven woman. With a gun. It was beautiful at first, and the sound was excitingly loud. White glass, white foam, drinkable water. He knew when it knocked Irna back, her red hair a flame the rush of liquid could not quench, that this would hurt.

He gathered his wits against the wall, pushing a table off himself. There wasn't much to remember about the chaos of Bar filling. Just that he had been helplessly tossed around like the furniture. BOA had explained to Wilson who had told the others that there were precautions taken with the electricity. It was hard not to worry, as he swam for the window made mouth, about being electrocuted. It had always been one of his greatest fears. That and one day waking up in his own cell, without the choice to go back outside.

The pack had been out as fast as they could once they had their bearings after the chaos of foam and glass and interior had settled. Wilson had been the first to come too, followed by a little mermaid, sans green tail and purple shell bikini. In-fact, this version of Ariel had a glock. Tommy was fast to follow. He didn't excel in water but he was competitive. If Oliver had been interested in anything but the fact that he was bleeding out and looked down and back, he might have identified them as sharks, too.

Angel had broken into a light jog, soles squishing against his soaked socks. Shirt back on. Everyone was wet, who cared? For some mercy of the world, the light coming in from the sky was actually warm. Body temperature was warming his clothes. Every surface was a bulb. It was a good moment, lined with healing debris and bodies dragged by men in white rubber suits. Some of them would be revived, some of them were more parts than person. BOA could breathe life into just about anything, but it wouldn't be worth their effort. Somewhere along the line someone had said 'evolution'. Angel hadn't really agreed then. What does evolution matter to a Valkyrie?

He did not feel so high and Norse when he caught up with his ragtag band. Yeah. Wolves were probably closer than the angels that ushered souls from the battlefield into Valhalla. Then this would be Valhalla. He'd have to continue that analogy later. Tommy was the first one to notice him. Angel waved back. Irna turned when she picked up on the motion in her peripherals. Her hair rounded her cheekbones, wet and sharp. It looked planned, vain. Her glasses were gone. Vain. She smiled like he was a prisoner. "Hello, Handler." she said, not stopping but not turning away. "Do you have a problem with us or what, sicking your Ward on us like that." The others lent him a look, but kept walking forward. Angel caught up.

"Yeah." No smile for her. "You're fat and all-a'yall are cramping style." Laughter from everyone, even Irna. It let him get closer. She drew and he intercepted, twisted that gun right out of her hand, sent her stumbling back. Her arm waved once and it sent a line of drops to cut his face. Angel didn't blink. The silence and halt were instant. He'd never even held the grip before he slid the mag out and tossed it to her. Fear turned into anger. It looked good on her. The rest seemed annoyed. "She's my Ward. It's technically her first day again. Give her a break. Give me a break." When he walked backward and put the gun in the back of his jeans no one followed. Irna pushed Wilson away for having caught her.

He saw her by her room, walking past the door. She was bleeding almost exactly as much as he imagined. First thing today that he had been able to expect about her. He sent a request. Retriever requests were priority. How long had she been around here? He rolled his head and came to her side, running. "Hey there." he said. Not much sarcasm in his voice as he stropped her, soft touch on the shoulder that wasn't saturating her bra cup in her own life. "You're all scratched up, darling." The nurse had said that in school. Gentle woman. Really red lipstick on her thin lips. "You missed it." He nodded for the door when she stopped. Not like he would let her trudge on past her new home.

He'd lead her to the door, which would open to the kit he ordered. Somehow he predicted she wouldn't very well be left alone in the infirmary. Irna had planned to hold a gun at him for this, after all. He'd put her down on her table, he'd even toss her over his shoulder to get her down on it if he had to, and stab the magnetic stick right into her shoulder, pull that sucker out and drop it in a glass. Glue her wound shut. State of the art everything, he'd remind her. What's another scar on either of them? And then, in the dreary light of her basic but dry apartment, her would realize she was breathing blood. The request for info on her state would be denied.

"Jane," he'd say, voice low, a joke to protect himself from worry, or conceal it at least. "why are you gurgling ketchup?" There was a quip about a bloody mary in here somewhere. It would have to wait.

The pack had stopped. Tommy wasn't sure Irna had dropped the issue. Wilson was shouting her out for his own gun, the one he kept in his boot. When did Angel start caring about his wards?


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Re: a wretched wonder
« Reply #27 on: September 15, 2013, 03:35:36 pm »
In a very strange and almost sick way, she was glad to see him. She was deafened by the sound of her own heart pumping; blood from her wound with each hard, fast beat. Heavy breathing, a whistling wheeze—oh, that was her. She allowed him to lead her into her into her cell, and as with all the magic, there was a crisp, unused, and fairly large medical kit right before the door.

She was unspeakably thankful when the door shut behind them. They tracked blood and wet across the linoleum floor—she thought hardwood might be nice and almost laughed wildly.

Angel pushed her toward the table and she understood that the point was to lie down. Channing complied, even though she didn’t want to, unable to piece together why she didn’t want to—he was going to help her. Her mind was in part blank and cold, and in part an unintelligible mess. She struggled to string together the events of the last few hours. Coffee and a cigarette and a Patric and an oxygen tank and then—

She couldn’t describe her own actions as particularly out of character, but had someone asked her what she would have done in exactly this sort of insane emergency before, her answer probably would have been “Call the police.” “Could you cut off a trapped man’s foot to save his life?” seemed the kind of bizarre, gory scruples question a group of friends might ask each other over beers and a bonfire on the beach. Everyone in a safe place, imagining a far-fetched scenario in which they’d never have to partake.

If she were asked in this instant how or why the thought even entered her mind to do what she had done, she would be unable to answer. Would she have done it had she been out on the street, out in the world, and the same scene had somehow come before her? Or would she have saved her own ass and stood out with the bystanders watching and waiting for emergency personnel?

“At least emergency personnel wouldn’t fucking shoot at you,” Channing finished her thought aloud. She was surprised by the sound of her own voice. Had she meant to say that out loud?

Angel repaired her with equipment that seemed impossible—but what was impossible anymore? It was impossible for her to be here, it was impossible for a room to rapidly fill with water, it was impossible for her to cut a man’s fucking foot off, it was impossible for her to be shot at for trying to save as many as she could, it was impossible for her to have to shop with clicks—

Channing was suddenly and inexplicably embarrassed about her negative clicks. She supposed she had not been planning on surviving the prior incident, and instead she had survived and now she was one of those poor idiots who went negative on day one. Did they normally force such huge tests on new sadsacks? Even in the case that the most necessary survival equipment had been gifted to her for free, she still managed to break with tradition and totally fuck herself over.

He was finished. She sat up on the table and spat blood onto the floor. She held out a hand for cigarettes, in spite of fluid on her lungs, because who the fuck cared.

“Pulmonary edema,” Almost robotic, “Sometimes caused by near-drowning, which I almost did; trauma, which I now have; and shock, which I most certainly am in.” This time she did laugh. Wild, humorless.

And They wanted her to die for trying to save people. That, too.


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Re: a wretched wonder
« Reply #28 on: September 15, 2013, 03:36:45 pm »
He listened to her retort to herself. She was right, if that did her any good in this state. Angel wasn't about to argue any which way, he was just grateful she went with it without fighting him. Even Channing's impulses to work against him were overridden by the instinct to survive. Wow. Human nature working for him today. She was tough enough. Something about the way she sat up made him proud of her. Leave it to her to have an official first day like this. And it wasn't over yet. It was strangely friendly the way she held out her hand. He rapped it once, as if he didn't know what she really wanted.

She knew her injuries. Was there something in her files about being a savant at diagnosing? He really should get deeper into those. "Right." he agreed, as if he knew anything. He almost felt good until she laughed. With a lowered head, he patted himself down. Cold denim, damp cotton. No ciggs. On his knees her reached under the table. The pack from before, rumpled and beautiful. Her room hadn't been flooded, after all, that much she had spared them. Knocking it against the edge of her table as he stood, three ends rose above the others. He walked one smoke out with his thumb as his other hand wiped the iron lipstick off her mouth. Memories sepia hot on his inner vision until he could stroke his shirt. It was red, originally, anyway. At least she had stopped laughing. "You're a lot of fun when you're dying, Channing." Lit her cigarette and put the lighter on top of the packet beside her. He was sure she'd find a use for both.

"So here it is, your new life, with all its endless possibilities." He jumped twice, shoes barely making wet sounds anymore. Good air conditioning in here, straight from outside. People liked to breathe free when they were locked in. Right now it felt like a catching a cold. He came over to the thermostat in her kitchen, adjusted it. While he was there he opened her fridge. A bottle just stopped moving on the shelf. Couldn't wish friends in here, usually, but Jack was always welcome. For later, whenever she saw it. He grabbed the bottle of evian instead. "You took in the sights, you made some friends. Pretty good, right? I mean, you even had a swim." He laughed at something that popped up in his head, near sprayed the water out his nose. "Got off on the wrong foot with Oliver, though."

The plastic bottle found its way, screwed shut, to be beside her where she was on the table. His spine on one of the steel leg, arms hung on his knees. He inhaled the second-hand and closed his eyes. Grass and sunshine and rusted barrels. Over-grown everything. No concerns. He'd been young then, but not brat-young. He'd known what he had, somehow, and sucked every little drop out of it. Eaten the vapor too. He'd promised to fade one day, not be one of those explosive lives. He'd do it all right. Endorphins, love, morals. Like mom had said when she payed for the bike that would eventually kill him. No weight, your choice, baby.

Lashes up. Blue on wooden floor. Nowhere near childhood summer, and riding without a license and her in a dress that looked like a botanist's course literature. Still here. Not even smoke from her lungs, laced in blood, could change that.

"There's some party favors in the kit." Pretty good, too. Enough to keep her happily unwitting of the hole in her shoulder, if she'd take it. The stick had been coated in enough miracles that it wouldn't be too long before her fibers reconnected. Start from last save-point. He picked at a cuticle again. Old habit, two lives old. "Figure I'd leave it here. You'll probably need it after the pack comes at you." Irna, Wilson, the gang. Touched the bridge of his nose again. "I'm trying to help you here, Ja... Fuck!" Arms out like wings, fists at the end of those angry appendages hit the floor hard. Linoleum, maybe, but on solid concrete. Enough with this amateur shit. "Channing." Through his teeth. His legs had straightened. "Chain. Changing. Channeling." Mnemonic mantra, anything. "Channing." Last time. "They'll be back, you realize."

The room was turning warmer, finally. "Retrievers are sort of the knights or the nazi wardens of this place. You shouldn't have messed with them. We're all crazy in our own way in here. But Retrievers are extensions of BOA. We get to exact our crazy on you." Shrug. Finger was bleeding again. "BOA don't like when we off prisoners with memories to sell, but they've been known to let the pack roam. Please," he said, flicking his tongue over the red pearl at the bottom of his nail. "check yourself a little."


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Re: a wretched wonder
« Reply #29 on: September 15, 2013, 03:37:15 pm »
She shied away when he touched her face, like a five year old from his mother’s touch to wipe chocolate smear from his face, but he got her, anyway. She took the cigarette, inhaled, coughed a bit. The rush of nicotine from the deep inhale surprised her by going straight to her head.

He moved away and started talking, ticking off the day’s events. It had to be well into afternoon by now. She’d made friends—yes, friends, friends who probably wanted her to fear leaving her apartment, but fuck that. If they wanted to shoot her, so be it. She went for a swim—her shoulders and back were singing right along with the gunshot wound, she hadn’t swam in months. Got off on the wrong foot with Oliver—har-de-har-har—but he was alive. And surely, if They found him worth a damn, they’d give him a new foot. Not that that possibility had ever entered her mind before. It had only been about the horror of him having to watch himself drown while trapped in a situation over which he had no control.

Because, really—what the hell does one wish for in that situation? A backhoe to move the pipe and someone to operate it? He was dead in the water, and it was no fault of his own. The only alternative was to cut his own foot off—and be damned if she thought she would have been able to cut hers off if it had been her in that situation.

And it very well could have been, or might soon be. She surprised herself by her emergency response today, but that didn’t say much for her emergency preparedness.

She let him talk about the medkit while she smoked, her mind elsewhere. Combing through what memories she might begin to sell. She needed clothes. She needed shoes. She needed food. She needed to collect tools to formulate a plan. But she needed to get out of the hole first. Vaguely, she understood that there were drugs available to her. Good. She probably wouldn’t sleep tonight without them, totally jazzed and completely mindfucked over everything that had happened in a few short hours.

He struggled with her name. She rolled her eyes.

“Look, call me whatever the fuck you want,” She said. “In here, it doesn’t matter. I have no identity. I could give fuck-all what you call me. I might just sell my memory of this name, anyway, for kicks. Just too see how much this shit’s worth. You dig?”

She’d slipped out of her professional manner of speaking from her first moment here, and she wondered now as she considered her own words and inflection and hint of West Pennsylvania pushing to the forefront of her speech patterns whether or not it was gone forever.

She wondered if anyone yet knew she was missing in the outside world. She wondered if she had any missed calls or texts. Her coffee pot in her home had automatically turned on and made her a pot of coffee at 7:00AM, it would have automatically shut off, untouched, by now. Her alarm clock would have turned on at 10 of that time, news talk radio, also automatically shut off after 30 minutes or so when the owner, when she, wasn’t there to do so.

Tears threatened. She killed that feeling immediately. No sense in considering those things, as those are all things she would be told she could have “in here.” But she couldn’t have her freedom. Not that.

“Retrievers are sort of the knights or the nazi wardens of this place. You shouldn't have messed with them.”

He got her attention, suddenly. She was instantly on fire.

“BOA don't like when we off prisoners with memories to sell, but they've been known to let the pack roam. Please, check yourself a little.”

“I shouldn’t have fucking messed with them?” That was just fucking hilarious. She leaned forward toward him. “Fuck you,” She said. Voice low. Threatening. “Tell the fucking Board Of Assholes to check themselves. Maybe they brought the wrong fucking bitch in here, but I’m not going to sit by and watch people die just so a bunch of pussies can sit in a café and watch the world drown. Maybe they should have been out enjoying the fun like the rest of us. It’s not my fucking fault they were in the wrong place at the wrong time, and then decided to try to fucking kill me.”

She sat upright, perfect posture, even if it caused her pain.

“If everyone else in this joint is content to ride out every horrible disaster that comes their way, that’s not my fucking problem. But if they are going to lay this shit on me, they’d better be ready for me to use the environment to help myself. And help these other poor idiots who’ve been here so long they can’t remember what it’s like to have some fucking outcome control. That’s what I do, I control outcomes. I decide whether the story goes through or dies on the table. I decide whether it would be better for the hero to die at the end. Me.”

She inhaled without coughing this time.

“And if that’s a fucking problem, I can’t wait to see what extravagant way in which they decide I die. But until then? I’m working toward those Jeeps they leave the keys in. AND I DON'T CARE WHO KNOWS,” She shouted to the room. Just in case They were listening. Loud and Clear.