Mia told her about her name, not really answering her question much. Though Dana had not expected much more, after all, they were just getting to know each other. "Although the fact that the old lady knew it pretty much confirms she has government access of some kind. Or a good source from back home." Mia stated, and Dana was about to answer, as someone else chimed in, getting a drink for Mia, and being quite impolite to her, seemingly ignoring Dana altogether.
Then, she took matters in her own hands, after the guy had left the room altogether, as quickly as he had appeared. "There you go, girl. Whiskey's in front of ya." she said. Dana felt for it and quickly took a sip. Seemingly people had already realized what kind of an outsider she was even here. She heard Mia drinking and slamming her bottle down. "Woo! Six months sober down the drain! Totally worth it! Who cares, right?" she called out.
Dana smiled to her. "I'm not much of a drinker myself, but if there is any time for a drink, it is now." she said. "I'm still unsure what to think of all this, but if there is such a danger to us, and you are confirming that at least most of what she said is true, I guess I have to trust her.
The question is, what do we do now? Getting this cocktail quickly, then hear her 3-year-plan? If she's awake again by that time. Or ... I dunno, this situation is more shitty than I would have imagined." She took another, big gulp from the whiskey, already feeling slightly dizzy. "I thought Canada would be a good start to a new life, but not all what they say is true. Possibly nothing ..." she murmured.
The question is, what do we do now? Getting this cocktail quickly, then hear her 3-year-plan?
" I mean we might as well get this treatment, what happens afterwards is up to us right? At least we won't be killed when someone hits a switch." He said to Dana, " But I've already made my thoughts clear, I'm staying and seeing this through, the bastards who cooked this plan up can't get away with it." While everyone else was drinking Octavio decided to abstain. It wasn't that he hated drinking, it's just that he had a tendency to get a little fast and loose with his powers after he had drank a few and he didn't feel like putting any holes in the place that seemed like it was going to be his new home.
"Also I don't think I've introduced myself to everyone, uh, I'm Octavio, call me Otto," He announced.
"...Just shift my gravity to be the surface of the road and suddenly by my perspective, I'm running downhill." Justin's guise crumpled at the thought of such an action. Just thinking of the concept made him dizzy.
"That sounds disorienting." He voiced his opinions on the matter. "Then again, your whole powerset sounds disorienting. Looks disorienting, too." He looked up from his phone's screen in that moment, providing Vagari with some brief eye contact. " Though, I'm sure you've had most of your life to figure it all out."
Justin took notice of the others displaying themselves along the barstand. Emil seemed to be some sort of mass-shifter. Dana claimed that she could do things with her voice. "Something like a sonic scream, if I had to guess." The thought reminded him of a superhero from a comic his father had, as did Octavio's claimed abilities. "And Mia's too busy getting plastered to do any power showcases." Not that it was a bad thing. Enrique was on a page similar to hers, as he entered the bar simply to snatch a whole bottle of liquor for himself.
Once he threw some shade in Mia's direction and exited, Justin turned to the ghastly looking bartender. "Damn dude, you gonna let that man come in here and take your stuff? Just like that? Don't be scared man, stand up for yourself!" He was instigating on purpose, but there was some genuine purity in that last little bit of dialogue. "Didn't realize the bar was that open." He added with a condescending scoff before going back to his phone. He went back to overlooking some schematics, ensuring that the pictures he managed to get were clear enough to read. He mumbled and cursed to himself as he looked over some of the circuits.
"Fuck, some of those components were fucking rare." He grunted under his breath. Granted, they were rare because they were old. He gave himself a mental note in that moment, telling himself to find a junkyard or a recycling center next time he went into town, as well as a hardware store. "If the Awe's gonna make a comeback, I'll want to get started sooner rather than later." He decided.
"The question is, what do we do now? Getting this cocktail quickly, then hear her 3-year-plan?"
Mia was debating this question herself. The cocktail sounded like Hell on Earth. Or even worse, the Shore. But if it meant not being shriveled up, it was worth it. If Dana was thinking harder about it, Mia certainly wasn't getting a read thanks to those sunglasses. I mean, she's clearly blind with the whole feeling for the glass thing, but still, it's tough to tell what she believes. Canada really might be the best option for her.
"I mean we might as well get this treatment, what happens afterwards is up to us right? At least we won't be killed when someone hits a switch.
A new player appeared at the table. The kid who went all Captain Planet, Sesame Street Uprising after the Matron's initial speech. Someone who seemed a little wet behind the ears in the world. Claimed his name was Otto. Short for Octavio. Sure. OK.
"Mmmm-" the lady started before double checking herself. No alias to remember now. Cat's already out of the bag. "Mia," she finished. The first hit of pure gin was burning a bit as well, so she held off sending reinforcements down the tube. "And I dunno if I want to hear this whole three-year plan thing. I got a lot of plans myself for my next three years. Big things. Shinier things than my Audi. And I'm not about to give that all up just to become a poker chip in this lady's game. Nuh-uh. Not doing that." Wasn't fun the first time. "I'll take this nasty cocktail if it gets whatever shit the government put in there out of me, but after that, poof. Not staying here. Pretty sure this place was smoking pretty hard when everyone walked in. I've got better things to do than watch this sucker go up in flames."
" Right, you've got fancy cars to drive and cash to make, all things that'll be super nice to have when mass genocide hits and the planet goes to war with an alien race. Gotta make sure you've got a ride fast enough to outrun the flying saucers and death rays." Octavio remarked, voice dripping with snark. " I mean christ! If we're not careful we might risk helping someone other than ourselves! We wouldn't want to do that. Might give us that fuzzy feeling deep down that reminds us we're human." His voice was dripping with sarcasm.
" I'd much rather say screw that and do... whatever ever the hell you do to get that Audi, given that you're awakened it probably wasn't legal, not that I really like most of the laws," He finally added.
Mia couldn't help but snort at the pep talk the kid was giving. "Help other people than ourselves? Dude, if I helped anyone other than myself I would have jack shit in this world. Sure as fuck ain't helping people who don't consider me human, not that I give them much of a chance to think otherwise." That Jersey mouth was in full force with the swear words flying.
However, she wasn't done. "And you're damn right it wasn't legal. But I'm using whatever I got to make my ends meet and then some. And it's a victimless crime. Unless you consider multi-billionaires and crime syndicates victims, which I sure as fuck don't."
Mia punctuated her last claim with another swig of gin, pounding the table with her free hand to fight off the burn. "I learned how to survive, dude. No, no I learned how to thrive! And that's what I intend to keep doing. At least once this shit is out of my system and the government can't track me." And the Pannuccis. And...whoever the hell Budget sends after me for that car.
"Uh oh, sounds like they're going at it." With a mumble, Justin looked up from his phone to engross himself in the lively conversation beginning to take form in the bar. Sounded like a simple clash of ideals that Justin could relate with. Mentally, he found himself siding with the girl currently throwing back drinks like her life depended on it. "It probably does." He thought, slowly rising from his stool.
"I'm surprised you even consider yourself to be human." He remarked towards Octavio as he began closing the distance. "I know I don't. And I know damn sure they don't. Hell, they spend years burrowing their propagandist bullshit into our heads, letting us know just how non-human we are." For the first time in the last half hour or so, Justin pocketed his phone. "And you know what really fucking sucked? When you try to just keep your head down. Not trying to get on anyone's list, not trying to garner any attention. When you tell yourself that your abilities aren't noticeable and that you won't attract attention from the feds. And then it goes and fucking happens anyway." Justin let out a low, defeated chuckle as he rubbed his temples.
"Oh man, that gets me riled up dude, don't get me fucking started." He laughed some more. "You...you just keep on drinking that kool-aid, Dudley Do-Right." Justin was smiling, unnaturally.
"Define Human." Ari drifted over to the bar, eyeing the bottles behind it. "My alcohol experience is pretty limited to what I can get for five dollars and being decently good at running, which mostly means Maddog 20/20, so I'll have what they're having. All of them." She dropped into a seat. "Rationally, we're not the product of Evolution. We're not Homo Sapiens Exsomnis," She badly mangled the Latin. "Or whatever. No evolutionary process could result in the simultaneous development, all over the world, of hundreds if not thousands of different abilities, almost all of which in some way turn physics on their head, with no discernible new organs or any kind of physical alteration. At some point we've got to realize that there's some supernatural shit going on."
She took her drink and slugged it with a shudder. "Damn, that's a hell of an improvement."
"There's something we all need to think about, anyway - just because Old Lady's not bullshitting about them poisoning us doesn't mean she's not bullshitting about the rest of it. Doesn't mean she can be trusted. All the same, I don't know about you guys but I'm pretty fucking sick of running, and hiding, and sleeping in gutters, and living off of garbage, living just for the next time I can fix or get drunk. I figure we at least hear the old bat's plan, then decide if I want to find out if Canadian cops are more or less likely than American ones to decide being able to run up walls warrants the immediate use of lethal force."
"I learned how to survive, dude. No, no I learned how to thrive! And that's what I intend to keep doing. At least once this shit is out of my system and the government can't track me."
" That's not going to matter when all hell breaks loose, you think you're living in a police state now? Wait until the governments pulls this shit off, and the world gets united against the greatest existential threat of all time, that shit's gonna make Nazi Germany look like Burning Man. If Thurgood could pick you out of thousands, the government will be able to pick you out of the dozen left with or without nannites. So it's live on your feet or die on your knees." Otto replied, "From where I'm sitting we are as good as dead if we don't stop their plan."
"You...you just keep on drinking that kool-aid, Dudley Do-Right."
" You know when I'm Dudley Do-Right in a group, that's usually a bad sign. I've gotta assume everyone here has got a rap sheet," He pointed at Mia, " I mean you basically admitted to stealing a car," then Ari, " You definitely know what it's like to spend a night in a holding cell," then Emil, "I'm gonna guess breaking and entering," then Dana, " drawing a blank with you," finally to Justin, " I don't know, is misdemeanor smart-assery a thing?"
He heard Ari express her remaining distrust and he had to concede, " I mean even if Thurgood's plan is crap it doesn't mean we can just give up, I mean if we can show people what we know that has to get some reaction, get people off their asses and see that they're being played."
"I would have liked some kind of peaceful revolution, but with what was done to us ... I don't think this is really possible. But I also have nowhere to go." Dana chimed in. "I guess my only crime is unemployment, but I have all but given up hope to find any work. Well, other than the offer the matron gave us." She took another sip from her glass.
"We could try and find our own plan, taking the matrons resources as we see fit, but not follow through with things we do not want to do. We still have no idea what she is actually planning.
And who is this Jacob? Who is supposed to experiment on us? Do you think we can trust him? Maybe we should look at what he does." she spoke more, before picking up what Ari had said before.
"I don't know if I would see my ability as supernatural. I feel it's more of an enhancement of what other people can do. And it developed in my teenage years, not before. My senses changed into something else, but that was it ...? At least as far as I have experienced it so far. After all, synesthesia was a thing before the awakening, that was not supernatural either."
Not wanting to wait, Emil grabbed himself a drink and sat down to enjoy it, off-handedly listening to the conversations going on around him. He really wasn't interested in chatting at the moment.
Though Ari's comments about their powers being of supernatural in nature gave him pause. He hadn't given much thought to the source of his abilities...
Taking a gulp from his drink, he leaned back against his seat. "It all sounds crazy, don't it? Then again, reality pretty much went out the window when all this started happening..."
Mia resented the fact that this Otto kid insinuated that she would be so base as to steal a car. She conned her way into it. Big difference. Conning requires charm and finesse, not just having a brick. But either way, she wasn't going to let on that the Audi was likely hot. Or at least the plates sitting in a dumpster behind that Wendy's in the Box was hot.
"Look I don't know what the old lady is going to try to do against the government, but my dad had a saying. 'When the piper's men are after ya, run like hell until they can't find ya.' Didn't rhyme or anything, but it's worked for me so far. So I've got my plans. I'm heading for the islands that aren't complete swamped. That breakaway republic off Colombia sounds like paradise away from the assholes in Washington. So I get out of here after a vomit trip, get a plane and someone who can fly it and boom done. Hakuna Matata. Coconuts and wifi."
Sounded pretty good for something she just pulled out of her ass. But Mia was doubling down.
"Let the idiots nuke themselves into oblivion. After what they did to me and my family, I don't care."
Enrique noticed the old man come out behind him. He was about halfway done his cigarette and he flagged the man over, "Don't sit by yourself mister, come have a drink. I can't promise you too much though, gotta make the stuff last, but good booze is always best shared amongst comrades."
The actual reason he wanted him over though, was to find out exactly who he was. He hadn't said much and he looked to be the oldest of the group saving the Matron herself. He wanted to get some of this guy's backstory, slowly learn what he could about everyone in the group. He took another long drag. He was going to have to slow down if he wanted to conserve the pack of cigarettes as well. Who knew when he'd have a chance to grab another pack.
Ryan looked the young man up and down before getting to his feet and approaching. He took the tequila from Enrique's hand as he sat down. After peering at the label he took a swig, holding the liquor in his mouth a few seconds before swallowing. A gust of wind blew some of the old man's silver hair into his face, and he smoothed it back as he handed the bottle back to Enrique.
"It's decent stuff eh?" Enrique said trying to gauge the man. He still hadn't said anything and it was starting to unnerve him. The tips of his fingers were burning so he drew the heat from the cigarette and threw it behind him. He lit his next cigarette with the stored heat, hoping a slight show of hand might pique the man's interest, "I'd offer you a smoke too, but it seems this is my last pack for the time being, so I hope you are not offended."
The old man only grunted in response. His lips were pursed in thought as his eyes studied the cigarette.
"Aye aye, you gotta say something my friend, I can't merely talk to myself, people might think I'm crazy,"Enrique had his patience, but there was only so long one man could talk to himself. The old man seemed to be studying him and that unnerved him. He didn't like people knowing who he was, how he thought. It was part of the reason he was so personable. If you kept up a sociable persona, then people wouldn't dig deeper.
Ryan snorted and looked down at his hands, continuing to knead his palms and fingers. Eventually he spoke up. "Fire, huh? Or heat?"
"Ah there we go, at least my power seems to have interested you," Enrique smiled that wonderful fake smile he had, "It's heat my man. I can pull it out of things and put it into others. Means I can cool things too, which is pretty handy let me tell you. It ain't nothing special of course, but I mean you always gotta feel a little special when you have powers right?"
He took another long drag of the cigarette, "So what about you holmes? Anything of note? What got you noticed by our lovely host?"
Ryan snorted again. "It's not interesting." he spoke dismissively, but soon continued in a deliberate tone. "I can change the physical properties of matter, and control its movement. To a point." He lapsed into silence again, staring off into the forest.
"I see, I see," Enrique almost scoffed, the old man was trying to keep his cards close to his chest, "I'm not sure what I can do for you then old man, you don't seem interested in talking."
The older man took a deep breath and gave Enrique a sidelong look, but didn't reply.
That was about it for Enrique. His cigarette was done anyways, "Well I'm headed in then. Hope to see you on the other side holmes."
Enrique stood up and stomped on his cigarette. He picked up the bottle and took a large swig and started towards the door of the house, leaving Ryan alone on the front steps.
"I don't know, is misdemeanor smart-assery a thing?" Octavio's remark made Justin snicker. It could've been taken as an insult to someone with a weaker constitution, but to the boy, it felt more like an acknowledgment. Even then, the conversation was moving faster than he could interject. "Ha! If that was the case, the feds would've executed me by now. Would've put two in the back of my head and played it off like it was a suicide." He thought. As the conversation proceeded, Justin sat back down. Figured it was better to opt out, rather than to say anything to rile anyone up. Seemed like Octavio was doing that well all by himself.
"...but my dad had a saying. 'When the piper's men are after ya, run like hell until they can't find ya.'" Mia made a mention that caught the boy's attention, a mention that hung separately of his thoughts. Like a subconscious tic, he brought his phone back into attention. He flipped through his digital photo album of personal schematics, before stopping upon one particular capture. Made the boy sigh, made his shoulder slump in mental exhaustion.
"What a mess I've gotten myself into, huh Pops?" He muttered almost silently as he felt his glasses slide down the bridge of his nose, performing a long, perhaps wistful stare into the picture.
"Let the idiots nuke themselves into oblivion. After what they did to me and my family, I don't care."
"Well, uh, Mia, consider the fact that they won't be nuking themselves to oblivion, they will be nuking all of us to oblivion." Octavio said, desperately trying to keep his tone from becoming condescending, but at this point this woman's selfishness made it seem like she did not understand the gravity of the situation, " Thermonuclear winters don't tend to care who you backed and how nice you're part of the world is, provided you're on earth. There aren't going to be any coconuts for a while when the fallout blots out the sun. So forget a plane, if you want to out run this you're going to need a rocket and get your ass to mars. How confident are you that you can pull that off?"
The less attention was paid to him, the more Henry's anxiety began to subside; though it spiked with the intrusion upon his personal space by the barhopper, and spiked further when his cowardly quaking and freezing was called out by the youth, he had gone unregarded long enough to build up his voice to the point where he could speak. He cleared his through quietly, and firmly placed the shot glass he had been polishing on the bar counter, so as to silence the conversation and argument in the room while there was a beat to do so.
"I have no love for my mother, but I am inclined to suggest you listen to her plan," he began quietly, almost under his breath, having to stare at his feet to get the words out, "given that she has been planning this for magnitudes longer than you've been aware of the issue, and has vital information involved in the matter, it would be fitting to suggest rejecting her guidance is akin to defiantly walking towards the abattoir..."
With a mounting confidence, Henry strode down the bar, snatching up bottles, capping them, and restoring them to their places; this was one of the few places he insisted on order, after all, and he would not have these invading ruffians ruin it. Let them have any other segment of the house; leave the bar be.
"Though if you do wish to leave, I've no doubt she'd let you go. Despite her horrible crimes in the past and her vicious intent, she seems genuinely remorseful over her prior exploitation of the Awakened," he practically chattered, his tone growing louder, unreasonable loud, as if he did not even realise his own volume. He began to drum his finger on the bar, and where his fingers touched the lacquered surface, soot formed for a moment, before Henry wiped it away and began again.
"The cocktail is as vicious as the things it kills, if you're curious. I can only imagine that it feels how dying of the Spanish Influenza must have felt," he continued, practically shouting, eyes widening, before he caught himself, slapping a hand to his mouth, then looking at the assembled. He began to retract into himself, but forced himself back out, into courage.
"A long life has no intrinsic value I suppose; if you're all really so reticent you could all just leave here today recognising that you've got three years to make the best of. You may even find such a thing liberating," he mumbled almost incoherently as he began to lose the energy to speak, to think, to present a human facade and keep his inclination in check. He reached inside of his jacket pocket and pulled out a small hip-flask, which he swigged from, before turning bloodshot, grim eyes to the assembled.
"Or..." He began anew, "You could stop post-poning the inevitable, admit you are afraid of death, and descend into that dark, dank basement, and get started on purification."
With a heavy thump, Henry fell against the back wall, and slid to a seated position behind the bar, slipping the hip flask back into his jacket, and putting his head in his hands, calmly tap-tap-tapping on the back of his bald head, occasionally pulling at the fabric of his yellowed dress shirt. The only thing that penetrated the silence that followed his little demonstration was the gentle snoring of the Matron Thurgood from across the hall.
"So forget a plane, if you want to outrun this, you're going to need a rocket and get your ass to Mars. How confident are you that you can pull that off?"
Mia took another pull out of the bottle of gin and shook her head, pointing at Otto. "You've never seen me work, kid."
Just then, the bartender sprung to life and started going off on a variety of topics. He ranged from the Matron's code of conduct, to the cocktail to...well slumping back behind the bar. All Mia knew is that when he went to grab the gin, she pulled it back and made sure he couldn't reach it so she could continue to drink herself into a state of preparation for whatever was to come.
"I'll get started on downing that cocktail when I've downed enough of this cocktail...well, not a cocktail. Whatever, that was a clever line." Mia stood up from the bar, bottle still clutched in her hand. "And I'm not doing it because I'm afraid. I'm doing it because fuck the government. That's why."
She didn't know why she was answering Henry directly. He was in no state to offer a retort. But Mia was ready to get this thing over with. The sooner the junk was out of her system, the sooner she could start getting away again.
Dana was feeling slightly dizzy from the drinks she had and she found herself lose concentration to follow the conversation. In her mind, however, she started to rationalize taking the cocktail as soon as possible, not wanting to wait in uncertainty. Not confident in her echolocation in her current state, she took a folded white cane out of her jacket and folded it apart, before standing up.
"I don't want to wait any longer, I'm going downstairs." she said and made her way into the lobby and towards the basement, to the direction of a contortion of bile and disinfectants, already swaying and managing to keep down her own barf. "Anyone coming with me?" she called, turning her head, but continuing her path, before she felt the steps downwards with her cane.
Emil was beginning to feel a bit anxious, after what all that he had heard, he was starting to wonder if he'd had the nanite treatment too... he shook his head. The years spent on his own had left him with a nasty case of paranoia. Still... it couldn't hurt to get a check up, could it?
"I'm coming," he said, draining the last of his drink. "I just want to get this over with..." And with that, he got up to follow Dana to the stairway.
"Oh, so you can talk!" The dusty bartender's spiel captured Justin's attention, bringing him from the trance his phone would induce. The man seemed verbose enough, his flowery speech boiling down to "get the purifications, or find a hole to die in". Coming from the bartender, Justin actually felt a bit more willing to follow through with the Matron's treatments, if only because it wasn't coming from her mouth. "...He also doesn't like his mother." Justin found another thing he could relate with. "Same here, fam. Same here." The thought made the boy smirk a bit.
The air in the bar changed once Henry slumped back down behind the bar, scrunched into his uncomfortably focused position. "Sheesh. A moment ago I was just about ready to get the fuck out of here. Now here I am, still sober and actually taking this experiment into consideration." He began dragging his hands through his hair, and the dragging turned into rough tussling as he grew frustrated once more. "Ugh! It keeps going through my head! Fuck! God! Ugh!" He began regaining his composure as two of the bar's patrons (the blind girl, and the other one) resigned to their fates and began heading out. The cool girl opted to just finish the bottle she obtained.
"Fine. Fuck it." Justin rose from his barstool in a overacted huff. "Whatever. Fine. Let's do it. Fuck. Geez. FUCK." He mumbled as he quickly outpaced Dana and Emil. Or, at the very least, caught up to the two as they proceeded into the basement. Dana, as she was a vision-impaired individual climbing down a stacked decline, moved carefully down the stairs. She was also the first of the three to head down the narrow staircase, meaning she was creating a bit of a line. Justin could also conclude she was at least buzzed, so she was most likely moving even slower than she might've regularly.
"By the way, who thought it was a good idea to give the blind girl a drink?" He questioned, his normal tone of voice easily echoing out of the basement.
"By the way, who thought it was a good idea to give the blind girl a drink?"
"Hey, Dana can do whatever she likes," Mia answered back as she followed the trio towards the stairs. "She's a big girl." The gin bottle remained in her hand, a glass security blanket as she moved toward the stairs with the rest of the group. It only looked like it could fit one person at a time, which was to the blind girl's benefit, seeing as she couldn't fall in a narrow space.
As well as Mia's. Six months of sobriety had destroyed her tolerance and the gin was hitting her quicker than she remembered. At least I beat that stupid cocktail to the punch. I can make myself barf, thanks. She used the walls to steady herself until the railing appeared. The four of them descended to the bottom of the staircase and the makeshift lab that had been created within. In her current state, the Jersey girl couldn't help but shiver a little. Casino backrooms could be creepy at times, but they had nothing on this cacophonous collection of scientific fantasies and ...stuff.
I can't even describe all this...stuff.
Otto followed the rest down the stairs with a grumble, something to the tune of "No point putting this off."
"By the way, who thought it was a good idea to give the blind girl a drink?"
I wonder what effect alcohol will have on the cocktail. Otto kept that thought to himself, rather than express himself and add to his burgeoning goody two shoes reputation. He stopped just behind Mia and took in the scene of Joseph's lab. It was like someone had taken the worst case scenario that he had imagined and given it form. Test tubes, jars of preserved animals and organs, glass flasks, spirals, and vials. He exchanged a glance with Mia, just long enough to tell the difference between drunken nausea and shocked nausea. On thing he did notice is that it was, clean, in a matter of speaking. Sure it wouldn't pass a hospital health inspection but he noticed fresh needles, IV's and scalpels properly tucked away, along with the scent of powerful disinfectant with orange. He looked to Joseph, or rather in Joseph's direction, there was something about the extraterrestrial that stopped him from making proper eye contact. "So, let's do this?" He was finding there was a lot more doubt in his voice than he expected, the idea of being filled with a mysterious fluid concocted by a mad alien scientist was starting to seem even more daunting than he anticipated.
Ryan stayed outside for a long time, looking at the forest and the sky and his own hands. Hasty winds out of the West tore at the cloud cover overhead as the minutes passed, bathing the courtyard in occasional swaths of sunlight a little behind the bursts of breeze that lifted hair into his face and rustled the pine needles. When the wind died down the sound of people talking in the bar could be heard through the open front door behind him.
Eventually there was a raised voice, and the conversation seemed to stop. Ryan turned an ear towards the door and listened for a minute before finally getting to his feet and returning inside.
Everyone was pushing back their bar stools and heading for the basement door. Apparently the time for treatment had come. Ryan looked back into the common room; the Matron was still fast asleep, snoring gently. As the old man turned and began to make his way towards the basement he massaged his left arm absentmindedly, as if checking it for faults. On his way past the bar he peered over it and saw Henry there, hunched in a near fetal position and drumming the back of his head. Ryan stared at him for a few moments, his expression strained.
Ryan stopped at the top of the stairs and produced a handkerchief from his pocket, which he held over his mouth and nose as he slowly descended behind the others.
"How does that Voyager move around in here-?" Justin mouthed as he visually scanned the big bug's dank laboratory. The stench wafting through the air jerked him from the laundry list of queries forming in his head, like a sinister amalgamation of every type of dead thing congregated within the confines of that horrible room. Maliciously invading his nostrils, Justin couldn't help but produce a loud, painful dry heave from beyond his lips. Despite the theatrics, he failed to produce any vomit. Made him a little glad he didn't drink before entering the basement, as he definitely would've puked all down that blind girl's back.
"This can't be sanitary..." He mumbled and coughed as he straightened his stature. His eyes drifted towards the flame of the open incinerator, only to quickly look away as he noticed the pile of corpses directly near it. "Jesus dude-" Despite his horror, his curious subconscious caused him to meander further into the room. The Voyager was far closer than Justin thought; he could quickly spot the alien across the room. Alongside that one other guy from earlier, who had looked like he started early.
"Hey!" He called for the black-suited extraterrestrial, hoping to gain his attention. "Your name's Josef, right? Can we get this treatment thing over with?! Please put me under before the smell does!" The fumes were so loud, he felt it best to yell over it.
To be afraid of death was only human. Even with their powers that's all they were. Death would come to them just as it would come for any other woman or man. So why were we so afraid of it? It didn't make sense. And yet Enrique felt that fear as much as any other person.
Cold wind, no fire; cries, the wails of the damned so loud he couldn't sleep. His heat running low, there was only so many times he could cycle the heat and pull the cold. There was nothing, nothing but the snow to keep them warm. No one cares. The cold, no food, drink the snow, melt it for your friends Enrique. The wails persisted.
They were all headed for the basement. It seemed that Henry's little speech had inspired them all. Or maybe getting them a little tipsy first was all it took. The cure for their incoming death awaited them. Death would still come at some point, but maybe human fear was just about keeping it at bay as long as possible.
cops kicking their forts down, their 'homes' and giving them nothing in return. Soup kitchens banned from serving and shuttering up. American dream has been made.
He plodded down the stairs behind them, the tequila was buzzing in his head. It hit him faster than it normally would. Did he check the percentage? Maybe it was the cigarettes, these weren't his brand. Someone was calling about the smell. He couldn't smell a thing. Maybe it was because he smelled as bad as his surroundings, or maybe he was so used to being filth that he couldn't recognize filth anymore.
"I don't want to die, I don't want to die, I don't what to die, IdontwanttodieIdontwanttodieIdontwanttodieIdontwanttodieIdontwanttodieIdontwanttodie."
Mutterings of the man that would be dead tomorrow are beside him. Enrique attempts to heat the man's hands but they're already too far gone. Casualties would happen in this blizzard. The government would quietly smile as the pennies the homeless cost them would go back in the coffers. So it goes, Enrique would think, but only because it distracted him from how close he too came to the end.
"So save us," Enrique muttered, "So stop death then ye gods of life and salvation."
Josef rounded on the party assembling at the door to their isolated world. Patiently, they tapped their way over to them, every step clacking against the cold stone floor, like the well-heeled shoes of a businessman, or the jack boots of a prison camp operator. With a mechanically stern eye, they closely inspected those who had descended, looking them up and down, blue light scanning over the assembled bodies. After an awkward while, they scuttled over, seemingly satisfied, to the work desk, where they snatched up several sets of tools and IV bags. They returned to the group, the silvery liquid of the IV bags reflecting grotesquely in the light.
I WILL ASSUME YOU HAVE COME FOR THE COCKTAIL. THIS WILL HURT. MAKE PEACE WITH YOUR GODS. DO YOU HAVE ANY QUESTIONS.
Strongly trying not to puke again, Dana responded, after taking a place in the middle of the room, her sunglasses reflecting the blue light: "So, how will it hurt? And what do we do during the time we are sick? This place does not really seem to have many caretakers..."
Josef regarded the blind woman. Their gaze did not soften; their eyes contracted radially.
THE MIXTURE WILL BE PIPED INTO YOUR BLOODSTREAM SLOWLY. IT WILL DISPLACE ENOUGH BLOOD TO BE NOTICEABLE BUT NOT FATAL. YOU WILL FEEL FATIGUED, SHORT OF BREATH, WEAK AND HYPERSENSITIVE. YOU WILL SPEND THE TIME IT TAKES FOR AN INITIAL DOSAGE IN THIS BASEMENT, THEN I WILL CARRY YOU UPSTAIRS TO YOUR BEDS. THE HUMAN BAKING SODA VOLCANO AND HIS MOTHER WILL CARE FOR YOU IN THAT TIME.
"As long as we get our own beds..." Justin mumbled, his examination of the Voyager becoming apparent. If only briefly, his curiosity was overriding his distaste of the smell. "What's the deal with that guy, anywho?" He addressed Josef. He could only assume the 'human volcano' in question was the gangly bartender just upstairs. "He looked a little 'touched' to me, if you know what I mean." Justin continued his intrigue, poking at the big bug's black coating. Josef offhandedly batted away the poking hand with a free arm.
IRRESPONSIBLE EXPERIMENTATION GONE WRONG; THE MESSY RESULT OF CHILDREN PLAYING WITH CONCEPTS THEY ONLY BARELY UNDERSTAND. HE IS TOUCHED BY THE HAND OF POOR SCIENTIFIC METHOD AND RUTHLESS, IDIOTIC CURIOSITY. NOT CASSANDRA'S FINEST HOUR.
Josef untangled the bundle of IVs, silvery liquids and so on from their tangle of arms, and held out a hand either side of them, extended towards the beds.
IF YOU HAVE NO MORE QUESTIONS, PLEASE LIE DOWN AND WAIT FOR THE PROCEDURE TO BEGIN. IF YOU HAVE MORE QUESTIONS, ASK THEM QUICKLY. MY PATIENCE FOR INDECISION WEARS THIN.
"Say no more, fam." Justin gave the Voyager one more look before laying down on one of the appointed cots. "Heh. You sound like me." He mumbled with a knowing smirk. "...Only with human beings, instead of electronics." The boy added simply, before bravely awaiting his fate.
"I'm not sure those two are the best in caring for us, but...what can you do." Dana shrugged, before stepping to the side, feeling out the room and a bed. She sat down, carefully folded her cane and put it back into her pocket, coughed for a few seconds to try and get the foul taste out of her mouth. Then she lay back. "Here we go..." she murmured.
Mia just stood there, looking confused. Not at the situation she found herself in. As the other members of their party started to move towards the beds in preparation for a long, wretched sleep, that wasn't the part she was struggling with. Instead she looked at the bespectacled kid who just set himself down on a cot.
"Really? 'Fam'? Who do you think you are, 50 Cent? Gonna start being washed up on TV hocking magnets that remove bullets or something?" She shook her head at the scrawny little white boy.
After registering her displeasure at the kid's vernacular, and seeing that her presumed ally had made her choice heading for the same fate, she turned to the alien presence that was keen on getting things underway.
"All right, District 9. Couple ground rules. First, if you fuck this up and I go under permanently, know that ghosts are totally real things on this planet, and I will haunt your ass from here to the stars and back. You won't be able to itch any of your six armpits without me being a spectral pain, got me?" The gin was making her more bold, even if some of her threats were misguided. Still, it couldn't hurt to take another sip.
"Second, if anyone's moving my body anywhere, it's you. I don't trust the walking sulphur pit to touch me without wrecking my clothes or going farther out of curiosity, so I'd rather you do it since you sealed your...whatever you call that all off, since it won't actually make contact, and I'm guessing no human is attractive to you anyway. Give me those assurances, and I'll play army brat for you and get on the cot. Deal?"
Josef regarded Mia stoically for a time, long enough for the pause to reach a dew point of distaste.
ACCEPTABLE PARAMETERS. LIE DOWN AND AWAIT TREATMENT.
Feeling a little more pleased with herself, Mia took one final bracing swig of the gin and moved towards one of the open cots. "Oh, and just for your records, some of us don't make peace with gods. Some of us fight them. Pretty frequently."
THEN I AM SURE YOU WILL BE GLAD TO FIGHT SOMETHING REAL.
Mia rolled her eyes and took a spot down on her claimed resting spot. "Sweet blasphemy, guide me home..." she muttered under her breath as she closed her eyes, content to let the gin act as her anesthesia.
Emil took a deep breath. "Well, since I'm here, I have to ask: how long will this take, exactly? It's not that I have anywhere else I have to be, but I don't like being bedridden for long periods of time." He tried to seem casual about it, but the edge in his voice betrayed his anxiety.
A WEEK. YOU WILL BE BEDRIDDEN FOR A WEEK. ONCE THE COCKTAIL HAS PASSED THROUGH, YOU WILL RECOVER TOTALLY WITHIN THREE DAYS. IS THAT SATISFACTORY?
After a moment, Emil let out another breath. "Yeah. Yeah, I think I can do that. I don't know if I have any of these nanite things to begin with...but I want to be absolutely sure.
Enrique had no questions, only a simple request, "Just make sure this works alright, I don't want to have drank good booze and smoked mediocre cigarettes just to have this all blow up in my face alright? Our two hosts seem to trust you, but I can't trust a person that early you know?"
I DO NOT REQUIRE YOUR TRUST, ONLY YOUR SUBMISSION. I WILL ASSURE YOU, MY UNDERSTANDING OF HUMAN PHYSIOLOGY IS GREATER THAN EVEN THE GREATEST SCIENTISTS YOUR KIND HAS PRODUCED. NO EXPLOSIONS WILL TAKE PLACE.
Ryan had already laid himself down on a cot at the end of the row, next to Justin. At the mention of an explosion he glanced at the alien with a worried look, then went back to staring at the ceiling. The old man's hands were clasped tightly on his chest, white knuckles interlocked, rising and falling with his quick breaths. His left arm flexed sporadically. The tanned skin of his hands and face was beginning to glisten with sweat.
As they laid down, ready to be treated, Josef weaved among them, hooking silvery IV bags to stands, and with a care that seemed incongruous with their attitude, threaded IV needles into the arms of the awaiting participants, pinning them down in the same fluid motion. With a flick of a switch that activated the auto-jumper, the liquid began to pump from bag to tube to vein, and one by one, their bodies were set alight with pain and electromagnetic screaming as millions of machines died inside them. Josef stepped away and admired their work, before heading upstairs, leaving the assembled to pass out or become accustomed to the pain.
I WILL ASSURE YOU, MY UNDERSTANDING OF HUMAN PHYSIOLOGY IS GREATER THAN EVEN THE GREATEST SCIENTISTS YOUR KIND HAS PRODUCED.
That particular snippet of the bug's confident vocoding singled itself as it echoed through Justin's head, making him curious of its potential. It briefly brought forth the idea for a future project, something that involved some personal body-modding. He didn't know when he'd actually get to that point but was pretty sure the Voyager would be willing to provide him with the steps needed to make such a project successful.
Then, the train of hopeful thought was cut short. Justin didn't realize the Voyager began administering treatment until the sounds of excruciating pain filled the room. He conjured up enough of a thought to want to protest but was too slow to act on it. The silvery treatment entered his veins and wracked him with a sudden pain that left him paralyzed as his skin flushed pale.
He was rendered deaf by a shrill tone that invaded his head and overtook his hearing, a haunting timbre that drowned out the sounds of his own screams alongside everyone else's. It resonated with the pulses throbbing under his skin, an excruciating burning sensation that battled with the searing chill that moved up and down his spine.
He couldn't move. Couldn't hear, couldn't think, and his vision began to blur as tears streamed down his face. He was having trouble regulating his breathing as his eyes bulged and his heart raced. The concept of time slipped from his conscience, he couldn't tell if he had been enduring that pain for minutes or months. Fear was the one primal sensation he could muster in the moment, for he was certain he wasn't going to survive this treatment.
"Dad...dad..." He whimpered weakly, head feverishly swishing from side to side. There was a brief moment of respite for the boy, enough for him to wonder if he finally died from the pain.
The respite was very brief. The sensations seemed to double, and his mouth snapped shut. He caught his tongue in the reaction, and blood began to pool at the back of his throat. He struggled to turn his head and choked out the mixture of fluids swirling in his mouth. Literal blood, sweat, and tears lined the boy's uncomfortable cot, as the pain eventually became too much for his mind to process. He succumbed to unconsciousness, the only mode of relief his body could provide in that inhuman process.
Justin couldn't tell if he had truly regained consciousness as he moaned and groaned. It at least felt like he was placed on softer material, but couldn't confirm visually as his eyes simply took too long to open.
"H-hello-?" At the very least, he could hear himself speak again. "Anyone...?" He croaked before the loud bubbling in his stomach overtook his other bodily functions. He rolled to his side the best he could, and puked off the side of the mattress, blindly clearing the contents of his stomach. When he let up, he took a chance to catch his breath. "Fuck...me-BLURK-" The vomit train re-commenced with gusto. At least he wasn't getting it all over himself.