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Night 54: Patient Possessions Storage
nightshift - talking - blue light
quarter_english wrote in damned
[From here.]

The storage area for patient possessions turned out to be one of the larger spaces L had infiltrated at the Institute, about the same size as the file room across the hall. Low brown shelves, filled with labeled white boxes, spanned all four walls.

As he had when entering the other rooms, he angled the beam of his light into every corner and across the lines where the walls met the ceiling and the shelves met the floor. Caution was automatic for him; he wouldn't go far into the room until he was satisfied that it was clear. He had to admit to himself that there was always a chance that something might be hiding behind the neat rows of boxes, but if that were the case, the attacker would be small--easily dispatched.

He stepped inside, then, and began to examine the labels, looking for Laurier, Daniel. The boxes appeared to be arranged in alphabetical order. The Ls might be halfway around, which would be opposite the door. However, he couldn't assume an even distribution of the Latin alphabet; he would start on the left corner of the far wall and work from there.
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Edgar blinked, still puzzled. First the odd look- it disappeared the moment it was addressed- and now Ryuuzaki was brushing against him? Edgar's contact had been entirely accidental, as two adults traversing a tiny storeroom littered with boxes were bound to enter into each other's comfort zone eventually; however, after all that business on the stairs of Ryuuzaki keeping his back to the wall? He'd made it clear he didn't entirely trust Edgar. Frankly, Edgar couldn't blame him: they were trapped in an asylum headed by a madman, and the situation was only going downhill with the military involvement.

So why, in a sizable hallway with plenty of space, would Ryuuzaki make a point to not only sweep past him, but keep his back turned once in the lead? Edgar smirked. Maybe his companion was finally warming to the company.

Edgar followed Ryuuzaki into the next room, a little surprised at his physical skill. He waited for anything to emerge from the darkness before commenting: "Nice kick. I'm impressed."

Shelves lined every wall in the room, each covered with neatly arranged boxes that contrasted with the clutter from the previous storerooms. He watched Ryuuzaki a moment before heading for one of the shelves on another wall, examining the boxes there for himself. Each bore a name- patients? He peered into the container curiously- nothing particularly interesting- before returning it to its place. "What is this place?"

"I'm stronger than I look," he replied.

The Fs. L's gaze moved to the right--no Laurier yet, but he continued to scan. The shelves held several hundred identical cartons. Finding the correct one might take a few minutes. What if Laurier doesn't have one? It was always a possibility. In that case, he might start rooting through boxes belonging to others, looking for anything that could be useful.

"It's where they store our possessions, from before we came here. I've heard that it won't be what we might expect to find, it's--for you, it will be Edward March's belongings. Mine will be Daniel Laurier's. Still, if what I know about Laurier is any indication, they might be useful."

He paused before continuing, turning his face to Edgar. "Earlier, you were distracted. There was a moment on the stairs, then another after we reached the top. Nothing since then. Will you tell me why?" His tone was serious; demanding without being harsh. Edgar had looked down the hall, rather than at L, and they hadn't touched. The easiest conclusion was that he hadn't received the same kind of information about L that L had received about him--a relief--but that left the question open: what had he seen or heard?

L added, softer, "I think Marc was right about the food. I'm beginning to understand the suggestion that Aguilar tampered with it."

Edited at 2011-03-12 08:15 am (UTC)

So this was the infamous patient possessions room. Edgar had heard about it several times, but despite having made it to that hallway and the storerooms there on more than one occasion, he'd not checked that particular room. There was something to be said for his exploration skills, but his mind had been on making new tools on those nights. He had a private smirk, knowing what some would say about his priorities.

His moment of amusement was interrupted as Ryuuzaki continued. "Then you've felt something, as well?" Edgar asked. It was a revealing question, but if Ryuuzaki was willing to be less guarded, Edgar decided he could return the favor.

Now then, how to word this without ruining all of his credibility... He was going to sound insane no matter how he said it. "I had this odd feeling as we passed the Sun Room, but I didn't really know what it was until we reached the second floor. It hit me suddenly, this... knowledge of where the 'special counseling' patients are standing guard tonight. There's one at the western end of the main hall up here. It's not a gut instinct or an inkling. It's absolute certainty."

Edgar rubbed the back of his neck, his attention drawn from the boxes. "I'm not often one to second-guess myself, but I don't know of any method- magical or otherwise- powerful enough to grant that kind of knowledge; however, there are a lot of aspects of this place that are unfamiliar to me. The food-tampering is as fine of an explanation as one I could give. That, or I'm falling into madness. I'm not willing to consider that for even a moment."

In some situations, L would have questioned Edgar's adamant refusal to doubt his sanity. However, the assertion had a good amount of support.

For one thing, it was unlikely that he was delusional about the location of the Special Counseling patients. It wasn't knowledge that he'd claimed to have in the past, or part of a larger pattern of grandiose claims; if anything, his pattern seemed to be one of downplaying the status he had enjoyed before his abduction. If the information was false, it still hadn't interfered with their plans for the night--Edgar hadn't refused to go in any particular direction, or insisted on checking out his hunch. There was no good reason to lie about it, especially when the truth could be discovered without trouble if they took the risk. All in all, there was little to refute it that was credible.

Finally, Edgar didn't strike L as perverse, unstable, or unreliable. He might show himself to be those things in the future, but if he did, L would be taken aback. He was clearly troubled by his own confession, unsure that L would believe him.

"Yes, I've felt something. Not the same as yours. For one thing, what's happening to me seems to require physical contact. I didn't have any suspicion of it until you bumped into me."

L hesitated, briefly, about what more to say. Edgar had seemed even-tempered, up to this point, but there was no way to be sure about what might set him off, and they were alone in a room at night. Because of the impracticality of passing privileged information during the day, and the military presence, L hadn't told Lunge or Howell who his plans were with; while he doubted that Edgar was a danger to him, it would still be prudent to approach topics that might be emotional or personal with care. Tedious, when he'd rather cut to the chase, but the better course overall. He had been punched in the face enough in the previous few months, and pressing Edgar's buttons was unnecessary; it wouldn't achieve anything.

"It seems unusual for a king to be so interested in the mechanical. Is that common, where you come from, or is it particular to you?" His voice was soft, pitched low, but it still sounded louder than he expected in the still darkness. There were cold packs in the storage room next door, he knew, if Edgar was indeed tempted to try to break his nose--cold packs and gauze.

Just as the sound fell away, the beam of his light picked up LAURIER, DANIEL on one of the white cardboard boxes. He didn't yet move in that direction.

Edited at 2011-03-17 08:03 am (UTC)

Physical contact? It was an odd catalyst for an effect from tainted food, and one Edgar would have never suspected; however, it did explain some of the strange behavior from Ryuuzaki moments earlier, particularly the close contact in the wide hallway. If he'd not been granted the same knowledge, what was it he felt, then?

Ryuuzaki paused in his revelation at just the right time- Edgar spied his box on a high shelf. He almost missed it, the MARCH, EDWARD catching his eye on a second glance. Excitement ran through him, tinged with trepidation: perhaps the box would hold some of the answers he'd been looking for. While he knew it was unlikely there would be anything about Landel's whereabouts or the inner workings of the institute contained in it, there was a chance the possessions from his "real life" would hold a clue as to why he'd been brought to Landel's in the first place, or even why he remained while others were supposedly released. He was willing to take anything. Beggars couldn't be choosers, after all.

Ryuuzaki continued as Edgar pulled the box into his arms, the contents rattling inside. It didn't sound like a new chainsaw- how unfortunate. "Figaro has a long history with the mechanical," he answered reflexively, "so it's fitting that-- "

He stopped in alarm, not catching himself until the words had escaped him. He'd only mentioned his status as royalty to a select few- at first, it had been from trying to keep a low profile, should Kefka have been involved with Landel, but it instead became the norm as his title meant nothing without power behind it. He was fine without people expecting him to act a certain way for a change.

Was this what Ryuuzaki's insight had been? Not into the locations of the brainwashed, but into the identity of someone he touched? It was a bizarre discrepancy between the two effects, but the institute had a way of bringing out the unbelievable. Edgar couldn't tell if his information was true or not; however, Ryuuzaki had hit the nail on the head- that was fact. It was too close to be a simple deduction from observation and the little information they'd shared about themselves.

Well, he'd been found out now in spite of his usual skills in holding a bluff. It seemed he still had some room for improvement. After a moment of holding his box with his back to Ryuuzaki, Edgar turned with a wry grin. "... fitting that a king be a master of his kingdom. And I thought what I gleaned from the hallway sounded incredible."

L remained still, for a moment, fixing Edgar with a long, wary, calculating look. He had steeled his own posture, as much as it was possible to do so, in anticipation of the possible attack--his spine stiffened so that he stood almost at his full height, which was still less than Edgar's. When he was sure that he wasn't in any danger of immediate assault after all, he exhaled with an almost inaudible hum, and relaxed.

"I have to admit that I'm relieved. If it had been something you'd wanted to hide...." He shrugged. Edgar had taken his revelation, and its implications, in stride, with good humor--better than L would have taken it, if so much about him that he had taken pains to keep secret had been given away with a touch. They could move on to focusing on the causes of what they were experiencing.

"It seems that what I learned on contact was correct, which could mean that they used at least two different food additives, which might or might not have been distributed randomly. Or it could mean that there was a single method, a single substance, and the outcome is determined by other factors. If that were the case, I would assume that the nature of the effect would be determined by individual body chemistry, but... how? Also, are these the only two, or are there as many effects as people who are affected? Or something in between?" He shook his head. Laboratories might exist at Landel's, but he doubted that any that the patients had access to would have enough equipment and references to analyze exactly what had happened. Any chemicals that had been used were unlikely to be simple or easily identified. If he ever received an explanation, it would be from other sources: Aguilar or Landel, or documentation that might eventually be recovered.

He moved in the direction of the box with Laurier's name on it; it was as close to belonging to him as anything in this room was ever likely to be, yet it was impossible to think of himself as "Daniel Laurier," to make the two interchangeable. His experience last week, when his own consciousness had been overtaken by the Laurier identity, made it more than a mere alias he could adopt and discard, and underlined the necessity of maintaining as many mental barriers as he could. Apart from that, scanning the Ls confirmed that there was no box associated with his real name.

Edited at 2011-04-18 08:52 pm (UTC)

"Not hiding it so much as not mentioning it," Edgar said with a shrug of his own. "The title means nothing here, though people do expect certain things from one claiming to be a king... like proper behavior or insanity, I'm sure." He smiled to himself, recalling days where he'd been told he had an abundance of the latter and a distinct lack of the former. While it felt invasive to have someone gain that kind of knowledge with only a touch, Edgar had to admit he was curious: just how much did Ryuuzaki know?

He sighed lightly. Even with the mild discomfort that Ryuuzaki knew more about him than the other way around, the king found he couldn't complain too much. Whatever Ryuuzaki had learned had granted a degree of trust, as shown in his change in behavior. It was a start.

What would be hard to trust from there on was the food. "I know I'll be keeping an eye on the board tomorrow," Edgar remarked. "If there are others affected, someone will make note of it there. I'm interested in finding out if others are having the same effects we are, or if they're experiencing something different- something that might give them an advantage."

As he spoke, Edgar knelt with Edward March's box, removing the lid and discarding it to the side. In the container was a small collection, one that, had he not known any better, Edgar would have claimed some of the pieces as his. The first items he removed were a hairbrush and rag, both covered in oil and grease. Next came a paper folder with matches, the name "Sirens" emblazoned on the cover next to a silhouette of a dancing woman. He couldn't help but laugh- March had good taste.

Last out of the box was a leather wallet. As Edgar opened it, a coin fell from its folds, its sound somehow unnatural as it hit the ground. He found out why as he retrieved it: it wasn't made of metal, but some lighter material, its hue turning from violet to green as he moved it in the beam of his light. It was an unusual coin in more than one way- it was two-faced, both sides bearing a grinning jester adorned in a crown. Edgar clasped the coin tighter, his irritation visible. To combine a cherished memento with something he so despised... yes, Landel did know the right buttons to push.

Pocketing the coin, Edgar continued his search through the wallet. The only other clue about his "real life" was held in one of the inner pockets: a picture of himself and the man who was presumably March's twin brother. Same contours, same goofy smile, both wearing matching outfits- he did resemble Sabin, more than Edgar wanted to admit. He was silent, eyeing the picture for another moment before returning it to the wallet. He tucked all the items into his pockets before returning the box to the shelf.

Edgar was right, of course: claiming to be a king was only useful if there were more than a few people around who knew you as one. Otherwise, it might be a liability. L would suspect delusions of grandeur as an explanation before he would believe that he was conversing with royalty; one was more common than the other. It wasn't the same as his reason for keeping his own profession close to his chest, but he could understand it.

He watched as Edgar sorted through the items in his own box: matches, a hairbrush, what appeared to be a dirty rag, a wallet, and a toy coin that fell to the ground without the metallic clatter that it would have made it if had been real. Something about the coin annoyed Edgar, but L couldn't say what.

His natural impulse was to wait to turn his attention away until he had observed what Edgar would choose to take and leave, but without being able to say how much time they had left, he couldn't risk the chance that he would run out. He opened his own box, raised the flashlight, and peered inside, both wary and curious.

The space was full of thick, stiff black fabric with a slight sheen. He poked the fabric with one finger, then lifted it out... a backpack, folded over on itself. Average size; large enough to hold a computer, or to go away for a weekend, or to carry during a flight. Not large enough for extensive travel unless the traveler had few needs or, more likely, other bags. It appeared to be good quality, probably expensive, and its condition was almost new, without much wear around the edges and seams. It was light enough to be empty, but something small shifted and clicked inside as he lifted it.

He patted the bag's exterior, not sure which pocket to check first, then settled on the front, because small items were more likely to be packed there. Unzipping it and poking the head of the flashlight inside revealed two--no, three--pale grey plastic cylinders with black caps: felt-tipped permanent markers that were almost identical to the ones he sometimes carried.

The pocket also held a small booklet with a dark red leatherette cover, so familiar that he was certain of what it was. He made a soft noise--"Hmph"--then pulled the booklet out and flipped it over so that he could see the front. THE UNITED KINGDOM OF GREAT BRITAIN AND NORTHERN IRELAND was printed across the top in gold foil. Below it was the national coat of arms, depicting a lion and a unicorn, and the word PASSPORT.

He opened the passport, and after the expected introductory page requesting safe passage for the bearer, he found the information page. The photograph there was certainly of him, or someone who looked like him--not comforting that such a photograph existed--but the passport itself had been issued in the name of LAURIER, DANIEL QUENTIN ST. JAMES. Laurier's signature was in a reasonable simulation of L's own handwriting. Stamps showed international travel that was frequent, but not constant--trips to France, Brazil, India. The most recent stamps were Japanese. Dates were missing in some cases, illegible in others.

It was strange, how much of it was true, and how much of it was still a lie. For example, the citizenship and place of birth were correct in the technical sense, but they couldn't be used to attempt to research his background without a date and his real name, at which point anyone who tried would run into certain walls that he had taken care to construct. Even so, just enough of the data was accurate that he might have been alarmed to find the passport the night that he and Jones had visited the file rooms. In the interim, there had been his visit "home," and the events of Monday night, both evidence that Landel was capable of reproducing uncomfortably intimate details. That made it less of a surprise. Now it seemed like nothing more than another prop, useful only for sending Daniel Laurier out into the world one day.

The bag would be a welcome addition to his supplies. After a moment of hesitation, he dropped the passport back into the pocket with the pens, which he zipped shut. Then, he opened the main compartment of the backpack. It turned out to be empty. Smaller pockets were built into its side walls. He used his chin to hold his flashlight against his chest as he loaded the pillowcase he had been carrying into the larger compartment, then zipped it shut.

The box's contents hadn't been as revealing or interesting as he had hoped, but his curiosity about it was satisfied--something that couldn't be said for the other boxes around him. He felt a temptation to stay in this room, to spend what time they had left looking into as many other boxes, as many other constructed identities, as possible. However, there was no guarantee that there would be anything useful in any of them. He expected that the contents would just be the equivalent of falsified passports and plastic trinkets: nothing that told him anything about the real backgrounds of the people they were trapped with, except in the most strictly metaphorical sense. The consolation was that no one would be able to use this room to learn anything concrete about his own real life, either.

He wanted to accomplish at least one more goal that night if he could, and to do so, they'd have to go back out in the corridor. "Ready?"

Edited at 2011-05-06 08:27 am (UTC)

Edgar watched as Ryuuzaki pulled items from the box supposedly belonging to Daniel Laurier. He'd found a knapsack inside, along with a handful of other pieces. While Edgar couldn't tell if the collection held the same twisted significance his own had, but at least it was practical.

"Ready." With a nod, he headed for the door.

[To here.]

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