A Multifandom Asylum RPG

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Day 58: Meeting Room 1
embarrassed, grrr, ...shut up
scalyfishman wrote in damned
Depth Charge knew he was supposed to struggle. It was the only appropriate response.

After what had happened- after what he’d watched- how the slag was he supposed to react went the first thing he saw on opening his eyes was a soldier standing in his doorway, waiting patiently for him to wake up? Smile and ask him how his night had been? With the fight winded from him by Jones’ death he hadn’t been planning on turning this into some sort of miniature revolution, he couldn’t change anything now, but something about seeing those uniforms, so perfectly neat and controlled-- it flipped a switch inside of him for just long enough that none of that seemed to matter. Just.

He’d only been out of bed for a split second before he threw his punch (good and strong and balanced, Akihiko would have been proud) but someone must have phoned his frustration in from a mile away because the soldier sidestepped it smoothly and without fracturing that seamlessly even countenance. Depth Charge resisted the urge to spit and spread his legs in a show of defiance, ready to answer whatever punishment he was gonna get for that one with another pointless swing- make my day, Aguilar, c’mon. Like I haven’t got enough reason to hate you this morning- but the soldier didn’t move. The indifference was galling. If he'd been punished he could have gone on hating, but maybe the guy’d figured he was all attitude already; it had taken the Maximal twice as long to accept he didn't have it in him to keep it up.

The wave subsided- looked like he'd exhausted his store of resistance already when he should have been saving it up, stupid idea, but who cared. In sullen, serious silence Depth Charge let himself be marched out, up the stairs, and into a staff room- though that felt like the greatest insult, being considered ‘staff’ enough to be allowed in. Was this about last night? Primus, were they stupid enough that they hadn’t already figured out that they’d shut him up for now? He was alive, yeah, but that seemed like a pretty hollow victory when they could just keep taking and taking without so much as denting. How was he supposed to keep up with that kind of score, anyway, with his record?

Truth was, he'd left his fight in the coliseum's stands. The most he could manage was a cursory gesture, refusing to sit down at the central table. There was a queasy familiarity to the set-up; he could easily superimpose the the Maximal High Council onto the officers waiting patiently across from him, calm and officious.

He said nothing, watching resentfully from under the heavy hoods of his eyelids.

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The door shut with a snap, drawing the Scarecrow from his sleep. It was still so strange to him, to close his eyes for a moment and find that he'd lost time completely. He supposed initially that it might be the fact that the sleep all the patients were drawn into at night was due to a spell, and would therefore feel unnatural because it was; however, even when it occurred during the day from time to time, it still was a bizarre sensation. Some aspects of his humanity would never settle quite right.

He was disappointed to find Depth Charge was already gone. Having worried about him the night before, especially after what he said just before his departure- about the basement and the grim ultimatum of how he might not come back at all- the Scarecrow had desperately wanted to catch his roommate before they were ushered off to breakfast. He could only hope that had been Depth Charge leaving, and not a new roommate entirely. Well, there would be an opportunity to ask later... or at least he liked to think so.

Though he had missed the morning announcements, the Scarecrow took a safe guess from the return of the military uniforms that things were back to normal- or as normal as they got, anyway. He slipped his feet into the tight boots, leaning forward and tying the laces into several knots to hold them to his feet. He never had figured out how the strings were supposed to entwine through the various holes in the shoes, but as long as they stayed on him, he supposed there wasn't much else to be done.

While tying his laces, he could feel the bandages on his burned arm pulling against his skin: while not as painful a sensation as it had been the previous two days, it was still one that caused him to pull back and try again, this time bringing his leg onto the bed. Once finished, he decided a peek at his arms was in order.

Rolling up one sleeve revealed the expected wrappings, keeping his wounds hidden from view. He had to unbutton his shirt and look down the other arm to find the long cut on his left limb- the bandages from the day before were missing, but still visible were some stitches that pulled the skin together much like a piece of cloth. It was simultaneously familiar and startling, a grim reminder of just how marvelous human bodies were: so fragile, yet they came with the capacity to mend themselves with a little help. The stitches they'd sewn into his head after his sleep study had eventually gone away- perhaps those on his arm would, too. They were more permanent fixtures on a body made of old rags and clothes.

A knock on the door interrupted his thoughts, and the soldier who usually played his escort came in. Grabbing his journal from his desk, the Scarecrow followed him without a word, expecting to go through the Sun Room and on to the Cafeteria, but instead found himself led upstairs. It was most unusual- had he missed something on the announcements that would have informed him of where he was going? He'd hoped to catch Depth Charge, or maybe Sangamon; there was also his pressing desire to stop by the bulletin board to make sure his other friends had made it through the night, but it seemed it would have to wait. Though he asked if he could make a quick stop by the Sun Room, the soldier insisted they keep moving. There must have been something important waiting for them, the Scarecrow reasoned.

And indeed, there was something out of the ordinary: down the Horrible Hallway and into one of the rooms they went, and the Scarecrow found himself presented with just the man he'd been looking for. "Depth Charge!" he exclaimed. "Boy, am I glad to—"

He was shushed by an officer at the table before them, who slid a folder their way. Yes, this was certainly shaping up to be a most peculiar day.

Part of Depth Charge wanted to be cynical when the door opened again: breaking down the deception into understandable chunks was a prerequisite for survival here, and he could see the way the pieces aligned here. The only way to buck up the 'bot they'd knocked the spark out was to present him with the scraps he had left to fight for, and they knew it. Where he’d previously have been prepared to keep up the dumb insolence for the whole shift, suddenly he was shocked out of his slouch and paying attention.

They'd even had the sense to bring them separately, the slaggers.

"Scarecrow!" He made to move towards the man, but there obviously wasn't any time to be wasted on trivial things like checking his roommate wasn't missing any limbs, because one of the officers immediately gave a pointed cough. Enough to draw their attention to the files on the table.

"You'd best read quickly, gentlemen. We'd like you to make a decision as quickly as possible."

A decision? Like they'd ever been given a real choice in anything here. Evens so, the Maximal cut his would-be conversation short and eyed the folder in front of him warily, like a ticking bomb- but far more tempting. He didn't have the energy to fight his curiosity; this felt more like a military briefing than an interrogation, and he wanted to get to the bottom of it. He opened it.

The words 'mole' and 'target' and 'mission' leapt off of the pages in bold black-on-white. By the Matrix. This was a military briefing.

Depth Charge stared across at the officer, mouth slightly open as he tried to formulate a response. "Are you serious?!" was what he came up with. The officer inclined his head. "Scarecrow, they're asking us to take out their trash. This is a mission. It's fragging espionage."

Decision? And just what were they being asked, exactly?

Depth Charge got to the files on the table first, opening the folder and giving the contents a read. Though the Scarecrow looked over his roommate's shoulder with the intention of scanning the page himself, his attention was instead drawn to the expression Depth Charge was giving the man across the table. When combined with what he said next, the former strawman knew whatever they were being asked to do couldn't be good.

"A mission?" he repeated, taking the folder and having a look himself. Skimming the words, he got the basics of what the military wanted them to do: find this 'Rosemarie,' get a name from her, and get out of there without raising suspicion. A lump formed in the Scarecrow's throat; he quickly swallowed it, telling himself it didn't seem all that difficult. At least it didn't involve sneaking into the castle of the Wicked Witch.

There was one thing on his mind, which came about because he was positive Depth Charge wanted nothing to do with the mission: "What happens if we say no?"

"Should you decline or fail your mission, there will be consequences for both yourselves and your fellow patients." The man's tone was devoid of sympathy, as expected. Well, that made the Scarecrow's decision a lot simpler. If there was anything to be done to keep his friends from suffering, he'd do it as quick as a wink, no matter how dangerous. The one he was concerned about was Depth Charge- he wasn't likely to go along so willingly.

He opened his mouth again. "But why us? Don't you think that someone else would be—"

"Gentlemen, a decision. You're wasting time." The officer placed his elbows on the table, leaning on them as he gave the pair a sharp look.

With the folder still in his hands, the Scarecrow turned to Depth Charge. "Well," he started, his tone just above a whisper, "what do you think we should do?"

Scarecrow was right on the mark. The entire thing sounded, if the pun could be forgiven, downright fishy. Why were they being trusted with some big mission when it was obvious that Aguilar had more than enough goons to send out instead? Depth Charge could almost see the logic in choosing him for something like this- he at least had the training- but the Scarecrow? What, did secondary knowledge of witchcraft suddenly count as military expertise?

If it was a trap, it was a pretty obvious one. Depth Charge waited tensely for a response of some sort- and then frowned.

He was right to have expected a half-answer. What they got instead of facts were the usual veiled threats: consequences was the week’s buzzword, apparently. But where he’d usually have shaken them off with a sneer and a shrug he instead found himself listening carefully, working through possibilities. Consequences lurked just under the surface of the moment, like a needle under human skin. He’d seen what they could do last night. He’d watch Indiana Jones bleed out. By contrast the Scarecrow was easy pickings.

Depth Charge wet his lips, then immediately resented giving such an obvious signal of his unease. "I- I don't know." He gave an aggravated sigh, squeezing his eyes shut and pinching the bridge of his nose as if an answer would materialise when he opened them. As far as he could tell it wasn't a dangerous mission. All they had to do was find this Rosemarie dame and get her to talk- but then why give them the gun?

Slag it. "Not like they're giving us a choice, is it?" he said eventually. "I'm in." His tone was defeated, but a steely undertow had returned to his stare. Aguilar might have handed them the mission, but he had an objective of his own: protect the Scarecrow.

The officer seemed to catch the end of the sentence, lowered though the Maximal's voice had been, and lifted his chin expectantly. "Have you decided?"

The gears in Depth Charge's mind turned visibly; the Scarecrow watched him, trying to decipher just what was going on in his head. He wasn't pleased, that much was certain— of course, the Scarecrow didn't need a brain to anticipate that reaction— but he finally resolved to do it.

He read the contents of the folder one more time, focusing on the important parts. Rosemarie. 'I heard your client has been difficult lately.' The mystery client whose name they didn't know. But why did Aguilar want to know their name? Somewhere in the back of his mind, he was reminded of the Wizard, sending a young girl and her desperate friends to do his dirty work, to accomplish what he couldn't do. Perhaps the soldiers weren't inconspicuous enough to get the job done? None of it sat at all well with him, but Depth Charge was right: they weren't given much of a choice, in the end.

"We'll do it." The Scarecrow's tone was more determined than even he would have believed. Though their mettle would be tested and some of the details had been less than clear, he knew one thing for certain: he could not let Depth Charge face it alone. He'd done enough of that at night, and while the Scarecrow sometimes considered it might be for the best that he stay behind, he knew that if the worst should ever happen to his roommate that he'd be left wondering what he could have done. He couldn't let Depth Charge become another Kaiji or Abe.

With that, the officer motioned for them to head back into the hallway. The soldiers opened the doors as they passed through.

[To here.]

[from here]

It was impossible to say how much time had actually passed between their departure and return, though it couldn't have been more than half a cycle back at the cafe; same old conference table, same old chairs, same old walls. What was different were its latest occupants. This time Depth Charge could feel his skin prickling with anxiety like electricity, his jaws ground tightly together. Hard to be apathetic when they were about to try and spin these guys a lie.

He just hoped his tension passed for miserable defiance rather than nerves, though it irritated him that he was even nervous at all. What he wanted was to be able to deliver the false name with a sneer and sweep out of the room like he owned the place, but obviously that wasn't gonna fly. It was easy to resent, that strangehold the Institute gained over his emotions last night, as though he was being emotionally blackmailed. In a way, he probably was.

Depth Charge moved away from the door so that the Scarecrow could step in after him, and looked back to where the officers sat at the end of the table. "Happy now?" Enough control and it sounded almost mild, compared to the reality of how he was feeling.

The head officer provided no smart retort. They were not, after all, the type to prolong their duties for insignificant jabs. "Depends on your answer," he stated, almost simply. Far too calm for the circumstances. The General had been expecting this intel since they uncovered the existence of a mole among them. They were incredibly lucky in having the chance to circumvent this particular attempt of the rebels.

Time to see, then, if their gamble was worth the risks. "What was the name?" the officer asked.

Oh, to be faced with the meeting room again: though it wasn't much different from when they left, the change in the air was felt easily enough by even the Scarecrow, who didn't picture himself to be the most perceptive of individuals. As he followed Depth Charge into the room, he tried to give it a look over to see how long it had been. His stomach churned uncomfortably, though whether it was from hunger or nerves was impossible for the former strawman to tell. They did feel the same, after a while- he supposed there could only be so many sensations a human could experience before they began to run together.

The officer at the table managed to be intimidating in spite of his calm manner. The Scarecrow felt another lump in his throat, which he swallowed immediately. The determination he'd felt only moments before was slipping; he held onto it firmly, stiffening as he took a deep breath. An answer was needed. They could do this.

"Well," he began, keeping his tone as even as possible, "you see, I think we pushed her a little too hard in the conversation." He couldn't keep his eyes on the officer- they fell to his knees for a second, which he was sure were shaking. Not yet, but they'd get there.

The Scarecrow was nervous, of course. He tried not to let it bother him- it looked good with the story they were about to spin, like they were just waiting to have the book thrown at them. That's what Depth Charge told himself, anyway. He'd already decided that if they'd just signed themselves up for a punishment he was gonna try and take the Scarecrow's, if he could; there was no way he could let them snipe yet another person from under his lousy protection.

That aside, it was obvious that he was going to have to finish this one off. The longer they spun, the more suspicious they looked. "From what I can tell she only gave us a first name. Beats me why you humans need more than one anyway," he continued, shrugging his shoulders in an empty display of insolence. "All she gave us was 'Peter'."

There. They'd said it. No turning back now.

He resisted the urge to swallow; human bodies gave away so much more than chrome steel ever could. "We done here?"

The first man seemed ready to ramble. If the officer had pressed, perhaps he might have continued on for several more minutes, spilling nerves and sensitive information all over the table. Instead, his companion took over, a fact the officer noted with interest but ultimately dismissed.

"'Peter', hm?" he mused quietly, expression giving nothing away.

His associates kept to silence as the head officer figured out his final decree. It came a minute later: "If that is your intel, yes." He gestured toward the exit. "You are free to go, gentlemen."

"We are?" the Scarecrow asked incredulously, the question escaping him before he could clamp his mouth shut. He had to admit he'd expected their deception to be outed almost immediately- if not by his own jittery behavior, then certainly by Depth Charge's fiery retort; however, the soldier seemed to simply accept their answer without protest. He didn't even tell them whether or not that was the name of someone in the military's ranks. Perhaps he thought Depth Charge's response was proper given his temper, and the former strawman's quivering appropriate given his inexperience with humanity and the effects of possible torture on his new body. They weren't above such things, he reminded himself. He had seen that first-hand.

With a look to his roommate, the Scarecrow gave a visible shrug. "Well, that's that," he whispered, putting a hand on Depth Charge's shoulder. "Let's go before he changes his mind."

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