DAMNED || LANDEL'S INSTITUTE

A Multifandom Asylum RPG


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Day 58: Mission #1 [Scarecrow and Depth Charge]
[observant]
scarefaux wrote in damned
[From here.]

It was not the hallway they found on the other side of the door. The crossing of the threshold was accompanied by that spinning sensation in the Scarecrow's middle— similar to feeling he'd had the night the doors were enchanted— and it was no mystery of why: they had been spirited away to somewhere else entirely. Decorated tables, adorned with small flowers and surrounded by wooden chairs, were a far cry from the grey ones of the institute; the room was filled with the quiet chatter of other people, the occasional chink of metal and glass heard over their soft conversations. Windows bathed the room in light, giving it a far more welcoming atmosphere than any place he'd imagined for the mission.

The floor creaked as the Scarecrow took another step in. Only after his second step had been taken did he notice even more surprises: their outfits had been changed in the span of that moment to something resembling the Doyleton clothes, presumably by magic as well. It could certainly do some strange things. Gone was his tight military uniform, replaced with a brown jacket and black pants. There was a brief moment of inner dread before he realized his bandages and stitchings were covered by his long sleeves. While he was fine with just about anything he was given to wear, he had to admit that he wouldn't miss the military-issued boots and their complicated laces.

A couple of patrons noticed their entrance, but their attention returned to their meals quickly. Whatever smell that was wafting through the room was just delightful. The Scarecrow looked over his shoulder to the doorway, as though expecting to find the previous room still on the other side; the only sight that awaited him was Depth Charge and the closing door. There was no turning back now.

As he opened his mouth to ask Depth Charge for some direction (he was the one with the working brain, after all- it seemed reasonable to ask him what they ought to do), they were approached by the waitress. She pulled the pen from her hair, scribbling on the pad she carried as she scanned them up and down. "Table for two?"

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Depth Charge knew he should have been more prepared for what hit them beyond the doors, but the helter-skelter vertigo of walking out of the room and into their mission, like flying through a worm hole all over again, was enough to throw him completely for a nanoklik. Even if he hadn't been expecting a war zone after reading through that folder it was still disarming to be presented with, of all things, fresh flowers and the smell of baking.

He took a moment to reorient himself: the cafe was busy for its size, though what made it 'French' Depth Charge couldn't say. It was certainly a far cry from the dingy bars he'd frequented back on Cybertron, with its pretty white furniture and daintily patterned cups and saucers. He was gonna stick out like a sore digit in this place if he didn't wise up. As if in anticipation of how conspicuous they were going to look, the pair of them had also been outfitted in suitably Earthian clothes. He could only assume that the pressed black jacket and pants were supposed to look professional and tidy; he couldn't resist popping the first couple of buttons anyway.

Even if the place was quite literally alien to him, though, it looked as though the routine was the same wherever you went in the galaxy. They'd only been in the cafe for a minute or so before a waitress found them.

"You got it," he answered quickly, before either of them had the chance to think it over too much. And then they were truly in, escorted to a nearby table, pegged in by chairs and asked to wait for just a moment, please, before their order was taken. The second the woman was gone Depth Charge breathed out slowly, leaning back in his chair. "Primus. This is really it, isn't it, Scarecrow?"

"I suppose," the Scarecrow answered, still eyeing the rest of the room. He didn't yet see the woman— Rosemarie— that they were supposed to be looking for. He gave himself a nod of encouragement- they had a little time to plan ahead. Though simply asking for the client's name would have been easy enough, it was the part about doing it covertly that made the situation tricky. Adding pressure was the fact that there was so much at stake: they'd said they'd punish everyone should things go badly, which meant the job had to be done and there'd be no chance for anything like an escape, as tempting as it sounded. It wasn't as though life at Landel's was ideal as it was- he wasn't about to let someone else take his punishment if he could help it.

The Scarecrow's eyes returned to the table, knit brows giving away his usual thinking process. If his experience at the Institute had taught him anything, it was that using their own names might get them in trouble- after all, it seemed that being called what you were was unusual when it came to flesh-and-blood men. Dorothy had been accepting enough of strange names in a strange land, but this situation was a horse of a different color. They looked like humans, and were expected to act as such.

He settled into his chair to consider if Frank Westerning would be passable, only to straighten suddenly with an "Oh!" at the feeling of sharp something against his back. He reached behind himself, feeling the seat first, then searching under the jacket: his hand wrapped itself around something tucked into the waist of his pants, the belt holding it against him. It took a moment of fumbling before his mind began to process it, painting a picture based on the shape. It felt a little like the revolver the Wizard had loaned him to take down the Wicked Witch... but they weren't after a witch here, so surely—

Trying to look as inconspicuous as possible (not that the patrons were paying attention to him at that moment, but he never knew what one might see), the Scarecrow removed the object from his back and brought it before him, keeping it obscured by the sides of his jacket. Indeed, it was exactly what he thought it was- bulkier, but recognizable as a gun even to a man without a brain. Startled by the sight, he pulled the jacket closer around him and tried to wipe the panic from his face. They weren't actually expected to use it, were they?

Loose though his posture was, Depth Charge could feel tension bubbling under the surface of his easiness. Where were they, exactly? How far away from the Institute? This wasn't Doyleton, that was for sure. And if they were far away, were they being monitored? How closely? He glanced around, searching the corners for security cameras before moving on to his jacket, his pockets, for bugs. Nothing. Well, nothing obvious.

Even so, his hand stopped over a bulge in his left pants pocket; frowning, he patted it again before taking out the contents. A leather wallet. Curious, he moved to open it, and-

The little 'oh!' was enough to draw his attention away immediately, innocuous though it was. His eyes were on the Scarecrow just in time to catch the glint of metal before it vanished behind the bulk of his jacket. "Slag, Scarecrow-!" he said quickly, but the gun was already hidden from view. Of course they'd give the gun to the Scarecrow. Slagging amateurs.

Eyes darting quickly to the side- no, no one was watching- he gave his roommate an urgent look. "Put it away, Scarecrow. Don't panic. We won't have to use it if we're careful."

That was the idea, wasn't it? It was a last resort. For a moment there he'd almost thought about using it against them, sabotage seemed such an easy out, but now that they were actually here- stupid idea. Really stupid idea. Who knew what would happen if they tried that? Anyway, there wasn't much they could do with one bullet. "Don't panic," he repeated, and put the wallet on the table. "Here. You take this, I'll take the gun."

If they were careful- the Scarecrow had to admit it wasn't terribly reassuring, given the circumstances of the situation. A nod of compliance was his only return to Depth Charge's request, his eyes watching the wallet on the table. This was no time to panic; it would only make things worse.

He took the wallet with his free hand, simultaneously sliding the gun to Depth Charge under the table. If it was what they were to use in case of an emergency, it was best it stay out of sight. Opening the wallet, he removed the only item in it: a curious card with a name on it and several numbers. While he didn't recognize it, he did put together that it might have the same purpose as the cards they were given in Doyleton, even if he'd never figured out exactly what that purpose was. There was something to be said about the similarity, after all.

"We probably ought not use our names, either," he said, keeping his voice low, "just in case someone overhears us. Mine already gets me enough trouble at the institute. It's why I came up with another one in the first place." He paused, thinking, turning the card in his hand again. "Do you suppose one of us is supposed to be this 'Richard Browning'?"

Depth Charge couldn't help but feel a little safer with the gun in his hands rather than the Scarecrow's; he at least had an idea of how to operate it safely. He also had a sneaking suspicion, as he tucked it carefully into the back of his pants so that it was hidden by his jacket, that he'd be the only one of the two of them with the willpower to use it, should the need arise. Having said that, constituted 'need' for the Maximal was likely a far cry from what it meant to the Institute- he wasn't going to shoot this thing unless their lives were in danger. No way.

Still, it would have been wrong for him to entirely write off the Scarecrow for the whole mission- he'd been the first one to suggest using pseudonyms. "Got a point there," he agreed, frowning a little. Something told him that 'Depth Charge' wasn't exactly going to pass as human out here. Neither would Scarecrow, unless they wanted to pass it off as some kind of kitschy nickname. Trouble was, he wasn't sure what he was supposed to use instead.

"Looks like it. I think that's for paying with- we had a similar kind of system back on Cybertron." Digits crossed on that one. "Do you wanna be Browning? I mean, you've got the wallet."

"Oh, but it started in your pocket," the Scarecrow returned, still running the details through his head. It was more complicated than just taking someone's outfit and sneaking into a castle: they had to actually fool someone into believing nothing was out of the ordinary, and human standards for 'ordinary' were very strange, indeed. Watching his words would be more of a necessity than it had ever been before, and he wasn't entirely sure he was up for the task.

The cogs in his mind turned. He assumed 'Cybertron' was where Depth Charge was from; as for what 'paying with' meant, he still wasn't sure. He thought to ask— and really, he should have asked Sangamon about the cards during the trip. If only he'd known then what he'd be facing later— but hadn't the chance before the waitress returned.

"Can I get you anything to drink?" She pulled the pen from her hair a second time, ready to take their orders.

"I'll have whatever Richard here is having," the Scarecrow answered quickly. Well, that settled that.

A compelling argument, if it weren't for the fact that the Institute had been the ones to plant it on him in the first place. As far as either of them knew, the second they handed the card over to pay with they'd end up being crisply informed that 'Richard Browning' was in fact the name of an ancient old woman they were used to seeing as a regular around here. Not that Depth Charge thought that the military would want to screw their own mission, but he didn't put it past them to throw in a few deliberate hiccups.

Any chance he might have had of being cautious, however, was promptly removed when the Scarecrow made the decision for him. Richard it was. The waitress didn't blink, so presumably that meant it was a man's name- that, or they'd managed to get a particularly liberal-minded waitress. It was probably for the best that he'd been named, anyway. Left to his own devices he'd probably have ended up defaulting to Peter Petrelli out of caution. Hey, Peter would have understood.

Which didn't, of course, make up for the fact that he was the one who'd been left to come up with a drink. Shooting the Scarecrow a little glare, he racked his processor for options. Petrol, energon shots, rocket fuel, gas... how many of those are lethal to humans?

"I'll have a-" Slag, was there a menu somewhere? The table was empty, but-- ah, there! Over the counter hung a chalkboard, helpfully labelled 'Drinks' with a picture of a steaming cup. He plumped for the first entry in the list, attempting confidence. "Coffee."

"Any milk or sugar with that?"

Just what did this woman have against him, anyway?

"Milk and a little sugar," he answered carefully. It must have been convincing enough, because with that she was gone with the promise that she'd be 'back in a minute'. He turned to the Scarecrow again. "What in Primus' name did I just order?"

As Depth Charge dealt with the waitress, the Scarecrow took another glance around the room, trying to keep an eye on the door without raising suspicion. His look was rewarded: just as his eyes made it past the entryway, in walked a woman matching the description from the folder.

His attention was drawn back to the table as the waitress left them. "Don't look at me. I'll be the first to admit that my knowledge of flesh-and-blood men and what they're supposed to do in these sorts of situations is pretty limited." It was an understatement, but true enough for now- he didn't want to make things any worse than they already were. There was too much riding on their success, and the Scarecrow did worry that Depth Charge's temper might get the best of him if things went south.

Hm, and maybe that was why he was there in the first place, the Scarecrow thought. While there were other candidates who may have been more suited for the job than a former strawman (or at least ones who could pass better for a human than a man who had only been one for a couple of weeks), not all of them were likely to get along with his roommate. Perhaps he had been brought along primarily to make sure that Depth Charge didn't get himself into trouble. Now that was a position he felt he could fill.

The Scarecrow shot a look over his shoulder for Rosemarie, who had been seated at a nearby table; her eyes left her menu, glancing upward and catching his before he could look away. He turned back to the table quickly- not quick enough, he thought. Waiting a moment for her to go back to what she had been doing, he lowered both his head and his voice: "I think that's her. I don't suppose just walking up to her and saying the line is a good idea."

So they'd been abandoned out here with not enough knowledge between them to recognise a cup of coffee when they saw one.

Gear.

Depth Charge sighed again and it came out sounding like it'd been played through a rusty engine: guttural and just faintly defeated. Maybe they'd been better off outright refusing to play in the first place, seeing how the badly the game had been rigged- there were just as many consequences for failing as there were for turning them down. At least that way they'd have walked away with their pride.

But they didn't really have time to contemplate something as superfluous as pride right now, as the Scarecrow aptly proved a moment later. "What? Where?" How had he managed to miss her arriving? It wasn't as though they were that far from the door. Stupid, stupid, letting himself drift away into self-pity like a bolt-brain rather than paying attention to his surroundings.

His first instinct was to look around for the woman, but 'obvious' wouldn't even have begun to cover that. Instead, he kept his eyes towards the Scarecrow and shifted his position ever so slightly so that his line of sight slipped a little over- and there she was in the corner of his vision, the only red-haired woman in the building. Good spot.

"Doubt it," he agreed quietly, settling back down into his seat. "Beats me how we could be subtle about it, though. If she's anywhere near as suspicious as the file made her out to be, we'll have to watch our backs." He tilted his head, frowning. "How're you supposed to get someone's attention in a classy joint like this, anyway?"

Now that was a good question: how were they supposed to get Rosemarie's attention without raising her suspicions of who they actually were? They would presumably have only one chance; they couldn't afford to make a mistake. While the Scarecrow was confident that, so long as they were together, the two of them could handle any way the situation went- good or bad- he still had the fate of the other patients on his mind. It certainly was a weight.

Oh, think Scarecrow, think! There had to be a way! And while he may have considered his brain damaged goods, he knew from the look on Depth Charge's face that he needed to come up with something, or at least try to do so. He may not have been the one running the mission, but as far as he was concerned, he was the brains behind the operation. It was his job to keep an eye on Depth Charge- he was sure of it.

He put a finger to his head, the wheels in his head turning. "Maybe we can say it to where she'll overhear it," he said. "No one said we had to say the phrase directly to her, right? We could talk to each other and somehow make it come up in the conversation. I don't suppose we could fake an argument? That'd be loud enough."

They both seemed to fall into silent deliberation, weighing up their options. Depth Charge wrapped his fingers on the table impatiently, as if appearing irritated enough would shame an idea into turning up for him. How would he have done it back in his old universe? If she'd known about X and he needed the information? Bugged the table and sent someone less obvious in. Hmm. Held her at gunpoint under the table 'til she spilled it? Probably not the careful, reasoned approach they were looking for here. Anyway, what if she was armed too?

Maybe it was better to listen to the near-pacifist's suggestions first before they settled on anything that bordered on a kidnapping charge.

"An argument... yeah, that could work," he agreed, nodding slowly as he worked it through his processor. "It's pretty obvious that it's code anyway, so as long as she hears it, it might just work. And if it doesn't-" Well, they needed a plan B, obviously. Frown deepening for a split second, he finished, "- if it doesn't, I'll buy her a drink or something and see if that helps."

Depth Charge and the Scarecrow: honey-traps extraordinaire. So much for sophistication- or dignity.

The waitress returned with a tray before he could listen to the Scarecrow's answer to that- with a smile she unloaded two mugs of hot, dark liquid and a saucer of milk, telling them to call if they needed anything else before flitting off to the next guest. He blinked. So this was what coffee looked like?

The Scarecrow accepted his drink from the waitress, giving her a quick thanks as she walked away. "That doesn't sound like a bad idea, either," he said with a nod, pulling his mug toward him as he filed away the notion that a drink would help matters when it came to initiating conversation. While there were others of flesh-and-blood in Oz, they weren't exactly the same as the people with whom he and Depth Charge were trying to blend: they didn't expect talking scarecrows or good witches or even a pair of shoes with the magic to grant one's heart's desire. Dorothy herself had said that much, and until his arrival at Landel's, she was the only person he'd met who was like that.

He looked into his mug. Unless Depth Charge had had more exposure to them, it was going to take all they'd learned of humans thus far to make their plan go off without a hitch. "One of us is going to have to talk to her eventually if we're to get the information we need. Even with a different name, I don't know how well of a human I make, to be honest- though I don't expect either of us has that much experience with it."

Bringing the mug to his lips, the Scarecrow took a sip from it idly- his face scrunched instantly as he recognized the drink from his meeting with Javert, putting the mug back on the table. Oh, that did bring back awful memories.

"You're telling me," Depth Charge agreed, cupping his mug uncertainly. A thick, bitter smell rose on the steam, and the Maximal wasn't sure if it was entirely pleasant. Aromatic, yes- but the same thing could be said of Rattrap. "I've been human for... what, twenty days? Not exactly a lifetime."

Which was exactly what they'd be up against here. How 'alien' did he come across, anyway? It was already obvious that he'd have to drop the slang (now there was a lifetime's habit to break- he'd always been told to clean his voice capacitor), but there were so many little quirks he'd heard from those around him. Talking like S.T. was out of the question, so maybe like Peter...?

The Scarecrow's expression crumpled, and Depth Charge snapped out of his thoughts like a shot. "Is it-?!" Poisoned was how he was supposed to end that sentence, but the fact that the guy'd put it back on the table again almost instantly was proof enough against that. Stupid thought. Why would they poison them when they were in cognito still?

He settled back down into his chair, waving a hand dismissively before cupping it to his temple. Was that a headache he could feel making itself at home in his head? "Forget it." He sighed. "Maybe we should talk to her together- you know, to catch each other's mistakes." Mostly he just wasn't sure if he liked the idea of leaving the Scarecrow by himself, either with Rosemarie or in the wings.

Having completely missed Depth Charge's momentary panic, the Scarecrow's mind wandered to other things- namely regret over having sipped the coffee, as he now had that flavor stuck in his mouth, but he also considered the latest suggestion. Depth Charge had a good point: talking to her together, if they could get her attention at all, might be the best route- he wasn't sure he should try to manage things with his brain the way it was, Depth Charge needed someone to keep a hold on him in case things didn't go as planned, and between the two of them, surely they had enough knowledge to make for one passable human.

He gave a nod to the idea. "Together it is, then. I'm sure as long as we put our minds to it, there's nothing we can't do."

The waitress returned to Rosemarie's table for a moment to drop off her drink before leaving the woman alone once more. "I'm ready for an argument any time you are."

Now there was something he hadn't seen in a while, that unshakeable optimism, insurmountable as a sheer slagging cliff face even in the face of the Institute's best- or worst. More suprisingly, though, it was catching. Primus, if they couldn't manage to sound even slightly human between the two of them, how the Pit were they supposed to get anywhere in this world? They were in the lionoids' den now- it was about time they learned how to tame 'em.

And if everything fell apart this time-- well. He could still feel the cold steel of the gun pressed against his back, cold and hard against his skin through the thin screen of his shirt. One bullet, one more chance. He didn't like their chances, but when had he ever put his faith in the roll of the dice anyway?

"Took the words out of my mouth. Let's get this show on the road." With that Depth Charge smiled ruefully, picked up his mug and drained half of the liquid- scaldingly hot and bitter even with the sugar the woman had promised was in there. It was unpleasant enough to twist his face with distaste, which presumably would just add to the realism of the situation.

Slamming the mug down hard, he fixed the Scarecrow with his sternest look and raised his voice just a fraction. "Where do you get off, talking to me like I don't know anything about anything? I'm a professional." It only occurred to him afterwards that he'd never even heard the Scarecrow shout, never mind argue. This was gonna be a long day.

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