DAMNED || LANDEL'S INSTITUTE

A Multifandom Asylum RPG


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Day 58: Lunch
serious business
full_score wrote in damned
Although it had been good to see his mom again, Claude entered the cafeteria with a dark expression on his face. He was glad she felt comfortable enough with him to share her experiences from last night, but that didn't make him any less angry at the military for using her to do their dirty work. Why couldn't those bastards clean up their own messes? Surely they had the resources for it.

Were they really going to have to fight someone else's war now?

His head buzzed with those sorts of questions as he moved through the room. Even so, with the help of his escort, Claude assembled a tray with a rather large hamburger, the appropriate condiments, and a cup of water. The cafeteria was still relatively empty, save for the soldiers on duty, so he took very little time in the line. It was probably just as well. He'd been so engrossed in his conversation with Rita during breakfast that he hadn't eaten much.

After finding an empty seat, Claude gingerly placed his tray and journal onto the table and sat down. As he lifted up his burger with his good hand, Claude couldn't help but think of Ashton for a moment. Where was he? He'd disappeared so long ago, and yet part of him worried the military had used him for something too.

Eyebrows furrowed, he took a bite and tried to focus on getting a decent meal in his stomach.

[For Guy!]

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It hadn't been that long ago that she'd been escorted into the cafeteria for breakfast, but she wasn't going to argue about it. Not when her timid query about patient records had been met with a stern 'none of your business.' The soldiers were less obliging than the nurses Izaya spoke of; she wondered how long the latter had been forced out with the former in their place. She wondered if she had been here for that.

She didn't really get the segregation as far as meals went, either, but that was fine. Though flavorless and lacking in pleasant texture, she had nothing to compare it to, and could settle for something as unusually colored as this. It was easy to fall into habit, to follow orders.

The girl wondered if that was normal.

At any rate, she still had a lot to think about. What Locke had told her, what Izaya had suggested, what Lana and Bella (and Gamzee, the ghost) had brought up the night before. Her mind still ached and throbbed if she tried forcing herself to remember her past, but thoughts were clear enough when gazing towards the present and the future.

Pushing a strand of wispy blond hair behind her ear, the girl sat at one of the remaining unoccupied tables, already trying to sort everything out. The food wasn't really worth focusing on.

[Absolutely not The Marriage of Figaro]

Locke's note was pulled from the board with a yank as Edgar was unwilling to believe the words written across the paper. As if the thief's reappearance hadn't been enough to stir the fire in him, there was this startling revelation: Terra had been brought to Landel's. He supposed he shouldn't have been so surprised at Aguilar's continued lack of decency, but to discover two allies from his world had arrived within a few days of each other was more disturbing than he would ever admit. How many more were on the horizon? And how many had already been through and broken by the institute?

He let out a sigh, returning the note to the board and writing a hasty reply as his escort urged him to make it quick: the line for lunch was already forming, and he ought to be in it if he expected any food. The soldier was certainly chattier than any had been since the military's takeover- marginally so, but it was noticeable. It had to be a result of his new rank. Edgar stole a look at his tags, wondering how much longer he needed to remain at Landel's for another promotion. Any amount of time was too long, he thought, a hint of bitterness on his mind- too long to be forced to eat inedible gruel, to be subjected to cruel experiments, to remain trapped while the fate of his people was unknown.

As he had at breakfast, Edgar scanned the room for Locke— it'd be easier to explain his note in person, of course— but found his eyes drawn again to the blond woman from that morning, who had taken a lonely seat at one of the tables. It was only once he'd been handed his food and moved from the line that he caught enough of her face for recognition to kick in. It appeared Locke had been telling the truth after all.

In spite of the grim fact that Terra had indeed been captured, Edgar found himself smiling. He took the seat across from her unceremoniously. "I've got to say that while I don't think it suits you as well as green or pink, blond is rather lovely on you."

It wasn't a surprise that someone would take the place opposite to her; there weren't near enough seats that everyone she'd seen could sit and eat by their lonesome. Her gaze had been distant, vacant for her thoughts, and she'd paid little mind to the man who claimed that territory. Until he spoke; the voice was unfamiliar to her, as all voices were, but his tone spoke of familiarity with her.

The statement was befuddling. The girl blinked clear her thoughts, turning her attention to the man. Blond hair, blue eyes, and even sitting the girl could tell he was much taller than she. (Admittedly, this was not a difficult feat.)

"You must be... Edgar," she said, for as common as the attributes Locke described were, she didn't think a completely new entity would open with a line like that. (Pink? Green? Was she a flower?) Even with the pause her voice came out flat. No natural warmth or congeniality, and little effort in the way of forced-upon polite cheeriness; such cues were as unknown to her as he was. The girl could not help some measure of disappointment, a slight sagging of her posture; it would have been nice if this other person she was meant to know could have triggered some memory, some reaction in her...

But wait.

The suddenness of feeling made the fingers on her spoon twitch and tighten; her brows pulled together, her eyes more focused on the man across from her.

That was new, wasn't it?

The flat statement she returned him was not the reaction he'd been expecting. Terra had never been very receptive of his casual advances, but her response lacked something else: recognition. The way she put it— 'you must be'— it was as though she had only heard rumors of him until that point, having never met him herself.

So, was this what Locke meant in his note? It was a warning. She was there, but at the same time... not. That left two options: she had already been put under the influence of the institute and they had altered her memory somehow, or... he wasn't sure he wanted to think of the only other logical answer. It was enough of a shock the previous night to discover the loss of time between himself and Locke.

She may not have remembered him, but that didn't make her any less of the Terra he knew. Still, he knew he would have to play his cards carefully. Having someone she thought to be a stranger insisting he knew her well could result in pushing her away. It was no better than forcing memories on her.

Of course, if she truly was from a time even farther in the past, then he ultimately was a stranger to her. He let a small sigh escape him. If nothing else, he'd earned a second chance for his flirtations with her to meet a dead end.

"That would be me," Edgar said with a smile. "And where have you heard of me? Surely my reputation isn't that bad." He could take a guess at that answer, but allowing her the answer would be better.

The short hairs on her neck were standing on end, as though pulled by static electricity. Not that she knew what that was off-hand, but she couldn't deny that whatever this was was something new. Something that some part of her recognized. But what? Why?

"Locke..." Warned me about you. "... said you might recognize me." Her words were cautious, prodding, and by that token alone held more emotional weight than her greeting. Her spoon was left to sink into a pink and watery grave, her lunch completely abandoned.

The man from breakfast had been so adamant that he knew her when they spoke. Kept going on about how he wished there was some way to prove it, some way to earn her trust. But all his stories about knowing her didn't come out until after she admitted her amnesia; he didn't insist her name was 'Terra' until he heard the name 'Jane.' Was it possible, she thought, that like Lana, he knew 'Jane' was meant to be a temporary name for people like her?

This man, this Edgar recognizing her... it meant either Locke was telling the truth, or else... in the short time between breakfast and lunch, he'd spoken to Edgar to support his story. She didn't want to believe something so cruel, but...

Despite the downward slope of her thoughts, the girl's attention on Edgar had not wavered. Her gaze was searching, somewhere caught between trying to recall the name tied to a familiar face, or a phrase lost halfway spoken. She felt tense and uncertain, more so than she had been. It was like meeting the ghost, and knowing she could have fought it off, but nothing like that at all.

So what was it? Did he know? If he knew her, if he'd met her before, that answer was obvious. Wasn't it? He didn't look as spooked as she felt, that was for sure.

"I should have thought as much," Edgar said, a look of feigned defeat now accompanying his wry smile. Leave it to Locke to ruin his charms before he had a chance to use them. Not that they would have changed the situation much, even in the off-chance they did work. "He's a good friend of mine, though a little too good sometimes. I'm sure he mentioned that I do get distracted from time to time, especially when in the presence of a lady."

And even more so with a meeting so delicate. Just what all had Locke said to her? Edgar could take a guess, knowing the thief: assuming she had no memory of him either, he'd probably tried to convince her of their connection- that they did know each other, he could be trusted, something along those lines. It was unfortunate that Locke truly was a trustworthy individual, but his insistence alone wouldn't convince most.

"That being the case," he continued, "I've got to admit that I feel like I'm cheating a bit. Where I come from, we've already met, as strange as it sounds. I know who you are and what you can do."

She shook her head, trying to clear away both his apologies and that nagging, ill-defined familiarity. "It's not your fault," she murmured, "that I can't remember."

Like everyone else she'd met, he seemed kind... but whatever she felt, whatever she sensed, persisted. She wasn't just imagining it, was she? Fabricating the familiarity she so desperately craved? The girl slid forward to the edge of her chair. Her scrutiny had hardly wavered.

She wanted to ask what he meant, even if it would probably be the same story Locke had spun. Instead, she said, "but you're... different." A statement, true, but the composition of her face held the question: Why?

Though he wanted to address her concerns with inability to remember— that it wasn't her fault, either— Edgar found himself presented with another unexpected turn in the conversation. She was just full of them today, wasn't she?

While Terra still didn't look at him with the eyes of someone who was reuniting with a friend, there was something else there, something he couldn't quite place his finger on as she continued to watch him with an intensity his comments didn't deserve. He prided his ability to read people, and to find Terra's meaning lost on him was a bit of a blow. Different? He expected his pass at her might have labeled him as such, but he hoped it was something more promising, even if she had just admitted to having no memory of their friendship.

Then why did she look at him so?

"How so?" Edgar asked, raising an eyebrow as he smoothed some of the hair from his face. A thin layer of sweat lined his hand- he'd list that as another reason for a terrible second-first impression.

It felt as though her eyebrows were going to snap right off her face, for how tight they were pulled in concentration. How was he different? It wasn't anything about his look, or his build, his voice or face or any other physical thing she should recognize. Again she inched closer, putting as much of her weight on an arm on the table than on her chair. The other had fingers twining absently in the chain of the dog tags hanging round her neck; an old gesture.

Reaching for a trinket she could not remember, and no longer possessed.

"You're... not the same as the others," she said, voice quiet, hesitant, but her eyes fiercely searching for some clue. "But you're different from me."

Edgar's smile widened. Different, was he? He liked to think the word she was so desperately looking for was 'irresistible,' or maybe even 'handsome' or 'enamoring;' however, he knew all too well from experience that his usual lines never did work all that well, especially on someone like Terra. Some women were just easier to get than others.

He looked back to her, and found himself unsettled still by her eyes on him. Even upon their first meeting, Terra hadn't reacted the way he'd expected- then again, she was still regaining her memory at that point. A woman with no memory of her tragic past, struggling to understand just what she was... it was a terrible state indeed.

And if she truly had been brought to Landel's from that point, then earning her trust was going to be harder than simply telling her that they were the good guys. She was still coming to terms with her abilities, which made things complicated- doubly so if there truly were Espers somewhere within the walls. Given the events of his sleep study, he was more inclined to believe it than ever. Her natural magic did, however, serve as an explanation for how she felt apart from everyone else.

"It will come to you in time," Edgar reassured her as he entwined his fingers. "In the meantime, I'd like to help you in any way possible. I've had the unfortunate pleasure of having been here a while."

Edited at 2011-08-28 09:19 am (UTC)

Between the smile and his words, she could only conclude he understood what she meant, and wasn't telling. She blinked; the crinkles of her brow smoothed out, and with a small exhale she slid back in her chair until she was seated properly. In time? She wanted to know now.

But that wasn't all she wanted to know. She glanced down to where her fingers still fiddled with her dog tags, the unfamiliar name and so many other things etched there. Her thumb brushed over the words, already warm from contact, and her mouth ticked into her cheek for thought. Maybe Edgar would know more than Izaya had.

"I've... heard," her start was tentative, more uncertain -- far less focused than the examination she'd just given him, "that they have files on all of us. Do you know where they'd be?"

"Hm..." Edgar put a hand to his chin, trying to recall the long corridors and numerous doors he'd passed in the many nights before, some with plaques to make navigation convenient. The map he'd copied from the board was largely unlabeled- not that he blamed the map-maker, given the censorship the board often faced. Even so, some information still managed to circulate via the notes... when people were willing to share. How unfortunate that such sharing seemed rare when it came to certain subjects.

"I know there are at least two file rooms: one here on the first floor, near the lobby; the other on the second floor, in a corridor near the eastern stairwell. I've not visited either myself, but if what I've heard is accurate, one is for patients who have been 'released,' while the other is for current prisoners. I wish I could tell you which is which, but that's something I don't know."

He'd been so preoccupied since his last trip to the second floor— with his sleep study, Doyleton, and Locke's appearance— that he had had neither the chance to return and check the file room there, nor stop by the one on the first floor to see what he could find. For him, it didn't matter which room held which files- both would be helpful.

Unaware how the building was situated in regards to the rest of the world, and the Sun Room serving more as the Cloud Room when she'd passed through, the 'eastern' marker was temporarily useless to her. Regardless, any information was useful; she just hoped she'd be able to remember everything when the time came for searching.

Her long-term memory was not something she was sure she could count on.

But that information brought up new questions, and the girl paused to consider which way to go. More about the physical layout? Or more about 'released' patients and prisoners?

The girl pinched her lips between her teeth before selecting. "What else is on the second floor? How many floors are there?" She supposed she should have realized there was a second floor, from that upper balcony in the Sun Room, but there had to be more than just that and file rooms.

"I've heard there are three, but I don't know the way to the third floor, if it truly exists." With the strange occurrences that happened at night and one new-opened area on the first floor, Edgar wouldn't have been surprised to discover there was a mysterious third floor that defied all reasonable logic and construction. Landel had to have been hiding somewhere- presumably where Aguilar was currently. Someone would have found him if he hadn't been holed somewhere unreachable.

Well, currently unreachable. It was further evidence of just how much the patients were at the mercy of the staff- he would not be found unless he wanted to be. It was also, ultimately, a frustration that could not be soothed so easily.

"As for what is on the second floor, I can tell you that," he continued, leaning onto his elbows to bring himself closer to her. "Most of what I've seen is in the eastern corridor: store rooms for general goods, a closet for cleaning supplies, and the like. The chapel is upstairs, as well. Most important is that the sleep studies happen on the second floor."

She already had much to think about, but the experiments were a topic of which she needed to be made aware... especially should she be chosen for one.

She mirrored his movement, trying to take cues from his motions and gestures. Unfamiliar with the subtleties of tone, especially from any specific person, she tried her best to notice and learn from what she saw. The mutually closed space meant they could speak quieter and still be heard. From the look on his face, this seemed more serious than topics of hair color. And if he said it was the most important thing...

"Sleep studies?"

"Experiments they perform on the patients," Edgar answered, dropping his voice to just above a whisper. "Every other night or so. I don't mention this to frighten you, or give you even more to think about, but... they're something you should be cautious of. There is more that goes on in this building than they would have you believe with this facade they hold during the day." He paused, keeping his eyes on her, still watching to see how she would react.

Leaning backward in his chair, he watched one of the soldiers over her shoulder. There was no telling if they were listening, as the nurses sometimes did; even more questionable was whether or not they cared what their prisoners discussed. After all, they were well aware of how the patients were to be used- a little planning and teamwork might even be seen as signs of resourcefulness in the eyes or Aguilar.

"Just be aware that should you go out at night, you need to protect yourself. Do not go alone, and use any means necessary. And I do mean any means." His natural inclination was to keep a watch on her himself. He sighed- if only he hadn't made plans with Ryuuzaki...

No, there was no use thinking like that. Terra undoubtedly had her own concerns by now, just as he had his. She needed time to sort it out, and forcing her to stay with him would do him no favors. It was a delicate game he was playing, and he couldn't risk a loss, especially when it came to a friend he held dear.

Just the word 'experiment' made her feel uneasy; her gaze turned down for thought, her fingers twitching for spasm against the table. She did not know how bad they could be — and no small part of her hoped she never would — but the idea itself was enough to make her feel leery.

It was quiet and motion that had her looking up again, catching the way his attention drifted from her to behind her. That's right, she thought. For as quiet as they spoke and unobtrusive as the rest seemed, this was by no means a private conversation. Was he that worried about being overheard? Why? How much did he know that he wasn't telling her?

The weight of warning was heavy on her shoulders. The girl swallowed, curling her hand into a loose fist. "I understand," she said, voice low and pitched quieter; it seemed to retreat into her throat as she continued. "But... is it really so dangerous? When we can..."

Edgar watched Terra's face, trying to measure her discomfort at the thought of nighttime experimentation. As with the rest of the conversation, her emotions were more passive than most, with only the curling of her fingers and the tone of her voice betraying how she felt. But just what was she thinking?

"When we can what? Wander freely at night? Attempt escape?" Edgar shook his head. "As unfortunate as it sounds, we're mostly at the mercy of those running this place. We're pawns in their game as they watch, seeing if we can handle the challenges they put before us."

His eyes returned to hers, his own tone of determination hinted in his words: "They underestimate what their prisoners can do. We all have skills and abilities that, if we work together, will help us break free of this place. It's going to take time, but I'm not giving up. There are some things worth fighting for."

The intensity of his expression was nearly frightening; the way his eyes locked on hers, the sharp cut of his jaw and shoulders, the low unwavering strength in his voice. It was like the strength of stone, she thought. Easy to miss for the stability of it, but solid and unyielding. That no amount of pressure could move.

No, that wasn't right. Stone cracked under pressure, splitting and scattering into dust. She could not imagine the same for the man sitting before her. Where Izaya seemed calm and accommodating like reeds in the wind, or Lana steady and sturdy as a well-crossed bridge, Edgar did not seem like such stationary things. What fire lived in his eyes was more lively and vibrant than any that had ever burned inside her.

The girl could not hold such a stare, her eyes turning to the table for shame. "Things worth fighting for...," she echoed, shaking her head in weary abasement, "I don't know what those are."

Terra's confession was a soft blow to him, one that reminded him of just how far she'd come in the brief time he'd known her. Edgar had barely a doubt now of the point she came from- assuming she hadn't been at Landel's long enough to have her memory altered, and that he'd simply missed her somehow up until that point, there weren't many other logical options.

No, there weren't enough of the fairer sex around to make him that unobservant. It was a true pity.

"That's unfortunately something you'll have to discover for yourself," he said, closing his eyes momentarily. "If I were to tell you what you should fight for, I'd be no better than anyone else trying to force their ideas onto you. Everyone has their reasons for pushing forward, and I'm confident you'll find yours. Perhaps when your memory comes back."

He said that as though he expected such a result; he kept how he truly felt on that matter close to his chest.

Her first instinct was to let such words blow past her without effect, for how could she stand to wait for her memories to return? As far as she knew it had not even been a full day without them, and she was already sick of the uncertainty and loneliness that came with it. Foolishly she instead tried once again to cut through the fog filling her head. If she could carve out even one face, or one name, then maybe--

But as it had every time before, the effort only resulted in pain. The heavy throb of migraine between her temples pulled a wince at the corners of her eyes, and the girl said nothing before cradling her head against her hand. What had she done, she thought, that had earned this as her punishment? For as much as people mentioned others suffering from amnesia in this place, did anyone else lose even half as many years as she? Why her? For even Edgar, who seemed to resonate as most similar to her, was nothing like her at all.

"I just..." the girl shook her head, fingers edging the beret, looser where a crown would wind, "I don't know what to do."

Where in another person this rapid decline of mood might have resulted in wailing and tears, a breaking down, it was not here. When she looked back up to meet Edgar's eyes, her own were dry, perhaps incapable of tears, or of emotion enough to create them. All that played across her face was a mild sadness, and weary inconvenience. As though a button had popped off her favorite jacket. Her eyes were tired, but searching still for some answer in his face.

Tell me what to do.

Edgar knew that look: he had seen her wear it before. She wanted answers, but hadn't the heart to push for them, or the knowledge if pushing for them was worth it at all. It was a difficult choice for him, more difficult than any he'd in some time- his natural inclination was to help her in any way possible.

This was a tricky case where giving her what she wanted and helping her were not the same thing. She needed time. Finding out the truth for herself was not going to be easy, especially when so far from their own world, but it was what she truly needed. He had learned that much. While Edgar wasn't one to doubt himself often, the thought that he might be making a mistake lingered in the back of his mind. He was no stranger to risks, but... he couldn't let what happened to Celes happen to Terra. Especially not with Locke around.

He sighed- that was always going to be a private shame.

There was no time to truly answer her: the intercom clicked on, announcing the end of the shift. As was usual, the soldiers began rounding up their wards. So many conversations half-finished; he couldn't help but wonder if they realized what an inconvenience they were.

"That's something you'll find out in time," Edgar answered finally, collecting his tray. "Your abilities make you an asset, but you shouldn't allow yourself to be used blindly. There will undoubtedly be others who will tell you what you should be doing, but only you can decide what is right when the time comes."

There was a definite pause, then he returned his eyes to her. "It's not much, coming from someone you've only just met, but know I'll help you in any way I can. I'm in M16, should you need me."

In time, when the time comes, what did these things mean to her? How many nights and how many mornings would that be? How could she measure a month without even a full day to her uncertain name? Perhaps she should have felt angry at that dismissal, called him coward to hide answers behind the changing hour. She could not. No such feelings boiled within her; whatever there was felt placid, water disturbed by stone throws and little more.

She rose as he did, though neither as quickly nor as far. Not solely for height, for the girl's posture was slumped and her head remained bowed, unable to match Edgar's steadfast gaze. Words and warnings layered on her shoulders like gilded scarves. He seemed so certain of future abuses against her... why?

But there was no longer time for questions. The girl could only nod, once, to indicate she heard, moving to depart before she'd get dragged off by the elbow. Her expression seemed once more clouded over, and she left without a word. Only when space flooded in between them did she pause, throwing an inscrutable glance back towards Edgar.

It was the closest thing to 'goodbye' she could muster.

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