DAMNED || LANDEL'S INSTITUTE

A Multifandom Asylum RPG


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DAY 59: CAFETERIA
let the only sound
touchedgod wrote in damned
Billy surfaced into wakefulness. Sleep receded like an inky tide, and it didn't say anything to him before it was gone. His dreams had been nothing but the sensation of water, rocking him restlessly in his bottle. There seemed to be an ocean beyond his confines, but he couldn't see it and couldn't reach it. He pawed at the glass, but any progress he'd made had been washed out of his memory.

He tried not to be disturbed by the deja vu, but it wasn't the sort of thing one was in full control of. And yet, his heart didn't race. His nose didn't bleed. His hands were shaking, but with a different tenor than the last time he had concentrated on them. Everything felt still, and whole, and maybe not right, but for the first time in weeks Billy breathed without trouble. There was no weight of a terrified, dying universe crawling over his shoulders and clamoring for attention. He laid there in bed for a long time. Victory. Not his victory, but someone else's, and that was good enough. He hadn't needed to be the one who saved it, he was just doing what he had to. Truthfully, he was glad to have not seen it. There was a lot Billy wished he hadn't seen.

He couldn't bring himself to react much to the fact that he was still here. Billy glanced around a couple times, vision blurred without his glasses, but saw that the room was basically the same. This time lit up, of course, although it didn't help him to gather many precise details. He would have almost said his aimless adventure with Captain Kirk during the night had been a dream, but it was all wrong, thematically speaking. Maybe if Kirk had been a squid dressed in gold lamé, he'd believe it. It really didn't matter what his dreams meant anymore, though.

So it was over, he supposed. The realization that crept up on him was met with very little excitement. He could congratulate himself, but considered crying instead.

Dane. He thought. He's dead. Of course he was dead. He almost wanted to apologize for saying it so coarsely, like it was dangerous to commit to. He knew, though, that it was hope, not wisdom, that was holding him back. Stupid, childish hope. It was hard to avoid when you were talking about a man who had died twice and Billy had still managed to get him back anyway, but this… this was different. He had seen Dane dying, writhing on the ground, and it just went on and on as Grisamentum tore him apart from the inside and undid all that was Dane.

Oh god, why was he awake? He barely noticed the uneasy sound of glass in the back of his head, but he didn't need Angelic interference right now. Why was it still here? Where was here? Billy threw off the covers, again in different clothes, and retrieved his glasses from the nightstand. He nearly knocked them onto the floor in his impatience.

He had already mourned Dane once, sort of. It had just been a frail attempt at preparing himself for the possibility that he wouldn't make it in time, not true mourning. And he didn't make it in time. He knew that. But through the unreality of the reality he lived in now, it had worked out. He was given a second and then a third chance. As it turned out, that earlier attempt to deal with Dane's mortality had just made him more vulnerable. It had made Billy let his guard down. The twice dead martyr shouldn't have been defeated. But Dane had killed himself. He died as soon as he let that fucking squid bite him. He had lingered with Billy for a while, but he had just been circling the bloody drain the whole time and Billy had known it. Dane had known it. He'd given up on the world, and why not? What had it done for him? What had it done for Billy lately? Maybe that was why you could worship a god that didn't care about you, because it was so perfect and so accurate, tentacles or no. No Krakenist would ask why, Kraken, did you allow this to happen? They had strength in knowing and understanding their tragic squid-born existence. And that was how Dane had died.

Billy was less sure, and he couldn't turn his back on the world so easily. He'd threaten, he'd spit anger and questions at the mnemophylax, and then falter at the moment of true resentment. He had never been devout, but now angels watched him and museums were his holy spaces. Dane had been convinced until the end that Kraken, the great uncaring, spoke to him. Billy hadn't had the heart to tell him otherwise.

Any further thoughts were interrupted by a soldier he hadn't noticed entering.

"Get dressed."

Billy stared at the military blues from the night before. Clean and fresh, no sign of any blood, not that he'd been the one injured. There was even a little hat that he had missed the night before. He was going to look ridiculous, he could feel it.

"I think you'll probably find I'm not actually registered here," he tried to tell the guard, who was not impressed by Billy's claim. The soldier wasn't even moved by Billy pointing out that the dog tags didn't have his name on them. (Frederick Aldrich? An eerie coincidence that made Billy quietly comply with demands for a few minutes.) The man spoke in nothing but orders, which were easy to follow when you weren't particularly attached to any final aim. Billy was listless. Flotsam and jetsam. Getting back to London was an eventual goal, but he'd put in a call to someone later, and go back to whatever. His life, he supposed. He was already exasperated by the taciturn and far too serious military man. Once upon a time he would have wanted to gain purchase with him through inoffensive smiles and falsely friendly comments. Today, he could only give the man a tired look and equally brusque answers that didn't hide his irritation. Did he really look young enough to be pressed into a military academy?

He was led down cleaner versions of the hallways he had seen the night before, and into a large cafeteria, basically devoid of anyone beside himself and the assembled guards. Billy uncomfortably found a seat, and took a few seconds to just hide his face in his hands and block everything else out. The tray he had been given was immediately forgotten, just to the side of him, and he blamed his turning stomach on the adrenaline that was still working its way out of his system. It was so fantastically quiet in the large room, he wanted to drown in it. He only peered through his fingers when someone else in powder blue passed close to his table.

[For Castiel.]

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Morning came, as morning did, after night's end. The only problem the girl had with it was that she didn't remember falling asleep -- and certainly didn't remember going back into the building, let alone making it all the way back to her room. Had she blacked out after using so much magic, and forced her companion that night to carry her back inside? Or had she simply lost more time? She didn't know. She also seemed to have lost everything she'd acquired during the long journey, from the useful knives to the possibly useless cans from the pantry. Had there been any point to the excursion?

Though she'd managed to bespell both herself and her companion with cure, her body was still sore from the fight. The wound on her leg had diminished from the gouging bloody gash it'd been earlier in the night; magic had pulled skin over the wound, which was discolored from bruising, and the limb beneath still ached. Less of a detriment at least, but it wasn't fully healed. Beyond that, she was still sore, and starving. What little sleep she'd gotten helped, but she felt as though she needed a great deal more. And a shower -- she felt like there was still the bird's blood under her fingernails and stuck to her scalp. At least her uniform was clean, and undamaged. It seemed as bright and new as it had the morning before, save one thing. There was something small and metal stuck to the beret where there had been nothing before, almost like a little placard, with a couple stars etched onto it.

What did that do, she wondered?

Like the morning before, she was escorted to the cafeteria, and nothing seemed to have changed aside from her slight limp. No one came down the staircase when they passed through the hall, and the people seemed as ordinary as ever. The food was the same, the tables in their same positions. Once again, the girl took an isolated seat, consuming the tasteless meal with neither fervor nor disgust. Her thoughts resumed their inward focus, going over what she had and had not learned -- and what her companion said she was, and was not.

[The son of a submariner.]

The end of the night itself was not surprising- what was worthy of note, Edgar thought, was what information could be gleaned from the intercom. Judging from the final announcements of the night, the military's traitor had not yet been found; the ones the following morning held a certain terseness they hadn't before. So it was as serious as imagined, then... and the patients had another potential ally.

Unfortunately, the recent developments with the military weren't the only thing on Edgar's mind. Though he requested it, his escort didn't allow him to stop by the bulletin board, making haste for the cafeteria in light of the morning's orders. He'd hoped to leave a note for Ryuuzaki requesting his status. With any luck, the effects of his forced injection were only a temporary fixture. Also at the top of his mind were Locke and Terra- especially the latter, with her apparent state of mind. He cursed himself again for not keeping an eye on her, especially given what had transpired during the night. Yes, she needed time to figure out things for herself, but his lack of foresight had been regrettable. He breathed a sigh through his nose, curbing his irritation.

Upon entering the cafeteria, he spotted Terra quickly and rushed through the line, taking the seat across from her. Immediately noticeable was the pin on her hat- much like his own, but with a different inscription. He put on a pleasant expression, though there was a definite seriousness to his voice. "I hope this morning finds you as well as can be expected."

She gave only a cursory glance at the man sitting down across from her when he slid into the seat; recognition came a heartbeat later when he spoke. Edgar, the other man that claimed to know her from another world. She still wasn't sure she believed either of them, but the fact that both of them had commented on her abilities before she'd used them even once here seemed to give them some credence. That, or it was simply well-known that she possessed magic. She couldn't know either way.

The girl answered the question more with the tilt of her head at the neck, her gaze averting from his face. "I think so, maybe," she said, her voice quiet. She hadn't died, after all, despite the risk of it. She didn't really know how much better there was to be expected, or how much worse. "... What about you?"

Edgar looked Terra up and down as she averted her gaze, trying to judge if she'd been injured or not. While he doubted she'd admit to having been taken for a sleep study, a cursory glance revealed nothing that unusual, save for the addition to her uniform. That wasn't saying that she'd been safe all night- any injuries may have been hidden, her passive behavior making them less noticeable.

"Not terribly productive," he said, "though I am glad to see you're in one piece, given the events of last night." He leaned on the table, his hands clasped before his face. "I heard some people were forcibly drugged at dinner, and was concerned."

"Drugged?" she echoed, curiosity lighting across her face. It was nothing that happened to her, as far as she knew (unless he meant there were drugs in the food? But she hadn't had any more reaction to the meal then than she'd had at any other point in the day), but maybe...

She frowned, spoon idle in the dish. "The person I traveled with was poisoned, but... I don't know if was that or the birds."

Poisoned? If hallucinations were all Ryuuzaki faced, perhaps he was one of the luckier ones of the evening; however, there was the chance her companion's condition was caused by something other than the injections. Such as...

"Birds?" Edgar repeated, raising an eyebrow.

"Upstairs," she started, body language telling where; her eyes looked up toward the ceiling, and her head tilted a little toward the western wall of the room. "One of the hallways led outside. It was an open area, flat... full of chairs and tables, and closed off on three sides. There were three doors, one we came through and two others. When we tried going to the third door, we were attacked by a couple birds--" She sat up a little straighter, and leaving her spoon in the bowl she raised both arms in a threatening pantomime, hands imitating claws, trying to appear larger than herself, and larger than Edgar. "--this big."

The girl paused then, arms lowering quickly, a wince at her eyebrows and her gaze turning down once more. Now that she thought about it, it was hard to believe they'd both been attacked with equal attention. Her companion only had one arm, which even beasts would have noticed, and those were the limbs they fought with most. Even when she was the more difficult target, crouching behind tables or even pinned beneath one foul-smelling carcass, she'd been the aim all along, hadn't she? She frowned.

"... It's strange," she said finally, still not looking up. "I said we were attacked, but... they only seemed interested in hurting me."

Edgar's eyes followed hers, putting together a vague mental path of where she was talking about. He hadn't been to that exact area himself, but he could make an educated guess if he had his map.

He put a hand on his chin. "Perhaps they were drawn to you for a reason," he said, taking up his own spoon and stirring his serving of gruel. Her abilities came to mind- though he hadn't yet heard of monsters that attacked only those with magic, he wasn't about to doubt they existed. Certainly not in this place. "Perhaps something about you that set you apart from your companion. Speaking of which, how is your memory?"

Edgar picked up exactly what she'd feared. Even if he did not state his suspicion, their thoughts traveled along similar paths. Was she a target from more than just people due to what she was? As useful as fire had been in the fight, would there have been a fight at all if she had no such power? She didn't know.

You may not be entirely human...

Anything to get her mind off that was a welcome change, even if the topic belonged in sour territory. "Still a blank," she said with a shake of her head. "Everything after I woke up is there, but... I can't remember anything before coming here..." Except those lost moments in the dead of night...

Though she didn't say 'sorry,' the expression on her face was entirely apologetic. It was difficult for her, seeing a face she knew she should recall but could not; it must also have been difficult to recognize a person who was no longer the person one cared about.

Edgar shook his head as he caught her expression, a light smile on his lips. "Don't fret over it. I'm sure something will come to you eventually." He only hoped that aforementioned something wasn't a memory she'd regret. Terra had some atrocious acts in her past, ones that truly weren't her fault; however, he knew all too well how guilt could plague the mind. He'd felt it weighing on his own shoulders since Celes' disappearance- he'd been the last to see her, the last to speak to her, the last to berate her for losing hope.

There was a key difference between them, though: Edgar knew what he had to fight for, but if Terra truly was from the past, from a time before she discovered who she was, then she was far more vulnerable. He couldn't let her fall, couldn't allow himself to watch her give up. She was a determined girl, once she found her inner strength. Getting there was the true test.

"I know it's hard, seeing how you don't remember me, but..." Better to say it plainly, Edgar decided. The military's tactics were increasingly more pressing, especially with the knowledge they were using patients for their schemes. He was willing to bet they knew of Terra's abilities and wouldn't hesitate to put her to work, if they saw fit. She needed people she knew she could count on; meanwhile, he wanted to keep an eye on her. "I'd like for you to trust me."

"Trust you?" she echoed, the slightest of scowls pulling at her eyebrows. It wasn't a cruel expression, and there was no harshness to her voice. Only a cautiousness, a wariness quickly cultivated. It seemed as though every time she was spoken to, someone was saying she would be told this fact or that story, and that she shouldn't believe them so readily. With the need for skepticism so many times given to her, it seemed to the girl that there was little she could believe outright, and less that she could prove right or wrong.

She blinked several times, as though something so simple would clear away her confusion. It didn't. Instead, she asked, "How?"

As he'd expected, Edgar watched as Terra's expression took a turn toward doubt. It was something the institute fostered to a degree, the paranoia that came with being used as subjects for experimentation, of being able to trust neither one's own mind nor the potential allies around them, who were only so by virtue that they were all prisoners. In almost any other situation, he would have valued such caution; however, as she was someone he knew as a friend, someone for whom he held a great deal of concern, it only served to remind him of how dangerous Landel's could be. The threats presented to the patients on the nightly basis by those in charge were not the only perils faced.

"Ahh..." He closed his eyes for a moment. "That's the hard part, I'm afraid." He opened his eyes again, settling them on her. "Perhaps we could spend some time together one of these nights- go exploring, talk more, get acquainted- or reacquainted, as it may be. I promise you, I'm a perfect gentleman."

What inferences she was meant to make by the last line evaded her, and so were dismissed with little care. It was the rest, and earlier concerns, that weighed on her. "Would that be... wise?" she asked. Her attention did not waver, but her voice softened, as though such a slight decrease would prevent her from being overheard. "If... if they attacked me because of my... abilities, then..."

Concentration's scowl tugged once more at her eyebrows. He'd been lucky, her companion, that she'd been able to counteract his poisoning. If it had been something more dangerous or a wound more serious, there may not have been anything she could have done. If there had been more than those two enemies, she wouldn't have had the power to do even that much for him. She was the one who'd gotten him in that situation to begin with. The girl shook her head, her tone containing less empathy than her words suggested. "That would put you in more danger."

A smirk appeared on Edgar's face, accompanied by a single laugh. "Trust me, I know how to handle myself in a fight. I wouldn't pass up the opportunity to travel with a lady just because of a few birds. It's them who should be worried about being in danger."

Even given her abilities, it was Terra he was worried about- she still seemed so unsure of herself, and the lack of confidence would ultimately be a hindrance, if she allowed it to affect her in battle. That, and he couldn't help his natural inclination to jump to the aid of a beautiful woman when she needed it, even if she was perfectly capable of defending herself.

She wasn't entirely convinced, by his casual grin or his flippant assurances, but her expression turned more thoughtful. He was the one who'd warned her about there being danger to begin with, after all, and having resided here longer, it was likely that he knew the layout of the building (buildings?) far better than she. If nothing else, she thought, it might give her the chance to learn more about the woman he thought she was, the 'Terra' he remembered. And maybe figure out what it was about him that seemed so... different.

She exhaled a soft sigh, concentration fading back to her more common neutral expression. "Okay," sounding serious only in comparison to his leading banter, "if that's what you want..."

His smile widened. While her acceptance bore the same passiveness that marked almost every word from her mouth, Edgar couldn't help but feel encouraged. This was a step in the right direction. Neither he nor Locke could simply tell her who she was without building more doubt in her mind- he was sure he'd feel the same way if he were in her position, talking to someone who claimed they knew him more than he did himself. They would have to help her find the answer for herself.

As much as he wanted to believe there was a chance her memory would recover, that Terra would somehow remember them after all and hadn't been taken from an earlier time, he could see the truth more and more with every response. They were going to have to swallow their feelings for her as a comrade, those times they'd shared together, the memories of their travels and all they'd been through. It was like starting from scratch.

In that case, Edgar felt he'd better put his best foot forward.

"You'd be doing me an honor," he assured her with a nod. "I can even pick you up at your room, if you'll give me the number."

"F-twenty-four." Though she hadn't seemed to need it the night she'd memorized it, at least she didn't have to flounder in this moment to recall it. It gave her focus instead to be confused by his reactions. Why was he smiling so much? Was she supposed to be smiling back? The conversation wasn't exactly cheerful sunshine, from her limited understanding. Was he simply that easily pleased to, how had he put it, 'spend some time together'? And every other turn of phrase out his mouth made little sense to her. Was there honor in roaming dark halls and pilfering kitchen utensils?

Terra would have understood, she thought.

"You're so adamant about helping me." Where her tone lacked the question, inquiry was painted in the shape of her eyes and the curve of her mouth. Why, she asked without speaking, what for?

Edgar caught the implied question as he finally took a bite of the gruel before him. The taste had not improved with his mood, though it wasn't enough to wipe the smile from his face. Though the grin remained, his expression took on a somber quality.

"Let's just say it's in my nature. Being that we're all prisoners here, we should be working toward a common goal, so there is no reason not to help you." Another bite- he used the pause. "And besides... as I'm sure Locke told you, we were friends once. I suppose I'm hoping to recoup what has been lost, if only little by little."

Edited at 2011-10-10 04:29 pm (UTC)

It was a complicated answer, which she should have expected. Some of it she knew from previous conversations -- it meant he was consistent with that story, at least. She lapsed back into silence, ostensibly to eat. At least now she had something else to compare it to; the girl thought she might prefer cake to this.

Eventually curiosity won out, pulling at similar to the question she'd asked Locke the day before. She didn't look up, and her words were easy to lose for the low murmur.

"... What was she like?"

She? Edgar blinked before his mind latched itself onto what she meant by that. It was odd to think of Terra as someone else completely, and even stranger to have a conversation as though she was gone when she sat before his eyes. It had to be even harder on her, to not know who she was- or what she was, rather.

"That's another one of those things I'm sure you'll discover for yourself, eventually," he said with a sigh. "And it's probably best that way."

He turned his eyes to her- seeing her head down struck a nerve in him. "Though I can tell you a few things. When I first met her, she was as you are now, to a degree: lost, unable to remember much of her past. She had been used by the Empire for years, but that wasn't who she was. The Terra I knew was kind, but determined."

The details matched Locke's story--a girl with amnesia, a kind demeanor and a strong will, 'used' by an Empire--but that's all it was. Details, etchings to a person, but not nearly enough to construct a personality from. Perhaps they both were withholding things more significant for a reason. To have her grow into the woman they knew, without the guilt of forcing such a path.

If it was the truth.

"Locke mentioned that," she said, glancing up. "The Empire. But he didn't explain it at all."

"I suppose whether you know about them or not matters little at this point," Edgar said with a shrug, "seeing how we're prisoners here and as such are dealing with a completely different enemy." His eyes met hers. He reasoned it couldn't make things worse if he explained a little about them. She would have heard it had she remained in their world, anyway.

"The Empire was a nation that ruled the southern continent, in the world we come from." Pulling his pen from his pocket, Edgar took his napkin and drew a crude map for her. He placed an X at the center of the southernmost mass. "At the capital city of Vector, they were building an army to conquer more territories. This army used the power of their Magitek weapons, creations fueled by the power of magic. The power they had wasn't enough to satisfy them, however... They wanted more, not content until they were gods."

Matters little. Was that really the case? She couldn't help a frown at that, even as he looked at her. How could he say in one breath that they'd been 'using her' for years in one breath, and in the next say something like that?

But his words weren't a complete evasion of the subject; the girl leaned forward as he spoke, eyes watching as he sketched out continents. The finished drawing was meant to be the world he -- she, they -- hailed from, but he might as well have drawn from recollection some bloodstains on his bedroom wall. Her head tilted a little to the side, memorizing the shape of the world and the indicated position of the capitol. Vector. The word meant nothing to her, but she would not forget it if she could help it.

As he spoke, her face scrunched for concentration. Magitek... a power fueled by magic, which she possessed. They said the Empire had been using her, but was that right? No matter how well Edgar and Locke's stories matched up, that was still all she had. It would be easier to believe them, she knew, to accept it without question. She was already inclined to it. The girl didn't know if that was right, either. Maybe if she had those files Izaya had mentioned...

The dull throb of a headache pulled at the corners of her eyes, and the girl shook her head as if to knock it away. "So they..." she started, unsure she understood, "... made weapons... from my power?"

"They used you as a weapon would be more accurate," Edgar said without fanfare. She was aware of her power, and he considered it likely she'd used them in her fight with the birds. It was where her powers came from that he'd have trouble explaining, and was something better suited for her to discover on her own; however, it was also something he wasn't sure could be discovered on her own at Landel's.

A thought crossed his mind that hadn't before: he'd been concerned she might be taken for a sleep study, that the knowledge would be forced upon her somehow; however, he'd seen an Esper at night. What if she came into contact with it? Would she face a reaction as she had in Narshe?

And if that happened, what could be done to help her? Would there be another way to help her understand who she was?

Edgar shook his head for now. More questions that couldn't be answered, ones he hoped never would have to be answered. It was a grim possibility on the horizon, but they'd cross that bridge when they came to it.

With his fingers, he mimed placing something on his head. "They controlled you with a slave crown, and forced you to do their work. You were called a witch for your gifts."

Without thinking, the girl moved her hand to mirror his gesture, fingers alighting to her temple. The beret was tight on her forehead, just as it had been the day before, and the night before that. Was that why her head had ached so fiercely that first night? Why, whenever the opportunity presented itself, she would discard it?

Her fingertips slid under the sweatband, as if she would find some evidence to his claim. Some scarring, some lingering touch of metal -- but of course there was nothing. If she could only recall even one thing--!

Pain marked every feature of her face, like the struggle of digging through a frozen soil without a spade. No matter how hard she concentrated, or how many times she tried pushing through that gray fog of absent memory, all her efforts returned to her was this ache. Suffering, and a loneliness she didn't understand.

"Why?" she asked, her voice quiet. Her eyes were unfocused; only some small part of her was still there, at that table with Edgar.

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