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Doctor Solaris Dae

(Icarus)

171 views · last seen in The 'Asylum'.
a character in “The First Signs of Madness”, as played by AugmentationAudit

Description

There is no such person as Doctor Solaris Dae, and therein lies the irony. It is her will, her drive, her passion and the undoing of all those who she turns her mind against; she is above all else a dangerous woman.

There is no doubt: she is the most dangerous person in the Asylum and likely beyond. There is an irony in that also; when she is viewed beside The Instigator.

Her power lies mainly in her intellect, tactical ability and ruthless determination, but there is no denying that she is beyond human in nature. She is too perfect to be real, though such things are rarely noticed before it's far too late. She is a creature of desire in the simplest form; if the temptation is there, she can whip it into an obsessive, reckless blaze.

She calls herself Icarus, but in truth, she infects others with the mindless desire of her namesake.

So begins...

Doctor Solaris Dae's Story

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Jack Rass Character Portrait: Kieko Harlong Character Portrait: Trephan Bethlem Character Portrait: Nurses of the Asylum Character Portrait: Doctor Solaris Dae
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Footnotes

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INK

Television Room.
1035.

Sam wasn’t feeling any happier about the (admittedly dire) situation in the lounge, but there was no disguising the heavy surge of relief that coursed through him when Aveline decided to sit down. It was foolish, and very possibly unforgivably naïve, but he felt a great deal safer when that particular patient was below head level; not safe enough to move away from his carefully chosen position between them all and the door, but still better than he had some ten minutes previously.

Unfortunately for Sam, he was neither overly tall nor overly strong, and there was just no way that he’d be able to successfully contain more than one of the people in the room should all hell break loose. Sam cast a careful look at Jack- if that particular young man decided he wanted to get out of the room, he could very easily go through all of them to get it, which was not the most comforting of thoughts. However, there was no point in worrying when things had become a little more civil, so-

“Clothes? Uh, yeah, I think I can sort that out for all of you. It would probably be a good idea, actually; it can’t be very nice to be in grubby pyjamas. Normally, we’d be a bit better organised around here, but this morning things have gotten a bit away from us, and I’m really very sorry for that. I’ll sort it all out now.”

Carefully, because it would be more than stupid to turn his back fully on any of these people, Sam moved forward, cracking the door open and calling softly for assistance.

Meanwhile Jack, who was not too proud to admit that he’d been zoning in and out of awareness while this all was going on, blinked himself back into focus, looking wearily around the room. “I think I’d like some different clothes too, if that’s at all possible,” he said quietly, plucking at what was left of his outfit with long, pale fingers. “I’m not all that warm.”

It was hardly surprising, given that he was shirtless, a fact that Jack found less discomforting that he would have imagined before. Maybe it was the shock, though it was more likely his rigid hold on his stage persona that was preventing him from flailing and blushing ridiculously at being trapped in a room with three women, stripped bare save for a pair of baggy grey trousers.

“It looks like Sam’s getting us something to wear. I hope he is. This- I need to get out of these clothes. We all need to- put something different on.” Keiko sounded a little less hysterical now, but there was still an undercurrent of fear in her hoarse voice. “And- then I guess we can- there. Um. We’ll see what happens then, I guess.”

Trephan, of course, was totally aware of what was going on, right down to Lauren’s appearance outside with fresh clothing for all of them as per Sam’s hasty request. It was lucky such things were kept on hand; Sam’s anxious mental chatter was beginning to reach headache inducing levels. As a result, Keiko smiled tremulously when the male nurse reappeared with several stacks of laundry in his arms.

“Uh, boys, I’m afraid you’re going to need to step outside with me for a minute. This is Lauren; she’s going to stay in here with the girls while they get changed.”

There was no missing the sudden confidence in Sam’s voice now that he was standing beside someone who he classed to be ‘on his side’; Keiko’s smile became more genuine.

Intensive Treatment.
1010.


“You read Shakespeare? How positively delicious, and one of my favourites too. I really am ever so glad; it’ll give us so very much to talk about while we get all of this nastiness out of the way. I must say, it does make things ever so much easier, when there’s a little bit of conversation to keep things going.”

Doctor Dae’s voice was thick with a rich, cloying amusement as she carefully removed her uniform piece by piece, neatly folding each item of clothing and setting it on the trolley beside her before moving onto the next. She continued to talk, apparently uninstructed, as she did so, seemingly as confident in her skin as she was in her clothing; there was no shame in her posture, only amusement.

“I have a very real appreciation for Romeo and Juliet. ‘That heaven finds means to kill your joys with love’! Ah, the very best of ironies, and such a bitter one too, don’t you think? The fool public reads such a thing as tragedy, the forever what-if that enslaves the masses and turns their minds to bittersweet and melancholy; they class it as beauty, as one of the very best of plays, and yet they grieve for such things in reality.”

She shrugged a bare shoulder, naked save for her underwear and quite perfect, but almost unnaturally so; she had a fine body and flawless, honey-gold skin, but there was something underlying and almost surreal about her, if one chose to look beyond what they first saw. “That’s an irony in itself; what repels the public in reality excites them in the written word. How many people in this world express disgust at an atrocity that happens in the ‘real’, but then gorge themselves on the very same things when labelled fiction?

“That’s the irony of the human condition, Mr Mason; humanity is all too eager to hide its baser desires behind the veil of fiction, convincing even themselves that they feel disgust towards the things that actually drive and entice them.”

A small, hot hand reached out to brush the side of his face in the gentlest of touches. “But not you. No, you’re quite different, aren’t you, Mr Mason? You are a man that embraces his desires beyond the reaches of societal propriety and constraint; a man who sees himself as free, I don’t doubt, but I wonder… do you truly understand.”

With another strange smile, she leaned in to whisper to the shell of his ear. “‘O happy dagger,’” her voice was soft. “‘This is thy sheath.’

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Jack Rass Character Portrait: Kieko Harlong Character Portrait: Trephan Bethlem Character Portrait: Nurses of the Asylum Character Portrait: Doctor Solaris Dae
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INK

1040-1050.
Outside of Television Room to Leisure Room 2: Music Therapy.


Sam was, of course, unaware of the smell, being quite human and not at all as perceptive as Matt, however, he did see the danger in waiting in the corridor when such overt chaos had been unfurling, and as such, he walked the short distance to Leisure Room 2: Music Therapy, and showed the boys inside.

“I think it would be better if we didn’t hang around in the hall, and this’ll give us a chance to get you boys changed as well. I’m afraid I don’t have the clothes you were admitted in to hand, but I have some that are clean and warm. I hope they’ll do.” That said, Sam set down the small armful of clothing that he had accepted from Lauren on a piano stool. “There should be something in both of your sizes; pick something you like, okay?”

Unfortunately, Sam had forgotten to close the door, and as such couldn’t pretend that he hadn’t seen Aveline come out, and as such was obliged to move into her line of sight. In all honesty, the girl scared him just a little, more so even than the obviously violent individuals that were present, if only because there was no reasoning with her.

“It’s good that you take your medication, Aveline,” he said quietly, his smile only slightly fixed as he remained between the girl and the two boys. “And it’s good that it helps.”

Meanwhile Jack, who was half way through pulling on a baggy red jumper (ugly, impossibly ugly), paused at the sound of Aveline’s voice, just about managing to swallow down his anxiety at her sudden presence. He didn’t like her, not at all, and for a moment his stage persona thinned in reaction to his surprise; he was not subtle in the way that he took a reflexive step closer to Matt. Safety in numbers.

“They must have our clothes… that horrid girl has my hat.” His voice was little more than a whisper, but he was confident that Matt would hear him.

Television Room
1040-1050.


Lauren smiled at Sarah; it was nice to speak to somebody receptive, even if the girl was asking questions that couldn’t really be answered at the moment. Looking around, it was obvious that these girls had been through a tough time; there was blood on their clothes, Keiko appeared to have been crying for quite some time, and even Aveline seemed a little more unusual than normal. Clearly, the powers that be had not been exaggerating when they had filled Lauren in on the situation and requested her involvement.

“You can certainly watch a film, Sarah; I’d be glad to put something on for you, and we’re in the right place for it. Keiko, would you like to watch something too?”

The girl, who had by this point dressed herself in a featureless black hooded jumper and jeans looked up as Lauren spoke, and the nurse had the sudden, acute sensation of déjà vu. It was over in a second, not lingering for long enough to even spark a related memory, and Lauren shook it away with another kind smile; there would be time to work that sort of thing out when she wasn’t working with a group of anxious young people.

Swollen dark eyes peered out from a mess of dark hair as Keiko studied Lauren with apparent suspicion, but after a moment she nodded her head. “Something nice. I want to watch something nice. No- no blood. No gore.”

“Well, I’m sure that can be arranged.” Lauren crossed the room, inserting a key into a locked cupboard and revealing a wide selection of DVDs for the girls to look at. “Why don’t you two choose something, while I go and find out where Aveline has gone off to?”

Outside The Infirmary.
1015.


It was an adventure. Devan and Tori’s Demented Adventure; oh, it was ever so exciting! Tori had been leading Devan through a veritable maze of interesting places, chattering animatedly about everything and nothing as he did so, heading purposefully towards Intensive Treatment all the while.

“We need to be super, super quiet,” he whispered as he passed the big double doors, ducked low and creeping like a parody cartoon villain. “In there is where the Evil Doctor Icarus does her evil doctor work; if we disturb her, she’ll come out and eat our souls.”

Cackling under his breath, Tori looked back at Devan, flashing his teeth in a grin; it looked like they had left Elise-Who-Couldn’t-Make-Her-Mind-Up behind at some stage, but that was okay; she had been annoying him. “If we’re super quiet, we can sneak into the Infirmary without The Evil Icarus hearing us, and in there…” Tori’s face practically split in half with the force of his smile.

“In there is where they keep all the interesting things.”

Intensive Treatment.
1015.


“It is something of a tragedy, at least in the eyes of an idealist. You see, their love was ‘beautiful’ and ‘pure’, and their death was ‘needless’. Those things, above all else, trigger a reaction in the human condition; it fascinates me. In the real world, in any world for that matter, their love would have grown and changed, open to the possibility of stagnation, corruption and death. Their mutual suicide created a paradox; love and the absence of love woven together in a single frozen moment, as beautiful as it is terrible.”

She knew the spell that he was under; she could see it in the way he wrote the world around him, every breath and every nuance changing the script just slightly in her favour. It was beautiful, to watch this moment unfold to her abstract design. He would never be the same again.

“I think that I will show you something, Mr Mason… something quite divine.” Her voice hushed to a whisper, Doctor Dae stood and crossed the room in two fluid strides, opening one of the gleaming cupboards that lined the walls.

“I am going to show you another paradox…”

When she turned, there was a sealed container clasped tightly in her arms, which Doctor Dae placed upon one of the trolleys with infinite care. From within, she extracted first a spun glass tree that gleamed in the harsh artificial light.

“…something fascinating and profound…”

A single, tanned finger traced the very edge of the one imperfection that marred the beautiful ornament. She allowed Xavier to see, highlighting that the little dark branch was in fact a chrysalis, hanging from the intricate glass weave. As if awoken by her touch, the carapace began to crack, the creature within fighting to break free.

“… and all I need to know is this…”

She looked up then, from under long lashes, and swept from the container a gleaming crystal bell jar, which she placed delicately over the glass tree, where a butterfly was slowly inflating jewel-bright wings.

Icarus smiled: “What do you see?

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Jack Rass Character Portrait: Kieko Harlong Character Portrait: Trephan Bethlem Character Portrait: Nurses of the Asylum Character Portrait: Doctor Solaris Dae
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Leisure Room 2: Music Therapy.
1100.


Not only was she mad, but rude as well? Jack came very close to scowling as he finished dressing himself, his eyes fixed unerringly on Aveline as she (quite childishly in his opinion) tried to bring Matt down with hurtful words. There were few people in the world that Jack actively disliked, but people like Aveline were certainly among that number. Words, Jack knew, had great power, and even ones so clumsily used could cause a great deal of pain. Maliciousness, especially vindictive, childish maliciousness, was not something that he had much patience for.

“Aveline.” His voice was soft and somewhat distant; he was too strung out and wrapped up in his own thoughts to realise just how strange he had been feeling since waking, but the feelings of unreality were only mounting. “I don’t care about the hat,” His voice was tired, as was his posture; Jack looked every bit as though he was reaching the end of his tether.

“It’s mine, but you know what? You can have it. Matt’s a human being, and he’s my friend and what you’re doing right now isn’t just wrong, it’s cruel. He’s trying to do something nice for me, because he knows it’s mine and he knows I want it, but you know what? I care about him more than I do some stupid hat, and I certainly care more about him than I do you.”

Jack took a deep, shuddering breath before he continued. “Right now, Aveline, I’m having a very, very bad day: I’ve woken up, again, in a strange place with very little idea of what’s happening to me, or what’s going to happen to me, only to be told that my- to be told that-” Ruthlessly, Jack swallowed the constricting feeling in his chest; he needed to say this, even if she wouldn’t understand. “To be told that my brother- my everything- is gone. And you know what? That’s worse than seeing what I saw earlier, it’s worse than being here, and it’s a hell of a lot worse than you.”

Jack’s eyes hardened, the first flickering of disgust visible in his expression even as tears began to leak down his face. “All you are is a pathetic, worthless little child who has no idea about the world around her, let alone the people in it, and I feel sorry for you. I feel sorry for you, because there is nothing in your life that can possibly matter as much as my brother mattered to me, and he’s DEAD!”

A single sob, rapidly strangled, worked its way past Jack’s anger and control. “And do you know what? You disgust me. You repulse me, because there’s enough pain in the world without you willingly adding more to it.

“Go away, Aveline; nobody wants you, and I can’t see you mattering to anybody worth a damn either, so why don’t you just get lost? Or talk to yourself, if you want to hurt somebody so bloody badly.”

Sam, who was still standing beside the door, was, for a moment, utterly speechless.

Television Room.
1100.


Lauren wasn’t stupid; she knew when somebody was checking out where she put her keys. However, she gave no indication that she was aware and simply smiled blandly at Sarah’s choice of film. “You go ahead and put that one on then, Sarah, and Keiko, sit down honey and watch the film, okay? I’m going to pop to the kitchen and get you some popcorn and drinks, if that’s all right?”

“It’s fine. We’ll watch the movie.” Keiko’s voice was quiet, and her eyes remained averted as she sat, hugging her knees. “I’d like some popcorn. Thanks.”

Inside, nestled quite comfortably now, Trephan observed with cruel delight as things unfolded deliciously around him. His awareness was limited, somewhat smothered still by Keiko’s humanity, but slowly he was growing into his old self in her form; soon, it would be as much of a home to him as he previous body had been. Out in the hall, not so far away, but further than he could have been aware of a few minutes previously, his murderer was engaging the most docile member of the inmates in an argument.

It was an effort, but Keiko didn’t smile; it was ever so delicious.

Outside the Infirmary.
1025.


Despite being quite aware that there was nobody home, Tori crept into the Infirmary like a thief, his feet (clad only in socks) making little to no sound as he slipped through the double doors and into the room beyond.

“This is where they keep the bodies,” he murmured to Devan, who he was quite certain was close behind. The boy was like his shadow, Tori thought with a lopsided grin; it was nice to have a shadow, especially a quiet one. His normal shadow talked so much! He never got a moment’s peace!

“They kill people here, sometimes, or make them vanish. I’m a secret agent, Agent Tori Sith, so I know. I know everything that goes on here, even what Icarus is thinking. She thinks I don’t, but I do.” Simple fact: there was nothing but certainty in Tori’s voice.

“We should find the bodies,” he went on, seemingly oblivious to the rambling nature of his vocalisation. “That is, if you want to see them?” For the first time, he actually looked around to check, though his expression suggested that anyone not wanting to see the bodies was almost beyond his comprehension.

Intensive Treatment.
1020.


“What you see is subjective; there are many truths and many untruths, all that can be gathered from the Butterfly in the Bell Jar. It is not a matter of knowing, and certainly not a matter of being certain; it simply is. What I have placed here simply is, and your own interpretation of what your eyes see is something of the salient point. I will neither confirm nor deny anything that you infer, because that would rather change the meaning, don’t you think?”

With the greatest of care, Doctor Dae shifted the light above them, drawing it down so that it struck the glass just so and sent a ripple of filigree rainbows skating across the table, in the midst of which the shadow of the butterfly beat its wings. “Fantasy and reality are abstract concepts, Mr Mason; I think you’re beginning to understand that now. I find it fascinating, that peculiar little join; the turning moment between realities that hinges on belief.”

From the corner of the room, she retrieved a chair, which she positioned carefully, so that when she sat down backwards, with her arms pillowed on the backrest, she was both close to Xavier but at the same time not impeding his view of the butterfly and bell jar. “Jack Gilbert; a moment of free verse on what everyone forgets,” she said, something of a non sequitur, and smiled.

The doctor’s hard grey eyes were laughing as she watched him, so close now. “Wordsworth: She was a phantom of delight. Or, Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

A single hot, dry hand reached out to tip Xavier’s chin just a little higher, encouraging him to meet those chilly eyes fully. There was something there; perhaps a smile, perhaps some great revelation, but whatever those eyes were trying to say was shrouded by a picture perfect smile. “And Ruth said: ‘Entreat me not to leave thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God…’” Her voice had fallen to little more than a rapturous whisper, and her eyes danced.

“Tell me, Xavier, what all of this means to you.”

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Doctor Solaris Dae
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Footnotes

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Intensive Treatment.
1025.

Her process was convoluted, and yet she sought to know him better, each word and deed a device to dip that fraction deeper into his consciousness. Her every breath was calculated; there was no random chance, no spontaneity in her articulation. As the writer creates, looks back, conceives and alters, she created, looked back, conceived and altered; it was all her plan, and any spontaneous thought fit into the great design that was unfolding in her mind.

He was a curious creature, that which had been given to her; a trinket, and likely a device in the overall plot of reasoning. It was false; the whole universe in which these characters found themselves was a fabrication, and within that fabrication a further fabrication. Homunculus; Icarus smiled.

“The butterfly in the bell jar; it’s a fascinating metaphor, don’t you think?” She watched him, in his every action, his every word. Nothing that she said-did-thought was without reason, without drive. To her, the world was a fabrication, a story, and every tiny detail had a greater purpose. Icarus knew that she was false, and so lived without delusion while the rest of the world wallowed in fallacy.

“It can be used in so many ways and forms, but in this instance, I think just one will be the most fitting. There is a structure of glass, a container of glass, and an insect: this is fact. There is no fallacy there. Just as you are the being that you are, this cannot be changed. Only by smashing the glass and crushing the insect does this become in any way different, and yet- still the same. Though shards and yellow blood, there still lies the remains of a butterfly in a bell jar, and a spun glass tree.

“If I were to change you, or break you, or kill you, there would be no changing the intrinsic fact of your being: you would be the person that you are now, but changed, broken, killed. You would not cease to exist, but your continuation would be in a different format. There is no removing you from this place, as some might think. Killing a character does not remove them from the story, and thus, you cannot be removed, or in any way changed, because you have been written as you are. You may be written differently in the future, but that cannot unwrite what has gone before.”

In her mind, the world was a twisted fiction, but her understanding was profound. She was written and she wrote; homunculus. “So, Mr Xavier Mason, let’s talk about the butterfly in the bell jar and the spun glass tree, but let us also talk of Ruth. You classify yourself, you are written rules and potentials; a carefully closed but misunderstood device. Can you ever know yourself, Mr Mason? No. You could no more create the life of another and completely understand them as a separate entity than know yourself entirely.”

And yet, in the vaulted mind of Icarus, she could understand, and what she did not truly understand she shaped to fit her ideals, moulding the universe around her into the cosmic storyline of her choosing. There were no mistakes, no errors in judgement, no missteps or poorly chosen words; simply another device to further the great ironic story that was a tail written by a fabrication. The great mind that had thought her up and set her free? Irrelevant. Ironic. Homunculus.

She smiled, all beauty and teeth, as she looked down at the boy who was made up of delusions and fallacies, as all of them were. They were never free, never truly alive because none of them had ever existed, and yet they strove: irony. “You flinch at the words of Ruth. Words written by men and re-written by men in different tongues so that none of the true words remain; your internal truth is the butterfly in the bell jar and the spun glass tree. You may not see it now, but soon you will fully understand; you flinch at my telling of the telling of the words of Ruth, whose words have been twisted, translated and slaughtered.

“There is no god left within those words, and yet you flinch: you are no demon that is burned by god, but a creature of your mind. You are burned by your perceptions of god. Ruth speaks of love, not of god; that her love is a driving force to bind her to another. She speaks of the lord, but only in so much as the lord of her love will be her lord also. That is your bell jar, your spun glass tree. You are the butterfly, Xavier: your belief is the foundation on which you rest, but your perception limits you. A demon that believes in god enough that the perceived words of god wound him; not a demon at all, then, just a butterfly and a bell jar and a spun glass tree.”

Slowly, Icarus reached down and unbound the shackles that held Xavier in place; freeing him physically; the butterfly. She smiled to him, stepped back so that he had the space and the perception of choice; the bell jar. “I could set you free, Xavier; there are things that you will do for me, things that you will embrace and desire, things that will release you. Stay, and listen to me. I am Icarus; the irony and the metaphor, and I can release you from the prison of your mind.

“There will be no further bell jars, there will be no butterfly, only irony and truth. I can free you from your perceptions of god and your false logic. So come to me, Xavier Mason, the Demon bound by his belief in god, and be remade.”

The spun glass tree.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Jack Rass Character Portrait: Trephan Bethlem Character Portrait: Nurses of the Asylum Character Portrait: Doctor Solaris Dae
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Intensive Treatment.
1040.


“That’s right, that’s exactly right, Xavier,” Icarus whispered, her eyes bright and intense as she watched the young man stand before her. A single hand reached out to touch his face; butterfly kisses with her fingers ghosting gently down beside his eye. “This is the beginning of your freedom, this is the start of your education, your enlightenment to all that is real and true.”

Her smile seemed genuine (as genuine as a smile from Icarus could ever be), and she held his gaze with firm intention. “This is the beginning of what you will become; you must listen to me, Xavier- cast aside illusion and false religion to be reborn. And oh! How you will be reborn!” For just a moment, there was flash of bright passion in her voice that seemed quite real.

“I want you to do something for me,” she murmured, her fingers still dancing on his skin. “There is a boy outside, one consumed with the desire to kill. He is a fool. I want you to educate him in his foolishness, Xavier, and I want to see the beginning of your awakening. The start of your journey to liberation will be in this moment.”

Gently, she pulled back, her eyes never leaving Xavier’s face. “Remember what you’ve been taught so far, and keep in mind that there will be further lessons once this is done. You are a beautiful creature, Xavier, but you exist in chains. When those chains are broken, you will be glorious, and nothing will stop you. For now, however, put this to memory,”

Icarus’s voice lowered, and her eyes, if possible, became all the more intense. “You can do what you will to the boy in the room outside; he’s planning on murder, of that I am quite certain, though he has no words with which to speak. However, think on the butterfly, the bell-jar and the spun glass tree, and know that there are more things in heaven than earth; when the character is put to death, there are only so many paths the story can take, but alive- oh, alive there’s infinite possibility!”

Her piece said, Icarus stepped away fully and turned her back. “Do me proud,” she said in parting, before unlocking the door to allow Xavier free access to the Infirmary and its occupants.

Infirmary.
1035.


Tori watched intently as Devan deliberated over the half-dead doctor, and seemed to understand the decision that his companion finally came to, though his mouth twisted in a manner that might have suggested displeasure. “There’s no fight in him is-” A sharp blow to the head cut him off, but it wasn’t so much the shock or pain of the action that silenced him, but the fact that Tori was quite simply suddenly not there.

Mid-way through the contact, Tori’s skin seemed to burn and lose cohesion; becoming suddenly, searingly less than it had been milliseconds previously, as his body quite literally funnelled itself away into dark, cloying smoke. There was no sound, but the sense of pressure permeated the area, and heavy, dark vapour pooled on the floor for several seconds in Tori’s absence, looking oily and faintly toxic.

“There.” Tori’s voice, when it reappeared a moment later, was a little less entertained than it had been previously. Closer to serious, the young man was scowling and standing on one of the empty beds, his arms crossed over his chest. “That wasn’t very polite. I’m just trying to be nice to you, and help you out, but you choose to slap me in the head! That hurt! That seriously hurt! You slap really hard!”

Though his voice rapidly morphed back into its familiar pattern, Tori still seemed displeased, though there was no indication in his posture that sudden, reflexive teleportation was anything out of the ordinary for him. He stuck his tongue out. “I should leave you here, you know. Actually, I think I will. I was going to help you out some more, but I’ve decided not to because you’re a meanie. If you start being nice again, I might come back for you though. It depends. You’ll get what you want either way.”

Leisure Room 2.
1115.


Lauren, who had set a tray with several drinks and a bowl of popcorn down in the television room, entered Leisure Room 2 in time to see Jack sitting on the floor with two other young people, and Sam looking a little out of his depth in the doorway with Aveline. Clearly, a situation was happening, and something had occurred while she was getting a midday snack for the girls (who were no longer in the television room; she could see both of them).

Nonverbally, she implied to Sam that she had at least half of this covered; she entered the room, moving past Keiko, who was shuffling quietly over to stand beside Sarah, around Matt, and positioning herself squarely in front of Jack. She kept enough distance that it didn’t seem as if she was intruding, but she did crouch down so as to get a better perspective on the situation.

“I won’t mind, I don’t mind,” Jack was saying, his expression unsettled. “You- I- we’re friends. We’re okay. I don’t care what you do. I don’t care.” He seemed to be confused, which worried Lauren (as much as the simulation could truly worry her), but she was curious to see the interaction play out between the young people that had been placed in her simulated care. In her normal workplace, she would have stepped in long before now to get the situation under regimented control, but this wasn’t supposed to be a direct replica of normality; it was a chance to try things that would be immoral in a true setting.

Jack appeared to be drawing stability from his two companions; his hands creeping out to each of them despite him not meeting their eyes. “We’re- we’re supposed to be here, but that’s okay, isn’t it? We can get better.” He didn’t sound like he knew what he was talking about, and really, the lad was a wonderful actor; Lauren was deeply impressed by his performance.

Keiko, sat neatly between Sarah and Lauren, followed the nurse’s train of thought with interest; her mental voice was cool and strong, quite the opposite of Jack’s rabid, misshapen monologue. The boy really was terribly scattered, but there was something almost delightful in watching his mind unspool through a mixture of suggestion, misinformation and chemical stimulation.

“It’s okay Jack,” she finally stated, one of her small hands reaching out to touch his shoulder, pressing against Sarah’s shoulders in the process. “The four of us, we’ll get through this together. We’re the good people here, like- like on your list, so we’ll be all right. You just wait and see.”

Leisure Room 1.
1120.


Sam, though large and quite strong, was nonetheless taken by surprise when he was shoved unceremoniously into Leisure Room 1, Aveline’s hands flying at him even before he had the chance to truly figure out what was happening to him. Despite its earlier state of occupation, the room was now quite empty, though the traces of Karissa were still very much in evidence upon the walls.

It took perhaps ten seconds for Sam to spring into action, by which time Aveline was clawing for his throat, but it was less than a second later than his own large hands closed around the girl’s in an unforgiving grip. He didn’t speak; didn’t even appear to be thinking when he turned her around using a firm grip upon her arm and marched her straight up into a wall. It was only when she was pinned that he seemed to think again, blinking in surprise and rubbing his scratched face on his shoulder so that he didn’t have to alter his grip.

“Aveline,” he finally said, his voice tense. “I’ve been working this job for four years and before that I was a soldier for six. Trying to kill me is not only completely unacceptable. It’s not going to happen. Now, I want you to relax, calm down and stop this nonsense. If you do that now, I won’t have to call in an Intervention.”

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Character Portrait: Jack Rass Character Portrait: Kieko Harlong Character Portrait: Trephan Bethlem Character Portrait: Nurses of the Asylum Character Portrait: Doctor Solaris Dae
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Leisure Room 1.
1025.


Sam didn’t think that Aveline had a schizophrenic profile, but he might have been wrong; it was difficult to remember the finer points of a diagnosis when the owner of said condition was attempting to kill him. Granted, she was going about it with little skill, as was often the case with suffers of psychotic illness, but the fight or flight response remained all the same. Sam didn’t let her go.

“Matt,” he said quietly, his voice carefully modulated to give none of his simmering adrenal reaction at bay. It wasn’t just dogs that could sense strong emotions, after all; people were very good at it too, and Matt just happened to be both. He had no intention of triggering the lad if he could help it, especially when the boy was already clearly wound up. “Thank you for coming to protect me, but it really is okay; I can handle this.”

And, thankfully, it was the truth. Sam didn’t like being forced to restrain the people in his care, especially when it was in this sort of situation, but he didn’t actually fear losing control over Aveline and letting anyone come to harm. Sam look a slow breath in through his nose, sighing out through his mouth.

“Aveline,” he finally replied to the girl’s statements, “It’s not okay to hurt people, even when someone tells you to. Everyone has just as much right to live, and none of us should be able to take that away. Life is very important, and it’s not something to be taken lightly.”

His smile would have been frail, his tone bitter, but Sam had better control than that. This was just a test, and he was determined to pass to the best of his ability. “Now, we’re all going to calm down for a minute. Matt, if you could take a step back for me, that would be great. Aveline, I want you to stay nice and still and try to calm down. Nobody is going to get hurt, and nobody’s in trouble, but we all need to be calm so that we can sort this out properly.”

Leisure Room 2.
1025.


Jack followed Sarah’s prodding like a lost sheep, making a somewhat comical image given just how literally he towered over her. However, for the moment the humour was lost on him; he needed someone’s reason to cling to in the face of the loss of his own, and Sarah happened to be making the most sense, so naturally the task fell to her.

Once he was settled on a bench between Sarah and Keiko he felt a little steadier, though his eyes lingered on the nurse (did he know her name? How long had she been there?) for a long moment before he finally calmed down enough to order his thoughts again.

“I-” he began, then paused, eyes flicking back and forth in confusion for a second before his gaze became fixed and blank. All of a sudden, nobody was home.

Keiko, who had been listening to more than Jack’s words as he progressed through misery and confusion, stilled for a moment less than a second after Jack did, apparently in response to his broken sentence. “Jack? Are you okay?” He obviously wasn’t; just looking at his face was enough to tell that, and secretly, she was squealing in excitement. The doctor in her (literally) was infinitely pleased to say that he had proven a point, and really, there was nothing quite so delicious than a front row seat for this sort of thing.

It was a shame that Lauren was in on the show too, but there really wasn’t anything he could do about that at the moment, and frankly, it might be useful to have a proper nurse on standby if his predictions (made a long time ago now, and set into motion before Jack even woke up) came true.

Infirmary.
1043.


Icarus had scampered back into her lair to plan unspeakable plans, but not before he had caught the barest glimpse of her lurking in the doorway. Tori smiled a strange smile, wondering just what she’d been up to in there that merited taking most of her clothes off. His question was answered a second later by the arrival of Xavier, which was amusing, if a little bit gross.

He stored the experiences away for later, his attention fixed on Devan. He didn’t have to be a secret agent to see where this plan was going, but for a moment he wasn’t sure if he wanted to watch in person or not. In the end (it took only seconds, because Tori had never been very good when it came to delaying gratification) he decided that these things weren’t quite as interesting when watched from a distance. He’d stay.

“I know you’re sorry, but that still wasn’t very kind,” He pouted, displeased, before hopping down off of the bed and reaching into a nondescript draw. “But.” Head turned slightly to the side, pink eyes flashing in Devan’s direction, he smiled. “But, I like you, so I’m going to be nice. Icarus has been a little bit mean, you see. You were mean too, but not that mean. Not many people are actually that mean…”

There were two wrapped scalpels in Tori’s hand when he finally removed it from the draw, and his face was thoughtful, unreadable. “I’m not sure how mean I am. I’m a secret agent, see, and sometimes I confuse myself. What bit’s me, what bit’s my super cool James Bond persona. I spend so much time pretending…” Dark fingers ripped the packages easily, peeling the flaps back. “So much pretending. It’s difficult to tell what bit’s actually me anymore.”

White teeth flashed wickedly, the gleam unsettlingly like the shine of the twin scalpels that were clasped delicately between his fingers. “This bit though… this bit is really very me.”

Tori’s face was worryingly blank as he sent the first scalpel spinning across the floor towards Devan. “I promised you a kife. There it is,” he murmured. “And because you annoyed me, because you were mean-” The second scalpel sailed towards Xavier.

“I hope you live, Devan. I actually quite like you.”

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Main Hall.
1100.


At eleven o’clock exactly, the watch that was concealed in the pocket of the male nurse that was now dealing with Aveline shrilled three sharp bleeps and then fell silent. In itself, the sound would not have been strange, however, the exact same beeping emanated from the pocket of the member of kitchen staff who was still standing with a tray of ice cream. What was more, both members of staff stiffened at the noise, as if listening to some private voice; ‘Mr Mean Nurse’ even went so far as to nod.

“Okay, Aveline, enough is enough. It’s time to go to your room. I’ve given you fair warning, and this isn’t the sort of behaviour that will be tolerated here. I don’t know what you got away with before, but here, things are different. If you don’t do as your asked, you will be punished.”

That said, he stepped forwards in a single, decisive gesture and hauled Aveline up. He was stronger than her, and determined in his brute force as he secured her into the best hold he could get on her, intending to frog-march her to her room and lock her in.

Room 11.
1100.


The nurse, who smiled almost constantly, nodded enthusiastically along with Matt’s comments, apparently content to stop her flow of speech to allow him to participate. She seemed pleased with him, and when he made his request for extra bedding, she nodded again.

“Oh, of course. Whatever you like, Matt. You’ve been so well behaved, even with all of this trouble that’s been going on. Don’t you worry about asking for anything; anything at all. So long as it’s not dangerous, we’ll almost certainly say yes.”

She ducked out of the room, but true to her word, she returned with an armful of pillows and blankets in record time, still smiling. “There we go, these should make things a bit more comfortable for you. I’ll bring you some lunch when it’s time, okay? Is there anything in particular that you fancy? I’m sure I can get it brought up for you.”

Infirmary.
1053.


The room was empty save for the mechanically breathing body of Trephan, which remained doll-like in its inactivity; the chest rose and fell with complete certainty and little consciousness, but there was no flutter of life there. However, the fighting young men were observed by keen grey eyes. The cameras were hidden, but their lenses were the very top of the line, and she was afforded a near-perfect view in crystal clear real-time.

Despite having played such an active role in engineering the situation that was now unfolding, there was little to no enjoyment evident in Icarus, only a keen, vested interest in the proceedings. The script had been laid; the players were in position; now all that remained to be seen was the victor. The grand reveal and the climax would have to wait for another time, but there was no loss in that; every second played was a second won in Icarus’s twisted view.

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Residential to Room 7.
1100-1125.


The no-nonsense attitude that Aveline’s male nurse had adopted at the beeping of his watch did not seem inclined to abate; he didn’t bother fighting with her for any longer than strictly necessary. Rather than battling with her when she dropped limply in his arms, he simply braced himself and scooped her up into a fireman’s carry, continuing his stiff walk along the corridor as though nothing out of the ordinary had happened. Then again, given where he worked, this was possibly an everyday occurrence for him.

When he arrived at Aveline’s room, he dumped her inside without much ceremony and locked the door at once so that she didn’t have the chance to pull back out. He didn’t say anything to her, indicating that she’d lost her chance at conversation, and with one last look through the barred window at her, he stalked away.

She was left alone like that, with nothing but the dull view outside the window, for perhaps ten minutes, before a soft scratching started somewhere behind one of her walls. At first, it was so quite that it was easy to ignore, but over the next few minutes it became more and more insistent. By the time the sound was constant, it had morphed from a soft scratching to a dull, rhythmic knocking.

“Here dips the rocky highland,” a little voice murmured, quoting an old poem that was perhaps better known for its repeating chorus than its true stanzas. “Of Sleuth Wood in the lake. There lies a leafy island, where flapping herons wake, the drowsy water rats; there we’ve hid…” A soft chuckle and the poem paused, the speaker sounding closer than ever. “

“It’s a good little rhyme- it makes me smile. Then again, a lot of things make me smile a lot.” The laughter started up again. It was definitely someone behind the wall. “I like that it’s called Sleuth Wood, because I’m a secret agent. Hiding too. I’m hiding right now. But you’re too interesting to ignore.”

A fist rapped on the wall for a moment, a strange, repetitive pattern. “Nobody knocked on my door, you know. I’ve been waiting for so long, but nobody bothered to come and knock for me. I had to let myself out, and when I let myself out, I get bored. When I’m bored, I want to make my own fun, and when I make my own fun, other people cry. They don’t understand me, but I think you just might.

“Do you understand me, Aveline? Do you get the cosmic joke that everyone else has missed?”

Room 11.
1100-1120.


Matt’s nurse left with a happy, smiling promise to do what she could to arrange some of the foods that Matt liked for dinner. She locked the door behind her, but she was still grinning through the door as she did so, and she waved through the window before she left, which made the gesture seem just a little less final. She bounced away, genuinely pleased that she’d managed to find the right words for him; she wanted to do well, and it was surprisingly easy to pretend that this all was real.

Back in Matt’s room, things were surprisingly normal. There was a full view of the courtyard outside his window, and as he worked his way through his snack, there were the first signs of activity out there. It started with the sound of a distant engine growing closer as, outside the window a truck was seen pulling up to the large front gates. It was unmarked, but appeared to be armoured, and rather than going straight on in it was required to wait as a pair of uniformed guards spoke to the driver. Whatever they said to one another seemed to be sufficient, however, as a moment later the large gates opened with a shriek to allow the truck inside.

After a few moments, hospital staff were seen coming from outside of Matt’s field of view; they approached the van with purpose, one pushing a sturdy wheelchair, the rest with hands on their tazers and nightsticks. Over the next five minutes, a new inmate was carefully unloaded from the back of the van by a police escort, and strapped securely into the wheelchair. She screamed and thrashed, but couldn’t break away, and after a brief conversation with the police the staff nodded and escorted her inside. Soon after, the van pulled away again, it’s task complete.

Infirmary.
1056.


Idly, Icarus checked her watch. Four minutes to ten, Asylum Time. Her face briefly took on a look of displeasure; they were running out of time, and her lessons had apparently all been for nothing. Xavier, though holding a great deal of promise, was clearly still not ready for the responsibility she had thrust upon him; he wasn’t leaning as fast or as well as she had initially intended. It was displeasing, in a way, because she had anticipated a course of action from this moment on, but as ever, the story was dynamic and she would make of it what she could.

This time, it seemed as if she would have to change her mode of operation for a time. It was very nearly eleven, and she could see on the dimmed monitor screens that the pieces were getting into position for the next great game. Soon, these boys would have to clear the way for more interesting things to happen, and there was the lad tucked away with the medical team to think of; there was only so long that she could realistically keep them all out of the Infirmary for without causing disruption to the overall plot.

A new plan, then, she decided, would have to be put into action as soon as possible, if she were to still have her fun. There were choices to make, of course, but she was more than up to the task. Her little friend seemed to be planning on entertaining himself with Aveline, if the setup going live on the screen to her left was any indication, but that still left others for her to play with. Matt found her focus for a moment; the boy had potential, but in the same breath, perhaps not. After all, Xavier and Devan were making for an entertaining team, even if they weren’t doing as they were told.

Oh well, maybe she’d just need to change the setting for them a little to make them dance. That she could most certainly do. With a faint smile, she waited for eleven o’clock to come about, her hand hovering over the button most likely to give her some quality entertainment.

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Character Portrait: Doctor Solaris Dae
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Room 7.
1125.


The voice, which was male and soft, paused appropriately when Aveline spoke, falling silent to listen to what she had to say. Once she was done, the tapping resumed, matching the pattern she had repeated exactly, but this time accompanied with a friendly little laugh.

“I like you, Aveline,” he said, when he had finished his tapping. “And yes, I’m quite alone. But I’m alone all of the time anyway. Do you know how that works? How you can be alone even in a room full of people? Even if they talk to you? I think you can understand. It’s like keeping secrets, you see. If you have a secret, one that nobody else knows, that makes you alone. I’m a secret agent, so of course, I have lots and lots of secrets.”

He tittered, from his space in or behind the wall, and there was the softly shuffling impression of him moving slightly. His voice became a little clearer, a little closer. “You keep secrets, don’t you Aveline? All sorts of nasty secrets that eat you up. But that’s okay. We don’t have to be secret. We can play a game together; it’ll be a fun game, I promise.”

There was the sound of shifting again, and what might have been feet moving. “What games do you like to play? I’ll play anything, anything at all, and I want to play with you. My name’s Tori, did you know? Agent Tori Sith, Tori with an Eye not a Why or an Eye-Eee, and Sith like Star Wars. Isn’t that amazing?”

Room 11.
1125.


There was, perhaps, five minutes or so of silence, when nothing at all happened either inside or outside of Matt’s room. The window had returned to the sedate, sort of midday normal that it had been upon the young man’s arrival some half an hour previously, and there was no noise save for the low, background buzz of an occupied building.

However, after this period of silence, something new began. It started as a quiet hum, barely audible even to sharp canine ears, which then faded back into nothingness again. Seconds later, however, it was back; a precise, low frequency that was difficult to pinpoint and almost impossible to ignore. Simultaneously, the scene outside the window flickered and changed; where only seconds before there had been a courtyard, there was a long, white corridor stretching away from the bars.

At the end of the corridor there was a single, white door, and the long isle was lined with cages, each of which was empty, the doors hanging open, bowls and newspaper sadly abandoned and evidence of animal residents not so long ago. One of the doors swung listlessly, accompanied by a soft creaking, and far away (from the asylum or elsewhere it was impossible to tell) a dog howled desperately.

The white door was frosted, so no clear shapes could be seen on the other side, but there was movement apparent almost from the start, and footsteps that seemed to echo through Matt’s room, which was suddenly several degrees colder than it had been only moments before. Something was coming.

Infirmary.
1058.

Something interesting was going on in the room where the boys were fighting; Icarus smiled, pleased with her forethought and impressed by the multiple screens and filters she was using to watch the display unfolding before her. The largest screen showed the physical truth: two young men locked in a battle to the death that Icarus herself had engineered. She observed it, but found it sadly lacking. Xavier really had learned nothing at all.

The second screen, however, smaller and to the right, showed a little more promise, even if she was disappointed over all. The image flickered and struggled to focus, but she was keen enough to interpret what was there; Xavier, clever boy, was trying to distract his opponent with illusion. Interesting, if a little morbid and faltering; Icarus would have been impressed had it not shown the subtlety of a house brick.

The third screen showed the time, counting down, and she knew that there wasn’t much left, but a great deal could happen in two minutes. One minute and fourty-five seconds. Thirty seconds. She smiled. The last screen was split, and showed the adventures getting ready to unfold in the rest of the world, and she went so far as to laugh to herself as she watched them for just a moment, as the seconds crept away and the boys battled on, unknowing. It would be eleven soon, and things were going to get interesting. The boys would have to stop their scrapping, because Icarus wanted in on the fun that was about to begin.

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Event!
Sarah.


Bedecked in truly alarming striped pyjamas and a wrist watch that didn’t tell the time, her hair caught up into a loose tail at the back of her neck, Icarus wandered towards the Dining Room. She sang as she walked, an emotionless variant of ‘I predict a Riot’ that segued neatly into ‘Abracadabra’ by Steve Miller, and her face was split into a truly delighted smile. She had been having fun all morning, with her diversions, conversations and altercations, and in truth, she hadn’t been planning to attend this particular event, but things had just become that little bit too interesting to ignore.

Poor Sarah; she really did make things harder for herself each and every time she opened that pretty little mouth of hers. Part of Icarus (the merciful part) contemplated removing the girl’s tongue, or stitching her vocal chords into a new configuration, but she couldn’t quite deny herself the potential entertainment that this particular little girl brought to what was otherwise a rather predictable and deluded experiment. Sometimes, Icarus enjoyed a true challenge, and today she was apparently going to get it.

Sarah was making some truly glorious references when Icarus made her debut (she had been listening to the conversation for quite some time, but observing through an ear bud was never quite the same as being a part of the grand reveal), and she smiled.

“One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s nest?” she asked as she swept into the room, her bare feet slapping gently on the floor. “I’ve always liked that film. There’s a certain irony in it that’s impossible to ignore. It’s really quite beautiful.”

Casually, as if her arrival was the most normal thing in the world, Icarus took at seat at the table, picking Tori’s spot as there wasn’t one labelled in her name. As she sat, a delicate hand came out and flicked Tori’s nametag away with a decisive gesture. “I don’t think we’ll be needing him, for the moment at least. He’s far too much involved in the egg stealing business, and that all gets rather boring after a little while.”

Turning to the nurse, who had fallen silent upon her arrival, Icarus waved in a dismissive gesture. “You can go now, dear, I want to have a little chat with Sarah. We’ll see you when her session has finished.” She didn’t watch to see that the nurse had left, knowing that she would leave without question.

“So,” She settled, resting her elbow on the table and her chin on her hand. “What do you think of A Shawshank Redemption?” she asked, casually picking the cocktail umbrella from Devan’s drink and rolling it between her fingers.

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Event!
Sarah.


Icarus listened to Sarah with the sort of focus that most of her fellows lacked; her interest seemed quite genuine, as did her animation, despite being constantly overshadowed by her almost-too-beautiful face. There was something about her, that much was certain; she was beautiful, and charismatic, but in the same breath se was just a little bit false. A woman like Sarah was more likely to notice it than most, though there was little chance of her really making sense of what she saw; there was no denying it though. Icarus didn’t seem quite real.

“I always find it interesting, the comparisons people make between fiction and real life,” she said at length, extending the tiny paper umbrella before driving it quite decisively into the human-looking heart, careful not to get blood on her fingers. “It’s a little bit like a Rorschach inkblot test, if you think about it. I suggest a Truth, and you respond with your assumption of that truth, and in so doing tell me about yourself. It’s quite clever, then again, I should expect that, coming from you.”

Icarus smiled. “You’re the smartest one here, that’s a certain fact; a very knowledgeable young woman. I find the duality between the supernatural and the firm belief in ‘fact’ quite enchanting, to be honest.

“But we’re getting a little off track, unfortunately, and this little delusion does have a time limit, so we really shouldn’t allow ourselves to get too distracted, even by the figments of our imaginations. You see, I’m a little bit confusing, unfortunately. I’m a little bit like the Cheshire Cat (you were thinking about Alice in Wonderland, were you not?), but I’m also a little bit like the Queen of Hearts. But most of all-” Icarus smiled. “Most of all, I’m Lewis Carroll. Not Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, though; you need to keep that in mind.”

There was something deeply calm in the way Icarus sat, unmoving, caught up in the most illogical of conversations. It was surreal to see her. “It’s all quite fascinating, I’m sure you realise. Especially A Shawshank Redemption. Sual'aria, Che soave zeffirett,” she added, suddenly thoughtful. “The protagonist- imprisoned for a crime he did not commit, who’s closest friend is the other side of his coin; the honest criminal, plays a song about deception and exposing infidelity to the masses, as a beacon of both hope and rebellion.

“There are so many ways to read a situation, you see; you bear your soul in the details. I’ve always found it really quite fascinating. I wonder what the others would answer, don’t you? I think perhaps you should ask them, when you find yourself back in touch with the real world again. It might give you some insight. That’s what you crave, after all, isn’t it?”

There was a strange glitter in Icarus’s grey eyes as she sat back, watching Sarah intently. “I have a question for you: A young man, who had been lonely for many years, attended the funeral of his maternal aunt. There was a young woman in the procession, and at the wake, they began to talk to one another. Of course, the atmosphere was quite a sombre one, and he was confused with grief, but she seemed both kind and, to his muddled eyes, perfect. Days later, he found himself unable to get the image of her out of his head. She was, he decided, the woman of his dreams. Unfortunately, he didn’t even know this woman’s name.”

She smiled, picking up Xavier’s label and examining it as if it was the most interesting thing in the world. “A year to the day later, he went to visit his mother, who happened to be his deceased aunt’s twin. They ate a meal together, and traded stories about many things, and at the end of the evening, he took a carving knife from the table and slit her throat.

“What I want to know,” Icarus concluded, her fingers shredding the little piece of card into confetti. “Is why he would do such a thing?”

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Room 7.
1127.


“I don’t think I’d like to be Alice, actually,” the voice of Tori Behind The Wall amended, sounding certain but not really argumentative. “I don’t find her very interesting, you see, and she’s just a little bit easy to manipulate, even if it’s supposed to be her story. Xavier can be the King of Hearts, though. I think he’d make an awfully good one of those, and I suppose you can be the Cheshire Cat, and grow into your smile.”

Tori Behind The Wall sounded like he was smiling to himself, chuckling along with his own words. “I think I’ll be the Jabberwock instead. But no, that’s not quite right. You see, the Jabberwock fears vorple swords, and the way they go snicker-snack. Off with my head, they’d say, and we have a Queen of Hearts to do it now too.”

Tori Behind The Wall sounded almost petulant, and there was the definite sound of a foot scuffing against the floor. “So I can’t possibly be Alice or the Jabberwock, but I don’t particularly like the idea of being a beamish boy either. I think I’ll be Anakin Skywalker instead. We can be Siths together.”

There was a strange sound from the other side, then, and an even stranger sensation, but a moment later Tori Behind The Wall spoke as if nothing had happened. “Voom!” he crowed, and a moment later Tori Behind The Wall was Tori In the Room; a lithe, dark figure in oversized pyjamas, the shirt drawn up over his head like a bizarre sort of hood as he twisted into existence where he most certainly hadn’t been before.

“Pow!” he added, with cackling certainty, as he waved the broom handle that had appeared with him through the air, narrowly avoiding taking a chip out of the plaster. “Come over to the dark side, Aveline Mason!”

Room 11.
1127.


The elaborate deception that was in progress in Matt’s room remained a subtle one; it was working, so there was no real point in making it any more complex. For several minutes, things continued to progress as they had been going; with the sound of footsteps, a growing chill, and a scene outside of the window that looked more like the back room of a veterinary practice than what it had been previously.

Muffled voices joined in with the illusion from time to time; mutterings about drugs used in animal practice, occasional canine sounds, and brief, clearly snippets of a female receptionist checking pets and their owners in, though her words never quite became clear enough to make out with any real certainty. They faded away slowly, allowing the view outside of the window to return to normal, but in their place there was a slow, almost inaudible hiss and the growing presence of a scent that was only ever present in a vet’s examination room.

It was a little bit animal, and a little bit rubber, a bit chemical, and a lot fear; quite unique and recognisable. In that moment, when things were just beginning to shift, two words were said quite clearly, coming from both inside of the room and out, if the quality of the sound was to be trusted.

“Put down.”

Infirmary.
1100.


At eleven hundred hours exactly, Icarus turned away from her screens, swirling in her wheeled chair without rising, and crossing the room in a smooth rush of castors. Beyond her watching place, the boys were creeping closer to death blows, and Xavier truly hadn’t learned anything, despite her careful teaching. It had been fun, though, while it lasted.

With a decisive motion, she slapped a hand down on a switch that took pride of place on the control panel she now faced, and she smirked as the watch in her pocket gave a distinctive little trill. Task complete, and boys spiralling closer to murder by the second, she pushed off and coasted to a stop beside the fire alarm system. Casually, her fingers flew across the dials, isolating the infirmary before she cracked the glass on the alarm and pressed the button underneath.

Instantly, the doors of the infirmary slammed shut and locked, isolating the room from the asylum as a whole. A wailing klaxon started up, in tandem with a shrilly ringing alarm, as the lights dipped in the room where the two boys were fighting; swapping from clean surgical white to undulating red.

Unaffected by the noise, Icarus stood. It was rather boring, but she selected a gasmask for herself, pulling it into place before stepping out into the room, her malicious little smirk hidden under tough yellow rubber and tinted Perspex eye-slots.

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Event! Sarah.

The irony of the girl bending shadows to her will was not lost on Icarus, who smiled to see such games at the already symbolic table. The Instigator, foolish little child that he was, certainly knew how to engineer entertainment, even when he was intending to do anything but. Subtlety, as far as Icaurs was concerned, was lost on her apparent employer, but there was no denying that he struck upon brilliance completely by chance.

“The fall of Icarus is portrayed in many fashions,” she murmured, apparently without reason. “Daedalus warned his young son, who flew with wings of wax, to be wary. That only a flight that was straight and true would lead them to salvation. Sometimes, it is said that the boy flew to close to the sun and burned, sometimes that he flew to close to the ocean and drowned. Some even say that he flew just close enough to the sun that the wax on his wings melted, sending him plunging into the sea.”

Her lips twitched up. “In some tellings, Icarus was reckless, in others, he failed to listen. Sometimes he is corrupted by the glory of flight, sometimes it’s the thrill.” Watching Sarah intently, she seemed to be implying more than her words actually claimed. “There are, of course, ‘facts’ in this story, no matter how it’s told. Icarus had wings of wax and feathers and he fell, despite having been warned. Those, Sarah, are your facts.”

Her tangent complete, Icarus leaned back a little further and closed her eyes, smiling like a cat. “But that probably makes no sense, and it’s awfully rude of me to change the subject like that. Well, if I was changing the subject.” Her eyelids slit for a second, revealing a glimmer of grey, before narrowing shut again.

“So… you conclude greed, and you know the answer that my scenario is supposed to lead to. You draw your own conclusions. Very good, Sarah, that really does tell me an awful lot about you. Thank you.” There was something almost unsettlingly sincere in her words.

“Now,” In her new position, with her elbows on the table and her body bowed forward to watch Sarah keenly, Icarus was all eager expectation. “How about you tell me something about me, hm? I promise if you give me a decent answer, I’ll tell you something you want to know just as badly.”

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Event! Sarah.

Icarus wasn’t conventional; she was a fictional concept, strolling through a story. She would never be the author, but she knew herself, where the others simply thought themselves real. Icarus knew the power that being make-believe brought; she owned the tale more surely than the writer ever could. Sarah was a construct, but she was limited by her assurance of her own reality. Oh, she was clever, that much was clear, and she said such well thought out things, but she was still a step below Icarus on the road to enlightenment.

That, however, did not make her totally wrong. “Oh, clever girl, Sarah. Very clever girl indeed. You’re quite right, of course; this little display has nothing to do with me; far too garish. Effective, though; I won’t deny that. You’re wise to acknowledge that I could break you, though, if I wanted to, which I don’t. For now.”

Icarus rapped her fingers on the tabletop, humming a thoughtful melody under her breath. Her ability to hold t he tune was flawless, but once again there was no feeling at all in the sounds that she made. “Ironic,” she said at length, having apparently been lost in thought. “Yes, I suppose it is, and you’re quite right, calling me the White Queen in this situation.”

Her lips curled up into a predatory smile; Icarus leaned over the table a fraction, as if to tell a secret. “So, I think I promised you a reward. I think it might interest you to know about the King of this little game. The Black King, or the White- it’s hard to tell these days. He certainly didn’t make the first move here, but he intends to win the game or smash the board and pieces trying.

“I don’t protect him; I play my own game, so maybe you can call him the Black King. He’s certainly not the player, though he likes to think he is. He probably likes to think he’s commanded my silence, but that’s his mistake, not mine.”

When she smiled, Icarus showed a mouth full of neat white teeth. “He calls himself The Instigator. That’s all I’m going to give you for the moment, but I think you’re clever enough to work it all out, don’t you?”

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Room 11.
1130- 1140.


White Matt suffered quietly in his huddled corner, the mechanism of his torture ticked quietly towards completion, following subroutines written long in advance. There was no operator to instigate the changes in his room, only a flicked switch far away in the Control Room; those who had chosen to oversee the process of altering the young man’s reality were not watching the process take place.

Dressed carefully to give the appearance of tightly-financed utilitarianism, the cell in which he was contained was, in fact, worth more than its occupant could care to imagine. State of the art equipment, hidden carefully behind artfully designed walls and bars, was finally coming into play and demonstrating its true purpose.

White he huddled, generators lurking deep in the bowels of the building sparked to life, triggered by a similar subroutine to the string of data that was causing the ‘hallucination’ to play out around him. From the outside, nothing appeared to change, but within the room there was a sudden, alarming tilt to the floor, the soft hiss of hydraulics masked by a loud clanging. The scene, carefully projected, shifted, giving the appearance that the room itself were being carried through a larger environment. The more terrifying parts of a veterinary clinic crept past the window, before leeching out into the room itself, projections lighting up on the walls to give the illusion more depth.

Neatly timed, the gentle sway of the room corresponded with heavy footsteps, adding to the feeling that the room was being carried. The images on the walls gave the appearance of bars, making the room a cage. Piped over the background sound effects was a hazy conversation, difficult to define, but clearly medical in nature. Snatches of lucidity; the names of drugs, unfortunate mentions of euthanasia, echoed unpleasantly from wall to wall- a well tested, well executed torture.

Infirmary.
1105.


Backlit by strobing emergency red, her eyes little more than hooded shadows behind the lenses of her mask, Icarus swept across the room towards the boys who had caused so very much trouble. Despite her plans altering slightly, she was not displeased; even she could not predict the responses of two such erratic subjects. It was a delightful challenge to try, and with every ignored scenario, a new pathway opened up, leading them inevitably towards her planned disaster.

“Really boys,” she chided, her voice distorted but clear enough to cut over the wailing klaxon. “I’m disappointed.” A quick hand snapped out, slamming a lever down and silencing the noise, bringing the lights sweeping back to a near blinding white. “Especially you, Xavier; I thought you were more open minded than this. You can’t hope to throw off the shackles that hold you if you keep up with this sort of behaviour.”

Icarus spent a moment shaking her head, displaying her disappointment with her body to compensate for her hidden face. “And really, Devan, sometimes I wonder if you’re an animal or a man, with the way you carry on. What am I going to do with the pair of you?”

Despite seeming calm and dethatched, Icarus was watching the boys carefully. Xavier, at least, she was able to track; he was less enlightened than she had initially hoped for, but he was still predictable enough in his limitations to be safely controlled. Devan was a little more challenging, and she observed him with hidden interest; would he attack her, she wondered? It would be foolish of him to try, but she had a great deal of patience when it came to fools.

Room 7.
1144.


“It’s easy to be two people at once. Really, really easy,” Tori chirped, watching Aveline as she moved around the room. “Anakin was lots of different people in the films, don’t you remember? He was a little boy, he was a mother’s son, a fighter pilot, a chosen saviour, someone’s best and last hope, a student, a teacher, a husband, a father, a devil, torturer, and benefactor. He was a sorry figure of redemption and a focal point of evil all at once; isn’t it fun!”

His bright eyes and erratically twitching hands gave him a faintly manic air; he jittered from foot to foot as he watched Aveline avidly. “We need to turn Sarah into Xavier, do you understand that? She’s the good Anakin right now, and we need to turn her into Darth Vader. We can make Sarah into a Sith, I know we can, but you need to help me. And Xavier- he’s already a Sith, but I think we can turn him back, don’t you? We can take him from evil Anakin to the tragically redeemed Darth Vader, if we work hard enough.” Tori’s face was rapturous for a second. “We might not even have to burn him to do it.”

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Event!Sarah.

Resting her chin on her folded hands, Icarus watched Sarah as she skated around drawing her conclusions. She was the cleverest of their inmates, which was painfully obvious; she had, after all, been picked for that very reason. On the proverbial chess-board, Sarah was a pivotal piece, and secretly, she represented something quite vital. It really was little more than an added bonus that she was so delightfully interesting as well.

“The everlasting human desire to ask one of a shortlist of key questions; fascinating, isn’t it? Why am I here? Why are we here? How many times do you think that very question has been asked today?” Icarus twitched her lips before shrugging her question away as rhetoric; unimportant in the general scheme of things, but certainly purposeful in this conversation.

“That’s beside the point, however. You’ve asked a far more pertinent question, and displayed a very grounded knowledge of the key issue here: you can tell the truth endlessly, and it will get you completely nowhere. But I think you already knew that. I could tell you why you’re here, completely truthfully, and it would do you no good what so ever. Hence why I’m not going to tell you; there’s no point in you knowing the truth, and I very much doubt that you would believe me anyway.

“Needless to say, the Instigator has something to prove; he has his own intrinsic questions, likely the same as you will ask yourself at some stage. Perhaps you’ve already asked them?” She watched Sarah quite earnestly for a moment; this girl really was pivotal.

“You, Sarah, see yourself as sane. Out of the ordinary, but of quite sound mind- that’s your internal truth at the moment, and that interests me quite a lot. I find it quite delightful to examine the steadfast is’s and isn’t’s of the human psyche, but that’s not what I ‘get out of this’, as you so charmingly put it.

“I simply desire to challenge your perceptions. You honestly believe your inner certainties to be true, I want to examine that.”

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Event!Sarah.

“I simply desire to challenge your perceptions. You honestly believe your inner certainties to be true, I want to examine that.”

Sarah leaned back and glanced upwards, sighing deeply. “This is the part where you start to crawl inside my head, isn’t it?” The balls of shadows in her hands never ceased moving. “The problem with that is, first we all have to agree on a definition of sanity, no?” She grinned slightly, the kind of grin that invited the watcher to smile along with her. “See, my definition of sanity includes the fact that shadows can be manipulated as easily as you pick up a pencil. Your definition includes some things that mine doesn’t, I’m sure. I’m sure that there are other definitions out there that we might consider crazy, no?”

“So . . . that means that sanity, is really a construct of the masses, huh? The state of normal that applies to the greatest number of people. So really, if everybody out there started seeing purple elephants, then the one guy who didn’t see them would be labeled nuts. After all, everybody else sees them, why shouldn’t he?”

Sarah leaned forwards again, raising one eyebrow at the other woman. “Which means, if you want to challenge my perceptions, you’re going to have to find a handle on my mind.” A hard smile crossed her face. “So just how much do you know about me and mind? Because the world where I grew up is far different than you might think.”

A distant look crossed her eyes as she remembered her family, the history lessons she learned at her Grandmothers’ knees. The family name, Erebus; it was the name of one of the primordial deities of the old religions, the personification of darkness. It was also a place that stood between the land of the living and the dead, a place of chaos and change. Her family had held this name, passed from mother to daughter for as long as they could remember. Men had never tried to influence them for better or for worse over the millennia, some of them had lived to regret it. The older one got, the stronger their manipulative powers grew. Although there was a downside to the use of shadow power, it had kept them safe for so long . . .

Sarah flicked her eyes back up at Icarus. “You want to alter my perceptions, Doctor? You may get far more than you bargained for.”

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Event! Sarah.

In the depths of her own (admittedly bizarre) psyche, a part of Icarus was singing with soft delight at the scintillating nature of the conversation between herself and Sarah, even as the more logical, rational side of her consciousness drew conclusions and fit numbers into graphs. Sarah was, unwittingly, proving the expectations of The Instigator right so far, which Icarus found faintly disappointing, but Icarus hadn’t been the one to choose Sarah, so it was very possible that she had been picked for those beliefs, rather than developed them during her short stay in the Asylum.

“Your assumptions tell me a lot about you, Sarah,” she finally decided upon saying, her strange grey eyes never once leaving the young woman’s face. She blinked infrequently. “You assume that I’m going to ‘get inside your head’ and ‘get a handle on your mind’, not to mention you really quite darling assumption that your upbringing will be strange to me.” Icarus very nearly laughed at that; Sarah had no concept of strange, save the very human one that desired attention.

“But I won’t correct you; that would be counterproductive. I am a firm believer in learning by one’s own mistakes, rather than being educated by those who know better. There would be no point in my trying to change your mind at the moment, because, quite simply, you’re very set on thinking what you’re currently thinking, and everything I say makes very little difference at all.”

That, of course, was also part of the plan, though not through Icarus’s design. She had her own ideas when it came to the running of their little game, and her task list was really quite different to the schedule that The Instigator had laid out for her. For a moment, she went so far as to wonder if he knew she was deviating from ‘the rules’ quite so drastically, before her lips turned up in a smile; of course he did. He’d picked her for that very reason, though his security in his control over her unpredictability was really quite darling, if rather misplaced.

Briefly, she let her eyes dance with a private humour, before shutting off the all-too human expression with a definitive (if unsettling) smirk. “Keep your mind on constructs, Sarah. That might just be the first decent idea you’ve had all day. They’re very important here, and although I don’t expect you to spot the important ones any time soon, that little theory might just save your life one day.”

Icarus didn’t do anything so mundane as check her watch (one of the few that showed a representation of the real time within the Asylum walls), but she did make a subconscious note of how long she’d been entertaining Sarah. It was time to go. “Do have fun, my dear, and try not to mistake any cats for moons or moons for cats on your travels; they don’t tend to like the misrepresentation.”

For a second, her eyes sparkled with true mirth; she stood. “The next time we meet, I’ll tell you a story about a butterfly, a bell jar, and a spun glass tree.”

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Infirmary.
1110.


Through the slightly tinted glass of her mask, Icarus watched the boys with interest, her eyes following their every little movement in an attempt to predict their intentions. It was clear, if only from his stance, that Devan was on the edge of losing control; she smiled, hidden; that was exactly her intention. There was no ‘plan’ in this anymore, but that made things all the more fascinating as they progressed, and all the small things that occurred were fuel for Xavier’s education.

“You fascinate me, boys; so similar and yet so different- so similarly bound.” She stalked forward, unafraid of the fierce coil that was Devan, or the potential danger that was Xavier. They could attack her, of course, maybe even kill her, but she was unafraid; what was to happen would happen, written out by a larger hand than her own, and her existence wouldn’t end with her death.

“What I’d like you to do,” she finally said in answer to Xavier, “Is to both stop this silly fight, and walk nicely into the next room so that I can sedate you. Devan first, of course, because of your bad behaviour, and you too, Xavier, because I’m afraid I’m not terribly impressed with your interpretation, or your progression towards enlightenment, for that matter. Never mind, though; there’s plenty of time for that. We’re in no hurry, though I did really expect a little bit more from you after our lovely little chat.”

Sighing, Icarus settled herself calmly in front of the pair, well within arm’s reach of them both. “Now, come along, the pair of you; I have places to be, and you both want to be awake again in time for lunch, don’t you?”

Room 7.
1150.


“We don’t HAVE to burn him, but that’s what happened in the story. In more ways than one.” Tori’s eyes were glittering, just visible through his disordered hair. “Anakin was a good boy, but people made all sorts of assumptions about him. He was bartered, in a bet, because someone expected him to be a saviour. He was forced away from his home, his family, and into the hands of strangers because they thought he could do something for them. A child but an adult but a child. They taught him to kill long before they showed him love, and yet they were shocked when he didn’t possess the serenity they so valued. Silly, silly.”

Idly, Tori paced around the room, touching the walls, knocking on the door; looking everywhere but at Aveline as he jittered from foot to foot. “Then they told him that he wasn’t good enough; rejected him. He was tutored by a man who thought little of him because of a debt to a dead man. Oh, but he loved, or at least he thought he did. They twisted his desires, though, taught him that human emotion makes him weak, makes him wrong; that anger is something to be ashamed of, rather than something as natural as the earth.”

He stopped, then, and looked directly at Aveline, mouth twisted up into an alarming smile. “And then the burned him, and lied to him, and locked him away in a mask (so much like the one he’d been wearing for years, but physical now, and oh, so hard) and made him into Darth Vadar. Luke was taught to believe his father was dead, and in a way, that was so very much the case.

“So, no, we don’t have to burn Xavier, but we’re going to make him into a proper Vader sooner or later. And then, we’re going to make Sarah go mad.”

Room 11.
1145.


In a split second, the scenery projected around Matt’s room changed from the inside of a veterinary office to somewhere very much outside; for a moment, there was a giddy flash of what might have been the sky before the whole room heaved to give the impression of spinning. The technology that had been used to create Matt’s room was not quite so sophisticated as to make the experience of being thrown within a cage ‘real’, however, the instigator of Matt’s little adventure had been counting on his terror filling in the blanks.

After the initial rush, there was a loud splash, and a brief spray of water from hidden nozzles in the walls, before the room settled at a rocking tilt, slanted just enough that, if Matt would have to exert an effort to stay affixed to his position on the bed. ‘Below’ him, starting somewhere in the vicinity of the left corner of the room, the impression of water had been carefully constructed, the sky mirroring it in a vast expanse on the ceiling and upper walls. The speakers assisted by playing the start of a menacing gurgle.

Unseen, the rubber seals around the door and other hidden components suctioned into place; preparing as water began to rush into the room.

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Infirmary.
1115.


Icarus, despite the sense of foreboding that lingered around her at times, and the odd impression that she was not the wisest woman to cross, simply sighed at the boys’ disobedience. Her slate grey eyes followed their thoughts on their faces, in their bodies; when Devan rolled away from her, she smiled slightly, as if she had been anticipating his action, and found it rather quaint. Xavier, meanwhile, she viewed with a strange expression, somewhere between nostalgia and humour.

“You know,” she said, quite conversational despite the extraordinary situation that she was standing in the middle of. “You boys really are a little too foolish to be allowed. Fun, though. You remind me of my husband and son in equal measure. Solomon was blinded by society and first impressions, and oh, so sure of himself, just like you are, Xavier. Of course, he had set himself on quite the different path than your little demon-fuelled rampage, but the analogy remains the same. He had ever so many rules, you see, and just couldn’t seem to get rid of them.”

Her lips twitched, and she settled her gasmask carefully. Even through the lenses, her eyes were piercing. “And Devan- so like Jesse. So damaged, so strange, so silent. He was never sure where to look, either, always seeing threats. You do remind me of him. Though I wonder- which is which, in the end?

“You see, my husband, ever such a moral man, became quite the fearsome killer with my help. Oh, boys, he was magnificent; all righteousness and divine fury. You could never match him, Xavier, because you’ve sided so casually with the Devil. Stereotypical, don’t you think? Surely the Angel bowed to kill is more fearsome than the Demon, who is expected to do so?”

Icarus stepped forwards again, totally unafraid. “And then my stunningly tragic Jesse, who just can’t help himself. Which is which, indeed.”

Icarus wasn’t even discreet in walking across the room, then, and activating the switch that flooded the room with an anaesthetic gas. She watched, them, then, breathing steadily through her mask and already crossing to the console across the room. The porters were ever so accommodating, and it was shockingly easy to arrange for the two sedated young men to be transported back to their rooms.

Room 11.
1150-1200.


In Matthew’s room, the water continued to rise in conjunction with the elaborate illusion that was playing our around him. The tilt of the capsule was realistic, and the hydraulic whirring was artfully disguised by piped in sound effects from a series of surround-sound hidden speakers. When the water reached the bed, then rushed over edges, it was stingingly cold and cloudy enough to look like authentic lake-fare, rather than the tanked stock that it actually was.

The event had been carefully practiced, and the operator was skilled; Matt was observed carefully throughout the entire process lest he drown. The water, once it had started, rose at an alarming rate, rapidly filling to a height that would force the young man to swim. The corner of ‘sky’ projected into the remaining space, diminishing by the moment, was disguised by the shadow of bars and just out of reach; designed so that there was nothing Matt could reach up and grab onto.

The last moment of the illusion was the most critical and carefully timed. When the gas was pumped into the chink of air left into the room through the concealed pipes, it came from under the water, forming numbing bubbles. Carefully formulated, it was not designed to wipe away the experience in amnesia, but give it a faintly surreal tint; a hazy flare to the dark, masked face and wiry arms that reached down through the trap door and snatched Matthew up just as the vapours turned anaesthetic.

Room 7.
1153-1155.


“Oh, I’ve been here since the beginning, pretty much, and I know everything.” Tori grinned, large and quite possibly insane, as he watched Aveline with wide eyes through his dark fringe. “I know that this place has secrets, and I know how to get into the kitchens, and I know that Anakin becomes Vadar here. I’ve been in these places forever. I know how they work.”

There was an odd note in Tori’s voice for a moment, but it was rapidly gone; he spun on the spot, laughing illogically. “We’re all mad here, you know? Every last one of us- oh, some of us think we’re sane, but we’re not. We can’t be, being here. But everyone’s so caught up in stigma and taboo that they forget how exciting being quite bad can be. We need to remind them, Aveline.”

The strange little man skipped forward, clamping hot hands on Aveline’s shoulders and tipping his head to look her right in the eye. “We have to drive them mad, you see? Most of them already suspect, they know the way, Follow the Yellow Brick Road and spiral down into Wonderland, but Sarah- she’s so set on being sane that she’s forgotten that you have to be mad, to be here.”

He stepped back then, and bowed in a formal, sharp line that was at odds with his lose limbs. “I trust you with this, but it has to be our secret. The others can’t know that I’m a secret agent. If I get found out I’ll have to disappear. The Instigator- oh, he insists on it. I can only be here when it’s right, and I don’t want to vanish; it’s far too much fun.”

Tori’s eyes sparkled as his watch chimed shrilly. “Ooh, time to go. See you soon, Aveline.”

Ironically, he vanished.


Event! Sarah!

Icarus did not look back, nor did she return, and for a moment there was silence before the faint hiss of gas rose over her retreating footsteps. She didn’t bother with the mask; the doors of the dining room were already swinging closed and locking, but she did spare a smirk for the inevitability of the situation.

Sarah would, eventually, learn that defiance was a pointless endeavour when a greater game was being played, and there truly was no escaping events once they had been set in motion so surely.




At exactly 1300, Asylum time, every allocated room housed its occupant, with several glaring losses; two young women had already vanished into the bowels of the institution, and when the doors of Elise’s and Karissa’s rooms swung open on automated command, they revealed the oddly forlorn image of dereliction, as if the girls had never been in the Asylum at all.

Matt’s room, despite it’s rather drastic upheaval, had been quickly and efficiently rearranged into normalcy; everything had been either dried or replaced, and Matt himself had been arranged on the bed, in identical but dry clothes. It was as if nothing had ever happened.

Similarly, Sarah, Xavier and Devan had been transported into their rooms while unconscious and carefully settled into their respective beds. Aveline’s room remained unchanged; her door simply opened at the allotted time.

Tori, also, was in his room when his door swung open, sat moodily on the floor.

Keiko, lying on her bed, looked up when the door opened, but didn’t move to venture outside. Her eyes were very dark, and she was smiling.

And Jack, when he finally opened his eyes in the Infirmary, screamed to find himself laid out like a cadaver on a shining metal table, the cooling body of Trephan spread on a trolley beside him.

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Room 1.
1310.


"Oh, I know." Tori's smile was unsettling, and he watched Xavier with his strange eyes; he seemed to see far too much and nothing at all, all at once. "Can I really be confused if I know I am, I wonder? Now isn't that a debate that would last forever. We could rip the world apart trying to prove one way or the other."

He giggled, skipping back and forth on light feet as if the floor was electric and he was some sort of anthropomorphic tram-car. Strange, living monorail that wobbled in pidgin-steps across Asylum lino. "People say a lot of things about the first signs of madness, do you know that? I've heard all sorts of things. Growing hairs on your palms, for example. Matt has those, did you know that? Dogs have these little fuzzy bits between their pads. But I think you know that. Surely you've cut a dog up before? I know Devan has, and you wouldn't want to be second best to him. That'd mean he'd win."

Mauve eyes glittered as Tori swanned forwards, peeking out into the corridor, peeking back at Xavier. "But you know what the second sign is, right? It's looking for them. I've looked for them, see?" He held out his hands, dark and strange, but quite hairless. "No hairs, but I'll keep on looking until some appear, just to prove you wrong."

It was all utter nonsense, but Tori spoke with perfect certainty, as if he were speaking the Gospel. "Or maybe it's doing the same thing, over and over and OVER, and hoping something different will happen. People say that's madness." Maliciousness; there was a subtle suggestion that Tori might just be dangerous, before it was swept away by his vapid good-humor. "But they classify mental illness by looking at the 'norm', then try to treat it. And they fail. And fail. And fail and fail and FAIL! But they keep on trying. Who's mad, Xavier? Can you tell me?"

Control Room.
1310.

The control room wasn't quite Icarus's place, but it had been designed more to her specifications than those of the Instigator, who had no real talent for the technical sides of exploitation. She found him amusing, for all of his flaws, and let him have his fun; it was sweet, to see him think he was in control. That his fluid existence and the claims to this little idea made him in some way superior to others. As if his walls could keep her out of a Control Room that she had built.

There had been a schedule for this day, but that had been abandoned by the wayside long ago, along with bodies in the bathrooms and several unfortunates who were no longer in play. Icarus wondered how long it would take the children to realize that several rooms that had been filled were now empty. Like lambs to the slaughter, all of them. Perhaps that proved The Instigator's silly little point, but Icarus had larger plans in mind.

From her perch, she watched Xavier talk with the occupant of Room 1, and laughed to herself. Discussions of madness, while outside the children formed sides. They were heading towards warfare, as predicted, and that was fascinating. She enjoyed this game for that reason alone; it would be fascinating to see where they would end up.

For now, however, she would observe; holing off the nurses and the call for breakfast until she had seen the potential confrontation come to its conclusion. Jack, who even now was screaming himself into hysterics in the Infirmary beside a corpse, seemed to be on the forefront of several minds, and that was interesting; the boy was becoming something of a linchpin. She looked forwards to seeing where he fell within the evolving society.

Chess pieces falling into place, and people taking sides- she smiled, knowing that in the bowels of The Asylum, The Instigator was doing the same- the opening gambit was almost over. Soon, they would be playing for keeps.

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Room 1.
1315.


A person had so many tells, and Tori had seen Xavier's. It was so obvious, when someone was trying not to look at their hands; the proverbial elephant that they've been ordered to put from their mind and therefore can't stop thinking about. Tori smiled, all small, sharp teeth, and stuck out a darkly pattered tongue.

"Do you find it strange, that I know all sorts of quotes? I can tell you about the classics, about pivotal figures in history, about complex mathematical and psychological theory... Would it surprise you, Xavier, to realise that I'm just as intelligent as you are, if not more so?"

Without warning, Tori's mannerisms changed; he went from hopping hyper-actively about the room to leaning with a casual air against the door-frame, smirking. "I think it's sort of funny, really, how people make that mistake. They seem to think that just because someone's crazy, they're stupid. Somehow less. I wonder what they'd think, if they realised I could beat them at any debate, could do their job better and faster, could get better grades, have a higher IQ..."

He snickered. "For all you know, I could BE Einstein, but nobody ever thinks of that because I'm wearing these pyjamas, standing here, talking to you. But I wonder what would happen if I brushed my hair and stole some clothes- I could be a doctor. Or a visitor. All I'd need was the right ID and nobody would check. It's because they don't expect a doctor to be crazy. They don't expect a visitor to be dangerous. All you have to do is get a costume and play the part, and nobody questions you."

Dark lips curled up into a grin. Tori's eyes, when they locked onto Xavier's stare, were frighteningly lucid. "Have you ever thought about trying it, Xavier? Learning to play pretend."

Control Room.
1315.


There had, of course, been detailed plans put into place about how the first day of the contestants' new lives should play out, but Icarus rapidly found herself ignoring it, just as the Instigator had. It was the flaw in these things; the interaction rapidly became too interesting, and the itinerary was sacrificed as a result. No matter, however; things were still progressing nicely.

Deliberate, Icarus reached for the microphone, and flicked on the PA.

"Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen," she purred, voice calm, casual, and well enunciated. "It is currently eleven-thirty in the morning on Monday the seventh of July. Lunch will begin in thirty minutes in the Dining Room, and all residents not confined to their rooms are requested to visit before twelve-thirty to receive their medication and meal."

She pressed another switch, watching on a multitude of screens as small clocks were unveiled in key locations, displaying the (false) time and date. Simultaneously, all clocks in unoccupied rooms reset themselves to the new Asylum Standard Time. In the cases where a clock was visible to an inmate, a subtle malfunction made itself apparent so that the clock would appear broken when examined.

Icarus smiled; this was going to be interesting.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Sarah Erebus Character Portrait: Aveline Mason Character Portrait: Xavier Mason Character Portrait: Jack Rass Character Portrait: Devan Miyamoto Character Portrait: Kieko Harlong Character Portrait: Trephan Bethlem Character Portrait: Doctor Solaris Dae Character Portrait: Arthur Strickland
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Footnotes

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Dining Hall
1335.


The Dining Hall was indeed shut when Devan arrived, but there were definite signs of life behind the sealed double doors. Lunch, as far as could be divined, was certainly in progress; the smell of cooking was drifting out into the hallway, and general noises associated with food preparation were audible.

The fact remained, however, that the doors were locked, and the sign affixed to the laminated surface declared that lunch would begin at 12:00, which a nearby clock stated would be in exactly fifteen minutes.

Infirmary
1330-1340


It took Jack almost ten minutes to get himself back under control again (seven to stop sobbing onto Sarah's shoulder, and three to get his abject, mortified embarrassment under control). Normally, he would have devoted a good hour or so to outright hysterics, but the longer he dwelled on what had happened, the closer to being completely out of control he felt. It was in the interests of self preservation that he forced his miserable panic down to a dull roar, and finally raised his head.

Still afraid to look outside the boundaries of his closet for fear of seeing a dead body, Jack started by cracking open a puffy, leaking eye and peered worriedly at the floor. Matt's feet were the first thing he actually ended up seeing, and it was such a blessed relief that he almost burst into tears again.

With a wet sniff, he looked up a little further, finally allowing himself to make eye-contact with the boy who had rapidly become his friend in this chaos. Matt looked happy to see him, which was comforting, but there was a little tag of something else lurking there that unsettled him; what had happened, while he had been unconscious (dead?!) in this horrible room.

"I- sorry." His voice was a wreck, and there was something that was probably mucus sticking to his face and Sarah's shoulder. Jack had never wished for a handkerchief more, but he had been stripped down to a gown at some stage. He didn't even have pants on, he realised, quite horrified given his current position ensconced in Sarah's arms.

"Uh." If his face hadn't already been aggravated to a blotchy red by crying, he was certain that he would have blushed right up to his ears. "Do, do either of you know what happened to my clothes?"

Residential Hall
1327-1335


Keiko watched with something akin to fascination as the scene before her played out in a chaos of emotion; a veritable riot of reactions and quick-fire responses. It was obvious that Aveline was following something of her own agenda, but that was okay; The Instigator might become irate at sudden and inexplicable changes to The Plan, but as far as Trephan had always been concerned, they were what made life fun.

This was a change of plan; Arthur, certainly, had not been arranged with The Instigator's grand scheme in mind, but there was something exciting about the thought that things were about to go stunningly off the rails. Well, more-so, because there was no denying that Aveline jumping all over Arthur, and Xavier having to wade into save the day were things going 'according to plan'.

Of course, things only became stranger a moment later, when Arthur suddenly paled to a frankly shocking shade of grey and staggered back into the wall. Drenched in sweat, shaking and sickly looking; to the outside, it appeared as if the young man were having some form of cardiac event, or at the very least a panic attack, but Keiko was not looking at the outside at all.

Possessing the unique skills of a telepath, combined with a genuine degree and ages-old observations of medicine through time gave Trephan, and therefore Keiko, a rather extraordinary insight into moments such as these. That was not to say, however, that she had any intention of letting that information slip to her fellows.

"Arthur? Are you okay? Do you need to sit down?" Apparently ignoring the previous animosity between herself and her companions given the sudden potential emergency, Keiko stepped up and addressed Xavier. "He doesn't look at all well. Should we call a nurse?"

It took almost a minute for Arthur to respond to them at all, which likely seemed much longer to those genuinely alarmed by what was going on. When he did, there was chaos in his mind, and if he thought he was fooling anyone by acting normally, he was sadly mistaken.

"Arthur, what was that? You look sick. We should call one of the nurses."

Control Room
1325-1340


"You twisted bitch."

Icarus didn't need the monitors that surrounded her to tell her that 'The Instigator' had entered the room, or that he would be in a towering temper. In this intricate, multi-dimensional game of chess that they were playing, this particular move had been started a very long time ago; he had simply failed to notice that he was being manoeuvred into check until now.

"Yes." She didn't turn to face him, choosing instead to watch him rage in the glossy black screen before her, his visage superimposed over a darkish image of the inside of a supply closet in the Infirmary. "Did you need something?"

There was a disgusted sound, inarticulate, furious, but it was easy to duck the wrathful swing he took at her; a simple matter of kicking off from the desk with just enough force to let the wheels on her chair remove her from his reach. The curse he spat out when his hand impacted with the corner of the monitor instead of her face was deeply satisfying; she let it show, knowing that it would only inflame him further.

"Your pet was not supposed to be here." It sounded like he was grinding his teeth, and Icarus was half-tempted to give him some off-hand advice about maintaining good dentition. "Not least now, when things are already so far off-schedule. Do you forget who is running this operation, Icarus? Or do you want to challenge me?"

As if he would stand a chance if she chose to challenge him; Icarus smiled, pushing herself back into place with her toes, mindless of the angry man currently dominating the room. "Challenge you in what sense? You really should be mindful of your words; given that it's something of your 'thing', you're not being all that eloquent right now. If you mean to say 'are you attempting to usurp my authority in this little game of mine, Icarus?' then I can honestly tell you no. I have no intention to take your toys from you."

Finally, she swung to face him, resting back in her chair and quite at ease, as the beginnings of chaos erupted on the screens behind her. "If you are suggesting that I'm upping the difficulty of things, however- well, you'd be quite correct. We can't have you getting complacent, now can we?"