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Nurses of the Asylum

NPCs.

0 · 210 views · located in The 'Asylum'.

a character in “The First Signs of Madness”, as played by Imehal

So begins...

Nurses of the Asylum'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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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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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: Jack Rass Character Portrait: Kieko Harlong Character Portrait: Trephan Bethlem Character Portrait: Nurses of the Asylum

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Outside of Leisure Room 2.
1105-1110.


Keiko, who had followed Sarah quietly from the Television Room like a warped shadow, watched the interaction between what was clearly becoming rival fractions with interest. Sarah, she was learning, was both loyal and brave; the girl faced adversity with more control than many her age, and that in itself was both fascinating and potentially challenging. With Trephan’s knowledge tucked away in the depths of her rapidly evolving mind, Keiko understood both the Plan and the Rules; Sarah being strong meant a great deal of interesting things were soon to happen.

Out of all of the people present, Keiko registered Sarah as being the most interesting by far. Sam, bless his stupid heart, was useless; he was there for decoration and little else; easily controlled, easily removed, easily broken. Matt was potentially similar, though his ability and his growing loyalty to Jack opened the potential for future development. Jack was already proving his worth; the experiment that the young man had been involved in was beginning to bear fruit. And, of course, Aveline- the wild card and Trephan’s murderer. Not for the first time, Keiko had to work to smother a smile.

“It’s bloody obvious that you don’t care about my brother!” Jack was rapidly becoming hysterical (in the depths of The Asylum, notes were almost certain being taken), his voice rising towards a full-blown shout. “And I can’t say I care about yours! Do you know why?! Because your brother is a murder! He’s a freak! I saw what he did to that- that- I don’t even know if it was a man or a woman! I saw it!”

Blood and insides coming outside, all the wrong places of the world on show; if Jack had been rational enough to truly think about what he was saying, he would have thrown himself into a panic. As it was, however, he was far too upset to take in any more than a superficial amount of what he was screaming at Aveline. “I can’t imagine that you- you have no idea what it’s even like to care about someone you twisted monster! If I deserve to be here- obviously I- I hate you!”

Never one to be able to construct a valid argument when utterly beside himself, Jack was forced to break off for a moment, angry tears starting at the corners of his eyes, chest heaving. “Of course I deserve to be here,” he whispered after a moment, his voice broken. “You have no idea- when your mind goes, you’re nothing.” He laughed, and it wasn’t a nice sound. “My mind’s already gone.”

Rant apparently over, Jack finally became aware of the others in the room; Sarah, trying to talk him down, Sam, wary and half-afraid, and Matt… Jack had a vague memory of the boy reaching out to Sam, and could have sworn that Sam had responded; reassured, ushered him over to get changed- but it was all falling to pieces. The longer he tried to focus on his thoughts the harder it was to keep them in his head.

“Sorry.” Jack’s dark eyes dropped to the floor, staring sightlessly at his feet. “I’m done now.” He said to Sam- or possibly Sarah (certainly not Aveline), before turning around and sitting quietly on the floor.

Infirmary.
1030.


“Ooh, you’re really impatient. Super, super impatient. That’s bad. You shouldn’t do that. We’ll get there; I’m a secret agent, I can tell, but you have to be patient. Not super patient though; there’s a super patient here though- we’ll find him. Soon.”

Tori didn’t seem in the least concerned about Devan’s rough handling and didn’t so much as struggle as he was grabbed. His grin, however, expanded to near-inhuman proportions. “Icarus lives in here, you’ll see. It won’t be long now. We’ll need knives, but I’m not sure if knives will kill Icarus at all… it depends on what she sends at us.”

There was a giggle lodged somewhere in Tori’s throat as he pulled away, twisting with the same unlikely strength that he had shown before. “Come on.”

Quietly, he crept deeper into the room, which appeared to be completely deserted of staff. There was no sound; even the monitors that flashed and glowed in alcoves were silenced. There was only one patient, hooked up to state of the art life support; Trephan’s body was eerily still as Tori approached.

“This was Doctor Bedlam,” he whispered, leaning right down to peer at the bruised face of the patient. “Xavier Mason’s sister tried to strangle him to death. I think she succeeded.” A single dark hand hovered over the tube that protruded from the body’s mouth, fingers tapping a rhythm on the plastic that matched the soft hiss of the ventilator. “These things- they hold in firm. There’s a little balloon in there, did you know that? A little balloon that stops it falling right on back out again… you can still pull them out though, with one really good yank.”

Tori looked up at Devan, the faintest sparkle of livid pink eyes visible through his fringe. “Should we do it, do you think?”

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.”

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 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.”

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Jack Rass Character Portrait: Kieko Harlong Character Portrait: Nurses of the Asylum

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Leisure Room 1.
1030-1035.


“Everyone deserves to live, Aveline, because life is a very precious thing,” Sam said, his voice calm and tolerant despite her attempts at vitriol. He still held her firmly, but very slowly, and very carefully, he began to slacken his grip to test the waters.

“I don’t think anyone deserves to die; not the children with drugs in their pockets, not the dealers, not your brother, and not you. Every single life is important, no matter who the person is that’s living that life. Now, please, calm down so I can let you go.”

Poor Matt was still standing off to one side, human and dressed again, but looking unsettled by this whole escapade. “Matt, you’ve done nothing wrong, but could you go out into the corridor for a moment. Just by the door is fine. There, Aveline, see? Matt’s not staring at you. He’s just worried, in case you’re not all right. He doesn’t like it when you’re feeling upset.”

With great care, Sam began to let her go, testing his grip every now and again to make sure she wasn’t about to react badly. “I’m going to let you go, and you’re going to stay nice and calm for me, Aveline. That way, nobody will get into trouble. You can go to the lunch room, if you’re calm, and eat some ice cream, or whatever else you want, and we’ll forget that any of this nastiness happened.”

When Sam stepped back, it was apparently casually, but every fibre of his being was trained on the girl, just in case.

“Sam! I need some help in here!” It was Lauren’s voice; all business. Sam made a split-second decision, weighing up the situation faster than he could even really think.

“Both of you, follow me.” Without another word, Sam sprung towards the door.

Leisure Room 2.
1030-1035.


“Step back, step back,” Lauren sounded quite calm, but there was a professional undertone to her voice that had been absent previously as she approached Jack. Where before she had worn a different persona, now there was something about her focus that said ‘nurse’. The friendly Lauren had apparently been replaced by the Lauren who was good at her job.

Keiko obeyed at once, her eyes wide and fearful. “I don’t like this. I really don’t like this. What’s the matter with him? Why aren’t you answering Sarah’s question? Why isn’t Jack answering her?” She backed right up against the wall, hands pressed to the beige surface, eyes flicking from one person to the other in search of answers.

Jack made a soft, inarticulate sound that didn’t seem to be in response to the confusion he was causing; in fact, he didn’t appear to be aware of what was going on at all. Blinking repeatedly, he tried to move himself, but only got as far as a badly-coordinated sway that looked only partially under his own power.

Keiko gasped and Lauren moved around Sarah when Jack’s eyes rolled and his neck arched, the nurse’s calm, capable hands guiding the lad (who was almost a foot taller than she was) down to the ground as he flopped strangely, looking for all the world as if he were fighting with his own body.

“Jack.” Her voice was firm, but not in the last unkind. “It’s okay, just relax. You need to stay lying down.”

If was doubtful that Jack could hear her. His face was slack, but twitching faintly, and the whites of his eyes repeatedly flashed into view under shivering eyelids. He continued to attempt to move, semi-purposeful, but managed only to rock and sway in a manner similar to being drunk or sedated. Whatever was happening, Lauren seemed to have some idea, and she kept a careful hand under Jack’s head to prevent him from knocking it on the floor even as she turned to the girls in the room.

“Keiko, I want you to look at the clock, sweetie, and keep an eye on what the time is, okay? When I tell you, I need you to remember the time for me, and then tell me when it’s been five minutes. Sarah, can you move that stool out of the way for me? Right back by the wall and move
anything else that’s cluttering the floor around here. It’s okay. It’s nothing to worry about.”

It was doubtful that she was being entirely honest with them; Lauren wasn’t smiling as she rolled the still-flopping Jack onto his side, holding him there. Her eyes were following his every movement as she removed one hand from his shoulder to shrug out of her cardigan, which she rolled one-handed and placed under Jack’s head.

“Okay.” Keiko’s whisper was slightly belated (this was fascinating; the connection, the strangeness of perception; wonderful), but she had turned to the clock as asked, tracking the second hand as it worked around the face. Her distraction seemed to be the only reason she didn’t shriek in alarm when Jack’s purposeless movements progressed into what could more easily be identified as a seizure.

“Sam! I need some help in here!” It was clearly something Lauren had seen before, though there were traces of surprised alarm in her expression that suggested this had not previously happened to Jack personally. Nevertheless, she was clearly well trained enough to know what to do, and familiar enough with the process not to be disturbed by Jack’s curled twitching. “Keiko honey, I need you to start timing now. Both of you keep out of the way, there’s no need to worry, Jack’s going to be fine.”

Sam hadn’t been very far away, and as such arrived very quickly, his gaze assessing as it flashed around the room before settling on the action. “How long?” was the first thing out of his mouth, even as he headed towards the call-point on the wall.

“Keiko, what time is it?” Lauren asked, not looking up from Jack, whose skin was beginning to take on a blue caste.

“…ten thirty-seven and twelve seconds…”

Lauren nodded. “Grand-mal is coming up to three minutes, but he had what was possibly a focal beforehand.” Under her hands, Jack was beginning to still and took a harsh, ragged gasp.

Sam nodded, already hunched over the grill and speaking to whoever was on the other side. He kept his voice pitched low, but his tone was succinct and urgent. When he straightened and moved to Jack’s other side, his face was somewhat set. “They’re sending a team out. It’s okay, Jack, nothing to worry about, you’re safe.” The hand he wasn’t using to steady Jack rubbed long, firm lines down his back. “Nice and calm buddy.”

Jack didn’t look calm, but he didn’t look aware either. He took several more laboured breaths even as he stilled, his eyes closing for an extended moment before cracking open, blank and confused. Almost at once, he tried to move, but was prevented from getting anywhere at all by the nurses kneeling beside him.

“It’s okay Jack, it’s okay,” Lauren pitched her voice low, rubbing one of his hands in a pattern that matched Sam’s firm strokes. Jack made an incoherent sound and clenched his fists, but still appeared far from aware. “You’re okay. You’re fine.”

He didn’t look particularly fine, with his eyes out of focus, still slightly grey-faced and slumped weakly on his side, but it was a definite improvement on before. He didn’t seem conscious, despite his eyes being open, but he stopped struggling under Sam and Lauren’s joint ministrations.

His condition hadn’t changed by the time eight members of staff arrived with a stretcher, two carrying large red packs on their backs. There was a rapid exchange of information, before three of them (including the two with the packs) joined Sam and Lauren beside Jack, leaving the other five to assess the condition of Keiko, Sarah, Aveline and Matt.

While one nurse went to each, intending to calm and guide out towards the corridor and away from Jack, the final nurse stepped up to the wall-call unit, swiped his ID, and set for transmit.

“This is a universal announcement. All staff: all patients are to return to their rooms immediately. I repeat, all staff: all patients are to return to their rooms immediately. All patients are to return to their rooms immediately.”

Infirmary.
1046.


“This is a universal announcement. All staff: all patients are to return to their rooms immediately. I repeat, all staff: all patients are to return to their rooms immediately. All patients are to return to their rooms immediately.”

“Oh dear. That doesn’t sound very good. I do hope that nobody else has died. There are rules about those kinds of things here. They wouldn’t be sending us all back to our rooms if it was just a nurse.” Tori was still standing on the bed, and spoke as if the two other men in the room weren’t fighting (apparently to the death) on the floor beneath him.

“It’s unfortunate. Bad. So many have gone already, and so soon! I know all about it, and it’s terrible. Two little girls lost-lost-lost already. Only two little girls left. Only two little girls made the cut, maybe.” He giggled, shifting to better watch the fight. “I’m not sure if I want to go to my room. I might. I might, but then again I might not. This is fun, and I want to see who wins, but- there’re places to go, if everyone is being sent to their rooms.”

He really did seem undecided, standing with twisting hands and a thoughtful expression on his dark face. “I’ll decide in a minute. In a minute, one of you might have made my decision for me.”

Control Room.
1115.


“I am mother rotten, the tormentor. Light fin, in flight.” The Instigator murmured to himself, watching inky swirls run down his arms with each dripping application of the sponge. He stood naked and unashamed in his room ringed with cameras and screens, ever aware; the spider in the centre of some great web.

“Vane Khet, and also the clown. And sometimes, I wear the face of the clown’ I smile for you when you are feeling down.” Dark, damp fingers found Jack’s sleeping face and traced it. Unconscious. Surrounded by the real nurses, doctors and their gear, waiting to be transferred to the infirmary; poor boy wasn’t really as interesting as he could be, at least not yet, but soon. Oh, soon he would be fabulous.

“And yet, there are no gaudy tears upon my face.” It was Sarah’s turn now. “Daubed to show the feelings of your race.” She had been so controlled, so careful, so very determined to hang on to her sanity.

“You see me smile,” She was deluding herself, by resisting his delusion.

“And all the while,” Not long now though.

“I’m crying just to make your day less vile.” Soon, she would face her first real test.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Jack Rass Character Portrait: Kieko Harlong Character Portrait: Nurses of the Asylum

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1045-1055.

Aveline:

“No worries, Aveline!” the bubbly nurse assigned to the girl exclaimed, all friendly faces and bright pink hair. “We can pick up some of that ice cream on the way to your room, and maybe some crisps and things. That way, you can have a little feast before lunch. But sssh! Don’t tell the others, or they’ll be jealous; you’re the only one that can have ice cream before dinner. So it’ll be our little secret; me, you and Sam.

“My name’s Jenny, by the way, and you can tell me anything or nothing, whatever you like. Right now, our mission is ice cream, and listening to some awesome music in your room. Come on, if we hurry, we can sneak what we need away from the cooks before they notice they’ve been robbed.”

Matt:

“Heya Matt,” The nurse that had been assigned to the anxious young man was small and had an easygoing smile, and he met Matt’s eyes without hesitation. “This has gotta be pretty rough on you, and I’d like to make that a bit easier, if I can. Jack’ll be okay, but we need to clear out to let these people do their jobs, so come with me, okay? We can check in on Jack in a bit, if you’d like.”

He seemed sincere, and he was gentle as he began herding Matt back towards his room. “I’m going to pop back to your room with you, oaky? We’ll get you settled down, and then I’ll bring you some lunch and maybe a game or two to play, so you don’t get bored. Maybe a movie? Whatever you like.”

Despite his kindness, he was determined and persistent, carefully guiding Matt back to his room and getting him settled in.

Sarah:

The nurse that came to Sarah was quiet and professional, and took the girl by the arm with little fuss. “It’s okay,” she said, not without compassion, as she started to steer the girl back towards her bedroom. “If you like, we can fill you in on how Jack’s doing as soon as we know, and when he’s well enough, you can visit in him in the Infirmary. I’m sure he’d like that. I’ve heard about how you two are friends.”

She wasn’t rough in her steering, but there was something insistent in her motions as she led Sarah back to her room. “There’s nothing to worry about, I promise. We’ll get this all sorted out, and get you some food and things to do, so no worries.”

Keiko:

She ignored her nurse for the most part, choosing instead to nip over to Sarah, laying a hand on her arm for a second. “It’ll be fine, Sarah. It’ll all be fine,” she whispered. “When this is all sorted out, we’ll meet up again and talk.”

She ducked back almost at once, returning to the quiet and capable hands of her nurse, who steered her after the others. She didn’t speak; it was far more interesting to listen to what was going on around her, better to soak up the knowledge of what was about to happen. She thought she might be able to guess what game was about to happen, and her lips curved up in excitement.

“Can I watch something on the television, when I’m in my room?” she asked, eyes bright with amusement. “A film about secret agents. I’d very much like to see that. Or maybe Star Wars. I think it’s a shame, that they don’t have a film that has both.”

“Both?” For a fraction of a second, the nurse looked confused, before sudden realisation sparked across her face. “Oh, I can arrange that for you.”

Keiko smirked. “I thought so.”

Infirmary.
1048.


Tori squawked in delight as first blood was drawn, clapping his hands together ecstatically. “First point to Devan! First point to Devan! I knew I liked you for a reason! Yay!” He was practically jumping up and down on the bed, crowing merrily where others would be cowering or pleading for the combatants to stop.

There were, of course, plenty of things for them to use to fight with; instrument trolleys, drip stands, machinery and gear were all spread about the room, tucked into nooks or standing ready for use. Tori, however, seemed to have something specific in mind, because he snatched up a length of oxygen tubing with a flourish and chucked it into the fray.

“Oooh, come on, come on! Do something fantastic! But do try not to kill each other, because Icarus wouldn’t like that at all. Oh no she wouldn’t like that one bit, and I don’t think you’d like it if she had to bring you back to life. She’s never very nice about it.”

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Nurses of the Asylum

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Matt and Aveline.
Main Hall.
1052.


Matt’s nurse seemed like the easygoing sort, and as such agreed to the request for ice cream, allowing Matt to make his way towards the dining room. There were no attempts made to stop him, only quiet supervision as the young man let himself into the hall. There was a member of the kitchen staff inside, carrying a tray with several tubs sat on it, while in the background, sealed away by double doors, some form of heavy activity seemed to be taking place; most likely cooking, if the clanging of pans was any indication.

The woman with the tray was just about to speak when Aveline, who had abandoned her escort and followed them, came bursting into the room and launched herself at Matt. Matt’s nurse, however, was faster than she was, and neatly intercepted her, catching her with open arms. “Aveline, no, that’s not allowed. You can have some ice cream, but not if you’re going to behave like this. Settle down and wait nicely, and I’ll let you pick a flavour. If you keep misbehaving though, you’ll be sent back to you room without any.”

Aveline’s nurse wasn’t far behind; she jogged into the room just in time to see her charge captured by Matt’s escort. She looked a little annoyed, but hitched her smile back into place rapidly enough.

“Matt wanted some ice cream too,” the male nurse continued with a glance at his colleague. “But he asked nicely for it, and is waiting patiently, not snatching or jumping on people. That’s good manners, and good manners apply to everyone, Aveline, even you. Now, I’m going to let go, you’re going to wait nicely for your ice cream, and then you’re going to let your new friend with the exciting hair take you back to you room.”

He didn’t so much as give her another choice. This was going to happen.

“Matt’s going to choose first, because he’s been so polite. Then, if you’re nice, it will be your turn. Matt, why don’t you go and pick yourself some ice cream from the cook? We can take it back to your room together.”

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Nurses of the Asylum

0.00 INK

Matt.
Dining Hall to Room 11.
1055-1100.


The nurse escorting Matt seemed to be quite an accommodating sort of person, despite being tied up controlling Aveline, who he was apparently reluctant to hand over to the pink haired girl who had originally been stationed with her. He smiled throughout as Matt picked his ice cream.

“You’re a very polite young man, Matt; it does you credit. Now, I’m afraid I’m going to have to stay here for a few minutes with Aveline, so would you be a good lad and go with my friend here? She’s really very lovely, and she’ll take good care of you and make sure you get to your room.”

The pink haired nurse nodded merrily in agreement, coming forward to take Matt gently under her wing and steer him towards the door. “That’s right. I think we’re going to be good friends; we share a taste in ice cream too! Black cherry really is the best! And I just bet that Jack’s going to get as much ice cream as he can eat while he’s getting better! There’s nothing like ice cream for making someone feel less ill, don’t you think?”

She kept up a warm barrage of chatter even as she led Matt out of the room, heading for the residential area with unerring steps that held just the slightest bounce. “When he’s not feeling so poorly, would you like to go and visit him? I’ve heard that you had made friends with him and Sarah. That’s really good, Matt. It’s lovely to make friends. Everybody needs to make friends.”

When she reached Matt’s room, she went inside with him to get him settled, making sure that he had a spoon and anything else that he might need to keep himself occupied.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Nurses of the Asylum

0.00 INK

Event! Sarah.
Room 5.


For a moment, the nurse looked a little confused, but then her faced melted into an understanding smile. She put the wash things that she was carrying on the end of the bed before sitting down next to Sarah, her smile small and kind.

“This must all be very confusing for you, Sarah,” she said, taking care to keep her voice low. “But you’re a little bit confused at the moment. You’ve been here for quite a while, even if you don’t remember, but that’s okay. There’s no need to be worried about anything, but I think it’s important that you understand what’s real and what’s not as best as you can.”

Despite her words, the nurse sounded kind, rather than condescending; she seemed genuinely concerned about Sarah’s wellbeing and understanding. “Right now, it’s morning, Sarah.” She turned her watch to face Sarah, so that the girl could see that it read thirty-two minutes past seven. “See? It’s half past seven in the morning. I know it’s probably hard to understand, but take a look, okay?”

Slowly, she turned to look out of the window, pointing out the slight lightening of the sky and the frost that had clung to the glass and glittered in the wash of floodlights across the courtyard. “See? It’s nearly breakfast time now. I let you sleep in a little, because you seemed tired last night when you went to bed, so everyone is already up. That’s okay though; there’ll still be plenty of time for breakfast.”

The nurse smiled again and stood, picking up the bundle that she’d set down. “Come on; we’ll have a quick shower, wash your hair and teeth, then pop down for some breakfast.”

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Sarah Erebus Character Portrait: Nurses of the Asylum

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Event! Sarah.
Room 5


Sarah froze for just a moment when she saw the nurse’s watch, and a glance out the window seemed to confirm the ‘fact’ that it was early in the morning. She felt a strong sense of uncertainty, was it possible that she had simply dreamed what had happened earlier?
“Oh” she said in a small voice. “But I thought . . .” It hadn’t felt like she made it up, but wasn’t that the easiest answer? Occam’s razor . . . a dream made more sense than some of the things she had dealt with. Her fists clenched on her knees as she took a deep breath, trying to match up what she believed had happened with what might have happened.

When in doubt, keep your head down and wait for your moment. Do what is necessary to survive.

“You let me sleep so late? There isn’t going to be anything good left by the time I get there!” Sarah let a brief look of dismay cross her face before she got up. “I had the most wild dreams last night, you wouldn’t believe it.” She got up and followed the nurse out and down to the washroom, pulling her hair out of it’s braid and combing through it with her fingers.

Act normal, act casual. Don’t let them see that you think something’s up.

In the bathroom, she quickly cleaned up, accepting the nurse’s help and trying to seem like a hungry young woman who just wanted to get to breakfast.

“So, anything special about today?” she asked as she roughly toweled her hair dry and rebraided it. “I’d like to get caught up and see everybody.” She brushed her teeth, leaning over to rinse her mouth and taking the opportunity to take a good look at herself in the mirror. No visible changes. What the hell was going on?
“I have to say, my dreams weren’t really very nice . . . I’d like to make sure that everybody’s ok.” She shrugged lightly. “You know how it goes, it all seems so real when it’s happening. Anyways, what’s for breakfast?” She kept up a light flow of chatter, playing the part of ‘confused but harmless’ for all that she was worth as she followed the nurse down the hall towards the dining hall.

Until you know what's real . . . play along.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Nurses of the Asylum Character Portrait: Doctor Solaris Dae

0.00 INK

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.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Nurses of the Asylum

0.00 INK

Event! Sarah.

“It’s okay, we’re not really all that late. There’s still plenty of time for breakfast, no need to worry about that.”

The nurse that had been assigned to escort Sarah through her morning routine appeared to be compassionate and engaged; she smiled, and listened to Sarah’s conversation, responding in kind rather than giving stock answers. She didn’t leave the bathroom while Sarah washed and dressed, but she stood at a discreet distance and looked away for the most part, giving the young woman as much privacy as was deemed ‘safe’ in such situations.

“Nothing special today, I’m afraid. It’s a Sunday, so there are only a few of the normal doctors in. A nice, quiet day, but we have roast for lunch, if you like that sort of thing. It’s good, though. The cooks here are fantastic; I think you’ll enjoy it, and there are nice vegetarian options too, if you’re not in the mood for meat- oh, good morning.”

The conversation was perfectly normal, or would have been, had the nurse not suddenly turned round and smiled at thin air. It happened very quickly, as they were passing the nurses’ station, so it was possible that Sarah had just missed whoever her nurse was saying hello to. There was certainly a shadow there, flitting in the other direction.

The ambient noise of The Asylum was conclusive with it being morning; there was a subdued aura of activity, the clank of cleaner’s carts and a distant wailing from somewhere, but everything seemed just slightly muffled. Nothing was quite clear enough to be focussed upon, but the sounds blended together in a manner that was somewhat oppressive, like too many voices speaking all at once.

As they passed into the long corridor that lead to the Main Hall and Dining Room, the sounds became suddenly sharp for a second; two sets of footsteps, one a sharp clip, the other shuffling. The shadows shifted accordingly, but remained unformed; something was there, but not, apparently, two people.

“Oh, good morning, Keiko.” The nurse with Sarah was smiling at thin air again, making eye-contact with empty space. “I hope you slept well.”

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Nurses of the Asylum

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Event! Sarah.

The dull chatter that dogged Sarah’s steps increased to a muffled roar as she approached the dining room with her escort, rising to a furious crescendo and then falling into utter, ringing silence as the nurse pushed open the double doors to reveal an empty room. The table was set for ten: ten plates, ten bowls, ten cups and ten sets of plastic cutlery. There was food on every plate, in every bowl; it was like some scene out of the Mary Celeste, where every resident had suddenly and inexplicably vanished.

The nurse seemed unconcerned, and walked towards the table with a smile. “Oh look, Sarah, they saved you a space. I’m glad you managed to make friends after all,” she murmured, leading the girl over to the abandoned table as if the diners were still present. Up close, it became apparent that each place setting was equipped with a little card, on which a name had been written in a flowing hand.

The first card had ‘Tori’ scrawled across one side, and ‘doesn’t exist’ on the other, and was sat in front of an illogically empty bowl and plate. The cup was full, but the thick, heavily scented liquid inside was clearly some form of soap, rather than anything suitable for drinking.

Karissa’ was placed next to him. A single cherry was sitting innocuously on her plate, a trickle of red juice leaking from the punctured fruit, the pit from which had been cut out and placed in the bowl, which appeared to contain white yogurt. The cup, most alarmingly, seemed to contain blood. Her card had ‘suicide’ scratched across the back.

Next was Aveline, whose bowl was filled with orange juice and whose plate was dressed with a cutting of hemlock. Her cup was practically overflowing with red Skittles, one of which had been placed neatly beside her card, which was graced with the proclamation ‘misadventure’.

Rather than her brother, Matt’s setting was one her other side, but his plate, bowl, cup and cutlery had been set on the floor rather than on the table. There was a neat arrangement of grapes and raisins on his plate, and his bowl held chunks of chocolate. His cup seemed to contain toothpaste and his card, which was still settled on the table, read ‘sodium pentobarbital’.

Jack’s place setting was next, and by far the most normal of those on the table. His plate had a stack of dry white toast, and his bowl was decorated with a fruit salad. His cup contained milk. His card, which was propped on its side, clearly displayed the word ‘aneurism’.

Devan came next, sat across the table from Jack, but rather than food, there was a mousetrap sitting on his plate, the spring loaded with a toffee. His bowl had a stinging nettle curled inside, the leaves arranged in an artful pattern, and his cup was half filled with what was almost certainly hair gel, into which a cocktail umbrella had been balanced. His card read ‘wilful murder’.

Xavier, whose card read ‘lethal injection’, had by far the goriest plate, which contained a bloody, dripping slab of liver, into which his plastic knife had been stuck. There was a heart the approximate size of a human being’s resting in his bowl, bleeding sluggishly onto the bed of white rice it had been dressed with. His cup was empty, and had been turned upside down. Under it, trapped by the clear plastic, was a sugar butterfly slowly melting into the river of blue ink that it had been dropped into.

Next to Xavier’s card was Kieko’s. The little rectangle had been torn in half, and her name was written on both sides. Kieko, one piece said, and on the other side ‘brain death’. The second fragment read Keiko, was paired with ‘strangulation’. Her meal was equally divided. One side of her plate was relatively inane with half a fry-up, but the other half was illogical and was comprised of a clove of garlic, a sprig of watercress and a bay leaf. There was a rosary curled in the bottom of her cup, which was filled with water and sitting in her bowl, which had been topped up with oil around it.

Elise seemed to have been hastily added; her crockery didn’t match the others or itself, being comprised of several different sets. There was baby food in her bowl and mashed banana on her plate. Her cup had been replaced with a beaker filled with juice. Her card was messily written, and had ‘SIDS’ scrawled on the back.

And finally, on the end, was Sarah’s place setting. Her plate was neatly set out with toast, still hot, beside a small pat of butter and a pot of jam, her bowl was full of a thick, fragrant porridge bedecked with a swirl of honey, and there was orange juice in her cup. Her card, which was sitting on the very edge of her plate, read ‘Sarah’ quite proudly, and on the other side, in green ink, ‘MADNESS?’.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Nurses of the Asylum Character Portrait: Doctor Solaris Dae

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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.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Nurses of the Asylum

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Event! Sarah.

Rather than looking surprised at Sarah’s exclamation, the nurse looked just a little disappointed, but she rapidly covered the almost-unhappy expression with a small smile. If she truly saw the table with its strange contents, then she gave no indication of it at all; she was either an incredible actress, or none of what Sarah was seeing was truly there.

“Sarah, do you remember what we talked about the other day? About things that are real and things that aren’t? Whatever you’re seeing, sweetie, it’s not real. It might look it, but I promise you that it’s not. It’s just your friends sitting down to their breakfast. Can you stand on your head?

Everything, including the illogical final statement, was said with compassion and that same kind smile. Once again, she gestured to Sarah’s place at the table. Now, why don’t you sit down and eat your breakfast, Sarah? If you think you need it, I can have someone bring you some medication, to take away whatever it is you’re seeing. I don’t know about you, but I’m sure it would be so nice if something would make sense for a change. We only want to help, Sarah, I promise.”

The nurse became distracted then, straightening the plate set out for Xavier with a little tut of amused displeasure. “Oh, Xavier, for goodness sake chew your food before you swallow it!” She turned back to Sarah. “Sorry about that, but boys will be boys I guess. I have an excellent idea! Let’s change the subject! How about some of your breakfast?”