2008-06-20: Snake Oil



Guest Starring: Dr. Livitz, Bruno, Mona

Summary: Cass finds herself in an alarming new circumstance because of Pinehearst Research.

Date It Happened: June 20th, 2008

Snake Oil

An aging man walks down a dim corridor, pushing a small metal cart filled with a variety of medical supplies, including vials of varying substances; some a cloudy purple, some clear. His head is egg-shaped and bald, save for tufts of hair above his ears; black-framed glasses sit in front of calculating eyes, and the white coat he wears identifies him further as a doctor. Beside him, a beefier, younger man in green scrubs wheels an empty wheelchair. There are tough fabric cuffs on the arms. They pass an engraved bronze sign on the wall:


In another wing, someone screams. It descends into manic laughter.

The older man raps bony, liver-spotted knuckles on a door to the left, looking in the small, rectangular window. Before speaking, he makes sure no one is in the corridor to overhear. There isn't. "Cassandra," he calls quietly. "It's Dr. Livitz." Via electronic swipe card, he opens the door. "It's time for your treatment, Cassandra, please come with Bruno and I."

In her small room, there's a small ball under the covers. It's almost impossible to tell that there's a person under there. However, there is and she seems almost unaware of her change in locations. Nor, does she seem to hear the screaming or laughter or any of the other sounds that may give her a clue as to where she is. The sound of the door opening doesn't stir her, nor does the sound of Dr. Livitz's voice. It's clear that she's very out of it and, much like the other patients in either room, she mutters something under her breath, unaware of what she's saying.

"Where are you? You should have come by now."

"I hope you're well-rested," Dr. Livitz comments off-handedly, almost to himself rather than the patient after her distant questioning; of course, what does it matter, anyway, if she's in no state to hear him?

Creak, creak. The wheelchair pushed by the cross between a porter and a security guard is moved to the side of the bed. Square-jawed and stark of face, Bruno moves mechanically to the bedside as well, seeming the stereotypical rough-handed manservant — until he opens his mouth. "Up and at 'em!" he says cheerfully, throwing the blanket off the bed to reveal the woman underneath. "Easy does it, think nothin' of it," he says, thick arms moving to scoop Cass up and reposition her on the chair.

Dr. Livitz holds the door open, peering coolly out into the hall.

Not taking note of anyone entering, the wheelchair or anything, really. It's not until the blanket is whisked off of her and she flinches when the sudden rush of light - what litter there is of it - hits her. She groans, softly, but doesn't struggle when she's picked up and positioned into the wheelchair. Slumping a little, she gives a small start and opens her eyes, seemingly lucid, though still weak and unable to do much other than clutch to the sides of the wheelchair. Grabbing her robe around her, she gasps, sucking in a breath and looks around her fearfully. "Wh-where am I?" Her voice is low, barely audible.

Bruno affixes the cuffs to Cass's slender wrists and ankles, preventing her escape. He gives her arm a chipper little pat. "You're safe as a bug in a rug." Or is that a fly in a web? "I'm Bruno. I used to work at the lab, remember? Heavy lifting! You're here so we can understand what's happening to you."

Dr. Livitz shuffles around. "Follow me."

"Now keep quiet," Bruno warns, his higher-than-expected voice still friendly as can be. "We don't want to upset the other patients on our way to the treatment room."

Creak, creak.

The journey down the corridor, following the lead of the doctor who pushes the cart, twists and turns down numerous other corridors. They pass a woman in a generic nightgown counting the flowers on the scrubs of a nurse who's handing her a tiny paper cup of pills, and later on men and women not unlike Bruno wrestle a woman in a straightjacket into her room.

And then they reach their destination on the other side of the building, where everything is quiet.

* * *

Out of use for many years until recent times, the cold walls of this small, dark room bear peeling paint, forest green that's turned to patina in spots. Other than a shimmer of a reflection, as if on glass, not much can be seen yet.

As they wander through the hallways, Cass watches the patients, the nurses, wondering if they know what they are compliant to. She doubts it, but then, she doesn't know. As they pass by the woman counting flowers, the brunette watches, even turning her head to see when they pass her. Her eyes particularly fall upon the woman in the straight jacket. However, they turn a corner and all that's left is the sound of their struggle.

When they reach their destination, she glances about at the peeling walls and even focuses on the shimmer of the reflection. "I remember you," she replies, almost out of focus. It's unclear if she's speaking to Livitz or Bruno, but maybe she's speaking to both of them. "This isn't Pinehearst." Unless they replaced the lab with crazy people.

Bruno wheels Cass into the dark room. Meanwhile, Dr. Livitz's cart of supplies comes to a halt with a gentle jostling of glass and metal. "This is not Pinehearst, but we are. Here, we have the resources to properly study you. What you can do now. It is safer." He flicks the lightswitch.

The room is separated in halves by a pane of what looks like new plexiglass. The initial half is full of medical equipment; combined, there's enough here to perform EEGs, ECGs, and EKGs. Through a door in the divider, Bruno takes Cass into the second room.

They're not alone.

A chair (green-cushioned, they look like it could've came from a waiting room) is positioned with its back to the glass pane. A woman sits and, like Cass, she's strapped to it. Middle-aged, frizzy-haired, freckled a little overweight and wearing hospital-style pyjamas, she already looks scared. Stickers and wires are hooked up to her body at her chest and head, the wires feeding through small holes in the glass into the machines behind it.

Bruno wheels Cass beside the woman, a few feet away — past arm's length — and locks her chair in place. He goes about hooking monitoring equipment up to her as well. He reaches behind Cass, taking an an IV tube — which trails through the glass — and pressing a sharp point against Cass's arm. "This might pinch. Sorry."

"Mona MacCardy, age forty-six, diagnosed in 2003 with bipolar disorder and anxiety, current medications have regulated her mood swings to a low…" Dr. Livitz recites dully behind the glass into a voice recorder. "Base readings of heart rate indicate a slightly elevated level of anxiety prior to the introduction of Subject A of the Origin Project…"

Cass doesn't like the looks of this. Especially when Dr. Livitz starts to talk to a recorder as if this were a clinical trial. The more she's out of her room, the more lucid and together she feels, however it comes in spurts. When Bruno comes at her with an IV Tube, she winces and struggles, as much as she can weakened from testing and restrained to her chair. "N-no." Frowning, she stares at the woman next to her. "What are you doing…" Finally, she turns as much as she can to Bruno with wide eyes, she shakes her head. "Don't do this. Please."

Bruno holds Cass's arm above the elbow to try and prevent her struggles. His expression is apologetic. "I've heard you can do amazing things," he says. "I don't really get it but— you're coming off the good drugs now, so pay attention. This is what you are now, girl." The IV line is followed by another in Cass's opposite arm. With an encouraging smile from that turns ever-so-slightly reluctant, Bruno leaves, joining Dr. Livitz in the adjacent monitoring room behind the women.

"Sedative drugs should be working their way out of Subject A's system," the doctor goes on, "administering the formula-enhancing drug in IV1. 5:50PM, June 20th, 2008." He sets the recorder on the metal cart from which he then removes a vial of violet-hued liquid. From vial to syringe to IV to Cass's right arm, the adrenaline-rich substance begins to float into her veins.

Mona, the woman beside Cass, certainly doesn't appear to have any idea what's going on. Wide eyes simply dart this way and that, nervous, but not struggling. Just waiting. She's not sure what for.

The fact that Mona doesn't seem to want to struggle makes Cass even more worried and scared. Whatever this is, they're using subjects that no one will believe. Or who will ever want to talk. "There's nothing to get." As the sedatives slowly start to work their way out of her system, she becomes more frantic, more herself, realizing where she is and what they're doing to her. "This is wrong," she shouts, hoping to draw attention. The adrenaline that rushes through her system excellerates her heart rate and increases her fear. "You can't do this to people!" Pulling against her restraints, she attempts the pointless struggle of trying to escape.

Dr. Livitz steps closer, between the two women but separated by the transparent barrier. He watches quietly; so does Bruno, from a corner.

Mona gradually starts to become more frantic. She struggles, gripping the arms of the chair, her eyes widening, a sheen of sweat glistening over pale, freckled skin.

Beside Dr. Livitz, two heart rate monitors spike. He eyes the journey of the fluid from the IV and switches from voice recorder to taking notes on a pad. "Up the dose," he tells Bruno, who obliges by turning a knob on the IV stand. "We'll give them a moment and watch for the monitors to sync before moving on," the doctor finishes.

Fighting against her bonds, Cass gets more frantic, more scared and angry at what they're doing to her. Rocking in her wheelchair, she looks over at Mona and notices how she's reacting as well. That's when she remembers the dream where Peter told her what happened to her in the future - sort of - and how her power was emotions. Glancing over at the glass, she looks over at Mona again and realizes that she's doing this to her. And that thought makes her even more scared. But it stops her from struggling any more. Instead, she closes her eyes and listens to her increased heartbeat and tries to calm herself down.

The woman beside Cass screams, pure, frantic terror. It cuts off with a sharp breath and she hangs her shaggy head down; she starts taking deep, shaky breaths. Her breathing is irregular, hardly calm, her whole body shakes … but at least she's not screaming and paranoid.

Dr. Livitz regards all of this quietly both through the glass and via the monitors of the womens' vitals. He makes a note and watches for awhile longer. "Hm… mm… proceeding with the second drug as planned." He injects a new substance into the same IV as the first, clear fluid swirling into the purple.

Though it's a struggle, Cass manages to calm herself down enough to not project all her fear onto poor Mona. It takes all the willpower and every mantra she could ever think of - including humming the Beatles song "Across the Universe" in order to do it. However, when the next shot is pushed into her IV, she's hit with searing, burning pain that starts from the inside and seems to work itself right through her skin. Not even mantras or controlled breathing can keep her from the scream that rips through her throat. Tears course down her face and no matter how she tries to control it, she can't, the pain just seeps out of her. Another, hoarser, scream escapes her before she slumps against the back of her wheelchair, fainting dead away.

Mona matches the scream, at first — but hers cuts off where as Cass's kept going. Agitated beyond comprehension, the woman writhes in her seat, moaning and crying, her face clenched in emotional agony, distress and confusion strong in her saucer-shaped eyes. She stares in horror at the subject who slumped over — then promptly turns away and vomits onto the floor.

Dr. Livitz watches the differences in the heartbeats and brainwaves; the first, of Cass, is more erratic, more intense, while Mona's runs on a less severe, not-quite-in-sync scale, this time. He keeps his stern, professional coolness, but an increasing urgency begins to build as he steps closer to the glass and eyes Cass, then her monitors which spike and go quieter. Without a word, he hurries to remove the flow of the painful serum, working quickly to switch the first IV bag, gesturing at Bruno as he does so. The taller man rushes through the door to Cass's side and grabs a new tube as Dr. Livitz feeds it through the glass wall. It takes less than a minute for the switcheroo to be complete — Cass is given a new boost of adrenaline ambrosia. Wake up!

"Moving on," he says quickly, loosening the gate to the clear bag of medication to Cass's left arm. Inside the plastic tube, it drip-drip-drips, trickling, until eventually, a rush is sent down and into the system of Ms. Aldric.

In that minute, Cass remains slumped in her wheelchair remaining passed out from the pain. The adrenaline makes her eyes flutter for a moment and then she takes a quick inhale of breath. The pain is gone, almost as quickly as it came the first time. Immediately when she wakes up, the euphoria starts. And while she knows that this is just more of the same - drugs that are forcing her to feel one way or another - it's harder to fight off against a good feeling than a bad one. It may be manipulation, but it's a good kind. And with the wimpering and distress that she finds in Mona's face is enough to allow herself to just take the euphoria and transmit it to the other patient.

Mona lifts her head slowly. Her expression is childlike, full of relief and simple happiness.

Dr. Livitz folds his hands in front of him and lets the drug take effect. Bruno, still near Cass, gets some of the residuals. Back to his chipper self, he says, "See? Something special!" He gives her cheek a light little pat-pat and looks to Dr. Livitz, who nods to him and to Mona. Bruno routinely goes about unhooking the woman, guiding her to her feet and out of the room as she smiles at the ceiling.

Dr. Livitz picks up his recorder. "Subject A performs well while alert and under the influence of an array of drugs, particularly those which act on the limbic system. The test subject was responsive to feelings of anxiety based on the physical pain of Subject A. I would venture that emotions provoked without the use of drugs would have a more acute effect…"

When Bruno reaches forward to pat her cheek, Cass quickly turns her cheek away. "Don't touch me," she tells him in a warning tone. Luckily, he moves away to take Mona back to her room. That just leaves Cass and Dr. Livitz. Though the euphoria of the drug is still working their way through her system so her anger and threats sound more dreamy than threatening. "This is inhumane, you know. It's unethical." Slowly she shakes her head, her long hair falling in front of her face. "Not only that, this is a sham. And you were only a hack at Pinehearst."

"We're only trying to understand what Arthur Petrelli bestowed upon you," Dr. Livitz replies with a tone of bland professionalism, lowering the recorder although he doesn't stop it from recording. "You could think of it as learning experience, for you as well. There's no sham here. I was appointed by Mr. Petrelli for this task and what's happening is very real. A breakthrough." He gathers up a long sheet of readouts, jagged lines and numbers, and goes about cleaning up this little operation. He pushes his cart to the door. "It's time to go back to your room now." Lights: off.

"Bestowed? This is a punishment, not a privilege." Whoever would think that she should be overjoyed at receiving this 'gift' must be insane. Much like Dr. Livitz. Cass finds it hard to fight against the euphoria as well as the sedatives. All the change in emotions has exhausted her, the fight has left her for the moment. "It's a travesty. And you're a witch doctor, trying to sell snake oil to the masses." By now, her voice has become mumbled with exhaustion. There's more she would like to accuse him of, but before long, her head slumps down toward her chest and she's fast asleep, almost indiscernible from the other patients here.

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