2007-07-31: Space Cases

Starring:

DFErin_icon.gif DFLaurel_icon.gif

Summary: Erin is crazy. Laurel is paranoid. And briefly has rabies.

Dark Future Date: July 31st, 2009

Space Cases


Near a Starbucks

The world is turned on its ear and there are no longer children running around in the streets on summer days or people standing outside talking to their neighbors. Lawns are brown, stores are permanently closed, and there's nowhere to get a good cup of coffee anymore half the time. Doesn't mean the coffee shops are just gone, though. Seriously, there was a Starbucks on every corner, so they couldn't have all been destroyed.

The note 'meet me at Starbucks for dinner' probably would have anyone on a wild goose chase.

She's been at this location for a few hours now. The door are chained, and there are still a few trees around, with a couple metal tables left outside that are starting to rust and decay with disuse. There's a couple chairs around said table, one of which is occupied by Erin McCarty, leaning forward - no lunch, no sign that she's even had food at any point. Despite the fact that the sun set long ago, she's still wearing sunglasses; there's also a decent-looking suit, sure. She has to look nice for the job and all. The dark glasses almost seem out of place.

Also, there's a dead squirrel nearby.

—-

The good thing about working for the government in this world? Cars. They have them. Armored hummers, for example. That's what Laurel takes to find this Starbucks— and they drive past many an abandoned one before she waves the driver to pull over. Working for the government also has dangers. Terrorist attacks could happen any minute, so when she steps out in her dress suit, she cautiously looks around, scanning the roofs of buildings, and them motioning the driver to stay behind.

"McCarty… this isn't exactly the safest…" Is that a dead squirrel? Her eyes stay on it for an instant as she walks towards the table with the chairs set up. "…place to be at night."

There's a shake of her head and she makes it the rest of the way, then extends an invisible forcefield around the open-air cafe, a few inches off the ground so that there's plenty of air, and even a hint of a breeze. "We went through six Starbucks before we found this one, you know. You could have been a little more exact."

—-

"When I got here, the sun was still out," is her explanation. She'd imagine it's still out somewhere in the world, to be fair, so she could still argue that the sun is, indeed OUT, just not casting its light on this particular place.

There are no sounds here. At all. No crickets, no birds, nothing. It's completely silent except for the man-made sounds of the Hummer and some cars in the distance. "Maybe I was there. Maybe I was just invisible. Or imaginary. Maybe I followed you here." There's brief smile as the shield goes up; Erin tilts her head curiously. The chair across from her suddenly pushes out with the grating sound of metal against concrete so Laurel can sit down, and Erin's foot drops from it immediately after. "Are you sealing us away?"

—-

"Not sealing, just… protecting us," Laurel explains, glancing towards the armored car that brought her here. They aren't within her field, but they have armored plating to protect them. The field is a lot more reliable, though. It could withstand a lot of damage… "I'm pretty sure you weren't invisible, Erin— but you could have followed us, I guess." The seat is pulled out a little and she settles into it.

"What's going on?" She should be used to this crazy talk from the… sort of friend… at least she's an ally. There's so few of those these days. Especially since her former best friend definite is not an ally and sent her snakemail. She's still kinda frowny about that— but the snake hadn't been killed, and is actually in a tank at her apartment now. Waiting. Better than up her sleeve.

"You're not… are you…" She gestures towards the squirrel.

—-

"How do you know?" This is drawled, quiet, musing. She could have been. Hell, she doesn't even know what's really possible. "I could be from an alternate dimension. Maybe I'm your imaginary friend." Maybe Laurel flipped sometime near the start of the war and she had to make someone up just to feel better. Do imaginary friends know they don't really exist?

Staring across the table as if the situation is gravely serious lasts for many seconds, too long, before the smile returns on slightly chapped lips. "I just wanted to see if you'd come." That shouldn't be particularly surprising. "And so here you are."

Maybe Erin would have been here all night if Laurel hadn't shown up. It's a nice night for it, too… The stars are out, there are lots of them visible. When Laurel mentions the dead squirrel, the reply is a shrug. "I had to make sure we weren't being bugged. Or squirreled." A gesture off to the side - there's a dead bird. "Or birded. Anything within a— Oh, I dunno, let's say a million-mile radius - is dead. You didn't need to show off." Erin drops the sunglasses down on her nose, smiling under them as the metallic, silvery glow is visible in her eyes. The sunglasses are replaced, and she looks back up at the stars. "Do you think we're lost?"

—-

"You're not… my imagination…" Laurel tries to say, looking around cautiously again. Did she lose it somewhere along the way? If she did, there wouldn't be dead squirrels laying around, now would there be? Bugs too? Well, killing insects is okay— after what happened at the White House, she's pretty sure that they would love to have someone exterminating as many bugs in the area as possible, but then…

A million miles? "That— that's impossible, I was within a million miles when you did this…" And part of her really hopes she's exaggerating a great deal. The streets may be empty for the most part, but some people who are registered and declared okay still might choose to live in these places— killing people who are on their side isn't good.

But the eyes make her shiver, and she looks away. "You didn't need to do that. Not all the bugs or animals are turning against us… you… lost? What do you mean lost?"

That makes no sense. But she does look up towards the stars. Squint.

—-

After some intense consideration, Erin says, "No, probably not." If they're imaginary, at least they're imaginary together. The Hummer isn't really sitting outside Laurel's forcefield, the world hasn't fallen apart, Erin never spent months in detainment, she never learned how to kill with particles too small to even see. Anything that managed to get out of her range before it died will probably be okay… Still sick, but animals are stupid.

"Lost. Flung through some wormhole in space." Vague gesture toward the general vicinity of the whole sky. "We don't really know, do we? I mean, what are we really doing here? I could get back at the humans for failing to become anything worthwhile, or I could get back at the Evolved for lumping me in with them. Have you ever had rabies, Laurel?"

She looks away from the stars, leaning forward with her elbows on the table, staring at the girl through the glasses, smiling a rather wicked half smile. "Ebola? Yellow Fever? What are we doing? We keep doing it, because that's what we're conditioned to do. Humans are created to survive, we're created to survive, and we have to, don't we? What's survival if it doesn't mean fighting for what you believe in? Can you fight, Laurel?"

—-

"That's crazy… of course we didn't go into a wormhole…" Laurel's starting to wonder if this woman has many screws loose in her brain. She knows she used to be an actress, so maybe she's just being mean and playing mind games, but— really— is she this nuts? Maybe she is. Maybe she should recommend her for an evaluation of some kind, before she makes them all sick and fall over dead. She's supposed to do that to other people!

"No, I've never…" Had rabies. But almost as soon she says it, she's already shivering a little, suddenly looking even more agitated than before. She glances around her, jumping a little as if she's seeing something in the corner of her eyes. There's forcefields popping up all over the place now, behind her, around her, above her— protecting her from things she can't see, but not stopping the disease that takes hold in her nervous system. "Stop it! Stop it!" She cries out frantically, jumping out of the chair and backing into one of her own walls. The chair falls backwards, looking as if it may crash, but it doesn't go down all the way, hanging there, leaning against something.

—-

Erin pushes her chair back - again, the sound of steel grating against cement. Really, she has no idea what she's doing or why, just that it seemed like a good idea at the time. She doesn't want Laurel dead, this was just to… prove a point or something. "Who do you need protecting from?" she asks, reaching forward to take Laurel's wrist, holding it tightly as she repairs and reverts the ravaged nervous system. This? It's severely draining for the former actor, but she never had any intention of leaving Laurel with rabies, or crippling her with it. "You sealed us in, Laurel. You sealed the danger in with yourself, when there's nothing on the other side but air."

It's her job, it's her ability. She can protect the president with it, can protect herself, keep the bullets at bay, because this is what they do, and there's really no point to be made, other than that. Erin's hand releases Laurel's wrist.

The chair that's leaning against one of the shields is lifted, placed back on its legs. What if they could see things from the other side? Would it matter? And where do they go from here?

She can't see the shield, and so the hand that was previously around Laurel's wrist reaches to feel for it. It contacts something, and the palm of her hand rests against the delicate surface. "What did you give up to be here?"

—-

There's still shaking and paranoia as the virus is removed from her system. Laurel's eyes are darting around, and the men in the Hummer have gotten out to look with worry. But she doesn't wave them over, and they just watch. They probably know it wouldn't help to pull a firearm and try to stop the woman. "You're— you're not a danger. We're on the same side— and you don't know there's nothing out there! They might have… anything… someone who's immune to you." She's PARANOID OKAY? It's kept her alive in this day and age.

But she moves back a little, resting against the invisible wall that happens to be her shield. They don't move, but they're solid as can be. "What— what do you mean?"

There's a lot of things running through her returned brain, even if she's still wide-eyed and paniced. At least she's not seeing things in the corner of her eyes anymore. "I didn't— I gained something when I came here— this is— a much better life." She's important, protecting an important person. Doing something! "I was just a photographer before— that's it— now I'm— protecting someone— someone important. The President!" It's important, right? This is what she was supposed to do? But what did she give up…

There's a pause and she leans against her forcefield. What did she give up?

—-

"There probably is." It's not that she's unafraid, it's just that they've all had to give something up to be here. Erin has no career or family, no coffee shops on the corner, no scripts to memorize. No mundane talk about going on dates, yelling at roommates about kittens that she doesn't want, and it all went bad when she discovered she was a freak. And she still thinks she is - she's just a freak who's not caught behind the closed doors of a containment facility. "Erin? Is useful. Laurel? Is useful." Yes, talking about herself in the third person. What happens when they're not useful anymore? "And to be honest, I'd do just about anything to keep myself free. Wouldn't you?"

Erin will love and adore the president, because doing so makes her useful, and being useful keeps her alive. She's alive. And maybe one day - five, six… Seven years into the future, they'll all find their way home.

"Where would you be right now if I hadn't asked you here?" She pushes on the forcefield again, idly, curiously, catching the reflection of the stars in the sky in a puddle a dozen feet away from the protective border.

—-

…crazy woman. They hired a crazy woman. Laurel can't help but stare at this lady, hoping against hope that it's all some kind of act and that she's not totally insane. But it certainly sounds like she is. There's no words for what's going on in her head, except that… this woman is nuts and needs a psyche evaluation— though the psychitrist would have to wear one of those crazy suit things probably.

"Yes— yes you're useful— we're both useful…" Would she do anything? That's a question she can't seem to answer. There's a lot she's not sure she'd do, even now— but to stay FREE?

She has to somehow sneak a dangerous poisonous snake back up to New York… but really…

"I'd be in my room… probably listening to the radio…" The government approved radio, for sure. And feeding the snake she has a mouse, or something… But that's another story all together.

—-

Erin's not crazy. She's been through a lot. So's everyone, really, so either she's just acting, or… Maybe she did go off the deep end some time ago and never came back from it. Tends to happen when you're a high-maintenance person and you get tossed away like yesterday's garbage. She's been on both sides now. They only took interest in her when was useful.

"You can let down your shield now. I'm going to head home." Tap. Tap tap tap tap. "Or whatever I imagine home is. It might not really be there, I can't remember. Maybe I'm in the wrong place." Tap, tap, tap.

Tap.

In a single sliver of a second, Erin feels a shiver, and she wonders. No. She's perfectly able to maintain that this is what she has to do, because she can't go back there again, she can't live like that, where no one cares who she is, and even fewer people want to help her. Here, she's someone, at least, and it's the delusion that keeps her going, makes her really believe that she needs to be here. But.

Does everyone?

"They're like reptiles, kind of," she mutters. As soon as the shield is removed, she'll be on her way.

—-

The shield goes down as soon as Laurel can get her consentration back. Unfortunately in some ways… it's still a reflex mechanism when she feels threatened. But she can put it away at times— it just takes reminding herself that she's not in danger a few times before the tap goes through thin air. She stumbles back, no longer leaning on a shield, and catches herself. "Yeah— maybe you're in the wrong place…"

She's really not sure what to think of this friend, because… she's not really a friend. If they'd met in a different time, she would have wanted to take her picture for a magazine, do a photospread. And it would have been beautiful. Now the closest she gets to doing photography is the 'safe' images that she makes of the president. They know they can trust her. She wouldn't dare hide a gun in the camera.

With Erin leaving, she straightens her jacket and works to compose herself, before she moves towards the armored car. "Let's get home," she says to the men. A home that's more… a place to stay.

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