2007-09-03: Splinter


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Summary: Niki, Cass and Ramon convene at the labs for a voluntary intervention that Niki will later regret. The telepath gets a good look at the inner workings of two pieces of a fractured whole. When Ramon and Jessica have a battle of wills, the tables turn… but in whose direction?

Date It Happened: September 3rd, 2007


Bat Country Labs, Seville Medical

Brooklyn, New York City

It should be strange, going to a place you've been before but have no memory of. As Niki strolls down one of the halls of Seville Medical, making her way to the door that leads down into the area Cass has procured, she feels … nothing. There's not even a sense of deja vu as she tries the door and, finding it open, heads down the stairs. The sight of the lab is entirely new to her eyes. She takes it in slowly. Bat Country, huh? "Cass?" she calls out quietly. She's dressed neatly, today, in a pair of trim grey pants and a button-up cotton blouse with a tinge of pink to it. She's holding almost protectively onto the strap of the mom-sized black purse over her shoulder as she glances this way and that.

Since the door opens, it's apparent that Cass is already inside. Whenever the woman isn't there, the outside door is locked and bolted. However, once inside, there's no real clue as to where the bookstore owner has gone. There's a few broken up boxes leaning against the wall by the door, the place outfitted almost entirely to Cass' desires now. Then, suddenly, there's a crash, a startled yelp and a then some more clattering coming from the direction of the office door. The door opens and Cass all but tumbles out, still wearing the helmet that Peter gave her for her birthday. A blue bicycle it tilted at an odd angle inside. "Just…stay," she tells it exasperatedly. Then, she unclips the helmet and spins around to see Niki standing there. "Oh! Hi!" Pulling off the protective gear, her hair poofs up a little and she sets it down on the outside desk. "Niki! Good to see you! Find the place alright?" She has no memory of Niki ever being here, either.

It's kind of a drive from upstate New York, but Ramon has Precious. Yes, he's secretly named the phat car. No, he has not shared this name. It might lose him Man Points. And at least he uses it on a hot car, and not on say, garden gnomes, like certain people who shall remain nameless. In any event, he's making his way here. At a slower pace than he once would have, because damned if he hasn't learned to brake for the small animals.

"I had a little trouble, but nothing that I couldn't— " Wait. First things first. "Were you just riding a bike inside?" Niki gives Cass a curious expression as she approaches her former boss, looking from the helmet to the office with the oddly tilted bicycle within.

"I." There's a furtive glance behind her where her bike is stashed. "Well. I forgot my bike chain. And I didn't want Dosty to get stolen." That would be her bike, see. "So." Pause. "Hi! Welcome to Bat Country!" It's just as crazy as Enlightenment Books, only now she has more expensive gadgets to play with. "So. Ramon only gave me the very basics as to what's going to happen. I get the impression I should be getting the tranquilizers?"

The bike has a name. Okay. Niki just smiles at Cass. Her quirks can't help but prompt smiles, even in the midst of things of a serious nature. Like, say, this. "…Thanks," she says with a light laugh and another glance around the lab. "I don't wanna take any chances," she says, the direness settling in, weighing down her words. Cass ought to know what risks this runs. "If he reaches in my brain and finds Jessica and he can't stop him with…" Niki pulls a face, not claiming to really understand this stuff, even after Peter's attempts, "Whatever crazy mind powers he has? The drugs'll keep her down. Just, for as long as I'm knocked out." Sounds like someone knows from experience.

When Cass names her very serious lab a silly name like Bat Country, what else could she do but name her silly blue bike something very serious like Fyodor Dostoevsky? She can't help but love to do things like that. "Sure. When Ramon gets here, we'll figure it out. But, I think the best thing we can do is to get you into one of the smaller rooms, strap you down," she makes a face at that, "and stand by with a tranq. That way we can tranq you and then keep you - hopefully - contained until we're sure that you're you when you wake up." All the doors have their own locks, too, so that should help them with that. "Peter said something about you two trying something on your own. What happened then?"

Niki strolls just a few steps away to drop her purse onto the nearest counter-like surface. She gives Cass a notably dubious look at the mention of strapping down, but it's not the notion that bothers her. It's the fact that she knows they're useless. "He tried. I can't really say if it did more good than harm, really. But it was something." The blonde purses her lips tensely. That doesn't really explain what happened.

Ramon pulls up. Parks. Steps out of the Mercedes. He's dressed for the office, because he's trying to make a habit of dressing for the office. He can't imagine Nathan lets anyone see him bumming around in say, jeans (little does he know a whole diner once saw the man in his drawstring pj pants) and so he's trying to emulate unless he needs to…fix a sink or something, or move a moving van. He comes into the building, looking for the women.

Down in the basement in the lab proper, Cass gives Niki a bit of a shrug. The straps aren't to stop her, it's to give her an impediment to give the others time to drug her. While it may not bother her to be strapped down, the idea frustrates Cass. She doesn't want to tie down her friend. However, between tying down her friend and having the extra few seconds to knock her out and not tying her down and being taken completely by surprise enough that she gets ripped apart? She'll take tying down. "Something." Well, she doesn't know what Ramon plans on doing - whether it's similar or different - than what Peter planned, but hopefully it will bring about better results. "She didn't try to hurt him, did he?" Because she'd like to know what she's up against. Glancing between Niki and the door, she leans gently against the desk, talking to pass the time before Ramon gets here.

And Niki does the same, moving to lean against a wall near Cass, folding her arms. "I blacked out," she admits with a shrug, though her expression is not so casual. "…crushed his hand." She studies the floor. "Micah started school this week, I'm gonna be out-of-state for a couple days and… I just… I can't risk…"

Ramon comes down into the lab. "Knock knock," he rasps, his single eye turning to study this stunning and anxious woman in Cass' lab, matching her to the voice on the phone. He closes the doors behind him, his face betraying none of his thoughts. But instantly, he goes right ahead and opens up into 'listening' mode, focusing on Niki and not Cass.

Frowning, Cass nods. She can't risk her son, can't risk everything. "Out of state?" The woman is curious as to where Niki could be going. But, also, she's worried about her. They're friends. Also, about her hand, which she can't grow back like Peter can. If it gets crushed, it'd take awhile to heal. Not just a few hours or minutes. "Well, we'll try what we can. I could start researching some alternatives, if you want. Something suppressive. Or I could find you a really good psychologist." She's not sure. Luckily, she's interrupted by Ramon entering. Standing up straighter, she smiles as Ramon comes in. "Hey Ramon. Looks like we're about ready." Moving for the more lab part of her lab, she makes for those sedatives.

As soon as she hears the door open at the top of the stairs, Niki's watching — even so, when Ramon appears, there's some small element of surprise. Maybe it's the eye patch, maybe it's the gruff demeanour that matches his phone voice, maybe it's even the suit. "To Nevada," she replies offhandedly to Cass in the meantime. She doesn't have time to answer the rest, but they're in her thoughts. Psychologists can't help what I am. "Mr. Gomez." The corners of the blonde's lips flicker and bring about a modest smile. "Niki," she offers her name and steps ahead to do the friendly thing under the strangest of circumstances and pushes away from the wall to give the man her hand. Hi, it's nice to meet you, welcome to my screwed up mind, I'll try not to kill you? What else is she supposed to do?

Ramon takes Niki's hand. His shake is firm, but not too firm; he's not into attempting to intimidate anyone. Yet he's confident, secure, too. "It's a pleasure to meet you, Niki." He looks over at Cass. "Are you all set with what you need?"

Oh, that's right, Cass was supposed to tell Niki what Ramon looked like. What with the bike wrestling and sudden Niki appearance, she sort of forgot about that stipulation in her plot of all this. "Yeah, sure. Almost ready." Gesturing toward the smaller room on the left, she grabs a first aid kit as well as a few shots of powerful sedatives. Just in case. She hopes she won't need it, but it's better to be prepared. Then, she grabs an empty notebook and a pen, so she can take notes. In the heat of the moment, they might forget something and she wants to make sure they have something to reference when they're done here. That's supposed to help. "Okay."

"You too. Thanks for coming. Peter told me I could trust you," Niki says with a smile, personable. Her handshake is about what one would expect, warm and friendly and slight. The surprise is gone. She doesn't look like a person capable of tearing others limb from limb. She moves away from Ramon, following Cass's gesture to the smaller room, tucking a piece of straightened blonde hair behind one ear as she crosses the threshold. She lingers near the dark-haired woman to say quietly, touching Cass's arm, "Don't feel bad, okay? All this. The… restraints and meds. I've been there. It's better you than some prison guard or scientist I don't know."

Restraints? Ramon controls his face. He doesn't show what he's thinking. Instead he finds a place to sit down. He'll wait for Cass to get her in place. "What did Peter do with you, Niki? He was very uncertain and vague." As usual, but he doesn't say that. He likes Peter, even when Peter is being hesitant and vague.

Inside the smaller room, one of the comfy chairs from the main room has been dragged inside. For lack of any sort of actual restraints, there are just two pairs of handcuffs. Don't ask where she got them - no they are not fuzzy. This is the stuff that was left over from the first time they were supposed to help Niki. Of course, she doesn't remember that they all met up that time to attempt it, but the possibility that Bat Country could still be used to help Niki has always been in the back of Cass' mind. "Of course I still feel bad. You're not Jessica. And all this…precaution is being done against you." The other woman frowns and readjusts the med kit. "I'm going to be handcuffing you to a chair. That's not…that's not exactly what friends do. Unless you're really friendly and into that sort of thing. And we're not that kind of friends, either." There's a short-lived grin to that statement. Putting her things down on a small table against the wall, she moves toward the chair that Niki's supposed to sit in and shuts up so that she can answer Ramon's questions.

"He tried to make contact. Thought maybe, he could force her to go away. For good." Someone sounds skeptical — given that, instead, the opposite happened, it would seem. Niki slowly sits down as indicated in the chair, swiping up the handcuffs from the seat managing a grin in Cass's direction. Since she's not sure how much Ramon knows, given that Peter is vague and hesitant, she tries her best to stop being vague and hesitant herself. She toys with the cuffs idly between her hands, the metal clinking softly. "There's this other person— Jessica. It's not… always Jessica, but she's stronger. Smarter. I thought I was through with her, but what if— " The woman cuts herself off and shakes her head, seeming to have a hard time looking at anything but her lap and the cuffs. Now, however, she looks up sharply at Cass and Ramon, a resolute focus in her light eyes. "She is capable of things that— things that no one should ever see," she repeats herself from the phone earlier. "Cass… Cass knows." She holds up the cuffs. "…you don't have anything stronger, do you?"

Ramon quirks an eyebrow at Cass—he won't proceed any further till Cass has either answered 'yes' and done something about the 'yes', or 'no' and its time to try as best they can.

Jessica. Cass knows what Jessica is capable of. What she'll do to get what she wants. The woman listens and then just nods her head. At the question of something stronger, she just shakes her head. "It's either handcuffs and some bungee cords I've still got around here somewhere or just the bungee cords. There's only so much I could get my hands on without being asked weird and uncomfortable questions." The handcuffs themselves took a little wrangling. "I don't think….there's not going to be much of anything we can get that's going to hold her back if she wants to get away. Mostly, I'm just using handcuffs so that if things go wrong, it'll make her pause enough to try and get them off that I should have enough time to sedate you." And hopefully it won't turn into the scene from Young Frankenstein.

Ramon says, "I'm sure this young woman will jump me instead of Cass." And then…he's going to go looking. He closes his eyes. "After all, I'm the person getting up close and personal in your brain." Then he stops speaking as he goes searching. For these…other people. In Niki Sanders' brain.

Hesitant and unsure, Niki regards Cass silently, trying to trust her judgment. But she knows Jessica's strength; it's hers now, too. In the end, she gives a few quick, subdued nods and reaches out to hand the handcuffs to Cass. "Let's hope so." She wraps her arms around the back of the chair so that her wrists an be secured behind her. The more awkward, the better. Then, she closes her own eyes and takes a deep, steadying breath.

Niki's subconscious mind isn't exactly paradise.

But so far, it's hers.

Well, Cass hopes so too. Because she doesn't really want to restrain Niki in anything more powerful than handcuffs. No matter what the two say, Niki and Jessica are different from each other. And she trusts Niki to be able to hold her back. Or at least give them enough time to take Jessica out. In any event, the door to Seville Medical is now locked, so the only people who could help them should things get out of control would be someone who had the code to get in. A terrifying thought. Whoever, Cass just smiles reassuringly and takes the handcuffs and another pair and gently puts Jessica's arms onto the armrests of the chair. Securely - but not too tightly - she snaps one ring in place around the other woman's wrist. And then the attaching part to the chair. She does the same for the other arm. That should keep her somewhat secure and not too uncomfortable to boot. Then, she steps back and picks up her paper to start taking notes. She's also conveniently right by the sedative.

So Ramon looks. He looks for things about Jessica. Anything he can find about a person named Jessica. Sifting through, darting, weaving. He's gone under deep now, seeking to understand. Does she just have MPS? Or is this something /else/?

Niki, in silence, clenches and unclenches her restrained fists. She keeps her eyes closed, but she doesn't look particularly relaxed. She can't tell what Ramon is doing, she just knows that he is. It's a weird feeling even though she can't feel his searching at all.

At first, the woman's mind is as normal as someone in her position can manage to be. On the surface, it's whole. But as Ramon goes deeper, things get a little more… jagged.

Glimpses. Flashes. Memories. While they all belong to the woman known as Niki Sanders, some have a decidedly jarring quality; as if they were collected, once upon a time, when she wasn't in control of the processes of her own body but remembers who was; when she'd look in mirrors, when she'd talk to these personalities who manipulated her life.

"Oh God, please help me…"

"What do you know about control, Niki?"

"It doesn't work that way."

"Oh come on, Niki. What, would you rather Jessica? Lighten up a little. When did you get so boring?"

"You don't know how rough she has it. But it went wrong."

There's nothing that Cass can hear through all this, instead she watches the facial expressions of Niki and Ramon. Tense, she's ready for anything. To write, to tranq, to listen. Trying to keep as quiet as possible, her eyes flicker back between Ramon and Niki.

Ramon follows on one of the voices talking to Niki. He goes searching for the source, trying to decide how that person came to be. Why that person came to be. Yet he's growing certain of one thing—she's not just crazy. That's comforting to know. It's not just some sort of split personality thing, as much as it may look it on the surface.

Niki's brow furrows ever-so-slightly, some tiny sign of discomfort… or maybe impatience. She resolves to keep still and calm, to wait it out, to see what Ramon can do.

The telepathic man's delving goes back through decades of memories to pinpoint one span of very important time, memories upon memories. But how—? They're just little girls. One of them delicately, skilfully plays an old piano. A man appears in the door of this particular glimpse and the image crumbles, goes black. The amount of love and heartache attached to the memories has a sharp intensity that doesn't remain in the past.

It culminates in one point.

Jessica Sanders

The silence goes on and on. Though it may be quite eventful for Ramon and Jessica, listening and feeling through thoughts, Cass is not in on the show. That doesn't mean she's bored, though. She's just waiting.

"Cass," Ramon murmurs. "Write this down. 1976-1987, Jessica Sanders." He understands the girl is dead. He does /not/ understand how this came to mean she started taking over Niki's brain and doing things on her behalf. So he pulls back a little, and starts trying to listen for her. If she's always there, somewhere, she's talking.

When Ramon speaks up, it's shock to Niki, who has been in this state of silence shrouded in nervous energy for several long minutes. Her eyes fly open instantly to settle on Ramon. It should be no surprise that he found her memories, but the mention of her sister and her death nevertheless bring a furrow to her brow, a worried look.

In the depths of her mind, the delicate interconnections of memories and thoughts jarred. It's not unlike an earthquake inside one's skull, the way everything suddenly turns upside-down-for Ramon, there's a mind-splitting screech of mental feedback. When it clears, every thought suddenly has an echo, every memory is suddenly darker and nothing is exactly where it was in the woman's mind before.

Niki is poised to question Ramon — she and Peter, after all, talked throughout — but instead, she licks her lips quickly, moistening them. Slowly, the tension melts out of her face. Her brows seem to sit a little easier, a little higher, a little more self-important. She stares at Ramon for a few seconds before her gaze slides over to Cass.

She winks.

When told to write something down, Cass does it in quick order. There's not much to write, after all. But what she does, makes her blink. Jessica Sanders did what during that period of tie? That's a good eleven years. Ten years ago. She looks at it and then looks up at Niki just in time to see her wink. She knows that posture and there's only one person who would wink at her in the midst of such a tense moment. Lowering the notebook slightly, she moves closer to the sedative. "Jessica."

*Do anything crazy, senorita,* Ramon warns Jessica, with utter, rocklike confidence, *And I will slam you so far back into Niki's subconscious that you'll be sharing swamp space with the lizard brain until she's 72.* He makes his mind voice very loud and very firm, so that it will fill her skull. *Don't give me a reason to stop feeling friendly. I am not Peter Petrelli. He is a nice person. By default.* He lets some of his own inner darkness bleed into his 'voice', his physical eye narrowing as he stares at Jessica. *I, on the other hand, usually have to work at it. Clear?*

Defying the laws of natural logic, the woman sitting before them is, in fact, not the woman that was sitting before them a minute ago. Ramon's voice booms into her head, drawing a rather displeased glower and unpleasant flinch, as if someone were to suddenly crank up the volume of a speaker next to her ear. Her head falls forward out of instinct; her body goes with it, lightly testing the metal of the restraints against the chair Afterward, Jessica is driven into absolute stillness, save for a strand of blonde hair falling from place in front of one eye. She settles an even glare on Ramon, meeting his hard eye. She does not look remotely intimidated by the normally intimidating man. "So they're bringin' out the big guns now," she states outloud, gauging this new challenge— if she even gives him that much credit.

Despite the fact that little is being said, Cass starts to write a few things furiously down in abbreviated notes for later. However, that doesn't mean she takes her eyes off of Jessica. She knows the folly of doing that from her first encounter with the woman. She knows that Ramon can handle himself, but she's still a little worried about the whole idea. There's no illusion for her that those handcuffs won't do much to hold Jessica back should she want to attack. As a precaution, she picks up the tranq needle to keep a hold of it should things get sticky. It makes it a little more awkward to write, but she will just deal with it.

Ramon just grunts, content that he's made his position as Alpha Male known. He then goes sifting through Jessica's memories. Lets go back to oh, say…death day. Lets figure out what the Hell went on there. Did it start there, or did it start later? Time to find out.

The Jessica sitting here started with violence. The Jessica back then ended with it. Where does one begin and the other end?

"Get out of my head, padre," she forces the bold command through her teeth, a vicious warning to Ramon, who really shouldn't be tested, but that doesn't stop Jessica. As he searches her mind — a dark and confusing place to be — she reels forward in the chair, making its legs wobble and screech against the floor. The woman's head snaps up, her eyes wide. "Wh-what's happening, what're you doing?" Nervous worry lines bleed into her expression— then disappear. She turns her head sharply to Cass and her tranq. "C'mon, Cass. What're you waiting for?" Jessica narrows her eyes and whispers, "Do it." She makes a move, lifting her arms ever-so-slightly, mocking, as if she might render the handcuffs useless any second. Blue eyes rove back to Ramon and a gasping breath is sucked in. "I'm sorry!" The voice is panicked. "She's just trying to throw you off, she's out of control--!" She looks away and the handcuffs rattle. "You'll do your part, Niki." Time for yet another change of tide within a split second. "Be careful— " …is Ramon sure she's not crazy?

Standing where she is, Cass looks between Niki/Jessica and then Ramon. The sedative is ready, but she's not about to just stick the woman because Jessica told her to do. The reeling and jarring between the two women is confusing and nearly impossible for her to keep up with. She knows there's a difference between the two of them, but it's confusing. What is really upsetting her, is the rattling of the handcuffs, the pulling against the chair. She could topple over, she could hurt herself. Gripping on to the needle tightly, she watches the latest switch with concern. "Ramon…" She's not entirely sure what she's seeing.

Neither is Ramon. He doesn't grunt and grab his head—that would be a show of weakness. His mouth does twist into a grimace. He just…flings out a mental hand, tries to grab Niki and tries to pull her back up. Up front. While sticking out another mental /hand/ and trying to shove Jessica back. Back there.

Ramon is met head-on with the force of Jessica's willpower; the glare that burns out of those eyes straight at the meddling telepath can't be from Niki. It's too angry, too vindictive. The murderous woman takes it on as a challenge; her jaw sets, teeth grinding, her mouth slightly open — a snarl wouldn't be out of place, but she sits in silent, tense mind-lock with Ramon. A minute passes, maybe more, and sweat forces her skin to glisten. Jessica starts to laugh low under her breath, more of a snicker than anything, and curves her mouth into an off-colour smile. That's all the warning they get before she flings her arms — with slender wrists that are handcuffed to the armrests — out to the sides in a violent burst of splintering wood.


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