2010-01-23: Underground (Phantasm)



Posting Date: January 23rd, 2010


While everything is ruined, not everything is broken.


Basement - Enlightenment Books

It's tough being underground in any circumstances, but the nook carved out underneath Enlightenment Books is on a better scale than most of the ditches around the rest of the city. Yet it still manages to feel claustrophobic — hard not to, when there's far too many bodies stuck in the small living space towards the back. They've passed around a single water bottle by now, most of it going to the dirty-haired children trying to fall asleep in others' laps. Most still conscious enough to do so make furtive glances towards the ceiling, wondering at the cracks where they can imagine booted feet pounding through the bookstore.

Pushing away from these masses is Alyssa. She's better fed than some of those on the run, but the time moving them has made all of her curves into sharp, unforgiving lines. There's a permanent angry vibe about the way she holds herself. Running a sloppy gesture through tangled hair, she climbs a few stairs to where this secret world connects with the one up above. The one full of sirens and search lights.

"Well, none of them are having sweet dreams, but they're starting to relax." She calls to wherever the proprietor of the store has gotten herself, "As much as you can, government up your ass, barcode in your future, like so much cow meat."

The self-same proprietor hurriedly opens and closes the door behind her as she brings in some food and some more water. It's not a lot - that would be suspicious - but it's something, at least. Enlightenment Books had been thumbed before by the Company as Evolved friendly and the government has also taken up that call, keeping a close watch on Cass and her store. Which is why she finds it the perfect place to hide more people. They're doing it right under their noses, they would never suspect.

"Will you shush?" Cass tells Alyssa with a finger to her lips. "I think you're making it worse for them." Telling them all how bad they have it. Of course Cass knows, but it's something else to live it and something else entirely to just harbor them. Alyssa knows the bookstore quite well and so she knows the other nooks and crannies here. "Plus, you never know where anyone is listening."

Alyssa makes a rather rude noise as to shushing, but she shows her still-holding respect for Cass by lowering her voice the slightest bit. "As if they don't know what it is they're living right now." The food and water plucks itself out of Cass' arms to soar helpfully down the stairs by itself and towards the weary fugitives. "Besides, I'd know who was listening if you'd let me just rattle things up in here a bit." Her ability. The foil she used to have of believing objects were calling to her has become a weapon… but it's rather a tad destructive at best.

"I promise to pick up after." There's a little sneer as the former employee passes by the rest of the steps and then sits herself at the top. The other half of her mind is already disturbing the goods below, none for herself. She just tugs at a case of push-pins, muttering at them to get their asses in gear. Obligingly, the lift out of the package and begin sticking in the partially hidden wall.

Cass moves a little further in, not that there's much room to move around in there. But, she's not there to just dump off food and run. "Yeah, well, it also helps to try and forget sometimes." She studied psychology, she knows how that can work. "And no, Alyssa." The bookstore owner is adamant about that. "I don't want anything out of place. It'll look pretty suspicious if they hear catastrophe and then see everything is right where it was supposed to be minutes later." That would make them focus even more sharply on her place of business. The food is taken out of her hands and so she's left just crossing them against herself.

"We'll just be careful." Her eyebrows furrow at the push-pins when they go soaring about sticking into the wall. "What are you doing?"

No, Alyssa is definitely not doing mock-whining mouthing as Cass speaks. She's definitely fully invested in following her lead. With a loud sigh to indicate her displeasure with the decision, she concentrates instead of her task at hand. The push-pins are beginning to take shape, and it's the shape of the state of New York. Different colors begin popping out of groupings of other pins, creating what is a very impromptu but rather detailed map.

"Deciding where to go next," she informs Cass a while after, her head shaking like she's popping out of a daydream. Teeth go to nibble at the dirty underside of her nails as she regards the lay-out. "Spent some money on new base locations of theirs but I am still— fuck— I'm still almost out of places. They've got him stashed somewhere, Cass. Reese… he told me to be careful a lot, too. Quiet like a fuckin' ninja, he was."

"Hey." Cass knows when she's being mocked, Alyssa. And that was definitely one of those times. "You may not care about what happens after you leave here, but I do. I've still got to keep this place safe so other people can come through." She looks around her at the other people stashed here who are waiting to hear about when it's safe to move on to the next place. They're almost to Canada, they can make it from here. They just can't do it too frequently or people will catch on. "Yeah, well, maybe he had the right idea. If you get yourself killed, you're not going to be able to help him, either."

As the map forms in front of her eyes, it's hard not to see her be impressed by what's in front of her. Looking at it, she frowns. "What if he's not in New York any more?"

Meanwhile, a red string comes up and laces itself around several push-pins, creating a path. It heads towards Canada, sure, but it veers suspiciously off to the side once towards one of the yellow push-pins labeling a government building.

"Hey," Alyssa echoes, using a bit more thunder than Cass as the push-pins rattle in their places. "I care." She pushes off from the step, making wild gestures towards the basement underneath her feet, "How long have we known each other— I am just sick to death of this vague whatever can't talk about it nonsense. I have been ferrying people, like, since before this dumb war. I know what I'm doing, alright. And if he had the right idea, why is he locked up in a— dammit!" The young woman drops back onto the floor with the heaving sob she was trying to hold back. It's a dry one, though, that gets caught in her throat, and she's able to swallow it away. After a moment of regaining composure, she levels out, "If he's not… I go somewhere else. The truth is, I'm running out of places and… and I was here to say goodbye… Cass."

Woah there, Nelly. Cass has been so used to Alyssa fighting her, being bitter, that all Cass had in response were fighting and going back and forth about what is best for everyone involved. The happy go lucky store employee that she knew has been gone for awhile now and she almost forgot what she was like. Then, of course, there's that sob and Cass' heart sinks slightly. She's not sure if Alyssa will accept it, but she softly moves to place a hand on her old friend's shoulder. It's an attempt to be comforting. "Alyssa," she says softly. She doesn't argue about what's best, about what she thinks is the right course of action, all she does is say her name very softly. She's not sure what else to say.

She hasn't really just let go and been herself for so long, Alyssa's had to keep it together so as not to get caught, to be able to run fugitives across the country, to keep her power in check when it ultimately turned out she didn't have the sort of structure of mind to keep it in check. But, for a moment, as Cass' hand goes to her shoulder, she remembers back to how they used to spend evenings chatting it up here. Not fighting it up. It seems like a lifetime ago. After tensing at first at the touch, she relaxes against this once-mentor figure. When she gulps, one of the hiding evolved's finds the water bottle jerked out of their hand as it flops at the bottom of the stairs in a half-hearted attempt to get to the telekinetic up top. "I was gonna," she hiccups, "I was gonna be a writer."

Stooping down, Cass picks up the bottle of water and holds it out to her former employee. It's been awhile, it's been hard for the both of them. She knows that. Harder for Alyssa, of course, because she's been having to hide, to be on the run and Cass never did. She's just had to worry about hiding them all, making sure everyone is safe. As far as she knows, Lachlan is dead or captured somewhere. It's been so long since she's seen him, known that he was safe. He couldn't stay close to her, she couldn't allow it. It would be too obvious, too easy for them to round him up. "I know you were. You can still be. This isn't over."

Alyssa takes the offered water bottle, squeezing scraped and worn fingers against the crackling plastic. She doesn't seem to remember what she it for, though, only resting her chin on the top precariously. They've all lost somebody, haven't they. Nobody's whole here. A bitter laugh escapes her for Cass' reassurances, despite how well-meant they are. "Which part? The war. Cause that one sure isn't over. The world as is kinda looks like it's over from my point of view, though, I'm just saying. Not exactly, umm, sun country out there. Oh God, this just started out as some game… that's what it felt like. A fucking game." The swearing coming back up is probably a vague warning of the mood swing before she gives a frustrated stomp of her feet. The entire stairway jumps up to meet her, dislodging from the floor. The push-pins shudder and rearrange hurriedly. It isn't until the fugitives inside give scattered reactions of concern about the noise that Alyssa breaks from her current rain-cloud. "Oh… oh shit, sorry, oh."

As the stairwell shifts and meets Alyssa, Cass goes tumbling - luckily forward and not backward down the stairs. She grabs onto the door as a way to steady herself, hopefully not making too much noise. The bookstore owner give a worried glance toward the doorway and then the people downstairs. "It's not a game," she says softly. "We know it's not a game." That part is abundantly clear now. "And something has to give some time." And whether they win or they lose, at least it will be over. Putting herself back on her feet, she looks around at the people downstairs and then back at Alyssa. "It's fine. People get angry. It's understandable."

Diligently, Alyssa gets to telling the stairwell to go back into its place — which is, luckily, easy enough because it sort of wanted to be there, anyway. Still, there's an ominous twitch from other objects nearby, anything not nailed down. Feeling that tell-tale buzz in her head, the young woman brushes her hands off and stands, "You're right. They do." It's thoughtful, calm… but chockfull of just as much fore-shadowing. "Anyway, I've got another station to visit before I kick outta state, so." She swallows. "Guess this is it. Better to go, ah heh, before I re-alphabetize your collection or… turn on your sprinkler system."

"Either one would be bad." Cass frowns, looking at Alyssa. She was going to say goodbye. That's not what she really wants, that this is going to be their last encounter. In an impulsive moment, much like many things with Cass, she surges forward to wrap Alyssa in a crushing hug. "Good luck. If you need anything, you find me." Because Alyssa is still a friend, even in all of this, and she needs to know that things can be normal. Everything can go back to normal some day. Friendships can make it through this. "Be careful."

Sensing it seconds before it happens, Alyssa opens her arms to accept the hug. Cass might feel a sort of tug inside her whole body pulling her as close to the young woman as possible, but it isn't painful. Just an affectionate squeeze. Much like the way the former employee digs her fingers into former boss' shirt for the best hug ever. "I will. Always." Find her. There isn't a reassurance left about being careful. Because, see, Cass: people get angry. It only matters who you get angry at, and she's come to realize that sitting in this bookstore makes the target out of the wrong people. "Take care of those doomed suckers down there," she half-jokes, indicating the fugitives with a nod. She doesn't cry, not a hint of moisture. Maybe she's out of tears, or maybe they've all been sucked back inside by her ability.

And, behind them, the push-pins have taken the form of the S-shape of half a DNA strand.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License