Night Visitations

Later that night;

The lights are low, Marcus is sleeping, but the house's matrix line shows activity indicating Samuel is awake and active; if inside his little bubble.

Moving quietly, Kass is out of bed. She never sleeps soundly when away from home, not really ever getting a good night's sleep. She checks on Maya before slipping out of the bedroom, years of practice coming in handy for such purposes. Lighting isn't a problem, the house illuminated to a perfect level for her. She checks the house activity monitor out of habit, hmming and slipping to the basement, taking the stairs barefoot, peeking around. She murmurs softly, "Sam?"

"Yes, Kassandra?" Asks the tanked man, hanging quiet in the solution. "I am awake. I never mastered sleeping well in these things, despite spending a significant amount of time in them when I was younger."

"I thought I'd see how you were. Ally is sleeping pretty well right now, although she has a nightmare every now and then, so if I take off running don't take it personally." Kass moves closer, frowning faintly at the tank. "I never much cared for the tanks, myself, but they serve their purposes."

"You know what I miss the most when I'm in here? It's not a cigarette, it's not the ability to scratch. It's not a meal. It's touch. Can I tell you something, Kassandra, something… honest?”

"I would hope so. Honesty is probably the best choice, I am finding." Kass looks around, then shrugs and settles down on the floor in front of the tank.

"The night I came home from Tel Aviv with Aladriel, after buying the stones in your ring; After I gave you the shells." A pause. "When you touched my arm. It was the first time in a very long time someone had touched me." There's a quiet buzzing on the speakers then. "I'm not making much sense; you can blame the morpho-drip. At least I can. Anyway. I get touched; women slap me, men punch me. Minos pats my back." A pause. "But no one touches -me-… I don't know. It makes sense in my head."

Kass considers that, toying with the arm of her t-shirt a moment. "I know a little what you are saying. I .. have spent a long time trying to not let people touch me." She looks back at the tank, eyes lingering for a moment. "I am sorry, Sam, that this happened."

"There are no real honest words I can say. I'm sorry too, but I'm not, it wasn't your fault, and it wasn't… I'm sorry it happened on one level. But on another…. he was down with me and not hurting Aladriel. I am not a man known for his grand ideals. But the only people in the world I would… no… thats cliche. Cliches are easy, peasy. Somewhat sleezy. It could make you feel… queezy. Babbling. Hard to think. I would kill. I would die. More important, I think, on some level, Kassandra, Ahmeera.. I would live."

Frowning, Kass tries to parse some of what he says before the babbling sets in. She starts to rise, eyes looking for diagnostics equipment. "Sam? Are you all right, do you need the medication .. raised, increased?" She seems on the verge of going to get Ally, her own medical knowledge far less, still in the training stages.

She hesitates, nodding however as she sorts through the words, putting them in order, discarding some, "I think I understand .. and on one hand I am thankful that you did that for her .. for us. On the other hand, it makes me .. angry and sad .. that it happened, that you were hurt like this."

"All operations are within acceptable limits. Just cloudy. Easy to disconnect from reality in here. Every thing's false. No touch. No sound. No music. No rustle of wind on the skin. I can't even smell you. Can't even smell you. Just drifting. Easy to disconnect. He took my eyes, made me watch things. Things that make it hard to look in a mirror. Not that I can see a mirror. I don't like Mirrors. They never show you the truth. I would never hurt you, no matter what the mirror showed. Never… couldn't."

Hovering there, Kass considers that, considers what Aladriel has told her as well. She rubs her eyes, nodding, "I know you wouldn't, Samuel. That .. thing .. he just tried to make you believe things, tried to do whatever he could to break you, to break Ally." She hesitates again, her skill with words doing her little good now. "It's over now, though, Sam. It's over, and we are home. We'll .. find a way to move on."

"Will… you do something stupid for me, Kassandra? Something I know is irrational… something I know makes no sense?"

"This has been my week for irrational and things that make no sense, Sam. What did you have in mind." Kass toys with a lock of hair, winding it around a finger and then unwinding.

"Touch the glass…" His hands come forward to press to the glass again. "It's as close as I can come for now…"

"I can do that." Kass rises from the floor, brushing off her bottom and moving to the tank. She very carefully doesn't look into the shadows, keeping her eyes on the illuminated section, on the hands. She reaches out with both hands, pressing them carefully against the tank's surface, her hands several magnitudes smaller in size than Sam's.

One metal, one skinless and almost biomechanical, press to the glass; indeed they are far larger than Kassandra's. He's quiet for a long moment, his left hand (The flesh one) flexing against the glass slowly.

"Thank you.. the little games… little side-moments… keep me human…"

Nodding, Kass stands there, "It is no problem, Samuel. The little moments are important." She considers, looking for something to talk about, to keep things from getting awkward, "I was thinking, if it isn't too forward .. I think I have thought of a call sign for Marcus."

It's another moment before his hands fall away from the glass. Awkward. He's a naked man in a tank. It's sort of awkward already. "What did you have in mind?"

Hands sliding down the glass, Kass takes a step backwards, and then another, putting the tank and the man back into a better perspective, making it easier not to look at the damage, to focus on other areas. She goes back to fiddling with her hair, remarking, "I don't remember much in the 'graves, but .. he was incredible there. He kept things off me and gave me the time to do what .. I had to do." Kass hms, "I remember that there was this brilliant flash of light, like the sun coming up, and it burned away the ghouls that were coming." She shows her hair, "It took me eight washings to get the smell of burning ghoul out of my hair, by the by."

"Anyway, I was thinking that maybe something .. sun or light related might be in order." She shrugs a little, "Just an idea, maybe something like Apollo or Ra, one of the solar deities might work."

There is a long, quiet moment. Almost as though he had fallen asleep. But he hasn't. "I think he would like it." He says, quietly. "He's going to be a powerful magi one day."

"He is fairly well along already. A great deal of what he did was .. very hard, from what I understand, given the way the mana was polluted there." Listen to her, a few lessons and she is a magical guru. Kass shrugs, "He helped me get to the Fellowship of Astendar, and kept me alive long enough to .. well, to do whatever it was I did. I am still not sure how much was me and how much was them."

<Auto-Judge[]» Johny (#799) rolls Fourth World Lore + Task Pool: 3 vs TN 8 for "Astendar":
1 1 2 3 4 4 5 7 = 0 Successes

«Auto-Judge[]» Johny (#799) rolls Fourth World Lore + Task Pool: 3 vs TN 8 for "Astendar~KP 1":
4 4 4 5 5 10 11 15 = 3 Successes

The speakers buzz again, and Sam's form seems to actually move in the glass tank. "Where did you hear that name?"

"Hm? Well .. you are going to think I am crazy." Kass laughs a little, shaking her head, "Maybe I am. Marcus says he left me and went for a smoke, didn't see or hear anything, and I didn't tell him .. I spoke to this .. woman, at the Council chamber, when I collected the robes to get the spirits of the Fellowship to come out. She said they were the Fellowship of Astendar and they had heard my petition."

She considers, shrugging, "She said they wanted to know about my love and why I should come before them. So I talked a bit and they agreed to help. She gave me a flute to play, I still have it."

"That makes sense." Says Sam then, relaxing in the tank… "Astendar was the Passion of Love, Art and Beauty in the fourth world… Passions… were akin to gods."

There is a pause as Kassandra processes that, blinking a few times. "What?" She shakes her head, "But what was .. what?" She doesn't seem to quite understand, "But this group was like .. from just before the whole fall of Chicago, not the Fourth World. How?"

"I don't have the data to suppose at this point, at that point… at any point. The Invae… maybe… not only bad things came across the spike."

"Huh. Well, she said something about that .." The elf closes her eyes, lips murmuring for a moment as she rifles through her memories, "Something like .."just as horrors exist in this world, so too does the creator?"" Kass shakes her head, "It's all muddled, it's hard to remember, hard to get a handle on. I'm still too close to when we went, everything is .. still all a jumble, still too .." She shakes her head again, "In any case, she seemed very nice and they helped me."

"You are here."

"I am, yes." Kass shifts her weight, toying with her hair again. "I am here and you are here and Marcus and Ally and Maya. We are all here, and OK .. or getting OK." She frowns slightly, "Or as OK as we can get, I suppose. It was .. not a good time. I haven't been that .. I haven't been that scared in a very long time."

"Neither have I." He admits quietly, letting his tone fall to an almost whisper. "We will pull through, eventually… go on. Be stronger. All the usual cliches. Tropes. Metaphors. Synonyms. Homonyms. Antinyms. Heh."

Kass smiles, although not looking totally reassured. "I hope so. Dunno, but I hope so. Just have to take it day by day, see what we can do, what we can stand." She shrugs a little, "We'll see. Right now, it is a trial to be out of bed, to not hide away from everyone. I can stand you, I can stand Marcus. I am not sure how much stress Ally can take right now, and I'm .. holding together for her sake."

"I understand, Kassandra." Says he, his voice gaining focus. To the left, a medical meter shows that it has been directed to back down its pain-dulling narcotics. "Usually, thats my role. The strong one, the one who can't fall apart. Can't be weak, be wounded. Heh. Reminds me of a story. Would you like to hear it?"

"Sure." Kass nods to the tank, wrapping her arms around herself.

"One upon a time." A pause as his voice drops to something almost paternal.. "There was Brave Brave Captain Roberts, a pirate hunter. Beloved of the crown, known to all as a just man. Bravest man in the world. His crew loved him. One day, his lookout spots a Pirate Ship off the port bow. He turns to his first mate and says 'fetch my shirt of red!'. Then, with the red shirt on, he charges in to battle and just lays in to the pirates. His men are so uplifted by their captains courage, they don't hesitate and they slaughter the brigands."

He pauses a moment. "The next week, its the same thing. They see two pirate ships, and he calls for his shirt of red, then charges in to battle. His men are so impressed they follow right behind and despite the odds, they overcome all and take the day. So the men are curious; The Red Shirt. That night, at the captains table, they ask humbly.. Why the red shirt? The captain, Brave Brave Captain Roberts responds that he wears a red shirt, so that if he is wounded in battle, if he were to bleed, that he would show no blood and his men would not fear."

"So next week, they find themselves staring down 20 pirate corsair ships. Brave, Brave captain roberts calls to his First mate."

"Bring me my pants of brown."

She laughs, shaking her head, "Oh gawd." She coughs, shaking her head again, "Well, that is a good story, and pretty true. It's a matter of what people believe, I guess." She sighs a little, "One day it will be easier."

"No, it won't. We will just hide our fear better. I fear, every time I send someone on a mission, no matter how simple, no matter how mundane… that something will go wrong. An auto accident, a stray round. It doesn't matter how often, or how easy. I always fear. I just hide it better."

Kass sighs, nodding, "I guess so. There is always a chance for an accident, but .." She shrugs a little, "I don't know. Right now, I'm just wanting to get us all well and then .. we can decide what to do from there."

"What do you mean?"

"How to do missions, how to minimize our problems. We've exposed a lot of issues on this trip, I imagine those will take some time to deal with. I mean .. I am going to be very, very reluctant to just up and run off and leave Maya and Aladriel to go screw around in Budapest, you know?" Kass remarks.

"I know, Kassandra. I do. Theres just no good answer here. Not one. It's why kids are bad for anyone in a high risk profession; You start thinking about them, more than the mission. Its why the men in the silos or with the fail safes are always single, childless and usually with no immediate family."

"Yeah." Kass shrugs, nodding a little. "I .. we'll figure something out, some way that we can be useful to the Mission and not jeopardize things."

"It will come together, Kassandra. We'll figure something out. If you need to leave the life… then we'll… do.. something."

"We'll see. Right now, I have to fix Ally, take care of Maya, fix you. Everything else that doesn't involve a giant swirling vortex opening in the middle of the country and disgorging a ton of little green men isn't all that important." Kass shrugs, "The future will take care of itself."

"You don't need to fix me, Kassandra. I've taken care of myself for a very long time. Focus on Ally. Focus on yourself."

"I'll focus on Ally. I'm as fixed as I can get, I think, at least for now." Kass shrugs a little, then glares at your tank, "And I'll work on fixing you, thank you very much." The elf mutters, "Backtalk all the time, I swear. I see where Marcus gets it from."

"I would like your help with something tomorrow, if you are willing."

"Oh? What's that?" Kass looks questioningly at the tank, "I'll do what I can. I .. can't stray far from the girls."

"Wake up before Aladriel, and help me in to a polymask so I look human."

Kass hesitates, taking in what that means and nods. "All right, I'll do that. I usually do, most days anyway. I have trouble sleeping."

"I just think thats best. Don't worry. I'll have pants on."

"Oh, well, in that case it will be all better." Kass lets her tone lighten a bit, trying to help the mood in herself if nothing else.

"What does she know?"

"She knows everything, Samuel. I don't have any secrets from her, not anymore. I've told her that, and I mean it." Kass wraps her arms around herself, "She's very sensitive to that sort of thing most days, and after her Mother .. well. I figure it is the best way to deal with her."

"I meant more as to the extent of my injuries. But I take your meaning."

"She knows the full extent, Sam. I told her; she's a nurse, she understands the ramifications of it, professionally, if not emotionally." Kass shrugs a little, "I thought it was best to let in know instead of being surprised."

There is a longer pause now. "I see."

"That being said, I think it'd be a kindness to wear the mask. It will likely make it easier on you both." Kass says quietly.

"I never meant to hurt her. Only shield her, if anything, from further pain. Nothing hurts like an old wound reopened."

"I know. I think she knows too, she is just .. upset, confused, her whole life has been upended. It's a hard thing to deal with." Kass quiets, then shrugs, "There are things that are hard to know about, no matter how old you get."

"Her father was a better man than I. A better operative. The man made me look like an amateur."

"He must have been quite exceptional, then." Kass remarks, going back to fidgeting with her hair.

"He was. I never cared for Anya and her annoying little spirits. She was where I developed my distaste for magic, really. She never respected privacy; couldn't understand that somethings, just because you can; does not mean you should."

"I wish I'd have had a chance to meet them." Kass murmurs, winding the hair around her finger. She blinks, letting it unravel and letting go, self-conscious about fidgeting now. "They are part of Ally, it would be interesting to see who they were."

"She will be back. She will lick her wounds, wait for the Marquis to return… and be back."

Kass frowns faintly, "I meant before the .. whatever happened." She sighs, toying with the hem of her shirt.

"I know. I just have this annoying habit of speaking in the present. I'm sorry. Marc was a good man. I learned a lot of my operational security from him. Can you ride a horse, Kassandra?"

"I've been on one once in my life, years back. But there wasn't much chance since then." Kass shakes her head, "I've been on a camel a few times, and an elephant once, although I can't say I 'rode' them. It was more .. they were there and I got to sit there for a moment." She pauses, reviews the sentence that just came out of her mouth, and then shakes her head. "Anyway, horse. I wouldn't say I am a great horsewoman, but I know how not to fall off. I think."

"I love horses. Watching them run; watching them fight; watching them live. The free ones are glorious, the domesticated ones are fantastic. If you would like to learn sometime, I'd be willing to teach."

"I think I would like that. It's nice to be outside, away from the city, and I'd like to get to know more about animals." Kass smiles a little, then says, "I should let you rest; big day tomorrow and if I don't slip back in before she wakes up, she is going to be upset."

"Sleep well, Kassandra. Thank you for all you have done."

"I haven't done much, Sam, but you are welcome. You rest well, and I will see you in the morning." Kass starts for the stairs, remarking, "And thank *you*."

March 21, 2009

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