Chapter 1: >Dave: Appear
It has been approximately 4 months since one Mr Dave Strider last signed into pesterchum. A week after that happened all of his regular contacts received identical phone calls from his older brother. "Hey, I was just wondering if you'd seen Dave? No? It's just He's been missing for a week now. Well, let me know if he shows up, or gets online, or something. And if you do talk to him, be sure to inform him how hard I'm going to kick his ass."
Nothing has been heard from him since.
It's raining outside, torrenting like nothing else. It's also the middle of the night. A figure walks through the line of trees, feet squelching in the soaked grass. Footsteps are uneven as they approach the front door, before slumping against the doorframe and raising one hand to knock three times, hard.
Thump, thump, thump.
If he's right, this should be the house of Rose Lalonde.
Had she not been up for hours, Rose would have been pissed. But sleep was eluding her once again, and so the knock at her door was more odd than annoying. Who could possibly have any business with her or her mother at this hour? Sighing, she put down her book and her cup of tea and made her way to the door. A soaking wet Dave Strider was not what she was expecting. She looked him over for a moment, wide-eyed, trying to think of what to say. Eventually she settled on "Where the hell have you been?" and held the door open for him to come in.
"You do NOT want to know." he staggers inside and leans against the closest wall for support. Now that he's in the light, a fair amount of blood can be seen soaked into his cloths, and diluted from the rain in a way which makes it very difficult to tell where it's coming from. That is, assuming it's Dave’s blood. He doesn't have his shades, and looks... almost wrong without them. "...Sorry."
She turns and motions for him to follow her. "Yes actually, I do. And don't apologize. Yet." Rose leads him to the bathroom and pulls a towel out from under the sink. She hands it to him, re-appraising his condition. "Where are you bleeding from, exactly?"
He follows after her and takes the Towel when offered, using it to dry off his face first of all... then grimacing at her question, and answering by peeling off his soaked shirt.
At intervals up and down his chest and back are several incisions which are trickling small amounts of blood as the dampness causes them to loosen up and re-open. Several of them are in places he clearly can't reach, so he didn't make them himself, but none of them look like they're about to kill him, unless he slowly bleeds out.
"I didn't run away, for what it's worth. I'm not that retarded."
She blinks. Interesting. "And here I had assumed you were. In any case, I suppose it's story time. Now explain yourself." As she speaks, she pulls bandages and disinfectant out of a drawer. Better safe than sorry.
He sits on the rim of the bath tub and takes a deep breath. "I was kidnapped. Not... even... joking. It's seriously been something out of one of Egbert’s retarded movies, I only just got away."
She furrows her brow and sits next to him, bringing her first aid supplies with her. "Fascinating. Do you know who they were? And why did they do this?" She nods at the wounds that she is now dressing.
"Jesus, Rose, everything was covered in Betty Crocker logos," he rubs his face. "And... these? Fucking... chemical implant tubes... I don't even know WHAT they've done to me..." a shiver. Then a pause. "...I missed you..."
Chemical implant tubes? She makes a mental note to see if she can run some scans on him in the lab. "I missed you too. And speaking of missing you, we need to contact your brother, as well as John and Jade. You've had quite a few people worried sick over you." She finishes patching him up and frowns. "You'll need something dry to wear. And when did you last eat?"
His stomach growls at the thought of food. It's been at least a few days since he'd been given anything to eat, and even when he had, it hadn't been anything particularly appetizing. "...Shit... Bro's probably been flipping his shit, hu?"
"That might be an understatement. I doubt there is anyone in the whole of Texas who has yet to see your face emblazoned on a milk carton." She leads him to the kitchen. "Help yourself to anything, I'll be right back." With that, she disappears back down the hallway.
He casually raids the fridge, making himself a sandwich. It's nothing really special, but being as hungry as he is, it tastes amazing. He's tempted by some of the booze lying around... but thinks better of it. He doesn't know what those fucking scientists put in him that it might react with, so he sticks with a glass of milk.
She comes back a few minutes later, carrying a shirt and a pair of pants. More specifically, one of her shirts and pairs of pants. "I'm aware that this probably isn't quite your style, but these should fit you well enough until your clothes dry."
He shrugs, casually. "I'll make it work." He slides the shirt on. It's a little tight fitting, but whatever. A shirt is a shirt. A pause. "So what, are you going to watch as I change my trousers, or could you please look away for one minute?"
She rolls her eyes and turns around. "Once you're dressed, we need to contact the others. They would want to know that you are safe and sound, relatively speaking. How did you find your way here?"
He changes quickly. "Your address is pretty memorable. When I found out I was in the area I sort of meandered in this direction and hoped I didn't get lost. Okay, you can look now."
She turns back to face him. "That's terribly convenient. Could you find your way back, I wonder? It would make finding the bastards responsible much easier." Her eye twitches just slightly as her facade of calm breaks for the first time.
"...Probably." He licks his lips, before reaching out and placing his hands on her shoulders, gently. "...Don't do anything stupid for my sake, though. I'm just glad I was able to get away."
"I will make no guarantees. You look ridiculous in my clothes, by the way. Now finish your sandwich so you can call your brother while I look up ancient Chinese torture techniques." She takes a seat at the table and opens her laptop.
He laughs, and finishes off his sandwich quickly (As in, basically wolfing it down and having nil shits to give) before standing up. "Where's the phone, anyway?"
She pulls her cell phone out of her pocket and slides it across the table to him. She mumbles to herself, "Slow slicing sounds interesting, but where would I ever get a wooden frame?"
"Jesus, Lalonde..." He's not sure if he's amused or slightly disturbed as he picks up the cellphone and dials in the memorized number of his Bro's phone, holding it up to his ear and listening to it ring. Once, twice, three times-
"Hey, Dirk, Don't flip your shit-" and with that he has to hold the phone away from his ear as a torrent of cuss words is shouted down the line in his direction, only bringing it back when he hears it subside. "It's okay, dude, I missed you too. What? No, I didn't run away- Bro, this has nothing to do with your stupid puppets- will you let me get a word in edgeways? Jesus Christ. Look, I'm at Lalonde's place; only just got here. I have her address saved on my computer for when I'm sending her crap... Can I explain when you get here? It’ll be a fuckton easier. Alright, I'll see you in a few days." Click.
"He's going to pick me up."
"So I gathered. In the mean time, we shall locate your captors. Unfortunately, most ancient Chinese torture requires a bit of specialized equipment, and is therefore out of the question. Unless you know where I can buy live bamboo plants?" She holds her hand out to take her phone back.
He hands it back to her. "I'm sure you could purchase them on the internet, but it would be weeks before they got here. Horribly inconvenient." Without his shades he just can't hide the way the corners of his eyes crinkle upwards as he looks at his sister fondly.
"No, that won't do. Drat. Oh, John and Jade." She pushes her laptop to face him so he can log into Pesterchum, not bothering to hide the rather graphic WebPages she has up on strange torture techniques. "I always have my knitting needles; those could get cruel and unusual rather quickly. I suppose it wouldn't be too hard to acquire a whip..."
He logs into pesterchum, Opening up chat windows with John and Jade and typing out quick messages to both. Jade gets a "TG: hey so it turns out im not dead yet" And John gets, "TG: have you at least gotten laid in the time ive been gone?"
"Jesus, Lalond, are you actually serious about this?"
"...Perhaps." She glances at the clock. It's almost three. Whoops. "You must be tired. Are there any other pressing matters that need attending to tonight?"
"Not really, but it would be nice to see if John or Jade actually replies..." He is tired, he's exhausted, but he isn't in any rush to go to sleep.
She studies him for a second. It's obvious that he's practically falling asleep on his feet, and after what he's apparently been through, she would rather he rest. "I'll leave it on, but they're both probably sleeping. You should sleep too."
"Hnnng..." He gives a half-sigh-half-yawn before nodding. "...Alright..."
A pause. "Not to sound too uncool or anything, but could you stay with me?"
She smirks at him, and purposely sounds ridiculously patronizing. "Would you like to cuddle?"
"Yes. Yes, I would very much like to cuddle," he deadpans, but he's being sincere. He's missed her, missed everyone, and he's been through a lot.
Cuddles would be nice.
Rose folds up her laptop and silently leads him up to her room. She plugs it in and leaves it running, as promised, then slides into bed. Dave slides in next to her, allowing himself to relax properly and wrapping an arm around her because fuck it, he wants to.
She's good at reading people and he's been through hell, so she snuggles up against him.
His eyes slide shut, and within a few minutes he's unconscious.
Chapter 2: >Dave: Wake up
In which Dave's hands get him sent to the hospital and preppy nurses have something to hide.
He dreams of dark rooms and hard restraints, of blinding lights and probing hands, of scalpels and tubes of toxic looking coloured chemicals being pumped into is chest, his back, and how it hurts but at the same time it doesn't because this is just a dream. A single, ink-black crow lands in front of him as men in sterile white lab coats with red Betty Crocker logos stitched into them wander about with charts and it caws once, twice, and somehow the sound is terrifying and-
He wakes up with a start, falling off of the bed with a thump and curling in on himself, accidentally yanking the covers halfway off the bed as he goes.
And then he remembers where he is and he sits up, rubbing his arm where he'd landed and looking around. Light streams in through the window, its morning.
There was a thump, and now she is cold, and it's so very bright, and apparently all of this boils down to it being time to wake up. She sits up, yawns, stretches, and looks down at her brother. "Good morning. Do you always start the day by ripping the blankets off of whomever you happen to be sleeping with?"
"Of course, I feel it's a courtesy to ensure they start the day with some fresh air." he snarks, untangling himself and shoving the covers into a pile on the bed. "Sometimes if I feel especially considerate, I'll push them out of the bed instead. That's just how I roll.
"Such a gentleman," She stands and stretches again, still half asleep. "Your clothes should be dry. We're figuring out where you were today. Try not to wake mom, she's probably hung over. Ugh, coffee," She rubs at her eyes and leaves for the kitchen, leaving him to whatever he chooses to do.
He pops downstairs to get his cloths from where they had been hung up to dry then vanishes into the bathroom, changing quickly. He takes a few minutes to inspect his appearance in the bathroom mirror, (Deciding that he looks like shit, and fuck the world) before popping back into Rose's room to retrieve her laptop, and heading downstairs to join her for breakfast.
He plops down on the table and flips her laptop open, checking to see if either Egbert or Harley had replied (They still hadn't, it was probably still night time for the both of them) and start knawing on his thumb nail half consciously.
At least, it's only half consciously until the entire nail snaps off. He starts and the nail drops from between his teeth, as he stares at his hand. "...Shit..."
Rose, who had been sleepily preoccupied with her coffee, opened an eye to see what he was cussing about. Oh, just his nail falling off. Lovely. She is suddenly wide awake. "I'm assuming you didn't do that on purpose?"
"Oh, clearly I enjoy ripping out my fingernails. It's a wonderful past time, really. Quite relaxing." when in doubt, snark, snark, snark.
She walks over to him and grabs his hand to examine without preamble. "I'm beginning to wonder if locating your captors should be a job for another day. You probably need to go to a hospital." Her brow furrows with worry.
"No shit, I don't know what kind of shit these assholes were pumping into me..."
He tries not to let it show (A task much more difficult without his shades) but he's scared. Genuinely fucking terrified.
She feels stupid. Of course this is the first thing they should've done. "Grab the laptop, we're going. Now." She writes a quick note to her mom, then grabs her keys and heads to the car, making sure that Dave is following.
He snaps the laptops shut (Neither Jade or John had responded, anyway) and follows after Rose quickly, climbing into the passenger seat of the car and resisting the urge to fiddle with any more of his fingernails, unless he wants to lose them as well.
Rose backs the car out of the driveway, tense. "Do you feel unusual at all? Have you noticed anything else strange?"
He licks his lips, now that he thinks about it, the skin up and down his forearms feels sort of prickly, and his lower legs have been aching softly for several days now. Also the muscles on his back were sore, sort of like something was trying to push its way out of them.
He describes all this to Rose, trying to sound casual.
She listens, outwardly staying calm except for a slight widening of the eyes. Inwardly, however, she is panicking. This is not good. This is very not good. Her mind races with the possibilities.
Without thinking he ends up fiddling with his hands- and loosing another nail. "...Dammit..."
She automatically reaches over and smacks his hand. "Stop that."
They drive in silence for a while, until they pull into the parking lot of the hospital. "I don't know how long this is going to take, and I probably can't come with you. Will you be alright?"
"..." He doesn't know. "...I don't see why you shouldn't come with me, you're my sister." He DOESN'T want to go in alone.
"As in, I may not be allowed to be with you while you are being examined." She reaches over and squeezes his hand. "It's going to be alright. This is just something we will have to endure."
He takes a deep breath, then nods. "Alright, let’s go."
She nods and takes the laptop from him before getting out of the car. They head to the ER, where she points him to a seat before approaching the desk to get the proper paperwork filled out. "Sit."
He sits. Now that he's paying attention to it, the itching in his arms and the aching in his legs/back are impossible to ignore.
She takes the spot next to him, filling out forms and intermittently asking him questions. She returns the papers to the desk, and they wait. Eventually, his name is called. "Good luck."
He gets too his feet and follows the doctor through the back door. He's lead down corridor after corridor, until e starts to wonder where exactly they're taking him, just as he's about to ask, the doctor he's following opens a door and ushers him through.
The door is closed behind him and he hears a lock click.
Then a damp cloth is shoved over his face, he gets a flash of men in labcoats and Betty Crocker insignias, a few moments of struggle and he blacks out.
"Rose Lalond? I'm afraid there have been a few complications, you should come back tomorrow."
She suddenly feels cold all over. "What sort of complications?"
"I'm not at liberty to say~" The sickly sweet nurse chirps, like everything is fine. "You should come back tomorrow."
Rose's hands clench into fists. A fucking scene is about to be made if she does not get some goddamn answers. "He is my brother. Trust me; unless you want a lawsuit on your hands, you are at liberty to say."
"I haven't been informed of the exact circumstances; all I know is that there have been complications, and that you should come back tomorrow." She wasn't being helpful.
"I want to speak with your superior. Now." She speaks authoritatively, making it obvious that she is not going to make this easy.
A pause; then a nod as she gestures for Rose to follow her, leading her through the doors going into the main hospital.
She crosses her arms over her chest and follows. Something is very, very wrong.
She leads Rose down corridor after corridor after corridor, into the back end of the hospital where there were much fewer people bustling about. Finally she opens a door to a room, and motions for Rose to go inside...
Rose hesitates. She grabs on to the doorjamb and peeks inside. After all of the strange things that have happened, she's not taking any chances.
There are about three men in lab coats, embroided with Betty Crocker insignias on the top pockets. One of them is stood ready to grab her as soon as she steps inside; another has a rag, probably soaked with some sort of chemical. Dave is nowhere to be seen.
Rose reaches into her bag and pulls out her knitting needles, taking one in each hand. She takes a deep breath, then steps inside, stabbing at the man next to the door, then at the one with the rag. She speaks through clenched teeth, "Where is he?"
The third man steps back sharply, the first two crying out and clutching at the deep, thin wounds inflicted by the high speed knitting needles.
They hadn't been expecting this.
She switches both needles to one hand, and in three steps she has the final man backed against a wall, grabbing him by the collar, needles raised. "Where. IS. He?"
"...The boy... Is being taken out the back..." he cowers, and motions in the direction of the back entrance to the hospital, and the direction Dave would have been taken.
She turns and races towards the back entrance, never letting go of him. "Congratulations, you just became collateral. If you know what's good for you, you will assist me to the best of your abilities. IF I decide that you have become an INCONVENIENCE, then may the horrorterrors have mercy on your pathetic soul."
He's forced to go with her, cursing and basically terrified out of his mind of the insane woman.
They get outside just in time to see the back doors of a white van being closed, getting a glimpse of an unconscious Dave inside.
She makes a mad dash for the van, skipping the probably locked back doors and going straight for the driver's side, still towing her captive, needles raised and ready to strike anyone who dares get in her way.
The Driver sees her coming and slams the door shut, starting up the engine. Clutch down, into gear, gas- To slow; she reaches the door before he's able to pull away.
The door is wrenched open, and she tosses her captive roughly to the ground before climbing into the van and practically on top of the driver. She pins him to the seat by the neck, needles poised over his jugular. "You will listen, and you will listen very carefully. You belong to me now. The boy in the back of this van is to be released, completely unharmed. Once I am assured of his safety, you will answer any and all of my questions. If you cooperate, you may keep your worthless life. If you do not-" the needles are suddenly pressed against his skin, though not enough to draw blood, "-then I promise you, you will rue the day you were born."
He chokes and shoves his foot back down on the clutch, flipping the van out of gear before slowly, slowly raising his hands up into a surrender. "...You're crazy..."
She gives him a cold smile. "Glad we understand each other. The boy. NOW." She pulls him out of the van.
He walks with his hands raised above his head until they reach the back doors of the van, pulling out his keys and unlocking them with shaky hands.
Dave has been thrown inside, roughly, and is QUITE unconscious.
She rips the keys out of his hand, then once again grabs a fistful of his shirt and crawls into the back. She forces the man onto his stomach and throws one of her legs over him to keep him pinned, needles hovering over the back of his next, while she very gently rolls Dave into a more comfortable position and checks his pulse. "What did you knock him out with?"
"C-C-Chloroform..." he stutters, not daring to move.
"What do you want with him?"
"I don't k-know... I don't have that kind of clearance... She says fetch, I go get..."
"What were you going to do with him?"
"Just... take him back to the factory... my superiors weren't happy that he'd escaped..."
"And tell me, what happens at the factory?"
"What sort of products?"
"I... I'm not sure... not my department... I think I heard something about... genetic manipulation?"
"Tell me everything you know. Hold anything back and you will regret it."
He swallows and starts to explain what he knows. He can't say much, because he doesn't know much, but what he does say is pretty indicative of sinister goings on within the Betty Crocker Corporation.
By the time he's finished Dave is starting to wake up, twitching and groaning softly.
She keeps the man pinned, and lays a gentle hand on Dave's shoulder. The sheer contrasts almost laughable. "Dave?"
"Hhhn?" His eyes slide open. "...Rose?"
"It's alright, you're safe. How do you feel?"
"Ugh, shitty..." a hand cones up to rub the side of his head and he sits up. "...I guess the Hospital's out, right?"
"I suppose so." She pauses. "I'm sorry, this is my fault."
He shakes his head. "You weren't to know..."
"Even still..." She shakes her head. "We shall have to get you checked out eventually, preferably sooner rather than later. I don't like what I've been hearing."
"Why, what have you been hearing?" and now he's worried, but he tries not to let it show.
"Not much, but according to this asshole-" She motions toward the man pinned under her leg, "-something about genetic modification."
A shiver. "...Right... Okay... right..." Shit.
He licks his lips nervously before starting to scootch out of the van. "So... what now?"
“Now, we go home and plan our next move." She turns back to her captive. "As far as you and your colleagues are concerned, he is dead and I do not exist. Make something up to tell your superiors. Make sure everyone involved today has it straight. Can you handle that?"
A nod and a whimper. "Yes, ma'am..."
"Good boy." Rose grabs his head and smacks it against the floor of the van, knocking him out. She turns back to Dave. "Shall we, then?"
He nods and clambers out of the van, offering her a hand.
She takes it and walks around the hospital to the car. Like hell is she going back inside right now. Bloody knitting needles tend to be suspicious.
He climbs into the passenger seat and slumps back into it, folding his arms across his chest. He's lost another fingernail, and is obviously deep in thought.
She starts the car and pulls out of the parking lot. "You're brooding."
"'Pot!' declared thine yonder kettle. 'Twould appear that though colour ist darker than most.'" he quips.
"Drop ye olde english and tell me your worries."
"Now, now, Rose. No psychoanalysis whilst driving. Studies show you are about 30% more likely to be involved in an accident whilst attempting to probe someone's mind."
"Studies show that 79% of statistics are made up on the spot and are complete bullshit. Stop avoiding it."
"...I'm scared, okay? I don't know what these assholes have done to me, and if they can infiltrate the public service systems... Just... how many places have they sunk their gnarled claws into?"
"Understandable." She falls silent and sinks into her own thoughts.
"...Penny for your thoughts?"
"Running through possibilities."
"Such as?" he subconsciously scratches at the back of his arm; the skin there is starting to feel harder, more scale-like. But just barely at this point.
"You aren't going to tell me what they are, are you?"
"No. They're probably the same things you're thinking anyway."
A sigh. She's right, and he knows it.
She's silent for the rest of the drive home. "When did you say your brother was coming to get you?"
"ASAP, He's driving down, will probably take a few days."
"Did Jade or John ever get back to you?"
"..." He grabs the laptop to check.
EB: dave! you're alive!
EB: and of course the first thing you do is question me about my sex life.
EB: telling me where my best friend has been for months isn't important, but apparently the state of my virginity is.
EB: so where have you been?
TG: i could tell you
TG: but my question came first
TG: which you still havent answered
TG: how rude of you
EB: dave, stop being an asshat and tell me where you were.
TG: shut up in some goddamned laboratory and i dont want to talk about it
TG: is where ive been
EB: what the hell were you doing in a laboratory?
EB: where are you now?
TG: im with rose
TG: and why do you think i was in a laboratory
EB: well i'm glad you're okay!
EB: i have no idea dave.
EB: what, did you get kidnapped and expiremented on? haha, right.
EB: no, seriously.
EB: where were you?
TG: no seriously
TG: egbert this isnt a fucking joke
EB: i am so sorry.
TG: i missed you
EB: i missed you too.
EB: and i'm really glad you're okay.
EB: like, really really glad.
EB: it was kind of weird not having my best bro around!
TG: thanks dude
TG: so anything interesting happen in my abstence?
TG: such as getting laid
EB: ha ha ha. ha.
EB: nah, everything has been pretty normal.
EB: you know, other than all of us being insanely worried about you.
TG: dude IM extremely worried about me
TG: i still dont know what exactly these assholes did to me
TG: im loosing fingernails at a rate of nots
TG: and im stuck in a car with ROSE
TG: and shes phycoanalyzing me
TG: the humanity
EB: whoa, you're losing fingenails?
EB: that doesn't sound good, dude.
EB: hey, keep me posted, okay?
EB: this sounds kind of creepy.
TG: tell me about it
"John's online." he says, like his few minutes of near frantic typing hadn't been an indicator.
"So I figured. Does he have anything interesting to say?"
"He still hasn't gotten laid, dweeb." He jokes. "You're going to have to fix that at some point."
She turns vaguely red and blinks, but quickly regains her composure. "Still on about the shipping chart, are you? I never understood the obsession."
"You're my sister, He's my best Bro. If you don't end up together, that means I gotta deal with his possibly annoying girlfriend, and any in-laws that come from your getting hooked. I'm just trying to avoid collateral." He's kidding.
"I understand completely. And I expect you to ask for Jade's hand in marriage post-haste. Avoiding collateral and all."
"Will be done the moment she gets her sweet little ass online."
"I will hold you to it."
GG: where have you been??????
GG: oh my gosh ive been soooo worried!!
GG: are you okay??
GG: what happened???
TG: shit happened
TG: marry me
He casually tilts the laptop to show Rose. Watch him actually go through with it if she says yes.
"Very smooth." God forbid Jade says yes. She fears his commitment to this.
GG: not until i get a ring
GG: but where have you been?? and are you okay????
TG: goddamn i just got done explaining this to egbert
TG: i was in a lab
TG: and im not okay but at least im not THERE anymore
TG: and i seriously dont want to talk about it
GG: on no, im sorry!!!
GG: i was just worried
GG: you dont have to talk about it
GG: im just glad youre safe now
GG: and i really missed you!!
TG: i missed you too
TG: every fucking day
TG: you have no idea
GG: but it’s going to be okay now right?
GG: are you home??
TG: im with rose
GG: well that’s good!
GG: you actually get to hang out with your sister!!
GG: which is also not fair because i miss you guys especially after not talking to you for months :/
TG: hey your free to come join us any time you want
TG: assuming you can get off the god forsaken island
TG: id be nice to see you actually
TG: i might just get ahold of that ring you so desired
GG: hehe careful dave, or you might actually have to marry me
GG: well it would be nice...
GG: but its always pretty hard getting the flights coordinated and making sure that everything would be okay while im gone
GG: and i wouldnt want to impose!
TG: watch me do just that
TG: watch me be the best husband fucking ever
TG: but in all seriousness you wouldnt be imposing
TG: im pretty sure rose would love to have you hear as much as i would
TG: i want you guys close
TG: its been a rough few months
GG: how long are you going to be in town??
TG: man i dont know
TG: bros coming to pick me up but if things continue like they have been i might not be going anywhere fast
GG: well its sort of last minute but let me see what i can do
GG: i could probably get there tomorrow morning at the earliest
GG: have things really been that bad??
There's a pause.
TG: these assholes pumped me full of chemicals
TG: im experiencing a range of nasty symptoms including loosing fingernails
TG: its not fun
GG: be there as soon as i can
--gardenGnostic [GG] ceased pestering turntechGodhead [TG]--
"Jade's visiting," he says it so casually.
Rose turns to him as they pull into her driveway. "I'll assume that means she said yes. Congratulations, and tell her I want to be a bridesmaid. When is she coming?"
"As soon as she can, apparently." he unbuckles as they park. "I'm going to need a ring... you're laptops wifi is impressive, by the way."
"That's the sole reason I bought it. Any sort of reception is nigh impossible around here... How serious are you?" Rose wouldn't put it past him to actually marry Jade. She heads into the house.
“The correct answer to that question will depend on whether or not she actually says yes." His expression is unreadable as ever.
He'll do it.
And he'll see it through to the very end.
Death do us part and all.
She squints at him, still uncertain. But it's not important now, and worst case scenario she gets what she's always wanted: Jade as her sister-in-law.
Chapter 3: >Dave: Allow your hormones to controle your rational thinking.
Short chapter in which Dave and Rose distract themselves with menial things, and two plane tickets are booked.
But they can think about silly, probably hypothetical weddings later. Rose leads him back to the kitchen table. "First, how do you feel? Be detailed."
"Detailed? Be careful what you wish for." he goes on to explain in PAINFUL detail how his legs feel like they're changing shape, how his arms are itchy right up to the elbow and how his back seems to be in the midst of a slow motion explosion.
She is silent for a while, and then sighs deeply. "And what do you suppose our next move should be? I hate to admit it, but I find myself at a loss."
"I... Don't know." he taps his fingers against the table... and ends up losing another fingernail. "...fuck!"
"How many do you have left?"
"Shit. Does it hurt when they fall off?"
"A little, not much; sort of like pulling out a splinter," He's paler than usual.
She regards him for a moment. "You said your legs feel like they're changing. Let me see them."
He kicks off his shoes and turns up his trousers to the knees, before removing his socks.
His outer toes seem to be receding, whilst the large, inner ones seem to be shifting back and the three central ones look like they're becoming larger and splayed out. It's in early stages of development, though, so it's hard to tell where this is going.
The lower portion of his leg also seems to be becoming somewhat crooked, near the ankle.
"Well, one thing is for sure," she looks back up at him. "You are definitely changing."
She opens her laptop and begins typing. "I'm going to keep a log of your condition." It's mostly because she doesn't know what else to do.
He nods, running a hand through his hair.
"Well... It's been a long day. I suppose we should get the details of Jade's arrival and then we can figure everything out tomorrow. It's not as if we can take you to a doctor..."
He nods, and grabs the laptop.
--turntechGodhead [TG] began pestering gardenGnostic [GG]--
TG: rose wants to know when/how youre getting here
GG: flight gets in around noon
GG: ill email her the details
GG: anyway i gotta go
GG: its going to be a long night!!
GG: but ill see you soon!!! :)
"... So how fast can we get that ring? Does mom have a precious family heirloom she'll let me have?"
"...Are you serious?"
"Do I look serious?" he looks very serious, but then, with his poker face, it's kind of hard to tell.
Easier without the shades, though.
"You're...actually going to ask her to marry you. Well then. I suppose if we leave now, we can get one before tomorrow."
"Excellent. That also gives us an activity between now and whenever." he shoves his socks and shoes back on, even if they are starting to feel uncomfortable.
"Well...let's go I guess. You are aware of how ridiculous this is?"
She once again leads him to the car and then drives them both to a jewellery store.
He picks out a ring, a proper decent one, as well, and uses Bro's account details to pay for it. "He's a multi millionaire, he won't notice."
"Just hope it's the proper size. I would say the same for style, but I somehow doubt she will care. Are you hungry?"
Rose takes them through a drive-through, because it has been an incredibly long day and like hell is she cooking. She hands him the bag as they drive off. "So how long have you been thinking about this?"
"...Honestly? A while." He scratches the back of his head; ad casually shoves a few fries in his mouth, swallowing them quickly. "What can I say? That girl knows how to break my poker face."
"How long is a while and how carefully have you considered this?"
"...About a year..." Well before the whole kidnapped-and-basically-tortured thing happened.
"And where are you going to live? Will she want to leave the island? Will you want to leave Texas? Your brother?"
"I figure we'll work out the details together, if she says yes." A shrug.
"And you're certain the two of you can live together successfully? I realize that you are fond of each other, but to be fair the two of you haven't exactly spent much time together in person, not to mention any attempt at cohabitation."
"Are you trying to talk me out of it? Let me rephrase that: Are you trying to talk Dave Motherfucking Strider out of something he's had his mind set on for months?"
"No, I'm trying to be realistic. These are things you need to think about." She sighs. "Listen, you know I would love nothing more than the two of you together, but I'm not convinced that you've fully considered what this will mean. Marriage is a big commitment. It's not too late to go back on this. Right now, it's still a joke to her, and it will keep being a joke until she sees the ring. I'm not saying you shouldn't, I'm saying that perhaps you should hold off until you're really sure."
A sigh, and he tits his head back to lean against the headrest. "Fine, I'll give it a couple of weeks after she gets here, but if I haven't changed my mind by then..."
"If you're sure, then don't let me stop you. Just weigh your options carefully." She takes one of the bags and gets out of the car. "And perhaps talk to John first. She is his sister, after all."
"Yea, alright." he sighs and follows her inside.
The next few hours are spent chewing on high-fat fast food and slumped over Rse's laptop.
--turntechGodhead [TG] began pestering ectoBiologist [EB]--
TG: hey john
EB: jeez dave, what?
EB: is whatever you have to say really that important?
EB: shit, are you okay?
"Are you taking the guest room tonight, or will I be subjected to more cuddling?"
TG: guess what
"Fine, but don't you dare wake me up before the alarm again. In any case, I need to make up the bed in the guest room for when Jade arrives. And no, the two of you are not allowed to sleep in the same room."
"Curses, foiled again." /sarcasm
TG: no you have to guess
TG: youre not getting this sweet info out of me otherwise
EB: you're pregnant.
TG: shit how did you know?
EB: dude, just tell me what you have to tell me.
TG: youre the father
TG: but no in all seriousness
TG: jades visiting shell be here tomorrow
EB: oh, thanks for the invite guys.
EB: sure, have a reunion and don't invite john.
EB: hey, thanks for rubbing it in dave. you're a real pal.
EB: but seriously, when is she flying in?
TG: shes probably getting on the plane as we speak
TG: and way to jump the gun i was just about to invite you
TG: if rose asks it was your idea
EB: sweet! guess i have a flight to book.
EB: oh man, it's going to be so great to have the gang all back together.
TG: oh also
TG: theres like a 75% chance im going to ask jade to marry me at some point
EB: hurt my sister and i will kill you with my bare hands.
EB: otherwise, welcome to the family.
EB: hey, rose won't be mad will she? about me coming to visit?
TG: let me see
"Hey, John says he’s coming."
Rose shrugs. "Good. I was actually going to message him tonight about it."
TG: she was going to invite you anyway
TG: were all set
EB: i'll see you guys soon.
EB: were doing it man
EB: were making this hapen
--ectoBiologist [EB] ceased pestering turntechGodhead [TG]--
He closes the laptop and downs the last of his soda triumphantly.
"This is going to be sweet."
...In all honesty? He probably NEEDED this, just until they knew exactly what was happening to him.
"Hey, loverboy. I'm going to bed; we have to get up early tomorrow to pick up Jade."
Rose was already in bed by the time he got there. "Good night, Dave."
He nods and curls up next to her again, burying his face in her shoulder and falling asleep quickly.
Chapter 4: >Jade and John: Arrive
In which everyone exchanges in witty banter and Dave makes funny noises when Jade touches his back.
The alarm sounds far too early for her liking, but even so she yawns, stretches, and shakes Dave. "Wake up."
He startles awake, sitting bolt upright and stiffening as he did so.
But the nightmare begins to fade, even as his breathing hitches and his heart races in his chest.
"Are you alright?"
"Yea, just... nightmares. I'll be fine."
"Then get ready. Meet me in the car in thirty." She drags herself out of bed and goes to get herself ready.
He changes back into his cloths (The sooner Bro got there with some clean T-shirts and jeans the better...) and uses the bathroom, before popping into the kitchen an grabbing a quick sandwich to eat in the car and going to meet Rose outside.
All of this takes him precisely 29 minutes.
Rose has somehow managed to shower and grab herself breakfast and still beat him to the car, albeit not looking much more awake than she did a few minutes earlier. She does not speak on the ride to the airport.
Dave can't sit still. His shoes, which had been perfectly comfortable before, are starting to rub up in all the wrong ways and feel far too small. His forearms are downright ITCHY, the last of his nails have dropped off so he can't even scratch them properly, and the skin is starting to become much rougher. Not to mention the dull, constant ACHING in his back.
All in all he's relieved when they get to the airport.
Rose gives him a look as they make their way to the arrivals gate. "You're fidgeting."
"I'm uncomfortable. My shoes don't feel right." he shrugs, keeping an eye on the arrival gate.
"Good to know."
It's a while before Jade shows up looking sleepy and a bit dishevelled from her long night of travel. It takes her a minute to see them, but when she does she rushes to them, bags all but forgotten. "DAVE! ROSE!" She wraps Dave in a tight hug, and then pulls back to look at him, eyes wide and arms still locked around him. "Oh my gosh, I missed you so much and I was so worried about you and I thought that something really, really terrible happened and that I was never going to see you again and WHERE have you been all of this time? But you said you didn't want to talk about that. So anyway, hi Dave."
He wraps his arms around her as she hugs him, spinning her around, holding her close and actually smiling. He can't get a word in edgeways throughout her next breathless babble, and he wouldn't have it any other way, taking the opportunity to press their foreheads together and make eye contact. (Surprisingly pleasant, perhaps he'll take his shades off more often? Assuming he ever gets them back.)
"Hey. Look, I'll explain what happened once we get somewhere a little less public, okay? Either that or I'll pussy out and have Rose tell you, one of the two."
She tilts her face towards his until their noses touch. "'Kay." And then she disentangles herself from him in favour of hugging Rose hello.
Whilst they're saying hello, he goes and grabs Jades bags from where she'd abandoned them in favour of tacklehugs.
Getting back to the two about 20 seconds later, he waits for them to finish.
"If you're quite done, I believe that car park charges by the minute."
Rose extracts herself from Jade's arms. "Actually, as luck would have it, John's flight should be getting in soon. You'll only have to explain once."
Jade's head snaps back towards Rose. "John's coming? Oh my gosh, this is so perfect! I mean, the reason isn't perfect, but...oh, you know what I mean."
A tut, "Fine. But let's at least get a coffee whilst we're waiting, or something." The shitty sandwich he'd made himself earlier was already starting to move onto the next part of his digestive track.
The three of them head to a table at an overpriced coffee shop. Jade snuggles up to Dave and leans her head on his shoulder, and Rose gives them a look before going to buy them all food.
Dave wraps an arm around her and rests his head on top of hers. He starts to drum his fingers onto the table- then flinches as this action reminds him of his lack of nails and quickly stops.
She catches his hand and turns it so she can look at his lack of fingernails. "Wow, you weren't kidding."
"You think that's bad? You should see my feet. No, I'm not going to show you here, there are children running around," a sigh.
She wraps her arms around him, obviously worried. "I'm not going to ask, you said you would explain later. And you will explain later. I hate not knowing..."
He brings a hand up to cup her cheek, gently stroking the side of her face with his thumb and looking deep into her eyes. He starts to lean in...
Oh, hello, Rose. You got back quickly.
Rose puts the food on the table with emphasis, and just barely manages to restrain herself from clearing her throat or making a snide comment. They have only just reunited; she'll save it for tomorrow. Or the car. Whichever. She sits and sips at her coffee while Jade and Dave get their food.
Dave turns his attention to his food, attempting to ignore the suddenly awkward atmosphere.
"So, when exactly is John's flight arriving?"
Rose checks the time on her phone, "About an hour."
"Eat your bagel."
Jade taps his arm. "Oh, it's not that bad. I'm sure we can find something to do until then."
"There are several things I can think of right now; unfortunately all of them involve you, me, and a private room." He's half kidding.
But only half.
Her face colours and she hits his arm a little harder. "Dave!"
Rose just laughs.
"Jade, get your mind out of the gutter. I was talking about having a girly makeover." Sure you were.
"That," she raises a finger, "is Rose's job. And yes Rose, I do expect us to do girly sleepover things."
"I wouldn't have it any other way." Damn, she meant to sound a little more sarcastic.
"Jade, I'm wounded. Just because I'm a guy you assume I don't know anything about fashion and makeup and how to do someone's hair?" A dramatic pause, "You'd be right, but that is not the loft and self important point I am making here!"
She giggles. "Well you know, we could always teach you. Then you could be even loftier and more self-important."
He puts on a camp voice. "Oh girlfriend, you know EXACTLY how to get me excited!"
She laughs, her forehead hitting his shoulder. "Well apparently it doesn't take much!"
And suddenly, all the awkward is gone.
They goof around like that for the next hour, until it's time to go meet John.
Once again, they wait at the arrivals gate. Jade's enthusiasm is barely containable, and she rises up on her toes every few seconds to get a better look. "Do you see him?"
"Not yet." Rose is less obvious, but she's given away by the way she drums her fingers on her crossed arms.
A man with a large nose and wearing a distinguished pair of glasses and a moustache walks through the arrival gate. This is clearly someone with a lot of important, serious business to attend to, as certified by his bowler hat and suitcase-like bag. But this is not a man with no sense of humour, he knows how to kick back and have fun, demonstrated by his casual t-shirt and jeans-
Yea, this is a really shitty disguise.
Rose's face meets her palm, but her shoulders shake with silent laughter. Only John.
Jade is entirely unphased. "JOHN!" She races to him and pulls him into a hug similar to the ones she gave Dave and Rose.
Unlike Dave or Rose, John is knocked flying. His Shitty Disguise is knocked across the floor and he squawks.
"Jade!" He wraps his arms around her and laughs.
They lay like that in a giggly pile for a few seconds before she gets off of him and helps him up, then returns to the others, pulling him with her. "Oh my gosh, it's so good to see you, it's been way too long!"
"Isn't this, like, technically the first ever time we've all been in the same place together!" John asks, excited.
"Yep," Dave responds, they share a bro-fist.
Rose steps forward, arms still crossed, but smiling. "Hello, John."
Jade gasps, "John's right! Do you know what this means?"
John grins and pulls Rose into a hug. "Rose!"
"I don't know, Jade. What does that mean?" Dave humours her.
Rose rolls her eyes, but her smile sticks and she hugs him back.
"GROUP HUG!" Jade throws an arm around Dave and the other around John and Rose, pulling them all together.
Dave can't help but Grin, John outright laughs and rocks the group from side to side a couple of times. Best thing ever.
Eventually they have to break apart and head to the car, with Jade's arms looped through Dave's and John's, and with Rose in an undeniable good mood.
Naturally, John had his other arm looped through Rose's. Dave lets him take the passenger seat so he and Jade can sit next to each other in the back on the way home-
To Rose's house, that is.
In all of the commotion with getting everyone and everything in the car and when no one is paying attention, Jade leans over and gives him a quick kiss on the cheek. Rose gets everything situated in the trunk, then gets into the car and pulls out of the parking lot. "Alright, Dave. You owe them an explanation."
Dave sighs and slouches back in his seat.
"...So... I was kidnapped and experimented on by Betty Crocker Corp."
"...What!? Betty Crocker? I knew it! Oh, shit, sorry D:"
Jade has her arms around him again. "Awww, poor thing."
"Tell them everything before they ask; though I suppose I can pick up at the hospital debacle, if you would like."
He leans into her, closing his eyes. His voice is completely flat as he explains what they'd done, how he'd escaped, what was happening to him now- "...And when Rose tried to take me to the hospital..." He pauses, so she can pick up. He'd been unconscious for most of that fiasco, anyway.
She picks up where he left off, ending with "And then we went...home. Which brings us to now," Shit, Rose hopes Jade won't catch the odd little pause. But she seems to be more concerned with cuddling Dave and being generally upset.
Dave sighs again, and kicks off one of his shoes, pulling of the sock and bringing his foot up into view. "Check this shit out."
John gawps. Dave's outer toe has all but vanished, the inner toe shifting back and around until it was literally sticking out the side and his heel was shifting up and back, lengthening and starting to look more like a joint. The three remaining toes were much longer now, and easily twice as thick as they had been.
Jade gasps, reaching out to touch it then stopping, almost as if she's afraid of hurting him. "It looks almost..."
Rose's gave flicks to the rear-view mirror. "Has it changed?"
"Yea, a bit." he flexes his toes experimentally, creeped out at the new range of motion allowed by his own feet.
"Shit. I'll have to look at it when we get home."
Jade reaches down and this time gently runs her fingers over it, curious. She pauses at his heel. "Can you bend it?"
He licks his lips, and flexes his heel.
John is transfixed.
She jerks her hand back, blinks twice, then nods. "Avian."
"Bird. I can't think of anything else that does that."
"...So you're telling me I'm turning into a Bird?"
"...That's what it looks like, yeah."
Dave turns pale and glances at his back. "...Oh HELL no..."
"Are you growing wings?" She does her best not to look excited, but wings are so cool...
"My back hurts like a BITCH... Ugh... can you get a look for me?" He turns away from her and hooks up the back of his shirt.
She rubs her hands over his back, paying special attention to two spots that seem to be bulging out. "Weird..."
He groans slightly and leans into the touch. His back is so sore, it's sort of soothing.
"...Dude... That is SO cool, just saying."
"...Shut up, Egderp."
She takes the hint and rubs a little harder. "No, he's right. You're going to have wings, Dave!"
Rose sighs and keeps her eyes on the road. She didn't want to see anyway.
He bites his lip and doesn't say anything.
He just wants to be normal, and now he's never going to be able to forget about what had happened to him these last few months. There will always be these things attached to his body, reminding him.
He doesn't like it.
The rest of the ride is more or less uneventful, and Rose is grateful when she can finally stop the car and see what all of the commotion was about. She inspects his back and feet and makes note of the changes in the log she has started on her laptop.
Dave curls his knees up to his chest and broods (Bu-dum-chh) as she does this. He feels really shitty right now.
John plops down next to him and wraps an arm aound his shoulders. "Come on, Dude, It's not that bad! I mean, yea, it's bad, but... you still have us! And we're not going to care if you are part bird!"
"Exactly!" Jade takes his other side. "I mean it could be so much worse. And Dave, you're going to get to fly! Well, maybe. I guess it depends on if your bones hollow out. Or maybe they won't, but you'll be like a bumblebee and fly anyway which would be really cool!"
"There's also the possibility of reversal."
Dave groans and lets his forehead rest on his knees. John's face falls and he gently rubs Dave's back. Dave bites his lower lip and groans, and John rubs a little harder, smiling again as he feels Dave relax beneath his fingers.
Jade tilts his chin up so she can look him in the eyes. "Cheer up." She kisses his forehead. "Okay?"
"If you're done feeling sorry for yourself, the four of us have matters to discuss."
Dave sighs and nods, straightening up and lounging back, propping his feet on the coffee table, casually.
John looks over to Rose. "We do? I thought we were just goofing around..."
"Not exactly. We need to plan our next move, which will probably entail infiltrating a multi-national corporation with tight security." Her eyes flick to Dave. "Feet off the coffee table, Strider."
"Oh, sweet, we going to go get my shades back?" He snarks; moving his feet to rest UNDER the coffee table instead.
"Yes, that is obviously the entire point. By no means are we going to attempt to find out what exactly is happening to you or how to fix it. But in all seriousness, you said you could probably find your way back, correct?"
"That biiiiiiig ass factory about three miles from here? Not actually a factory."
"And so finding it won't be a problem. The problem will be getting in. I'm assuming this will mean surveillance."
"Probably. Hey, didn't you say once that mom was some sort of insane hacker?"
She is silent for a moment. "Yes she is. I was rather hoping not to involve her, though it is looking necessary..."
"...You mom's a hacker? Rose, that is totally sweet!" John grins from ear to ear and bounces up and down slightly.
"They have a pretty tight security system. I was only able to get out the first time because there was a total power failure, probably relating to the thunderstorm that I emerged into."
"She can get us another thunderstorm, that's for sure. Actually, she could probably find us blueprints of the building as well. Damn."
A nod. "And Bro isn't bad at computers, though generally he's better at mechanics and programming then interfering with existing programs."
Rose rubs at one of her eyes. "I'll talk to her tonight."
Jade giggles. "You guys have tech parents."
Dave elbows Jade lightly, a small smile crossing his lips briefly...
"...Oh, Man... Bro is going to flip his shit when he finds out what happened..."
Rose's and Jade's heads snap towards him, and in unison they ask, "You didn't tell him?"
"He was sort of yelling at me over the phone, and I didn't want to waste any of Rose's minutes, so I gave him an abbreviated version and told him to get his ass down here. He should probably be arriving... either later today, or tomorrow."
Rose rolls her eyes. "Yes, because my cell phone minutes are more important than giving your brother the details of your kidnapping. And speaking of more people, we need to figure out the sleeping arrangements."
Dave doesn’t miss a beat. "Bro can sleep on the couch."
John bites his lower lip. "I don't mind sharing a room with someone! Or even a bed, if there aren't that many..."
"Logic dictates Jade and I in my room, and the two of you in the guest room. Any objections?"
"So it really will be like a sleepover? Score!"
"But Rooooooose, how are you and Egbert supposed to get it on if he's in MY room?"
"I'll steal into your room under the cover of night and kick you out. But not before locking Jade in."
"Hey, just say the word and I'll go sleep in the kitchen."
John couldn't be any redder at this point, it simply wasn't possible.
Rose fakes offense. "I don't think that will be necessary. John seems rather adverse to the idea. Hmph."
"You guys should just elope instead. Then we would all be related!" She laughs.
And suddenly the air is a little tense. Everyone except Jade knows about Dave's intentions to ask Jade to marry him.
John tries not to give it away by stuttering incoherently, and burying his face in a cushion.
: Too late, she notices the shift, but thankfully doesn't say anything. She does glance at Rose's left hand, however. But no, that was a silly thought, of course they aren't married.
Rose manages to recover enough to keep the conversation going. "Somehow, I doubt that will happen, seeing as he is completely uninterested in sleeping with me." Okay, so maybe she just enjoys making John uncomfortable too.
"Oh, I see. He isn’t against the idea, He just wants it as much as you, and doesn’t know how to say it."
A whine. "Why are you guys doing this!?!?!?"
"Mostly to watch you squirm. So," she drops her voice, "will I see you tonight?"
A gawp, and a swallow, and a gawp, then a squeek.
He never says no.
Jade is giggling uncontrollably. "Aww, poor Dave, you have to sleep in the kitchen!"
"Curses, foiled again..."
Really, he hoped Bro would get here quickly so he could curl up with him on the couch.
"John, you can quit trying to hide under that pillow. We're done now."
"Awww, look at how hard he's blushing!"
"...I will find some way of getting back at you two for this... Check every door before opening..." John puts the cusion down, fidgiting.
Dave rolls his eyes.
"Honestly John, we were only joking. There's no need to get so worked up."
Jade turns to Dave. "How's your back?"
John keeps his eyes firmly fixed on his lap, cheeks burning.
"...Sore..." he bites his lip.
"Here." She takes to rubbing his back as Rose smirks at John's continued discomfort.
His eyes slide shut and he groans, the shapes beneath his skin shifting slightly, like they're stretching.
Then his moth opens and, quite unintentionally, he caws.
John's embarrassment melts away almost instantly and he starts giggling.
Jade claps a hand over her mouth, trying desperately not to giggle and almost succeeding. Rose widens her eyes, then reads out loud as she types. "The subject appears to be exhibiting vocal spasms akin to the cawing of a bird, possibly a crow."
"...Fuck you guys..."
"Nooooo, no, I'm sorry." She throws her arms around him and buries her face in his chest, still trying not to laugh. "You're right, it's not funny. It's not."
He wraps his arm around her and kisses the top of her head.
There is a brief moment of silence. "Yes it is."
Jade is once again reduced to giggles in his arms.
John clamps his hands over his mouth and stomps his feet a few times. Dave sighs and rubs his face.
"I'm sorry!" Jade finally gets a handle on herself and starts rubbing his back again.
"Tell me Dave, is this going to become a constant thing? It's possible to teach some crows to speak."
"Dammit, Rose, I didn't do it on purpose!" he peeps. /peeps/
And John devolves into another giggle fit.
Jade is completely incapacitated by laughter that she isn't even trying to hide now. Rose breaks down and giggles too.
...Okay, maybe it's a LITTLE funny. Dave snorts and rolls his eyes. "...It's Ironic."
"Suuuuuuuure it is."
Jade collapses across his lap, still laughing uncontrollably. "It's... No it's not!"
"Pff" he lightly slaps Jade over the back of the head.
"Um, we should get back to planning?"
Jade flips over so she's lying on her back, head in Dave's lap.
"Yes. Planning. First, we need to consult my mother. Second, we need weapons. And yes Jade, we do have a gun you can use."
Chapter 5: >Dirk: Arrive
In which Bacon is cooked, and Roxy causes mayhem just by existing.
The next morning Dave is up early (Another nightmare) and has started making breakfast for everyone. Overnight his feet had shifted to the point where they were obviously 70% bird, and the skin on his forearms had darkened and gone even harder. Talons had started to grow through to replace his missing nails, and his back was defiantly bulging out now. His appearance was, by every definition, freaky.
He hears a car pull up outside and turns down the heat on the stove (he's frying bacon) so breakfast won't burn as he goes to investigate, making his way to the front door and preaking out.
The first thing Dirk notices is that his brother is alive and in one piece. The second thing is that his brother looks...weird. Weird but unharmed. "Where. The /fuck/. Have you been?" He simply stares for a moment before, in a rare show of affection, pulling Dave into a huge. "You scared the shit out of me, kid."
Dave Hugs back. It's a Bro Hug. The most awesome f Bro Hugs. Angels themselves would wheep at that amount of pure cool and feeling that this Bro Hug contained. "Sorry, dude. I'll explain inside, where you can sit your sweet ass down and I can keep an eye on the bacon."
"You made bacon? Why the hell are we still outside?" Hug broken. Little brother secured. Bacon to be eaten. Good.
"In the process of makING bacon, you can have the first rashes." He shoves his hands in his pockets and mooches inside, trusting Bro to follow him. "Oh, nobody else is awake yet, FYI."
He wanders over to take a seat at the table. "Probably a good thing. Haven't seen Roxy in years, not sure I want to deal with that right off. Now explain."
He snorts, ad goes to stand by the oven, turning the heat back up and flipping the bacon. "The hyper abriviated version? I was kidnapped by Betty rocker Corp, pumped full of chemicles, escaped, and now I'm turning into a bird." He says it so casually.
His poker face never changes and he nods. "So my little bro is a bird. That explains the awkward leg thing you've got going on. Anyway, what else is new?"
"Jade and John flew in Yesterday... I've told you about them, right?"
"No, you have never mentioned two of your best friends. I also never read your logs when you're not looking, which is just about always."
"Pro tip: change your password to something that isn't totally obvious."
"I know you know my password. And I know you know I know. And we both know that I'm totally cool with that."
"Speaking of knowing passwords and reading your conversations, you're not seriously going to ask that girl to marry you, are you?"
"Completely unironicly. Maybe. Rose made me promise to leave it a few weeks."
"Thank god for that. Look, I know she's cute, I know she's charming, I know she is the sunshine of your fucking life or something, but you're both just kids. Bad idea. Put the ring down and back away slowly."
"I'm 17!" he protests, a frown starting to form across his features. "Look, I know the statistics. This is different."
"You think every bass-ackwards 17-year-old with his first girl doesn't think the same goddamn thing? Dave, you're children. You can't even legally marry her, you're underage. And god forbid you get her pregnant, then what? Are you ready to be a father? Shit's no walk in the park."
"I'm not every other bass-ackwards 17 year old! You know me better then that!" He flips the bacon onto a plate and shoves another couple of rashes into the pan. "You're just pissed off because I'm not GAY like you want me to be. Was mom really such a bad fuck that not even I'm allowed to like girls?" oooooooh
He lets the silence stretch long enough to be uncomfortable. When he speaks, he is entirely calm, but his voice has taken on a slightly cold edge. "That was uncalled for. Now settle the fuck down before you wake up the entire house." There is another uncomfortable pause. "See, this is exactly the kind of shit I'm talking about. You may think you are incredibly mature, but you are still just a kid. This is how you react when someone disagrees with you? Newsflash: you and Jade are going to fight. Every couple on the face of the planet does, and you? You've got some growing up to do before you're ready to marry anyone. Do this now and you and Jade will wind up divorced, or worse, stuck with each other and a couple of kids. Neither of you want that. So pull your head out of your ass and think."
He can't really dig his fingers into the sides of the counter the way he wants too with his talons still growing in, but like hell if he doesn't try. For a moment he is COMPLETELY tense... and then he takes a deep breath and his shoulders slump.
"...I'm sorry." He's sincere.
"Damn right you're sorry." He stands and grabs a couple pieces of bacon, then lightly hits Dave in the arm. "No hard feelings, kid. Just give it a few years, she's not going anywhere."
A huff. "Fine."
"The preferred term is Otaku."
"Fine then, Baka."
"Oh, Dave-chan, you are so tsundere." Completely deadpan.
"Oh my God, Bro!"
"Am I interrupting?" Rose leans against the doorway, eyebrow raised.
"Hey Rose." Dirk gestures towards her with a piece of bacon. "Thanks for stopping dumbass from making a huge mistake until I could talk some sense into him."
"No problem." She takes a seat at the table.
"You both suck."
A tall figure in a pink dressing gown steps into the room, heading straight for the fridge and pulling out a martini glass.
"Good morning, Dirk. Dave. Rosey." And with that, she walks out of the room again.
"...What just happened?"
Rose's voice is slightly muffled from her face being buried in her hands. "Mom just happened."
"Welp..." Dave flips the bacon. "She didn't seem at all surpprised to see Bro here..."
"She might still be hung over. She might still be drunk, actually."
Rose sighs deeply. Time to get this out of the way. "Mom?"
Roxy sticks her head back into the room, she had obviously been waiting to be called back. "Yes, sweatheart?"
"We need your help. Specifically, we need you to hack the security system of an international megacorporation so we can stop your son from turning into a bird."
"Thanks, mom. Oh, could you find the blueprints for the factory as well?"
"Nooooo problemo~" She twirls a hand in mid-air. "Let me just get my drunk butt down to the lab, and I'll get those for you inna jiffy."
"Oh, And Dirk? Sweetheart? Be sure to give our son a gooooood run down of how I ws the best fuck you ever had, K?" And she's gone again.
"Oh... My fucking... GOD..." Dave covers his face with his hands, not sure if he wants to laugh or cry or just pokerface.
Rose had relaxed too soon. Her face is once again buried in her hands and she groans. "Mom!"
Dirk just laughs before mumbling idly to himself. "Not going to lie, she was pretty good..."
"BRO!" Dave tries to pokerface. Dave fails to pokerface. It's just that much harder without his shades, dammit. "I do NOT want to hear it, okay? Okay."
"Hey, mother knows best, right? Okay, so it's around midnight, we're both drunk off our asses, and sh-"
"Please, for the love of god, you are my father, make up for the years I spent with no contact from you by not telling this story."
"Okay, you know what? I'm going to Abscond. Later!" Dave hurries out of the room, running a little awkward because of how different his feet are now.
Now, where to go...
Did Rose leave her room Open? is Jade still in there?
Yes, Good plan. Best sollution.
Jade wakes up to sunlight streaming through the window and directly on to her face. She frowns, then opens her eyes. Time to get up. She slides out of bed and starts changing out of her pjs.
Dave casually leans in the doorway, whistling.
She turns to him, and it takes her a few seconds to fully register that Dave is standing right there and that she is not wearing a shirt and that this is not a thing that should be happening. Her turns red and her arms cross over her chest, eyes wide. "Dave! Get out of here!"
"But Jaaaade, I was enjoying the viiiiiiew!" It should be noted that his eyes are actually closed and he isn't looking at anything.
"Get. Out!" She pushes him out of the room and shuts the door. When she opens it a few seconds later, she is once again fully clothed. "Geeze, you could've knocked."
He opens his eyes, grinning. "But where would have been the fun in that?"
She rolls her eyes, still a little flushed. "Ugh, you're awful, you know that?"
"What? I didn't look~" He winds his arms around her
"You're sure you didn't see anything?"
His response to that is to tilt his head to one side just slightly and lean in. "Not a thing..."
Her arms go around his neck. "Are you lying?" She's mostly just teasing him now.
"Yes, you have a tattoo of the mona lissa on your lower back." He jokes, leaning in just a little further and kissing her.
She pulls away from him quickly. "How long have you been thinking about doing that?"
She laughs. "Yeah, I could tell. I think Rose might have been conspiring against you."
He quirks an eyebrow. "Oh really?"
"Yeah, just a little. I think it was more of a game than anything else."
"Trust her." Eyeroll.
"You won either way."
"Oh yea! Does that mean I get another kiss?" Grin.
She smiles, them leans up and kisses him.
He wraps his arms around her and holds her close.
John emergst into the hallway, groggilly... then quickly retreats back into the guest room.
Aaand cue embarrassment. She pulls herself out of his grip and heads toward the kitchen.
"John..." Dave goes after him, rolling his eyes.
Chapter 6: >Be past Dave
In which Dirk uses up all the hot water and Dave uses sarcasm when it is most inappropriate.
It's a perfectly normal day for one Dave Strider, he's just getting ready for school and, like normal, Dirk is hogging the shower.
"Come ON, dude, I have half an hour! I don't want to sound like a teenage girl but it's like the middle of summer and I don't want to stink all day if I can help it."
Dirk calls to him from behind the bathroom door. "If it was the middle of the summer you wouldn't have school, dumbass. You can calm your ass down, I'm almost done. Go get yourself some breakfast."
"I said it was LIKE the middle of summer, it’s certainly hot enough." he yells, before slouching off to the kitchen to get himself something to eat. Stupid bro and his epic, day-spanning absolutions...
A few minutes later, Dirk is out. "Go ahead princess, it's all yours."
He flips Dirk off as he goes into the bathroom and locks the door.
There is a pause.
"ARGH! YOU SON OF A BITCH!"
No hot water, clearly.
Dave exits the bathroom, shoving on his T-shirt as he goes and not bothering to dry his hair, it'll dry itself in five minutes considering the weather. Grabbing his bag from the sofa as he walks out, he pauses only to throw a quick, "Later" over his shoulder in Dirks direction.
Dirk calls after him. "Hey, I'm not going to be home until late tonight, but I want you home at a decent hour, got it?"
"Got it!" The response is muffled as he starts down the stairs, but it's obvious he'd replied.
Besides, when was he ever out late? Being out past X hour would only cut down on his computer time.
The blasted elevator is broken down, and he's already running late, so he takes the Stairs 2 at a time, being careful not to trip over his own feet, and grabbing onto the banister at each turn to help swing himself around the corners. If he hurries he might make it, if he hurries he might-
The school bus pulls away just as he's launching himself out of the front door, moving into the traffic and disappearing around the block before you could hear a record scratch.
Luck is not on his side today. It is, however, on the side of the men in the nondescript (and rather stereotypical) white van parked a little down the road from Dave's apartment building.
"Hey, what about that one?"
"Yeah, he would work. Could probably get him pretty easy."
"Yeah, let's get this over with."
It's all pretty quick. The van pulls up, doors open, rag is forced over his face, he's pulled into the back of the van, all in maybe a minute at most. No one sees. And just like that, he's off to the factory.
He regains consciousness part-way to the factory, eyes flickering open. He tries to sit up, only to find that his wrists and his ankles are bound.
Oh great, he's gagged as well.
His eyes dart up and he looks around at the men sat around him in the van.
"Aw shit, he's awake." Cue rag. Cue darkness.
This happens several times during the Drive. It's apparent that their "Catch" was quick to recover from things.
Unfortunately for Dave, that just made him more useful.
The final time he wakes, he is no longer in the van, but strapped to a metal table in a dark room. It looks like a strange mix between an operating room and a chemistry lab, full of ominous objects and vials or colourful liquids. He is alone for a while, before the door behind his head and out of his range of vision opens. "Ah! Good, you're awake."
He licks his lips, then- "Excuse me? But your customer service is simply /terrible./ I'd like to speak with your manager."
The voice behind him laughs, actually /laughs/. "Oh, it's so good to finally have one with a sense of humour! They are sort of terrible, aren't they? But if you're a good boy, you probably won't have to deal with them again." He can hear the clinking of metal behind him.
He wouldn't admit it, but he's terrified. "So, just out of curiosity, what exactly do you plan on doing with me? Because this is terribly cliché, and you might as well go the whole hog and do the 'bragging all your plans because there is nothing I can do to stop you' thing as well." He tries to shift so he can get a look at... whoever the fuck it is that's behind him, but he simply doesn't have enough room to maneuver with the restraints.
The voice laughs again, and steps into view. She does not look like your typical mad scientist; more like a normal girl who happened to find a lab coat. She's young, probably mid- to late-twenties, wavy brown hair, pretty. "Oh, but that would ruin the fun, wouldn't it? No, I think I'll let you be surprised. What's your name? No wait, don't tell me. They always say I shouldn't name my toys, because then you get too attached or something. Not that most of them last long anyway. But hopefully you'll be different! I was pretty close last time, after all. I almost have it... Maybe if..." She turns away from him and starts scrawling something down in a notebook.
Goddamn, he has never hated anyone as much as he hates this bitch. It's not a nice feeling.
"My name is Dave Motherfucking Strider, and you bet your sweet ass I can handle whatever you have to throw at me. But you should be careful what you wish for."
The attitude is just a cover for how shit-fucking-scared he is, though. He doesn't want to admit it, but he feels like he's going to be sick.
She turns back to him, slowly, deliberately. "Cocky, are we? We'll see how long that lasts..." The look in her eyes has changed and her good-natured smile has twisted itself into something like a smirk. She raises a scalpel. "Well then, 'Dave Motherfucking Strider', shall we begin?"
Chapter 7: >Current Rose: Plan your next move with great prejudice.
In which everyone decides what they're going to do next, and Dave receives drunken kisses from his mother weather he likes it or not.
It took Rose a while to track everyone down and wrangle all of them into the living room, but she had done it. This is not to say that they are calm or collected or ready to make the necessary plans. Or that her mother has stopped drinking. But then again, some things never change. She pulls out her laptop and prepares to get down to business. "Everyone, quiet."
John sits next to her, watching what she's doing on her laptop with a well meaning smile. Dave is on her other side, slouching back and trying to look like he doesn't care.
Roxy raises her martini glass as if in a toast. "I'm all ears, sweetkins~"
Rose grimaces. "Mom, did you get the blueprints?"
"Naturally~" As if from mid-air she pulls out a large sheet of paper, spreading it over the coffee table and knocking aside a few empty martini glasses in the process. She either doesn't notice, or doesn't really care.
"Good. And what can you do about the security system?"
"I've worked my way into their database. I can view the security camera footage whilst simultaneously making them play a repeating loop of about 10 seconds onto any other security monitors~ Opening doors and such should be a breeze as well." Okay, now she's just showing off.
"Excellent. Thank you. Now Dave, can you take a look at the blueprints and see if anything looks familiar?"
He nods and leans forward, getting a look. His eyes scan over the page, and he quickly starts pointing things out. "That room marked 'Mixing?' That's where they seem to be fond of injecting people with experimental chemicals."
"And so that's probably our best bet. How tight was security personnel-wise?"
"Differed depending on the time of day. Night times would usually have a couple of guys patrolling every half hour or so, and that's when I was able to get out... plus the added benefit of a handy power cut. Most of the other personnel come in about 9am, though there are a few who get there before that. Lunch is scheduled between 1 and 2pm. And most personnel get off shift at 5. It's pretty business like, except with Lab coats."
"Night would be our best bet. Perhaps around midnight or one in the morning. Alright, we have a time, a means, and a map. Now who's going? I should think no more than three of us, enough that we have back-up but few enough that we can make ourselves inconspicuous. Mother will be manning the computers, and so she is obviously out. I plan on murdering those responsible, and so I'm obviously in. We need two others."
"I'll go." Jade looks determined.
A violent shudder runs up Dave's spine and he shrinks back. "I... I..."
"Oh, /Davey.../" Roxy is suddenly all concern and kisses, moving over to Dave and wrapping her arms around him whilst he gains a "Do not want" expression very quickly. "It's okay; you don't have to go back there even for a second. You can stay with mommy at the computers. It'll be fun!"
"I'd offer, but I think you guys should have at least one responsible adult with you." John gives a timid grin.
That left Dirk.
"Obviously I'm going. Those bastards kidnapped my little bro, I figured it went without saying."
Rose's face is once again buried in her hands. "Tonight, then?"
"Uh, hey, what's this?" John gestures to something on the blueprints.
The entire room simultaneously leans forward. "What's what?"
"They're marked as "Storage" but they don't look big enough to store anything..." John is motioning to twelve small rooms positioned down one corridor.
"Oh those? Holding Cells. That's where they put me if I wasn't being strapped to tables or suspended in giant test tubes." Dave says it so casually, but by the way his shoulders tense...
"...I'm not sure if I was the only one there..."
Jade leans over and squeezes his hand.
Rose tenses. She knew this was a possibility, but honestly... Well, honestly all she wants is to reverse whatever process Dave is undergoing and be done with it, preferably inflicting some pain along the way. But a rescue mission? They have no idea how many people they could be talking about, nor their physical and mental states.
Roxy says what everyone is thinking. "Well we can worry about THAT after we've made sure you're going to be okay, baby." She gives Dave a well intentioned, if rather clumsy kiss on the cheek.
Rose sighs in relief. Thank god for mom.
"Go easy on the boy, Roxy. He's not used to having a half-crazed, drunken mother."
"Hey, who ever said I was half razed? I think you'll find that I am at LEAST 75% batty, Mr!" A grin.
"My bad. Mostly-crazed."
"This has been a rather touching family moment, truly it has, but I was wondering if anyone had any other concerns? Or can we adjourn?"
A long silence. Clearly nobody has anything else to say.
"Well then. I'm going to go sober up." Roxy is suddenly serious as she gets to her feet and picks up her Martini glass. "I'm sure you'll want me at my most coherent for the duration of this thing."
Rose shuts her laptop and smiles. Yes, her mother is...unique, but she's good. "I'm going to see if I can scrounge up some weapons for tonight. Consider yourselves left to your own devices."
Everyone goes off to do their own thing. They have a lot of preparing to do before tonight.
Chapter 8: >Past Dave: Learn how much it sucks to be someone's toy.
In which Dave reaches 413 bottles, and things hurt.
It's been a while since he's arrived. Weeks? Months? Who knows. But he's once again in the strange little room, strapped to the table. But the creepiest part is that he's been lying there for at least an hour completely alone, with nothing but the mysterious IV in his arm for company.
"- Take it down and pass it around, 413 bottles of beer on the wall..." He thumps his head back against the table in boredom and frustration.
The door clicks open and he is greeted by the familiar, cheery voice. "Good morning, David. How are you today?"
"Bored. Can we get a TV in here or something? I'd take Con Air over this blank wall for fuck sake." Thump, thump, thump. "I got all the way to 413 bottles, by the way. You're late."
"Sorry to bore you, sweetheart." She turns back to him, three syringes with different colored liquids in hand. "Are you ready to begin?"
"...What the fuck are those?"
"Now don't you worry your pretty little head about that! I told you, I'm not about to ruin the surprise." She steps forward, jabbing the first syringe into his arm. "Hold still. This might burn a little."
He doesn't dare move, for fear of getting his arm ripped open if he does, so he simply grits his teeth as the sharp, burning sensation spreads from where she injected the chemical. "If my hair falls out I'm holding you personally responsible, looks this good need to be maintained." he quips, but in reality his hair is the LAST of his worries.
She giggles and musses his hair. "No, your hair will be fine. Probably. We'll see. Now then," She takes the next syringe, her tone changing into something a little less sweet, a little less sane, "this one might burn a lot!"
He clenches his fists and his wrists strain against the restraints, but no good.
She plunges the syringe into his arm, farther than she probably should've.
He hisses in pain and bangs his head back against the table again. "Bitch!"
She frowns, ripping the syringe out of his arm and jabbing the third into roughly the same spot. "No need for name-calling. THIS should definitely hurt."
He can't help it, he screams. The burning, itching, BURNING is running right up and down his arm at this point and he feels like he's on FIRE.
She stands back and watches, eyes half-lidded, serene smile on her face. She waits until his screams die down, and then comes back to his side with a scalpel.
And now he's shivering. With the burning sensation gone he suddenly feels extremely cold, almost like ice had been tipped into his veined, replacing the fire that had been there moments before.
"Cold? It's a good sign, believe it or not. You'll probably live. But then again, these things are tricky." She places the scalpel on his sternum, applying just the slightest bit of pressure.
He bites his lip. "Have you ever heard of this magical thing called Anesthetic?" he tries, not with much hope.
"Of course I have. But! It might interfere with everything else. We can't have that now, can we?" She trails the scalpel down his chest and stomach with enough pressure to be menacing, but not quite enough to break the skin.
He shivers again, but this time not from the cold.
"Then I'm obviously not doing my JOB." And suddenly there is a huge gash reaching all the way from the bottom of his stomach to the top of his chest.
Tears sting his eyes and he bites his lip until he draws blood, hissing and cursing and generally hating his life and hating this place and hating HER with a burning passion that rivaled a thousand suns.
"Shh, it's alright." She moves to a corner of the room and comes back with a small table with what looks suspiciously like a dissecting kit spread out on it. "The fun is just getting started."
Chapter 9: >Team: Raid the lab.
In which Rose threatens to put knitting needles through peoples necks, and Roxy is a deranged genius.
It's a chilled night. Not exactly cold, but cool. There isn't a whisk of wind to disturb the few leaves that have already started to fall, as if the night itself is holding its breath. The factory looms above them, pitch black against the night sky and menacing, even to those not privy to its dark secrets.
As they approach the gates there is a ping from Dirks glasses, then the electronic lock clicks open, allowing the gate to be pushed open with a slight creek of its hinges.
This is real, now. They're actually doing this.
The three of them trudge to the back of the building, trying to keep to the treeline despite the darkness. The last thing they need is to be found out.
"How are we looking, Roxy? You got the doors open yet?"
"I'll open them when you get there, if someone comes along and finds them unlocked they'll raise the alarm." comes through the glasses, volume turned down so low probably only Dirk could hear it.
"Smart girl. You kids ready?"
Jade nods, borrowed gun in hand, looking unusually serious.
"As I'll ever be. Shall we?"
They make a break for the door.
A camera follows them as they go, controlled by Roxy. It tilts off to the side slightly, and the moment they reach the door it clicks open.
"We're in. You've rigged the cameras already?"
"Darling, I've had the cameras rigged for HOURS." Roxy chirps happily.
Rose points down a corridor. "The lab should be this way."
The corridor is wide enough for all three to walk side to side and still have room to breathe. Most of the lights are off, save for the occasional one which manages to supply just enough light to navigate by; obviously left on for the convenience of the night patrol. It's still dark enough to be creepy, and with the central heating shut off for the night it's also cold. Colder then outside, easily.
The three of them race down the corridor as silently as possible, Rose leading the way. She stops them in front of a nondescript door. "This should be the lab." She reaches down to open the door...and it's locked. "Of course..."
"That one's key-access only, like, the old fashioned type. I can't get it open for you." Roxy sighs. "...Fuck..."
"Roxy says we're screwed. Any ideas, kids?"
Rose rolls her eyes. "And of course this is the one night that my hair is bobby pin free."
"Wait, so we came all the way here and broke in without a lock-pick, so it's all pointless? Ugh, this is stupid." Jade facepalms.
"On our way back, Rox. Apparently we didn't plan as well as we thought we did."
"...Hang on... There's one guy in a Lab coat in a room not far from you. He might have a Key, or at least you could torture him for information or something." The sound of her fingers drumming against her desk. "It would be something to make this whole shebang a little less... pointless."
"Sweet. Come on girls, we're going to go accost some unfortunate late-working asshole." He leads them to a different room not far away, following Roxy's directions. "Ready?"
Rose nods, readying her knitting needles. Jade tightens her grip on her gun.
"Let's do this." He kicks the door open.
The scientist jumps, startled, ad whips around. Paperwork is sent flying by the motion, and he presses back against his desk, eyes widening. "What the-!?"
Jade has her gun trained on the man as Rose strides forward and traps him against his desk, needles pressed to his neck. "Shh."
Dirk smiles and shakes his head, obviously proud. "Awesomeness has got to be genetic."
"...Christ..." he whimpers, staring at Rose with wide eyes, hands gripping the edge of his desk and heart pounding.
"You will answer all of my questions, understand?"
"I.... yes, okay..." The expression on his face is clear as day to read. It says "This bitch is crazy, who are these people? What are they doing here?"
"Question one: What is the main focus of this 'factory'?"
"...Developing new products for the Empire... Research into psychological control... Experimental genetic engineering to build soldiers..." He swallows, he doesn't seem comfortable saying any of this.
"What sort of success have you found in genetic engineering?"
"...We can manipulate human DNA in living subjects, causing them to take on animalistic qualities from several different species... We are also able to halt the process, though not reverse it..."
"What progress has been made in reversal and how do you halt it?"
"Halting happens once all biochemicals have either made their way out from the subjects systems naturally, if there hasn't been a top up, or once a set of chemical dispersers have been injected into the subjects bloodstream, and had time to work their way through. There has been no progress made toward reversal."
"Shit. Alright. What research has been done on reversal?"
"But do you think it would be possible?"
"Unlikely, the physiological changes to subjects involved are extremely drastic. It would likely take several major surgery's for them to return to any sort of human physic, even if we could get their DNA back to normal."
"Damn it." She motions towards the papers on the floor. "What are these?"
"Paperwork. We lost another subject today and that's always a handful to process," a frown. "One of our more /highly esteemed/ scientists is known to get a little... carried away with her scalpel during physiological exams."
"What are the usual causes of death?"
"Heart failure mid-surgery, accidental skewering of vital organs and Suicide. We try to keep the subjects from being able to get a hold of sharp objects, but sometimes they craft their own."
"Any complications due to physiological augmentation?"
"A few, but it's uncommon. Only one in the last fifty subjects have had this complication, and we believe this was due to using a poisonous variety of snake."
"Good to know. You have keys, yes? Give them to me."
He unhooks his keys from his belt and hands them too her, licking his lips. He's nervous.
"One more thing. Who is overseeing the genetic engineering?"
: "...Her name... is Meenah Peixes..." He licks his lips again. "She's the big boss. Insists on running everything herself..."
"And where do we find her?"
"She won't be here right now, if that's what you mean. I don't know where she lives..."
"I'm doing a background check as we speak~" Chimes from Bro's glasses.
"Alright." Rose withdraws her needles and turns to leave. "You never saw us, got it?"
"Yes ma'am." He bluffs.
"Good." The three of them exit the room, Rose shutting and locking the door behind them. The head back to the lab door.
"This Meenah chicka..." Comes from Roxy's end. "...I'm digging up some VERY interesting little tidbits..."
"How interesting are we talking?"
"Well, she inherited quite the fortune from her parents after they were killed in mysterious circumstances. The case was filed under unsolved. It was supposed to be split between herself and her younger sister; however Miss Feferi Peixes has been classed as Missing for some time."
"Huh. So basically some spoiled rich bitch likes playing with people's genes. Keep digging, the more we know the better."
Rose turns the key in the door-
and then the alarms sound.
Fire doors that are located down the corridors at intervals slam shut, locking. Nothing that can't be broken out of, but each one would take precious minutes to bust open. The few lights that were still on cut out, replaced with a red flashing. The alarm is shrill and constant, enough to make your ears ring and your head hurt.
The door clicks open as the key is turned in the lock, and there's a squawk from Roxy. "Shit, shit! The whole system has locked... Hang on, I'm going to try and hack back in, but it looks like I'll need a password..."
"...Get out of there. Now."
"Come on kids, we're getting the fuck out of here." Dirk takes off down the hallway.
Rose recoils, tucking the key in her pocket and holding her knitting needles at the ready. Okay, yes, she probably should've brought a knife or something, but they're just so convenient...
Jade is wide-eyed, gun at the ready.
Neither of them move.
Dirk's palm meets his face as he jogs back to them. "Girls! Move!" They spring into action and follow him down the hallway.
Getting each fire door open is frustrating, and there are about 30 between where they were and the exit. By the time they get outside, the factory is simply SURROUNDED by security vans, hundreds of people who look for all the world like private hire soldiers creating a blockade and holding up ranged weapons, all of which are trained toward the trio.
One of them speaks over a microphone. "All three of you, put your hands where we can see them!"
They freeze. There is no way they can get through, and they know it.
"Roxy, please tell me you have something up your sleeve."
"Working on it..."
"I said, put your hands where we can see them!"
"Rose, what's the plan?"
"I don't know yet, let me think."
"Any day now, Roxy."
"Well excuse me for not knowing how to hack into a military force! I'm working on a distraction, no promises." She's obviously panicked.
"You have until the count of three to place your weapons on the ground and put your hands into the air! One..."
"Rose, what do we do?!"
"I... I don't..."
"I could charge them, you could make a run for it, but shit, that's a long shot. Damnit Roxy, we are fucked here."
"My fingers can only move so fast!"
A side of the lab seems to explode, florescent green liquid flooding out and enveloping many of the soldiers around that side, before starting to flow across the ground.
They rush for the break in the ranks, Jade keeping her gun levelled at the confusion of soldiers.
"You are an angel and a genius. Please tell me the van is close."
"'S on is way, Dirky~"
Just as they're about to break free of the huddle of confused and fleeing soldiers, a hand wraps around Jade's mouth, and an arm locks around her middle, restraining.
Jade struggles, biting the hand over her mouth and attempting to ram the butt of her gun into the man's stomach. She scratches and claws and fights, but knows it's in vain as the other men close in around her.
Rose and Dirk never look back, never notice.
The van pulls up right next to them, remote controlled by Roxy, and the doors pop open.
Right before they get in, Rose glances behind her to see Jade struggling against her captors. "Jade!"
"Nothing we can do now, get in the van."
"Now." Dirk all but throws Rose into the back and slams the door.
Jade watches in horror as the van drives away.
Chapter 10: >Past Dave: Meet someone new.
In which Meenah is a crazy bitch, and shitty puns are exchanged.
"What the flying fish do you even think you're doing!" She practically shrieks. "Stop this... game or waterver it is! You're being such a guppy! I'm your SISTER for glubs sake!" She's obviously scared, and she doesn't stop resisting, digging her heels in and whimpering as tears slide down her cheeks.
"Shhh, Feferi. You are a prime candidate, you heal so very fast. And you will be a part of history in the making. Just imagine all the good we can do. And you, darling, will be helping to make it a reality. No more tears, now." She pauses outside of the door to the holding cells and wipes a tear off of her sister's cheek. "I'm only keeping you here because you won't cooperate. If you change your mind, then I'll take you home. But until then..." She opens the door and pulls her inside.
"You're insane!" She squeaks, desperately trying to pull back. "What the carp is WRONG with you!?"
"Oh hush, listen to your sister." Meenah pushed her into a cell and removed her handcuffs before locking her in. "You're lucky I gave you the use of your hands back. Good night, Feffy." And with that, she's gone.
She sobs and bangs her fists against the door, repeatedly, as if hoping to knock it open by sheer force alone.
"Doesn't work," comes from the cell opposite. "Believe me, I've tried. You'll just mangle your hands."
She rubs at her eyes and takes a look at the stranger. "How long have you been here?"
"Fuck if I know. I've spent a good portion of it unconscious... At least a month, I'd say."
She sniffles, and wipes away the last of her tears. Misery loves company. "And what the glub has she been doing to you?"
"...I don't want to talk about it..."
"Oh." She hugs her knees. "/Oh/." Pause. "I'm Feferi."
"...Dave. Dave Strider."
"It's nice to meet you. Sort of."
"Heh, yea. So that witch is your sister?"
"Yeah. She's always been a little... strange. But now that mom and dad are gone, she can basically do whatever the glub she wants."
"Oh, you don't have too be nice about it. She's completely off her head. This chick takes immense pleasure DISSECTING people WITHOUT anesthetic. Namely me."
"Oh. Wow. I'm... I'm so sorry."
"Do you think there's any way out?"
Another shrug. "I've tried."
She shudders. "I bet she didn't pike that. Like, I mean."
"...What's with the puns?" Headtilt.
She laughs a little bashfully, tucking a piece of hair behind her ear. "It's an old habit I got into as a kid. I was obsessed with the ocean. I still am, but I've been trying to break myself of the whole pun thing. I guess it was cute when I was a kid, but now it's sort of silly."
A shrug. "Depends where and how you do it... Hell, I could start making terrible bird puns if it would make you feel better. But then, that could be kind of Cheep."
"I don't think getting into a pun-off would kelp anyfin!"
"I must be raven mad, but you know you Dove it." The best part is how he's saying these god awful puns with a completely straight face, and total monotone.
"I don't know what you've been herring, but I am over puns." She manages a smile. "But thanks, Dave. You're a sweetcarp."
"Well, gotta keep some sense of harrier in this place. Keep your sparrows up." a pause. "Okay, those were cawful."
"They were, but that's alright. Just don't make it a halibut. Okay, that one wasn't great either."
"...I'm sorry, I can't keep this up. This isn't even Ironic anymore." He cracks a grin. "I'll leave the punning to the more experienced."
"No, it's alright. Thanks, though. You kind of made me feel a little better."
"Well, misery loves company. I just wish that the witch would give me some sort of internet connection."
"Why is that?"
"Because... my friends are probably worried sick about me, and I miss them." he admits, leaning against the wall and looking down.
"Yeah. Mine will probably be worried too...when they notice I'm gone..."
"They probably already noticed," He reassures. "You'll have search parties out for you in hours. If we're lucky, they might even catch on to what's happened and be able to help."
"Maybe..." She nods. "Yeah. Yeah, I bet we'll be out of here in no time!"
A nod. Then he decides to change the subject to something a little less attached to their current situation. "So, you have any hobbies?"
"Whale, I do some volunteer work and I'm the next in line to inherit Crocker Corp. What about you?"
"I rap, I make this really shitty webcomic, and I'm a practiced swordsman..." And suddenly he just wants to go home.
Chapter 11: >Feferi: Run
In which people smack into each other and Dave goes out without a shirt.
The entire side of the lab was just... gone. Long, finned feet slapped against cement as a feminine figure sprinted down corridor after corridor, getting hopelessly lost. She would simply have jumped out of the hole which had formed in the corner of her holding cell, but it was a few stories up, and she didn't want to risk jumping into the torrent of chemicals that were spilling outside, so she'd simply maneuvered her way into the next room, then made a break for it, hoping to find a way to the ground floor and an alternative exit.
Her black hair streams out behind her, but her speed is greatly hampered by the size and flatness of her feet, which don't seem designed for running at all, and her webbed fingers are clenched tightly into fists as she rounds a corner-
Meenah was less than thrilled. Her lab was blown to bits, the hired help was in complete disarray, not to mention she had been woken up at roughly one in the morning and-
Ow, what the-
Oh for the love of-"Feferi." Her sister's name comes out flatly and her face twists into a snarl as she grabs her wrist. "Really now, where did you think you were going? Did you think you could possibly escape? Now? So far into the experiment? As IF."
She struggles, trying to pull back out of her sister's grip, panting for breath. A set of gills on either side of her neck flutter with each intake of air. "Meenah!" She whimpers. "...PLEASE... I... I want to go home..." Sadface.
"Stop STRUGGLING, Feferi. You'll only tire yourself out." Her grip tightens around Feferi's wrist as she pulls her through the building and outside into the throng of underlings.
She hisses in pain, and has little choice but to follow after her sister into the mess.
Most of the soldiers who had been hit by the chemicals are now gathered in one place, and most are showing signs of being in immense pain. Those not hit are either attempting to help those who are, assessing damage to the lab, or attending to the prisoner.
Speaking of, the captured girl had been handcuffed to one of the soldiers, and was being interrogated by another.
"GET THE HELL OFF OF ME! I'M NOT TELLING YOU A DAMN THING!"
Aaand judging by the way she's struggling, she is going to prove difficult. Meenah lazily gestures towards her. "Could someone please sedate her, THANK you." She hands Feferi off to some guy in a labcoat who will keep her under control if he knows what's good for him and beckons one of her higher-ups to her.
They immediately jump to action, chloroform is applied to the new prisoner, Feferi is dragged away and the summoned high ranking employee hurries over to Meenah with a respectable incline of his head. "My lady?"
"We've completely lost labs 28 and 29, server damage to labs 18, 19, 38 and 39 the holding cells have been compromised, 2 gallons of chemicals have been lost, 47 men have been hit by the escaping fluids."
"I see." She pauses. "Get the subjects into the vans. Then torch the place. We're changing our base of operations. It's not like there's anything important left here anyway."
The van pulls into the driveway, Roxy, Dave and John hurrying outside to meet the others.
Silence falls as only Rose and Dirk get out of the back of the van.
Rose looks shell-shocked, is completely silent.
Dirk brushes past the others and takes Dave by the shoulders. "Okay. I need you to listen to me. I need you to listen and not flip your shit when I tell you this. I need you to remember that right now there is absolutely nothing we can do and acting without thinking won't help anything. Okay?"
"...Where the fuck is Jade?" It's completely monotone, and his lips are a careful, straight set line, but his eyes... his eyes show every bit of churning, crushing FEAR that he's feeling at that moment.
"...Oh my god..." John whispers, his own, much more expressive face crumpling.
Roxy doesn't say anything.
There is a pause, which is actually more like a very long, tense silence. Rose looks dangerously close to losing it.
"...It's going to be okay. We're going to get her back."
Dave chokes back a sob, grabbing a hold of the front of Dirk's shirt with his talons and SNARLLING. "...You left her behind. YOU LEFFT HER BEHIND!?"
"Dave, it wasn't their fault..." Roxy interjects, placing a hand on his shoulder, only for him to lash out at her as well.
"LIKE HELL IT WASN'T!"
Rose has her eyes squeezed shut, her expression suddenly hard to read.
"HEY! It was either her or all three of us. If you have to blame someone, blame me. Yes, I made the decision to leave her, but there was absolutely nothing we could've done. It was over the second it started."
His face contorts through several different emotions; ranging from anger, fear, worry, despair and desperation; before he turns and runs inside, a choking "Cawk" pushing its way up and out of his throat as he goes.
He's not crying. Striders don't cry.
Dirk sighs deeply, but all things considered, he took it better than expected.
Rose still hasn't moved, hasn't spoken.
John pads over to Rose, gently placing a hand on her shoulder, obviously concerned.
She tenses as if she wants to brush him off, but settles for shaking her head.
"...Rose, It's okay... I... It wasn't your fault..." he tries, choking as tears stream down his own cheeks.
"Yes it was." Her voice is soft, but she pulls away before he can argue and heads inside.
"Sweetie!" Roxy takes after her.
Poor John is left standing there, swaying slightly and looking like he's going to be sick. This whole situation...
Dirk walks over to where John stands and puts a hand on his shoulder. "Come on, kid. Let's get inside. No point just standing in the driveway all night."
A nod, and he quietly heads inside. He's suddenly exhausted, but he doesn't think He'll be able to sleep.
Rose barely sleeps at all, and when she does it's fitful. It's her fault. She should've had a plan, she should've actually paid attention, she should've, she should've, she should've. But it's too late, and now one of her best friends is trapped in that horrid factory enduring god only knows what...
She glances at the clock. 8:07 a.m. Time to face life.
She forces herself out of bed and heads for the kitchen.
Dave is slumped over the kitchen table, head resting on his crossed arms. In front of him is the small ring case he still has the unused engagement ring in. His wings are really starting to come through now, and are even starting to develop a downy coating of feathers.
It's hard to tell if he's even awake or not.
She ignores him at first in favour of the coffee pot. What can she say? What is there to say? Nothing. And so she waits by the counter in silence.
His wings spasm a few times and his fingers grip against the table. It appears he's having some rather server growing pains, but he's trying not to show it.
He finally sits up, scooping up the ring in its box and shoving it into a pocket.
He doesn't look at Rose just yet, but his feet shift underneath him a few times, before...
"...Could you help me modify my shirts? I can't get any of them on anymore."
"Yeah. Yeah, okay." They fall into silence again. The coffee finishes brewing and Rose pours both of them a cup before sitting across from him. "Do they hurt?"
"Like a bitch." He picks up his cup and gently blows some of the steam away before taking a sip, his talloned hands curling oddly around the mug.
"It's to be expected, I suppose." She takes her own mug in her hands, but uses it for warmth instead of actually drinking it. "It should be on the news by now."
A shrug. "Maybe."
"I'm going to check it out." It's a sort of half-invitation to follow her and she isn't sure if he'll take it. She stands and walks into the living room, then turns the television on.
What she sees on the screen makes her blood run cold.
He follows, freezing in the doorway as he STARES at the television.
Burnt to the ground. The entire factory. Gone. Not a thing left, not a single wall still standing. All of it, gone.
Rose is at a loss. Things have just gone from terrible to completely unthinkable. She could literally be anywhere and they have no way to track her. And then, she could always NOT be anywhere, if they didn't consider her important, if it would've been easier to just... No, but they wouldn't do that. No. Would they? She knows the answer, and she knows that Jade would be difficult, and she knows that they could've, so easily, but no, no she won't think about that. No.
There is a crash of a mug hitting the floor, and then Dave is out the door. No matter that it's almost winter, and he doesn't have a shirt, or any shoes, and that he's running off on his own with no idea what he's going to do. He's out the door and he's running and running and running and the world is a blur and there's static ringing in his ears and his breath is coming in tight, painful gasps because it hurts and he just wants it all to not be happening.
She starts to follow him, stops, starts again, and then goes to get the broom. Once the shattered mug is cleaned up, she throws her coat on and grabs his, then goes to wait at the end of the driveway. She will give him ten minutes to come back on his own before she goes looking for him, and if he has done even a single thing that could be construed as stupid, she will kill him.
He doesn't. He finds himself running through the forest, unaware of what direction he's going in and for an amount of time that seems both stretched and compressed at the same time. He only snaps back to himself when he finds he is stood in front of the lab, or what's left of it.
Ice runs down his back as he realizes there are several news crews dotted about, and he backs away, toward the cover of the trees. Considering his current state, it would not be a good idea for any of them to spot him...
He is an idiot and now she has to go find him. If he is at the goddamn lab, she is going to murder him. She sighs and peers down the road one last time before getting in the car and heading towards the site of the factory.
He takes another, jerky step backwards, but the cold has finally started to set in and his brain has drawn a complete blank. What... do...?
But he loses all time to think when a bright-eyed young reporter spots him and before he knows what's going on, he has a microphone shoved in his face. "You! Were you here when the factory burnt down?"
"...Obviously I was inside. Isn't it clear from all these epic burns I have going on?" ...What was he even doing?
And suddenly he is being swarmed by reporters from every station, all asking a million questions.
"What do you think of the allegations of arson?"
"Do you have any ties to the factory or Crocker Corp?"
"Are your deformities a direct result of the company?"
Rose pulls onto the side of the road to see her brother surrounded by cameras and microphones. This could definitely be construed as stupid.
"Jesus tits, one at a fucking time!" He takes a shaky step back, swallowing hard. "...Is this live or some shit?"
And then Rose is there, grabbing his arm and dragging him to the car, saying something about how he declines to comment over her shoulder. She manages to get away from them enough to get them both in the car before driving off. "You are a fucking idiot."
He hunches over, head in his hands. "...I'm sorry..."
All of her verbal abuse dies in her throat. There's no point anyway. "You've just made things significantly more complicated." As if that were possible.
"...I know..." Tears sting his eyes. He just... Hates his life right then.
Rose is silent for the rest of the drive. She pulls into the driveway and shuts off the car and doesn't move beyond closing her eyes.
They sit in silence for a few moments, before he reaches across and places a hand on her shoulder.
She opens her eyes, turns to him, considers hugging him, dismisses it. Instead, she puts a hand on his knee.
He gives her shoulder a squeeze.
Her eyes close again and they continue to sit in silence. After a while, she sighs and opens her eyes. "Ready to go face life?"
"Ready as I'll ever be."
They get out of the car and head back inside.
Chapter 12: >Past Dave: Escape
In which Dave's life is a bad sci-fi, and holy shit is this actually a new chapter!?
And we're back! Sorry that it's been so long, unfortunately for everyone I went on a bit of an Ancestors kick, and thus lost communication with my beautiful co-author who is in no way responsible for this delay in the slightest.
His life was a sci-fi horror. A shitty one. As if being strapped to a table wasn't bad enough, he'd been upgraded to floating in weird-ass machines filled with liquid, whilst long tubes pumped even more of god-knows-what-sort-of-chemicals-they're-even-using-this-time into him. He's long since stopped caring that he's been stripped down to literally nothing as he floats here, able to see and be seen by all of the scientists standing around with clipboards and getting data from the various gadgets they have wired up to him. Let them look, he thinks. They're probably impressed by what they see.
This is so Cliché it's actually painful. Or was that the chemicals? Hard to tell, really.
After what seems like forever, the liquid starts to drain off and he finds himself standing, swaying slightly as the front of the container is lifted off and the oxygen mask he'd been wearing is the first thing to be pulled off his face. He's more than a little groggy, and barely feels it when the tubes are pulled out of him, blood seeping down from all the incisions left in his chest and back, and he's presented with some dull cloths and told to get dressed before he gets taken back to his cell.
He's long since learned not to argue, and doesn't even snark about "What, not going to let me dry-off first?" because there is just no point. These people are utterly without humour, it seems. He simply pulls the cloths on before walking up to the guards and letting them grab his arms.
The men dragged him into the hall roughly. Gentle was a thing of the past. Everything in the lab was harsh. The hallway was dim and dreary, grey, and more or less identical to the rest of the building. They dragged him down the familiar path to his cell, just like all of the times before-and then they were plunged into darkness. One of the men cursed and let go of Dave's left arm, while the other starting fumbling with a communicator, cursing.
It takes less than a second for Dave to take the initiative. With his left arm free he slams his weight to the right, looking to crush the guard between himself and the wall. He's moving on instinct more than anything else, four months of captivity not enough to point out the years of strife he'd had with Bro on the roof, all the training, all the preparation he'd been given for a life he'd never thought he'd actually have to live.
The guard hits his head off of the wall and goes down like a pile of bricks. The other guard whirls around wildly, trying to figure out where Dave is and how to get a hand on him, but it's too dark and he only manages to trip over the first guard. There is some shouting, and then red emergency lights go on. It's only a matter of time before the alarm sounds with it to signify his escape.
Dave stomps down with his heel on the second guards head, able to see him because of the red light, then stoops and goes through their pockets. "Keys... keys... Where are your goddamn... Bingo." The ring of keys are smaller than he expected, and he only recognizes one that'll fit into the cell doors but... maybe it's a master key or some shit? Whatever. He takes off down the corridor toward the holding cells, with an aim to get out as many of the poor fuckers locked up with him as possible.
Heart pounding and adrenalin rushing through his veins, he skids to a halt in front of Feferi's cell first and jams the key into the lock...
...And it won't turn.
Feferi shot upright and rushed to the front of her cell. She felt her heart leap when she saw Dave, free and working to save her as well...only to have her hopes dashed when the key wouldn't turn. And then the alarm went. "You need to go. Now."
"No, fuck that, I can't just leave you to these mad people, you're the one keeping me sane..." He tries a different key, but the others just will not even go in the lock. He looks up, desperate eyes locking onto hers. "...Feferi..."
"Dave. Go. It's okay." Never mind the tears threatening to spill out of her eyes and that fact that he's about to leave her all alone. She can already hear the footfalls of the guards rapidly approaching, and if he doesn't get his ass in gear, he'll be just as stuck as she is. And she doesn't want that. She reaches through the bars and takes his hand, almost wanting to pull him forward and kiss him, but no, he has someone waiting for him at home, so she settles for this. "You have to go. It's okay."
Striders don't cry, but fuck if he doesn't want to. "...I'll get help, I'll get you out of here. This isn't goodbye It's... a sea you soon." He gives her hand a squeeze, before turning and legging it in the opposite direction of the footfalls he can hear echoing down the hallways. Blood is staring to spread through his shirt from where the exertion is causing the slits on his chest and back to bleed but he doesn't care. He has only one thought in mind right now: Out.