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Act Two: Prodromal

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TUESDAY, JUNE 28, 2270, 1PM | A1, OLD MIAMI - ATLANTIS | THE MOONLITE BOTTLE BREWPUB

Sutton’s back at the end of the bar, cheek resting on their knuckle while the other hand moves with a determined rhythm to scratch through the counter, watching the news play on the screen in the corner.  

“The death toll at the Southern Integration Center continues to rise after a massive outbreak last week.” 

The reporter stands before pictures of sick splices shuffling through cramped dorms. “ Questions have been raised about containment procedures within the TO quarantines, with many Transgenic Rights groups calling for criminal investigations into what they believe to be a deliberate purist attack. Some are even citing rumors of bioterrorism against ICs in the first years of Proscription, though substantial evidence of such an attack was never found.” 

“Turn that shit off!” a patron shouts. Sutton’s eyes stay on the screen.

“A glimmer of hope in tragedy, widespread infection in the Southern IC has yielded more evidence of transgenic immunity. In light of these recent developments, many organizations that had previously shied away from the Containment Act’s tenant of observation are now petitioning for a chance for a closer look at these very special cases-”

The channel changes, and a Circus match plays. Two masked combatants, deemed Harpy and Grimace by the versus ribbon across the bottom, are beating the shit out of each other. Sutton’s eyes fall back to the bar. 

A glass of amber liquid slides into view, and they flinch at first. They look up to see Valentino, the other bartender. 

“You look like you need it.” 

“I-uh, wait…” Sutton fumbles with their pockets. “I don’t have any, uh-”

He waves them off, stepping away to greet a new customer. “It’s on me.” 

Sutton’s gaze falls back to the glass. They pull it closer, staring into the ripples until they settle...then take a drink. 

 

TUESDAY, JUNE 28, 2270, 3PM | O6 - CREST | FLORIDA UNIVERSITY RESEARCH CENTER

Sutton stumbles into the lobby, white mask on and hood up, moving quickly past the main desk and glancing over their shoulder every two seconds. They move through the halls, past researchers and lab techs, to the door of O’Neal’s office. With one last furtive glance over their shoulder, they slip inside.

O’Neal is standing at her desk, jacket on and mask in hand, slipping a datapad into her bag. She looks up as the door closes, and drops everything. 

“Sutton?” She moves around the desk. “Sutton! Where have you been?” 

“H-hi, Dr. O’Neal, it’s uh, good to see you! I, uh-”

“You’ve been missing for over a month.”

“Eeyeah, that’s, uh, kind of why I’m here.” 

“The police came asking questions about you...” She steps away from Sutton, moving to the phone on her desk. “We should notify them. Have you talked to your mother?”

“No!” Sutton jumps forward, slamming a hand down on the phone. “...Plea-uh, please don’t.”

O’Neal backs off, watching them with pinched confusion.

“Look, professor, I-” They take a deep breath, standing up straight and brushing their hair back. “That lab, the one you referred me to...how, uh, how much did you know about it?”

She gathers herself, looking Sutton over, expression reserved. “...I knew they were trying to solve the epidemic, even if it meant...bending the law a little.”

Sutton’s expression breaks. They let out a breath, then another, looking to the ceiling as they laugh humorlessly. 

“Sutton…” O’Neal steps forward cautiously. 

They hold up a hand. “No-no, no, I’m fine, it’s just, uh...”

“Sit down.” 

“I don’t need to-”

Sit. ” 

Sutton reluctantly sinks into the chair. “They were doing a bit more than bending… they’re killing people. The virus, it-it’s their fault.” 

O’Neal leans back against her desk. “What happened?”

“...I worked on a suppressant. We didn’t make a whole lot of progress, but it was...something. Me, a-and the team they put me with, they...we slowed it down, managed to stall it in stage one.”

O’Neal blinks. “Sutton, that’s...amazing.”

“I mean, I- it-it was-” A broken little piece of sad pride edges onto their face, then falls away. “It’s not saving any lives, you just die slower...You can buy it. There’s a, uh, drug dealer, in High Water, lives in an abandoned theater. They’re testing it, I guess, I don’t know, they’ve got a puppet and-and-” Sutton drops their head into their hands. “I don’t know…”

“Sutton...where have you been?”

“Hiding. They’re trying to kill me, if you can believe it. I can’t go home, can’t tell my mom I’m not dead or I’ll probably be dead, I just have to get a new identity and run away… ” Hysteria edges into their tone as they laugh again. “Or maybe, you know what, maybe since we’ve got their assassin locked in the fucking elevator, I’m safe!”

O’Neal who had stepped forward with hovering hands, seemingly debating a comforting touch, pauses. “What?”

“The super soldier they use to kill people, they-we trapped him in the elevator, I guess , and-and-Oh god, I sound insane.” They drop their head again, deflating as the manic energy slips away. They rub their face, their breathing tight. “No, no. No. I am here for a reason, I-”

Sutton takes a deep breath, standing suddenly. They turn to O’Neal, quivering lips pressed to a hard line. 

“...There’s a suppressant in High Water, used to be the Calvary Theatre. It doesn’t-there’s no vectors or anything, so you or-or someone could try and-and make it better, buy some time maybe...Look at the sirens. They...something happened with the virus, when the sirens got it. It mutated or something, antigenic shift, I think, with, with…” Sutton rubs their temples. “I don’t know, maybe a picornavirus.”

“...A picornavirus with what?” O’Neal asks, having settled back against her desk as Sutton collected themself. 

“A bioweapon, the lab they, they made a bioweapon and incubated it with sirens, or...Impetus made a bioweapon and I’m pretty sure it’s killing everyone.” 

The only sound for several moments is the hum of the air conditioner. O’Neal frowns at her feets. “You’ve...certainly given me a lot to think about.”

“You believe me, right? I know it, I mean, I know it sounds-”

“I believe you.”

Sutton whole-body sighs in relief. 

“Are you safe?”

“...No. Not, uh, here, at least, I should go.” Sutton makes for the door then spins on their heel, back to O’Neal. “I’m sorry, just-would you... Can you-”

“I won’t waste your efforts.”

Sutton nods at her, then to the ground. “Thanks. Thank you... sorry.” 

They duck out the door, leaving O’Neal staring after them. 

 

WEDNESDAY, JULY 1ST 2270 | THE REEF - SOUND TOWER APARTMENTS

Frogger sits upright in bed, legs tangled in blankets and heavy breathing in his ears. 

Frogger?”

He stares into his lap, frowning, brow pinched in confusion. 

“Frogger!”

He jumps, jerking to face his computer. Izar’s full screen, looking back at him with concern and confusion far outpacing his own. She’d called his name more times than he’d heard. 

“What’s wrong?”

Frogger laughs with a sharp, humorless edge. “I’m sick.”