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For by now I could have put forth my hand and struck you and your people with pestilence
Dramatis Personae

Leo, Rosalyn, Wendy


"It's a sadder sight than me last family reunion." (Set in the Blackburn TP-Prometheus facility.)


<PRO> Defectory - Blackburn Research Facility

The sign by the door says "Refectory", though the "R" has at some point in the past been re-written with a permanent marker to a "D", and then been subject to a half-hearted attempt at cleaning. It's one of the larger rooms on this level, tiled with the same variegated pea-green linoleum throughout, its walls clean but bare of any decoration or relief for the eyes. The floor space is mostly taken up with long, rectangular tables with attached bench seating, a stainless steel counter at one end serving up bland, often overcooked, but reasonably nutritious food day in and day out. The acoustics are awful in here, rendering mealtimes loud and the occasional fights that break out here even louder.

Breakfast time is often a quiet affair but today it's rowdy. A fight has broken out at a central table, complete with thrown food and trays used as (only marginally effective) blunt weapons. Guards with not quite enough coffee in them have not been in an immediate rush to step in, delayed and overly casual about the weapons they wield to bring the unruly labrats back into compliance.

Through this, Wendy has taken her food and is slipping off to a quieter table. One with less food flying around, maybe less chance of taking stray scrambled eggs to the face (she already has some splattered onto her scrubs, which she's brushing off disdainfully) or a tray to the head. She heads for one of the quietest tables in the cafeteria, plunking herself down there to first eye the fight and then her tray of soggy french toast and goopy eggs with resignation.

Leo's table is usually quiet, not a lot of people lining up to eat by him. Today is no exception, and he looks up from the copy of Field & Stream magazine that he's had open on the table beside him ('How to Build Your Best Hunting Arrow', the article says.) He is, at least, not covered in any particularly gruesome external signs of death today; he's just too pale, kind of exhausted, lingering pockmarked scars dotting his arms. He looks to Wendy, then back down to the magazine. "Do you know what started that?"

Somehow Rosalyn manages to collect her tray of food and walk right past the brawl almost totally unimpeded. Aside from a brief moment when a lab rat stumbling from the trouble aims to take a swing at her, receives a cold dead smile in return, and thinks better of it.

She slides her tray onto the table, then seats herself alongside Leo and Wendy. No pause to ask for permission. She doesn't even turn to watch the fight. "They call this a bleedin' riot," she exclaims shaking her head. "It's a sadder sight than me last family reunion."

"We've all been locked in a tiny cage together for months on end, is what caused it." Wendy shrugs one slender shoulder and reaches for her juice. "Does it really matter? People will be on edge." Her eyes sweep over Leo as she sips at the cranberry juice. "You're looking a bit better. Will they start you on something new, soon?" The curl of her smile is very small. "I thought my family was a lot, but we just argue about board games and books. My uncle got into a fistfight once about The Yiddish Policemen's Union, but that was sort of an outlier."

"Something different soon. Probably. Most of these things aren't new. I've had malaria a dozen times now. They tell me I've helped make some important progress in treating ebola and TB. I guess that's --" Leo's voice is flat. He hasn't looked up from the magazine article. "Something. I'm learning so much about the difference between arrow -- fletching -- methods. Do you think we could convince them on some magazine subscriptions that aren't about hunting?" There's not a lot of optimism in this question.

Rosalyn can't help but lean in to check out the article. "Ah I dunno," she muses. "All those pictures of the outside. Kinda nice don't yah think?" She shrugs. "There was a story going round about a guy who tried break out of prison by making a crossbow out of wet magazines and underwear elastic."

"I remember me great uncles stag do. There was talk about putting him in a fake bomb vest for a laugh. But that side of the family was always a little more..." She takes a spoonful of her breakfast. A bowl of some sort of cereal. Or it could be a really weak porridge. It's rather hard to tell what it is except milky and grey-brown. "Volatile."

"An underwear crossbow? How successful was that?" Despite herself, Wendy is leaning over the table to peer toward the magazine, too. "It will be nice to see trees again. Maybe we could ask for Nat Geo?" She sounds a little wistful. "Sounds like your family might have given you some practice at fisticuffs even before you got here, huh?" She glances, briefly, over to where the fight has come to a definite middle -- people are now angrily heckling the guards who have intervened, but with the addition of batons and tasers in the mix there's a lot more shouting than active assault. "Leo --" Her voice is lower, her attention down on the magazine page as she slices off a corner of French toast, "if they take you up again soon, you could make sure your guards got sick too, right? I mean -- in the next few days."

"I would kill for Nat Geo or Nature in here." Leo traces a fingertip against one glossy page, turning it to a wide panorama of a river flowing through a stark golden-grassed tundra. The article that follows is about opening up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling. "Fake bomb vest? Is getting shot by police a -- a good time?" He stares at a smaller image of a caribou cow and its calf that comes halfway down the opposite page. "What kind of sick?"

"Oh I've been doin' a lil amateur boxing since I was a lass," Rosalyn admits with a narrow grin. "Wet a bunch o' magazine pages, press 'em down and dry it with salt. You can make a shiv... This place... It ain't run like a prison and the guards don't seem to know half the things they should be watchin' out for. If it weren't for the cameras in our cells that riot'd be a bloodbath." She turns to Leo. "Not out in public. Just for when he woke up."

"I don't think the guards here care about all that much. Not even their own protocols. Seem to have less immediate oversight than some of the other labs I've been in. I guess that's sometimes blessing and sometimes curse. We can get away with a lot -- but so can they." Wendy drags her toast through some of the drizzle of syrup on her plate, and chews it over slowly. "Something that'll take them out of commission or at least slow them down through -- this coming weekend, I think."

Leo doesn't look up from his eggs, but he does hesitate, gaze locked on the pictures of the Yukon tundra. "This weekend." His echo is very slow. "I could -- try to -- cook something up. Are we -- should we -- do you --" He doesn't finish this thought. He squeezes his spoon hard, and takes another quick bite.

"I'm pretty damn sure doin' whatever they bleedin' like is their protocol," Rosalyn points out in between bites of her breakfast. "I wonder.. You think they keep any coffee creamer in the kitchens?" She gives Leo another glance, then frowns down at her food. "The longer we all wait the more chance things have for changing. And not for the better." She frowns and her eyes narrow. "At least I hope I'm invited along as well..?"

"You're not wrong on that." Wendy gives a very small smile to Rosalyn. "And the guards have lightened coffee so there must be some somewhere." She's picking her way steadily and unenthusiastically through the soggy bread on her plate. "Of course. If we do this right, we'll all get out. Everyone who wants to, anyway." Her brows crease. "If anyone's keen on staying, I won't force them. Just not likely to tell them about it ahead of time either. Some people here seem to have some kind of Stockholm syndrome with these creeps."

Leo has flipped through the magazine again. Now he's slowly, carefully, tearing out one of the pages. Lining up its edges very carefully, folding it precisely so that just one large image -- a largemouth bass swimming through some underwater greenery and partially-submerged branches -- remains in view. His fingers press slow and precise along the folded edges of the paper. "I have a feeling after all they've done here, if I get out of here they won't --" he starts, but just looks down at the photograph. Nods slowly. "-- The weekend. I'll do it. Just don't leave me behind."

Rosalyn turns to glance around, making sure none of the guards have moved closer during the scuffle. "If we get out of here I know a guy who knows a guy that can get people on a boat over to Ireland. For a price anyway. Might take a bit o' convincing if you're always contagious without the dampener on though."

"I guess that's a problem future us can deal with." Wendy finishes the last of her food, draining her juice after. "I haven't given a lot of thought to life after here. Being fugitives from a government torture program still sounds like a step up from being inmates in a government torture program, though." She sets her cup down on her plate, standing up with her tray. "I won't. Just be ready."