Discussion in 'The Queen of Cups' started by mek, Aug 22, 2016.
Happy Fun Times with @Katters and @Vivi
Katters’ shoe squeaks as she makes her way down the hall, a minor distraction from the work at hand. It and her footsteps echo behind her, competing with nothing in the mostly empty building.
She’s clocked in early, again.
The lights are dim — will remain dimmed until actual office hours; something about saving power, doing their part for the environment, whatever — and some of them flicker in a way that gives Katters a headache if she tries to read during the trek. This doesn’t stop her, she’s nose-deep in a manila folder until she’s forced to look up and swipe her ID at the lab door.
The lab has better lighting, and a worse echo.
She makes her way to her workstation — her workstation, she thinks and a grin cracks across her face — and drops her things on her desk. She resumes reading her assignment while switching her jacket for a lab coat.
CH-FP-3059-B. One of two specimens captured earlier in the week, so new it’s still in a transport cell. And it’s all hers — hers, and Baines’, and Noel’s, but mostly hers. And if she figures out how to turn the specimen into a profit, they’ll give her even more subjects to play with and turn into even more profits. That’s a win/win/lose, and the lose doesn’t count because who ever cares about whether or not the specimens are happy?
She gathers up the file and heads to containment.
The noises had come suddenly, all sorts of shouts and leaves being crushed underfoot and rough ragged breathing. The poor thing being chased was clearly exhausted, slowing as it came into view, but Vivi's pity was cut short by the realization that if whatever was coming saw her - she would be next. She took off through the woods, the panic rising in her throat making it harder for her to focus on not making a sound. This couldn't be happening, this couldn't be happening, she was supposed to be safe alone.
Her head jerked up at the sound of a scream cut short in the distance and she forced herself to speed up. She would not go back, never never never the footsteps quick behind her getting louder and suddenly -
She's sure that's how it happened, and she's awake now but her eyes aren't open yet; she's not ready to see where she is. She lies still, not comfortable in the position she's in but not wanting confirmation that she can't move.
She was supposed to be safe in the woods.
The subject CH-FP-3059-B came in with must have already been moved to a permanent cell, because there’s only one occupied temp this morning. It’s half-full of what appears to be a young, human female — but by now Katters has learned that young, human females are not always what they appear to be.
It’s sleeping. Or knocked out. Or pretending. Katters knocks on the cell door, peering in through the observation window. “Hey,” she says, sugar in her voice. “Are you okay?”
Nope. That voice is too sweet to be real; she can't trust it. She tries to keep her breathing even instead, resisting the urge to squeeze her eyes tighter shut.
Katters waves the guard over — a tall Asian woman she doesn’t recognise, whose ID reads ‘I. Darmadi’. It’s nearing the end of the guard’s shift and she doesn’t look pleased to have Katters around, making her do work.
“I need this open and the subject restrained,” Katters tells her. She tries to sound official, but she’s excited to be the one bossing people around, for a change.
The guard doesn’t look impressed. She peers at Katters’ ID, then the plate on the cell, making a show of checking Katters’ credentials before unlocking and opening the door.
Vivi's eyes shoot open and she scrambles away from the door. She knows it won't help, but she presses herself into the corner anyway, curling one hand into a fist so she can try to fight.
The guard fills the door before she steps into the cell, approaching the girl and grabbing her arm.
Katters hovers just outside, trying to see around the guard while staying well out of the way.
When the guard pulls Vivi up, she tries to kick her but only succeeds in ending up off balance. The guard's grip is too tight; she drops to the ground suddenly to try and get the guard to let go, even for a moment.
The girl almost slips out of the guard’s hand, but the guard tightens her grip and grabs the girl’s other wrist. She twists her around so she’s facing forward and presents the subject to Katters.
“They never can just cooperate, can they?” Katters says as she approaches. She sets the case she’s been carrying down, out of reach of the girl’s feet, and opens it.
When she stands back up, she’s holding a pen-like tool and a wet cotton ball. She swabs the girl’s upper arm, then jabs the still damp spot with the biopsy punch, cutting away a small cylinder of skin. She wipes the spot again, smearing blood over the girl’s arm and getting alcohol in the wound.
She bends back down, putting the punch away, and this time when she stands she’s holding a syringe. She wipes the girl’s inner elbow with a new cotton ball, and, again without giving the alcohol a chance to evaporate, sticks the girl with the needle and draws her blood.
“That’s it,” Katters says, removing the needle. She’s talking to the guard, not CH-FP-3059-B. She puts the syringe away and comes back with gauze pads and tape.
She doesn’t bother wiping away any more of the blood before bandaging the girl’s new wounds, but at least the bleeding will stop.
Katters gathers up her things and exits the cell. The guard pushes the girl against a wall before leaving, herself, closing and locking the door behind her.
Vivi wraps her arms around herself and sinks to the floor. "Fuck!"
At least it's not...no, this is even worse. At least there she had space to grow, a place to keep roots in. This place is cold and all plastic and metal and concrete. No trees. No dirt. She's all alone, and her elbow hurts. No, this is definitely worse.
She curls up in the corner and tries to think of a way out, anything, but it isn't very long before more guards come and then everything goes blank again.
When she comes to, everything is different. The walls look like glass; the cell is less bare. She hates it. She's vulnerable and exposed, both things that are very not good.
She's going to be here forever.
She doesn't even realize she's swinging her fist until it makes contact with the wall. She clutches it to her chest almost immediately as pain swells up in her hand. The tears she's been holding back burst out and she wipes at her eyes angrily, trying desperately to keep some semblance of control.
Later in the day, the lab is busy, full of people hard at work — including Katters, and Izzy Baines, one of her underlings.
“I’ve found ferulic acid in the skin sample,” Baines says from the other side of the workstation. He’s a beanpole of a man and has to hunch to use the equipment.
“Great,” Katters says. “We can boil Thirty-Fifty-Nine down into an anti-ageing cream.” She sighs, pinching the bridge of her nose. “Confirms it’s one of those plant people, I guess, that’s a start.”
It’s been a long day of not much, and they’re starting to run out of samples.
“I’ll see what else I can isolate,” Baines says. “Maybe we can pin down what kind of plant it is.”
“You do that. I’ve got five bucks on peanut person.”
Baines grins. “I’ll take that.”
“I’m not getting anything useful from the blood, yet,” Katters says. “But, frankly, I don’t expect results until tomorrow, if that.”
“If you find any peanut butter in it, let me know.”
“You’ll be the first to hear it.”
Hours pass. The pain fades enough that she can push it to the back of her mind, as long as she doesn't move her hand. It's still cradled against her chest, but that's mostly so she remembers not to move it. She's stopped crying, and started looking around the cell. It's bigger than the last one, and there's a bed in the corner of her vision. If she turns the other way, she can see a toilet with a thin curtain pulled to the side. It's all white and sterile and impersonal. There are probably hundreds more cells exactly like it all around wherever she is. Fuckers.
She falls asleep where she is, not trusting the pain to stay bearable if she gets up to move to the bed.
This time, the guard who comes into CH-FP-3059-B’s cell and holds her down is a man, but the procedure is otherwise the same. Katters jabs instruments into the girl’s bruised flesh, collecting and squirrelling away the samples she needs.
She’s about to leave again when something catches her notice.
“What happened to its hand?” she asks the guard, who shrugs. “How long has it been like that?” she asks again, and gets another shrug in return.
She turns instead to the girl. “What happened to your hand?”
There’s no sweetness this time. Her tone is harsh, the question almost a demand.
Vivi glares up at her. "I was practicing for when I get to punch your face in." She tries to wriggle away from the guard but winces when her hand shifts and the pain comes back with a vengeance.
Katters’ mouth twitches. She grabs the girl’s hand and presses against her palm with a thumb, rolling the digit against the bones.
“Well,” she says, and lets go. “Practice better.”
She leaves, taking the case of samples and supplies with her, and the guard soon follows her out.
She manages to wait until they're gone before she starts shouting, screaming profanity after profanity at the wall. That asshole fucking fucked with her hand! That fucking hurts!
Baines catches up with Katters as she heads to the workstation.
“The extract is having anti-hemolytic effects,” he tells her. “I think we’re looking at something in the Apiaceae family.”
“You got that from anti-hemolytic?”
“No, the skin sample. The anti-hemolytic is yours, from the blood extract.”
Katters nods. “Apiaceae,” she says. “I don’t suppose peanuts belong there?”
Tansy Noel is waiting for them at the station with a cup carrier full of coffee. “Ooh,” she coos. “More samples! Must be Christmas!”
“Got ‘em special for you,” Katters says.
Baines whines exaggerated disappointment.
“Yeah, well, maybe you should start bringing me coffee,” Katters says and takes a cup.
Baines takes the second. “That’s fair.”
“So, I need to confirm,” Noel says, “but I’m seeing estrogenic effects from what little samples y’all left.”
Katters frowns. “That doesn’t sound like peanuts, either. I’m starting to think you two are working against me.”
“No one wants it to be peanuts,” Baines says. “Peanuts are not going to get anyone a promotion.”
“You’ve got a point, there. Thirty-Fifty-Nine is sounding pretty useful, though, so far — this is not a report I’m dreading, tell you that much.”
“Should we start testing for efficacy?” Noel asks.
Katters sips her coffee. “Nah,” she says. “There’s no rush — we’ve still got forty kilos of samples left. Keep trying to narrow things down, Thirty-Fifty-Nine might have more secrets for us to find.”
Vivi is sitting crosslegged on the floor with her injured hand resting on one leg. No one is going to miss her; no one is going to come get her. She hasn't interacted with anyone in at least a year beyond pleasantries - except for the doctor, here, and she doesn't count. She'd kept to the woods, and as far as humans are concerned, that's asking to get cut up and shoved into a shallow grave. Maybe if she'd actually stayed somewhere longer than a week....but that's all in the past now, and she had been just some nameless drifter without I.D. Fuck, she hadn't even interacted with the other goddamn drifters. She really was alone.
She's alone here, too, wherever here is. With her luck, it's probably some goddamn underground bunker with miles and miles of security built for keeping people like her in. And it's probably idiotic to think that they're just going to poke at her every so often; sooner or later they're going to either give up and kill her, or find something interesting and do worse things. The former seems like too much to hope for, so it's just a matter of time before these fuckers start ramping up the inhumanity.
She moves her hand without thinking and it's another long stretch of time before she gets back to thinking properly.
She's probably only been here a couple of days; she's only now starting to get really thirsty and it'll be a little longer before it starts really affecting her, but she's sure she's starting to wilt. The lights are too hot, too constant, and she hasn't had any water since before she got shoved into this fucking cage. And now that she's thinking about it, it's really bothering her. No water means no energy, and no energy means she can't try to fight.
Surely they wouldn't deny her water?
No, she can't be sure of that, but they're not going to just let her die. Not so soon, and especially not once they find out what she's made of.
“Shit!” Katters barks suddenly. She’s been working for hours, going over the results of the tests and looking for anything that might have gotten overlooked.
Noel looks up from her mice. “What? Did someone fuck up?”
“No, I just remembered — the specimen hurt its hand, I need to doctor it.”
Katters stands, heads for the first aid kits. “I don’t know why it hurt itself, because it’s an idiot, I guess.”
“No, I mean, who cares?” Noel follows her, curious. “There’s more important things to be doing than nursing a specimen, for crying out loud.”
Baines stays at the workstation. “She’s got a point.”
“Sure,” Katters says, “and when it gets an infection and dies we can all get fired for wasting company resources, that’ll be fun.”
“So treat the infection,” Baines says.
Kit in hand, Katters passes the workstation on her way back toward containment. Noel stops there.
“An ounce of prevention,” Katters says.
She gets back to containment without issue, though the day guard — ‘S. Falk’ — is confused by her return.
“Gotta take care of our things,” Katters tells him. “Or we might lose them.”
“Fair enough,” he says — though he sounds more bored than convinced — and unlocks CH-FP-3059-B’s cell.
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