Absorbed Into Insanity (Peregrine x Tinder)

Discussion in 'THREAD ARCHIVES' started by Peregrine, May 25, 2014.

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  1. And the world burned around him.

    It crashed into the ground, burrowing deep into the muck, and from it came the darkness. It roiled like magma, seeping and invasive, coating everything it touched. It coated him, as well, rolling over his limp form, and when it had finished with that it sank into him, burrowed in through his mouth and nose and eyes and every pore in his body, deeper and deeper inside of his very being, until the abyss that surrounded was inside of him as well. It left him empty, infinite, black.

    He rejected it, tried to push it back out of himself, but it felt like trying to tear away his own heart. It clung to him with sticky tendrils, and every chunk that he ripped away would be picked back up by the black strands that roiled around him, and every time it left him weeping, screaming in pain, desperate, as though he was killing his best friend. As though he was killing himself. Yet still he tried. He had to try. It was wrong, this thing inside of him. It should not exist. And it had been his duty to destroy it. Now, destroying it might very well destroy himself.

    Would he welcome that? This was his life, and he couldn’t say that he hated it. In fact, despite all the challenges he had faced, he loved the thought of every moment dearly. Perhaps not the reality of every moment, but the thought, the most basic idea, of losing one moment to which he had a right, be that moment valuable or not, was horrendous.

    Yet the darkness inside of him dictated that he should not exist, simply should not be. But he rejected that nothingness, rejected the void that tried to consume him. He filled it with memories, the sweet taste of childhood, honing his skills, even the bitter memories of those strange moments when his parents no longer seemed to love him, no longer seemed to look at him as though he was their child. But the void was infinite, and as many memories as he poured into it, of warmth and the feeling of shelter that came from being curled up in the blankets of his bed, of the pure living scent of spring as the gardens that filled his yard burst into joyous life, of the pain of injury and the pleasure of being loved, they all got reduced to nothing, to the tiniest pinpricks of light in an infinite darkness.

    And he was left alone, empty, infinite.

    He could not even have told himself where he was at this point. The world seemed to warp and bend, twisting around until he was staring at the back and the front of his own head, until he was looking down at the buildings and was strolling along the grains of wood within the trees. He wanted to clamp his hands over his eyes, but when he tried that it seemed to make no difference. The only thing that changed was that he could now feel the exact shape and texture of his eyes, pressing into the palms of his hands.

    He knew he was still moving. The feel of his own body was one of the only things that kept him stable, kept him upright and traveling. The flames burned around him still, but he knew they were his own, personal psychosis. He wanted to smash them, to make them vanish, and vanish with that the pain of those final moments with his family. But fear kept him paralyzed, kept him from acting, because there was no guarantee that even a touch of anger wouldn’t have the same disastrous consequences, wouldn’t make the flames leap higher and bring the world crashing down around him.

    He saw the car, recognised its presence flying towards him. But he lost the significance, could no longer determine what exactly that meant. And the echoing sound of the horn only blended together into all the other noise. He felt it collide with his body, could feel himself flying forwards. It was with a little bit of sympathy that he caught the thoughts of the person who had hit him. The woman certainly didn’t need this.

    Wasn’t there supposed to be some form of cease when the body broke? Wasn’t there supposed to be a drifting away, a blanking out? But the world stayed firmly in place around him. Even though he knew his eyes were closed, knew that he couldn’t have moved his body even if he wanted to, there was no rest. He would have given anything to be able to rest.

    But all he could be was awake, alone, empty.

    They kept him in the hospital for three days, desperately trying to find a way to manage him. He could feel their frustration; it ripped into him like a scalpel and left him bare and bleeding, but he could not do anything to stop it. They could never understand how much they pressed on him, even when they left him alone. They blended together with the twisting world, warped together into a many headed monster that leered at him from every side.

    And the outside world tempted him. It beckoned, gleaming, tried to lure him away. Lure him in. When he finally answered the call, slipped out of his own little cell right through the cracks in the locked door, he very nearly didn’t go back. He hated that place, with its constant hum of the far-too-bright lights that flickered overhead, sending spears that ripped into every corner, into every surface, with the people who didn’t know how to leave him alone, with the fading heartbeats of the wounded that he knew he could aid, but could never truly heal. At least out there he was alone with his darkness. Here its tentacles stretched towards everyone, wanting to envelop them as well, and it was only through sheer force of will that he kept it all within himself, even as he teetered, moments from spilling over.

    One of the staff who was on break saw him walking away, and guessed from the state of his clothes that he was not supposed to be leaving. The nurse walked towards him, clearly intending to stop him, but he stopped her before she could even get close. One moment she was conscious, the next she was crumpling to the ground, unconscious.

    It took a few more steps before he too was floored by the reality of what he had just done. The darkness did not feel, it did not care, it simply was, something powerful, empty, and infinite. He had told himself that he was nothing like it, that the fact that it was inside of him did not make it a part of him. Yet here he was, flicking people aside with no more concern than he would pay to a grain of sand. His body crumpled, falling to the ground only a few feet away from the nurse. But his mind didn’t stop. The darkness would not let him rest.

    They decided later that he had attacked her, knocked her unconscious, even though they could find no signs of trauma. It was as though her brain had simply ceased to work for a couple of seconds, but that was not a valid option by the laws of their science. They decided he was dangerous, and clearly mentally unstable. They kept everyone as far away from him as possible while waiting for clearance to transfer him to a nearby facility, which was experienced in handling dangerous psychotics. He was fine with that. He wanted them all to stay away. If they stayed far away, perhaps he would not hurt them. They never were able to diagnose them. After all, he never spoke a word. But it would be the facility’s duty to handle him now.

    The facility was warm, especially compared to the cold, sterile whiteness of the hospital, but it was a strange kind of warmth, that of insanity rubbing against itself in a pitiful hope to create fire. He settled into the back corner of his new room and set about learning how to dismiss everything around him from his attention. The doctors were the easiest. He had been familiar with the inner workings of a human mind since early childhood, and he had already gone through all of the necessary trials of learning how to control that ability. And so he ignored them, to their ever increasing frustration. They could not help him if he wouldn’t talk to him, they would say. They would try and find any sort of stimulus that might drag him out of his shell. But he had far more important matters to attend to than their desires.

    He wished that they would leave him alone, like the others at the hospital had. Because sometimes he lashed out without thinking, wishing they would simply leave him alone. Once, he accidentally exploded the lamp in the ceiling, and a sharp sliver of glass sliced open the cheek of the nurse who was trying to get him to eat. Another time, one of the doctors kept walking into the walls in his room, completely convinced that the spot was the door out of the room. The man was given five days leave, and told to rest. He didn’t want to hurt and confuse them. It would be better if they left him alone. Maybe then, in those moments when the repressed darkness finally surged out of his control and splattered all over the walls, no one would get hurt.
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  2. The café was bustling with the usual late afternoon activity. It was a loud gathering, filled with all sorts of people. Teens returning home from school stopped in to chat with friends. Old men sat with their steaming mugs of coffee to discuss the world’s problems. Others came to escape their homes for a few hours.

    Kyna sat among the patrons, sipping a latte while flipping through a magazine. She’d been there most of the morning, though few realized it. The hours were beginning to take their toll on her. Despite her calm exterior, she was fidgeting inside. It was well pasted the time her contact was supposed to be there. She doubted anything had happened to him, but it was troubling. Every hour she spent sitting her was another hour of work she lost. Her mission was too important to spend a whole day on a dead end.

    Just as she made up her mind to go, her contact appeared. The man’s name was Daniel Harrison, a friend of her father from his younger days.

    She waved him over to her table, doing her best to smile once he’d seen her.

    He returned her smile, making a beeline for her table and giving her a bear hug. “Kyna! My goodness, girl, you’ve grown,” he laughed as he squeezed her.

    Kyna forced a laugh as she attempted to free herself from his grip, “It has been awhile. How have you been?”

    Harrison released her and took the seat across from her, “Oh just fine. How’s the old man been?”

    “Father’s doing well,” Kyna replied, straightening her now ruffled clothes.

    “That’s good to hear,” Harrison said, “I was just thinking about visiting him the other day. Ah, but listen to me go on. You didn’t come all the way out here just to chat.”

    Kyna shook her head, “That’s alright. You mentioned odd occurrences on the telephone. Just what’s been going on around?”

    Harrison glanced around their table before leaning in and lowering his voice, “It all started about two weeks ago when there was a man hit on the road. Not dead, but hurt badly. Driver claims he jumped out in from of her. After that, everywhere he’s gone, trouble seems to follow. Strange things happen around him. He’s being held at the asylum now.”

    “Who is he?” Kyna asked.

    “No one knows. There was nothing on him to identify him with and no one’s come claim him. He won’t talk either. It’s driving the staff crazy,” Harrision replied.

    Kyna nodded slowly, glancing down at her coffee. This did seem promising, “What kind of occurrence have there been?”

    “A few minor things, but some have been plain extraordinary,” Harrison muttered, “One of the doctors was sent away on leave after a…episode. The man was convinced that one of the walls was the door. He sat there trying to open it for nearly fifteen minutes before they sent someone in for him. I’ve know that man for years and never has he done anything like that. Before this mystery case showed up, that doctor was fine.”

    Kyna raised her eyebrow, “Do you believe this man has abilities?”

    “I don’t know what else could explain it all, though he’s not using any magic I would recognize,” Harrison replied with a nod, “Something needs to be done about it. If you hadn’t called, I would have contacted your father soon. Crazy or not, no one in our community should be doing things like this out in the open.”

    A mysterious young man with unexplainable magic; that was just what Kyna has been searching for. She could feel her pulse begin to speed up as she took it all in. There was no guarantee this was her target, but it was her best lead yet. She needed a plan now. As Harrison has said, something needed to be done about this.

    Kyna focused on Harrison once more, a slow smile coming to her face, “How soon can you get me into the asylum?”

    The asylum appeared to be a comfortable enough place. Kyna doubted she would ever want to be here under any other circumstance though. It had been four days since her meeting with Harrison and now her real mission could finally begin.

    The doctor guiding her around, Dr. Schmitz, stopped in front of another door, “And this is the break room. Feel free to take a look around. I need to get a few more forms for you to sign before you leave today. If you will excuse me, Dr. Riley.”

    Kyna nodded and moved aside for the man as he headed back the way they had come. She moved into the break room, where she found Harrison waiting for her.

    He smiled when he saw her, “How’s it going?”

    “Good. I don’t think they suspect a thing,” Kyna replied as she adjusted the fake glasses she’d chosen to wear.

    Harrison gave a sigh of relief, “Good to hear. Did you contact your father about this yet?”

    Kyna’s mind went back to the now broken cell phone still sitting in her hotel room. According to her father’s orders, she was supposed to contact him as soon as she found a lead worth following. She smiled at Harrison, “I did. He said I should finish the investigation and then contact him once I’ve assessed the threat.”

    “Sounds like something he’d say,” Harrison chuckled, heading for the door, “Be sure to tell him to call next time you hear from him. I’ll be off now, so none of the doctors get suspicious. Take care.”

    She watched him go, a flash of guilt hitting her. This was wrong, she knew it was. She’d never disobeyed her father before, but the stakes were so high this time. If she managed to take out the Heir alone, it would prove she was not weak. She would finally make her father proud. She had to do this, no matter what the risk.

    Dr. Schmitz returned a few moments later, “Here’s the last of it. Now if you’ll follow me, Dr. Riley, I’ll show you the patient you’ll be working with.”

    He led her down a new hall towards another wing of the facility. She kept her face a mask of calm though anticipation was building within her. She could not say whether it was excitement that she felt or fear. After making a few more turns, they came to a door where Dr. Schmitz stopped.

    He turned to her, “Now, just so you’re aware, we’ve had very little progress with this one. There have also been a few problems. I would suggest you have someone accompany you inside when you see him or at least have a guard outside to be safe.”

    Kyna nodded, “I will keep that in mind. May I go in now?”

    “Of course,” he replied, “I’ll be out here if you need me. Try not to take too long though; we still have paperwork to complete.” He opened the door for Kyna and allowed her inside.

    The door closed behind her as her eyes fell on the man in the room. She stared at him in silence for a long minute. It wasn’t him; at least it didn’t look like him. She’d studied the most recent picture of the Heir for days; she knew him as well as his own family. This was not the man she was looking for. And yet, there was something here. She could feel some kind of magic around him. There was more here than she was seeing.

    She brought a smile to her face and took a few steps in the man’s direction. “Hello,” she said softly, “I’m Dr. Riley. I came to see how you were doing. Can I ask you your name?”
    #2 Tinder, Jun 2, 2014
    Last edited: Jun 2, 2014
  3. He recognized her the moment she walked into the building. She may not have known it, but he had watched her and her siblings, hidden, when they were all still just children. His parents had told him that the Heir to the Family must always be prepared for the job that would one day be his right. And the Head of the Family was responsible for knowing everything. That meant knowing everything about everyone who was in it, especially those who had the most faith placed in them, and those who were the most deadly. It was the Spymaster who knew the most about the Head of the Family. It was therefore the Spymaster, and those who would succeed him, who had to be watched with the most attentiveness. The feel of her mind was the most familiar to him. That has always been his ability, just as it had been the ability of his parents. His father had leaned more towards the domination side of the mind-talent, his mother more towards healing. They had made a great pair, and Nicholas had settled somewhere in between them. His ability had been about understanding any mind that came before him. That was the talent his parents had gotten him to focus on.

    But it was his other talent, the talent that his parents had never acknowledged, the talent he had been forced to hide, that truly allowed him to recognize her. For the feel of her talent was familiar as well. It had been a subtle thing, this recognition, understanding, and occasional borrowing of talent. He had not understood that there was anything wrong with it as a child. Sure, everyone else only had one ability, but he was the Heir. Why shouldn't he be special, and be able to use the talents of everyone? He hadn't understood it was wrong until his parents finally begun to recognize what he was doing, and they had scared him so bad that he had buried that second talent away deep within him.

    Now he understood, at least in part, why his parents had hated that ability so much. Because, the moment he had touched the darkness, determined to destroy it, he had felt a quiver within that second talent, a quiver that had been answered by a rumble from the darkness. And it had flooded into him. He refused to accept what it might mean that the darkness had resonated within him. All he knew was that it was still his task to destroy the darkness. But the darkness was still inside of him, and he no longer knew what to do.

    Now Nicholas waited patiently for Kyna to come to him. He was surprised that she had been the first to find him. But she had always been resourceful. Her telekinetic abilities had leaned more towards defense than her offensive siblings, and she had been forced to learn to fight against the things they could hurl at her. That resourcefulness must be what had led her to him. Maybe, if he died, the darkness would die with him.

    When she stepped into the room the darkness within him began to spill out all the faster. It always swirled about the people in the room, hungrily pulling at their mind and soul, but it reacted to her differently. It licked at her like a curious animal, and her talent stirred gently within her. He turned to look at her, staring in a morbid fascination as a tendril of the intangible darkness entered into her, swirling about in her heart. It wasn't until he saw the answering response within her own talent, as a piece of it broke off and began to float towards the darkness, that he realized what was happening. He yanked the tendril back, as hard as she could. And while she may not have felt the things enter, should not have felt the way it stirred her own talent, she would almost certainly feel its abrupt departure.

    All he did was continue to stare at her vacantly. It was more of a reaction than most people got from him, which would have said something for her if she really was a doctor. But she was not a doctor. She was an assassin. Why wasn't she killing him? Had the darkness mutated him so much that she could no longer even recognize him? Whenever he had looked into the mirror he had seen the face of a stranger, yet he had never believed in that reality. His own world was far too twisted for him to accept anything like that without some sort of outside validation. But here was the validation, staring at him in the face. She couldn't recognize him. She watched him curiously, but there was none of the certainty he needed.

    Now he felt a shiver run down his spine, and he quickly looked away from her, turning his attention away from the outside world and back to the world inside of him. A second ago he had been prepared for death. But now he was no longer so certain. He had seen the way that the darkness had been drawn towards her talent, had seen the way it so naturally assimilated to the void. What did that mean? He had never questioned the darkness before this point. It was simply the evil he was meant to defeat. Now, in the face of that ultimate ending which was death, he began to question. What was he missing?
  4. Kyna continued to watch him, waiting for a response. She was trained to watch for subtle responses from people, but this man gave her nothing. He just stared at her with the same vacant gaze. It was unnerving, though she gave no indication that she felt that way.

    She took another step toward him, prepared to ask him his name again when she felt it. The sensation was not one she had felt before. All she could describe it as was a putrid mass being pulled from within her. One she hadn’t realized was there. Her own abilities awaken the movement she became aware of it, throwing a barrier around herself before she had even processed when had just happened.

    Her breath caught in her throat, forcing herself to relax. She stood perfectly still for a moment, waiting to be sure Dr. Schmitz hadn’t seen her reaction. When the door remained closed, she glanced back to the young man. Her face remained calm though her eyes were guarded.

    She stepped closer to him, “I can see why they’ve been having trouble with you. You don’t have to be afraid. I’m not going to hurt you. Please tell me your name.”

    The lie burned as it left her mouth, knowing that she could not promise this man safety. If he was her target, he had to die. The only problem was there was no way to be certain this was the Heir unless he admitted it. Though it was her duty to take down her target at all costs, she couldn’t bring herself to kill an innocent.

    ‘Mercy is a weakness.’

    How many times had her father tried to drill that into her? If he were here, he would tell her to risk it. The job always had to come first. Casualties were regrettable but necessary. All that mattered was doing her duty for the Head of the Family. Nothing should stand in the way of that.

    She could make it look like an accident; it would be simple. She had a stiletto hidden in her sleeve. One step and a thrust, and her job would be finished. By the time the other doctors noticed, she would be long gone. They would never find her, not after Harrison deleted her fake files.

    She wondered if he would fight her if she tried. Whatever he’d done before didn’t appear to be voluntary, at least not that she had seen. It could have been some sort of defense mechanism. Maybe he would welcome her blade. A swift end to whatever gave him such a haunted expression.

    But she couldn’t; she couldn’t just run him through without cause. She took another step closer, standing only about two feet away from him now. Being closer did not help her identify him. The man still looked like a stranger, though the longer the stared the more she swore there was something familiar there.

    “I want to help you,” she tried once more, “I can’t do that if you don’t let me know what you need.”

    She kept her eyes trained on him, her stance neutral and open. She wanted to appear trustworthy, hoping it would encourage him to open up.
  5. The darkness was surging and roiling within him, desperately looking for release. But its attempts for release were two directional. The power wanted out, wanted to resume the chaotic path it had been following before Nick had gotten to it, but it also wanted in. It was inside of him, but it wanted into his very core. The two attempts were very different. In the outward direction it was aggressive, destructively ramming against the barriers he put in place to keep it from spilling out. In the inward direction, though, it was nudging, placating, soothing. Why was it that those attempts were so much easier to deny. Keeping it in place inside of him was nearly impossible. It took a constant portion of his concentration, and if he even fell slightly below that threshold it would spill over in a black wave. But to keep it out from within was so easy. All he had to do was focus on himself, and on his basic humanity. It was just that easy. He could deny it in that direction forever.

    She was talking again. Why didn't she just kill him? He didn't want to die. Why didn't he just open his mouth. All she would need was a word, and then he would be dead. She had a blade on her somewhere. Of course she did. She was an assassin. Maybe if he just stayed quiet for long enough she would be forced to leave. The doctor waiting outside through that insubstantial door wouldn't let her stay with him forever. She was on a hunt. A hunt for him. She would have to resume it eventually. He had to flee, had to get somewhere that the darkness could no longer reach anyone. If he left this place, it might be too much. He was able to keep his walls strong here. It was quiet here. Quiet, warm and peaceful, except for when the doctors came to try and talk to him. What more could he ask for. He hated the darkness. He wanted his life back, his position. His family. Even if they hated him. Even if they had sent him away to die.

    Just go away! He wanted to shout at her so bad, and the darkness mirrored his raging emotions. Its already turbulent nature began to hiss and spit, flicking over his walls in drops. She couldn't feel it. No one was ever able to sense the use of talent except him. And his parents had done their best to keep that aspect of him hidden from the world. A drop landed on the floor, and the laminate tile began to slowly bubble and warp. Would she notice? But as far as she knew the only ability the Heir had was in relation to the mind. And no one ever had two talents. That wasn't the way it worked. It was like people didn't have two heads. It just was.

    He couldn't breathe. His hand closed around his own throat, and he tried to gasp for air, but there was something around his throat. His walls were crumbling, and the closer they came to falling the harder it became for him to control his own emotions. Why couldn't he stop it? The darkness was going to come out. He had seen the way it latched onto her talent. If he let it go now it might be weeks before she was able to gather enough power even for the simplest of magical acts. If that was all it did. He never knew what was coming out. He had to stop it! But he couldn't breathe.

    The thing came floating in through the window. It was the palest peach in color, and it rolled through the air in diaphanous folds. Everything within Nicholas seemed to stop at the sight of it. His panic, his rage, even the movement of the darkness settled down into a gentle steam. The thing was graceful, beautiful, it spun through the air in a shimmering cloud. His hand lifted and he stretched out his fingers to touch it. They entered the silken mist and the thing came to a pause, gathering around his fingers, swirling and eddying through the still air. A tongue of the darkness slipped out of the end of his finger, and it embraced the peach-toned cloud. The thing seemed to shiver once, before slowly funneling into the blackness.

    He was calm again. The wall was back in place, and the darkness was contained. She would go away soon. The doctors didn't like to leave people in a room with him for long.
  6. Kyna felt her confidence waver as the man began to have some sort of fit. At first, she’d thought he was finally opening up to her, but then he grabbed his throat and began to gasp, as though he were being strangled. She took a step toward him, but stopped when she noticed the floor in front of him. It was warped, as though it has been touched by acid. Whatever was happening, his magic was causing it. She needed to try and contain it.

    The door flew open behind her as Dr. Schmitz rushed in, pulling her away from the patient, “Riley, get back!”

    She didn’t resist, but kept watching the man in front of her. Dr. Schmitz seemed about to reach for a button on the wall when he too paused. The patient had calmed down. Kyna watched him raise his hand into the air for a moment before returning to the same position he’d been in since she’d entered the room. It seemed the event had passed.

    Never the less, Dr. Schmitz led her from the room, making it a point to be sure the door was locked after he closed it. There was a sheen of sweat on his forehead as he forced a smile, “Now you see why we’ve been having so much trouble. The young man is very difficult to predict, not to mention all of the…incidents that seem to keep happening. I would suggest keeping your distance in the future.”

    Kyna nodded, giving him a guilty smile, “I admit I let my curiosity get the better of me. I will be more cautious in the future. Tell me; was his reaction to me typical? I thought you’d mentioned him being fairly unresponsive.”

    “Well, yes, he usually is,” Dr. Schmitz admitted, “In fact the behavior he displayed with you is quite out of the ordinary.”

    That was a good tidbit of information. Kyna glanced back through the window. If his reaction was due to recognition, then her search was indeed over. He had certainly seemed violent for a few moments. The only problem was, if that were true he would not have had a reason to stop his attack. She’d been right next to him. Why had he stopped?

    Dr. Schmitz cleared his throat, “Right, we need to finish your paperwork now. I’m sure we’d both like to go home sometime tonight. This way, Dr. Riley.”

    Kyna followed him away toward his office, sorting through her encounter as she walked.

    The evening was far from relaxing. All Kyna could think about was that man and their encounter. Nothing seemed to add up in her mind. The magical abilities and reaction to her presence told her this was her target, but the strange nature of his talent and drastically different appearance said otherwise. With no real data to go on, all she could do was guess. She hated guessing.

    She’d been pacing around her hotel room for nearly an hour now, glancing at the papers she scattered over her bed. They were all she had to go on. Every bit of information she’d dug up since her investigation began. She looked over them again and again, rereading the same descriptions and correspondences that she’d gone through nearly a hundred times already. The new file from Harrison did little to add to her information. All it told her was that this man had no past and seemingly no connection to the Heir.

    She gave a frustrated sigh as she sat down on the bed’s edge. Her eyes drifted to the broken bits of her cellphone sitting on the desk. It was only a matter of time before they became suspicious. Soon, her father would realize she was missing and no one knew where she’d gone. They’d try to contact her and find all her devices had vanished from their network. If this mission failed or they found her before she found the Heir, she would no doubt be severely reprimanded. That was if she was allowed to continue on as an assassin at all after this. Breaking contact was not something a reliable agent did.

    There had to be some way to make this man talk. She needed to bring him to his senses long enough to get a confession out of him. Then she could end his life and return home.

    She stood once more and started to prepare for bed. Tomorrow would be a new day. No one would stand between them this time. She could have him alone for hours without the others becoming suspicious.

    When she entered the facility the next morning, she was greeted by Schmitz. He led her back toward the offices where they went through a few more safety procedures and last minute detais.

    “I would suggest you have an orderly stay with you, but this is your case. Do as you will, but please be careful. He is not violent as far as we have seen, but strange things do seem to keep happening,” Schmitz said as he tidied up the papers on his desk.

    Kyna smiled as she stood, “I promise to take precautions. Thank you for your concern.” She left the room with a wave and headed for her patient’s room.

    As she walked, she wondered if she shouldn’t take Schmitz advice. It was obvious the young man was dangerous. Even with her ability to shield herself, things could still get out of hand especially if he became violent. She frowned and silently scolded herself. Personal wellbeing was not something she should worry about. This was her target and she couldn’t have someone getting in her way if things became tense. She would do this alone.

    She came to door and paused. Her knife was hidden beneath the lab coat she wore within a special pocket in her blouse. As an added precaution, she put up a barrier before entering. The last thing she wanted was an attack hitting her like yesterday.

    After fishing out her new pass card, she slid it through the lock on the door and pulled it open. She walked into the room, composed and pleasant. “Good morning,” she said with a smiled. Pulling door closed, she walked over to a chair in the corner of the room and sat down. She set a clipboard on her lap as she calmly crossed her legs.
  7. The nights were always the worst. In the day the whole world moved about him; everything buzzed with life and it served as a distraction from the agitated power flooding about within him. The best times of his day was when he could forget its presence. In those brief moments the two different things worked as one. His wall became unnecessary because the darkness was not trying to escape him, and he not trying to retain it. But those moments never lasted. Something would happen to remind himself of its presence, and his mind would skitter away from the looming unity like a startled horse. And then they would be right back to war, each trying to gain the upper hand in their fight.

    The darkness was not sentient. It did not have a consciousness. Nor did it have a purpose. But that did not mean it was stationary. No, it was too powerful for that. It was power, pure and simple, and all power is meant to be used. That is why it had been causing such problems for the Family, back when it had still been free to wander the world, carried by the pulsing tides of energy that ran the world wide. Its power had reacted with the world, and caused violent change. That capability of violent change was still there, but now he kept it trapped. To the best of his ability.

    But the nights were the hardest. In the nights the world went still; everything settled into a state of rest and he was left alone to deal with the power that always pressed against his mental barriers. In the night he could never forget its presence. He closed his eyes and he lost his body, and all that was left was his mind and the darkness. It felt like he was being swallowed, consumed, and sometimes he was certain that he would never find his way back to his body. He would scream then, his eyes flying open, but unseeing of the room around him. It wouldn’t be until one of the doctors came into his room and turned on the light that he would regain himself. They would try and talk to him at those points, ask him what had scared him so much. He would never tell them. He would simply roll over on his small cot and face the whitewashed wall, waiting until they left him alone.

    Once, thinking that what scared him was the monsters waiting in the dark, one of the doctors had left a small nightlight in one corner of his room. For three nights the softly glowing brightness was enough to keep him centered. One night, however, the darkness destroyed the light, and he woke up screaming again. When they had replaced it, hoping to help him, the darkness had started targeting the light, almost as though on purpose. It wasn’t on purpose, but the darkness reacted to his thoughts, and in the middle of the night that light was on his mind. Eventually the doctors were forced to conclude that he was the one breaking the lamp, somehow or another, and they stopped giving him new ones. They were still forced to come in the middle of the night and turn on the light to stop his screaming.

    And still he refused to talk to them, even though he knew their intentions were pure. They wanted to help him, they truly did, but he was not mad. No, he was simply consumed, and it was driving him towards madness. There was no way to get rid of the darkness. It was so vast that, even if it was consumed and was not replenished like the talent of a living person, he could never do enough to even create the smallest dent in its power.

    The night after Kyna found him was by far the worst he had been through in a long, long time. He was uncomfortable, agitated, his mind bouncing ceaselessly back and forth between the two possible options before him; survival or death. And the storm within his mind always built up an equivalent storm within the darkness. It acted with him, responded to him in a way that his talent, his true talent, not the bastardization of a talent that had allowed him to take in the darkness, never had. He hated that closeness, rejected it, refused to acknowledge it, and the darkness refused to obey his will.

    That night, after he fell asleep, his wall shattered. The darkness came spilling out, and it flooded all over the asylum. He did not know it, but his body moved with the spilling of the darkness. For one moment he stood in the corner of another patient’s room. The man opened his eyes at the disturbance in the air, saw Nick, and screamed. Nick’s eyes flashed open, and for a moment they glowed white. And then he was gone, back into his room, and only the sound of the man’s faint screams from the other side of the building were enough to tell him he hadn’t been dreaming. He reeled the darkness back in like a fisherman trying to land a whale. It fought against him, struggling and surging. A pipe broke, and water began to drip from the ceiling. The drops landed in a perfect tower, each one held separate from the other until they formed a crystalline, beaded palace on the floor. In the morning the janitor would only catch a brief glimpse before the magic would be broken, and the tower would spill all over the floor. He would spend the morning repairing the leak in the pipe, catching occasional drops of water in his hand and wondering. On the other side of the building a light that had been turned off began to flicker erratically, creating occasional showers of golden light that created strange bright patterns on the wall. One of the other inmates woke to the light and stared out the small window in his door, enchanted by the patterns of light playing across the wall. He would tell the doctors the next morning that he watched a group of huntsmen chase down a giant stag, before butchering it and hanging the entrails from the heights of their palace. They would smile and nod, checking his medications and making a note on his chart.

    But that night the darkness was ultimately unable to resist the pull of the man who held most of it inside of him. It flung out power at random, but could not permanently remain free. He reeled it in and spent the rest of the night curled into a fetal position on his bed, shivering but not screaming. The doctors would consider this one of his better nights, especially compared to some of the strange stories the rest of their patients would be telling.

    They brought him breakfast on a tray with a soft plastic spoon with which to eat the slightly overcooked eggs and oatmeal. The nurse set the tray down near him, waiting to see if he might take an interest in the food for the first time since his arrival. When Nick did not look over, did not even move from his curled up position on the bed, she sat him up bodily, before gently spoon-feeding him the soft slop. He ate mechanically, swallowing the food she placed in his mouth because it was easier than some of the other things they might have to do if he refused. After that she undressed him from the loose white robe he wore, and gave him a sponge bath. The water beaded on his dark skin, collecting the few rays that spilled in from the window. It was surprisingly beautiful, and he lifted his hand to study the water. The nurse smiled, and gently washed that hand as well. Once he was dry and redressed, the nurse left, and Nick returned to his bed.

    He once more noticed Kyna as soon as she entered the building. He tracked her progress as she worked her way closer to him, until she was standing right outside his door. He didn’t want to face her again. He didn't want to wonder about the questions she inevitably brought into the room with her. But somehow he knew that she was not going to leave him in peace. She had her own job to do.
    #7 Peregrine, Jun 7, 2014
    Last edited: Jun 7, 2014
  8. It seemed there was no response. Kyna ignored the frustration that already threatened to come back. It was only the first few minutes. She had all day to crack him and when she did she would be free to finish her job. The only thing standing between her and victory was proof.

    She kept her eyes locked on him, watching for any slight movements that would tell her the truth. “So,” she began speaking again, “I think we should talk about yesterday. I’m sorry if I upset you. I didn’t mean to. Perhaps you could tell me just what it is that made you so uncomfortable. Do I remind you of someone you know?”

    She didn’t think he would answer her. What she wanted was a subconscious reaction; something he couldn’t control. It did not seem likely that someone in his state could hide anything. Unless the Heir was actually aware and enacting this whole scheme to protect himself. It was possible.

    As she studied him, she felt a pang of guilt. There was a good chance this man had nothing to do with her mission. He could really be ill and her presence prevented him from receiving the care he needed. The doctors thought she was one of them, but she knew better. She did not understand the human psyche as they did. Her thoughts were on how she could exploit it, not heal it.

    Even if this was her target, he just looked so broken. It was like watching a wounded animal trapped in a cage and she was the person trying to decide if it was worth saving or not. The concept was not a foreign one. Despite never taking a mission alone, she had gone with her father on missions before and been the one to pull the trigger. But those times had been more like a hunt. The target had the same chance of killing her as she had of killing him. Taking the life of a mentally ill man trapped within an asylum did not feel the same. She could not call it murder, but there was something about it that seemed wrong.

    No, the mission had to come first. She chided herself for letting her mind wander away so. Moral judgments were not her job. She was an extension of the Head of the Family. What they demanded, she gave with no reservations. They wanted blood and she was obligated to give them just that. Her thoughts were not important.

    She glanced down at her notes for a second and back to the man, “You remind me of someone I knew. His name was Nicholas. Could you tell me what your name is?” She ignored the guilt now, forcing herself to continue with her plans. This would happen today if she had anything to say about it. The sooner it was over, the less she would have to think about it.
  9. It was the one time of day when his north-facing window got any sunlight in it. It stained his floors an even brighter white than they already were, but that was a bright, warm white compared to the antiseptic tones of the rest of the room.

    Nicholas? Yes, he knew that name. It was the name he had used to inhabit. He was Nicholas. He was. He was. Was he. Was he. Was he Nicholas. It did not matter. The darkness made it irrelevant. All that mattered was it. It, and the pretty girl across from him who reminded him of all the insanity. All of the insanity that no one had recognized as insane because everyone in the whole world called it sane.

    This was insanity as well. It had to be. For, if this was not insanity he shuddered to think what insanity must truly be like. He would not wish this upon anyone else. But he would gladly give it to anyone if it meant he would be free from the torment. He had even tried that once, had actively allowed the darkness to touch and enter into one of the staff. The man’s mind had nearly broken after less than a buckets-worth of the stuff. He had been the one to spend the next several minutes opening a door that did not exist. After that, he had kept the darkness even closer to himself.

    The outside glowed brightly in the morning sunshine. How could something so dangerous be so beautiful? He still wanted to return to the freedom of the outside, but he daren't. For the risk of him losing himself in that openness was far too great.

    The tendrils of darkness he could never quite keep contained within himself swarmed about the window, poking at the glass tentatively. They always followed his thoughts, even when he did not want to. If he was not careful the window would break, and they would have to send someone in to repair it again. He pulled them back towards himself, and for a moment they resisted. But slowly they began to return. And something else came with it.

    The light from the window had barely touched the edge of the frame, but as the darkness was pulled further into the room the rays of light came with it. It was like someone had placed a mirror outside the window and was slowly tilting it to send the light cascading further and further into the room.

    He froze, staring at the brightness. Uncontrollable, unconstrained power. He hated it. Kyna was in the room with him. What would she think of the sudden change? Would she even notice it? Of course she would. It was her job to notice everything. That is what she did. It was her job. If she didn’t notice she would be failing at her job.

    As his thoughts changed direction so too did the intent of the darkness. It released the light, which quickly snapped back to its proper position, and began to swirl about Kyna. He pulled it in, desperate to not give it a chance to touch her and crawl into her talent once more. His legs drew up against his chest, his arms pulling them in tight, almost as though by drawing his own limbs in closer he could somehow better bring the darkness back in towards himself.

    What was he going to do? Why did he have to make the decision? He was done with decisions. There was no mercy in getting to be the one to make decisions. Only hate, when things went wrong.
  10. Kyna waited for the response she suspected would not come. Though this was only her second time with him, she could already see what the other doctors saw. It was frustrating to say the least. She had been taught how to hunt many things, both evil and innocent. Never had she thought she would have to hunt a man already claimed by insanity. Nothing in her years of training told her how to extract a guilty plea from someone who was unable to answer her.

    She continued to examine him, a sense of regret within her. She knew she was lying to herself. There was one answer to her problem. The same answer she was given for every predicament she faced in her line of work. Strike first and worry about the consequences later. By her own code, she should just take his life and bring the body back for identification. Someone would cover up her tracks and it would be like this young man never existed here.

    Her attention was drawn away from her thoughts by a flicker of light. She let her eyes leave him for a moment while she examined the light shining in from the window. It bent at an unnatural angle, like some unseen force was influencing it. Then, just as quickly as it changed, the light was back in its proper place. She frowned as she focused on the young man again.

    She was beginning to wonder about these incidents. They didn’t appear to be any sort of self-defense mechanism. From what she’d read in the reports, they just happened without any sort of inciting event. It seemed more likely that he was in control of his talent. That didn’t seem possible either though, as even most children with magical talent had more control than this man was displaying. Parents taught their children how to use their abilities very young so that they would be able to go out into the world without drawing any attention to themselves.

    Could it be that he had never learned any of this? Kyna had never heard of anything like that happening, but perhaps this man had never known his parents or about the world he came from. Of course to believe that, she would have to admit he was not the Heir.

    Still, it was worth bringing up. If he had never learned about this, then it would prove she had the wrong man. She would be able to move on and continue her investigation.

    She leaned forward, her expression much softer, “I’ve noticed you seem to be able to do some special things. Has anyone ever told you anything about your gift before? Your parents or guardians perhaps?” A part of her almost hoped he would say no. Then this man would be just a lost soul who could be helped rather than killed.

    It was her duty to kill the Heir, but the longer she sat with this man, the more she hoped he was not her man. It was difficult to justify ending his life when there seemed to be so much pain in it already. Someone should be able to help him and give him something to hope for. Unfortunately hope was not something she could offer, even if she wished to.
  11. There. He could see her offering it to him, like a lifeline in the middle of this stormy sea. A way out. All he had to do was respond, give her even the smallest taste of a reason to believe he was not the Heir, and she would be gone. He would be left in peace, to try and struggle with the darkness for as long as he existed. It was a saddening thought. He wished now that he could pull on his old talent, his true talent. He had understood that one so well, and it had allowed him to peer into the minds of those around him and understand them. Maybe if he did that now he could let Kyna make the decision that burned inside of him.

    But it had been eaten by the blackness as soon as the darkness had come into him, just as the darkness ate every other talent around it. Surely it was somewhere in that void, but he could not longer find it. And, even if he could, how could he truly call it his own? It belonged to the blackness. It was a part of the blackness. He did not belong to the blackness, for he was not a part of it. No matter how sweetly it might try and sing to him.

    The darkness was swirling so fast about Kyna that it seemed a miracle that she couldn't feel it. Were it a wind she would have been lifted off the chair by the force of it. But it was not a wind, and she could not feel it. No one was ever able to feel other talents. No one, except him.

    He wanted her to leave now. He wanted her to leave so bad it was like a physical ache in his chest. If she just left, his dilemma would be over. He would no longer have to think about the choice before him. Let her kill him, and destroy the darkness within him. Or choose to live, and suffer with it for however long he lived, because he was so uncertain what the choice would mean.

    The choice should have been obvious. His job was to destroy the darkness, by whatever means necessary. Kyna was the answer. He wasn't brave enough or strong enough to commit suicide, even if the darkness would allow it. But she could take his life with a single thrust of her dagger. All he had to do was give her proof.

    But death felt like another darkness, a darkness from which there would also be no escape. And what would happen to the darkness, when he finally died? Where did talent go on the death of a person? Did it just vanish, like that ephemeral thing called life? Or does it follow the soul into death, to cling to it forever in some absurd parody of this world.

    He hated being stuck between. All his life he had been taught to make a decision and trust to it, because indecision would be the death of a leader. But he could not find anything but indecision within himself.

    The darkness responded to the will he did not truly have. It stole his desires, his subconscious thoughts, and it followed them like an untrained dog, eager to please but unable to truly comprehend the commands it was given. It collected tighter and tighter around Kyna, and he was so wrapped up in his own head that he did not even notice. It grabbed her, and then it immediately dropped her, but it dropped her as far away from here as Nick's subconscious would allow it to go. It dropped her in the waiting room, just by the front entrance of the asylum.

    Don't come back.
  12. A sense of regret washed over her as Kyna began to contemplate a new approach. Kind words were doing nothing, though she should have expected as much. Perhaps she should try a bit of violence and scare him into speaking. Just thinking about willfully hurting this man made her guilt all the sharper. She could be harming an innocent and scarring him more than before. Yet she was running out of options.

    Suddenly, she felt something grab her. Her mouth opened to protest, but before she could do anything, she blinked. The room had vanished. Where the young man had been there was nothing but chairs. She sat frozen as she took in the white walls colored only by a few tasteful paintings, and the small table in front of her stacked with old magazines. After a few more seconds, her mind caught up with the situation.

    She stood up quickly, examining the room. It was empty, thankfully. She breathed a sigh of relief, though it was soon replaced with a wave of anger. Magic had done this. What was worse, she’d been keeping a barrier up the whole time she was near the patient. It should have prevented him from using magic on her. Whatever these abilities of his were, they were stronger than anything she’d ever come across. Running her fingers through her hair, she muttered under her breath, “And those powers are being used by a madman.”

    This certainly complicated things. There was no way for her to protect herself from his magic which meant ever minute in that room left her exposed to any number of dangers. Even if she went for the kill now, there was no guarantee she would be able to do it. He could attack her again and send her somewhere worse this time, like underneath a few tons of concrete. She began to pace around the room. Maybe this was too much for her. She could contact her father right now and tell him everything. There would be consequences for her actions, but the job would be completed. In the very least, one very dangerous man would be gone.

    ‘We do not react emotionally, but intelligently.’

    She came to a stop, forcing herself to breath for a moment. Yes, she was jumping to conclusions without looking at the facts. If the young man’d had that much power all along, then he was necessarily dangerous. This could be just like his other incidents and simply a case of him losing control of his abilities. Perhaps she had struck a nerve and not seen it. This could be the beginning of progress.

    But it was probably a good idea to break for a few minutes. No matter what outburst meant, he was still worked up at the moment. It would be best to let him calm down before she tried again. She headed out into the hallway and back towards the break room. She had already decided she would continue to question him. Doing anything physical was too much of a risk and there hardly any therapies she knew of that could help. She would push her sympathy aside as she was trained to and move on with her work.
    #12 Tinder, Jun 25, 2014
    Last edited: Jun 25, 2014
  13. As soon as Kyna vanished, Nick began to panic. He knew that the darkness had grabbed her, and he had no idea what it had done. At the same time, there was an immense sense of relief. One more, the pressure had been lifted from his chest. He could breathe again, and could feel the massive pressure on his shoulders lifting. He didn’t want her to come back. Then he could be left alone, to remain exactly where he was. As he was.

    He was disgusting.

    His parents had always taught him, from his earliest memories, that you could not ignore a problem, and you most certainly could not run away from a problem. All you could do was run towards a problem, and do everything in your power to fix it. There was no other way to lead, for even a hint of indecision would be taken as a weakness. And there would always be those who coveted power.

    Yet here he sat, running away from his problem. Even though his body had not moved an inch since Kyna had vanished he was running away from the problem facing him more than he had ever run from anything in his entire life.

    And what almost made it worse was the fact that he knew he was doing just that. He knew he was running away, and he knew he should be doing just the opposite. But that didn’t change a single thing. He couldn’t move. He was frozen in uncertainty, and he couldn’t change that. Wouldn't change that. Because any decision he made would be completely irrevocable.

    No, that wasn’t true. His death would be irrevocable. But his choice to live with this was most certainly not. At any moment he could change his mind, and when his mind fully changed he might even have the strength to end this miserable existence himself. Kyna was irrelevant. All she had done was push the question forward, and had forced him to make at least a temporary decision. Well, until he knew more his decision was made. He would live, and he would fight with the darkness for as long as necessary. Maybe someday the uncertainty of death would be far more certain than the uncertainty of life.

    Kyna was moving again, but she wasn't heading this way. He released the darkness ever so slightly, and it flooded down the hallway after her. As soon as it drew close it slowed, and reached out gently to touch her.

    She was fine. Whatever it had done to move her was not going to do any permanent damage. And she was just as set in her own path as he was now set in his. She wasn’t going anywhere until she knew more. Well, they would play that game together, and it was very likely that both of their revelations would come at the same time.

    It didn’t matter if he had made the wrong choice. All that mattered was that he made his choice with as much confidence as he could muster. People could be convinced of anything with confidence.
  14. Kyna opted to remain away from her patient until after lunch. She decided that after her first failed attempt, it would be better to reevaluate her methods before she tried again. She spent her time in a small conference room that appeared to be abandoned for the day. The last thing she needed was one of her coworkers intruding while she looked through her notes. All it would take was one misplaced look for someone to realize they were not the sort of information a doctor would carry around.

    With a mug of coffee on the table and a sandwich in her hand, she began combing through her intel again. The “good cop” routine she’d been more or less using wasn’t getting any results. That was likely due to her lack of emotional control with that last session. She’d allowed herself to get far too involved. She was here to do a job and that required her to act professionally.

    A frown appeared on her face as she reread the scraps of information the Head of the Family had given out on the Heir. There wasn’t a great deal of personal information she could use to get a response. It would have been nice if the Head had been more forthcoming with details, but she knew better than to question him. If only there was some way she could get under the patient’s skin without using force.

    She paused laying her paper down with a smile. That gave her an idea. There was a technique her father had showed her long ago that involved using a metronome to distract a guilty man during an interrogation. It would split their attention between the interrogator and source of the sound, and potential make them more susceptible to your questions. It might just work.

    The only problem was she didn’t have metronome and there wasn’t time to go buy one. She stood up and gathered her things, stuffing the last of her lunch into her mouth as she headed back toward the break room. There had to be something she could use, maybe just tap her foot? No, that would distract her more than it would him. Perhaps something on her phone…no, she’d broken her phone last night. Her frustration began to build until she saw something out of the corner of her eye. An office door sat open and on the deck was a Newton’s cradle. It would work perfectly. She glanced around to be sure one was in the office or nearby, and then crept in and made off with the small contraption. She’d have to find a way to get it back later before its owner began to miss it.

    After she retuned her own papers to her bag, she started back toward the patient’s room. When she arrived, she paused before the door to glance inside to be sure he was alone. She pulled up another shield as well, though she doubted it would do any good. It was better to be prepared for anything. With that set, she headed inside.

    Her face was a calm mask as she sat down in her chair once more. “Good afternoon,” she said pleasantly as she set the Newton’s cradle on the ground next to her, “I’m sorry I stayed away so long, but I thought you could use a break after that little outburst.” She pulled the ball on the end to the side and released it. The sound was amplified by the empty room, just as she hoped it would be. Without giving a hint to her plan, she continued, “So, let’s put the past behind us. Do you mind if I call you John? Since you won’t tell me your real name, I need to have some way to refer to you if we’re going to get to know each other better.” He wouldn’t answer, but that didn’t matter. It was about establishing control over the situation. Let him know his little trick hadn’t scared her.
  15. [​IMG]

    Nick had not moved since she had left the room. It seemed as though he had not twitched, had not blinked, had not taken a breath in the intervening hours. Even the light that came in through the window seemed hardly changed by the passing time. It was as though Kyna had stepped through a portal to take her back in time. It was another quiet imbalance to add to all of the others that seemed to permeate the air around this insane man. [0:19]

    But there was a subtle difference, something small and secretive. Something on which Kyna might not pick up unless she was paying the strictest of attentions. But that was her job. She was the one who was supposed to pay attention to the small details. To pick up the subtle changes that hinted when there truly was a shift in the balance. [0:48]

    This time, there were two players in the game she had created. [1:02]

    They were going to dance together this time, although it would be nothing so obvious. After all, Nico had finally made his decision. He was going to live, at least for now. But he could not let her leave. Not with any suspicions left untended in her mind.[1:31]

    After all, if he did, there was no telling what might come to find him later, what dilemmas might rise up again. He had to make sure that she was satisfied, content to believe that she had left a poor mad man behind, to be locked up in a small, padded room forever. Even if he had displayed these abilities, and it was clear he was unstable. She had a lot of explaining to do when she finally returned to the Family. His job was to make sure that he was not a part of that explanation. [2:00]

    But how do you play those kinds of games with a spy and an assassin? How do you convince someone who has lived their whole life learning every trick in the book that they are not being tricked, when they most assuredly are? He knew her, even if she did not know him. He knew, despite the reservations of her past, that she was good at what she did. He would simply have to be even better. [2:51]

    He did not have her training, did not have the resources that she could access within her own mind. She was the one who had been trained to deal with this situation, to find those who did not want to be found and dig up the secrets they did not want to reveal. His game had always been the politics, the controlling of people who did not want to be controlled, the guiding of those who did not want to know there was another hand directing them. But, perhaps, in this particular set of circumstances, that was exactly what he needed. And, if his parents had taught him anything, it was to always use whatever resources were available. [3:29]

    He pulled on the darkness carefully, as tentative a pull as that of a child pulling on the tail of a cat. One wrong move and it could turn around and bite him. But the darkness coiled easily in the mental hands within his mind, spinning together into a long rope that pooled away into his own heart. [3:45]

    THere was a rush of pleasure within him, something that sent his heart racing and a smile to spread over his face. His breath was short and shallow, and he had to focus carefully, continuing to coil the darkness. It was a tool, something he was going to use whether it wanted to be used this way or not. [4:13]

    He could feel his heart pounding within his chest as he finally released that tongue of darkness, as loud as any war drum he had ever heard. The black thread snaked through the air, tentatively writhing its way closer and closer to Kyna. And then it latched into her, burrowing into her own talent like a worm. The rope connected them, bound them together for the moment. It pooled inside of her, and finally Nick had the advantage for which he had been looking since she had walked into the room. He could hear her thoughts. [4:43]

    The cradle was swinging, the silver spheres clicking together rhythmically. And the game was on.[4:53 - END]
  16. Kyna took a breath, willing herself to look at the man not as a victim, but an equal. He was just as dangerous as she was and mostly likely just as smart. Treating him like a lesser being had not helped her thus far. Even now as she sat watching him, she knew something was different. He seemed responsive, even invested in their conversation. So there was something beneath his façade of insanity. That was good. She was making progress.

    Suddenly she felt the same sensation she’d experienced earlier, like some thick, oily thing was inside her. Her body tensed as it sought a way to free itself. It had to be him, but she couldn’t tell what he was doing. She felt no pain and nothing seemed to be wrong with her. Her limbs worked and her senses were just as sharp as before. Perhaps it had another effect that she could not see or feel. She thought for a moment before releasing the shield she’d put up. If this was what it took to keep him calm and focused, then she would allow it. She relaxed again, putting it out of her mind as she went on with her plan.

    She leaned back in the chair, looking as nonchalant as she dared. “So, John, I think we can be honest with each other. By now I’m sure you know I’m no doctor. I was sent here on a special assignment to find someone. I think that someone may be you. If that’s the case, then you know why I’m here. It also means that you’ve done a very bad thing.” She paused, allowing her accusation to sink in.

    First she needed to remind him of everything he’d done, dredge up any feelings of guilt and remorse. It would distract him from his own purpose as well as make him more open to what she would offer. She continued after she felt there had been enough time for him to recall it all, “Of course, if you’re not the man I’m looking for, then what I just said makes no sense. Let me tell you just what the man I’m looking for did. He tried to kill his own parents. Not a very nice thing to do. That was after he disappeared. They had been worried sick about him. What kind of son repays such love with that kind of action?”

    Of course most of what she said was all speculation or pure fiction. She was not privy to what the Head of the Family thought or felt. Still, if this was the Heir, it would have to bring up some sort of emotional response.

    She leaned forward again, looking at him intently, “Do you see why we need to find this man? He is a danger to everyone, including himself. I don’t think he should have to suffer anymore. If you help me, then I can help him. I can make sure he never hurts anyone ever again.”

    Her voice was soft and soothing with mock sincerity on her face. She had to make this offer sound tempting, like the correct path for him to take. It was always easier to convince someone you wanted to help, which was why she preferred to use this method first. If he didn’t take the bait, she planned to switch to a more hostile means of persuasion. She needed to wait though, give him time to consider all she’d said. So she waited, never taking her eyes off of him.
  17. Her words twisted and coiled through the air, and although they were as invisible to him as his own tendrils of darkness were to everyone else he could feel their effect as certainly as Kyna could feel his own efforts to infiltrate her mind. But the words were so much more subtle. If it wasn't for the fact that he had been thinking about nothing but what she had just said since the moment he had ran away from home they might have even had an effect. But her words did not bring to mind his crimes against his parents and his family, because they were now, and would likely remain, the forefront thought in his mind. Nothing changed on his face, because there was nothing to change.

    All the same, he felt the thoughts tumbling around in his head in response to her words and thoughts. She knew nothing of what she was speaking; they both knew that. But she did not need to know that he knew it too.

    The flames of the fire had never left him completely alone, not even after he ran away from them. Even now they flickered in the very corner of his eye, so far away that he knew that he had to be imagining it, even as it kept him from ever forgetting what he had done. It did not matter that it had been an accident, that he had not known how completely the darkness had affected him. Actions and intentions were completely separate. What mattered was that the flame had started. It had consumed his ancestral home in mere moments, burning every memory the place possessed, reducing it to nothing more than a pile of ashes and charred wood. It also did not matter that his parents had wished he was dead. That did not mean that he should have done the same in retaliation.

    He wanted her to leave again, but he did not want the darkness to save him again, if only temporarily. He hated its existence almost as much as he hated the pressure that Kyna put onto him. He would be so happy if both of them just vanished. He could live out the rest of his life in peaceful, miserable exile. But that was not an option. He had no choice but to play the game.

    The first thing he had to figure out was how to play when the only move he possessed was not responding.
  18. Nothing. Kyna frowned but remained calm. She had hoped there would be a flash of guilt or maybe even a smile, but his face remained passive. She was growing weary of this whole thing. It was clear he had no intention of making her job any easier. Words would not be enough to crack him, she needed added leverage.

    She glanced down at her watch to check the time. Her shift would be ending soon, which meant she had little time to enact any strategy today. That meant she needed to set something up for tomorrow. She reached down and stopped the Newton’s Cradle. There was no need to continue that strategy as it had already failed her. The time for playing was over. If John would not react to her offers of peace and safety, then perhaps she needed to approach from another angle.

    She allowed a sigh to escape, leaning back in her chair, “You know, John, if you would just work with me, this would go so much more smoothly. I want to help you, but I can’t do that if you won’t return the favor.”

    Her face changed from annoyance to a cold stare. It was a face she’d learned from her father, one he’d used to freeze the hearts of his victims where they stood. On his face, it was terror incarnate. She prayed that it at least looked unsettling on her own face. Her jacket fell up a little, flashing the silver blade hidden there.

    “We’re out of time today, but tomorrow I’m done playing. If you will not hear reason, then you will feel pain. You have one last chance, John. Talk to me tomorrow when I return and I will be merciful. You may even leave unharmed. Continue this silent treatment…” She leaned forward, allowing his imagination to finish her sentence.

    She gathered her things and stood, forcing a smile to her lips. Her eyes remained unchanged though. She started for the door, but stop as she reached for the handle. “Oh, one more thing,” she said, laughing humorlessly, “I have allowed you free use of your abilities thus far, but do not expect the same tomorrow. If you try and attack me, I will kill you without question. Have a pleasant evening, John.”

    Without even a glance back at him, she left the room. It felt wrong to say all those things, but she meant them all the same. Sick or not, she had little time to play with this man. Her time was precious and she would not waste it here. She preferred not to use torture as a means of extracting information, but there was no time to be gentle. Either he gave her the information she wanted tomorrow, or he would die. She would bring the body back and cover her tracks. Before long, it would be as though the man never existed.

    She retrieved her things after returning her little noisemaker back to its owner. She frowned again as she headed down the hall. Tomorrow would be complicated. She would need to bring more of her weapons for the interrogation, not to mention bindings and such to keep the other staff from becoming suspicious. Perhaps she should contact Harrison and ask him to standby just in case she needed any help.

    It didn’t matter right now. She would make a proper plan tonight in the hotel. If she was lucky, her threat would be enough to get what she wanted. She reached the main doors and stopped for a moment, glancing back inside toward his room. ‘You brought this on yourself.’ It was true in a way, yet undeserved. It made her sick to think a part of her could believe this man could deserve what she intended for him.

    You are a weapon; a tool for the Head to use as he wishes. That is all that matters.

    How many times had her father whispered that to her late in the night? So many supposed truths had been drilled into her that there were times she wondered if she could even trust herself. She questioned them constantly and yet she strived to live up to them.

    “Dr. Riley?”

    It took her a moment to realize someone was addressing her. She glanced back and found Schmitz staring at her. “Are you alright?”

    A smile flickered onto her lips, “Yes, just making sure I had everything. Good night, Dr. Schmitz.”

    “Good night,” he called back, giving a wave before continuing down the hall.

    Kyna went on as well, heading out toward the bus stop. There was no time for regrets. Actions was needed and that was just what she intended.
  19. When Kyna walked out the door Nick was left, at least for a moment, completely baffled. Dispite the fact that he had heard her thoughts, and knew that she would not go through with the threats she had made, at least right away, he had not expected her to make the threats in the first place. The Kyna Nick had known, both in childhood and teenage years, had been sympathetic, and used that empathy to get into people's minds and get them to work against themselves. The Kyna of now seemed flustered and desperate.

    It was only at that moment, as he thought about Kyna's actions and the situation they both were in, that he realized it was almost certain that she was not here under supervision. Nick's father had told him stories of Kyna's father, and some of the things he had done for the Family. The man was a wicked-sharp sword, ready to be wielded in any situation. He would never approve of the time that Kyna had spent here already, especially after the way Nick and had parents had parted. Kyna seemed desperate because she was desperate. She had almost certainly gone off the grid to get to him, and if she returned empty-handed she would never be forgiven. She had to find something, and her only hope was to find it out as quickly as possible. But her empathy, that part of her that Nick so admired, kept her from acting against him. Despite her attitude, she was not certain that he was the Heir. In fact, every piece of evidence was pointing against the fact that he was the Heir. His appearance had changed drastically, his attitude, and his mind, were all but gone, and, most convincingly, his talent, the thing that never changed, had changed. She needed him to be the Heir, but couldn't kill someone who could just be an innocent, confused madman.

    His head turned towards the window, and he stared at the outside. The darkness surged inside of him, whispering temptations into his mental ear, while all the while bashing against his wall, once more trying to get out into the world and resume it uncontrolled rampage. But none of Nick's struggle touched his face. This was his private world, his private battle, and no one and nothing could help him. The sun worked its way quietly through the sky, and Nick hardly even noticed the passage of time. But as the sun dropped below the edge of the horizon, and the shadows began to creep into his room once more, he began to shiver unconsciously. He pulled his knees up, hugging them tight to his chest, and the shivering grew stronger and stronger.

    Eventually he simply gave up on remaining upright, and toppled listlessly onto his side. There were tears streaming out of his eyes, but slowly his lids fluttered closed, and the shivering began to stop. His breath turned deep and rhythmic, but somehow his knees still remained tightly pressed to his chest, even as he slept.

    He could see his house in the distance now. It appeared through the trees like some sort of phantasm, glowing pure white in the late afternoon light. The massive gardens were in riotous bloom, spreading petals of every color across the front lawn. How he wanted to be home, to believe he was safe. But there was an emptiness inside of him that touched at the edges of his mind like the tentacles of the giant squid, looking to drag him down into the depths of oblivion. But he was Nicholas Daniel Courcelle, and he was not going to let anything change him against his will.

    He wouldn't. He wouldn't. He wouldn't.

    He woke to the sound of the nurse entering his room. She glanced over at him once, and immediately saw the tear tracks on his face. A brief look of sympathy crossed her face but it was gone in an instant. She had to get her job done, and it would break her to feel sympathy for the poor, lost souls trapped in here.

    Nick remained unresponsive as she sat him up, fed him, and bathed him. His mind was on Kyna. Kyna, and his parents, and the darkness. The three thoughts that never seemed to leave the forefront of his mind. The darkness was swirling through the room, flicking out against the wall in an almost whip-like manner, and leaving dark scratches against the wall. He tired to pull it in, but it rebelled against him, struggling towards the windows and the door. One tendril wove erratically, and whipped up against the nurse's cheek. She made a surprised noise of pain, raising her hand to her cheek where a large welt was forming. Eyes wide she looked around the room for the source, but nothing seemed out of the ordinary.

    Nick sat still, and tears continued to run down his face. There was nothing he could do. Nothing he could do except continue to exist, or let himself die. There were no other options.
  20. Kyna made her way back to the hotel in a mental fog. She’d done it again; acted without thinking just as she had when she started this idiotic scheme. The number of mistakes she made in those last few minutes with John was baffling even to her. She’d shown the victim her weapon, exposing herself to both him and anyone who could have been watching.

    Never let your target know they’re going to die. Put them on the ground before they even feel the blood spilling from their body.

    She’d threatened him and then left, giving him ample time to plan a counterattack or inform someone that she’d threatened to kill him.

    Don’t talk; kill.

    Leave her be.

    A shivered pasted through her, snapping her back to reality. She dropped onto the bed and put her head in her hands. A sigh escaped her as she tried to focus on the situation at hand. There was no time for regrets now. She moved from the bed to her bags and began to sort through equipment. Instinct guided her movements as she tried to plan for the next day. She would need to be sure he hadn’t done anything to warn the other doctors, not that they would believe him. He had no way to let them know.

    She paused as she picked up a vial of cyanide. The man was completely helpless. She could kill him without even breaking a sweat. It would be the simplest job she’d ever been asked to perform. So why did her hands begin to shake as she thought about it?

    She’s not like you. Leave her be.

    She cringed as the words drifted through her mind again. It had been years since she’d heard that voice in her mind; since she’d thought about her mother. After everything that had happened, she’d tried to put it out of her mind and focus on her training.

    She dropped the items she’d been sorting through, deciding that sleep would help to steady her for the next day. Her mind was far too distracted to come up with any sort of plan now. Rest was what she needed. Yet even as she lay down to sleep, her mind refused to give her peace. She needed to know how she would proceed with John tomorrow. Sleep wasn’t going to make it go away.

    Eliminate all threats. Do not take chances.

    Could she really kill an innocent man? John was not her target. She didn’t want to admit it herself, but now that she’d crossed the line she knew she could no longer deny it. This poor man was just some insane fool was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Even if she brought back his body, she would not be able to convince anyone he was the Heir. There was no point in killing him.

    Eliminate all threats.

    He wasn’t a threat; not really. The worst thing he had done was lose control and that happened to best of them. He had no one to help him. That was no reason to kill a man.

    All threats!

    Leave her be.

    Kyna got to her feet to pace, hoping to shut out the distant echoes. She just wanted to sleep, that was all she wanted. Her eyes flickered to the nightstand where a clock sat. It was 1 am. She sat back on the bed, sighing as tried to close her eyes again. After what felt like hours, her mind quieted and she dropped off. Her memories plagued her in her dreams, stealing away her rest as she tossed and turned until her alarm began to blare.
    She hurried to get ready for her day, doing her best to mask her long night with makeup. After pulling her hair back into a loose ponytail, she went back to her bag with her equipment. There she found herself frozen. Her hand went for the poison, but she couldn’t bring herself to load it into her bag. He didn’t deserve any of this. There was no reason for this man to die.

    You are a tool. You do not think you act.

    You are a human being. You are responsible for your actions.

    ‘No, I can’t disappoint him.’ She felt a pang of guilt as she picked up the bottle and needle, along with a few knives to be safe. After concealing everything in her clothing, she left for the building. Even as she entered, guilt and indecision ate away at her mind. This was wrong but what other choice did she have. She made her way to his room quickly, stopping at the door to put up a shield and mask her emotions. She took a breath and entered.
    Her eyes were immediately drawn to the bed where he always sat. The first thing she saw were his tears and they all but broke her will to keep going. In an instant, she allowed her mask to fall away as she greeted him in soft voice, “Hi, John.”
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