Another Cycle Finished

Containment

Leviathan
Staff member
div][attr="style","position:absolute;"]
[div][attr="style","position:relative;left:-181px;top:11px;width:150px;text-align:center;background-color:white;border:3px #1E9391 inset;padding:5px;font-family:courier new;color:#1E9391;"]DR. LEVI HOBBES

[img src="[URL]https://cdn.discordapp.com/attachments/426247770299432962/1127009739637801091/shattered___dr__rights_by_sunnyclockwork_d8lijtd-pre.jpg[/URL]" style="width:150px;"]

[font color="#1E9391"]Code by Illirica[/font][/div][/div][div style="background-color:#1E9391;border-top:#1E9391 4px outset;border-left:#1E9391 4px inset;border-right:#1E9391 4px outset;border-bottom:#1E9391 4px inset;"][div style="border-top:#1E9391 4px inset;border-left:#1E9391 4px outset;border-right:#1E9391 4px inset;border-bottom:#1E9391 4px outset;"][div style="background-color:#FFFAFA;color:dimgrey;padding:15px;font-family:courier new;"][font color="#1E9391"]DATE: [REDACTED]/23, 21:27 [LOCAL TIME ZONE]
LOCATION: Personal Quarters
ASSET: Self
PURPOSE: Wishing[/font]


If someone stood close to the door, they might've heard a faint hum from inside her room.

A single candle, lit. No numbers (a rarity, in this place, really). No indication except culture of what it could mean, planted like a sapling in the cupcake on the desk. A butterfly had brought it - a little gift from something that wouldn't forget. The frosting pattern was the orange and black of monarch wings; the paper was leafy green. The candle was Foundation grey. Maybe Butterflies could have inside jokes. Who knew. She might, actually, but tonight... Tonight wasn't for the Foundation, or for research. Tonight was a rare break, and a welcome one.

But she still couldn't fully separate herself from it, not anymore. Even with her break, she stared into the tiny light. It reflected off the lenses of the glasses she had set aside in duplicate, triplicate. She breathed slowly, and the flame flickered and danced. She could have had Castor here with her, if she'd asked, but years had stopped meaning anything to him.

And, she convinced herself, this was a nice moment alone. Even if, even this, was-

[font color="#139391"]For them.[/font] Her breath came again, and she blew the candle out.

Which immediately preceded the sound of something falling in her closet. She nearly jumped out of her skin at the sound. She was used to weird sounds, bumps and scrapes and shrieks and everything, this was the Foundation after all. But she'd actually let herself relax for once. Her mistake. With a sigh, she stood up and crossed the carpet of her personal quarters toward the source of the sound. Nothing could break that wasn't replaceable, but now it was going to bug her until she checked.

The door opened, and she was just about to check in when she saw the tangled mess on the floor. Without her glasses, the details were fuzzy, but she knew enough to recognize...

Oh.

[font color="#139391"]"You're not a box."[/font]
[/div][/div][/div]
 
[googlefont=Iceland][googlefont=Audiowide][div style="margin:0 auto;max-width:100%;background-color:#000000;color:#ffffff;padding-right:2%;padding-left:2%;overflow:hidden;font-family:'Iceland';font-size:14px;"][div style="border-bottom:2px solid #ec2568;border-right:2px solid #ec2568;border-left:2px solid #ec2568;padding-bottom:1%;padding-left:1%;padding-right:1%;margin-bottom:1%;font-family:'Times New Roman';"][div style="border-bottom:2px solid #ec2568;border-right:2px solid #ec2568;border-left:2px solid #ec2568;padding-bottom:2%;"][/div][/div][div style="padding-left:2%;padding-right:2%;"][div style="border-top:#000000 2px solid;border-bottom:#000000 2px solid;border-left:2px solid #ec2568;border-right:2px solid #ec2568;padding-bottom:1%;padding-top:1%;padding-left:1%;padding-right:1%;"][div style="border-top:#000000 2px solid;border-bottom:#000000 2px solid;border-left:2px solid #ec2568;border-right:2px solid #ec2568;padding-top:1%;padding-left:2%;padding-right:2%;padding-bottom:1%;font-size:1.25em;"]Scariest part of the job is when everything goes black. It did not matter if you were made of steel itself. Either you were dead or unconscious. Unconsciousness last for a few seconds. Death was permanent. And it came with a lack of pain.

But the fact Woody's entire body felt like someone did a tap dance with a pair of dump trucks on top of him meant he was more than alive. Sore like his body, his head drummed over and over with a steady pain, alternating with a sharp electric stab. His hand rubbed against the side of his forehead with a few fingers. His fingers slid a little too easily on the material. Wet. Why was he wet?

[font color="#ec2568"]"Eurgh."[/font]

Every item he was resting atop off and every metal hanger pressing into his back made a convincing argument for him to get off his rear and get out. Was he hiding in a closet? Someone threw him in?

The darkness of the room, slowly giving way to a more black and white coloration of items in the room, unsettled him before the feeling of shoes jutting against the back of his head. The handle of a door appeared out of reach as his shoulders hunched and stomach tensed to raise his neck and head up to get a slight better view of his surroundings. Cardboard boxes began to crumple under his arms and hands as his entire frame shuffled to raise himself to a sitting position. A pair of red-rimmed white lenses blinked following eyes underneath the mask that opened and closed wearily, a soft moisture build-up blurring his vision. Goosebumps crawling along his skin while every hair stood on end.

Did he fall into a closet? A big closet. A walk-in one. Was he at someone's place?

Nothing but a heartbeat and a breath could be heard outside the door. Someone was outside. Finally, a smell wafted its way ever so slightly. Smoke. A hint of it. Definitely not gross enough to be a cigarette, a disgusting habit. Was that frosting he smelled too?

[font color="#ec2568"]"Where am I?"[/font] Woody began kicking boxes away and lifting a hand up to grab something to help lift him. He had never been this sore since that one Christmas shopping mall incident. Picking shrapnel from your chest and then dressing the wounds with isopropyl alcohol was a fun way to spend the beginning of that vacation.

A tearing sound followed into his ears as his hand grasped ahold of a cloth before sliding down it. Rapidly snapping his hand back to himself, Woody groaned. Talons. Right. Closed eyes and a brief moment of concentration followed as the clawed appendages folded away. Tension and a flex of a wrist sent a stray silk line connecting to a clothes rail, yanking him onto even footing.

Brushing himself off with his hands and kicking stray boxes out of the way, a reach for a door quickly turned into his balance falling off-kilter. The feeling of his foot caught on something sent a shock through his body and his hand reached for anything while his other foot plunged into another box.

SLAM!

The door burst open as the room spun as the cold floor hit his stomach, sending a full synesthetic shock through his system. His body cartwheeling into a space full of color and light. If he could see as thick fabric wrapped around his head and arm. Inhaling through gritted teeth, the foreign heartbeat rang stronger between his ears and frosting smell strong enough to taste. A tug at the clothing followed. Woody already had a jacket to go with his costume. This . . .

This was getting annoying and, frankly, quite stupid.

A voice spoke and Woody's entire frame went still. Completely still. Feminine. Not young. He was in someone's home. How did he manage that? Was she going to beat him with a baseball bat? If someone hits or shoots him while he still stuck in here . . .

[font color="#ec2568"]I want to go home.[/font]

[font color="#ec2568"]"No. I am-"[/font] a brief pause and a grunt as he rolled onto his side before sitting up straight, [font color="#ec2568"]"-I am not a box."[/font]

Setting his shoe somewhere before pulling himself up with one leg and setting the other down, an irritated huff escaped between gritted teeth as he took a few more steps before pulling one arm out and yanking the entire clothe trap off his head. Lazily letting it fall to the floor, his shoulders shifted left and right following his head. Lenses widened as he gazed around before taking a few small steps to turn around.

And see someone standing. On the floor. He . . . he was not on the floor. Turning around and bending his knees so his back was to the wall (and he would not have to crane his neck upwards every time to get a good look at the stranger and this room), his hands balled into fists before settling on his hips as he spared a glance down and then back at her.

[font color="#ec2568"]"Listen, uh . . . "[/font] a quick hand movement followed, palms open and fingers spread in a wait a second gesture, [font color="#ec2568"]"Sorry about the mess. Let's, let's forget about the mess, yeah?"[/font]

A another flick of the wrist and a wide fibrous net attached itself to the boxes kicked up before yanking the line, tossing everything inside the closet before another line would close the door before both silk cables retracted back into the back of Woody's forearms. One hand found itself to resting on his hip before another rubbed the back of his head, head turned slightly to one side and another before looking back at her. A pair of brown eyes studied her behind lenses that widened and narrowed before settling to a more natural shape.

A hesitant shrug followed as both hands waved around openly in the air, [font color="#ec2568"]"You alright?"[/font]

[font color="#ec2568"]I should be heading for the door. Where is the door? I should run.[/font][/div][/div][/div][div style="border-top:2px solid #ec2568;border-right:2px solid #ec2568;border-left:2px solid #ec2568;padding-top:1%;padding-left:1%;padding-right:1%;margin-top:1%;"][div style="border-top:2px solid #ec2568;border-right:2px solid #ec2568;border-left:2px solid #ec2568;padding-top:2%;"][/div][/div][/div]
 
[div style="background-color:#1E9391;border-top:#1E9391 4px outset;border-left:#1E9391 4px inset;border-right:#1E9391 4px outset;border-bottom:#1E9391 4px inset;"][div style="border-top:#1E9391 4px inset;border-left:#1E9391 4px outset;border-right:#1E9391 4px inset;border-bottom:#1E9391 4px outset;"][div style="background-color:#FFFAFA;color:dimgray;padding:15px;font-family:courier new;"]The pile of limbs had a mask of some kind on, which she hadn’t noticed right away because one of her sweaters had gotten tangled over his head when he stumbled out of her closet. Her eyes followed him, missing some crisper details but seeing the main movements clearly.

Especially when he took a step up the wall. He didn’t even seem to notice. And– well, most people probably would’ve freaked out to see a masked stranger in their living space who stepped up onto a wall, and she probably should’ve freaked out because this was a horrific breach of security, but this was also the Foundation. If everyone freaked out at every mishappenstance or breach of security, nobody would get anything done.

[font color="#139391"]“Yeah, sorry, the mess is– fine, really, it’s fine.”[/font] She wanted so badly to break into questioning. To ask a dozen things all at once. Was he already contained? His accent didn’t help with any kind of identifiers, but she was sure her Foundation would’ve known about this level of casually atypical behavior. He had to be anohuman, right? But she’d never even heard of a case of a teleporting anohuman kid – young man – who could walk on walls and produce… what, webs? Like spiderwebs, almost, that’s what it reminded her of. Then again she couldn’t memorize almost 10,000 anomalies, even if she had tried several times.

Oh. [EXPLETIVE], security.

She held up a finger, but smiled as amiably as she could as she backed toward her desk. [font color="#139391"]“I’m fine, you’re just unexpected. Just… give me a second.”[/font]

Inside a drawer, a phone started to ring. A cell phone with an indistinct ringtone, something on the xylophone maybe. She didn’t seem in the least bit afraid or concerned as she stepped to the desk and retrieved the device, although she did keep it on the side opposite him. She didn’t need him thinking she’d called the police and taking her phone with a string shot as she picked up. Her hand slid the cupcake plate aside as she pushed all else away for a more important matter.

Maybe he could take a chance to look around the apartment while she addressed some… concerns, yeah?

The walls were a pleasant shade of lavender that would have looked lovely with natural lighting. The room was largely square, with a queen bed set in the corner nearest the closet door. A kitchenette in the corner opposite was separated by the rest of the room by a counter with a barstool set on it. A couch was pushed up against a wall with a TV on a small entertainment stand set across in open space, a DVD player beside it. A full bookshelf and the desk were opposite, cupcake and burnt-out candle still visible and probably still warm. And, because of the special occasion, the surface was clear of sensitive documents or even her laptop. Between the kitchen and sitting area was a small door that led into the bathroom; between the kitchen and the desk was the door that led out of and into her personal quarters, usually locked from the inside but accessible externally in an emergency situation.

This was not an emergency, although the voice on the other end seemed urgent. [font color="#3137fd"]“Are you awa–”[/font]

She cut the voice on the other end off, not in English, but in hurried Russian. [font color="#139391"]“<Well aware, thank you, Castor.>”[/font] One, she doubted her unexpected guest understood the language. Two, it was the local language, which meant almost everyone here had some degree of fluency. Three, she didn’t have a lot of time to make that decision before Castor said something…well, something.

The other end of the line paused, but then appeared to understand. [font color="#3137fd"]“<Will you need security attention?>”[/font]

[font color="#139391"]“<No. What I’d like is a cross-reference with abilities, if possible. See what you can find. But – do tell security, before they send someone. I don’t want any surprises.>”[/font]

[font color="#3137fd"]“<Affirmative.>”[/font] The other line died. She took a deep breath. Handled, one less problem. She always had enough problems without misunderstandings adding to it.

She turned back to him, then realized she still didn’t have her glasses, and turned back to the desk to pick them up. Her conversation had taken less than thirty seconds, all told, and she slid the black-rimmed rectangles on over her eyes so she could see more details. That’d be important when this inevitably became a report. Some things never changed no matter where you ended up.

[font color="#139391"]“I’m so sorry about that,”[/font] she said without any lingering accent, now actually turning back to see her visitor. [font color="#139391"]“Couldn’t put that one off. Men, you know?”[/font]

She smiled, although it might have betrayed how little she had to smile politely anymore and how much was going on behind the glasses. Bright, intelligent blue eyes now came into focus and could better study his appearance – the lines of the costume, and maybe the way his feet touched the wall, from this distance; maybe just to see how he was doing it without seeming… invasive. And the comment about men – maybe he’d see through it, which meant he knew more than a random young adult dropped in a foreign country halfway to the earth’s mantle. Or he could accept it and prove that’s exactly what he was.

Either way, it’d be neat to see. Can’t take the research out of the researcher, even after you take the researcher out of research.
[/div][/div][/div]
 
[googlefont=Iceland][googlefont=Audiowide][div style="margin:0 auto;max-width:100%;background-color:#000000;color:#ffffff;padding-right:2%;padding-left:2%;overflow:hidden;font-family:'Iceland';font-size:15px;"][div style="border-bottom:2px solid #ec2568;border-right:2px solid #ec2568;border-left:2px solid #ec2568;padding-bottom:1%;padding-left:1%;padding-right:1%;margin-bottom:1%;font-family:'Times New Roman';"][div style="border-bottom:2px solid #ec2568;border-right:2px solid #ec2568;border-left:2px solid #ec2568;padding-bottom:2%;"][/div][/div][div style="padding-left:2%;padding-right:2%;"][div style="border-top:#000000 2px solid;border-bottom:#000000 2px solid;border-left:2px solid #ec2568;border-right:2px solid #ec2568;padding-bottom:1%;padding-top:1%;padding-left:1%;padding-right:1%;"][div style="border-top:#000000 2px solid;border-bottom:#000000 2px solid;border-left:2px solid #ec2568;border-right:2px solid #ec2568;padding-top:1%;padding-left:2%;padding-right:2%;padding-bottom:1%;font-size:1.25em;"]So . . . the older woman seemed to be taking this quite well. Guessing someone's age was not exactly his forte but she seemed older than himself at least. The way she kept squinting at him made him shift him shift his feet and shoulders uncomfortably, moving from one foot to the other side under the scrutiny. Could she not see him or was she still deciding whether she should hit him with something?

Why was she apologizing to him? He made the mess. Okay, now it is apparently fine. That was nice of her, he figured. Maybe he should clean up. Assuming this soreness was not going away anytime soon and he was basically breaking and entering--without trying he added--it would be better to leave. Right now. Especially with the woman smiling and back away from him toward her desk.

[font color="#ec2568"]Not good.[/font]

A phone rang inside the desk, and a subtle vibration crawled alongside the underside of his head and along the back of neck. It traveled through his body for a moment, an almost nauseating feeling. The phone's ringtone crawling along his hairs on his skin and his ears. He could almost make out the shape and model even inside of that desk, but his attention remained on her. His eyes narrowed, shoulders tensing a little before settling his arms over his bent knees. It was awfully convenient timing right when she started to back up. The smile, the calmness. It felt . . . unnatural. No one's first reaction to him had been anything like this.

Well, he could think of a few exceptions.

Brown eyes quickly scanned across the room under the mask, looking for a way out. His vision blurred past the walls, the different shelves and furniture. No windows. Why were there no windows? How was he supposed to leave? Through the front door like a normal human being? Sure, maybe. But his eyes landed upon a pair of doors while his body stiffened and lenses narrowed. One foot left the wall, perfectly balancing himself on one foot, before setting it on the floor.

His head and shoulders slightly turned to the woman with no name, none she had given him, and his breathing paused for a moment. Rolling his eyes under these lenses at his own antics, his posture straightened before setting both hands in his jacket's pockets and standing straight before leisurely strolling towards the first door. A turn of the handle followed.

His attention kept on his hands and the handle. His ears kept listening, but his face creased and brow furrowed. Not a language he knew, but familiar enough to guess the origin. A turn of the handle followed and his head peered inside. His shoulders dropped while bringing his hand away from the handle to rub the bridge of his nose. The bathroom. Of course, on a 50/50 shot, he ended up in the bathroom, not a hallway or a room with a front door.

His eyes barely paid attention to anything except the sink. A small ring. Swinging the door closed, Woody's head tilted to the side before raising an eyebrow under his mask; the lenses following suit with one shrinking slightly and the other growing a little larger. Men, you know?

What was he supposed to say? What kind of Twitter question was that?

[font color="#ec2568"]"I feel that is a trick question,"[/font] Woody began backing up while shooting finger guns with each step backwards. His eyes briefly traveled to look at her fingers, tilting his head down. An almost imperceptible line, a crack in the tan, met his gaze. [font color="#ec2568"]"Especially with your--Russian, right?--husband calling you up and wondering why you have a cosplayer tucked away in your closet."[/font]

[font color="#ec2568"]Yeah, like how I got there, lady.[/font]

First, find an exit. Then, solve everything else. No use trying anything while in unknown territory. Case every location. He could almost hear his old friend's words.

A shrug followed until his head immediately snapped a little to the side, spotting the handle of the other door outside his peripheral. His left hand touched it, and that sense of impending doom crawled up ever so slightly. The feeling made his head throb and his shoulders sink as the adrenaline resurged in his system. And those piercing little pins in his head. His head lowered for a moment as his eyes narrowed before darting left and right.

Wait, those felt different. Like a hundred eyes watching him.

[font color="#ec2568"]I need to leave. It's not safe here. Find an exit.[/font]

Rubbing the side of his head while his lenses narrowed into thin lines, his gaze peered up and past the woman for a second. A cupcake with a singular candle. His eyes blinked for a moment and a soft smile shined under an almost-emotionless mask for a moment.

[font color="#ec2568"]I got places to be.[/font]

[font color="#ec2568"]"Happy Birthday, Mrs. . . . . ?"[/font]

A small gesture with his free hand invited her to fill in the blank held in the air. A guy like him was not so much in a bad mood as to not wish happy birthday before cutting and running.

Although, his back was acting up something fierce now that he was standing and moving. He must have fell or lied atop wrong on one of those boxes.[/div][/div][/div][div style="border-top:2px solid #ec2568;border-right:2px solid #ec2568;border-left:2px solid #ec2568;padding-top:1%;padding-left:1%;padding-right:1%;margin-top:1%;"][div style="border-top:2px solid #ec2568;border-right:2px solid #ec2568;border-left:2px solid #ec2568;padding-top:2%;"][/div][/div][/div]
 
[div style="background-color:#1E9391;border-top:#1E9391 4px outset;border-left:#1E9391 4px inset;border-right:#1E9391 4px outset;border-bottom:#1E9391 4px inset;"][div style="border-top:#1E9391 4px inset;border-left:#1E9391 4px outset;border-right:#1E9391 4px inset;border-bottom:#1E9391 4px outset;"][div style="background-color:#FFFAFA;color:dimgray;padding:15px;font-family:courier new;"]He was no longer on the wall. Her guest was on the floor, trying to go into her bathroom. Well, no, that wasn't his intention, it didn't take a genius to figure that out. He was trying to leave. That was going to complicate things.

The lenses of his mask changed with the expression underneath. Fairly sophisticated technology, difficult to do at home. She had an old friend who'd tell her that. He wasn't here, though. He was someone else. Powers that be, they all were. She even had the ring to prove it. Although it wasn't hard to make assumptions about rings, even simple bands meant to cut someone off from the outside could be misjudged. As well as hurried phone calls with anomalous security officers.

She felt a faint warmth creep across her face at the mention she and Castor might be... even more than an item. It was one thing, with interns who didn't know better, or Class-C and D personnel who knew the rumor pool and its uses. It wasn't necessarily a surprise to hear, but it was always seemed to catch her off guard. It wasn't like he left her to her own devices very often, but that was security. She had checked.

Still. Rumors had their benefit. And the red in her cheeks would hurt any kind of denial. Perhaps it was for the best that she let him believe what he wanted.

He walked to the door. What was she going to do, stop him? She may have a lot of authority, and a touch with anohumans, but her bird-boned frame hardly suited her for any kind of physical opposition. That, and Castor - among other security personnel - would find it unfitting. She wouldn't be surprised if he was on his way here right now, despite orders. Which reminded her she shouldn't be surprised when people made assumptions about them. Maybe he'd be able to intercept before the newcomer went-

Except the newcomer stopped, and his lenses narrowed. There was a tension that was faintly familiar in him. Hesitation. He looked back at her, not for orders or advice as so many did, but almost like searching for an alternative. She felt the red creep back when he noticed the cupcake, and asked for a name.

Well, we're going to have to amnesticize the [EXPLETIVE] out of him anyway after this one.

That wasn't an excuse to breach all security protocols, but at least she had one prepared. It wouldn't fit well with the cover story of a Russian husband, but a name like this was better than not having one.

[font color="1e9391"]"Hobbes,"[/font] she said, pushing the bangs out of her face. It was juvenile of her to be embarrassed by his assumption, and she smiled again to brush that, too, away. [font color="1e9391"]"Doctor Hobbes - Levi, if you want to be casual. Thank you."[/font]

She tilted her head, and leaned back against the desk, non-threatening. She now rubbed her right hand against where the ring would be on her left, making no attempt to hide the self-consciousness. The concern in her eyes, no longer narrowed to see him, was genuine, even if it was still mixed with her curiosity.

[font color="1e9391"]"Is everything alright? Do you need an aspirin or something, Mr...."[/font]

There were a dozen other questions she could ask. There were always more questions. But she decided on the kindest one, for now.
[/div][/div][/div]
 
[googlefont=Iceland][googlefont=Audiowide][div style="margin:0 auto;max-width:100%;background-color:#000000;color:#ffffff;padding-right:2%;padding-left:2%;overflow:hidden;font-family:'Iceland';font-size:15px;"][div style="border-bottom:2px solid #ec2568;border-right:2px solid #ec2568;border-left:2px solid #ec2568;padding-bottom:1%;padding-left:1%;padding-right:1%;margin-bottom:1%;font-family:'Times New Roman';"][div style="border-bottom:2px solid #ec2568;border-right:2px solid #ec2568;border-left:2px solid #ec2568;padding-bottom:2%;"][/div][/div][div style="padding-left:2%;padding-right:2%;"][div style="border-top:#000000 2px solid;border-bottom:#000000 2px solid;border-left:2px solid #ec2568;border-right:2px solid #ec2568;padding-bottom:1%;padding-top:1%;padding-left:1%;padding-right:1%;"][div style="border-top:#000000 2px solid;border-bottom:#000000 2px solid;border-left:2px solid #ec2568;border-right:2px solid #ec2568;padding-top:1%;padding-left:2%;padding-right:2%;padding-bottom:1%;font-size:1.25em;"]She was turning red. Did he turn her red? No, it was his earlier comments. Well, that certainly put a feather in his cap. He made a--what?--a 30-something year old blush with remarks about her husband. Well, isn't that man a lucky guy. Meanwhile, Woody would settle for making this whole awkward mess a distant memory.

Hobbes. Doctor Hobbes. Levi.

His eyes followed her fingers for a moment before making their way back to her. A deep breath followed before standing a little straighter. She was asking him if he was alright. If he needed an aspirin. Right, like he was a big fan of taking pills from strangers after emerging from their closets for no apparent reason. The dread creeped up again slightly. It felt like it was all around.

He felt his skin crawl. He felt it. Under the watch of eyes he cannot see. But he could feel it. Hesitation might get him in more trouble, and he wasted enough time being the good boy scout. Call it a bad habit of his. Time to lean into his confidence and instincts.

[font color="#ec2568"]Get out.[/font]

[font color="#ec2568"]"Levi. Nice name. Fun smile too,"[/font] Woody pointed at her before pointing to the door, [font color="#ec2568"]"I'll be fine. I'm the king of okay. Just need some fresh air."[/font]

She didn't know his name? Well, he was not exactly someone to believe he was a celebrity and everyone knew his name, but he sure made headlines on the news. Good or bad. Ah, well, everyone kept telling him he should keep his head up no matter what, right?

[font color="ec2568"]"I'm Sensation."[/font]

A shrug followed with a smile as one lens nonchalantly winked at her before turning the handle. A click followed as the door swung open, and Woody would lean with his body and shoulders into whichever direction it would go, but kept his head turned slightly more in her direction. Sometimes it was hard to tell if a door was a push or pull. One of the more annoying things about door design.

[font color="#ec2568"]"So, are you really spending your birthday all alone or did everyone lose their invitations in the mail?"[/font] Woody chuckled a little, lighthearted but the mask always muffled his tone, [font color="#ec2568"]"I mean, I'd think your husband at least treat you to a very Russian birthday, right? I'm pretty sure they party just as hard as anyone."[/font]

He talked, hoping it would distract both her and himself. Before turning his head around to see what was inside.[/div][/div][/div][div style="border-top:2px solid #ec2568;border-right:2px solid #ec2568;border-left:2px solid #ec2568;padding-top:1%;padding-left:1%;padding-right:1%;margin-top:1%;"][div style="border-top:2px solid #ec2568;border-right:2px solid #ec2568;border-left:2px solid #ec2568;padding-top:2%;"][/div][/div][/div]
 
[div style="background-color:#1E9391;border-top:#1E9391 4px outset;border-left:#1E9391 4px inset;border-right:#1E9391 4px outset;border-bottom:#1E9391 4px inset;"][div style="border-top:#1E9391 4px inset;border-left:#1E9391 4px outset;border-right:#1E9391 4px inset;border-bottom:#1E9391 4px outset;"][div style="background-color:#FFFAFA;color:dimgray;padding:15px;font-family:courier new;"]Sensation. It was probably not his real name, which was fair, but also piqued that research itch again. He was masked, and had a name. A superhero wannabe, maybe? Knockoff Spider-Man? His anohuman abilities pointed that way. It'd be a reasonable conclusion to come to. Still, why hadn't she even heard of him? Wind of that kind of thing usually passed her eventually. She'd need to consult a few people, see if he'd just slipped her mind...

Focus. He was opening the door, and in a standard room in a standard location he might've noticed some inconsistencies right away. This place was a little different, for reasons besides ensuring random young adults who appeared inside didn't immediately panic and realize where they were.

The door opened outward. The official reason for the design was that it was harder to break into with the arrangement of the hinges, although of the things stored at this location, most probably would be able to just tear it off and be done with it. Even with the sophisticated exterior locking system. The design had been made more with groups of interest in mind than anomalous intruder - especially given that most anomalies would be more focused on the surface than personnel quarters. Part of the reason why personnel quarters had their own evacuation route up to the surface, and why they were near the lowest levels of the location. Five hundred feet was not a lot when it came to, say, the distance to brake before a stop sign. It was a lot when it came to the distance between a person and the atmosphere, especially when that distance was mostly solid rock and Leviathan-class anomalies.

But her room was separate even from other personnel quarters. She had alternative evacuation methods; her door led out to a single hall that ended in an opening that let light in, with a staircase leading down into the general location personnel living spaces. Most were like hers in design. The necessities to live your life in a location of this size. Most people here left or rotated out, but for security reasons some stayed full-time. Which, of course, complicated the birthday question.

[font color="1e9391"]"We're both busy people,"[/font] she decided to answer, focusing on the husband angle. [font color="1e9391"]"Sometimes it feels like we live for our work. It makes relationships more complicated. But - well, truth be told, it's nice to have a bit of quiet."[/font]

You didn't get very far in the Foundation if you weren't any good at half-truths. She wasn't the best one in her family on the matter, her strengths were elsewhere. But she'd come the farthest. And while Sensation would find out the truth eventually, maybe he'd forgive her if she didn't completely lie to him.

Outside, a figure leaned on the wall about halfway down the hallway. Perhaps he'd always been there; it was difficult to say otherwise after a hurried first glance, stood as still as he was. A tall man, clean-shaven, with warm dark skin and black hair and electric blue eyes. Dressed in a black leather coat and casual blue jeans, he didn't focus with strange intensity on the stranger in her room. If anything, with his hands in his pockets, gentle smile, and an almost languid roll of his shoulders as the door finished opening, he seemed entirely unfazed by the sight. The only visual oddity might be the monarch butterfly set on his shoulder, almost unnoticed. But sharp senses might detect the faintest hum, almost electrical, or the softest smell in the air like incense or tea; a sharp mind might pick up a relative change as the scent was carried in on a gentle draft almost before the door was all the way open.

[font color="#3137fd"]Calm.[/font]
[/div][/div][/div]
 
[googlefont=Iceland][googlefont=Audiowide][div style="margin:0 auto;max-width:100%;background-color:#000000;color:#ffffff;padding-right:2%;padding-left:2%;overflow:hidden;font-family:'Iceland';font-size:15px;"][div style="border-bottom:2px solid #ec2568;border-right:2px solid #ec2568;border-left:2px solid #ec2568;padding-bottom:1%;padding-left:1%;padding-right:1%;margin-bottom:1%;font-family:'Times New Roman';"][div style="border-bottom:2px solid #ec2568;border-right:2px solid #ec2568;border-left:2px solid #ec2568;padding-bottom:2%;"][/div][/div][div style="padding-left:2%;padding-right:2%;"][div style="border-top:#000000 2px solid;border-bottom:#000000 2px solid;border-left:2px solid #ec2568;border-right:2px solid #ec2568;padding-bottom:1%;padding-top:1%;padding-left:1%;padding-right:1%;"][div style="border-top:#000000 2px solid;border-bottom:#000000 2px solid;border-left:2px solid #ec2568;border-right:2px solid #ec2568;padding-top:1%;padding-left:2%;padding-right:2%;padding-bottom:1%;font-size:1.25em;"]And that is just about where his benefit of the doubt ended. A long hallway with no windows, light at the end of the tunnel, and a staircase. Let's not forget to mention the man halfway down the hall, standing off the side and offering a smile. A leather jacket.

[font color="#ec2568"]"Uh huh. I understand the feeling,"[/font] Sensation spoke, nodding slightly, before tilting his head slightly her way while still looking down the hallway, [font color="#ec2568"]"What work do you and your husband do?"[/font]

Woody grabbed his jacket and straightened it for a moment, giving it a good tug. A small wave followed with his hand before raising a thumbs up. The butterfly. The man. Neither were normal. Levi was normal. Those two? He could sense it. Even more so, he could feel it. Every awkward sensation crawling up along his spine yet he loosened his shoulders. His talons sprung for a moment from his left hand. Woody's eyes widened under the mask, grabbing his own wrist.

The talons loosened and lowered back into his fingers. Crisis averted. But it was more than enough reminder of what he was dealing with here. Raising his hand once more, Woody's shoulders tensed as he raised his forefinger up at the man. One moment.

Woody took one step to the side towards Levi before facing her, eyeballing the man outside the peripheral. A game was being played here. He liked to win those, if he can. Maybe one more little trick before he hit the road wouldn't hurt. A tap of his foot touched the floor and every inch between Levi and himself became not just non-adhesive, but even electrostatically repulsive. Enough to make the floor seem like skating on ice.

Lowering his arms to his sides and shooting from the waist, Sensation fired one line towards the older woman as the end of it became a larger sideways net intent to strike softly the side of her. And from there he gave a precisely controlled tug before the line let go of her and slipped away back to himself. Enough force behind the whiplash to send her spinning around, pirouetting on both feet, towards him across a floor that might as well have no friction whatsoever.

And if she fell or stumbled, immediately he would be at her side--covering the distance nearly imperceptibly quick with how small it was between them--to catch her with one arm, firm but steady. But in the moments between his other arm fired two lines, both veering off in a V-shape from each other. One snapping to the cupcake and the other to the phone. Immediately the line with the phone retracted to his hand and slipped the device to the side of the "belt" of his costume. Next, the line tugging the cupcake rapidly traveled towards his free hand and caught it.

No worse for wear there. The candle might haven fallen over and maybe the frosting shifted a little, but nothing lost. With one arm Woody caught her gently before speaking, keeping a firm grasp and waiting for a few moments for her to orientate herself.

[font color="#ec2568"]"Let's go for a walk and talk. A little adventure,"[/font] Sensation smirked under the mask, [font color="#ec2568"]"After all, no one should be alone all locked up on their birthday."[/font]

His hand raised the confectionary delight towards her chest, towards her hands, [font color="#ec2568"]"Cupcake?"[/font]

After she took the confectionary into her hands, Woody's eyes gleamed and his grin grew bigger. Levi would find herself absolutely weightless and a rush as her legs were swept off the ground.

All the while, Sensation kept his eyes trained back on the man and the butterfly in the hallway, but a raised lens looked at Levi.

[font color="#ec2568"]"I'll even be your hype man,"[/font] Woody glanced down the hallway, gesturing with his head down its length, [font color="#ec2568"]"Let's start with hollering down the halls, yeah? Live a little."[/font]

Not his most convincing proposal, but she was the one who said she was super busy. Either way, no loss on his part. All part of the plan. If he hadn't been so calm, maybe he never would have thought of it.[/div][/div][/div][div style="border-top:2px solid #ec2568;border-right:2px solid #ec2568;border-left:2px solid #ec2568;padding-top:1%;padding-left:1%;padding-right:1%;margin-top:1%;"][div style="border-top:2px solid #ec2568;border-right:2px solid #ec2568;border-left:2px solid #ec2568;padding-top:2%;"][/div][/div][/div]
 
[div style="background-color:#1E9391;border-top:#1E9391 4px outset;border-left:#1E9391 4px inset;border-right:#1E9391 4px outset;border-bottom:#1E9391 4px inset;"][div style="border-top:#1E9391 4px inset;border-left:#1E9391 4px outset;border-right:#1E9391 4px inset;border-bottom:#1E9391 4px outset;"][div style="background-color:#FFFAFA;color:dimgray;padding:15px;font-family:courier new;"][font color="1e9391"]"I’m a lead researcher for a major institution,"[/font] she answered his first question almost immediately, before - well, before the rest happened. That was easy, and the truth, even if it was a secret institution. [font color="1e9391"]"He’s a security agent for the same group. We both work all kinds of odd hours."[/font]

Even as she spoke, her eyes followed the lenses to his hand, to the long – claws. Another tick on an increasing list of anhohuman abilities, it seemed. They seemed to be retractable, but whether they were an extension of his hand or a separate set of bones entirely was a question that would have to remain unanswered, for now.

That, she noticed, was odd. She didn’t normally set questions aside, she barely contained them and bookmarked them for later study. A facade of calm, rather than its reality. This feeling wasn’t surprising, partially because of the nature and origin that she recognized, partly because of that recognition. Castor was close enough to have an effect, which had not been her orders, but she quite literally didn’t have it in her to be upset about it. She doubted she’d actually be upset if her body did suddenly find itself capable of producing the right hormones.

The floor then shifted. Or, well, her weight shifted, and the carpet on the floor stopped functioning to keep her from slipping. A moment of surprise cut through the gentle sedation, but something caught her before she could fall, something that struck her from the side and stuck. It took her a moment to remember the webbing he’d produced, which he’d used to pull her in close and catch her with one arm. In the other hand was the cupcake, intact, candle just a little awry.

No thrill, no frustration. One of those would come sooner or later. Her eyes darted out into the hall, where Castor raised an eyebrow at her. He didn’t make a move to stop the calming agent, or the unknown entity, and she didn’t tell him to. She took a slow breath, then shook her head with a little smile.

[font color="1e9391"]"You’re just full of surprises, aren’t you?"[/font]

Not to Castor, but to her visitor. Partly observation, partly reply. She accepted the cupcake as he made his proposal and offered no resistance as he lifted her off the ground. She wasn’t large, and she wasn’t heavy. The decision to allow it now wasn’t just reserved to the impossibility of resistance – it was much simpler. Observation could be best done at close range. She’d have her second guesses once there was no chance to turn back. In the meantime she’d have to keep a mental log. Not hard, without distractions.

[font color="1e9391"]"Castor,"[/font] she said, turning her head toward the hall again, [font color="1e9391"]"<please inform security this is for research.>"[/font]

[font color="#3137fd"]"<Affirmative.>"[/font] He remained still. [font color="#3137fd"]"<We’ll keep watch.>"[/font]

[font color="1e9391"]"Spasibo."[/font] She settled a little, and picked the candle free from the cupcake and hid it in one hand. Her attention turned now upward to the man who’d decided bridal carrying her through the site was his best option. [font color="1e9391"]"Maybe we could leave my birthday out of it? I prefer to keep that a quiet affair."[/font]

But besides that expression of preference, she offered no resistance. Even without Castor’s influence, that’d be the likely case, given that she wasn’t actually capable of resisting. And that she was insufferably curious about who he was, and how he’d gotten here. Assuming he didn’t decide to put one of those claws through her spine on a whim, maybe this would give her some answers.
[/div][/div][/div]
 
[googlefont=Iceland][googlefont=Audiowide][div style="margin:0 auto;max-width:100%;background-color:#000000;color:#ffffff;padding-right:2%;padding-left:2%;overflow:hidden;font-family:'Iceland';font-size:15px;"][div style="border-bottom:2px solid #ec2568;border-right:2px solid #ec2568;border-left:2px solid #ec2568;padding-bottom:1%;padding-left:1%;padding-right:1%;margin-bottom:1%;font-family:'Times New Roman';"][div style="border-bottom:2px solid #ec2568;border-right:2px solid #ec2568;border-left:2px solid #ec2568;padding-bottom:2%;"][/div][/div][div style="padding-left:2%;padding-right:2%;"][div style="border-top:#000000 2px solid;border-bottom:#000000 2px solid;border-left:2px solid #ec2568;border-right:2px solid #ec2568;padding-bottom:1%;padding-top:1%;padding-left:1%;padding-right:1%;"][div style="border-top:#000000 2px solid;border-bottom:#000000 2px solid;border-left:2px solid #ec2568;border-right:2px solid #ec2568;padding-top:1%;padding-left:2%;padding-right:2%;padding-bottom:1%;font-size:1.25em;"]Research and security. A small glance under the mask right at the man in the hallway. Not sure why but Woody had a feeling about that man. Every nerve on fire screaming that something was off about the man and the butterfly, and yet those thousands of fires under his skin and along his spine became muted.

[font color="#ec2568"]"Yep, full of surprises,"[/font] Sensation could only form a little nod and a half-smile under the mask. One that quickly fell away as he listened. That voice. The accent. The language. The two of them bouncing off one another. A sigh nearly escaped him and he played it off as a deep breath before stepping out into the hallway. Bouncing Levi in his arms for a few moments, Woody made sure both her and himself were comfortable before bending his legs, lowering himself and her a good several inches, while adopting a pseudo-sprinter's position. Perfectly balanced as if she weighted nothing to him.

She did weight nearly nothing to him. Her entire form barely even registered her in his arms if not for keeping attention on her on his peripheral. A hand adjusted, tucking her head against his shoulder. No need to risk any form of whiplash, no matter how minute.

[font color="#ec2568"]"Tuck your head in and keep all limbs inside the vehicle at all times,"[/font] Sensation's tone kept low and calm, [font color="#ec2568"]"Trust me, this is going to be better than Six Flags. Hang on to me and your cupcake."[/font]

[font color="#ec2568"]Run.[/font]

Levi taking off would feel almost weightless for a few moments, even in his arms before it finally registered to her. His takeoff to full acceleration took less than a fraction of a fraction of a second to take off, bounding through the halls at speeds comparable to a car. Well, it would be for more than a second or two if the hallway were any longer. Only so much room to go before he needed to stop and take off in a different direction.

Case in point, Sensation began bounding down the hall, rushing past the strange man. Every footstep powerful, blunt, yet elegant as he kept a breakneck speed. Woody looked over his shoulder and those lenses narrowed slightly before looking forward again.

[font color="#ec2568"]"Don't worry. You're safe,"[/font] a steady and calm voice would speak to Levi over the rush of wind, [font color="#ec2568"]"Close your eyes and feel the wind."[/font]

Kicking off the ground mid-run, Sensation began running on the right wall, contorting his body to continue holding Levi while his legs kept maintaining the brunt of their momentum and balance. Before running to the point where they were upside down and then on the other wall before hopping off and hitting the floor again.

Heading towards the light and, hopefully, freedom or a set of doors. An exit. He would even take one of those maps on a wall marked You are here! in those big font letters.

If able, he would keep running until he reached the middle of the next area and look around as his legs slid to a stop and his chest rose up and down, slightly faster but not out breath. Searching for that next sign of where to go.[/div][/div][/div][div style="border-top:2px solid #ec2568;border-right:2px solid #ec2568;border-left:2px solid #ec2568;padding-top:1%;padding-left:1%;padding-right:1%;margin-top:1%;"][div style="border-top:2px solid #ec2568;border-right:2px solid #ec2568;border-left:2px solid #ec2568;padding-top:2%;"][/div][/div][/div]
 
[div style="background-color:#1E9391;border-top:#1E9391 4px outset;border-left:#1E9391 4px inset;border-right:#1E9391 4px outset;border-bottom:#1E9391 4px inset;"][div style="border-top:#1E9391 4px inset;border-left:#1E9391 4px outset;border-right:#1E9391 4px inset;border-bottom:#1E9391 4px outset;"][div style="background-color:#FFFAFA;color:dimgray;padding:15px;font-family:courier new;"]She followed his instructions on posture and position, fully nonassertive. Her body was relaxed in an act of trust that didn’t quite suit her – but he wouldn’t notice, even if she did. Once they passed Castor, it would be several minutes before his effect fully wore off on her human metabolism. For someone with adjusted biology, she would have recommended precise experimentation before making an attempt. But there hadn’t exactly been time for that. Besides, it wasn’t like she couldn’t treat this as such. Just a matter of counting seconds after they made it into the much more diluted air of the main chamber and remembering for later comparison.

And then came the rush. Still no distress, no adrenaline, but that did not exclude her from the joy that came with the feeling; just kept that joy from being overbalanced. The weightless feeling, combined with the artificial relaxation, could very well have put her to sleep if not for the movement itself. That being said, she still basked in it, even going so far as to close her eyes. One arm around him for balance, the other hand around the cupcake so it didn’t fall as they spun about the hall, every moment clear in her mind without the internal rush.

Levi didn’t need to see what came next, after all. Not even the slight wave Castor gave them as the pair passed.

At a glance, the next chamber appeared to be the exterior courtyard of a large apartment complex – doors evenly spaced from floor to ceiling along balconies, with other narrower halls branching inward to take advantage of available space. Upon momentary inspection, however, the similarities to anything on the surface world faded away. Each door was the same, but none were numbered. A few had a mockery of a welcome mat, or a potted plant that seemed to do well in the artificial lighting produced from far above, a specialized design for those that would spend most of the rest of their lives far from the surface. The ground and walls seemed to be living stone – adjusted just enough to make them habitable; likely insulated inside, but the greater room had that rush of coolness that belonged to a place too far from the sun. Even under her sweater, Levi felt a creep of gooseflesh reach up along her spine, and she shuddered just a little.

The courtyard was quiet, for the time of night. Benches and tables had been set around it as a general public space, but only a few people were around, writing in notebooks while referencing tablets, typing on laptops, reading books, or talking softly. There were two total security agents in the area; more on the way out, but beyond sight. Each wore the heavy Foundation ceramic and kevlar, armed with a large rifle, smaller handgun, baton, combat knife, and various smaller implements in pockets on their belts. They glanced up at the movement from the hall, hesitated to study the person that emerged, and then…moved on, it would seem. They had received the message to leave it be, for now. Word traveled fast in the Foundation, and if she decided she was going to take a joyride with a stranger that just appeared in her room, that was her prerogative. Although the footage might damage any bets between her and Castor.

There were no signs pointing to an exit, even the emergency exits. Everyone who needed to know already knew. Or, perhaps, they could see the larger hall that led out of the courtyard, like one of the airport tunnels that led beneath the runway between concourses. Not a clearly marked map, but the only visible way out from where Sensation stood.
[/div][/div][/div]
 
[googlefont=Iceland][googlefont=Audiowide][div style="margin:0 auto;max-width:100%;background-color:#000000;color:#ffffff;padding:1%;overflow:hidden;font-size:11pt;"][div style="border: 2px solid #ffffff;padding:1%;"][div style="border: 2px solid #ffffff;padding:2%;"][div align="left" style="overflow:hidden;font-size:1.21em;font-family:'Iceland';"]Okay, this was getting old. Like yesterday old. Another room. More doors but nothing that looked like exits. Rock formations caught his attention as he glanced upward. Underground apartment complexes? Nothing immediately came to mind besides the sewers and underground lairs of Duskburg. Perfect resting grounds for Nosferatu.

But none of this he recognized. Where was he? Leaving would be key to answering that question. Unless . . .

Turning his head left to right to find the most distracted person in the vicinity, Woody's eyes narrowed at a pair of individuals talking, wearing similar uniform yet not the guards. Personnel. A calm washed over him. No reason to freak out and bolt just yet. Maybe there were more subtle ways of getting this done.

Oldest tricks in the book were old because they worked a lot, right?

Leaping over a table and landing quietly before landing behind the pair of conversationalists, Woody stepped up close, keeping a few feet away before forcing a smirk under the mask.

[font color="#8B83C2"]"Hey, sorry to bother,"[/font] Sensation spoke, keeping that almost timid tone when someone did not know where they were going.

[font color="8b83c2"]"Either of you two how to get back to the exit? Got lost on the way here."[/font]

His eyes briefly snapped towards Levi. What kind of predicament would this cause? Whether this worked or not, it might give him a small clue. Another dreadful sensation dug deep into the pit of his stomach and a small, constant needle of pain traveled up the back of his neck.

Closing in. Watching. All around him. No time. He needed to run. A deep sigh exhaled out his chest as his shoulders became more rigid and his heels dug into the ground a little more tensely.

[font color="#8B83C2"]Run.[/font][/div][/div][/div][/div]
 
[div style="background-color:#1E9391;border-top:#1E9391 4px outset;border-left:#1E9391 4px inset;border-right:#1E9391 4px outset;border-bottom:#1E9391 4px inset;"][div style="border-top:#1E9391 4px inset;border-left:#1E9391 4px outset;border-right:#1E9391 4px inset;border-bottom:#1E9391 4px outset;"][div style="background-color:#FFFAFA;color:dimgray;padding:15px;font-family:courier new;"]The researchers he addressed were two men, one older, one middle-aged, like Levi herself. The pair stopped the moment the stranger spoke, the younger one almost jumping out of his skin. The older one seemed to take this as par for the course, but frowned noticeably as he saw Dr. Hobbes in the man’s arms.

[font color="black"]“Ser?”[/font] The older researcher’s frown and tone expressed both confusion and a little alarm. [font color="black"]”Mne vyzvat' okhranu?”[/font][sup]1[/sup]

Dr. Hobbes blinked at the man, then smiled faintly and waved one hand. [font color="1e9391"]“Net. My pod nablyudeniyem.”[/font] A pause, more thoughtful than reconsidering. [font color="1e9391"]“Khotya ya nakhozhus' pod vliyaniyem Kastora. Eto mozhet byt' izmeneno.”[/font][sup]2[/sup]

The men exchanged a glance, and then the older one sighed and nodded.

[font color="black"]“Verno, ser. Mne skazat' yemu, kuda idti?”[/font][sup]3[/sup]

She smiled, then looked up at Sensation, then shook her head toward the researcher.

[font color="1e9391"]“Net, ya mogu pozabotit'sya ob etom. Spasibo, Dr. Oborin.”[/font][sup]4[/sup]

Oborin nodded, but still seemed to be somewhat in shock. Levi looked at Sensation again, this time moving one hand to point to the main hall. Her voice carried the same calm tone she’d had before, aware of the chemical in her system but still making no attempt to fight it. Still, she felt the rigidity of his body. She had worked closely with anohumans for years; it didn’t even take someone with that much experience to know Castor's influence was gone, and that this could turn very ugly, very fast. Still, the calm lingered, and she let it.

[font color="1e9391"]“Russian is the local language, I apologize. The main hallway is through there. The main exit will pass that way, but there’s quite a bit between here and the surface. I can answer any more questions you have and give you directions, if you just ask.”[/font]


[sup]1[/sup][font color="black"]Sir? … Should I call security?[/font]
[sup]2[/sup][font color="1e9391"]No. We’re under observation. … Although I am under Castor’s influence. This is subject to change.[/font]
[sup]3[/sup]Right, sir. Should I tell him where to go?
[sup]4[/sup][font color="1e9391"]No, I can take care of it. Thank you, Dr. Oborin.[/font]
[/div][/div][/div]
 
[div style="margin:0 auto;max-width:100%;background-color:#000000;color:#ffffff;padding:1%;overflow:hidden;font-size:8pt;"][div style="border: 2px solid #ffffff;padding:1%;"][div style="border: 2px solid #ffffff;padding:2%;"][div align="left" style="overflow:hidden;font-size:1.25em;font-family:'Courier New';"]Good. He caught them off guard, which brought about more visceral emotional reactions. His eyes glanced to each of the two personnel members. One of them nearly jumped out of his skin, and no move was made to apologize by Woody's behalf. Let them sweat a little considering he had not idea how or why he was here.

A frown followed when the older of the two glanced at the woman in his arms. Not much to go on, but a stranger carrying around one of their own might bring mixed opinions. Right, he doubted that. No one made a move on him, and yet no idea of how he got here. What happened?

The tension did not leave him as they spoke in a language he did not understand. A gut feeling told him the two were not talking about the weather or how unbelievably strong he was to lift a tiny woman with no problems (or back problems for that matter). His left foot began tapping, waiting. Eyes scanning around the room for a moment while he listened. No sign of that other guy. The one who was different from everyone else.

And that butterfly. What was its deal?

A brief moment of English instead of Russian hitting his ears shook Woody out of his thoughts. Directions. His eyes narrowed for a moment and his lenses followed suit. His head lowered along with his neck, casting a closer look at her before one of the lenses winked.

Before tossing her into the air. It was good solid five feet above him as he just let her loose into the air before letting her fall back into his arms, bending his knees and squatting for a moment as she landed right back in his arms so he was not a brick wall when she came back down.

[font color="8b83c2"]"Well then, lead the way. But first . . . "[/font]

Standing back up straight, Woody simply leaped onto a nearby table and lifted Levi high in the air over his head. A keen glance at the guards followed although his lenses did not move an inch, resting at their usual size.

[font color="8b83c2"]"Hello, undergrounders! The wonderful Levi Hobbes is having a party back at her room,"[/font] Sensation spoke, keeping to his word, [font color="8b83c2"]"You don't know how lucky you all are to have her. Everyone is invited! We'll be out grabbing snacks but head on down. It'll be a blast!"[/font]

What a fool he was. No one in their right mind would do this. Keep this calm, keep their word, keep stalling. He needed to run and get out, not honor a lie or wisecrack. On the plus side, if it made him look like a bigger fool, maybe they would be more likely to let him go. He could almost scoff under his breath. That was a pipedream.

There was always something to ruin his day. And this headache, the constant soreness, and the drowsiness settling in, even with his mind and body alert and awake for danger. Every muscle twitching and every nerve firing off. Nothing about him was in the right state. The nausea came to a head and his breathing quickened.

Before darting down the halls and whooping loud and clear, mustering everything up for one last round of showboating.

[font color="8b83c2"]"Everyone give it up for Levi! A round of applause will hurt no one!"[/font] Woody chuckled as they bounced--sometimes literally--down the halls [font color="8b83c2"]"Whoop! Whoop! Yeah!"[/font]

His legs pushed themselves to full speed but the sluggishness creeping up in his legs made it feel like, for a moment, he was trying to push through water for a moment. A brief stumble followed but he rolled it off. Tired, hungry, and most likely injured or pushed himself too far. Not a good place for him to be in right now. All to get in a closet? Did they drug him? Fight him and then drug him? How did he get there? Why was the woman here? Why was no one trying to hurt him more?

He just wanted to go home. Enough is enough.

Run.

He intended exactly that. Incidentally, as the sickening feeling ebbed and flowed up his spine, his feet steadily slowed before stopping at the exit Levi spoke of. He had been barely paying attention to his own movements, even to her, before looking up with slightly widened lenses and realizing where they both were. How did he-? Oh, right. He was not thinking straight. At least he got here all the same.

[font color="8b83c2"]"Where next?"[/font]

The words just simply came out of him, more neutral sounding than before as his head twitched side to side glancing at his surroundings.[/div][/div][/div][/div]
 
[div style="background-color:#1E9391;border-top:#1E9391 4px outset;border-left:#1E9391 4px inset;border-right:#1E9391 4px outset;border-bottom:#1E9391 4px inset;"][div style="border-top:#1E9391 4px inset;border-left:#1E9391 4px outset;border-right:#1E9391 4px inset;border-bottom:#1E9391 4px outset;"][div style="background-color:#FFFAFA;color:dimgray;padding:15px;font-family:courier new;"]A hesitant but polite applause followed Woody’s display. Levi was fairly certain several people in the room didn’t understand English. Not because they were Russian, but because the Foundation was an international affair. More important to her was the fact that she was beginning to feel exhaustion – not her own, but his. Nervous twitches, small shifts in movement that might indicate soreness. It didn’t affect the way he held her, didn’t change the strength in his arms as he threw her and then lifted her above the rest. Too many people did that already, but that wasn’t the issue at all. Nor was the issue of letting someone swing her about like a ragdoll.

She couldn’t actually let him leave. Beyond mere security reasons, he was showing every sign of being too exhausted to travel the necessary distance to the next settlement on his own. She could not, in good conscience, leave him to that. She’d need to keep him here at least under observation, at least overnight. If it meant she didn’t sleep than so be it – so much of her Foundation didn’t sleep anyway. But before that she needed to think clearly. Not just because of Castor.

The whooping and hollering was enough to pull her the rest of the way from a trance, even if she didn’t fully feel adrenaline yet. Maybe she’d just remain calm enough naturally, even without his influence, who knew. What she did know was that she needed to handle – several potential issues all at once. Good thing she had plenty of experience in that.

When he stopped at the end of the hall in a large, open chamber, she finally addressed him again. The walls were the same living stone, and the room itself was massive. This wasn’t the part that led to the surface, unless you knew where the elevator was, and given this wasn’t a shopping mall the way wasn’t exactly clear.

[font color="1e9391"]“I can walk, you know.”[/font]

Even, steady. Not a command, but hardly a suggestion. She would’ve been a little surprised when he listened, if she could’ve been. She caught her balance in her white socks, the stone floor damp as it often was. She smoothed herself and stretched a little, not that the ride had been uncomfortable.

First course of action handled smoothly. Next, she removed the candle from the cupcake, broke the muffin part in half, and then turned it into a frosting sandwich. The bottom of the candle went into her mouth, then into her sweatpants pocket. She held it out for him to take. [font color="1e9391"]“Here. You need it more than I do right now. I won’t look.”[/font]

For some reason, the mask was important, and she’d respect him enough to avert her eyes if he accepted. She knew of course that she could make him stay. A single word in any language, and Security would be on them like ants. But she didn’t want that, at least not as a first resort. She did have an idea, the kind that would likely seem worse when she was less tranquil, but it was all she had.

[font color="1e9391"]“There’s an elevator to the right, in that central column. It goes all the way up and opens on the highest underground level. I’ll come with you as far as the surface.”[/font]

She’d gesture in the correct direction, and then move to follow when he went. She took it for granted that he’d realize he’d need her with him to get away with any more than he already had, or at least not get immediately dogpiled by guards in armor once they reached level A.
[/div][/div][/div]
 
[div style="margin:0 auto;max-width:100%;background-color:#000000;color:#ffffff;padding:1%;overflow:hidden;font-size:8pt;"][div style="border: 2px solid #ffffff;padding:1%;"][div style="border: 2px solid #ffffff;padding:2%;"][div align="left" style="overflow:hidden;font-size:1.25em;font-family:'Courier New';"]Setting Levi Hobbes down onto her own two feet, Woody wondered if perhaps he should have been more normal about this. She could have walked alongside him, instead of rushing her around in his arms. A part of him argued she could have refused or going alone might have afforded none of the protection keeping her close may have given him, not unlike a hostage situation if he thought about it more. Another part told him he was a fool to not approach this more normally, more subtle. Everything felt . . . off.

He needed his head in the game. No more fooling around.

It made it all the more surprising when the offer of the cupcake was made towards him. And here he thought she may be getting a little tired of him. All he could do was raise a hand up, palm open and outward to her, as he shook his head.

"Your birthday, your cupcake," he began trekking towards the elevator, "You eat it. I'll be fine."

Stepping up to the elevator, his eyes narrowed at the security console next to the elevator door. Of course there would be a security console. He would need Levi to get through and get to the upper floors. Unless he decided to rip the doors apart and start climbing up on his own.

No, no reason for him to do that. Yet.

"I believe this is where your expertise is needed? I won't look."

He would not as he turned around. But he could not say the same for the suit.[/div][/div][/div][/div]
 
[div style="background-color:#1E9391;border-top:#1E9391 4px outset;border-left:#1E9391 4px inset;border-right:#1E9391 4px outset;border-bottom:#1E9391 4px inset;"][div style="border-top:#1E9391 4px inset;border-left:#1E9391 4px outset;border-right:#1E9391 4px inset;border-bottom:#1E9391 4px outset;"][div style="background-color:#FFFAFA;color:dimgray;padding:15px;font-family:courier new;"]He refused the cupcake, which was smart for a variety of reasons that had nothing to do with cupcakes. Quite a bit of the nearly manic energy left him. He had recovered completely, it seemed, and he was thinking clearly. She was starting to feel it wear off, too. Her idea was already seeming like a bad one, even as she held the cupcake and followed him to the elevator. As he gave her the same offer, to not-look while she did her thing.

Her gut told her that he was not-looking in a way very similar to her not-looking, and she’d long since learned to trust her instincts. She studied the pad for a second, and then glanced up at the camera. Her smile was perhaps a little more self-satisfied than it needed to be. The calming effect was definitely wearing off.

[font color="1e9391"]“Location Director Levi Hobbes speaking. Heading to Level A.”[/font]

That was not procedure, and it was saying more than she should, from a security perspective – but it would be much less secure if she typed in the password when she felt watched. She was sure that there was a debate going on in the primary observation room, hurried conversations and unofficial bets on how this was going to go. She wondered how many of her people had enough confidence in her to put their money there.

She did take a bite of the cupcake, while she waited. It was good. She almost offered some to him again, but determined that was a bad choice. It would be best not to press the matter, or any matter. She’d take him where he needed to go, as confirmed with a very soft beep from behind the metal doors before they opened, and she stepped in first.

It was going to be a long ride to the surface. She just hoped he didn’t get twitchy, sealed in a metal tube with her. She really doubted he’d want to talk about something simple, like the weather.
[/div][/div][/div]
 
[div style="margin:0 auto;max-width:100%;background-color:#000000;color:#ffffff;padding:1%;overflow:hidden;font-size:8pt;"][div style="border:2px solid #ffffff;padding:1%;"][div style="border:2px solid #ffffff;padding:2%;"][div align="left" style="overflow:hidden;font-size:1.30em;font-family:'Courier New';"]Crossing his arms and tapping a finger on one arm while tapping one foot to the same rhythm, Woody kept no eyes on Levi Hobbes. His head turned, however, to peer over his shoulder with a raised brow when she mentioned her title to open the door.

Location Director.

She only did research, did she? Not like he could blame her for the secrecy, considering the circumstances, but she was not winning any points in his favor. Still no answer as to who, what, where, why, or how in regards to his arrival and this entire facility. He needed to rectify that mistake.

While waiting for the doors to open and facing away from her, back turned, a brief smirk stretched across his face as she began biting into her cupcake. It must have been good because he was rather sure she was aiming to have seconds when the elevator doors opened with a soft beep. Woody turned around and followed after her, standing inside the elevator.

He could leave through the ceiling. Restrain her and block all cameras with his webbing. Perhaps he could even have made it out the door in record time. But he had questions and she was still his best shot at finding a real exit.

A waiting game was in play here.

"Location Director, huh?" Woody began stretching and rolling his shoulders, "No wonder no one was at your birthday. You give them a pizza party instead of raising their pay and benefits?"

His legs were next as he bent low and began stretching his lower limbs. A real wonder he did not pull a hamstring with all that jumping around in this state he was in. Standing up straight once more and bending his back by leaning backwards before leaning left and right, Sensation shook his limbs before bending his neck side to side.

"Any other surprises you want to let me in on, or am I going to have to play the guessing game with you?"

His entire form settled to standing still, finished with his routine, before his gaze slightly turned to her, lenses narrowing slightly and following his own expression underneath the mask.

"And your friends."

What else was she possibly hiding? Enemy territory or not, something was not right and, unless his line of questioning revoked his chance to leave, he would press on with the interrogation.

Blame the detective inside of him.[/div][/div][/div][/div]
 
[div style="background-color:#1E9391;border-top:#1E9391 4px outset;border-left:#1E9391 4px inset;border-right:#1E9391 4px outset;border-bottom:#1E9391 4px inset;"][div style="border-top:#1E9391 4px inset;border-left:#1E9391 4px outset;border-right:#1E9391 4px inset;border-bottom:#1E9391 4px outset;"][div style="background-color:#FFFAFA;color:dimgray;padding:15px;font-family:courier new;"]She felt his stare, and endured it. She’d endured much harder looks from much more intimidating persons over the years. Once they were on board the doors slid shut, and the ascent began at an agonizingly slow pace. She wondered if the operators had done that on purpose to see what was going to happen, or if her perception of time was being affected by the situation. It could very well be both.

She took another bite of the cupcake as he began to stretch. She did not lean on any wall of the moving unit, despite the long upcoming ascent. She stood near the back, so as not to be between him and the door, but there was plenty of space for either to move around. The elevator had no windows that looked to the exterior, just metal walls that likely wouldn’t keep much in or out. A single camera watched them. She practically felt the anticipation as Sensation very much so didn’t ask her a question. Not a real one.

[font color="1e9391"]“You’re one to be talking about surprises, Sensation.”[/font] Some information for the benefit of the audience. [font color="1e9391"]“I didn’t exactly ask for a Spiderman cosplayer to show up in my closet in the middle of the night.”[/font]

Besides, she hadn’t lied to him about her work, although explaining that to him would likely feel cheap. She was a researcher. She was, in fact, researching, watching his movements, the way the suit shifted. There was no mistaking the way she looked at him for anything untoward, in the usual sense. There was something too clinical in her eyes, almost detached. Even as she took and swallowed another bite of the cupcake, smiled, spoke casually, she couldn’t completely bury it.

[font color="1e9391"]“It is still my birthday. I guess games could be in order. Two truths and a lie, twenty questions, Truth or Dare. Your pick.”[/font]

Powers that be, she would have to have so many amnestics administered by the end of this.

That thought aside, she met the lenses with those unmoving blue eyes. Something Sensation would understand, beyond the mere fact of constant study, was that there was no fear behind that look. It was not just trust in her Foundation that let her act with gentle confidence. She was normal, sure. Biologically. But she was also far detached from a fear of death, or anything he could probably inflict on her. Even with Castor’s ability subsiding, it was very unlikely that she would give much, if any, response if he did go through with a hostage situation.

She was, however, sincere about the proposal of a game. Something would have to make the time pass, and she doubted she could win a staring contest through a mask.
[/div][/div][/div]
 
[div style="margin:0 auto;max-width:100%;background-color:#000000;color:#ffffff;padding:1%;overflow:hidden;font-size:8pt;"][div style="border:2px solid #ffffff;padding:1%;"][div style="border:2px solid #ffffff;padding:2%;"][div align="left" style="overflow:hidden;font-size:1.25em;font-family:'Courier New';"]The stretching had helped loosen any tension but he could feel it crawling back in, even as he tried bleeding off the excess energy. The soreness and the bumps and bruises had settled in while his migraine kept to a low annoyance inside his skull. The hunger only adding to the consistent wave of exhaustion. Manageable and not his worst day on the job but not exactly helpful to him in this conversation.

Whatever had calmed him earlier had indeed worn off, and keeping his suspicions under control all the more difficult. He just needed a clear exit, and he needed it yesterday. A way out. It would make this easier to handle. The gnawing sensation of being watching, knowing how they were watching him, and how he felt trapped as if someone or something might come down on him at anytime.

A lurking danger in the shadows, ready when he was or perhaps even if he was not.

"I didn't ask to be in your closet either," Sensation remarked back. He didn't ask for the mental surprise either. Although, he did have a working theory on what was happening there, but that was a small piece of a much bigger puzzle. "And, with the way you're eyeballing me, maybe you're enjoying the fact I was in your closet a little too much, Levi."

Games. He could play games and beat her at her own too. Maybe it was her birthday, but Woody had no intention of going easy on her. He turned his gaze away from her and stared forward, crossing his arms.

"Truth or Dare. Lightning round until we reach the top. I'll let you go first."

He already had his turn all planned out. This was to see what she would do.

"I pick dare."[/div][/div][/div][/div]
 
Back
Top