RP Another Cycle Finished

[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 noticed her noticing, which wasn’t ideal, but was fine. It added to the list of mental notes. Her responsory smile had little shame in it. She had warned him, and it was in the open now. Maybe that was why she wasn’t surprised he didn’t pick truth. She doubted he wanted her to be any nosier.

There were several options for a dare that would answer questions. However, that was secondary. She had other priorities.

[font color="1e9391"]“Alright. I dare you to eat this.”[/font] She tossed him the remaining half a cupcake, trusting his instincts to catch it without a shadow of a doubt. She didn’t make the same promises as before, about the mask, but if asked she’d turn away.

She waited for him to fulfill his end of the contract, arms folding over her chest in a self-embrace as though she was cold. She wasn’t, but she needed a place to put her hands, now that they were empty. Then, when he was ready, she said, [font color="1e9391"]“Truth.”[/font]

Her response might have been surprising, given her current track record in the honesty department. And there would be some things she couldn’t say, for security. But she’d been the one to offer truth or dare, and she’d abide by the rules as far as security allowed.
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[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 style="overflow:hidden;font-size:1.25em;font-family:'Courier New';" align="left"]Without looking, his arm snapped up into the air as his hand snatched the half-eaten cupcake between his fingers. He brought it closer and furrowed his brow at the confectionary treat. A request he did not exactly expect but he should have seen coming. His gaze returned to looking straight ahead.

His response came easy enough, "I'll eat it later."

He let the implication of that statement sink in. She was smart and figure it out. His turn and his question would be rather specific.

"The man in the jacket and the butterfly. The two we saw in the hallway outside your room," he began his inquiry into her truth.

His head turned, tilting slightly, towards her direction before his lenses narrowed accusatorily. His own expression had become steel under his mask. Eyes squinting and jaw clenched as his arms remained crossed, holding the cupcake with a firm grip. Every sense honed onto her. Her heartrate, perspiration, and every twitch of the muscle.

If she tried anything or his line of questioning put him in harm's way, he would be ready--especially if her answer endangered him somehow.

"Which of the two is capable of manipulating a person's state of mind? Like with me."[/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;"]If anything, Levi Hobbes relaxed at the question. There were much worse ones that could be asked given their circumstances, and it was a relief to have a question where she had an answer readily loaded for interns and lower-location staff who weren’t already familiar.

And unlike him, she wasn’t looking for loopholes in the game.

[font color="1e9391"]“That’s Castor.”[/font] She tilted her head a little. [font color="1e9391"]“Although I suppose the Butterfly Effect could cause emotional alteration. She just doesn’t like to.”[/font]

She shrugged at the suspicion in his glance, or maybe just shrugged off that line of thought. She wasn’t 707’s primary researcher. She was Castor’s, though, and she knew the best ways to simplify his file.

[font color="1e9391"]“ACF-408, Castor. He’s an anomalous person, or anohuman, as is the official designation. Under that coat – and other clothes – are mechanical prosthetic replacements for his arms and spine. The metal isn’t identifiable, but from what we can tell without completely deconstructing him, the machinery engages with his biochemical processes to produce pheromones that induce emotions when inhaled by most others. Calm is his preferred one, because like the Butterfly Effect he’s something of a pacifist. However, he has also been known to accidentally trigger responses of grief and sadness, and intentionally provoke aggressive entities toward recklessness by inducing anger.”[/font]

Her eyes reopened, but unlike many of her interns, there was no embarrassment about the slight ramble, just a gentle smile.

[font color="1e9391"]“Does that answer your question?”[/font]
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[div style="margin:0 auto;max-width:100%;background-color:#000000;color:#ffffff;padding:1%;overflow:hidden;font-size:10pt;"][div style="border:2px solid #ffffff;padding:1%;"][div style="border:2px solid #ffffff;padding:2%;"][div align="left" style="overflow:hidden;font-family:'Courier New';"]Castor. At least he had a name to the face . . . and the abilities. Anohuman. A different designation than that the clinical posthuman term. He wondered why that was. A different sub-species of metahuman? Were there not enough of those running around? Even stranger was the butterfly was referred to as a she instead of an it. Another one of these anohumans using butterflies as a vector of some sort? Or were the butterflies themselves a post-species or ano-species? He had seen stranger things.

And to top it all off, it meant the research Levi conducted had to deal with these particular individuals.

A long time ago, he remembered a certain psychic individual tell the horror stories of his own experiences in a lab. How that same person had to hide underground. Organizations like these were either government funded or of an entirely different affiliation. He doubted these were government-funded public heroes or superpowered soldiers. Too secret, too hidden. This was something else.

Overthinking without any more evidence will get him no where. For now, it was back to the game.

"When you see him again, tell him it's not very pacifistic to mess with someone's head," Sensation spoke before turning his gaze, not looking at Levi, "Because it might provoke someone all the same, no matter his intentions."

His narrowed gaze pointedly stared at the hidden camera. Maybe Castor was watching or not. Either way, Woody assumed the message would be passed along by those watching or Levi herself. The young vigilante's mind was not anyone's to manipulate, and he would prefer it that way. Someone could get hurt. This Castor would find it so easy next time.

Not with him aware of what the man can do.

With his glare echoed by the expression on his mask, Woody's turned his attention to the front of the elevator. No gentle smiles would win him over today, not even on Levi's birthday.

And he swore he could crawl these walls faster than the elevator moved.

"That will work for now."

A brief pause hung in the air before he spoke once more.

"Dare."[/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 only nodded a little in response to his request. No one was fully comfortable with the idea of mental manipulation. Most Foundation personnel who worked closely with Castor simply let it roll off, the way she had. Others, especially in security, actively resisted the physical stimulus when it mattered.

There were questions that weren’t said. She listened to them, even if the actual matter was beyond reach, because she would have likely had the same questions. Actually had, once upon a long time ago. But mixed with those questions was a suspicion she’d never possessed. It remained a surprise that his first question had been so tame, but that might have had something to do with her first question.

It was a risk, to raise the stakes, but this was a study under secure surveillance. She knew what she wanted to ask. And it was hardly the most dangerous thing she’d done in the past month. He was, however, an expert in loopholes. She had already noted that. The dare needed to include timeframe. She filtered through several different phrasings, wanting to be gentle but also not wanting him to wriggle free.

Ah, well. She was already tempting fate just by being present.

[font color="1e9391"]“I dare you to show me your face for fifteen seconds of this elevator ride, and before you take your next turn or ask another question.”[/font]

A round number, enough time to catch details, and specific. She created the illusion of choice for not giving him an actual timeframe, but she did set the limiters. Maybe it wasn’t in the spirit of the game, but neither were suspicious glares and warnings to be passed on.

If he chose to clam up, or end the game, this would turn into a very boring ride. And if he decided to try to run, this would become a different zone of excitement – not the good kind, but the kind where security got involved. She did not let her guesses show in her face. The neutrality there was long practiced and much used. He wasn’t obligated to follow through. It was a game, after all, not a binding contract.

What she didn’t tell him was that he might as well do it now, because there was a good chance she might see it against his will, eventually. That could be taken as a threat, and not the warning it would be. She didn’t need to make him any more concerned.
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[div style="margin:0 auto;max-width:100%;background-color:#000000;color:#ffffff;padding:1%;overflow:hidden;font-size:10pt;"][div style="border:2px solid #ffffff;padding:1%;"][div style="border:2px solid #ffffff;padding:2%;"][div align="left" style="overflow:hidden;font-family:'Courier New';"]The one potential risk to this game of truth or dare. Someone could always ask him to take off the mask. But she didn't ask him to take off the mask, did she? She said to show her his face for a full fifteen seconds. It was funny how language and communication can be interpreted in so many interesting ways.

"This is my face. What you see is what you get," his head tilted as he raised one eyebrow in her direction, mirrored by one lens growing a little wider. His arms remained crossed as he held the cupcake in his hand. Only a small tapping of his foot continued as the pair rode the elevator.

His glance continued for a moment before he turned his head forward to gaze at the elevator doors.

"Take a long, hard look for fifteen seconds."

This was going to be amusing for 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;"]It was hard to say whether he was intentionally testing his boundaries, or if he just assumed she’d be as she’d been this whole time. He had gotten away with a lot, given the circumstances. Of course, if it was experimentation, she’d usually encourage that. But if she’d set a bad precedent with her complacency up until the present, then she needed to rectify that.

[font color="1e9391"]“You know, Sensation, this is feeling incredibly one-sided.”[/font] She picked that over unfair, because being outright childish was still beneath her. [font color="1e9391"]“I was willing to let the cupcake go. Now you're being–no, this isn't even petty. If I'd asked you to take off the mask you would've done so and then looked away, or done it for only a second and then ignored me.”[/font]

The fold of her arms shifted, so she could brush the blonde bangs off her forehead with one hand. They didn’t shift back to the self-embrace, instead taking on an air of indignation.

[font color="1e9391"]“If you just wanted to interrogate me you should have said so up front. Or you’re free to stop choosing dare. But this isn’t exactly in the spirit of fair play, so I don’t think I can accept that as an answer.”[/font]

Okay. Maybe she could be a little childish. Just for a moment.
[/div][/div][/div]
 
[div style="margin:0 auto;max-width:100%;background-color:#000000;color:#ffffff;padding:1%;overflow:hidden;font-size:10pt;"][div style="border:2px solid #ffffff;padding:1%;"][div style="border:2px solid #ffffff;padding:2%;"][div align="left" style="overflow:hidden;font-family:'Courier New';"]She brought up fair points. He could have done that. But why would he? If not for his particular brand of extrasensory perception, maybe he would not have felt the singular camera observing the pair. Felt the observations of people in their security rooms. He was not sure how it worked entirely this sixth-sense of his, but it had been handful in avoiding detection and being followed.

Without that sense, who was to say there were not more hidden cameras. Even if he looked away, one of these could have seen his face. That was something he could not afford. But if she really wanted to say he was unfair or perhaps even petty as she almost said, then maybe he should counter her argument with one of his own.

"Can't accept that as a fair answer?" Sensation kept his gaze forward, not bothering to try to read her expressions yet, "Then answer this before saying that again."

"Everyone wears a mask, Hobbes. The real question is which is which, right? Levi Hobbes or Location Director?" his gaze and posture never waved, only his foot had stopped tapping.

"Tell me, which is the real you? Because last I checked, secret organizations are not exactly known for their spirit of fair play."[/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;"]Her rules had clearly stated identity before question, but now the questions were about identity and she had a feeling the time for games was gone. She wasn’t the only one who was pushing her luck. Her moment of childish indignance had passed, which was fine. If that had gone any longer there may have been a problem. Even if he had tried to read her expression, he would find it the same as it had always been.

[font color="1e9391"]“One’s a title. The other is an identity.”[/font] The nonanswer wasn’t hard. There was no reason to hide it, especially since neither was even true. But it was a lie told often enough that her body told it as the truth, even when she didn’t think anyone was listening.

She took a respectful moment to actually process the rest of his challenge. Another challenge. He was a fighter, which would make it that much harder if she had to get security involved. But the questions were… odd. She knew he could draw his own conclusions from what she’d said, but the idea that he was an external threat could never leave her mind completely. Competitor GoIs or curious civilians, even or maybe especially ones with anohuman abilities, were still on the list, even if she’d elected to trust him for now. Clearly more benefit of the doubt than he was willing to give her.

Maybe with good reasons, though.

[font color="1e9391"]“Tell me three things you know about my organization that makes you think it’s unfair, Sensation. And don’t count Castor. He’s got a mind of his own sometimes.”[/font]

You’ve barely scratched the surface. What do you know that I don’t?
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[div style="margin:0 auto;max-width:100%;background-color:#000000;color:#ffffff;padding:1%;overflow:hidden;font-size:10pt;"][div style="border:2px solid #ffffff;padding:1%;"][div style="border:2px solid #ffffff;padding:2%;"][div align="left" style="overflow:hidden;font-family:'Courier New';"]A small smirk followed after he answer. A tilt of his head cast a glance towards her through the edge of his lens.

"Look who's not upholding the spirit of fair play," Woody remarked before shaking his head. Fair enough. She could try throwing his own medicine in his face, but he would take it. Take it and more.

That and he could dish it out. He just needed a bit of set up. All this running around did nothing to get him closer to figuring anything out.

"Maybe I should ask why do you think it's unfair I don't show my face?"

Tossing the cupcake into the air, a small string of silk followed after it. Twirling in the air, the sugary sweet hung in the air.

"As for an actual reason, I'm rather sure I would not wander into a random facility, especially one that's underground. And why stuff myself into a closet? One that has adequate security to prevent that."

He rolled his neck before stretching it side to side, "Explain how I got there because last I checked I was not in an area where the local language was Russian."

He cast a more focused glance as he turned his head, peering over his shoulder, while his arms kept to his sides taut and solid.

"And the last time anyone tried to kidnap or manipulate me, it did not work out so well for them."[/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 was stretching again. This time, Levi felt tension creep into her own shoulders. She wasn’t nervous, exactly, and she certainly wasn’t afraid, but she wasn’t going to be caught off guard if he decided to lash out.

[font color="1e9391"]“If you expect me to give, I expect a little give in return, that’s all.”[/font] She held up two fingers, nails cut short. [font color="1e9391"]“Two dares in a row put off or loopholed just seems meanspirited. You could guess the kind of thing I’d ask after the first one, and you still could’ve chosen truth.”[/font]

This wasn’t L-9, after all. If it was, Sensation would probably be a lot worse off. That didn’t mean she was just going to let him off the hook though. Her eyes narrowed slightly as he asked more questions, spoke freely. He even offered a thinly veiled threat. She kept her temper, however. He was confused. She was still going to give him the benefit of the doubt.

[font color="1e9391"]“Fine. I do believe you. If I had to guess about how you got here, I’d say spacial manipulation – someone or something teleported you here, in layman’s terms. How or why, I don’t know. Judging by your accent you’re – American, east coast somewhere. Maybe New England. I don’t know. For something to push you halfway around the world it would need to be either extremely powerful, or left to random chance. Two things that aren’t mutually exclusive.”[/font]

She exhaled, slowly.

[font color="1e9391"]“Secret organizations, as you put it, have a lot of enemies. If what you’re suggesting is true then you may have met some of ours. I don’t want to kidnap you, and I don’t intend to manipulate you. I’m trying not to misjudge you. You’re a long way from home, I have a lot of questions. We could help each other.”[/font]

She wasn’t lying about the desire part, but there would be some concerns if she did let him go. She still had now idea how someone like him had gone under the Foundation’s radar so far. But if there was a reality-warper or at least a spacial manipulator at large, that was a much greater threat than a man who could walk on walls. Plenty of anohumans were under external surveillance, typically as assets. But that was a bridge that could be burned when they got to it. For right now she was still in the weighing phase of ethical decision-making. It’d be up to him to change her mind.
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[div style="margin:0 auto;max-width:100%;background-color:#000000;color:#ffffff;padding:1%;overflow:hidden;font-size:10pt;"][div style="border:2px solid #ffffff;padding:1%;"][div style="border:2px solid #ffffff;padding:2%;"][div align="left" style="overflow:hidden;font-family:'Courier New';"]He could guess what she would ask? This might have been a game, but what kind of game was it where she asked that kind of question? There is such a thing as going for the throat.

"My bad. I was giving you the benefit of the doubt," Sensation scoffed, almost mutably so, "I'll make sure to not do that again."

Shaking his head, Sensation's gaze turned away and he rolled his eyes under the mask. Secret organizations and their secrets. Woody had the one, and they had their dozens. Exceptionally fair of them. What was he even doing? This was a waste of time. His arms crossed over again as he gazed forward, hoping to lose track of time by staring into the void of stainless steel.

[font color="1e9391"]"Fine. I do believe you."[/font]

What?

Sixth sense or not, this day was full of surprises. Enemies. Potential space-time manipulation. Secret organizations. Something felt familiar about her words. Like a thought just out of reach. Why . . . why couldn't he remember how he got here? For a brief second, he tried. He brought a balled fist and set it against his chin before his eyes closed. Focus.

Anything. Anything at all. Maybe . . .

A sharp pain greeted him in return for his efforts, just along the temporal sides of his head. He brought both hands to the side of his head, gingerly resting fingers against the temples and waiting for the pain to disappear. Okay, nothing on that end. Not good. Woody only knew a handful of individuals on one hand who can teleport him at will, most of them allies. But to send him around the world? With no memory of it?

Time to work a different angle until he could get any of the pieces back.

"Levi, you may not want to do those things, but that doesn't mean your organization necessarily has those same interests. Location Director indicates there may be more branches, more people in charge," his arms remained crossed as he shook his head sighing, "You say we can help each other, but who or what would I exactly be helping?"

Finally, he turned himself around but did not face her entirely. Instead, his head turned slightly to peer at her.

"You better make the distinction fast and convincing whether you're the good guys or not," Sensation's tone remained level, not a hint of suspicion or aggression, but his body kept itself firm. Ready. That elastic tension never quite leaving him but more reserved now. "Because it won't be on me if you guys make yourselves another enemy. I'll just be doing what I always do."[/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 muttered under his breath while she tried to explain something to him. She would’ve focused on that even more than the second threat – empty, but he didn’t know that – his aggravation and his questions, but something else caught hold of her attention even before he actually addressed her reply.

He’d positioned himself for just a moment as if about to assume deep thought. Some people might have assumed it was a mockery of listening, but the slant of the lenses, the shift in his attitude. And most importantly, the immediate burst of pain. Visible and obvious, even if he tried to be subtle. She heard the rest of what he said, but her brain had already moved on by the time he actually tried to pose a threat.

A threat that was less than empty, by her standards. In his current physical state, if he kept pushing himself, it’d be laughably easy for her to put him in a box by force. It would just be a matter of telling the monarch butterfly to remove her and let Security handle the rest. Or, heck, just signing for them to be ready when they disembarked, because she had worked closely enough with cold killers to know the difference between one and someone trying to be aggressive. Coral versus kingsnakes.

For the second time this month she found herself thinking: Enough is enough.

And she held up a hand, fist closed. There was a moment of nothing, and then the elevator came to a smooth stop. They were between level C and level B, if she had to guess, and if he decided to take this as a sign to run he’d have a long climb.

She spoke before he could make that decision, even with superhuman reflexes. She was speaking before the elevator even braked.

[font color="1e9391"]“The first person you’ll be helping is yourself.”[/font] There was zero room for argument in her tone, an abrupt but practiced shift. The gentle curiosity was gone from her blue eyes, which hardened into a glare behind those glasses. [font color="1e9391"]“You haven’t been well since whatever put you in my personal quarters did so, and you’ve just continued to push yourself since then. And before you object maybe you shouldn’t bridal carry someone who’s self-identified as a doctor next time you want to hide signs of physical exhaustion. I doubt you could tell me the last time you ate, or slept. Because I can tell you’re stubborn and wouldn’t listen to me, and not because I wanted to manipulate you or because I thought it was funny or some stupid [EXPLETIVE] like that, I was going to let you stumble around in the wilderness for a while before letting you come to your own conclusions about your options. But we’re beyond that. The more you continue to wear yourself out the less you’ll listen because the less clearly you’ll be thinking and you will continue to blame me for that, too. Well listen up. If I had kidnapped you, I would at least have had the decency to put you in a med-eval room already under observation, because there’s no point in stringing you around at that point except to be cruel. The only reason I have not told you to do so already is partially because of Castor and partially because I wanted to ensure that you weren’t here to hurt my people before exposing any more of them to you than I had to.”[/font]

If he so much as squeaked, she’d put a hand up and hold it there, glare locked on the lenses. She had to lean into the persona now, if that’s even what this was, and not just half a decade of pent-up frustrations with work ethics finally finding an outlet.

[font color="1e9391"]“And before you think too hard about objecting, I am willing to bet that I have something strong enough for my security personnel to sedate you before you even get out of the elevator shaft. Your metabolism might be high but it’s hardly functioning at full capacity. And I’ve ensured the containment of people a lot stronger than you are when I’ve set my mind to it.”[/font]

He could take that any way he pleased. It was fairly clear from the hard lines of her face that he’d pushed something too far, even as she took a deep breath and shifted back from command to direction.

[font color="1e9391"]“We’re going up to level B. You’re going to undergo a medical evaluation so I can make sure you or that spacial warper haven’t done anything permanently destructive to your physical wellbeing or the brain that’s so determined to keep working even when you’re obviously on your last legs. You’re going to eat the cupcake and then a full meal and then you’re going to sleep for eight hours or until you wake up. And then we will discuss getting you back home and how you got here and what you or I or my Foundation want, because arguing with someone chronically exhausted is something I already do too many times in a day to let you put me through it at ten o’clock at night.”[/font]

She looked back at the camera. Not everyone in the security room would have understood the rant, but she had no doubt there was at least one English-speaker translating and taking bets. She didn’t lose the hard slant in her eyes as she signaled, B, and the metal tube started to move again. Her arms folded back into the self-embrace, and she almost leaned back against the wall, but caught herself at the last moment. She didn’t notice that there was a butterfly on her shoulder, where it maybe always had been, even as she readjusted herself to remain standing.

[font color="1e9391"]“Say whatever you’d like about my intentions. But for [EXPLETIVE]’s sake at least eat the damn cupcake.”[/font]
[/div][/div][/div]
 
[div style="margin:0 auto;max-width:100%;background-color:#000000;color:#ffffff;padding:1%;overflow:hidden;font-size:10pt;"][div style="border:2px solid #ffffff;padding:1%;"][div style="border:2px solid #ffffff;padding:2%;"][div align="left" style="overflow:hidden;font-family:'Courier New';"]The elevator rose a few more feet before halting to an almost abrupt stop. He did not need to look at her to know when her fist closed the entire ride up was over. Instead, his attention more so rose upwards towards the ceiling. His eyes searching rapidly for an escape hatch or safety switch to open such a hatch. Not all elevator cars had one. Older models did, but newer models had hatches that only opened from the outside and only accessible with a firefighter's key.

But no lock had given him trouble before and it would not start now.

His attention drew back down to the woman standing in front of him. Looks like he pushed the wrong--or right--buttons as she glared at him through her glasses. All he could do was return the glare back, lenses narrowing, as his arms raised up almost defensively. He watched and listened as Dr. Levi Hobbes raised her own hand, so his posture remained rigid as he stopped and listened. Arms and legs ready to snap to action at a moment's notice.

As she made her threat to sedate him, Sensation casted a small glance at the butterfly, even tilting his head for a moment at the little winged insect before returning his glare back to Doctor Hobbes. People stronger than him? She contained people stronger than him. He fought people a lot stronger than him. Win or lose. A bad habit, maybe, but not one he was going to stop anytime soon. Especially when her lecture and subsequent demands answered none of his more concerning questions.

But her threat still carried its weight. Not like he knew exactly what she has contained. It meant he would have to be fast but careful. Especially with medical evaluations being a simply excuse to poke and prod what he was made of, under the pretense of looking out for him. Right.

"Too bad. I'm not a big fan of hospitals," his legs kicked off the ground and he flipped mid-air until his hands and feet connected with the ceiling, "Or needles."

His left arm balled into a fist before banging on the ceiling a few times with the side of his fist, "Oh and one more thing. Castor. Butterfly. I'm not sure what pacifistic ideas either of you ascribe to, but I'll say this. Holding someone against their will is a form of harm."

Which one of these was the-? There. One of the portions of the ceiling sounded more hollow than the rest. It even shifted a little. Perfect. His sticky fingers pulled and ripped the false ceiling off.

"I'm not going to hurt anyone or break anything. But I will act in self-defense if anyone shoots me or makes a move on me, and I'll break any locked doors keeping me from leaving," Sensation's fist punched the hatch, snapping the lock and sending the door flying off of its hinges before rattling atop the elevator car's roof.

"So I really hope you both are pacifists," his gloved hand snatched the cupcake from its webbed cradle before depositing it along the waist. Tiny tendrils formed with the suit quickly assimilating and storing the treat away for later. Two strands of webbing fired from his wrists and connecting to the interior of the elevator shaft, one to each side. He wrapped his arms around the silk before standing straight upside down, pulling both lines more than taut.

"Otherwise I call bullshit on both you and Dr. Control Freak here," one last cursory glance at both before his legs pushed off the ceiling, "Bye!"

His entire body flipped and wove through the small hatch before flying out into the open elevator shaft. The limited tension on the slingshot did not get him far enough away into the air. Only twenty feet or so before gravity had its say. But it was more than enough.

Two more strings of webbing yanked him towards one wall before he began running up the shaft on both legs, leaning his body forward and maintaining his momentum forward. His speed began to rapidly accelerate as his entire form blurred past cameras without stopping, akin to a rapid automobile.

He needed to reach Floor A and then find the exit. Easy plan. Simple plan.

Just keep moving. Just keep moving. The mantra kept playing in his head over and over as he pushed each muscle rapidly forward.[/div][/div][/div][/div]
 
[div style="background-color:#1E9391;border-top:#1E9391 4px outset;border-left:#3137fd 4px inset;border-right:#1E9391 4px outset;border-bottom:#3137fd 4px inset;"][div style="border-top:#3137fd 4px inset;border-left:#1E9391 4px outset;border-right:#3137fd 4px inset;border-bottom:#1E9391 4px outset;"][div style="background-color:#FFFAFA;color:dimgray;padding:15px;font-family:courier new;"]She watched him with her eyes as he crawled up to the ceiling. She didn’t need to guess what he was doing. If she’d really wanted to, she could’ve said a word to the monarch and he never would’ve been at the ceiling at all, until he climbed back up there, and she removed him again. How long he’d put up with that cycle was difficult to say. Probably not long at all. She idly chewed on the inside of her lower lip, considering her options as he found the emergency panel.

[font color="1e9391"]“Hmm.”[/font] She looked at the butterfly, pondering his last words for an unnecessary extra moment. [font color="1e9391"]“A Control Freak. Kak vy dumayete, on znayet?”[/font]1

The butterfly twitched its wings. Levi sighed, with a little nod.

[font color="1e9391"]“Vy pravy, vy pravy. Potom v observatsionnyy tsentr. Seychas.”[/font]2

She’d never been in the elevator. She was there, and then she wasn’t. No, she was in the location observation center, where all eyes were turning to the center of the room where she always manifested when she let 707 move her. She looked beside her to find Castor already there, arms folded, eyes electric and locked on her with a very slight, wry smile.

[font color="#3137fd"]“Ty skazal yemu, chto ya patsifist?”[/font]3

She arched her eyebrows at him. [font color="1e9391"]“Yesli my sravnivayem tebya s tvoim bratom...”[/font]4

Castor laughed softly, albeit sadly, at that. He couldn’t argue.

[font color="black"]“Ser,”[/font] one of the surveillance agents interrupted, [font color="black"]“on dostig urovnya B.”[/font]5

Right. Not a moment’s rest, it seemed. She nodded, and then the butterfly was with Castor, understanding her intention without need for verbal command. Her people, on the other hand…

[font color="1e9391"]“Uroven' pechati A. Mery po narusheniyu usloviy soderzhaniya.”[/font]6

Nobody objected. Nobody argued. Only Castor addressed her, in English. [font color="#3137fd"]“As for me?”[/font]

[font color="1e9391"]“Scapegoat routine. Containment measure 404-408. You remember the one?”[/font]

[font color="#3137fd"]“It’d be difficult for me to forget.”[/font] Castor frowned. [font color="#3137fd"]“You think he’ll just wear himself out?”[/font]

[font color="1e9391"]“He’s smart.”[/font] There was a hint of approval in her tone. [font color="1e9391"]“But he’s also going to start getting either frustrated or desperate. It’s either wear himself out with you, or wear himself out in two hundred miles of tundra on foot. This feels more humane.”[/font]

Castor shifted from foot to foot. It was an unusual motion for him, uncomfortable. [font color="#3137fd"]“Do you want me to… make him tired?”[/font]

[font color="1e9391"]“Only if you think it will help.”[/font] She sighed, deeply. She was starting to feel the wear of the night’s activities. Even in a containment breach she rarely saw the excitement of personal involvement anymore. It was… admittedly, not so bad, being in the middle of things, even when those things were bad for security. She didn't think too hard about what Hack was going to have to say about all this. [font color="1e9391"]“He did ask nicely.”[/font]

[font color="#3137fd"]“But you want him under observation with minimal further damage.”[/font] He didn’t need her to indicate her answer. He just nodded himself. [font color="#3137fd"]“I’ll do what I can. He won’t be happy.”[/font]

[font color="1e9391"]“They never are.”[/font]

And Castor was not in the observation room. He was much closer to the surface, in an open hall with a dozen doors closing. With a soft, [font color="#3137fd"]“Spasibo, Koroleva,”[/font]7 the butterfly had never been there, and he shrugged his shoulders to begin a familiar mechanical hum.

He would wait as long as he needed, there, in the atrium of Level A. The halls were all sealed. The entrance to the surface lay behind one of them – but there was no label to tell which. By the time Sensation finally reached the sealed elevator doors and tore them open, Castor would have lit a cigarette, and leaned up beside the door to the elevator. His coat would be gone. A faint blue light would be glowing through his black shirt, and in veins along his chrome arms.

The wait would also have given the room plenty of time to build up a chemical layer, mixed with the air. A few breaths would make any average researcher’s head spin, one or two more before a physically fit agent started to lose clear thought. As for a fellow anohuman with a high metabolism and the adrenal high of desperation – well, that would remain to be seen.



1[font color="1e9391"]Do you think he knows?[/font]
2[font color="1e9391"]You’re right, you’re right. Observatory, then. Now.[/font]
3[font color="#3137fd"]You told him I’m a pacifist?[/font]
4[font color="1e9391"]If we compare you to your brother…[/font]
5[font color="black"]Sir, he’s approaching Level B.[/font]
6[font color="1e9391"]Seal Level A. Containment Breach measures.[/font]
7[font color="#3137fd"]Thank you, Queenie.[/font]
[/div][/div][/div]
 
[div style="margin:0 auto;max-width:100%;background-color:#000000;color:#ffffff;padding:1%;overflow:hidden;font-size:10pt;"][div style="border:2px solid #ffffff;padding:1%;"][div style="border:2px solid #ffffff;padding:2%;"][div align="left" style="overflow:hidden;font-family:'Courier New';"]Vaulting over the first sealed elevator door, Sensation kept pumping his legs up the wall. Occasionally, to increase his forward momentum and give his legs a brief reprieve, twin shots of silk from each forearm wrist fired out. His upper muscular strength pulled on these lines and sending him rocketing upward in the air towards the wall as his feet met steel once more.

Within the span of five minutes, his rapidly approaching form began to converge upon the next set of sealed elevator doors. A few more shots of silk launched him towards his prizes. The back of his skull, however, kept ringing louder and louder. Goosebumps crawled across his skin as his heartbeat ran faster, faster than the run had ever pushed his heart.

Stay out. Stay away. Stay awake.

Oh, perfect. He swore if someone tried to shoot him or gas him or . . . there was just one guy. One heartbeat he could hear past the metal doorway.

Planting his feet along the left of the frame of the elevator doors, talons along his toes and fingers extended as he planted himself firmly. Both hands firmly grasped one side of the single elevator door and began pulling with claws and adhesive power at his fingertips.

Here's hoping these are the standard single doors.

A professional such as he climbing up a number of elevator shafts learned quickly to remember which way the elevator doors opened. The door began to fight under his strength. Mechanical gears holding firm before he began to pull with even more force. The claws were simply to anchor himself even further with his adhesion and grant him additional leverage to pull. Both steel door and the mechanical machines keeping it shut began to buckle under his strength before crumpling and even beginning to slide out of the way.

"Come on."

One arm reached forward over the other, digging talons firmly into the cold steel, and pulling even more. The door had been wider than the actual frame. A security design. Clever but it wouldn't stop him. As the door slowly slid open and light began to peek thrugh, a smell hit his body and an entire wave of anxiety-inducing alertness struck his body, tingling up his entire spine.

A gas. They had gassed the floor. No, this smelled nothing like the chemicals thrown his way before. Something else. Turning his face nose from the smell, he continued pulling until a sizable space form him to walk or rather crawl inside the hallway. All he did was peer into the room before immediately hiding around the corner of the wall.

Castor.

All the doors were sealed too. And his coat was gone. This man meant business if he took his coat off. Perfect. Just . . . perfect.

"Whoo-wee!" Sensation kept his distance from the opening of the door, careful not to inhale anymore of that gas. "Someone needs some Old Spice."

Plan. He needed a plan. Well, he had one, but it was not a very good one. Maybe he should try talking this out before doing anything rash.

"I talked about this with your old lady lover, Castor. Messing with someone's head or . . . hormones is not cool."

A sigh followed as his shoulders rolled before tensing up, "Let me guess. You're ordered to stop me from leaving and going on my web-swinging way? I was serious that I'm not going to hurt anyone, but if you keep this pheromone shit up I'm going to make a minor exception for you."

One shot. One shot to beat Castor quickly or slow him down. But Woody had to give the guy the chance to walk away before this turned ugly.[/div][/div][/div][/div]
 
[div style="background-color:#3137fd;border-top:#3137fd 4px outset;border-left:#3137fd 4px inset;border-right:#3137fd 4px outset;border-bottom:#3137fd 4px inset;"][div style="border-top:#3137fd 4px inset;border-left:#3137fd 4px outset;border-right:#3137fd 4px inset;border-bottom:#3137fd 4px outset;"][div style="background-color:white;color:black;padding:15px;font-family:courier new;"]Castor could hear the boy struggling through the wall. His instinct all the while was to offer a hand. It was hardly good form to let an opponent come exhausted to a fight. But he wasn’t here to fight, not unless Sensation started it. He was just here to tire him out, and the more the boy had already exhausted himself, the better.

So he just listened as the doors ground. Metal bent and complained in a language that would set many people’s teeth on edge. The boy muttered in a much more familiar language, but still tried, still fought. Did he know what was outside? Even if he did get past Castor and choose the right door, only the tundra waited for him. The boy was a fool, but ah, foolishness belonged to youth. Let him be a fool before the regret started to drag him down.

There was just a moment of movement in his periphery. Sensation had managed to open the door, and took a glance into the atrium – the same white light and gray tile as most Foundation locations, now. Unperturbed, Castor took the last drag off his cigarette. When he dropped it, he was sure to crush it immediately under the heel of his boot. He had a feeling he wouldn’t be coming back to it in a few minutes.

A few jokes. He didn’t offer a witty retort, as interesting as that sounded. This would be better than his usual fights, he was sure, at least more enjoyable on his end. He didn’t display any of the embarrassment Dr. Hobbes had about their relationship-in-potentia, either. To do so would probably just end in a comment that he was too old for her, which he was.

Then, beyond the initial jab, the boy began to talk.

He was giving Castor the chance to leave. He could have laughed, not in hubris but at the confidence on display. He missed being that young. The physical state of biological prime did not extend to five thousand years of memory, of lessons learned. The boldness from his potential enemy was refreshing.

But he didn’t laugh. He gave the boy that courtesy. He listened patiently, even if he didn’t actually intend to accept the way out. It was actually the final phrase that made him genuinely smile.

[font color="3137fd"]“If it helps,”[/font] he called back, [font color="3137fd"]“you’ll likely still be upholding your promise. I’m made of fairly sturdy stuff.”[/font]

He had no trace of a Russian accent. If anything, it was very mildly British. He was far traveled, but his languages always held a trace of the places he’d first learned them. It was good for him to remember those things.

The idea that the boy would decide to come right through the wall did cross his mind, and he debated with himself about whether he should move. He decided against it. Buying time, a distraction, a glorified punching-bag as it were, he’d let the boy set the pace at which they would fight. He also decided against disabling the pheromone. And so, under it all, his arms continued their hum.

Sensation could only hold his breath for so long, once he came into the atrium. Even with the vent of the elevator shaft, it would be enough to start slowing him down.
[/div][/div][/div]
 
[div style="margin:0 auto;max-width:100%;background-color:#000000;color:#ffffff;padding:1%;overflow:hidden;font-size:10pt;"][div style="border:2px solid #ffffff;padding:1%;"][div style="border:2px solid #ffffff;padding:2%;"][div align="left" style="overflow:hidden;font-family:'Courier New';"]Sturdy stuff, huh?

"Good," Sensation began laying the groundwork--or webwork as he liked to call it, "You're going to need it."

Aiming both wrists towards the ever-descending length of the elevator shaft--about 100 or so feet from his position, the tension in his forearm muscles flexed as pairs of webbed netting flung forth. A few moments passed before a fully-formed net spanning the entire length of the shaft spun into place. Completely capable of catching any elevator going up or any going down, Sensation nodded at his handiwork.

Before going to work himself.

Grabbing the edge of the crumpled elevator door, Woody yanked and spun himself around until his feet attached to the steel door and the frame, sticking to and balancing right outside entryway with two feet. His entire torso leaning forward, bending forward almost. Both hands free as he aimed from the hip and fired two twin lines of silk towards Castor's torso. If they connected at all to Castor, his next move was simple.

His feet would off his perch backwards and gravity would do the rest.

And if Castor offered any resistance or Woody's leap backwards did not do the trick, one last trick should help with that. The tension and the web-line curling and dragging along the edge between the entrance and elevator shaft would swing Woody towards one of the interior walls.

And he would kick off it with superhuman force backflipping backwards and tugging the line with his arms just as strong. More than any human individual could handle.

Last he mentally checked over Levi Hobbes's little informational spiel on Castor, the man could not fly. At least, Woody hoped he couldn't.

And there was a reason he made an adhesive net down a hundred feet down the elevator shaft. Just a matter of trying to drag the cyborg there. Fighting in the atrium would be a stupid maneuver, but maybe Woody could drag Castor out of the cyborg's element.

And into his.[/div][/div][/div][/div]
 
[div style="background-color:#3137fd;border-top:#3137fd 4px outset;border-left:#3137fd 4px inset;border-right:#3137fd 4px outset;border-bottom:#3137fd 4px inset;"][div style="border-top:#3137fd 4px inset;border-left:#3137fd 4px outset;border-right:#3137fd 4px inset;border-bottom:#3137fd 4px outset;"][div style="background-color:white;color:black;padding:15px;font-family:courier new;"]It wasn’t a good idea to leave an enemy out of sight for too long, especially one who willingly disappeared for long periods of time, but Castor was an exception to a lot of the rules of combat survival. If this had been a real fight, he would probably have put more preemptive effort in. As things stood – or rather, as he stood – he cold stand to allow for a little surprise.

And the surprise came as the spider slipped out of the trapdoor to pull him in behind.

His reflexes were what did him the most good, here. Rather than allow the webs to strike his chest, he did what would seem counterintuitive to any outsider: he caught them with his arms, sticking the substance to the palms of his hands and ensuring that he was snared that way instead. But Dr. Hobbes had made sure to brief Mr. Sensation on the parts of his file that were relevant. Her summary didn’t include, for example, immensely superhuman strength. Or the fact that, when contact was made with his arms without conscious preparation, the metal released an electrical current. Which, at full capacity, had blown Pollux through walls before.

And, being relegated to bodyguard duty for someone rarely in actual danger, Castor hadn’t had much reason to discharge them in five years.

He did have to hope that the current that ran up the webbing wouldn’t electrocute the young man on the spot, because that would be difficult to explain to Dr. Hobbes. It wouldn’t help that he was standing with his feet pressed onto or into the steel of the shaft walls, either. But while he’d been told not to damage the young man, the young man would have little concern about damaging him once they were in the confined space of the elevator shaft.

There wasn’t much he could do on the tile to prevent himself from still falling, especially if Sensation fell first, but he did have time to counter his weight and shift one arm higher than the other even under the immense pull. He reached out with the intention to – like his opponent – use both the adhesive and the physical pressure of digging his metal fingers into the steel and stone of the ledge to hold himself up.

The tips caught on the edge of the ruined elevator doorframe. Normally, the grip would hardly take any effort, but there was a lot of strength behind the pull, almost irresistible. If he hadn’t spent most of his extraordinarily long lifetime in conflict with someone of equal or greater strength, he doubted his own body could have taken the strain. Even as he was his foot caught against the wall for extra leverage, the rubber sole and steel meeting with the same squeak a child’s sneaker made on a playground slide. Now they were attached, except he was at the top of the elevator shaft, clinging on by one arm and one foot and supporting the dead weight of an anohuman who’d just surrendered himself to gravity.

He managed to laugh a little bit, reminded of the last time he was in the Underground. That’d been a horrible day, but alright to look back upon. He hoped he’d be able to say the same about this one.

[font color="3137fd"]“Stand clear of the closing doors, please,”[/font] he grunted, with a smile he couldn’t completely help. Not the joy Pollux took in a challenge, but the pleasant glow of nostalgia. He then sighed to send that away, and called down below himself, fingers of his loose arm wrapping around the web.

[font color="3137fd"]“Would you prefer I drop you, or pull you up?”[/font]

That was mostly to make sure the boy was still conscious after the shock. No response would result in immediate action, in the form of a long and steady pull as Castor started to heave his own weight back over the edge, with only as much difficulty as the webs would give him.
[/div][/div][/div]
 
[div style="margin:0 auto;max-width:100%;background-color:#000000;color:#ffffff;padding:1%;overflow:hidden;font-size:10pt;"][div style="border:2px solid #ffffff;padding:1%;"][div style="border:2px solid #ffffff;padding:2%;"][div align="left" style="overflow:hidden;font-family:'Courier New';"]Let go. Leap away. Distance.

Dodging lightning bolts or electricity had been a staple of the more recent years. Whether it be beings made of pure electricity, androids shooting bolts of lightning, or metal men charging their bodies up to become living faraday cages, Sensation always had a way to keep fighting, dodging and weaving out of harm's way. But this time, the sixth sense and every instinct--both his own and not--told him to let go.

Every muscle contracted and spasmed for a moment, a tingling numbing sensation ran along his arms as he found himself unable to let go for a few moments, before Woody grunted and forced both arms to release the electrified silk. His back hit the net as the silk structure wobbled up and down at the force of his immediate crash-landing descent. Raising his arms upward with more struggle than he cared to admit, Woody aimed both arms up and fire a pair of web-balls at the weightless lines of webbing. One towards the end of the line, the other about ten feet above the first. Each ball stuck true to the wall before exploding and anchoring the silk lines to the wall like adhesive glue.

Before backwards flipping off of his back and onto his hands before pushing off and landing on the opposite wall. The charge should not reach him. Not here.

The fact that spider silk was a poor conductor probably saved him. Sure, it was not specialized or altered to be any form of insulative webbing--meant to withstand a more focused electrical attack, but Woody had done research on his powers in his spare time. Enough to know that he was not in total danger, but the fact his arms felt like he touched a socket by accident gave him pause for a moment.

Cybernetic arms. Serious electrical charge or current. Enough to spasm my arms. No telling what would have happened if he got ahold of me.

I should have seen that coming. Stupid. So stupid.


Running up along the wall and shaking his arms a few times before focusing full speed ahead and upwards, Woody would slide to a stop upwards along the wall until he found his body almost level with Castor's own, perching on the wall with both feet and one hand as his body crouched ready to pounce. Those lenses narrowed.

No more Mr. Nice Superhero.

He leaped, kicking off with every portion of his body sending his momentum forward. During the span of time mid-air, several more pellets flew from his wrists. Aiming for the cyborg's body and arms, each that struck true to Castor would expand and plaster across his body, creating giant adhesive netting and globs. If his electrical current applied itself through the cyborg's arms, Woody had to wonder if the more organic parts could handle that same voltage or not.

Worth a try. After all, a smaller mount of poor conductive material could allow such a current had to travel through to Castor's more human body and backfire on the cybernetic man. And, if it failed, the side benefit was trapping Castor further inside such webbing, restricting his movements further.

Woody took a deep breath and held it as he flew through the opening above Castor. His own back of his costume sliding across the ceiling of the elevator doorframe. Before rolling once and landing on his two feet.

One last move. There was a reason he aimed for Castor's body and not the surrounding area as well. Woody began running forward before kicking one leg legs upwards--almost akin to the meanest soccer ball kick ever done by a posthuman and it was aimed straight for Castor's head. Whether it hurt Castor or sent him flying down the elevator shaft, Woody cared more so for the later outcome.

But, either way, maybe it would send a message across to get out of his way.[/div][/div][/div][/div]
 
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