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Dramatis Personae

Aubrey, Clint, Flicker


"Sometimes free will gets you unexpected places." (Set at the Blackburn Prometheus facility.)


<PRO> Wreck Room - Blackburn Research Facility

The sign by the door says "Rec Room", but someone with a permanent marker bookended the first word with "W" and "k" at some point, and the subsequent effort to undo the vandalism was lackluster. Inside it is not usually that much of a wreck, though it might be more interesting if it were. One corner is dedicated to the reasonably sized flatscreen television mounted on the wall, with several rows of folding chairs arrayed before it. Another is centered around a set of tacky vinyl sofas bracketed by two bookshelves largely stocked with supermarket checkout paperbacks (about half James Patterson by volume, with Danielle Steel heavily represented, and there are at least six copies of Fifty Shades of Gray at any given time). The rest of the space is more modular, but usually plays host to several card tables ringed with folding chairs, supplied by a shelf of games, from playing cards to chess (with a couple of improvised pieces) to three different flavors of Monopoly.

The Great British Baking Show is on TV. It's better than a lot of the options often are, but the early hour means that many people are still lingering at the tail end of breakfast and haven't yet congregated around the television. Aubrey has brought a yogurt and cup of juice in to the rec room, pulled up a chair, and is watching curiously as the bakers attempt to make savory vegan tartlets.

Flicker has no food when he enters; just the well-worn Bible he's claimed off the bookshelves. Freshly shaven, his hair still slightly damp, it's unlikely he's come in here from the cafeteria. There are a few bruises, old and fading to yellow, splotched across his arm and cheek, and his steps kind of drag stiff and sluggish as he crosses the room. He perks -- a little -- when he sees the show. "Oh!" The smile that lights his face is bright. "I had a friend who really loves this." He stops behind a chair beside Aubrey, hugging the book against his chest.

Clint has been in here since before the labrats were permitted out of their cages, and likely not given much notice by most who have entered since, in his Prometheus issued coveralls, wearing heavy framed glasses and bulky over-the-ear hearing aids. He's a relatively recent addition to the janitorial staff, and though his ID badge reads "DANIEL M. JOHNSON" he's generally referred to as "the deaf one" or "the new one". His cleaning is fairly unobtrusive and seems, in any event, to be drawing to a conclusion. He's unfolding the last of the chairs and arranging them before the television set. Seeing Flicker's interest--or, perhaps, his injuries--he gestures at the chair he's just set down, an awkward and uncertain smile on his face.

Aubrey's shoulders curl in tight and he ducks his head first, glancing up only a moment later. His hunch eases -- but only fractionally -- when he sees Flicker. "It's -- it's relaxing. They're all. They're all very -- polite." He takes a scoop of his yogurt, sucking at the bowl of the spoon. "And it doesn't hurt to imagine. Some of those treats. Better than the goopy -- what they pass off as dessert." His eyes stray briefly to the Bible, but quickly back to the television. "Do you have much luck converting people in here?"

Flicker's arm tightens around the Bible, his lips twitching. "I haven't really tried. Have you been feeling like you could use some prayer?" He glances up -- eyes slightly wider, posture stiffening -- but then easing with a cautious smile, a small nod in answer to Clint. "Thanks," he says softly, gingerly sitting down and setting the book in his lap. And then, looking the janitor over again, touches his hand to his chin and brings it back out and down. His eyes flick to the ID badge, and then to the television. He half-turns in his seat, facing Clint better. "You're new here, right?"

Clint's eyes track to Aubrey at a delay when he speaks, then to the television with a curious tilt of his head. His smile goes wider and abruptly less unsure when Flicker signs his thanks. His reply is only a quick tap of his thumb--the other fingers splayed wide--to his chest, but then he says aloud, while still signing, "New, yes. I started, two weeks ago." His speech is clear, but he speaks slowly anyway, his overenunciation honestly doing more to underline the ways that his speech "sounds deaf" than actually aid in comprehension. He looks suddenly self conscious again, and drops his hands. "The staff cafeteria is also pretty bad," he tells Aubrey confidentially. "A lot of people complain, say we should get better food than you."

Aubrey's initial snort is immediate and dismissive. "If there is a God, do you think he's paying attention to us?" He scrapes at his yogurt, trying to scoop up what little remains in the edges of the cup. He watches Flicker and Clint carefully, fixated on the motion of the men's hands. "It's so -- cool that you can do that." He licks at the spoon again. His eyes lower to the empty yogurt cup. "... you guys could... get better food at home, though. Right? This is all... all we --" His head shakes.

Flicker watches Clint carefully, too. A slight flush rises to his cheeks at Aubrey's words. He looks only briefly down at his Bible. "I think He pays attention to everyone." He tries signing as he speaks, as well, though -- stilted; between his one-handedness and his only partial fluency it's choppier. "I should have guessed there was a different cafeteria for you all. I don't really have much idea how big it is outside our floor."

Clint stares intently at Aubrey as he speaks, brows furrowed slightly in confusion before his expression clears with dawning comprehension. "I also think it is cool," he agrees, "and very useful." Perhaps it's that sentiment, or perhaps it's Flicker's signing, however imperfect, but his embarrassment seems to fade and he starts signing and speaking simultaneously again. "Some bring food, yes. Still, same complaining." He shrugs, then looks thoughtful, gaze drifting toward the ceiling above. "How big? Three floors, each about the same. Maybe a little bigger than this floor, because there's parts you can't go, near the elevator."

"But how could --" For just a moment Aubrey's tone is sharper. He stops, tucking the spoon into his cheek and sucking on it hard. After a moment he sets it in the empty cup, puts the finished yogurt underneath his chair and picks up his juice instead. He chews on the edge of the straw, considering his words for a second before speaking. Softer, this time. "Just seems like -- if your God is watching this and letting it happen he must be --" He just shakes his head again. He sucks hard on the straw and then sets the juice on his knee. "I've only been to the one other floor."

"Having power is one thing, using it to quell people's free will is another." Flicker still speaks slowly, signing carefully as he does. "They've locked us all in here out of fear for how we might misuse our power. I find it hard to sit in a cage and lay a lot of blame at the feet of a Heavenly Father who allows us our freedom." Even so, he sits a little more stiffly after this, his fingers pressing briefly against his side with a small but noticeable wince. "Do you bring your own food?" he asks Clint, after this. His smile is a little bit thin, a little bit crooked. "Is it a decent place to work? Aside from the cafeteria?"

Clint blinks at Flicker, his expression opaque, though he seems deep in thought for a moment. "So--you pray, why?" There's no challenge in this, only faintly troubled curiousity. "One floor is offices and staff cafeteria and things like that. I don't think they take any you there." He looks directly into Flicker's eyes. "No," his tone is bland, "too many hearing." Here, though, his hands do not match up with his spoken words. Despite the care he takes, signing slower--perhaps to avoid fouling his speech, or perhaps to aid Flicker's comprehension--there's a certain jerkiness in his movement that suggests anger, 'Nothing good about a place that does what they do here.'

Aubrey has awkwardly and kind of unthinkingly been trying to mimic some of Clint and Flicker's motions, but at Flicker's reply he tenses and drops his hand to his lap. He blinks down at his hand, squeezes his knee slowly. "It must be hard, though. Having faith when. When." He picks jerkily at a seam of his scrubs. He blinks, wets his lips, looks up again at Clint's more intense signing. "... does this place, um. Respect the ADA."

Flicker's answer isn't immediate. He watches Clint thoughtfully, his hand dropping to trace the lettering on the cover of his Bible. His eyes turn up to search the ceiling after this, one leg bouncing restlessly. "Why does anyone talk to their parents?" he answers slowly. "Out of respect, out of love. Giving thanks. Sometimes I want guidance. Sometimes --" His teeth press against his lip, his hand briefly stilling, "-- especially lately, I just. Need someone to listen. There's always a comfort and a strength in talking to people who care for you." The twitch of his smile is very small when he glances to Aubrey. Then back to Clint. "I'm sorry this job isn't great. It's, uh." This time his grin widens. "It's not ideal for us either." 'Did you know?' is what he signs carefully when he says this. 'When you got hired?'

"Those seem like good reasons," Clint says, nodding, "if you have good parents." His eyes automatically track Aubrey's hands in a futile attempt to decipher what he is not actually signing. To the spoken question he replies, "Almost no one actually respects the ADA, but they hired me anyway." To Flicker's silent question, he signs, 'Not enough. Now, I know.' And here his signing and speaking merge again, "Sometimes free will gets you unexpected places."

"Not ideal," Aubrey mumbles down to his juice. "Heh." He tenses when a guard appears at the door, cringing slightly at the curt bark of, "Dooley." He sucks down the rest of his juice as he stands, stooping to pick up the empty yogurt cup from under his chair. He pauses before leaving, though, glancing to the bookshelves and then down to the book in Flicker's lap. "Hey -- maybe -- when I get back --" He doesn't finish his thought. "Now," says the guard who's come for him, and, eyes wider, he tenses briefly and then skitters away.

"You can have it," Flicker supplies gently, following Aubrey's glance down to the Bible. "Maybe if we ask nicely they'll get us another." Not that he sounds tremendously hopeful on this front. His leg has set to bouncing again, rapid and jittery. "From in here it kind of feels like the rest of my life is pretty predictable. Like there's only so far free will gets you when you're in a cage." He hesitates, eyes lifting to the ceiling again before he continues. 'Good to remember we aren't the only ones. With a choice.'