Cassiopeia From the outside it doesn't look like much - little more than a shack way out past the middle of nowhere. It had to be that way, really, considering what it was doing to mobile phone reception.
Ras Alhague Ras looks at the phone. "Connection lost." For the first time, he wished he'd gotten more than the cheap phone that came free with his latest plan. Oh well, he'd make it up to Merope later - right now he had a promise to keep. "Station Cassiopeia... that even sounded ike you."
Ras Alhague Ras ghosted his way up the side of the building - his years at Jessup, and training with parks, had taught him well. He wished he didn't have to do this in daylight, but one day away from school was going to be hard enough to explain.
Cassiopeia The only sound audible is a faint, unmodulated electrical hum.
Ras Alhague Ras watched the Hummer drive away - if what he'd been given was right, this was the best time. They wouldn't be back for hours. He slid up to the door, the hum growing louder with each step. It set his teeth on edge.
Ras Alhague Ras held his hand out to the keypad, and closed his eyes. A minute later, he snapped them open, and punched in the 12 digit alphanumeric code. "First time's the charm," he mutters, smiling, as the door swings open.
Cassiopeia Closer to the door, two more sounds become audible: music, and a voice "...throughput is unbelievable..."
Cassiopeia "Hey, Jake, what happened? Hummer wouldn't start? .. what the..."
Cassiopeia An unshaven, dark-haired man wearing a peaked cap is silhouetted in the doorway, having just gotten up from a chair with about six screens facing it.
Cassiopeia "Jake?" he says, inching closer to the doorway.
Ras Alhague Ras shoots out his fist, quick as a snake, smashing the man in the larynx. He drops to the ground, coughing, unable to speak. "Sorry, Alan," Ras says, still in the shadows.
Cassiopeia chrrk gasp
Ras Alhague Ras pulls the mask over his face - nobody SHOULD recognize him, but you can never be too careful. He steps over the man's body, his bulk several times more intimidating from the ground. "You're alone, right, Alan?"
Cassiopeia Inside the shack, the space is lousy with electrical equipment. Two chairs are set at opposite ends of the room, and a path cleared to trapdoor rougly equidistant.
Ras Alhague "Or is Debbie here today, too?"
Cassiopeia " *gasp" Yesh, alone. Jake went... for supplies.... the fuck.. are you?"
Ras Alhague "I'm Freedom for someone who's gone too long without." Ras reaches out, grabbing the keys from Alan's belt. He flips through each key, touching it for a second, then shaking his head, until he finds the right one. "You won't mind if we go for a little walk, I'm sure."
Cassiopeia "What... where?"
Ras Alhague "Not you!" Ras rolls his eyes. "You've got to stay here to tell Jake, and everyone else, not to come looking for me. I meant HER." He motions to the trap door.
Cassiopeia The man's eyes go wide. "You know... about Cassie? Who... do you work for?"
Ras Alhague Ras puts his boot against the man's neck. "You don't get to call her that name. Only her friends can call her that." He spits in Alan's face.
Cassiopeia "You can't take her! She needs... the connection... her whole mind! She'll... die!"
Ras Alhague "That's not what she says."
Cassiopeia "You've no idea what you're dealing with! You can't go down there!"
Cassiopeia From down by the floor, the man's face betrays utter panic.
Ras Alhague "Today's the day, Alan. Today's the day she lives." Ras shakes his head. "Don't be afraid of what you don't understand. The world's on the cusp of change, and it's going to be beautiful."
Ras Alhague Whistling the tune to "the times they are a-changing," Ras leaves Alan coughing on the floor, and heads to the trap door. With a quick turn, he has it unlocked.
Cassiopeia "You can't! You'll scare her!" Alan insists, still prone.
Ras Alhague "She knows I'm coming, Alan! She'll be fine."
Ras Alhague starts heading down the ladder
Cassiopeia The main feature of the room is a bed. Lying on it, an emaciated figure is swaddled by blankets, and surrounded by monitors. She has blue hair, or at least, it appeared to be hair - thousands of tiny fiberoptic cables lead out of a shaven skull. Two other tubes lead in somewhere near the wrist.
Cassiopeia She lies flat, her eyes closed, but her voice tolls like a bell.
Cassiopeia "This is Station Cassiopeia, broadcasting on all frequencies."
Cassiopeia "Oblate spheroid, diameter three-point-oh-four metres... Nikkei index up 57 points... a blue figure, dancing... snow falls in Alabama...."
Ras Alhague "You're not Station Cassiopeia anymore," Ras says, now fully in the room. "You're Cassie again."
Cassiopeia "...temperature variation up point-six-five-degrees Kelvin... a man, speaking ... In Xanadu did Kubla Khan/A stately pleasure-dome decree..."
Ras Alhague crosses the room. "Cassie. I know you're there. We've talked. You told me how to get you." Ras sighs. "I've tried before now, I have. But every time you died, so I couldn't. I couldn't..."
Cassiopeia "...incidence of school shootings... 'twas brilling, and the slivey toves/did goire and gamboil in the wabe...Rasalhague, Alpha Ophiuchi, apparent magnitude 2.08...."
Cassiopeia "...waves of data... message in a bottle, bob-bob-bob-bobbing... in space no-one can hear you scream..."
Ras Alhague Ras dumps some things out of his backpack. He grabs one of them - a canteen - then reaches for the tubes at her wrist. "I know how to do it this time." He pulls the first tube. "Here, Cassie. Drink this. I know you can."
Cassiopeia "...I do scream, though, I do... I do, I am, I am I am I am... Descartes, cogito ergo something.. hahahaha..."
Cassiopeia Her eyes are still closed but her lips - dry, cracked - move and slurp around the trickle of water.
Ras Alhague "Good girl... good girl, keep drinking. That's the first step. The next one's harder." Ras runs his fingers through her 'hair', trying to soothe her.
Cassiopeia "...Water, water, every where/And all the boards did shrink/water, water, every where/and not a drop to drink..."
Ras Alhague "You've got water now, Cass. You've got everything you need. You're doing good." He tries to meet her eyes, but they keep darting about, looking everywhere. "Cassie, you've got to look at me! You've got to concentrate!"
Cassiopeia "...look at me, look at me, when such a world there is to see... ...I could lie bounded in a nutshell/and count myself a king of infinite space..."
Ras Alhague "C'mon Cassie. Today's the day. Look at me..."
Cassiopeia "Today's the day/the teddy bears have their picnic... hahahahah... hi Ras."
Cassiopeia regards Ras with a steady, milky stare. "You came...."
Ras Alhague "Told you so." He smiles, wanly. "Sorry it took so long."
Ras Alhague "We've got to take the other one out now, hon. That one's going to hurt. I need you to be strong, Cassie."
Cassiopeia "...just a little prick, hahahah..."
Ras Alhague closes his eyes, winces... then pulls, as hard as he can.
Cassiopeia screams, and thrashes as much as the restrainingblankets allow her weakened form.
Ras Alhague Ras grabs Cassie in his arms and pulls her out of bed, the fiberoptic connections snapping like reeds in the wind. "Come on. We don't have much time. Can you walk?"
Cassiopeia "I'M BLIND, I'M BLIND, I CAN'T SEE!" she says, her eyes darting about, her limbs flailing limply against Ras' bulk.
Ras Alhague "Shhh...shhh... It's okay Cassie. It's okay."
Cassiopeia Her arms seem to have some strength in them, but the legs are barely moving at all. Out of the bed now, Ras can see they're almost unnaturally thin.
Ras Alhague "Poor Cassie. What did they do to you?" He shakes his head and starts making his slow, awkward way up the ladder with a girl in tow.
Cassiopeia "You took the lights away...."
Cassiopeia "It's so quiet... so quiet..."
Cassiopeia She seems to be losing energy rapidly, slumping against Ras's shoulder. She weighs very little indeed.
Ras Alhague "They're not the lights you should have had, Cassie." Ras is whispering now. "Now you can shine."