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Merope Merope is lurking outside the main entrance to the hospital, waiting for Furud and Antares.

Merope She spots the approaching Furud and gives him a weak smile.

Merope "I haven't found out which room yet. I figured we'd all go together."

Furud nods soberly to Merope. "Okay."

Merope She breathes out, heavily. "Is Antares..."

Altair The doors to the entrance slide open as Altair steps out, pulls a cigarette... and sees them.

Altair "Furud."

Furud "She's fi... well, not fine exactly. But.... Anyway, she's not coming tonight." He looks up skittishly as Altair comes out, "Altair."

Merope is still a little jumpy, and spins around in surprise at Altair's arrival. "Oh... Altair. What are you....?"

Altair Altair looks at him with all the friendship of an angry tiger.

Altair "Merope." His mood sweetens in an almost-smile. "What the hell are you two doing here?"

Merope looks between the two of them. "Uh, Altair is an exchange student who.... but I guess you already... know..."

Merope "We're here to, um, visit." She swallows. "Maia."

Furud rubs his forehead. "Yeah. We go back."

Altair "Oh, of course." He lights the cigarette, glaring at Furud "You and visiting hospitalized friends."

Furud "Can we not DO this right now, Tai?"

Altair He shakes his head. "Yeah, I guess." He looks to the hospital and walks back to it, "Come on. Do you know where she's staying already?" He goes, as if it was natural for him to go with them.

Merope "No... she's somewhere in uh... intensive care."

Merope "I don't know how much you heard..."

Merope casts a worried glance over to Furud, who seems very quiet.

Furud gives him a sidelong glance, sighs, and heads in. "I called ahead. She's in 1149."

Altair "I heard that a friend of Furud's and Antares' shot herself, not caring that they would be like this. I heard what everyone else heard in the school, goth kid, has a band, is violent, tries to kill herself. That's expected, right?" He says the last one with no small ammount of venom for the concept. Of that being expected, that is. "I know it wasn't that, either."

Altair Altair made a point not put out his cigarette.

Furud "If you're gonna be an ass, don't come in. Have some fucking respect, man!"

Altair "That IS what they are saying of her around the school, Furud."

Furud "They don't know shit about shit."

Altair "My sentiments exactly."

Merope There's a pause as the two glare at each other. Merope looks between them.

Merope "I... I'm pretty sure you can't smoke in here. Um."

Altair "Yeah." He nodded as they walked. "I know." After a few more paces someone came around to ask him to put out his cigarette, he said he would, the person left. He kept walking on. "So she was your friend too, Mero? Quite a group."

Merope Merope goes very quiet. "She IS my friend. Not was."

Altair smiles at that, despite himself. "Good."

Furud absently rubs his wrists, studiously ignoring Altair in an attempt to keep his temper.

Merope Merope stops walking. "Look. I don't know what your deal is, but put out the damn cigarette. Now, please."

Altair stopped, looking down at Merope. It looked like he was about to put the cigarette, alright - on her - for a long, tense moment... and then, he just put it out, flicking it into a nearby trashcan. "'My deal' is that I want to see this Maia."

Merope She looks at him. "I think," she says, deliberately, "it's friends and family only up there."

Furud "Why?"

Altair looked back at Mero with an unreadable expression, ignoring Furud. "Shall we go, then?"

Merope There's a long moment, and then Merope turns, sharply. "We need to go this way." She walks off quickly, following signs to IC and eventually to room 1149.

Merope A nurse stops them at the door.

Merope "We're friends of Maia. We uh, called ahead?" She looks at Furud.

Furud "I'm Furud."

Johnstone "Oh, yes. Please come in." She ushers them into the hospital room.

Johnstone The room is, like most hospital rooms, spare and empty of decoration; its primary contents are the metal bed and the array of complicated devices currently devoted to keeping the small, limp body in the bed breathing.

Johnstone Maia's body is pale, her eyes now closed, her head shaved and lengths of bandages carefully and professionally wrapped around her forehead. Her heart seems to be beating under its own power currently, but the array of electrodes testify to the fact that there was some concern about the subject.

Johnstone On the other side of the bed from the door, just rising up from looking into Maia's face to peer at the door, is a battered, burned man in a wheelchair who Furud and Merope know all too well.

Furud "...what are YOU doing here?"

Johnstone "Convalescing."

Johnstone "What are you-" he stops, and glances at Altair, then continues, "three doing here?"

Altair "Johnstone." Altair's eyes are but slits.

Merope "We... we came to see Maia."

Johnstone "How thoughtful of you."

Furud "We're regular saints."

Merope "We're um. Friends of hers. Mostly."

Altair "I just tagged along, really." He looks over to Maia. "Silly."

Johnstone "Well, here she is, what's left of her. Hope you kids had your fun, in the absence of authority. Doesn't seem to have done her a lot of good, does it?"

Altair looks at Johnstone, then at Furud, and back again. "Johnstone, shut the fuck up."

Altair "Nobody is here to have fun."

Furud glares at Johnstone, fighting down the rising chords in the back of his mind. "No, sir," he spits out. "I'm sure that everything would have gone perfectly fine with you being authoritarian."

Johnstone "That's my point, Altair. None of this is about fun."

Johnstone "Things were going fine before somebody put me in the hospital, Furud. Before somebody took Cassiopoeia offline. Nobody was getting kidnapped. Nobody was getting shot."

Johnstone "The pressure," he speaks levelly, "was on the back of somebody prepared to deal with it. An adult. A professional."

Johnstone "Somebody with the knowledge, and power, to live up to their responsibility. Who wouldn't....well." He looks down at Maia again, grief evident to some degree on his face.

Altair "You were supposed to be preparing them. Not coddling them."

Altair "That there is your failure as a professional."

Furud looks down at Maia, taking her limp hand in his, silent.

Merope "Cassiopeia? But..."

Johnstone "Who do you think you are, Altair?"

Johnstone "You find one improperly destroyed memo, and you think that qualifies you to tell me my job?"

Johnstone "To try to kill me? To kill my..." his lips thin, and he stops.

Johnstone "You're lucky you're wrong."

Altair "I met those people on every vacation, what'd you expect? Your SON did too. You're lucky he didn't know it befo..." He turns his face. "I wanted to protect HIM, too. He was my friend, damnit. You weren't supposed to... you're not the kind of parent to give driving lessons. You shouldn't have fucking started."

Johnstone "You don't know anything about my relationship with my son, you little bastard. You never did."

Johnstone "I loved Aldebaran. With all my heart."

Altair puts his hands on his pockets, looking away from Johnstone, to Maia. "Yeah..."

Altair "I SAID I'm sorry. Alright."

Furud "You're one to talk about grudges" Furud mutters

Johnstone shakes his head in disgust.

Johnstone "Excuse me. I have a lot of healing to do. Try not to hurt her any more while you're here, all right?" He begins wheeling himself laboriously towards the door.

Merope "But... what does Cassie have to do with this?"

Altair winces. "Bastard..." he mutters under his breath, for no-one in particular.

Johnstone "Is that what you call her?"

Merope "She... I... well, it's what Ras..."

Merope looks around at Furud. "I don't..."

Altair puts a hand on Merope's shoulder. "What about her friend, Johnstone?"

Altair "She asked you a question."

Johnstone "Ras Alhague. I should have known." Johnstone's expression grows even blacker, impressively enough.

Merope "But Ras rescued her from people! They had her locked up, connected to some computer or somehting, they were experimenting on her! That was fine?

Johnstone "Cassiopeia's job was to keep them from tracking you. Now that she's off the air, anyone who knows how can find you. It's not a difficult process -- you need a ham radio, and the right frequency for the individual. Maybe a cell phone."

Johnstone "She was..." he looks more drawn.

Merope "So... you were letting them do that to her?"

Altair flares. "You were USING one of us as a fucking TOOL?"

Johnstone "She was the best solution to a difficult problem. I won't lie to you and say she was a willing volunteer."

Furud clenches his free fist.

Johnstone "It wasn't going to be forever. Just until...we could find a safe way to disconnect her. And a safe way to keep you all concealed."

Johnstone "I made the decision. I'll take that responsibility."

Furud "So that's the ADULT solution huh," Furud hisses.

Johnstone "Yes. You can tell because it WORKED."

Altair "You could have asked. You could have DONE SOMETHING that didn't involve people living in bliss, away from reality." He shakes his head, "That's what your kind always does, locks us away in whatever sort of straightjacket you can think of. The school's just another, isn't it?"

Johnstone "I kept you safe. Can your little avenger say the same -- " Johnstone stops, and in the sudden silence, the sound of a high-pitched beep rings out, as he turns to look at the suddenly empty bed that once contained Maia.

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< HSoS 99 | H So S Timeline | HSoS 102 >