Description: Even in the midst of one of the largest Army installations in the US, Sergeant Delaney is not safe from confronting demons -- both figurative and literal.
The dream is like a memory, but one that Caoimhe knows isn't her own. She's standing in Metro Square - a place that she's only seen on television. The buildings are looming, but vague in definition; the only really recognizable one is the opera house.
And then it plays out like the events from the aerial footage that she's made herself perhaps too familiar with in the days since the incident - a figure in the distance makes a gesture, and the buildings all begin to warp and distort and expand.
And then, in unison, they explode, blasted apart in a conflagration reminiscent of a memory that's much more personal. Looking down in her dream, she sees the detonator in her hand, her thumb on the trigger...
The woman wakes from her nightmare with a start, sitting up in her bed. It takes a few moments to register where she is: in her room in the barracks at Fort Bragg, where she's been stationed for weeks. It's late - or early, depending on one's sense of timing - between one and two A.M. according to the clock nestled amongst the clutter that's been starting to build on her desk. A sense of lingering disconnection from her reality plagues her as she attempts to return to sleep, along with a sense of discomfort as she realises that, having exhausted herself with physical training that day, she had allowed herself to take to bed without washing away the accumulated sweat and grime. Letting out something between a yawn and a sigh, she slips out of bed, collects a few things, and makes for the women's showers.
The steady sound of the running water helps to clear the Sergeant's head. She was never there - despite requesting deployment alongside Charlie's team. There had been a vague statement about her particular skillset not necessarily being required, about her being needed in case her Special Forces unit was needed to deploy to Africa to deal with the rising threats there. In her mind, though, it amounted to one thing: while she may have been publicly absolved for the collateral damage incident overseas, the Army didn't want to risk the same thing happening in an American city.
In short, they doubted her. A sentiment that, at its foundation, in her own mind, she couldn't refute.
The hot, running water, at least, allows her to dissociate from those thoughts for the time being. Once she's done, she reaches out from the shower curtain to snatch her towel and dries herself carefully, then wraps it around her midsection. Heaving another sigh, she reaches up and draws the curtain back, stepping out with her eyes to the floor, careful to avoid puddles as she contemplates whether to brush her hair now or worry about it later...
Lord Dohma is patient. He's been dead before. Still is, as a matter of fact -- and his very existence is no longer tied to the presence of a heart, bones, or corporeal matter of any kind. And while he had a fairly accurate idea of the presence of Caoimhe Delaney, he had no idea of her schedule, or her condition. If he'd known about the nightmare she was having, it would have been delicious timing to have been there when she startled herself awake.
But no. As it happened, he'd shattered the mirror outside the Sergeant's bathroom when she was in said bathroom. The jagged fragments of glass are still strewn about the floor outside her bathroom door, casting fractured reflections of the bloodlord as he stands in the midst of her barracks quarters, leaning casually upon his ridiculously long scythe as he peruses the reading material left for him: information about the activity of the creatures the public has branded 'darkstalkers', which the military has officially designated as 'aberrants.' Fascinating stuff for the bloodlord responsible for the deaths of thousands of humans.
The seven-foot-tall demon lord has his back to the bathroom door as he flips through the materials, his blonde locks shifting slightly as he hears the approach of the person within. He pauses a moment, withdrawing the spectacles from the bridge of his nose as he turns towards the figure.
He smirks. It is not a leering one -- he couldn't care less about her current state of dress. "I'd ask you to forgive the intrusion, but I doubt you would find it in your heart to do so."
He holds up one photo from the folder -- a close-up shot of his face, which looks like a scene straight out of a horror film, with blood streaming down his face, taken from the vantage point of a tiltrotor mere moments before he released his realm's hold on Metro City. "Not the most flattering of portraits you have of me here. I assure you, though -- I'm feeling much better now."
One of Delaney's hands is running up the side of her face, the base of her palm rubbing at her eye as she steps through the door into her bunk room. The outline of the figure standing before her causes her brow to furrow questioningly - for a moment, her visible eye betrays the returning uncertainty behind it. Is she still dreaming?
The cool, brittle feeling of glass under the sole of her foot seems to answer the question. Neither her training nor her actual combat experience is enough to keep her heart from lurching in her chest as the Demon Lord turns toward her - even before the photo is held up, she recognizes the face from it.
"You're..." Her tone is a mixture of shock and anger - perhaps even a hint of a fearful tremble. "...Jedah Dohma? The reports said you were supposed to be dead."
The woman's eyes sweep the room briefly - she may have a knife amongst her belongings, but unlike some less strictly-by-the-book soldiers, she doesn't keep a gun in her quarters. And the knife is on the wrong side of the scythe-toting Demon Lord from where she's standing. Her eyes flit briefly to one of the shards of glass on the ground, considering, before turning back to Jedah.
"What are you doing here? And for that matter, how did you even get in?"
"On that matter, the reports are accurate, but inadequate. I have been 'dead' for quite some time." Lord Dohma's response comes quickly, without any real hesitation -- he'd anticipated some of the Sergeant's questions from the simple matter of holding the folder in his hands. He pivots on his heel, depositing the folder back onto the desk where he'd found it. There's more important matters to attend to, after all.
Caoimhe's fear, for instance: that tremor of unease, the chill down her spine as she finds herself at a complete and utter loss against the armed intruder in her living space. The soldier's scanning eyes do not escape his notice -- in fact, they're all he can find himself paying attention to now, as a slow grin creeps across his blue-tinted face.
His lips purse slightly at the question of how he came in, as he's fairly certain the Sergeant's bare feet are sensitive enough to feel the glass there. The enigmatic bloodweaver leaves that question aside however, focusing on the one that reveals the non-commissioned officer's penchant for getting to the point. "Your vaunted military let two helicopters past restricted airspace. My associate tells me it was something to do with... 'IFF transpotters' or some such drivel. Regardless, it was a complete failure of military intelligence, and I was curious to know how the Navy plans to respond to it."
Leaning casually upon the haft of his scythe, he raises an eyebrow. "Especially as said helicopters contain hundreds of the creatures you call 'aberrants', which apparently is a point of some concern."
He pauses slowly, drinking in the fear and unease that's practically wafting from Delaney at the moment. Waiting as long as possible for the maximum impact, he tilts his head to the side slightly, condescending grin and his crimson eyes opening wider. "Would a knife make you more comfortable, or less?"
The corners of Caoimhe's lips turn downward as she shifts her weight, brushing the piece of glass out from under her foot with her toe before settling again. As Jedah starts to speak about the helicopters passing into restricted airspace, the creasing of her brow intensifies - especially when he mentions the aberrants on board. It's not something she's particularly familiar with. The mention of the Navy causes her a brief moment of confusion - why would Jedah be here, asking her about a Navy Issue? - but then, at least one possibility enters her mind. Could Jedah somehow know about her association with Glenn and Nash, who had deployed to the attack on Metro City along with the Marines?
"It depends," the auburn-haired Bostonian answer carefully, seeming to gain some measure of composure. "If you're thinking of trading in the wheat-cutter there for one, that'd likely make me feel at least a tad more comfortable," she continues with a nod toward the scythe. Her tone isn't glib - it's of a humour that's more nervous than casual. As she continues, though, it becomes more serious and thoughtful.
"Your telling about this helicopter business is the first of it that I've heard. I'm actually not in the Navy - nor was I present at the... mission in Metro City. So, don't think me flippant if I repeat myself, but - why are you here?"
Jedah is well aware that the upper echelons have these concepts of a 'chain of command' and 'need to know' information. But he also knows that such concepts go right out the window when highly-classified documents fly... right out the window of a destroyed Marine tiltrotor. But there's no need to go tipping his hand to a question that's left unasked.
Jedah shrugs his shoulders somewhat at the suggestion that he trade his scythe for a knife. "A 'tad,' hmm." Jedah shakes his head, straightening his stance and resting the scythe across his shoulder instead. It's not a threatening gesture -- just a sign that he doesn't plan on following said suggestion.
"Navy, Army... forgive me, I find it tedious to keep track of the needless divisions and subdivisions of this nation's military." The noble bows his head -- though even that gesture comes across as condescending due to his highborne attitude. "No offense was intended," says the uninvited nighttime guest.
"As far as my spies have found, they are headed to Africa. The helicopters are not mine, but they appear to belong to a paramilitary corporation of some kind. Who massacred the men... and abducted the women." He deliberately allows his red irises to scan across Caoimhe's underdressed body, before snapping them back up to meet her gaze. "No doubt they will be pressured into service of some sort. And the armies will grow."
Jedah raises both his palms, the scythe balanced precariously upon his shoulder. How does it not fall? Magic, clearly. "Why am I here? Because I doubt that your higher-ups would hear me out, they would be adopting some stance of bravado, more determined with the futile effort of 'killing' me than with hearing me out. I implore you, to bring this to the attention of your superiors."
He pauses, lowering his left hand. "For if you choose to oppose me and kill the 'aberrants', many innocent human lives will be saved."
He lowers his right hand in equal measure. "Or, by taking swift and decisive action now to behead the paramilitary group, you can end the 'aberrant' threat before it even becomes one. And on top of the gratitude of me and my family, you will have put an end to a clear and present danger to the world at large.
The soldier remains silent as the Demon Lord derides her country's military hierarchy - though her opinion on the matter differs, starting an argument with a scythe-wielding mass murderer over something so trivial seems a bit brash. She folds her arms across the towel around her middle when Jedah looks her over, as if reminded of the relative cool by his gaze. Her expression becomes a faint scowl as she gives Jedah's words due consideration. However noble the mission being proposed...
"You're asking me - us - to rescue a handful of your people, after slaughtering how many defenseless Americans, exactly?" There's a definite anger coloring her voice, but it's a measured one. She takes a deep breath. "If they're American citizens... then whatever they may be, the military's sure to try to mount some sort of rescue. If not, I... well, the best I can promise is to pass along whatever information you give me to my superiors. Most of Africa is The Third Group's theoretical operating territory, but it hasn't been an active theater for a while. If there's enough of a potential threat, though..."
Jedah smiles broadly, as he extends the scythe off to his right. "Do what you will with the information, Sergeant," he restates. "Prove your supposed moral superiority over me by saving lives. Or take lives to save your own, as every apex predator throughout history has. It truly matters not to me. But do take note that -not- acting on my knowledge will surely increase the casualties of those people you do care about. American citizens, or otherwise."
Jedah rotates the haft of his scythe about, poking it into the wall. It seems like it dissolves in the wall, at first -- but what's actually happening is that the scythe is dissolving back into the blood which comprises it, and as the blood trails down the wall, a light will become visible from within.
And thus, as Jedah reaches his slender fingertips through the crimson pool dripping down Caoimhe's wallcoverings, will her earlier question be answered: how did he get here? He retrieves a small flash drive, the length of his pinky finger but a bit thicker. "I am told this will contain all the information you would need to present to your superiors."
By this point, the bloody mess on the wall is large enough to pretty much require a hazmat team -- but it's also large enough for Jedah to step into. "I do know of your, shall we say, /explosive/ history, but please... try to step beyond your adolescent thought patterns and think of what's best for your people, hmm?"
Cue the condescending smirk, as one of his pointed, floppy shoes steps through the portal of blood that's been dripped into the wallpaper.
As her wall begins to trickle, then practically flow with blood, Delaney's hands lower to her sides, clenching into fists. She catches the device quickly, her jaw remaining set. She knows she's far too lucid for this to be a dream, despite other doubts that she may have. Though, already, she begins to wonder - would any of her superiors believe her? She's spoken to counsellors before. They have to know she has a clean bill of mental health, don't they? Somewhere in her racing mind, a debate rages between her preference for cleanliness and need for vindication as to whether she hopes that the blood will or won't stain.
The reference to her explosive history draws a faint, cold glare from the soldier at the retreating demon. "And what is that supposed to -" Checking herself, she cuts off before finishing the thought. If he's fishing for a reaction, her vehemence would only confirm whatever he's suggesting. And if he really knows as much as he's implying, there are more important questions to worry about. "I'll pass the information along," she says more evenly, her eyes moving down to the flash drive. Though, likely not before she's had a chance to review it herself - she's clearly going to need something to occupy her mind with tonight, somewhere other than here.
Jedah is most definitely fishing for a reaction. And even though she's able to catch herself before revealing too much, Caoimhe still showed enough umbrage to bring a slight upturn to Jedah's smirk, a troublesome glint to his eyes as he steps through the bloody aperture, as easily as if it were walking into the next room. "Wonderful. It's been nice chatting with you, Sergeant. A howling wind blows through on the other side, the scent of death wisping throughout the room with its furnace-like heat.
"Perhaps this will be the proof of your trustworthiness to the upper echelons." Another fished reaction -- someone who cares not of the distinction between the branches of military certainly doesn't know of any official goings-on regarding Delaney. But as his eyebrow raises, and his lips thin once again, he suggests, "Maybe put another few stripes on your..." Again, a deliberate look downward, though this time it's only to Caoimhe's shoulder. "Uniform."
But unlike the last, he won't be around to see the response, as the noble with the condescending smile slips completely into the aperture.
The wind stops abruptly as the aperture seals shut. The blood changes to a darker hue as soon as the highborne is gone, the moisture evaporating as it desiccates into powdered rust, as if it had been left in the heat for a century. Cleanup... might not be as difficult as the Sergeant might have feared.
Log created on 12:14:44 05/23/2015 by Jedah, and last modified on 00:02:38 05/25/2015.