draft 1.
The Quarantine Project
episode 2
by Eric Schissel

THE STORY SO FAR

Cathy Seaward is head of security at the Project, an effort of obscure origins which aims to study the conditions in which people gain superpowers, and to create regions in which this is impossible for a time. The Project is based in Ithaca. The first major experiment of the Project is apparently sabotaged, however, sending Ms. Seaward and some of the scientists at the Project into another place.

Perhaps the most conspicuous quality of this place is that it's not Kansas. Or Ithaca, for that matter.

SOMEWHERE?

Something about seeing a sign suddenly change a word- well, a capitalization- from To to to in front of her, gave Cathy pause. Rationally speaking, the whole situation, gun-toting bunnies, strange recalls of memories, and all, should all have given her pause, as it would to even the most "in for a penny, in for a pound" sort of person who found herself on the other side of the rabbit-hole. Not that the scene before her was very Lewis Carroll-esque: a wide horizon of rabbits, some toting guns, some colanders, some tape-cases, some novels, some saucepans, some zip disks, and a large castle with many rabbits on its periphery, some obviously guarding it. The fact that most of these rabbits were bipedal probably accounted for the unavoidable Lewis Carroll analogy, though it might as soon be Tiny Toons.

The very strangeness of the situation facing Cathy was sufficient to once again test her resolve to rescue her effective employers, who she thought must be in the castle. Unfortunately, easy ways in seemed few, which allowed her - indeed, required her - to take the few seconds needed to fully absorb her present situation.

This was, naturally, a mistake, since her present situation included unexplained sabotage back at the Project, an incomprehensible world of - something - that her mind had finally learned to attempt to interpret as this vast landscape with a far-off castle in it, and no real evidence that would suggest to her that she was even in the same universe as Ithaca, New York, let alone anywhere within a ten minute walk.

This was somewhat disconcerting, though it did not in and of itself make this the worst day of her life. Just high in the list, that's all. What was wrong was less how bad the day was, and more that she simply couldn't believe what was happening. The problem wasn't quite as bad as it would have been had Cathy been born on a planet without supers; this sort of strange place wasn't unheard of, at least in descriptions by others. But to have it happen to herself- Cathy started suffering paralysis.

CATHY.

She paid no attention to the new sign.

CATHY. CATHY SEAWARD. EX-THIEF, NOW SECURITY GUARD. KNOWN AS RUNNER.

OK, DON'T PAY ATTENTION TO ME. JUST LOOK BEHIND YOU OK? FOR ME?

Cathy shrugged, turned her head, and looked at the large snake-like creature. She ran. Or rather, she used her powers, and she "ran"- quite rapidly. Which meant that, when the ground rushed up like an earthquake beneath her, she was - well - surprised.

SOMEWHERE ELSE

"Oog."

Cathy rapidly regained consciousness, wondering why being chased by a snake + unconsciousness did not mean devoured Cathy on a stick. She tried to get past the usual blurry-eyes that usually (for some reason) follows being knocked cold, and quickly looked around herself.

She was seated at a table, across a chess set (!!) from another bipedal rabbit, of a certain age. Apparently the game had not yet begun, so she moved a piece.

The rabbit placed its piece, and the game began. When she lost, she tried to get up, and couldn't...

ITHACA.

Meanwhile, Earl slowly struggled back into a consciousness he could only too well recall having lost. He did a quick, efficient scan of his surroundings with a skill that would have surprised his friend Cathy, and aside from being bound firmly to an uncomfortable chair, he judged his situation as - basically - all right. Though apparently it was very dark, and not because of a blindfold, and there was a sound somewhat near his right ear that made him uncomfortable.

What's more, Earl reflected, he could definitely feel what seemed to be cuts on his arms and legs. They hadn't been there before he was knocked out [last ep., after apparently committing sabotage and running away- Ed.], so either he was cut when falling into that ditch, or something had been implanted in his skin during hastily-done surgery. He didn't much like either idea under the circumstances, given the reputation of his likely captors.

Speaking of whom.

As Earl's eyes adjusted to the darkness, which took a little while, he saw a shape where he had heard the shuffling. He had managed to keep himself quiet up to this point, but made an involuntary, nervous intake of breath when he realized quite how close his captor was. The shape raised its hand and a female voice said, from about that location,

"He's awake."

Footsteps outside were followed by the sound of the door being promptly opened. The blinding, far-above-normal quantity of light only partially stunned him as he instinctively shut his eyes, but instantaneously he felt himself slapped hard, across the face.

SOMEWHERE ELSE.

"Oog."

Professor Christina Stevens took a good deal longer to wake up than Security Chief Cathy Seaward did elsewhere. What had been the last thing that happened? She was setting up the experiment, while Dr. Edward Ries, in charge of the Project, and Dr. Samuel Lightfoot, whose job was somewhat obscure, were watching, talking (about what, she wondered), and checking their watches. It finally came time, and she threw the switch.

She'd expected the detectors in the room to have a field day in response to the extremely-high-frequency radiation the device generated; that was the point. She hadn't expected a "fizzle" sound followed by a lot of pain.

Followed by darkness. She wondered if, wherever the others were, they shared her substantial headache. Nope. Not a good day. She also wondered whether this was, in fact, an afterlife of the sort she'd not credited; her too-long-dead mother was in front of her. Plain as day. (But how could she see her when the room was so dark?)

"Mother?" Christina asked. But her mother wasn't responding; she was lecturing- giving the exact same lecture she had given when as a child Christina had broken an important glass ball.

Christina was not heavily surprised at seeming to be in the past, taking it as just part of a larger dream. This was not a scene she'd dreamed about or wanted to dream about, of course, but often dreams just didn't give a whit for precedent or desire. She tried to think of something else. Piano lessons?

The scene changed. Her mother was giving her a lecture that never occurred, and a broken piano was visible right where the broken glass ball had been. There was a lesson here somewhere.

GAME.

Cathy's eyes were beginning to glaze over. She was tempted to ponder the unlikelihood that she could actually get sleepy in a body probably not her own and a land of dreams and concepts (and rabbits), but since it was happening, there was no use ignoring it. Still, she wouldn't even consider not playing this game out.

Even though it was the - fifth? - sixth? - game at the same chessboard, against the same opponent...

This game was coming close to a conclusion. She hadn't won a single game so far and was getting peeved...

DO PLACES REALLY HAVE MEANING HERE ANYWAY?

Edward Ries was always inclined to bring pain-relievers with him. Whether aspirin, ibuprofen, or some brand-name, a bottle would be in his pocket. People wondered why, since he admitted he rarely had headaches, if at all, nor allergies, nor chronic pains indeed of any kind (fewer than he deserved, some thought.)

At the moment, waking up, he had all of those (except maybe the allergies.) He was frantic for pain-reliever, if he couldn't replace unconsciousness with sleep. There was, however, no pain-reliever to hand; apparently someone had stolen it.

He opened his eyes and wished he hadn't. It wasn't so much the pain, which was at least consistent with all the other pains he was feeling. He opened his eyes and saw a sight that was welcome for all that it made him forget the pain, but that really wasn't enough compensation for what he was seeing. The alien was pretty grotesque.

He could care less about that. He could see very clearly that the alien was speaking to someone. He imagined somehow that he could hear hints of what the alien was saying, and what the head boss of the Quarantine Project's main funder, Kevin Smith-Jones (some suggested this was not his real name,) was saying in return.

And somehow, Edward couldn't avoid thinking of rabbits.

THIS IS ONE OF THE EARLIER-MENTIONED NON-PLACES.

Christina's mother disappeared, a painful experience for her too-long-bereaved daughter. Later images unfolded, as did earlier ones. (Much as had happened for Cathy [last episode-Ed.], by the way.) She (Christina) started harboring suspicions that the images were her mind's way of interpreting some decidedly weird input, and correlating it with her body motions. Since she wasn't a baby, this was likely, she thought, to be imperfect at best... pondering left her somewhat unprepared for the very sudden change in what she was seeing, but then, it was unsubtle.

She was clearly looking at someone's office from the inside, and in particular at a filing cabinet. Perhaps somewhat surprisingly (or perhaps, in context, not), a folder flew out of the cabinet, opened, and was magnified. Then another was, and another. She had enough time to read them fairly thoroughly before they flew back in place.

There was no especial surprise on her face, and just a muted hint of anger, at learning that her boss was interested in just a bit more than quarantining, then stopping, origins, and even just a bit - maybe a lot - more than neutralizing superpowers. Nothing new in the information, nothing surprising, but Cathy Seaward would have to be warned, and frankly if she just happened to kill Edward Ries, well...

There might be a long list of mourners. There might not. Christina Stevens just wouldn't be on it, that's all.

WHAT DID SHE DISCOVER IN THOSE FILES, ANYWAY?

WE HAVE A WINNER, BUT WHAT DOES SHE WIN?

WHY ISN'T DR. LIGHTFOOT IN THIS EPISODE? AND WHAT ABOUT THE OTHER PLOTS THAT DIDN'T MOVE ONE SOLITARY *mrfle*

SMITH-JONES? SURELY THE AUTHOR CAN DO BETTER THAN THAT?

WHY AM I USING TEASER QUESTIONS OUTSIDE OF A SUPERGUY SETTING?

I think I'll hold off on answering some of these questions, and you're daft if you want answers to the last two.

-Eric Schissel
eric.schissel@gmail.com