Along for the Ride

by DarkStuff




Dorer woke up to a horrible headache and the start of a car engine. Multiple blinks of the eye revealed a windshield in front of him, a car door to his right, and a glove compartment just above hand level. Speaking of his hands, he found them tied. His seat-belt was already clicked in. A ride it was.

Well, the last thing he remembered was his head getting acquainted with a sink, so this was an improvement from what was expected.

A glance to his left showed him the driver.

Perhaps "improvement" was too strong a word.

"Rachael," he tried to say, only to find that his mouth was duct taped.

"You're going to realize a few things, Robert. And this is the order you're going to realize them in. First, you're going to notice that your power isn't working. I'm not in pain like I was before. You see that, don't you?" She looked absolutely calm as she started working her way through the parking lot and towards the gate. "That's because I wrapped electric tape around your head, and covered it with a beanie. The brain is the source of the power, and the power is electricity based. As long as you're insulated, you're useless. You get that?"

Not like he could have done anything, Dorer thought. He still wasn't sure he had "powers" at all. But he nodded nonetheless, and appreciated the warmth of the beanie.

"The second thing will come up just ahead." Rachael reached the gate, where she slowed down to talk to the guard in the booth. A slightly overweight woman with long red hair came to the window, pulled it open, and leaned out to assess the crew.

Dorer and her made eye contact.

But nothing happened.

Dorer yelled muffled pleas for help, but she showed absolutely no reaction.

"The second thing you will notice, Dorer, is that absolutely everyone is under my control. Except you, for some unknown reason. It follows that no one will notice you, nor that you are clearly my hostage."

The guard leaned back, and pushed the button that raised the gate. Rachael drove the car out into the street.

"The third thing you might notice is an uncomfortable piece of metal touching the middle of your back. Feel it?" Dorer became suddenly aware of exactly what she had described. "That's a cell phone. You understand?" He didn't. Rachael frowned. "If you do anything except exactly what I tell you, that thing explodes, and takes your spine out with it. Get it now?" He got it enough. "Good. Your first task is to sit there and do absolutely nothing for this entire car ride. I'm going to remove the duct tape on your mouth, and you're not going to say a single thing. Do you understand?"

He nodded.


She reached over and pulled the duct tape off of his mouth, and a horribly silent two hour car drive ensued.

Judging by the slowly rising light, it was very early morning. By the time they had turned towards the airport, Dorer judged that it was 5:00. He was too out of it to remember to check the car clock for confirmation. The airport's large white walls began to come into view, and Rachael followed a sign in French that pointed them towards a long-stay parking lot. Dorer had questions, but hadn't yet become brave enough to speak. He knew, on a logical level, that if she really needed him for something that a sentence or two wouldn't be enough to kill him, but he didn't have the willpower to overcome his fear.

As she was searching for a spot to park: "Okay, Robert. I'm going to free your hands, and you're going to grab a suitcase. You're going to walk in front of me the entire time we are in the airport, and you're going to go where I tell you to. And we're going to go through the whole process, of everything. For the sake of this going smooth, any questions?"

Rachael pulled into a parking space. He wondered, briefly, if he shouldn't find possible holes in the plan, because screw-ups might buy his freedom. Quickly, though, he decided that screw-ups would only lead to possible bloodshed and chaos, not anything productive. Best to play along. "Uhh… what happens with the cell phone through the metal detector?"

"I'll take care of it."

"What's in the luggage?"

"Only enough to make us look like travelers."

"Where are we going?"

"If you have no more relevant questions, then it's time we leave."

She turned off the car, opened her door, stepped out, walked across the front of the car and around to Dorer's side, opened his door, unbuckled him, and asked him to turn to face her. He complied. She pulled scissors out of her bag, cut the twine off his hands, and then pulled him to his feet. "Now is when you start walking in front of me. Go to the trunk and open it."

He complied. "Y'know, outside of the context of the Site, your bag kinda looks like a purse, heheh."

"Funny," she replied. "Grab the rolling suitcase. I'll take the carry-on. Now stand over there."

Keeping him carefully in her sight, she grabbed the other bag, and motioned him towards the shuttle stop. During the shuttle ride, Dorer couldn't help but wonder what would happen if he reached for the cellphone, and threw it away. What would happen if he yelled out at the other people, saying he was held captive? Would they ignore him like the guard? Would Rachael kill him? Could he possibly get the explosive off of him before it blew him up? Was dying here better than wherever Rachael was taking him? He couldn't be sure.

Survival instincts made the decision for him.

They arrived at the airport, and Rachael handed him his passport. "I grabbed some of your things before we left. This will be important." Dorer wondered why he hadn't thought of that. "You're also going to need this ticket." He saw that it went to Dublin, Ireland. Strange. He decided not to question it just yet. Rachael made eye contact with him for an odd amount of time as they stood just before the lines to baggage check. "You can talk, now. Whenever you like. Just don't say anything revealing, and don't ask too many questions."

He smiled. She needed them to look normal, so she didn't control everybody. Dorer thought this useful. "So I get to be chummy?"

"Don't push it. But don't be so deathly silent, either."

Rachael motioned Dorer to the baggage check line, and Dorer obliged. His mind raced, trying to find the best use of this newfound power. After much consideration (maybe a minute at most), he decided that the best thing to do would be to annoy her.

"Hey Raech," he tried out a new nickname, "you know about haggis?"

Rachael raised her eyebrows. The expression on her face said that she was already regretting giving him permission, and he was eating it up. The next half hour was spent telling her all about the types of events that his supposed uncle would get called up to make haggis for, seeing as said uncle was the only person in his town who made haggis.

Once Dorer and Rachael made it to the front of the line, she nudged him, pointed to which booth to go to, and said "use the keyword". This was a Foundation sanctioned flight? News to Dorer. He went up, whispered "lay low, Romeo", to which they replied "I'm sorry?", to which he replied "there's no need to be". They smiled, and sent the bag on its way. As soon as Rachael had done the same, Dorer wondered why he hadn't taken the opportunity to whisper something else to the baggage check lady. Then he remembered the guard in the parking lot, and he knew exactly why.

After Rachael had caught back up to him, he continued his talk about haggis. It was pleasant, in a way, to pretend that they were just friends at this moment. That Rachael was someone to whom he could talk about haggis. He had a lot to say about haggis. Or, as Rachael probably thought, he had a lot of nothing to say. Still, it was fun to talk, and it took his mind off of the explosive on his back.

But the security checkpoint brought it back to mind.

He made eye contact with Rachael before going through the metal detector, and she motioned him forward. Afterwards, once the TSA had motioned him through without incident, he wondered why he had worried in the first place. After they had both gone through and made their way to their gate, they simply waited. Sitting at the gate encouraged anxiety.

A heavy ball appeared in the pit of Dorer's stomach. The gate represented the step, beyond which there was no return. Here, he was still in driving distance of Site-31. Of his, well, "home", as much as it could be called one. Close to familiarity. But Dorer had never been to Ireland… and he would be there entirely on Rachael's schedule.

He didn't feel like talking about haggis anymore.

After an hour of waiting, they began boarding. Their boarding group was called, they stood up and got in line, they got to the front, they showed their tickets, they went into the hallway that led to the plane — but before Dorer could enter, Rachael pulled him aside.

"Wait," she said.

And so Dorer waited. Though he wasn't sure what he was waiting for. Eventually, everyone was inside the airplane, and you could hear the engines turn on.

"Shouldn't we be on the plane?" Dorer couldn't keep himself from asking.

Rachael shook her head. Eventually, a female airport worker (Dorer didn't know enough about airports to name her job) walked out of the plane, took no notice of Dorer and Rachael, and began to go back to the gate. Rachael motioned to follow the lady, and Dorer did. Once they were outside, Rachael pulled him aside to hug the wall. She grabbed his hand, and then dragged him through strange zigzags in the airport gate. They got to the main thoroughfare of the gates, and she pushed him in front of her as per usual.

"Walk as straight as you can down the walkway, don't stop until Gate D14."

He did as he was told, and once they did reach the gate, she pulled him into a seat by a screen that told him that the D14 airplane was leaving for New York.

"I should have expected that," Dorer mumbled.

"Yes," Rachael chided, "you should have."

"So how are we getting on the airplane?"

Rachael decided not to answer. Dorer decided not to prod. Dorer further decided that was yet another very stupid question.

"So, let me get this straight. Tell me if I'm right. You booked us a sanctioned flight to Dublin under the guise of another LaFerrier interview, you even sent a suitcase there, and it… will show on camera, on the security cameras, that we went into the plane. I bet somehow someone's going to say that we were on the plane, too. And that makes our sneaky getaway to New York far less detectable. Somehow, they're not gonna see us coming out of there on the cameras, are they? And they're going to let us onto the plane for New York, yet they're not gonna remember us being there. That's my guess, anyways."

Rachael seemed to think for a second. "You've pretty much got it. Feel proud of yourself."

Dorer attempted a smile, but it was probably more of a wince. "But why are we going to New York?"

The plane started boarding. "I'll tell you when we get on."

Rachael had taken the window seat once more.

"You talked to me, on the plane once, about how you get a tingle right on the brain-stem when you're exposed to a meme. You don't remember it, though."

He didn't, and the thought of having been unknowingly under Rachael's control before sent a needle through his heart.

"Well, the closer you get to a meme, the more it tingles. The stronger a meme is acting on your brain, the more you can feel it. You can use that to your advantage."

She stopped talking, and stared out the window, as if she had already explained everything.

"I'm still lost."

The plane began to take off.

"Memetic proximity. The closer you get to a memetic or antimemetic concept, the more it tries to exert influence on you. You can feel how much influence it's trying to exert on you, and use that to get closer and closer to the source of the meme. In this case, the company. Victor doesn't need to be able to communicate hard facts about the group of interest, he's perfectly functional as a dousing rod. Because he subconsciously knows about the company, even when he doesn't seem able to access that knowledge, the things he says about it inherently carry the meme or memes of the company. For example, my saying 1929 doesn't affect you. But his saying 1929 gives you a tingle at the base of your skull. I realized this discrepancy by comparing the feeling I got from him saying his year of birth and the year the company went bankrupt. After that, it was easy guess and check to figure out the location of the company. I had guessed New York based on the memetics I could feel in the words 'stock market'. It appears I was right."

Dorer thought he followed, but… "Why are we going to their headquarters?"

Rachael held eye contact for a second or two, but then turned to look out the window. Dorer looked over her shoulder.

Soon to be miles below them, France's houses, countrysides, roads and streets all scaled down until they were nothing more than lines and splotches of color. Site-31 was getting further and further away, as Dorer was dragged through Rachael's world. Out of his world, and into hers. He had been distracted, but the feeling of being a hostage renewed itself within him. Now, he was in a giant metal cage, flying through the air, from which there was no escape, going somewhere with no plan of his own — not even knowing the plan — and just submitting to being a passenger. He didn't know where they were going. He didn't know why they were going there. He didn't know what they were going to do when they got there.

There seemed to be two malicious energies that had suddenly taken total control of his life.

The first was █████ Industrial. █████ Industrial was what pushed him and Rachael together, it seemed to be whatever broke LaFerrier. And, through LaFerrier, it had been a shadowy influence on his career. How did he never notice how many Agent LaFerriers he had worked with? Talked with? And now, he was careening, against his will, towards their headquarters. He had barely any information on the GoI, and he was not enjoying what his brain came up with. He was never a field agent. He was never meant to be a field agent. And yet here he was.

The second, and perhaps the more direct, was Rachael. How long had she changed his brain? How many times had he forgotten something, or passed out, and never realized it was Rachael's doing? What if he evolved a resistance to her over time and time again of being affected? What if it was his proximity to her that made her use her… anomaly on him a disproportionate amount of times, and he developed a firewall just in time for her to be unable to kill him in her room? How much of his life was her doing since he met her? He couldn't seem to think straight about it.

Turning to his left, he stared at the back of her head, pressed against the seat. Here laid the woman who had smashed his head into a sink and thought nothing of it. And he still talked to her like a companion. What was wrong with him? He should know this, he thought. He was a psychologist. He had been too passive, that's what it was. Dorer was a passive force in his own life. He only got into psychology because his family had a history. Was it really his choice?

No, Dorer. Now was not the time to be doubting your whole life.

Rachael was an uncontained anomaly. She would be found, he thought. They would get her eventually. And he would be there. And they would save him from her, and it would all work out. Nevermind that she remained undetected inside the Foundation for years. He tried not to think about that. Disappearing in the middle of a plane ride would be enough to set the Foundation off. They would find her. They would.

But would they be fast enough?

Dorer noticed, slowly, how odd it was that Rachael was laying down. It occurred to him that he had never actually seen her sleep. Despite the long plane rides, and sometimes the deliriously long layovers, and of course sometimes sharing guest rooms in Sites, Dorer had always fallen asleep first, and Rachael had always been awake before he was. Now, for the first time, she was laying completely still, her head pressed into the seat, and breathing deeply.

For a moment, in the stale blueish light of the airplane, Dorer thought she looked beautiful.

But she started to shake. Not because of turbulence, either. She began to shudder, and shiver, and shake. Her breaths quickened, and her leg started twitching. Was she dreaming? A nightmare?

"Rachael…?" He hadn't spoken loud enough to wake her. He leaned over her, his natural want to help overriding his fear of everything she was, and noticed tears going down her cheeks. "Are you alright?"

She just continued to cry in her sleep.

He sat back down in his chair, blissfully distracted from his previous problems, and thought. He didn't want to wake her, as he had already guessed that she suffered from insomnia. But what was going on? It was so fast, from her falling asleep to crying and shaking.

His mom-mode engaged. There was a problem with a friend of his (he didn't stop to notice the ridiculous wording of that thought), and he was an emotional problem solver. Psychologist Dr. Dorer tried to put pieces together.

Rachael Maria Davidson.

Young for her field, got into her job through being a genius who tracked an anomaly on her own before even knowing of the SCP Foundation (though upon reconsideration, that story felt faulty). She was extremely driven, cold, hard to talk to. She barely slept. Now that she was sleeping, she immediately went into a nightmare.

And during that LaFerrier interview, Victor had said… something about hands? And it tipped her off. She became hyperengaged, and she suddenly went on a ravenous quest to find the headquarters of █████ Industrial and… explore it… possibly.

Wait a second.

Inability to connect with people, trouble falling asleep, nightmares when she does. Emotional numbness (as he perceived), aggressive behavior. Paranoia? A negative outlook on the world and others. Avoiding talking about it (although that could be an abduction tactic). And, finally, a trigger.

He looked over at her again. "Fuck," he said under his breath. "Fuck."

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