Out of Character, Out of Body
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rating: +27+x

Content Warning: Depiction of an Overdose

Dr. Katherine Sinclair inspected herself in the mirror, running her hand over the medical-grade eyepatch installed over her left eye—or more accurately, where her left eye used to be. "No hope of saving it?" she asked.

"It was completely destroyed." Montgomery Reynolds sat behind her; it was a limit of two people in the same room at St. Francis de Sales Hospital. It was closer to the storage unit than Site-87, and she had been in dire need of medical care. "They might be able to regrow it in a few years. We've made leaps and bounds in growing tissue, even outside of the Foundation."

Sinclair looked down at her hands. "I can still read, I can still write, I can still see. I just can't do it as well. I'll be fine." She chewed her lip. "Don't start, Monty."

Reynolds had about to been open his mouth to speak. "How did you know I was going to say something?"

"Because we live in Sloth's Pit, and it's been straying more towards cliché territory of late." She shook her head. "I'm not dumb enough to think that you'd stop loving me because I'm missing an eye. I could be a cloud of energy and you'd still want to curl up on a couch on Friday and watch true crime shows."

Reynolds smiled, and looked out of the room; through the glass, he could see agents Tofflemire and Carol. He sighed. "Blast it all. I just…" He clenched his hands. "You look like you need a hug."

Sinclair looked back in the mirror. "Time for that later, Monty. Let them in, I'm sure they have questions."

Reynolds nodded, giving a respectful bow to Sinclair, before opening the door. Agent Carol entered as he exited, taking out a bottle of disinfectant spray and applying it to the chair Reynolds had vacated before sitting down in it.

"So," Carol said. "Let's start from the top."

There was a knock on the wall in the hallway that drew Robert's attention. He looked up to see the begoggled form of Seren Pryce, her hair in a ponytail, clad in some approximation of tactical gear. She sat by Robert. "Came in February's stead. He's still getting used to the wheelchair."

Tofflemire nodded and sat up against the wall, sighing. "Has the world gone crazy, or has it always been this bad?"

"Hard to say." Pryce stretched. "The whole millenium so far has been a clusterfuck. I'm wondering if we're even going to live to see…" She shook her head. "Nevermind. That's way too morbid for right now, and we need less morbid."

"We could go down to the children's ward?" Upon seeing the terrified look on Pryce's face, Tofflemire quickly amended the statement with, "They're doing trick-or-treat for the kids there! Jesus."

"And here I thought your sense of humor had just gotten incredibly fucked, like the rest of the town." Pryce rubbed her brow and reached into her pocket, taking out an orange bottle full of pills with a blue cap. She opened it and popped one into her hand, before screwing the container back shut.

Tofflemire's eyes widened. "Please tell me those aren't tranquilizers."

"These?" Pryce looked at the container. "Antihistamines. They have a mild sedative effect— won't leave you on your ass like Benadryl, just makes it so that you're not incredibly anxious." She rolled the capsule into the hand. "Been having bad dreams lately. That's all."

"Manifestation hasn't targeted you yet." Robert frowned. "What are you anxious of?"

Obviously lying, Seren replied with "I'm afraid that the Ghost of Black Fridays past is salty about losing that arm-wrestling match." She rolled her eyes, instinctively reaching for a non-existent hip flask. "Dammit. Hey, can you get me some water from the vending machine?"

"I'll put it on your tab." Robert rose and went around the corner. The errand shouldn't have taken more than three minutes— it was almost fifteen before Pryce got up to look around.

"Tofflemire?" she called. "You good?"

The pill in her hand started to roll away; she caught it, wincing. It was starting to melt from the heat of her hand. She shook her head and muttered an insult at expense of both Tofflemire and whatever phone game he had gotten engrossed in, before sticking the pill in her mouth and swallowing it dry.

When she was a child, she had refused to take capsules you needed to swallow; her mother had resorted to opening some capsules and mixing the powder within with pudding or else sticking them in Jell-O. There was a reason Pryce always got the flavorless cookies with dessert in the mess, as opposed to either of those desserts. A bit of that anxiety remained.

And that anxiety was all that was needed.

Pryce found herself choking, grasping at her throat, coughing. Her face turned red, then purple, as Tofflemire came back around the corner; to the him, it had only been four minutes. The machine had had trouble accepting his card. He ran over to his fellow agent, calling for a medic, the water bottle forgotten on the floor behind him.

Seren Pryce's face turned blue as Tofflemire began compressions.

October 31st, 2020

Seren Pryce woke up far away from the hospital; she recognized where she was immediately. Site-87's shooting range. She had never fallen asleep here, would never fall asleep here— active fire zones are dangerous when awake, but when asleep, you're a hazard to yourself and everyone else. Even in a controlled environment like a firing range, there's still a chance of something like a ricochet and— it didn't matter. Pryce wondered who the hell had let her fall asleep here.

She surveyed the area— a clock on the wall read 4:00 PM. It had been around 2:50 when she had met up with Tofflemire at the hospital. Had she blacked out because of the medication? If so, why hadn't he just propped her up in her quarters?

"Fuckin'…" Pryce rubbed her head. "I'm in a goddamn manifestation, aren't I? Okay, just… calm down. Figure out what's up with this reality, what's weird—" Pryce looked around the range. She knew every inch of it like the back of her hand—except for one thing.

There was a funeral urn on one of the lanes. The one she had woken up in front of. And next to it was a picture— her picture.

She crossed over to the urn, and read the engraving on it:


She fell back on the floor, stunned. "Not real." Pryce tugged at her hair. "Not real. I'm not dead. I'm not dead."


Alison held up an empty prescription bottle, looking between it and the room Pryce had been rushed into.

"Lucky it happened at the hospital, at least." Robert rubbed his hair. "Choking on a pill like that, what are the odds?"

"How many pills were in this bottle, Bob?" Alison held up the empty orange container, the other holding up her phone.

"Uh… fuck, maybe half a month's supply?" Robert looked on the floor. "Wait… where's the rest?"

"I think she took them all." Alison searched up the medication on her phone. "…good news is that these capsules are only about 50mg each, and there doesn't seem to be a lethal dose, but…" She frowned. "You think—"

"She got whammied, we both know it." Robert walked around, shaking his head. "But… why? What the hell is she scared of that involves her downing a whole bunch of pills?"

"Let's focus less on that and more how to get it out of her. I can't write it out, so…" Alison put away her phone. "I need you to promise not to be mad at me."


From another pocket, she removed a Faraday bag, opening it to pull out a smartphone that Robert had never seen before; it was far smaller than any Foundation-issue phone he had seen, lacked all the mass that a dozen pieces of tracking hardware would give it. "Okay, you have a second phone." Robert frowned. "I already don't like where this is going…"

Alison turned on this new phone, and opened up the only page that had been in its internet history since she got it in July.

"Is that Parawatch?" Robert moved in closer to read the screen. "'Tracking of Midwestern Phobic Migration, Summer 2020-to-Question-Mark-Question-Mark'." He frowned. "Alice… what is this?"

Alison sighed. "I… I've been tracking this thing for a while."

"What." Robert frowned, then looked aghast, confused, nauseous, all at once. "You— you knew about this. That this was coming. And… and you did… nothing?"

Alison shook her head. "I just— I just got told that something was going to happen. They advised me to keep tabs on it here, and—"

"And who told you this?"

Alison flinched back. Robert hadn't looked this serious since… ever. Any sense of mirth had gone from his eyes. "Bob, I'm sorry, but… it's a long story, and we don't have time." She scrolled through the phone. "There's a post on here that talks about a situation like Pryce's, I just have to find it—"

Robert pinched the bridge of his nose. "Give me one good reason for me to not turn you in after we save her, bearing in mind that 'we're friends' is not a good reason."

"Bob…" Alison sighed. "Later. Let's… we need to fix her."

Seren Pryce wandered through the halls of Site-87. It was entirely vacant, from the shooting range to the Director's Office, the residence level, and all of the research and containment levels. She didn't bother calling; if she actually was dead, nobody could hear her.

"Maybe it's like that one guy at 19?" She frowned. "Whatshisbucket, that agent who's constantly out of phase with reality. Hmm." She shook her head. "No, this… this isn't real. And… what kind of fear is that? Dead's dead. Don't feel anything. Why…" She frowned. Thoughts of Christmas came back into her head— a vision she'd had, an anxiety-induced hallucination. One where she saw her name upon the memorial plaque by the barracks, next to the names of the rest of her squad.

All of whom were listed as KIA on October 31st of 2020.

"Right." Pryce snorted. "L-like they… like they would die that easy. I'm… why would…" She snorted. "I… god, why would just killing me lead to everyone else dying? I'm just a… an expendable cog. They don't need me."

And, she thought, A machine missing even one cog is good as broken.

Then a blinding light came from beneath her, and Pryce found herself flung upwards, going through the ceiling. She stopped when she hit the sky; or rather, a bubble that blocked Sloth's Pit's airspace from the rest of reality. The nexus had an upper vertical limit of about 3 miles, and from up here, she saw what was left of the town.

Everything south of Main Street was on fire— the forest, the schools, houses, everything. The place where the Camp Krakkow Memorial had been was a crater. She could feel the heat from this height, and if she'd had skin, she was sure it would'dve melted.

The north of town looked like a warzone. Trenches had been dug into the forest, buildings had been razed. She saw a massive… thing walking through the rubble of what had once been Berry's Restaurant, blood around what might charitably be called a mouth. Its footsteps shook the ground as it slammed into a building next to the restaurant, creating a domino effect and destroying the whole block.

Pryce willed herself to move downwards, towards the carnage. There were bodies in the street. Men without their heads, women whose eyes had been torn out, and the children… Pryce looked away when she saw a crib with a bloodstain in it. A thought crossed her mind— What is a crib doing on Main Street? There's no residential areas here, it makes no sense. But it didn't matter. The sight of it was enough to keep her here.

The warzone grew closer. She saw the trenches up close. She saw a head poke up over the edge of one, wearing a Foundation-issue helmet, then several more poke up underneath it. Severed heads, skewered by some massive spike-like limb, rising from the ground. She recognized the faces behind the helmets— the Williamses. February. Ewell. Alice and Bob.

"No way. This isn't real." Pryce felt along her body— she wasn't in her fatigues. If she was, then there would be a card somewhere in her pocket. Memetic knockout agent, to be used in case of exposure to a dangerous anomaly that relied on consciousness. She could just do that and wake up, right? There had to be one back at the Site—

Pryce turned to face the Site. All she saw on the hill was another smoking crater.

"Are you Insurgency?"

Alison looked at Robert with a blank expression. "If I was, I'd have killed you months ago."

"Then what? GOC?"

"No." She kept scrolling through her phone, trying to keep tears from her eyes. She wished she hadn't bothered with the mascara this morning. "Bob, you saw what I can do. I saved Sinclair. I can save this whole damn town if you just…" She sighed. "I'm sorry, I am. There's time to be angry after we save Seren."

Robert looked at her, inclining his head in something resembling a nod. He began to wonder if Alison had ever been his friend to begin with, or if this… thing was just something that had infiltrated the Foundation years ago, pretending to be his partner, his friend. Would he even find records of her in SCiPNET? He considered looking her up on his phone.

Alison, for her part, scrolled to the correct forum post and opened it. "Here."

whoah guys update coming to you from opioid country Missouri. i just found this thread and holy shit it describes what happened back in august

basically: my brother had been clean from heroin for about three years, but we were always afraid of him going back and overdosing. he got in a car crash and was perscribed painkillers, fuckers at the pharmacy gave him oxy. we told him to throw them out, and he did, but when we went to check on him HE WAS FUCKING DEAD.

mom and dad started fighting, said it was each others's fault, never seen them that angry. he wouldn't wake up, even after i gave him narcan and he wasn't breathing at all christ i was so scared

it hought mom and dad were going to kill each other right there in front of my brother's cooling body and then i would have nothing. i didn't know what to do i just started fucking crying and curled up in the corner while mom ran to my brother's kitchen to grab a knife and it was a clusterfuck

then out of FUCKING NOWHERE my brother's cat Ghost (yes that is really his name) comes barreling out of the kitchen; he'd been locked in the knife cupboard and he just flew at my brother's body, hitting him in the chest. HE FUCKING WOKE UP. MAGIC FUCKING CAT. it was like something snapped mom and dad stopped arguing, i stopped crying, and there was this massive weight lifted everywhere

so yeah if this happens again and there's an overdose part of this migration, try getting something to wake them up that doesn't have any real attachment to them idk

"Enlightening," Robert scowled. "So, what, we find a cat and tell it to give Pryce compressions? Hit her in the chest ourselves? This isn't the movies, Alison."

"…Robert. I literally brought you back to life with an adrenaline shot through your fucking heart. Straight out of Pulp Fiction. You can't tell me that it won't work!" She grabbed at her hair. "God dammit all, what the fuck? I— there was more to this post, I swear there was." She scrolled down, seeing that there was a post reply, but it was marked as 'unavailable'.

"What else have you done since you got these powers?" Robert frowned. "Delete an entire site from existence? Murder an agent? Hell, did you cause this?"

"I—" Alison sighed. "Remember the Jamburglar?"

He blinked, several times. "…how?"

"I wanted to experiment. Bad idea, in hindsight, but… it was kinda funny, kinda harmless?"

"Ruby had to shower for twelve hours before she could be fully un-stuck from jam, and the test kitchen still smells like strawberry when it's hot out." Robert pinched the bridge of his nose. "I… can't believe you'd be this irresponsible, Alice. We need…" He sighed. "I need to call the Site. Report this to them, get someone over here to arrest an enemy agent…"

Alison looked down at the table. Neither of them questioned the other's behavior.

Seren floated into the trenches. The spindly things around her didn't so much as look in her direction; she prayed that they weren't spiders. The idea of 'this isn't real' was fading from her mind the further away she went from the remains of the Site. But it couldn't be. She had her hands, her feet… ghosts weren't uncommon, but… she'd been with a ghost. She knew what being around one was like, and this wasn't it.

"Sera," she muttered, "Just… think of something to ground you. Anything. Just…" Her head pulsed as she tried to think of any of the faces she hadn't seen among the carnage. Faces that hadn't been skewered on the spider-things, or whose names she hadn't read on the mud-covered, ruined chest armor lining the trench below her. "You're a soldier, dammit. Soldier's nothing without her unit, just… think of anyone in your unit… someone…"

A thought crossed her mind, one that made her laugh— February looked better with his head on a pike than he did in the hospital this whole last month. She paused. "February shouldn't be ready for active combat. This…" She looked around. "I have to focus on that fact. February's maimed he shouldn't be out of the hospital for another… what, three months? Poor son of a bitch…" She sat down with her back to the wall of the trench. "If February is here, then this isn't real. If this isn't real, then you can come back. Just… keep thinking…"

"Bob, we can't waste time getting someone down here to arrest me. I still work for the Foundation!"

"Then why not tell us about this?"

"…lapse of judgement." Alison admitted with a sigh. "Look. There are a dozen Foundation Sites between here and Arkansas. Doesn't the fact that none of them looked into it strike you as kinda suspect? In the slightest?"

"Maybe you stopped them from—"

"Oh give it a rest, Tofflemire, you stupid—"

Alison was silenced when Robert drew his gun on her, right in the middle of the thankfully vacant cafeteria. She stood up, and back, going for her own weapon. "Is this what we've come to?" She asked. "Mexican goddamn standoff? Really, Bob?"

"Y… you're a traitor."

"I'm your friend. If you don't think I am, then just…" She swallowed. "Then just shoot me, you stupid goddamn motherfucking son—"

"—of a BITCH!" called a voice that wasn't accustomed to swearing. The two agents swiveled to face Raymond February, entering the cafeteria on his wheelchair. "What in God's Name are you two doing?"

"We…" Robert frowned, looking between his gun, and at Alison. She was still the same woman who barely tolerated his humor, but the tear streaks through her mascara were new. "I… I don't know." He frowned. "Did…"

Alison looked at Robert, and down at herself, rubbing her eyes on her sleeves. The smudged makeup looked more like warpaint. "I… I think we got whammied, Bob." Then, to February, "What are you doing here, Ray?"

February looked between the two of them as Robert stowed his gun. "I… I can't explain it. I was in town, trying to get used to my wheelchair, and… I swear, I heard Pryce calling my name, from the direction of the hospital. I got here as quick as I could and I figured you two would be in here, and… where's Pryce?"

"Fifth floor, in a coma. You…" Alison looked at her phone. "I'm an idiot. Of course… nobody who's been under the influence of this thing and escaped has done so without outside help. You— you're not involved in this, and that's why…" She pinched the bridge of her nose. "We need to get you to see Pryce, now."

"Why me? I… I shouldn't even be talking to you. I still don't have clearance back."

"If that really was Pryce's voice, then she called you here for a reason. If not…" Robert looked up at the ceiling. "Maybe the big guy's doing us a favor, sending you here."

February contemplated that as Robert pushed him to the bank of elevators, with Alison walking alongside him, looking through her phone.

"February's here, so this isn't real. February's here, so this isn't real. February is here, so this isn't real."

The trenches grew colder and darker as the sun and firelight faded. She stood, attempting to stand on top of one of the corpses of her compatriots and get a better look over the top of the trench— what was left of the town was overshadowed by something massive and bulbous. It pulsed like a heart, but it was too round, too uniform, and the odd, stumpy structure on the top almost made it look like…

…like a pumpkin.

"Now I know this isn't real." Pryce climbed out of the trench. "We burned you to the ground years ago, you stupid goddamn pumpk—" She tripped, which shouldn't have been possible; by all accounts, her form was immaterial. But now, she found a vine wrapping around her leg, dragging her underground. Her mind told her not to panic; her body didn't care. She clawed at the muddy, blood-soaked ground, finding no purchase, letting out a loud scream.

The three agents entered Pryce's room just in time to see her start crashing. Her heartbeat spiked high enough that Alison thought it was going to go off the scale, and the woman's body jolted as if it was being pulled apart in ten different directions.

"Shit!" Robert ran out into the hall. "Crash cart! We need a crash cart in here!"

But nobody responded. It was as if the whole floor was deserted.

"Hey!" Robert called. "Anyone! We need help in here!"

February gazed around the room; the other two agents were too preoccupied with trying to find help to see it. In the bathroom across from Pryce's bed, on the wall, was a black and yellow box. February rolled over to it, pulled it off the wall, and came back to the bed. "Tofflemire!" he called.

Midway through another call, Robert's attention snapped back to February.

"I need you to open Pryce's shirt." February hefted the box in his lap— large, black letters read 'AUTOMATED EXTERNAL DEFIBRILLATOR'.

Seren Pryce swore she heard a heart rate monitor spike as another vine emerged from the ground, wrapping around her throat. She grabbed at the vine, tears coming from her eyes. Counselors had said she had 'suicidal tendencies', but she had never wanted to die, not really— and it was only now that she realized this fact. She let out a screaming sob as soil began to fill her mouth.

There was a sound of thunder. In the clouds above, she saw lightning snake its way through the atmosphere in random patterns. But… they weren't random. They almost looked like fingers, and they were reaching towards her.

Another thunderclap. The vines began to retreat. Seren reached her hand upwards, towards the lightning, coughing on dirt… but since when did dirt taste like activated charcoal? It didn't.

There was the sound of something charging, high-pitched, growing to a crescendo. Then, Seren Pryce felt a semi truck land on her chest and sat bolt upright, vomiting her stomach contents, and said activated charcoal, onto her bedsheets at St. Francis de Sales. She looked at the room around her— Tofflemire and Carol were standing there, both stunned. February was manning the defibrillator, and she felt a slight jolt from the paddles on her chest. All of those assembled looked at February.

"What?" He asked. "This isn't some cheap medical drama. These things are meant to stop your heart so it can restart at its regular rhythm—" A pause. "Did none of you take the course on how to use these back in September?"

There was a series of sheepish looks traded among the other agents, before Seren, her dignity destroyed, tore off the paddles and got up from the bed and made her way over to the bathroom, as the rest of the medication started purging itself.

Two hours later, Alison Carol sat alone in Sloth's Pit's largely abandoned dog park. Only two citizens were out in the field, both walking small dogs in the late-October cold. She sighed, looking at the empty seat on the bench by her. Robert shouldn't have taken this long to get here. Where was he?

In answer, Robert came from the other side, tapping her on the shoulder with a piping hot paper tray of french fries from a food truck down the street. They were covered in malt vinegar and salt. "Took me a while to get the right amount." He sat by her, his own tray covered in ketchup. "I know you like them saturated."

Alison looked between him and the fries, frowning. "So… what, are we good?"

Robert didn't respond. The two of them ate in peace, and when Alison could see the bottom of her tray, he spoke. "Pryce is going to be in the hospital for a few more days. They want to keep her for observation." Then, he chewed his lip. "February showing up there… kind of a deus ex machina. Thought the town hated those."

"Maybe it's more 'deus' than 'ex machina'." Alison looked upwards. "February came in because he heard Seren's voice. Sounds kinda divine to me, don't you think?"

"Well, at least we got Heaven playing on our team. That's something, I guess?" Robert looked at the last of his fries and sighed. "I know what I was afraid of, back there. Losing you."


"Not like that!" He laughed. "Alice, you're my best friend. And… the thought of you just… keeping something like that from me, that you weren't who you said you were… I was afraid I'd lost you. And I think you felt the same." He chewed his lip. "God, just… seeing you with the makeup running down your face. Made me snap out of it. I'm sorry."

Alison finished her fries. "I'm still loyal to the Foundation. But… I didn't think it would explode this badly. I kept wanting to tell you, but there was always a new fire to put out." She brought out her phone, opening up the forum post again. "The fear started with Pryce, and it just… kinda snowballed from there. Like with this."

There was a pause, before Robert replied. "I'm good if you are," He shook his head. "But… who gave you that link? Who are you working for?"

Alison looked at the phone; a text message had come through on it.

Need 2 talk. Baker Books, Noon Tomorrow. Bring the Idiot.

Alison rolled her eyes, and shot back:

1) okay and 2) fuck you, he's not an idiot. he's my friend.

She stowed her phone and sighed. "Tomorrow. Promise."

Robert nodded, giving Alison an uneasy smile. For the time being, a truce had been declared over a plate of fries.

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