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Faraday's Cages; Private thread
Topic Started: Nov 15 2010, 02:50 AM (5,454 Views)
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[ *  *  * ]
(Liz Polanski continued from Metalcrafting)

Liz's forge was sloppy. She had taken a trowel and dug a pit, lining it with charcoal, lighting it with accelerant and her precious lighter. A lid to one of the plastic buckets in the garage--hole cut through the plastic--had gone on top to contain the heat.

Liz crushed a couple of cans viciously with her foot, put them in a glazed ceramic jug, put the jug in the middle of the coals. The workmen's gloves were good; they kept her from burning her hands. Then the cap went back on the fire.

Aluminum took a long time to melt.

She had constructed a makeshift blower for her makeshift forge, using the plastic-bladed battery fan from a spray fan water bottle, inserting it into the ground, digging a little tunnel between it and the coal pit, and turning the fan on. It blew oxygen into the fire and kept the heat up.

Heat.

She would need nerve for this, and speed; she would have practiced scraping her collar with water on her knife (she had kept a river close, and filled two coke cans with water for safety), but her sloppy lean-to was the only thing blocking her from the cameras. She'd built a lean-to, badly, out of a knit blanket and several of the tomato sticks; it leaned more ways than it was supposed to, but it looked like convincing shelter, and looks were all that mattered. Liz didn't intend to stay.

I hope.

Aluminum took a long time to melt.

No people around. The closest forest to the garage she had found her supplies in was now a Danger Zone. She'd taken notes of the killers and the dead numbly, no longer much caring. Her food, her water, the rest of her clothes, everything but weapons, lipstick, lighter, pen and paper, was in a purple cooler, hidden in a garage in the Residential District. Her rucksack had been used to carry aluminum cans, charcoal, the accelerant bottle, the trowel the spray fan, and two handheld mirrors. One of Cyrille's tank tops, too, in case the fire was too slow to start, but the accelerant had lived up to its name.

Liz hoped her old clothes--sweatshirt and cargo pants, still soaking in a sink, rude shirt and underwear and bra--were okay.

Aluminum took a long time to melt. But it had melted now. Liz had cleared the ground for meters around, but still the smell of hot pine sap was in her nose. She snorted.

The plastic top was hot, and smelled. Liz kicked it off the top of the coals. Underneath, the charcoal was beautiful; orange on the fire's edges, then yellow, and near to the center, white hot. She removed the jug from the fire carefully, touching only the top edges. Unsurprisingly, though the jug advertised as heat-resistant and microwave-safe, her fingers burned. She took a moment to take off the gloves, pour a little water over them, used the rest of the water to douse the fire. It hissed and sizzled and spit.

No more time.

With a snort of ugly hesitation, Liz dipped her knife in the metal. The heat from it made her face burn, but on the knife, it was surprisingly beautiful; orange-yellow, like fruit juice, it clutched itself in droplets, rolling to the sides of the knife as she tried to balance it on her hand.

Her hand was shaking.

She had a mirror by her, on the soft bare earth, pointing at her neck, at the tiny radio port she needed to block. Maybe she didn't need this much metal, but she didn't want to risk trying for a smaller droplet. The metal was cooling fast, and she didn't know the response time of the terrorists, once they realized what she was doing.

The thought was dry. I hope this works.

She put the knife to the collar, to the hole, to her neck.

Pain.

Once, when she was small, one of her mothers boyfriends (he had only been there for a short time--the cruel ones never lasted long) had shoved a piece of glass in her hand and stomped it there. Liz was seven at the time. She had never felt pain like that before, or seen that much blood, when he shut the door, her mother passed out on the couch, and she was gasping with too little breath to scream. The blood was pouring from her hand, was pouring everywhere, and there was a throbbing in her hand that was alien and strange, and she didn't know if she could die from blood loss in a hand. It poured out so quickly.

Pain.

She scraped the knife off, trying to see if the hole was covered. It looked like it was. Was it? She scraped an idle drop of metal into the port. Too far. The metal hit her neck, and this time she screamed. Flesh burned. A smell like smoke, meat and ash.

My body.

That time, when she was a child, she had moved her fingers. Things were exposed, broken and cold, that shouldn't be out in the air. A shred of glass had borne under her skin. She pulled it out, gasping, choked shrieks petering to whimpers, and pain spreading, to her head, to her stomach, to her spine. Tears came out of her eyes. Throbbing, fear, this alien pain of hands on glass.

What am I doing to myself?

The other side now. She had to move quickly. Another mirror on the other side, this one fogged from the heat. Kick it aside, use the first mirror. Squeeze your eyes shut, metal hurts, don't scream like a baby. Another drop on the knife, tipping more this time; her hand was trembling wildly. But the metal was cooling, convenient cohesion, it stayed, miraculous, and she slapped it on her neck. On her metal collar. Clumsy hands. The metal spattered, and she screamed again, doubling over this time. She forced herself up again. She needed to do this right. The metal was dripping. She needed perfection.

Need it to work.

Thing had been broken in her hands, then, something important, something structural. She didn't know what it was, but there was fear, in her childish brain, shivering fear and somehow certainty, that if she didn't get her hand back right it would stay not right forever. Something would be wrong with it. Her fingers would be gone…

She pulled on a snapped finger determinedly. Pulling the bone back into place. Screamed. There were too many tears, but she didn't like crying now. Everything stung. Another bone, but she didn't have the nerve, it hurt, it hurt, but if she didn't do it, something wouldn't be right, her fingers would be gone, the structure would be damaged. Pull. Too much pain for a scream. Several marked gasps in a little girl. There was blood all over the kitchen floor right now and she didn't know what to do, didn't want to move her fingers…

My hands…

She used the knife to slough the rest of the metal into the port. Great blobs, dripping out. Clumsy hands. Some had already gotten on her neck. Make sure the port was closed, make sure the port was closed….

Let me live!

She had staggered, one hand on the kitchen table, to where the paper towels were. Her mother didn't believe in dishcloths. The paper towels weren't soft. They quickly soaked up too much blood. She tore it into strips, elbow and good hand, and wrapped the fingers in rolled up paper towel. Like a toilet paper roll. The paper towel soaked blood too quick. It sprang off as soon as she let it go. There wasn't masking tape close, and nothing was tearing with one hand; helplessly she wrapped the paper in easy-tear aluminum foil. Wrapped it tighter. It stayed. Wrapped the other finger. Tight. Try not to scream. It didn't work.

"MAMA!"

She never came.

Why?

Make sure the port was closed. Everything had to be perfect. Everything had to be perfect, or she would die. Pain didn't matter now. Ash in the air, nothing. Pain. Perfection. Push the aluminum into the radio port. Sealed. Sealed once more, just in case. Metal splashed to her hand. Scream, the smell of char, cauterized veins. Breaking yourself. No matter. She could hardly hold the knife anymore. The other side, the other side, the metal hadn't dripped out the other side, this side and the other side, sealed by pain and perfection, mirrors speak protection, closed collar, Faraday's cage, let me live! but so much pain and it was worse now she wasn't thinking about the task she was thinking about her body what had she done to her body--

"Mama! Please help me! Mama!"

Why do you call?

Mama didn't come. Mama didn't come. Mama never came. She could call and call. She was hoarse. The paper towels were wet. Still, she didn't dare take them off, her fingers might get not right again, she couldn't shift them, she couldn't fix them again, it hurt, it hurt, it hurt, it hurt, everything hurt, her whole body, in sympathy for her hand, and the floor was cold, and she cried.

Mama!

Liz fell. The pain was too much. She couldn't hold. Couldn't stand. Had to gasp. Had to scream. Keep herself from putting hand to her neck. That would lead to more burns. Only more burns. She wanted water. Didn't know which Coke can had water. Her leg jerked. She kicked them over. Now she knew. Too late.

Did it work? Did it work? She had to know.

Pain making her head thrum. She wanted her collar to explode. End this.

Knife in hand. Crawl. Scream. Jerk it into the camera lens. Call out (to who?). She doesn't explode. Still the pain. Sobbing. Crawling. "Mama!"

There was something nearby she needed to get to.

Mama!

Mr. Kwong said later she had broken her fingers. He said she had made a makeshift splint. He said she was lucky she wasn't infected. He showed her what sticking plaster was, and taught her about casts, and bones.

Let me go!

And strong hands dunked her in the cold river water, in the cool, in the cool, and she breathed and passed out.
--------


Alice Boucher was a liar.
Liz Polanski played with fire.

And who the hell is Radio Asuka?
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[ *  *  * ]
"Liz, Liz can you open your eyes?"

Liz didn't want to open her eyes. Sleep had always been a refuge for her, one of the few. Some nights, some years, she was an insomniac, curling up sideways in bed and sweating, but when sleep came, it was rare safety, cool and dark.

It was too cold to open her eyes.

More black. More fading. She wanted everything to go away.

Wait.." Someone was holding her. A woman? Yes. It was a woman's voice. "Did she?"

Did she what?

It was dark again.

And then something hit her face. Water. It was sweet on her mouth, and too cold. Her eyelids stung to pull apart.

Flickering eyes. Everything was blurry. There was a woman holding her, someone she could vaguely recognize, but names weren't coming.

And she was put gently on the ground.

"Liz? Liz?"

Her throat hurt. What to do? She needed to cough.

Eyes wide open.

"Liz!"

And she began coughing, cupping her hand, coughing up tough mucus, curling, spasming into a ball, and her throat hurt and her throat hurt it hurt worse than it had ever hurt before and she was gasping and trying to think pain is just a message but instead her gasps were turning into weak, jerking screams.

"Hey! Hey! Up front!" Someone was snapping fingers in front of her face. Too close. Liz winced.

And things were coming back to her. Charlie DuClare was a cheerleader, nasty kid, directed a few pointed remarks at Liz. A coward. Why was she here? And Dave Morrison, asswad jock. Everything was misplaced.

Charlie DuClare was yelling at her. "What the fuck did you DO to yourself?"

Liz's head was right by a camera; she had to make sure not to swing it up to quickly. Unbroken. Great. Where was her knife? Some girl, dark-haired girl, had her knife. Near her was the ballpoint she had stolen from the house with the crimson bedroom.

Charlie DuClare. Bitch. Show her.

"This is what I did."

It came out in a strangled whisper. And she punched the pen into the security camera lens.

The reaction was immediate. Charlie DuClare jumped back and shrieked. Asshole jock began cursing. Helen Wilson's mouth (that was the doctor, yes?) fell into an O. Behind her (why hadn't she seen that there were two people behind her?) the tall, dark-haired girl frowned, and Winsome Clark went pale.

But none of this was very important, because Liz's hand hurt really, really badly now. And she was trying not to react, not to make noise again, but instead she dropped the pen and her skin drained and her hand fell limply onto a sweatshirt (sweatshirt?) which she grabbed like it was some kind of teddy bear. And everything spun around again.

A lot of people were talking. Liz felt overexposed. She wanted to put her hands over her ears, curl into a ball, and scream until everything went away. She hated moments like this. People wanted answers and she didn't have answers and she didn't have answers just aluminum and a collar and currently a lot of pain and she wanted everyone to go away and leave her alone.

Although when she thought about it logically, she realized that they'd probably saved her life, and if they went away, she'd probably die. This didn't help her comfort level.

And her stomach pulled, and suddenly she was very glad she hadn't eaten for a while, because she dry-heaved painfully, once, twice, put her hands over her ears and her thread hurt again and she didn't scream because screaming wouldn't do anything right.

Keep her knees on the sweatshirt. The sweatshirt was safe.

Charlie DuClare and Dave Morrison and Helen Wilson and Winsome Clark and Isabel Guerra were staring.

Liz choked. "What do you want?"
--------


Alice Boucher was a liar.
Liz Polanski played with fire.

And who the hell is Radio Asuka?
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"Sure." She croaked. And, oh God, her throat hurt.

Burns. You burnt your throat. It looks like it's been put in an oven.

So maybe talking wasn't the best idea.

"Uh. Okay. Right. So all we were doing was we were trying to make it to the river, trying to get ourselves clean after, what is it, four days now here."

Ugh. Charlie was talking so loud. Liz wanted to cover her ears; the cheerleader's voice was grating. Instead she let a piece of hair drop over her eyes so the other girl couldn't see she'd closed them.

"Then all of a sudden I hear this screaming so we go decide to check it out and we-"

Charlie cut herself off mid-sentence.

"Okay. Liz, what's important is…"

The cheerleader was speaking in a more reasonable tone of voice now. Somehow this made Liz's shoulders untense.

"We're not gonna hurt you. We're gonna help you whatever way we can, okay?"

Was Charlie being honest? Liz hoped the cheerleader was being honest. There was no way she could defend herself. That said, someone had saved her life. That had to count for something.

"We, uh... we found you right by the river, and we... we thought you could use some help. That's Helen, she's our med student and she's the one who actually knows what she's doing and I think you... you maybe owe your life to here. And there's Dave, he was the one with the idea to dunk you in the water, so- so God knows he helped out a lot too. And that's Winsome, she gave you the sweatshirt, and... well, I think you and the sweatshirt are getting along pretty well already."

So. Dave had saved her. Helen had doctored her. And Winsome had given her the sweatshirt.

Hunh.

Maybe people turn nicer on the island?

That seemed like an incredibly poor assumption to make.

Breathe, Liz. Breathing was hard. Breathing stung. Breathing made her throat rattle and catch, and made her want to cough up more black mucus, but no, no, that was more painful. She kept her breaths shallow, nervous. It was easier that way.

She made the motion for pen and paper.

It was Isabel Guerra, the tall girl, who gave her the pad from the crimson bedroom. The pen was in her hand. She had forgotten about it, when Charlie was talking. The tip was slightly smashed, but it would do.

She picked up the pen. Even her hand felt weak. Burnt too. She didn't know if you were supposed to bandage burns.

THANK YOU, she wrote.

She pointed it at Charlie.

Charlie frowned, and pointed at the three who she said deserved thanks. Dave, Helen and Winsome.

Liz obediently pointed the message at Dave, Helen and Winsome.

Then she began to scribble. The the others gathered around. Liz was very glad she could fix her eyes on the pad.

I AM GOING TO WRITE DOWN HOW TO TURN THE COLLARS INTO FARADAY CAGES.

IT'S PROBABLY PRETTY OBVIOUS, BUT IF YOU GUYS WOULD SHOW OTHER PEOPLE, THAT WOULD BE GREAT.

ALSO, IT PROBABLY WORKS BETTER WITH A PARTNER. I WAS STUPID.

IS THAT OKAY?

There was a long silence. Liz didn't know how to break it. The people who had rescued her were looking at each other. There was some eyebrow raising going on. Interpretation was difficult.

Finally Dave leaned in, and spoke slowly. "Hey, see, that fucked you up so no thanks to that, but if you need someone to stop people killing you, I guess I could lend a hand."

Liz bit her lip. She was probably supposed to be grateful.

And after a moment she was, surprising herself. She wasn't sure she trusted Dave, but she had been fairly certain no one would stay with her while she recovered. The terrorists were smart, and murderous, and Liz, it was probably obvious, had zero idea how the game went from here.

No. She had one idea how the game went.

I NEED TO GO TO THE TUNNELS.

IF I GET THERE I CAN SMASH THE RADIO RELAYS INSIDE AND THE UNDERGROUND AREAS WILL BE SAFE TO USE.

She swallowed. It hurt. This was a risk. Telling people where she was going could backfire.

On the other hand, they could help her. A large group would be safe, maybe. And she would be defenseless alone.

Her hand went to her neck instinctively. There was nothing she liked about being defenseless.

Helpless. Stupid girl.

She would raid corpses on the way. Maybe find a gun she could use. Again, she had no supplies. Only Cyrille's tank top.

Great.

One more thing to write. Bent down over the pad. Kept her hair over her eyes.

I WON'T SMASH CAMERAS WHILE I'M WITH YOU, UNTIL YOU ASK ME TO, IF YOU ASK ME TO. OKAY?
--------


Alice Boucher was a liar.
Liz Polanski played with fire.

And who the hell is Radio Asuka?
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"After all, we wouldn't want anybody refusing to play ball, would we? "

Liz had never heard Mr. Kwong be sarcastic before.

He's alive. He's alive. I thought they'd killed him. Why is he alive?

She was frozen, pen down, perfectly white.

"…should anybody successfully kill Liz Polanski, they will immediately be awarded a weapon from our very own stash of best kill prizes as a bounty. Miss Polanski. If you instruct anybody, verbally or by any other method, in your techniques, we will immediately detonate their collar. If we see you persisting in trying to break our rules, we will detonate collars at random. If you remain at large, we will send in a team to hunt you and anybody found to be allied with you down."

Why did they keep him alive?

"We may also-" Mr. Kwong faltered. "We may also see fit to eliminate your beloved teacher."

Liz's neck felt weak. She dropped her head to her knees. No, no, no, no.
Danya was apparently effective in his terrorism. Why do they have him? Why do they-why do they-why do they--

Liz hated when her thoughts interrupted themselves like that. It was Mr. Kwong, of course, who had taught her how to manage it. Count factorials--start at eleven--or no, powers of three--

"It has also come to our attention that Miss Polanski has recklessly destroyed one of our cameras, as a punishment, we will now detonate a collar," there was an indistinct murmur across the PA. When Kwong spoke again, he sounded horrified. "What!? No! I - you can't make me-"

Don't! Liz tried to yell. It came out as a choked whisper. No intelligible sound. And pain. I'll stop--I'll stop--don't hurt him--please--

There was a thud over the loudspeaker. Liz dry-heaved.

"I... I will be commencing this punishment now," a second of silence. Mr. Kwong's voice was pained. "B148, Daisuke Nagazawa, eliminated."

Boom, Liz thought. And somewhere, someone's collar exploded.

This is your teacher, Kwong Lei, signing off. Kids I believe in-!"

And the cutoff.

Kids, I believe in--

An echo, pounding at her forehead. Liz, I believe in you. He had said that so many times. So many times. Liz, I believe in you. I would never give you a problem you could not solve. Liz, you're brilliant. These universities don't know what they're getting. Liz!

She was holding her forehead, squeezing it to get the sound out. Her face felt drained.

And there were people around her. They had saved her. Go away, go away, go away!

"Er, scratch what I said earlier... This is some shit you've gotten us into, Lizzy." It was Dave, the big football player, looking down at her. "Now, to be honest, I'm gonna pass on the whole 'Kill Liz and recieve a fantastic prize' deal, but sorry, I'm not gonna stick my neck out to protect yours."

Not going to stick out my neck out to protect yours. Liz gulped. She hadn't thought of people trying to protect her. You're a douchebag, please leave.

He dropped something beside her. Something heavy. A knife. Said some words. She could keep the sweater, apparently. Good. It was less noticeable than Cyrille's red hoodie.

Isabel Guerra, the big Spanish girl, was next. “Sorry." She looked pained. "But I can't stay with you. Take this. You'll need it more than I will."

She dropped a tin of crackers by Liz's lap.

And Charlie, the cheerleader, dropped a mirror.

Liz picked it up. I can use it to look around corners, I guess.

Their expressions were funereal. Ugh. Go away, go away, go away. Too much human emotion around her. She needed to think.

Dave dragged Winnie away. Charlie and Isabel left droopily. Helen Wilson was the last to go; Liz had to look at her and mouth "please leave" before she took the hint.

Heart pounding, echoing the trees. Her throat had never hurt so much. Her rescuer's steps faded, obscured. Liz watched them gone, eyes focusing till it hurt. Go, go, go. Go. Please go.

And then they were gone. Liz's head could stop pounding now. The message--she could remember most of the message. She went through the contents, word by word, line by line.

I would never give you a problem you could not solve.

If she could think of it as a problem, she could solve it.

This meant she had to figure out what solving it entailed.

I want to escape, and to live.

That had been her old goal. Now, with third-degree burns on her throat and a bounty on her head, it seemed far-fetched. And, to be honest, it seemed tiny. If Danya had decided she was enough of a threat to pull out blackmail, a math teacher, and a new announcement for her, presumably he thought she was more of a threat than a single escapee would warrant.

I want Danya to lose the game.

It was true. She hadn't cared about Danya until just now; he had been a deterrent to her goals, not a human, not an opponent.

Now she hated him.

It was a game for him. For her, it was more than variables. It was her body, her life. Mr. Kwong, his life. For the first time in her life, she understood what people meant when they called someone 'callous'.

And Danya knew that. That's why he had used Mr. Kwong on her. For her, it was more than variables.

Then make it variables.

A game would be comfortable. Liz Polanski was unfortunate in real life. But she rarely lost games.

So what did Danya want out of this game?

He wants us to all kill each other, until there's only one of us left, for the entertainment of television viewers everywhere.

He lost if the game stopped being entertaining, if the terrorists lost control of the island, or if more than one person survived.

Liz closed her eyes. It was hard to breathe now. Thinking analytically was important. Thinking emotionally would kill her.

What the hell is Danya doing?

He wanted control of her. She had something--powers, information--and he wanted control of it. And it was important enough to him that he made a special announcement, offered bribes, revived a math teacher, and began detonating collars in order to establish that control.

Must suck for him. Detonating collars. One less unit of entertainment value.

She stored that thought away for later. Concentrated on breathing. Eyes still shut. Powers of six, now.

What is Danya assuming?

He was assuming that she was benevolent. That she didn't want collars detonated. He was assuming that she was benevolent. That she cared about Mr. Kwong dying. He was assuming that self-preservation was her secondary goal. There's probably a reason for that. He was assuming that she would and wouldn't do certain things.

He wants to scare me as hard as he can. He wants to trap me with my own personality.

There were math problems, Liz's favorite kind, where if you looked at them one way, they seemed impossible. Unsolvable. Nada. Zip. It was only when you played with the assumptions, did something clever, thought of (-cotx cscx) as dy/dx (cscx) or cotx as 1/tanx, that suddenly the problem came clear, easy, slippery, solvable. Liz's mind lived on those problems.

And this was one of them.

He lost if the game stopped being entertaining, if the terrorists lost control of the island, or if more than one person survived.

Easy. Easy. Easy, easy, easy.

She picked up her pen, the one she had dropped when Mr. Kwong's voice had come on the loudspeakers. Rubbed it painfully with her fingers.

If you let emotion get involved now, you lose.

Picked up the pad. She couldn't stop herself from writing slowly.

MR. DANYA, I THINK YOU'VE JUST GIVEN ME A WAY TO WIN YOUR GAME.

(Liz Polanski continued in another thread)
--------


Alice Boucher was a liar.
Liz Polanski played with fire.

And who the hell is Radio Asuka?
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