Thanks to Terri for a quick RP in the downtime in the cavern - as always, you rock!
05 Jan 2521
Cavern of Rubicon
Joshua walked alongside the dark oily lake. He had walked out a ways, trying to clear his thoughts with little success. They kept twisting back and forth between a thousand different subjects. How much of that was being off the drugs for 4 days and how much was due to nervousness about the upcoming return to the Academy? He couldn't be sure. His conversation with Valerie kept haunting him though and he knew he needed to share it with someone. Rina was too touchy about someone with a wire sticking out of their head. Rick was focused on Blue Hands Blondie. And Arden? Well...Arden had some Valerie issues. So that left him with Nika. She was going to love this. Another thing to worry about.
He forced himself to walk steadily as he made his way back to the makeshift camp. The lack of drugs were definitely having their effects, but focusing on little things like a steady walk and keeping his hands still helped keep the bigger effects at bay. For a time. Nika was off by herself, thankfully. He approached her slowly. "Nika, can I borrow you for a minute?"
Looking up from her own contemplation of the lake, Nika tilted her head. "Sure," she replied softly. Things had a tendency to echo through the cavern if one wasn't careful. It was why she chose this particular spot -- the acoustics were somewhat blocked by a rock formation. Her blue eyes followed his movements, not missing the fact that he was beginning to have trouble. The signs were there, if subtle. "What's on your mind?" she asked, leaving it be for now. It wasn't as if she could help him with the effects of the drugs.
Joshua lowered himself to a crossed leg seating position on the ground with a single smooth motion. "I'm going to sit, if you don't mind." He put his hands in his lap, keping them tight together.
"I hate bringing you something else to worry about, and it may be nothing. But I had a conversation with Valerie earlier. I wanted to apologize for how I acted on Meridian. And for my role in what has happened to her. " He paused briefly. "After talking with her, I'm a little worried about her state of mind."
Nika seemed glad to have the company, shifting to sit facing him instead of facing the water. His words caused her gaze to sharpen on him. "I'd ask why, but... quite frankly, the woman is amazing. We've wreaked havoc on her life and in spite of everything, she's still sane. Takes a strong mind to manage that. I take it you think she's cracking under the pressure?" She'd been sitting out here contemplating how to approach the woman herself, if truth be told.
Joshua nodded curtly. "She might be. She seemed really out of it, like she was in a walking trance. And something she said..." How did she phrase it?
"She said she 'felt lost' and was speculating on whether Blue Sun was just going to have us turn on the crew and then on ourselves." He shook his head a little as he remembered that conversation. "What she was said was worrying enough, but it was the way she said it that made me really concerned. She just said it like it didn't matter, just another thing in the craziness of her life."
He held his hands up, palms out in a cautionary manner. As he did so, he noticed them twitching despite his mental efforts to keep them under control. "But I'm also not sure my opinion should really count too much. My dreams have been...strange and I don't know how my waking state perception has been affected."
"Mmmm," Nika replied in a vague hum of acknowledgement. "I'll make a point of talking to her. Where Arden can't hear me. His reactions always seem to color any conversation and carry it to realms it doesn't need to be in," she said mildly, her voice lacking much in the way of Border accent at all. It was an unconscious mannerism on her part, to retreat behind that drawl to hide her thoughts and feelings or to be underestimated, a mannerism that almost entirely fell away when business needed to be handled. She studied him and asked, "How are you holding up? If things get too bad on you, I need to know how to tell, Joshua."
"About as well as could be expected." He held his hands out before her and watched as they shook in midair. "All sort of physical withdrawal symptoms. Still mentally together during the waking hours, although I'm finding it hard to focus and stay focused." Joshua didn't want to mention the dreams. It wouldn't help her anyway. She couldn't monitor those to see how he was doing.
"Of course, we probably have another couple of days to go before we hit Osiris."
"Yeah," Nika agrees quietly. "Hang on, okay? I know it's going to get worse before it gets better." She grimaces. "I wish we knew if the withdrawal was something you could go through and just be okay with or whether you actually require the drugs." She sighs heavily, reaching back to scratch the back of her head. Her braid is, as always, pinned up so as not to be seen, though there are loose tendrils.
"Blondie's comments about no barriers to my abilities and how I might turn on the crew didn't exactly fill me to the brim with confidence. While I would like to be off the drugs so I could feel, I don't want it to be at those kind of costs. I'll hang tough." And despite what Blondie said, he'd keep himself away from the crew as much as possible. He had always understood his power to work on line-of-sight and even if what she said was true, maybe his own mental limitations about his powers might help keep them damped down.
"I'm less concerned about you turning on the crew than I am about what happens to you if your powers go wild. You could fry your own brain, from what I gather about the girl you were both chatting about," Nika replied. "I realize you're more worried about everyone else, but you have to realize that you are important in this too. I'm not dismissing the danger, but I am looking at it from both sides."
It was nice that she cared about him, but frying his own brain was probably the least of his concerns these days. He shrugged a little as he responded, "I guess. I don't know what you could do to stop it if it happened. I guess you can get Blondie to put me under if I start to fry. And honestly, you'll probably know before I will. They say the insane never realize they are going crazy." He put a hand on the nearby rock formation and used it to help himself back to standing. "But thanks for caring about me," he said sincerely.
Nika watched him stand. "I've been watching. I'll keep watching. But you let me know if you feel like it's too much to handle, okay?" Her tone was quiet, and she added softly, "And thank you. You've become a valued member of this group, Joshua. I would hate to lose you before you had the chance to find the faith in yourself that the rest of us have."
Faith in himself. It kept coming back to that. Joshua didn't have the right words, so he quietly nodded in affirmation, as he walked away from the crew back towards that pitch-black lake of oil and the quiet isolation of its shore.