Oh, um, wow. What you are about to read(hopefully) is actually a trial run of something I'm testing. You lovely subject, you. Accordingly, if it goes smoothly, I will continue it, as I'm hoping that it does not bend the rules of this site too terribly much. In bending the rules, I mean that when this was first written, it was completely in IM script format, (in the tradition of the Russian writer Victor Pelevin) which is, as I'm sure you know, a no-no for posting. Having overhauled the poor thing, It takes something desired from the experience, having it in the 'traditional' format, but I'm hoping it still gets the job done.

The title is a dedication to the a writer/artist Shaun Tan, who writes and illustrates the book 'Tales from Outer Suburbia'. I highly recommend his books- but don't be dissuaded by their appearance. I assure you that, while they hold a certain innocent charm, they are not for children.

*for the pure tradition of the matter, I must tell you that I do not own Fringe. What I write is something altogether… sticky.

1.

ONLINE. TIME ELAPSED: 00:00:00.

It was dark, when she awoke. She would later find, in the prolonged duration she spent in this hellish purgatory, that it was always dark. They kept it that way, so as to blind you, after too long. Complete dependence was their game, really.

The only light that came into focus after the drugs started to wear away was the dull blue glow that shown across the low ceiling, from the distant computer screen across the tiny room. She was lying, she came to realize, on an old twin-sized army cot in the corner, near one of the two doors. Slowly, she sat up, her damaged retinas struggling to take in the dim, bland surroundings. The only thing that drew her attention was the computer and keyboard, mounted securely to a desk against the whitewashed wall.

She rolled from the bed, panting with spent effort as her vision swam. On all fours, she crawled slowly across the beige carpet, collapsing a few times only to regain conscious after what could have been any length of time. At last, she reached the desk, pulling herself into the swiveled office chair, anchored fast to the floor. She squinted blurrily at the print, and raised her fingers, typing her message.

:Boolean:

Hello is anyone there? Please help me.

Astrid's head dropped to the desk slowly, and she slipped into a murky and unexplainably frightening slumber.

xXx

He'd woken up in a lot of places, in a lot of bad situations. But none had been quite this strange, or as alarming. He would shortly conclude that it was simply hell.

He pounded against the scratched steel door, only to find that the ingress was sealed, and would not budge, not from the inside, anyway. He yelled at the door, cursed at it, or at anyone that might lay beyond. But only ringing silence in the dim twilight remained. At last he turned to the glowing computer screen, which he had tried to smash, to no avail, and he took a seat, reading the message that had arrived before he had woken in this place. He placed his fingers to the keys, drumming out his response.

Utopianserpent

Yes I am. RU still there?

Watching intently, Peter sat back, praying silently that someone was out there, that someone was listening. He did not know then how many hundreds there were, then.

xXx

Thank god, a response! Astrid had to calm herself to type her next message articulately, feeling slightly less nauseous after the unnamable passage of time;

:Boolean:

Yes. What took you so long? Who are you?

xXx

Peter frowned. This was not someone of authority, someone who had control of his strange prison. They may have been a captive, the same as he, but at least they might know something more than he did…

Utopianserpent

My name is xxx. Who are you? Where am I? what is going on?

xXx

Astrid blinked. Someone was preventing this stranger from posting their name. Or was it on purpose, to allude her? She found no harm in stating her discovery, as this individual might not have known as much about computers as she did.

:Boolean:

IDK. I think something is interfering with you posting your name. my name is xxx.

xXx

Anger bent Peter's features. So he had communication, but for what? It was obvious that someone was preventing them from sharing any sort of useful information. Perhaps it was a mockery. His frustration passed into his comments;

Utopianserpent

Someone is screwing around. What the hell am I doing here?!

xXx

Nausea shivered her hunched form in the chair, and she struggled to not become sick. Taking a few deep breaths of the heavily filtered, dead air, Astrid responded the way she had been taught to, when dealing with a citizen that was upset.

:Boolean:

Calm down, serpent. Tell me where you are, maybe I can find you.

xXx

His eyes widened, and Peter dared to hope as looked around, and hurriedly described his surroundings:

Utopianserpent

IDK. I just woke up in a room with nothing but a bed and a computer. There's only one door- no, two.

xXx

Astrid nodded bitterly. A room probably identical to her own, meaning that there might be no hope for either of them. But if this person had more access than she did…

:Boolean:

Is one to a bathroom and the other one locked?

xXx

Peter sighed, biting the inside of his cheek. He typed his damning reply, with a bit of what he had learned, regardless of whether or not this person had attempted such things themselves.

Utopianserpent

Yes. I beat the hell out of the locked one, I think I hear something hollow behind it, maybe a hallway or another room.

xXx

Astrid looked around the room, feeling the painful tingling of hopeless panic rising in her chest;

:Boolean:

Christ, I'm in the same place.

xXx

Peter found that the computer desk before him was devoid of a mouse or touch pad. But he knew enough about the layout of a keyboard, and its shortcut keys, that he could get around alright. He frowned with alarmed confusion.

Utopianserpent

The browser won't let me leave this page. Yours too?

xXx

She'd tried that a while ago, and, again, to no avail. They seemed to be stuck here.

:Boolean:

Yes. The access seems to be limited to the use of an administrator. I was already logged on when I woke up here. Wherever here is.

xXx

His cynicism returned to him- he was amazed that it had been displaced this long, as it had been his only reliable partner in for so many years-

Utopianserpent

You sound like you know a bit about this, boo.

xXx

Astrid could understand his suspicion. a lot of people thought it was strange for someone like her to have such a knowledge of circuitry and its works, and she frankly explained:

:Boolean:

I work with computers. I'm a xxx.

xXx

Ah, another block. Crap. Would there be anything useful, from this odd conversation?

Utopianserpent

I guess we can't tell each other about our professions. But the name 'Boolean' has to do with computers, doesn't it?

xXx

Astrid smiled. Whoever this was certainly knew more than they let on. Perhaps they even knew more about where they were.

:Boolean:

Yes. 'Boolean' is a system of logic used to hone a search on the internet. I didn't choose the name, I was logged on like this. What do you do?

xXx

Peter knew full well what 'Utopian Serpent' meant. It meant that they knew how he took people who had a perfect existence and got them cast from Eden. He did not like how uncomfortably naked it made him feel, wearing such an admittance on his sleeve.

Utopianserpent

I didn't choose mine either. In less words, I'll just say that I do a lot of things.

xXx

Astrid swallowed.

:Boolean:

Bad things?

xXx

Peter sat up, his chin pointing with defiance. He did not think that what he did was wrong. If people were blind enough to their own ways that they did not know that what they did led to self destruction, they deserved what happened to them. He might even be considered a savior, for stopping them from squandering themselves in meaningless pursuits. He summed his thoughts.

Utopianserpent

That would depend on your point of view.

xXx

She'd been waiting, reading along this soundless conversation patiently, judging and calculating while setting her uncertainties and fears aside as she had done for so many years, coolly gathering her information for the right time to strike. Not a skill that she thought would come in handy, in such a nightmarish situation, but apparently the training she had instilled upon herself did more than keep her out of the shit during court.

Between the nausea and fainting spells, Olivia had drawn her own conclusions and opinions; she'd been drugged with chloroform, and she did not like this 'serpent'. And now she knew why. She leaned over in her chair, at last deciding to announce herself, and perhaps even a bit of a challenge.

Pureffect.45

So you're a criminal.

xXx

Astrid blinked. A third person? Someone who could help them? No. Whoever was holding them knew about them and would not have been surprised at the criminal intentions of their captive. It was probably another soul trapped, sharing a small room and painful uncertainty much like her own. Still, introductions were a must.

:Boolean:

Who are you?

xXx

Olivia did not hesitate to state her status and offer an opinion on their possible whereabouts.

Pureffect.45

I've been following the thread. I'm also in one of these rooms. Maybe we're in a hotel.

xXx

Peter did not have to see someone not to like them. Already Pure was getting on his nerves, with the kind of holier-that-thou attitude that he'd gotten from everyone growing up. He couldn't stand it.

Utopianserpent

Who said you could join us?

xXx

Olivia glared at the screen in distaste. Grand, an idiot who thought they were going to waste time with petty arguments rather than do something productive. Like she'd never met anyone like that before, in her years of being considered incapable, at the bureau, simply because of her gender.

Pureffect.45

Who said I couldn't?

xXx

Astrid rolled her eyes. These two were going to be a handful, she could already tell. Be she had to keep things together, with the menacing shadow of panic forever creeping up in her chest. She had to keep order, if there was such a thing, in this place;

:Boolean:

Calm down both of you. Pure, you said you were in a room identical to the two of ours.

xXx

Olivia decided to ignore her aggressor, a convenience she was half thankful for, in this place.

Pureffect.45

Yes. I see that we can't post names or jobs. So I'm a serial killer named Fred.

xXx

They did not just say that! Humor, for chrissake? How tasteless could one get? Peter ran his fingers through his hair as he sat back, chuckling with disbelief as he realized why he did not like Pure. He typed his response to the assault against himself from this unpleasant, judgmental hypocrite;

Utopianserpent

You're a riot. .45 is a gun caliber, so you have to be a cop.

xXx

A smart crook. Well, she never.

Pureffect.45

Surprisingly observant for the hamburglar.

xXx

Jesus, at each other's throats again. This was getting nowhere, and Astrid had to see a stop to it before it escalated, and nothing would be accomplished. Not that much could be, considering.

:Boolean:

Pure, stop. So we can't tell anything important about each other, fine. What can we tell?

xXx

Peter would ignore the cop, for now. What was the point? Beating a dead horse, trying to talk intellectually with a fed.

Utopianserpent

What about age? Gender?

xXx

Astrid exclaimed;

:Boolean:

Good, serpent. I'll go. I'm xxx years old, and female.

xXx

Olivia considered,

Purefect.45

No age, I guess. I'm also female.

xXx

Peter snorted; the story of his life. Angry woman with a superiority complex hacking on him for things they knew nothing about. He briefly wondered why he hadn't guessed that she was a girl in the first place.

Utopianserpent

Obviously. Dirty Harriet, here.

xXx

Hells bells. Olivia found herself captive with a misogynistic, cop-hating moron. Life was simply wonderful.

Pureffect.45

And you're so perfectly male.

xXx

Astrid shook her head. These two were starting to become a real pain in the ass. But, as always, she sighed, setting her annoyance aside and striving to create a formal exchange of information. The less time these two had to bicker, the better.

:Boolean:

Enough. So the two of us, and serpent. The ratio of gender obviously has nothing to do with anything. What if we just said if we were young or old?

xXx

Peter paused. That may have worked, but…

Utopianserpent

What's your basis of comparison?

xXx

Astrid blinked, shifting to pull her bare feet up, into the chair. She was not wearing the clothes that she remembered wearing, when she could remember- now, she wore a simple white tank, and grey trousers that zippered in the front, with a pocket at the knee on the outside of each leg. She assumed that her companions wore something similar, and wondered what exactly she was to place in the pockets.

:Boolean:

Xxx and under for young, xxx and over for old.

xXx

Olivia sighed with slight frustration, pointing out the obvious;

Pureffect.45

That won't work. Maybe if we can't post it, it isn't vital to getting out of here.

xXx

He rolled over, nothing in particular waking him from his fitful slumber. He sat up and scratched his bare chest, looking around a bit for his undershirt. Humming tunelessly, Walter pulled it over his shoulders, unwinding the sheets from himself as he swung his legs over the side of the cot and stood. His fingers traced along the wall as he made his way to the bathroom, and the once smooth surface was marred with scratches he'd made long ago. Two of many things would surface, when his cage was unearthed; a collage of senseless pictures and numbers that spanned the walls and ceiling, and the fact that he was nearly blind.

Walter washed his hands and face in the sink slowly, and then created a bowl with his fingers, lowering his lips to drink deeply from the notch at the bottom of his joined palms. He sighed, wiping his lips on the back of his arm as her turned off the faucet. In a lightheaded daze, he shuffled back into the room, slumping back down on the cot and bowing his head with a sigh. Perhaps he would go back to sleep.

He was slow to register that his computer screen was whirring with activity. He frowned, and shook his head, squinting. At last, he got to his feet, stumbling over to flounce into his chair. He spun in it a few times, lost the already stale novelty, and read the sentences of print, his eyes widening with interest. His brows high on his forehead, Walter decided to say hello.

glassmouth

Oh, now this is exiting. There are people here, now? Hello? Ola? Guten Tag? Bonjour? Aloha? Ciao? Konnichiwa?

xXx

Peter frowned flatly at the screen. An interruption, and a distraction. Just how many people were there, down here? And was each as useless as the next, when it came to getting out? It was unknown to him, then, that he was addressing the very reason that they were imprisoned.

Utopianserpent

Grand. Who's this, now?

Peter waited for a response, and after a few minutes, he began to wonder if his post had been inputted. He tried again.

Utopianserpent

Hello?

More virtual silence. Pure and Boo were not posting, hoping to hear with this absent newcomer. Peter was getting annoyed- they interrupted and left? No. No one could leave, so they were just being rude.

Utopianserpent

Why aren't you responding?!

xXx

Astrid took the reasoning standpoint as they waited.

:Boolean:

Maybe they're a slow at the keyboard.

xXx

Walter exclaimed. They were talking to him? Ah, yes, best apologize, he didn't want to seem rude. He hadn't meant it, it was just that…

glassmouth

No. I'm sorry, I've only just woken, and I'm a bit slow to register. Low blood pressure, all that.

xXx

This person seemed calm, which was both strange and considerably alarming, given their circumstances.

:Boolean:

Have you read the rest of the thread?

xXx

Walter paused, and used the cruiser to move to the top of the page. He replied frankly, in the fact that he was unused to such activity on the machine that had become a black hole in his mind; simply another wall, although intellectually, this time.

glassmouth

No, not yet. I was simply surprised to find anyone here, I've been alone here for the longest time.

xXx

It would take too much time to explain everything again, and Olivia summed the importance and urgency of the situation before her companions could;

Pureffect.45

We need to know anything you can tell us.

xXx

Walter had finished the thread in seconds, quietly committing the typed conversation to memory. A meek tech ex, a lonely young man, and a lonely young woman. Pups growing into their ears, he compared. He briefly typed out the information they required with a small smile.

glassmouth

Ah. I am male, and judging by the way you seem to address one another, I am most definitely old.

xXx

Peter reconsidered. It was childish, but he suddenly felt as if things had been evened out, with the introduction of another man, and an older one, at that, whom would perhaps see Peter's way of things, given his years of experience and sensibility. Peter was very, very wrong. Smugly, he posted his comment.

Utopianserpent

So two guys, two girls. Seems more fair, now.

xXx

Olivia nearly laughed at how easy it was to bruise the ego of a man, yet admired how easily they were repaired. But obviously this newcomer would have matured enough to see her way of things. Of course, Olivia, as well, was very, very wrong.

Pureffect.45

Aw, were we ganging up on you?

xXx

Astrid blew a stray curl from her eyes in downright annoyance. Perhaps this older gentleman would help her keep these two at bay, and the petty squabbling to a minimum. She may have been the most incorrect of them all.

:Boolean:

Let's try to keep the bickering to a minimum, please.

xXx

Peter had been trying to decipher as much as he cold from the old man's comments, and was alarmed to find that while they openly seemed reveling to his state, they were oddly cryptic in any aspect of his opinions. This person was either very smart, and rivaled his own sense of cynicism, or very empty minded and essentially very stupid. Peter would never truly discover which.

Utopianserpent

And 'glassmouth'? are you a dentist, or something?

xXx

Walter looked around the empty room unseeingly, wondering if perhaps he'd lost it completely, and was typing to himself again. But he would know why he was called 'Glassmouth', wouldn't he…? The logic, however flawed, seemed sound enough.

glassmouth

Alas, no, I wish. 'glassmouth' is a joke that was passed around about me a great many years ago, when I used to xxx at xxx. It was said that I could metaphorically 'spit glass', to deride my opposition during lectures and debates.

xXx

Olivia had heard something of the kind before, when she was assigned to security- a bodyguard. The dark days, she called them, before she had become a detective.

Pureffect.45

So you're a politician.

xXx

Walter felt mildly offended, although it probably would have been better for everyone if he had been a politician. Not to mention the better paycheck.

glassmouth

Heavens no. if I leave a mark on this world, it will be with knowledge, not warheads.

xXx

Peter smirked. A good guess that couldn't have been farther from the truth. But perhaps she wasn't as blind and government-controlled as he had first though. He might be able to mock her into her A-game.

Utopianserpent:

Don't be stupid. He's a teacher or something.

xXx

Walter swallowed.

glassmouth

or something.

xXx

A teacher? What could whoever was holding them want with a teacher? Astrid knew the answer lay somewhere in their combined knowledge.

:Boolean:

Glass, you said you'd been here for a long time. How long?

xXx

Walter froze. Good grief, how long had it been? He was disheartened and slightly frightened to find that he did not know. Everything that lie outside of these walls… did it even exist? He responded as best he could.

glassmouth

I can't say for certain. Years. Perhaps decades.

xXx

The panic Astrid had been fighting back was threatening to burst out, at this confession, and she swallowed back her dread, and typed.

:Boolean:

Jesus. is there a way out of here? Is your room similar to ours?

xXx

Olivia frowned.

Pureffect.45

If there were a way out, don't you think he wouldn't be here?

xXx

Peter's mind snapped to attention, his brilliance forever laced with suspicion;

Utopianserpent

Unless he's the one keeping us here.

xXx

Walter felt a frown twitch the corner of his mouth, and he rolled his eyes before replying after a casually dismissing period of time.

glassmouth

Don't be ridiculous. My room is certain to be a replica of yours, there could be hundreds of them, in this place. It's just that no one's been around for me to talk to in a very long time.

xXx

Astrid swallowed again, asking for something she really didn't want to know.

:Boolean:

There have been others?

xXx

Walter stared at her words for a few moments. She was afraid. He'd been the same way, in the beginning, and could remember grasping for comfort somewhere behind the cold, unfeeling screen that he peered into now. But, slowly…

glassmouth

Yes. The first few months I was here, back when I tried to keep track. They disappeared, after an while, and then it was just me. I'd given up, until you three showed up. This is all very exciting.

xXx

A chilling prospect, that the voices out there would simply fall silent. It only pressed Olivia harder to find a solution, and get out. She asked something useful of him, now.

Pureffect.45

Have you ever been out of your room?

xXx

Walter's brows furrowed. He guessed it could be considered that, as they were certainly not going to be doing the usual to him in his cell. After all, there were no traces of blood, afterward.

glassmouth

Yes. They take me out, as I'm sure they will you.

xXx

Peters fingers were flying over the keys, as his mind was racing.

Utopianserpent

Who? Who takes us out? The ones who put us here?

xXx

glassmouth

Xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx. xxx xxx xxx, xxx xxx xxx xxx. But I digress.

xXx

Peter bared his teeth and whispered a curse under his breath. At last a source of information, and the poor bastard was being edited six ways from Sunday. Whoever was watching them was crippling them with ignorance. Peter found it enraging.

Utopianserpent

Wonderful. So much for that.

xXx

Olivia shared his disappointment, and sighed, sitting back in her chair to run her fingers back, through her hair.

Pureffect.45

I guess we'll have to find out on our own. Have we stopped to think of why we might be here?

xXx

Astrid hadn't considered that. She had just been occupied of finding out what their captors wanted, so she wouldn't be able to give it to them. Pure raised a good point, that perhaps they did not possess something of value. It was an refreshing possibility, but a slightly distressing one, too.

:Boolean:

A punishment, do you think? But for what?

xXx

Olivia hoped that wasn't the case.

Pureffect.45

There has to be some connection between us. I mean, serpent is a criminal, I'm a cop. There's one.

xXx

And she was back on him. Peter really hoped he wouldn't have to deal with her much longer.

Utopianserpent

Because there's obviously no other possible connection.

xXx

Astrid had to stop this, they couldn't get distracted with macho or feminist crap right now. She revealed the conclusion she had realized long before;

:Boolean:

Well, we work for the same people, pure, I can tell you that much.

xXx

Olivia's interest piqued…

Pureffect.45

Xxx?

…and immediately faded with bitterness.

Pureffect.45

Damn.

xXx

Peter shook his head, cursing his luck. He should have guessed, but he seemed really off today, seeing as he had just been kidnapped and all.

Utopianserpent

You're a cop that works with computers, then. Grand.

xXx

Astrid set to verbalizing the way she had placed the pieces together.

:Boolean:

So two cops, and a… gentleman of questionable profession. That fits. But what about glass?

xXx

Discomfort suddenly seized Walter, and let out a grunt of annoyance. He didn't have time for this, now that he had friends to talk with. But nature could not be ignored. He tried to word his predicament delicately.

glassmouth

Excuse me, I have to hit the head.

xXx

Olivia rolled her eyes.

Pureffect.45

TMI, man, TMI.

xXx

He returned to his seat, rubbing his palms on the front of his trousers to dry them. Status report.

glassmouth

I'm back. I washed my hands.

xXx

Peter sucked the front of his teeth. This man was rapidly turning into a fool, which he was simply not in the mood for, and he posted flatly;

Utopianserpent

And we're all so proud of you.

xXx

Astrid pretended the event simply had not taken place, and continued with her train of thought.

:Boolean:

Glass, you said you were a teacher. But lectures and debates would indicate that you were more of a professor. Is that right?

xXx

Wow. She was smart. Walter liked smart girls. At least, he thought that he did, but as of late, he couldn't remember just what he liked about them… not physically, of course, but…
glassmouth

Yes. But I was only one for a xxx, so I fail to draw a conclusive parallel to the connection that the three of you seem to share.

xXx

So he hadn't been some helpless egghead that shuffled books for a living. Olivia had dealt with enough people to know how such things went. He'd probably gotten too smart for his own good, and gotten into something bad. She was correct on a number of levels.

Pureffect.45

Did you ever do anything illegal?

xXx

Did lab permits…? No, certainly not. Walter bent the truth only slightly to respond.

glassmouth

No, not really. Not anything to warrant police attention.

xXx

Olivia moved on to the next obvious comparison that could be drawn;

Pureffect.45

Did you ever work with the law?

xXx

glassmouth

No. I worked for the xxx, after I became a xxx xxx.

xXx

Damn foul editing! It was really starting to piss her off.

Pureffect.45

Well, hell.

xXx

Peter was about to agree with her, for once, when his ears, which had been ringing with the silence, had become sensitive enough to register something he certainly wouldn't have picked up on, in any other setting. The gentle sound of bells; very, very faint.

Utopianserpent

Listen, do you hear that???

xXx

Astrid looked over her shoulder, at the locked door. The sound was behind it.

:Boolean:

Something that sounds like wind chimes or something?

xXx

Olivia typed hurriedly, and got to her feet, approaching the door.

Pureffect.45

I hear it too.

xXx

Walter felt dread hit the bottom of his stomach like a lead weight. He sat up strait, his fingers flying over the keys as he plead warning, told them what the bells did…

glassmouth

Xxx xxx!!! Xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx!!!

Nothing.

glassmouth

Hello?

They were gone. He was alone again. He felt like crying, but did not.

glassmouth

Damn you.

OFFLINE. TIME ELAPSED: 05:16:49.