Okay! Here's the next chapter of "730 Days of Convergence"! I'm very sorry for the long wait. I've been very busy with school, plus, my laptop crashed, and even though it's fixed now, I've lost three years of fanfiction story ideas, chapters, documents for school, etc. I was pretty down about it for a while, but I'm feeling much better about it now, and I should be able to get back to updating regularly again. Thank you to everyone who's been reading and reviewing this story! :)
Guest Review Corner:
Mr. Anonymous- Knowing the Church, anything could happen. Now that my computer's been fixed, I'm gonna see if I can try to update every weekend. Hopefully, I'll be able to.
The Newcomer- I was tossing a similar idea around for a while. I'm not sure if I'm gonna use it yet, but it's something I'm definitely considering. And I'll try and get the Hive Mind somewhere in Journey into Darkness.
Guest- Yeah, I don't think Riley's quite the same girl she was at the beginning of the story. ;)
DISCLAIMER: Only my OCs and plot ideas are mine. Everything else belongs to Visceral Games/EA.
"So she tried to use your dead brother against you, huh?" Lara asked, resting her head against the tree, "I'm sorry she had to bring that up. I can imagine it must be difficult to hear about it after trying to cope with it for so long."
Riley nodded, an image of Peter flashing in front of her. "Well, I have to say you did a pretty good job of keeping yourself composed for as long as you did," Lara continued, "Usually, other people are ready to throttle her in seconds."
"Believe me, I wanted to," Riley said, "But I refuse to give her that satisfaction. I can join the Church without bending to her will."
Lara scoffed. "Don't let Daina hear you say that, or else she'll try and break you even more. Unfortunately, you've already given her the leverage she needs to do so."
Riley sighed dejectedly. "I know," she reluctantly admitted, "But I'm only human. No matter how much I think I am, I'm not perfect." She said this with an edge, which made Lara chuckle.
"She really said all that to you, huh?" the secretary asked as a wry grin spread across Riley's face.
"Yeah," she quipped, "I don't know where she got the idea that I thought I was perfect. I know I'm not. I guess you see that now."
"Like you said," Lara spoke up, "You're only human. One of the tougher ones I've met, but still human. It's normal for things to get under your skin. It's just how you manage it that's the key. All those other new members of the Church? Forget it. They walk in with a mind of their own, and they walk out chanting Altman Be Praised. And that's just after a few weeks. The fact that it's been about the same amount of time and you still haven't given in to them…I'm impressed, Lauren. I really am. I didn't think you could do it, but you proved me wrong."
Riley blushed and looked down at the grass, plucking some blades and tearing them with her hands. "All I want is the truth behind Altman's word," she answered, realizing her words had a double meaning to them, "Whatever that may be."
"And you'll get it," Lara assured her, "Trust me. At least, you'll know more than I do."
Riley looked up again and raised her eyebrows in confusion. "You told me your parents are Unitologists," she recalled, "I'm assuming they're full time members of the Church. Why aren't you? I would have thought you would be, since you're their daughter. Why would they keep you away from that?"
This time, Lara was the one who tore some blades of grass as she smiled ruefully. "They didn't keep me away from anything," she explained in a flat voice, "I chose not to go on in my studies."
Hold on, Riley thought, perking up. "Wait a minute!" she cried, "You can choose not to continue? It's that easy to make that decision?"
Now, Lara was grinning. "No," she admitted, "I just didn't want to become a part of the Church, even though my family forced me into it. In the end, they agreed to keep me as a part time member as long as I worked for them. Basically, a part time member only knows about the public meetings and such, but not things like the Soul Cleansing Ritual. My father, admittedly, pulled some strings to ensure that we would still have good relations with Daina." Her voice was bitter now, and Riley found herself frowning in sympathy. Of course, this could all be an act, she reminded herself, But for some reason, I doubt it, especially after the way she's been acting.
"I'm sorry if I'm boring you with all these rants," Lara apologized, "It's just that meeting sane people in the Church of Unitology is a rare occasion, and it's nice to know that I'm not alone."
"You're never alone," Riley retorted, remembering something Doctor Graham had told her last year, "None of us are ever alone in this world. It doesn't matter where you are. There will always be someone in a situation similar to yours. It's just a matter of knowing when."
Titan News Headquarters, the next morning…
"I don't care what you say! I don't need to talk to anyone about anything!"
Riley's hairs stood on end as the unmistakable sound of Sutton screaming reached her ears. Oh, God, she thought, rubbing her eyes, which were stinging from lack of sleep yet again.
"But Sutton!" Madison's higher-pitched voice spoke up next, "She can help you understand why you're becoming obsessed with Unitology-"
"I am not becoming obsessed! I'm offended that you would even think that! You, out of all people! You're supposed to be one of my best friends!"
"No! I'm not going, and that's final!" With that, Sutton stomped out of Madison's office, glaring at Riley and taking off without saying a word. The latter just blinked, confused, before entering her friend's office. Madison was sitting at her desk, her hands shaking as she bit her lower lip.
"What happened?" Riley asked anxiously.
Without answering at first, Madison dropped a brochure on her desk, and Riley picked it up. "Doctor Elise Graham?" she questioned, "You recommended Sutton to talk to my therapist, I'm guessing?"
"She was the only one who wasn't completely booked at this time," Madison insisted, "I tried to find someone else, but ever since the Ishimura's been recovered, everyone's been flocking to therapy, so it was pretty hard to find someone who still had some appointments available. When I tried to bring it up with Sutton now…well, you must have heard how that went." She sat down at the desk and furiously began to type away on her computer, as if to distract herself.
"It's weird, you know?" she continued, "How when you were feeling down about Peter, Sutton was willing to help you, but she won't let us help her."
"When it's you, it's a whole different story," Riley reasoned, "And her situation is completely different from mine, too."
"I guess so. But every time she gets angry with us, she seems to forget that we're doing all this because we're her friends and we care about her."
Riley nodded grimly, pulled up a chair, and sat down across from her friend. "You know what we need to do?" she asked, "Have an intervention. You, me, and Marcus, and if it gets extreme, we can get my parents and her parents involved as well. So why don't we meet her at the hospital once our shifts are over and see if we can all convince her to talk to Elise?"
Madison cocked an eyebrow. "Are you sure that's gonna work, Riley? I mean, you saw how she was just now…"
Riley narrowed her eyes. "We'll make it work," she assured her, "Don't worry. Sutton helped me get back on my feet enough to get me to continue helping myself, and now it's time for me to repay her." And with that, she got up and left the room, returning to her own office as she shut the door, put her bag down, and logged onto her computer. While she waited for her desktop to appear, she rubbed her eyes again, willing herself to stay away long enough to stare at a computer screen for hours. The most she had slept was at least two hours due to a dream where she found out Daina had been the one who sent her that threatening email, as well as discovered her undercover mission. She had woken up in a sweat and clutched her chest, taking deep breaths to calm herself down.
It was just a dream, Riley, she told herself, That's all. Just a horrible dream.
Still, she couldn't help but wonder if it had been Daina. Or possibly Franco. He was working closely with her. He would have access to anything she knew.
But how would the Church know anything about the Ishimura? They only know what we know-the terrorist attack.
Riley was so lost in thought that she didn't notice that her answering machine was blinking. Frowning, she picked it up and pressed a few buttons, sticking the associated RIG into her ear.
"You have one new message," it announced, "Accessing message."
"Good morning, Miss Bennett," Director Tiedemann's voice poured into her ear, "I'm just calling to inform you that we are continuing to investigate into the harassment complaint you filed last week. I will call you again once we've gotten new information. In the mean time, take precautions and do not share your contact information with anyone you don't know. Good luck with everything, and have a good day." The message ended there, and Riley ripped the RIG out of her ear and slammed it on the desk, leaving it in a tangled mess of wires. No matter how much she wanted to see the good in EarthGov, she was growing increasingly suspicious that they weren't looking into the threat at all. If it took Tiedemann this long to get back to her…who knew what they were doing during the long period of time she hadn't heard from them? Any more lost time and she'd soon have to start investigating it herself. She had been trying to take her parents' and Sutton's advice to relax, but with this, she couldn't. The way she saw it was that there should have been something more conclusive by now, with the advanced technology all over the Sprawl.
She sighed and pulled up her itinerary for the day, wondering if, perhaps, she was over thinking the situation. She realized she was trying to find a reason or excuse for everything, feeling the need to dissect every detail of every incident. She had always been an analytical person, but she seemed to be that way even more after last year.
"With a mind like yours, you should be a detective," Peter used to tell her when they were younger. Riley smiled at the memory as she focused on her continuing coverage of the CEC's current employment issue, wondering what her life would be like if she was actually a detective for Tiedemann's police force.
Later on that day…
"God, please let this work," Marcus prayed as he, Riley, and Madison entered the hospital after meeting at the end of their respective shifts.
"It will work," Riley declared firmly, narrowing her eyes in determination. Not that she wasn't considering making a backup plan if this one didn't work, but she hoped they would be able to carry this out without a hitch.
Besides, it would give her something to take her mind off Daina attempting to break her the previous night. I never knew you could be so emotional, Lauren, she had taunted, which made the journalist ball her hands into fists.
"You okay?" Madison inquired, looking worried about her friend.
"I'm fine," Riley said, nodding tersely, "Just a little nervous about this. Either Sutton will listen to us, or she'll end her friendship with us. I'm hoping that won't happen, but we'll have to be careful."
"That's for sure," Marcus said, and Riley waited as the CEC engineer signed in with the receptionists.
"Do you ladies have any idea why Doctor Edgars doesn't want me visiting my mother anymore?" he asked with a concerned expression on his face.
"I don't know, Marcus," one of them, Nita, answered with a shrug, "None of the rest of the hospital staff tells us anything anymore. Used to be that we would be the first ones to know, but if we hear anything, we'll be sure to let you and your friends know."
"Thanks, Nita," Marcus thanked her, "We appreciate your help." Nita winked and allowed the trio to head over to the Stasis hallway, and they eventually arrived at Rochelle DeMaio's pod. The corridor was quiet, as always, and Marcus looked around briefly before giving Riley a meaningful look.
"This is where I saw Patient Five," he explained to her, jutting his chin towards the opposite end of the hallway.
"In one of these Stasis units?" Riley asked, widening her eyes as she took in the row of pods.
Marcus nodded. "Dr. Edgars was placing him back in his assigned unit, and that's when he tried to shoo me away."
"Who's Patient Five?" Madison inquired, not taking her eyes off Rochelle's charts that were next to her pod.
"I don't know his real name," Marcus admitted, "But when I was visiting my mother a few weeks ago, Dr. Edgars was putting him back in Stasis. For some reason, his right eye was bleeding."
Madison shuddered. "I hope they're not hurting any of the patients in here," she whispered, "What do you think Edgars was up to?"
Riley and Marcus shrugged, and Riley frowned as she thought about the fact that EarthGov seemed to be behind this. Why would they be making a man's eye bleed, if not to hurt him? There couldn't be a good reason behind this.
Maybe that's my old EarthGov paranoia taking over, she thought, sighing, We're not here for that. We're here to help Sutton.
Even so, she was still curious about Patient Five. Who was he that he would need to be confined to this hospital? In the years she had visited Sutton during her breaks, she had never heard of the hospital employees abusing their patients, but now, she was having her doubts.
"EarthGov's lies," she whispered under her breath, causing Madison to raise her eyebrows.
"What?" the news anchor asked.
"Is Patient Five's stasis unit around here?" Riley asked Marcus.
Sutton's boyfriend nodded. "Right there," he answered, pointing to the one closest to Madison. Riley nodded and marched up to it so that she could read the charts.
"Riley, what's going on?" Madison asked, confused, "What do you mean, 'EarthGov's lies'?"
But before Riley could begin her investigation, all three of them suddenly heard an unfamiliar voice from the opposite end of the hallway, making them pause what they were doing.
Riley, Madison, and Marcus blinked as they whirled around and spotted a man staring at them with wide, blue eyes. His black hair was tousled, but his expression was frantic, as if he couldn't believe what he was seeing.
"That's him," Marcus whispered to her, "Patient Five."
Riley looked around, wondering who this man could possibly be addressing, but the longer he continued to stare at her, the more she realized who exactly he was talking to.
"Alexis!" the man cried again, "It's me! It's Nolan!"
"Me?" Riley asked, pointing at herself, "You mean me?"
The man, Nolan, chuckled. "Come on, Lex," he said, "Don't play that game. You don't remember me?"
"Who's Alexis?" Madison whispered to her friends, but Riley ignored her as she shook her head and grabbed the other's hands to pull them away.
"I'm sorry," she apologized gently, "But you have me mistaken for someone else. I'm not Alexis."
"Yes, you are!" Nolan insisted, "Stop doing this to me!"
"Come on, let's go," Marcus said, and the three of them began to slowly walk away. Riley wasn't sure why this man was insisting she was someone named Alexis, and she suddenly wanted to know the same thing Madison did. Who was this mysterious woman?
"Wait!" Nolan shouted after them, "Alexis, come back! Where's my son? I want to see my son!"
Riley allowed herself to glance over her shoulder, and she gasped as she realized Nolan was actually starting to follow them down the hallway. "What is he talking about?" Madison asked, looking behind them as well.
"Don't engage him," Marcus told her, "Just keep walking."
"Are you sure that's a good idea?" Riley questioned, "It doesn't look like he's going to go away that easily."
At the same time, the journalist didn't know what to make of this, either. Why was this man calling her Alexis? What did he want with her? He mentioned having a son. Was Alexis his wife, then?
Before Riley could ponder the situation any more, she gasped as she suddenly felt a hand clamp down on her shoulder and spin her around, and she found herself face to face with Patient Five again.
"Alexis, please!" he yelled, "Just listen to me!"
"Get off her!" Marcus snapped, pushing him away, which he regretted a second later.
In a flash, Nolan went from frantic to angry, and he growled as he grabbed Marcus and slammed him against the wall. "Stop it!" Riley yelled, trying to pull Sutton's boyfriend away from Nolan, only to get shoved to the side in the process.
"Help!" Madison screamed, looking frantically down the hallway, "Somebody help us!"
Riley rubbed her shoulder, where a bruise was beginning to form underneath her sleeve, but she ignored it for the time being as she tried to pull Marcus away from the wall again after Nolan tried to punch him across the face.
"Listen, Nolan," she spoke up in a calm voice, "You need to back off, okay? There's no need to get violent."
"We need to get out of here now!" Nolan cried, grabbing Riley's wrist, "They're coming! It's coming!"
"That's enough, Stross!"
All four of them looked up as Dr. Edgars sprinted towards them with a few other nurses in tow.
"Nurse, get his straitjacket," Edgars ordered.
"No!" Stross protested, trying to wrestle his way out of the straitjacket a nurse was now trying to slip over him, "That's my wife! My son! Let me see my family!"
"I said that's enough, Stross!" Riley, Madison, and Marcus watched as the doctor took out a needle and injected it into Patient Five's neck, which Riley realized was a sedative as soon as Stross began to lose his will to fight. He eventually stopped struggling and allowed the nurses to lead him away. Riley sighed as she touched the hand print on her wrist where Stross had grabbed her. There was nothing she could do but watch as the man slowly disappeared around the corner. The only one who didn't go with them was Doctor Edgars, who faced the remaining trio with a look that indicated he was none too pleased with them.
"Nurse Peterson?" he said into his RIG, "Make sure Mr. Stross doesn't somehow wander out of the rehabilitation room again."
"Got it, sir!" the nurse replied from her end as Edgars switched his RIG off and pointed at Riley, Marcus, and Madison.
"You three, follow me," he ordered, and they began to head towards his office. Judging from Marcus's previous encounter with the secretive doctor, Riley realized this wasn't going to turn out well.
Just before they left the area, Riley turned around in time to catch Franco Delille hiding in a secluded corner as he observed the scene in front of him and took notes on a notepad.
"Sit," Edgars ordered as the door slid shut behind him.
"Why?" Riley asked, eyeing him suspiciously.
"Just sit. I have something very serious that I need to discuss with you. Something I'm afraid wasn't made very clear the first time." He glared at Marcus, who returned it as he pulled out a chair and sat down. Madison took her place on Riley's other side, leaving the journalist to take the middle seat. She briefly looked around at the office, which was bathed in a sickly yellow light, almost like the color of jaundice. There were all sorts of medical books on the shelves and holographic screens on the desk. Overall, it didn't seem to give off pleasant working environment vibes like the Titan News offices did.
"Your mother is in one of the stasis units in this area, right?" Edgars asked, "Rochelle DeMaio, you said the other time?"
"Yes, she is," Marcus quipped, "Why do you ask, Doctor?"
Nodding, Edgars took out a pad and made a quick note for himself. "I'm sorry to tell you this," he said, "But I'm afraid she will not be allowed to have any visitors anymore."
"No!" Marcus shouted.
"What?" Madison gasped.
"That's not fair!" Riley protested, "He didn't do anything wrong! None of us did!"
"I asked Mister DeMaio to leave the last time I caught him around this part of the hospital," Edgars explained calmly, "And it seems he has trouble following directions. It's only fair that I end his visitation rights."
Marcus frowned again and leaped up from his chair. "It's not my fault you guys are doing something top secret in here!" he growled.
"Marcus," Riley hissed in a warning tone under her breath, squeezing her hands together on her lap. Madison glanced back and forth between Edgars and her friends, wondering what would happen from there.
"Oh?" the Doctor asked, raising an eyebrow, "And what makes you think we're working on a top secret project?"
Marcus paused, realizing the mistake he had made. "Oh," he echoed, "Well…the way you don't want us around this part of the hospital, for one. And two-"
"Marcus!" Madison spoke up, "Just stop, okay?"
Marcus blinked. "But Madison-"
"Marcus!" Riley hissed again, and the CEC engineer gave both of them confused looks before sitting down once more.
"Well, Mr. DeMaio," Edgars said, clearing his throat, "I can assure you that we're just taking care of all our patients in the best way we can. What you saw today was an example of what happens when patients reject their treatment. Nolan Stross is not sound-minded, and with patients like him, we have to use extra force. I'd say that's nothing out of the ordinary, right?"
"Right!" Riley and Madison chimed in unison.
"Whatever you need to do to make sure nobody steps out of line," Madison added for good measure, leaving Marcus to glower at her.
"Exactly," Edgars quipped, "But I'm afraid I'm going to have to ask security to escort you three out. We can't afford to have anymore of our patients attacking visitors."
Hmm, Riley thought, raising her chin to her hand as she considered everything that had just happened.
Before any of them could move, the door slid open again, and three security guards walked into the room to lead them out.
"Well, you take care of business quickly, don't you?" Marcus muttered sarcastically, and Madison elbowed him in the side in an attempt to quiet him down.
"Thank you, gentleman," Doctor Edgars thanked the guards, "You may show them out of the hospital."
"I'm sorry, Mom," Marcus whispered under his breath, and right before the group stepped back out into the hallway, Riley glanced over her shoulder in time to see Edgars take out a photograph of Patient Five, Nolan Stross.
"Well, that was a failure," Madison huffed, stirring her drink a little bit before sipping some of her bay breeze.
"So much for the plan working, eh, Riley?" she teased, smiling ruefully as she placed her elbows on the bar in front of her.
"So the whole Patient Five debacle threw a wrench in our attempt to reach out to Sutton," Riley agreed, "But don't worry. There's always another chance. We can talk to her in more places than just the hospital."
"Got that right," Marcus piped up. He groaned as he rubbed his shoulder.
"Damn," he cursed, "Nolan Stross is stronger than I thought."
"Are you okay?" Madison asked.
"I'm fine. My back's just going to ache for a few days, but I'll be okay." He put his hand down and sighed.
"Why were you two trying to keep me quiet back in Dr. Edgars' office?"
"Because you were about to let it slip that we're on to EarthGov," Riley answered, "I know you were trying to defend yourself, but I think it's better that they don't know how suspicious we are. We don't know who those doctors report to and it's better if we keep it secret."
Besides, she thought silently to herself, Maybe I can finally figure out what lies Daina and the person who threatened me were talking about. Better yet, why was Franco at the hospital today?
It seemed odd that a Unitologist would take interest in EarthGov's practices at the hospital, since Unitology and EarthGov didn't exactly get along with one another. Perhaps Daina didn't want to go herself, so she sent Franco in her place.
Riley then turned her thoughts back to Nolan Stross as she fingered the hand print again. She wouldn't admit it to the others, but his sudden, violent outburst had scared her. She remembered how her heart had hammered when Stross had knocked Marcus back into the wall because he had been trying to get her away from Patient Five. "They're coming!" he had said frantically before Edgars had given him a sedative, "It's coming!"
What was he talking about? Riley thought, Obviously, the Church seems to be very interested in what he had to say. Everything seems to go back to that damn Church, doesn't it?
She then thought about the fact that he had kept calling her Alexis, even after she had insisted that she wasn't this woman. Was he hallucinating somehow? Edgars had said he wasn't sound-minded, and it seemed to hold true in this case.
But I heard a voice the night of the Symposium, she reminded herself, And then I saw Peter. Was Stross-Nolan-going through something similar?
It seemed the only way for her to find out would be to go back to the Church yet again. Even though she was less than thrilled with them after last night's debacle, they seemed to have a lot of the answers she needed. And she was determined to find out more about them. It was almost as if something kept pulling her back towards Unitology, no matter how much she wanted to resist.
Guess I'll be going back, she thought, downing the rest of her drink as she glanced at the hand print on her wrist again.