Adelle DeWitt stood at the balcony railing, hands tightly wound around the top bar. She observed the actives below with the tentative pride of a tyrant observing her subjects.
"It's perfectly natural." River spoke calmly as she adjusted her sling. She stood by her friend, far from the other dolls, and as far as she knew, in the only blind spot in the entire LA Dollhouse.
Echo drew a quick, irritated breath- exhaling her frustration so it wouldn't show on her face. "And so are leeches, but that doesn't mean that either of us has to like this."
"Actually, leeches-" Her fellow composite shot River a look, prompting her to stay on topic. "Look, I never said I liked playing doll. I don't enjoy retaining my mental capacity to match that of a five year old. But," she continued quickly as Echo opened her mouth to speak, "it's much better than the alternative."
"Death?" the shorter active demanded. "I'm not so sure." She stared at River, her dark eyes as serious and intense as her tone. "This place goes against everything I believe in; everything Caroline has ever believed in. And I'm in as much of the wrong as anyone who volunteered for this, because I've done NOTHING to stop it!" Echo struggled to keep her voice low as the passion of her words stumbled out.
"Death," River parroted, too deep in thought to respond. "Death isn't a substitute for our entrapment." She smiled knowingly, despite her cryptic statement. "It's the solution."
"Not this suicide thing again…"
"No, not suicide," River's lips stretched further into a grin, "freedom."
Topher Brink sulked in the corner of the DC Dollhouse's dimly lit tech room. Bored, he picked at the loose threads of the bean bag chair beneath him. "Need any help with… imprints?" Topher tried, wiggling his fingers in a typing movement.
"Huh, oh," Ivy swiveled around in her desk chair and glanced down at her intern. "No thank you . Um, why don't you get yourself a juice box," she finished weakly before returning to her work.
"Got it boss lady- stay outta your way," Topher joked, slightly bitter as he bounced up to retrieve his treat. He had no qualms about being treated like a child, but it almost seemed as if Ivy didn't trust him. He'd spend almost six months at the famed Dollhouse, and wasn't yet sure how an imprint worked. Still, he had his ideas- boy did he have ideas, and useful ones at that, but his mentor seemed reluctant to get him involved in the process.
"Oh, and Topher," Ivy called, obviously distracted as her eyes never left the computer screen. "Could you fetch Charlie please?"
"On my way." Topher set down his dark purple drink and headed towards the door. Ivy was a nice enough boss, and he didn't mind doing errands for her; he just wished for a more important task.
"I need some help getting her ready for her engagement. It's for a heist, so I thought you might be interested," Ivy explained, smiling at the young genius.
Topher spun around. "Really?" he asked, ecstatic. "That's awesome!" He rushed towards the door once again, but stopped suddenly, messy blonde hair tickling his forehead. "Oh, and I'm sorry for anything… negative I ever thought about you. My brain says sorry!"
Ivy didn't reply, but chuckled lightly as her protégée rushed downstairs to complete his task.
Dollhouse. Dollhouse. It was always the damn Dollhouse- taunting him, stalking him. All of his co-workers thought Paul Ballard had gone off his rocker. True, he had been using the phrase "dollhouse" more than any grown man would like to admit, but he knew the myth was more real than anyone care to acknowledge. He knew that the Dollhouse existed, and he knew that, due to the mockery of his fellow agents, that he would have to be the one to take it down.
Paul was looking over the files (well, file, but he had a few files full of empty papers to make himself appear more productive) when the phone rudely interrupted his wonderings. Truthfully, he was slightly grateful; phone calls seemed to be the only things that brought him back to reality these days.
"Yes?" Agent Ballard asked, automatically pressing the speakerphone button.
"Paul Ballard? FBI Agent in charge of the Dollhouse case?" a low, smooth voice replied.
"I have some information regarding the Dollhouse."
Paul cleared his throat, attempting to hide the tiredness from his voice. "What information?" he demanded, rather weakly.
"The dolls. One of them…" The voice on the other end began to sound nervous. "Well, she… uh… her..."
"Yes, continue please?"
"Her paint's starting to chip!"
Beyond aggravated, Paul slammed down the phone before laughter could follow the punch line. Now he was certain he was on his own in this case.
Echo was perched on the lap one of the richest men in the country, hands wrapped gently around his neck. The engagement was, so far like most other romantic ones she'd been on, boring, if anything. The man's wife sat on the couch opposite from them; which was new, but not surprising considering the woman had employed the Dollhouse almost as often as her spouse.
"You are so cute!" Echo squealed, secretly amused at how high her voice could go without cracking. "I can't stand it!" She gently untangled her fingers from the man's greasy black hair as she pushed off knee and leapt onto the carpet.
"Where you going , sweetie?" her lover whined, chubby face scrunched into a baby-ish pout.
"Just to powder my nose," Echo giggled, casually skipping towards the restroom.
Once inside, her face feel into a sort of nervous grimace. "Sharp objects, sharp objects, sharp objects," she chanted inwardly, desperate to keep her adrenaline level down. A pair of hair scissors on the sink caught her attention, and before she could reconsider, Echo thrust them into her purse.
"Quit moving." Echo's voice came out in a nearly unintelligible growl as she pressed the blade deeper into the folds of her employer's pudgy neck. She began circling him, black heels clinking steadily against the marble floor of the sitting room. Spread out around her lay the motionless forms of the mansion's entire staff.
"I'm I'm s-sure we can w-w-work this out," the rich man stuttered, fear causing him to trip over his words. Echo dug the tip of the half scissors into his flesh, relishing the painful scream that followed "I love you! I love you! Please, please Jenny, baby, I don't want to die! We- we can work this out!" He paused, realizing by the lack of metal on his skin, and the fact that he was still alive, that something in his words had brought her back.
"Tanner?" Echo's neat brows creased into a startled "v". "Tanner!" Her weapon fell as Echo spotted the blood oozing from a wound she'd inflicted. "Oh God, oh god!" she shrieked. "What happened? What hap-hap-" She stopped abruptly, head twitching back and forth as if she was trying to rid her ears of pool water.
Echo's stoic brown eyes attached themselves to the corpulent man's face, her skull settling into an awkward tilted position.
"Jenny?" Tanner tried again, frightened by her silence.
"It's funny isn't it?" Echo observed suddenly, perfectly painted lips easing into a pleasant smile.
"What's funny?" her date facial features mimicked the doll's as he began to relax.
Without warning, Echo stepped closer to him, her dainty fingers forming a noose around his throat. "I said, "it's funny!" So laugh, you porcine funk!"
"Ha-" Tanner began frantically, but was soon cut off by a more agreeable voice.
"I don't think it's funny," Echo whined. She leaned back to examine Tanner, cherishing the horrified expression consuming his large face. "I think blood is funny, let's- SHUT UP!" A frustrated scream echoed through the large room as Echo began stomping her stiletto-ed feet.
Tanner took the opportunity to try and flee, placing his hands on the smooth stone and slowly scooting backwards towards the door.
"Wait, wait!" Echo called, her full attention now on the escapee as she hurried up to him.
"Yes?" Tanner asked, too frightened to raise his voice above a whisper.
"Where do you keep your matches?"
River sank deep into the generously abundant chairs of LA's Union Station. It had taken her a couple days to find the place, because, as it turned out, Echo's description of the "big white building" was a little vague, but now, letting her tired body melt into the dark mustard fabric, River couldn't find a bad word for anyone.
"Three days," Echo had told her friend not 70 hours ago from inside their former prison. "Three days between your escape and mine. We'll have to-"
"That means I'm leaving first," River interrupted, more than a hint of disapproval in her tone.
"Well… yes, but, before you argue, remember that it's your plan that's making our freedom possible in the first place!"
"Besides, it's the least I can do after-" Echo nodded emphatically towards River's left arm. "After that." She knew that River disliked discussing the certain events that had transpired nearly two and a half years ago, but it was often the only weapon she had against the genius' flawless logic.
River let out a light snort, obviously annoyed. "I could say the same thing, but," she added, "I'll agree to leave first, if only to secure the situation for your arrival."
"Fair enough," River laughed, recalling what her fellow composite had said next. The statement wasn't in the least bit humorous, but the casual, almost frustrated, manner in which she had said it was. Echo had a way of making you feel like you'd won after an argument that clearly been in her favor, making it hard to renege any and all agreements made. It was the opposite of gloating, and at the same time, just as aggravating.
Echo was sprinting down a small strip of sidewalk, burnt bare feet stinging as slapped against the cement. Her expensive leather shoes had been discarded, abandoned for the more practical purpose of her escape. It was getting late, near dark as she passed a nice, though unoriginally designed row of apartment buildings. It was then that Echo began to slow, partially because she spotted someone up ahead, but mostly out of exhaustion.
"Hello." Echo stopped in her tracks, recognizing the approaching man as a tenant.
"Huh?" The man made a small, nearly unrecognizable sound, distracted as he tucked a large folder under his arm. "Oh, hi."
Echo nodded politely, smiling as she stepped past him. After what she'd done, attention, especially that that dictated conversation, was the last thing she needed.
"Are you alright?" The tenant called, once again delaying the doll.
Echo made a three sixty, turning to face the man. "Yeah… why?
"There's a…" the brunette man hesitated, hands making a waving motion behind his head, "on your head.
Echo's own pale fingers immediately flew to the back of her neck, cautiously feeling the place where her tracking chip was. "It's just a scratch," she reassured, hiding her bloodied fingers beneath the folds of her skirt.
Echo smiled unsurely, not sure whether it was best to walk away or make up an excuse for her injury. Feeling more than a little awkward, she directed her gaze to the manila file the man was so protectively straddling. "Pretty girl," she commented, trying her best to remain emotionless as she recognized a lone picture sticking out the top, "what happened to her arm?"
- Title: Who I'm Not
- Artist: Yan Qi
Sick of hiding, River and Echo, two composite dolls, assume pseudonyms and escape the LA Dollhouse. While Topher, a DC Dollhouse underling, catches the attention of River/Bennett, both escaped composites gain the animosity of FBI Agent Paul Ballard. AU.
- Date: 09/15/2010
No comments available ...