Day 040: A Walk On Outside
Summary: Cameron and President Dante have a chat on top of the mountain. Ah, the fresh air!
Date: 8 7 2016
Related: None
Dante Cameron 

Top of the Mountain
Day 040

Dante Wallace has been keeping a careful eye on The 23, mostly from a hands-off perspective, relying on reports and security footage. Cameron has caught his attention, and reports from Dr. Kirschenfeld has solidified the idea in his head. He has requested that Cameron be brought to Level 1, and he stands at a heavy door with both a keycard and mechanical wheel lock. He is dressed in a hazmat suit, hood already up over his white hair, but mask tucked under his arm. He smiles at the sight of Cameron — a calm and easy smile that has all the grandfatherly charm he exuded in the Visitor's Quarters. "Hello, Mister Scott. I thought you might want to join me on a top secret mission."

If the President got reports, for the first few days? Cameron was not doing well at all. Oh, he got paints, and during painting he seemed fine, but anytime not… he was nervous, tired, barely eating, and worse, sleeping almost not at all. By a few days in he was almost a walking corpse. Then a session with the resident psychiatrist had him on some PTSD medication and he's sleeping through the nights, and at least eating. The difference is night and day. Oh, he's still a bit nervous and has a tendency to look at the ceiling like it's going to collapse, but he's alive at least. And healthy, no bags under his eyes or looking self-starved. Cam bounces back quick. He can't help but smile at Dante back, his dimples showing, "You can call me Cameron, Mr. President. Mr. Scott sounds like my Dad." He glances … some direction, really, what he thinks of as 'out' though it probably bears very little resemblance to reality except its up-ish, "He's a botanist, too. And an artist. Thank you for the paint." He nods his head quickly then, "Oh, I'd be up for doing anything that's useful, sir. And I can keep a secret." He kept his Exhibition going for a year after all, but he's not spilling the criminal thing. They made that mistake with the Trikru.

Dante smiles broader, and then he nods. "You won't need one of these, but I do." He nods to the pair of guards who have escorted Cameron, and then dons his mask over his face. He flashes his keycard over the reader, it beeps, and then he gives the wheel a good spin to unlock the massive door. It swings back, leading into an airlock. Dante steps inside, gestures Cameron to follow, and then he closes the door. The process is simple, gaining them access to the outside, but it takes a few minutes. Once the second door opens, it reveals a grassy plateau covered in fresh summer flowers. There are two armed guards one either side of the door, and they straighten up from their relaxed positions as the president steps out.

His voice is muffled when he speaks through the mask, "I got the sense that you could use a bit of fresh air." Humor is easily heard in his voice despite his face now being obscured by the mask. "This is my favorite spot." And it is easy to tell why, despite the isolation the plateau provides. Morning fog climbs up around the treetops over the edge of the precipes. He clasps his hands behind his back several paces out onto the grass. He glances at the security cameras that continuously scan this area, and then back to Cameron. "It is safe… the Outsiders have never found a way up the cliffs to get here. Quiet, peaceful… even I sometimes feel the weight of the walls and ceilings, and I grew surrounded by them."

With an understanding nod to the mask, Cameron follows the President into the airlock. He's noticibly more nervous in the enclosed space, but growing up on a space station, he knows airlocks. Then… its outside. Cameron steps forward, and looks around wide eyed, looking immediately as if the weight of the world was off of his shoulders. Crouching by some flowers, he bends down to see if they smell, without damaging them by picking. "Words are interesting. You call them Outsiders. We call them Grounders. I think both come from a similar place: we came out of our secure little haven where we spent our lives preserving what is important to us— you, art, us, science— and find a people that somehow thrived without any of our technology or power. And that people promptly took offense at the intrusion and tried to kill you." And then, Cameron just… sits down. Looking up at the sky, the distant horizon, dimples showing in a warm smile. But— "Any news on the search parties? I know the Ark didn't crash. I don't know how good your exterior surveillance is, but the Exodus ship that blew up the Grounder village… THAT was a crash. The explosions were of distinct characters. The Arkers are out there. That's maybe as many as twenty four hundred people, though… they probably took casualties."

Dante watches. If Cameron could see his expression, he would see the envy at being able to smell the blooms. He has never smelled a flower before. He listens to Cameron, and he offers a deep chuckle in reply. "Yes… we're inside, they are outside… you were in the sky, they were on the ground… words are funny things." He then slips into quiet, and he releases a heavy sigh in response to Cameron's inquiry. "We have found the wreckage of several of what you call stations so far… we have not found any survivors in the wreckage. I can show you footage of you would like that our Ground Units have recovered." He pauses, hands clasped tighter behind his back, and his posture looks foreboding. "I did not offer to show you before… your people have lost so much… I did not want to cause more distress."

Cameron freezes, his entire body tensing up, but at least this time it's not from an impending panic attack. "None?" If his tone is disbelieving, it doesn't sound personally disbelieving. "The One Hundred…. the Twenty Three… can't be the last of the Ark. The last of twenty five hundred people who struggled for a century against impossible odds to preserve the old world. We can't be. No." He shakes his head slowly, "My Mom gave her life to save the three twenty, they can't all be dead now." He digs his fingers down into the dirt, shaking a moment, but with a deep breath he forces this emotion down. Taking control. He's good at that. So he asks what's really been bugging him. "Why are you helping us, Mr. President? For real? Don't get me wrong I think you're people are perfectly capable of being nice, and if we're just 23 we aren't going to be a big drain on your resources— and you obviously have farm production more then capable of handling your population, where we're used to strict rationing. Is it because of *what* we are or what we know? I don't mind if you have an ulterior motive. I just mind not knowing what it is."

"Easy," Dante says, tone comforting. "You are alright… it is alright." He reaches out, almost to set a hand on the boy's shoulder, but stalls himself. Fingers close, and he merely offers Cameron a small nod. "There is hope that some may have survived, but we have not found them. Not yet." He then returns his hands behind his back, looking out over the plateau with a slight tilt of his head. He watches the way the softest breeze causes the grasses and flowers to dance, and he finds himself unable to flat out lie to the young man. "Genetics," he says simply. "Well, more than genetics… first there is a sense of commonality. Your people came from this country's — and other's — space stations. Vessels of hope and progress. We have maintained our culture down here, and you maintained yours — as best you could. I have heard that you even watch old football games." He grins wryly, though it is heard in his voice instead of seen. "Beyond that… genetics. We are exactly three-hundred and fifty two. Not large… quite small… and we have managed to maintain our generations, but each passing one becomes weaker. By adding your into our community, we not only extend your lives through our protection, but also our own by adding you to our gene pool." His voice carries a small smile, and he laughs a bit. "Crude, I'm sure… but if we are to continue to survive… well…"

"That's what I thought." Cameron nods his head slowly, "It only makes sense. All the citizens of the Ark, we're descended from the original astronauts— who were all genetically engineered. I don't know the details of the treatment, its not my field, but everyone of us knows that. Its probably what helped us survive in the Ark for the last century. Its probably what helps us survive the ground— though it never occurred to me once that there was any serious radiation until one of your men told me you guys all need suits to go outside. I put two and two together, then. I think in a few generations, our genetic legacy might mean you don't need suits either." He seems comforted by there being a REASON. A for real reason. "I understand survival." He nods his head slowly, "I'll do anything for my people, for us to survive, to thrive. Survival is the first duty of the living." He wrinkles his nose, "Three seventy five if we're with you, against… We never got a clear idea of how many people were in the Coalition of theirs, but one village had five hundred, we heard the one that was destroyed had seven… and there are at least several villages to one clan— that's thousands just in the Trikru. The way they talk about Azgeda to the north makes them at least as large, and that's just two clans of twelve. You're outnumbered massively. You could make use of those of us who can fight and don't need suits. Don't get me wrong your Ground Units are clearly capable, but I'm not the only one feeling… confined."

Dante listens with that dutiful, grandfatherly ear. He nods gently when Cameron sees the logic and understanding, and even offers a small smile — unseen still — when he confirms that he understands. "There is more, of course… but yes, that is a start." He hesitates then, and it is impossible to cover that up — suit or not. He then continues, pushing forward. "Dr. Salvador and the rest of the medical researchers do think there is a way your people could help this generation… now, and not later… your friend Ruth has volunteered to help as our first test patient… and I hear she has been quite charming." He releases his hands, reaching down to collect a yellow flower in his gloves, spinning it slowly. "Your blood metabolizes the radiation quickly and efficiently… Dr. Salvador believes transfusions could help build a resistance to the outside…" His voice holds a soft, sad, and yet hopeful note. Then he looks up as Cameron speaks of the Outsiders, and their organization. He nods slightly. "We are aware… somewhat. Since we emerged decades ago, for the first time, and ran into the Outsiders, we have been watching them, observing." He nods slightly at his words. "And yes, they greatly outnumber us… which is why we have often reduced ourselves to very violent means of driving them off." He listens though, and he nods slightly. "Your offer is quite a large one, Cameron… and one I would have to discuss with my son."

"I would be willing donate. Arkers are all universal doners, too; I assume he would have checked Ruth's blood factors— its not a fluke with just her. We all are. Its one part of the genetic heritage." Cameron nods his head, finding the idea of giving blood not a problem at all, so there's not even any hesitation in his agreeing. He grins a bit even, looking up to the President in his mask, "I'll just make a point to ask for an extra ration at night to rebuild blood volume." Even with their apparent surplus of food, Cameron can't help but think in terms of rations. "Of course, you don't have to decide now— but my advice, President? The more you put us to use and make us feel *useful* the better we'll integrate. We're a practical people. I'm volunteering to help Scarlett in the Art storage— which is almost an indulgence on my part, but I just don't think you need one more botanist. That's why I'd rather train to be a Guard. Er. Ground Unit. I'm a *good* scout. Speaking of, can I have my knife back? I don't expect the gun of course, but surely agreeing to the transfusion shows a gesture of good will on my part, and I just… over the last month, got really used to being armed all the time. I feel like I'm naked." Pause, "In a bad way." Morganisnotdead.

Dante's smile is heard again through his words. "Excellent… we should see if there are others who would do the same." Then he nods in agreement on the extra food, and he laughs. "Of course, Cameron… we will provide you with extra meals if needed." Then he nods slightly. "I have heard that, and we are trying… there is much you can offer us, and us to you. Already we have your friend… ah… I think she goes by Tink… working with Sergeant Cooper on some linguistics work. And Cookie has been quite a breath of fresh air in the kitchens." He grins. "Chef Zola is not used to be ordered around."

"That's Cookie." agrees Cameron with a grin and a nod, rising up from where he sat, brushing off his pants, "Somehow she managed to make foraged food and radiated mutant meat taste relatively good." That said, he lifts a hand up to run it through his hair lightly, "I'm sure most would. I mean, its not like donating blood was unuusal on the Ark. We had to maintain supply for surgical procedures, after all. It's the least we could do, especially if it helps your people survive better."

"Thank you again, Cameron… I will let Dr. Salvador know you are interested in assisting in this. My people have always longed to be able to step out onto the ground." A strange similarity between the Ark and Mount Weather, it seems. "To do so now would bring us all great joy." Then he gestures to the door, guiding Cameron back. "We will need to go through some protocols before you can rejoin your people inside, but it won't take long. Let's go back inside. If this helped, we can come back out again in a few days… I enjoy the respite as well."

"This is Eden-preserved heaven." Cameron nods his head firmly, "But I understand the need for safety protocols." So he heads towards the door, and once he's inside the airlock, he doesn't immediately tense up, some peace of having been outside apparently lingering. "Believe me the last thing I want to do is to put anyone in danger. Who would take care of all that art then?" With that he grins, dimples flashing.

Dante laughs — full and earnest. He rests his hand gently on Cameron's shoulder. "Yes," he agres, "who would?" Then he gestures the door to be opened, and the two head inside, followed by the guards. The flowers are left, Dante not even looking back. Though there is a sense of loss as he leaves them behind.

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