skielights

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Everything posted by skielights

  1. G First Day Discussion

    Yajuu, I've finally written everything out and PM'ed you. I hope everyone enjoys this RP as much as I have! I shall continue to read it when I can. :)
  2. G First Day Discussion

    Thanks Yajuu. I'm gonna miss this RP and Max and Kess' dynamic. Thanks for an engaging and fun story (Yajuu and everyone). :) I'll shoot you a PM with Kess' stuff on Thursday.
  3. G First Day Discussion

    Hey everyone... A lot of stuff has come up in real life, not just "busy" stuff but hard, critical, and/or needs-lots-of-immediate-attention stuff. I know I've let you all down and I'm sorry, and I don't want to back out of the story cause it's interesting and fun to RP. But...*sigh*...I don't see anything letting up for at least another month, and then dance starts again and I'll be working more. I don't know what else to tell you guys except that I think I'm going to have to either take/phase Kess out or give her to one of you. It sucks, but real life first. :/ I'll miss y'all a lot...let me know whether you want someone to take her over and I'll outline some of what I figured could be happening in her brain. (And then you can mess with it however, or chuck it.) Thanks for waiting. ~skielights
  4. G First Day Discussion

    Hooray for posts and new members. :) I'm just now on the other side of a performance which, though it was both really fun and well received, drained my time an energy. (Not to mention health- still getting over an awful cold.) anyway, I have the next month off of dance, so I'll be able to post here in a couple days. Just have to consider all these lovely new characters. :) Thank you all for being patient!
  5. G First Day Discussion

    Sure, go for it! Good to have you, vplx?
  6. G First Day Discussion

    T1R...that sucks :p I hope you get remember enough of it! Yajuu- I'm waiting for T1R, but rereading everything does sound like good idea. I shall as well. :)
  7. G First Day Discussion

    Me too! Glad to hear you're still planning. :)
  8. G First Day Discussion

    Success! Thanks for a good post. :) (PS: Oh my gosh, Ray Ruine stuffed in a cleaning closet. Actual loling has occurred.)
  9. G First Day Discussion

    Oy, so, did you want to be the one who takes them into Culver's lair of lairs, or should I do that? It almost looks like we're both trying to let the other person, but that could just be me. :) T1R, I'm glad you have a master plan :D
  10. “It’s nice to meet you, Ryan,†Jenny sincerely responded, “My name is Jenny Henders; I’m the librarian here and have been for decades. However, I’m afraid there are circumstances at this school which are difficult for any of us to understand, much less communicate in any comprehensible manner.†Jenny was sure this boy would never believe the real story. “As for Jordan, your current teacher…you’re the only one in this classroom for a reason, young man. He may test your mind to see if you’re fit for the fast-track program, on which you most definitely should avoid being placed, if you decide to stay here at all-†Jenny stopped midsentence, and turned to the front doors. Her face paled a shade or two as she identified Max and Kess at the door, and Val between them. “Valerie Henders, how did you end up like this?†she murmured to herself. She only remembered the boy after Val had seen her and quickly looked away. “Do you understand, Ryan? Stay off the fast-track, if you stay here at all.†~~ Kess didn’t want to feel sympathy for Pierson, but when it came down to it, his screams churned her stomach just as much as her new friend’s death-still body. Kess jumped when the keys flew at her face, and only freed herself after Val gave her a short nod. The trip upstairs ought to have been a relief, but from the moment she’d woken, a knot of pressure had been building at the back of Kess’ head. She figured her brain was just reacting to having a foreign person in it. Apparently too many things had finally happened and her brain couldn’t process any more. When she’d thrown up her hands to catch the keys, though, six layers of memory had burst over her current vision. Six different sets of hands overlayed her own, catching six different sets of keys and shoving them in various locks she couldn’t make out because everything was piled together like the pictures had been in her mind. Kess squeezed her eyes shut against a spike in her headache, realizing that this was the same one which had started clear back at the hotel. Her foot, and three other vividly remembered feet, made their unsteady way up their respective flights of stairs. When Kess drew in a deep breath, the number of feet before her eyes doubled, then abruptly shrank to just her own again. “Oh my gosh, quit talking,†Kess mumbled at Valerie and Max. Not only was every word jangling around in her thoughts, but Max was waltzing outside going on about his bike as if he hadn’t just snapped a man’s arm and made him scream in pain. Seeing him smile at the sky so soon afterward was strange and unsettling. “…They don’t have to take it home, but off the street would be ideal.†“Stop it, Max.†Kess spoke without meaning to. Val shot her a look. Kess shifted uncomfortably and cut the nervous undertone from her voice. “Your stupid bike is the last thing we need to worry about. Let’s just go, okay?†The stamp on Max’s neck seemed more real than it had been yesterday. Kess stared openly at it, unable to be more subtle while new images transposed themselves against the mark. Apparently there were a myriad of memories in her brain associated with the out-of-place yellow flower. Or maybe the whole thing was Not-Culver. According to past-Dad, staying with the real Culver’s people for a little while was the only way to figure out how to tame whatever this new deal was. Kess had been so focused on her thoughts that she didn’t process what sort of vehicle she was climbing into, or who was next to her. She spent the entire drive pushing foreign memories out of her sight, keeping her eyes fixed on an object that was actually in the car with her. The closer they got to school, the more often something tried to stretch across her entire vision and become the reality she was looking at. At least, that’s how it felt at the moment. It was like an upgraded version of the key memory from the night before. The thing that brought her back to the physical moment was Pierson’s voice next to her rather than up front. Val looked annoyed, as if she could tell he’d butted in to say something she’d been about to get to. Pierson spoke in a warning tone, so Kess tuned in to make sure she didn’t miss anything important. All she caught was “And both of you-“, and even that only halfway, as there was a simultaneous wrenching yank on her arm. Pierson’s good arm pulled her wrist across the back of the car. “Hey!†Kess instinctively scowled at Pierson, until his booted foot pressed her arm down at the elbow, forcing Kess forward until she was bent double in her seat. His hand clamped around her wrist and pulled the opposing way, somewhat mirroring the hold Max had just employed on Pierson’s arm. Kess’ protest died fast as she realized that though Pierson’s method was a bit different, Kess’ arm could definitely end up just like Pierson’s if he chose to push his foot down much harder. “You toe the line from here on out, children,†Pierson’s breath was a tad ragged- no doubt his snapped joint wasn’t appreciating the spurt of movement. “You pull anything like you did this morning and the results of your actions will be replicated, understood?†“Yeah,†Kess shakily responded. Pierson pressed her arm a tiny bit further, and somewhere inside Kess’ head something shifted. Kess felt it whip outward like the mini-Kess had in the memory pile, and somehow rode it straight at Pierson’s left temple. Kess felt a bit of a rippling shock when it hit, but Pierson went completely slack against the backseat. “Pierson!†Val barked at him. Kess snatched her hand away from his limp one and tucked her knees under her chin. What was that? Was it her? Could she do it again? Her heart pounded against her knees. Pierson was only out for a few seconds, but it was enough. He shot Kess a dark look that just might have held a bit of fear beneath it. But that was probably just Kess’ imagination. “Things like that. That will be paid for.†He paused, frowned at his arm, and glanced out the window as the car slowed to a stop. Val signaled Max to follow her outside. Kess caught the tail end of their conversation- something about it looking more natural if Kess and Max seemed to simply arrive at the same time, rather than in the same car. Kess peered out the back window and saw two things: the school flagpole a couple blocks away, and Max’s bike behind the car. Some Culver flunkie gave the keys to Val and headed over to Pierson with a bag that must have contained stuff for his arm. Kess found it easier to just think him stupid for pulling a stunt like he had while his arm hadn’t even been looked at yet. Well, stupid or altered like Max. Val headed back to the driver’s seat. “And I’m the impulsive, unpredictable one?†she muttered to Pierson. “That wasn’t impulsive. That was as necessary as practically emptying that bike’s gas tank.†“Which was the best time I’ve had in a while,†the Culver flunkie took Pierson’s seat by Kess, and Pierson moved to the front. Everyone ignored him as Pierson moved to the front. “I’m not sure how well Max is taking warnings lately,†Val rode the bike’s tail hard enough for revenge on being called Valerie, at least for the minute it took to reach the school parking lot. “I tried to scare him earlier and he just laughed at me.†Kess leaned her head against the car window, where it bounced just the slightest bit (as did the memories of two other heads on two other windows). Having this multi-layer thing long term wasn’t going to work well for her half-sanity. That fact, coupled with Max’s own differentness, finally got Kess to decide. She needed to stick with Culver, just long enough to find Dad and get her brain under control. Max didn’t need to stay, but Kess did. So Max wouldn’t stay. But Kess would. Maybe they wouldn’t even go after him anymore after today. Or at least, wouldn’t go after him as a high priority, like he was when he was with Kess. Even though she’d chosen to stay, actually stepping out onto the concrete sidewalk with Val took a huge mental push. Max was parking, so Val and Kess walked slow so they all met in the airlock. Val was already on the phone, confirming that yes they were there and no, nobody else was. Kess hoped that Katy’s guys would be able to do their part of the plan as well as Max seemed to think he could do his. Kess barely looked up at Max long enough to meet his eyes. She wanted to grab his arm or say something- generally signal that they were in sync and had each other’s support. But they weren’t in sync, and Kess didn’t know how stable Max really was. So she focused her attention on the kid sitting in Clearwater’s old classroom instead and waited for Culver’s office door to open.
  11. G First Day Discussion

    Not a problem. It seems to be a pretty pivotal post after all. : > (Plus I've been on vacation for the past four days, so I've been distracted!) It seems that T1R may not know we use this thread too, so I'll point them this way.
  12. NC-17 [Private] Falling Star

    Zoe grudgingly helped Jake pack up camp. It took less time than Zoe had estimated, and soon they were climbing into the RV to head off. Zoe immediately set herself to securing all loose objects inside, to avoid a repeat of yesterday’s avalanche. Halfway through her task, they hit the uneven excuse for a road, where a majority of the objects began to shake themselves free again. Zoe ended up throwing about a third of their kitchen onto her mattress before giving up. She sat down on the free corner of her mattress, arms crossed in irritation until she caught Uncle Jake’s eyes in the mirror. Or rather, she caught him staring worriedly ahead, half at the road and half at nothing. “Watch the road, Uncle Jake! Alex is okay now, you can stop worrying about him!†Zoe called, then winced. “…please.†Jake blinked the cloudiness out of his eyes and met Zoe’s through the mirror. “Sorry about that. Don’t want to scare you,†Jake grinned, and gave the wheel a quick jerk to the right. Zoe squealed as the RV lurched, then turned grumpily away from her uncle while he laughed. The mirror had given her an idea, though. With her back still toward Jake, Zoe pulled a handheld mirror out of her smallest bag. She held it even with her neck, and tugged the necklace’s cloth cover down until the disc in the middle was fully visible. The shifting colors were still captivating, but Zoe ignored them and pushed a finger into the middle of the disc. It lit for a second, rather like the pulse the ship’s light had emitted, then settled back to its normal state. Keeping the mirror trained on the disc, Zoe stretched out her hand until it brushed some metal object. As it did, the shifting in the disc froze, the clouds of color locked into place. Zoe glanced at her hand. The object she’d touched was one of the kitchen knives, but her hand was still completely normal. “Huh,†Zoe frowned, and brought her hand up to her face. The RV bounced again, and Zoe threw her against the wall for stabilization. When she moved it away, five small holes punctured the side of the RV, right above her pillow. “Okay then,†Zoe breathed, “not always visible. Ow!†She’d gone to pick up something else- a bowl- and broken the side of it with her sudden magnified strength. One of the sharp edges had sliced her hand a bit. She eyed it nervously. Apparently having the strength of the knife's metal didn't give her it's resilience as well. Zoe tilted her head against the wall, to cover the holes, and thought.The electricity had only lasted for about thirty seconds, but the silver coating of the ship had stayed significantly longer. Maybe there was a code word? Zoe tried whispering several possibilities before giving up and shaking her hand in frustration. “Fine,†she glared at the still-frozen disc, and pulled the cloth back over her choker. They drove for the rest of the day, which felt like four with all of Uncle Jake’s past camping stories, Alex’s pestering, and the fact that Zoe could only walk six paces in one direction at most. She almost broke several parts of the RV more than once, and at one point Uncle Jake tried to make Alex and Zoe sing a road trip song. It didn’t work. Zoe felt half sorry for him and half relieved. “What’s something else we can do?†she asked, and immediately wished she could take it back. They’d already played The Alphabet Game three times and Deserted Island five. Uncle Jake glanced back at her with a sudden excited smile. “Y’know, we haven’t stopped for a while, and it’s almost dinnertime,†he began. Zoe shifted in her seat. So far, so good. “I happen to know of an amazing place right around here. How would you kids like to get some ice cream?†Ice Cream? Zoe gazed at her uncle. Had he actually suggested something good? "Ice cream?" Alex repeated, his tone cautionary. "As in actual ice cream, with real, y'know, ingredients? Not soybean ice cream or tofu ice cream or anything like that?" “Soy ice cream?†Zoe echoed, horrified at what she figured it must look like, “they make that stuff?†Uncle Jake laughed. “Y’know, some of that stuff is even better than real ice cream.†He quickly continued at their horrified faces. “Yes, yes, real ice cream this time! I can think of plenty of versions that are better for you, though.†He had already pulled the RV off the highway, and was making his way through a town similar to the one Zoe had seen before. She saw the sign before she saw the store itself. The painted double-scoop sign declaring that “Locally Made Ice Cream sold here†was actually visible from the highway. Zoe thought this might have been overkill, but she supposed it didn’t matter as long as it was true. Zoe led the way through the glass doors and hurried over to the freezers closest to the cash register, where a smaller version of the double-scoop sign drew her. She stopped suddenly at the rows of bright packages, even though it meant Alex ran into her. “Uncle Jake, this was the best idea all day!†"This was the only idea all day." Alex muttered, pushing past Zoe as he started to browse the different aisles, looking for snacks. There were twenty one flavors listed in huge letters around the double-scoop. Each one of them sounded better than anything Zoe had ever eaten before. Zoe hopped from one foot to the other in excited indecision. A ways behind them, the door swung open again. Zoe automatically turned, and saw a guy in a hat and huge sunglasses, wearing a jacket entirely too heavy for the summer’s heat. Both hands were stuffed in his pockets as he made his way past “That guy’s in the wrong season, Uncle Jake†Zoe grinned, “So, what do I get: turtle cheesecake or deep double chocolate brownie? Or both! Alex,†she glanced around for him, “what are you getting?â€
  13. G First Day Discussion

    I was assuming that T1R was aiming to be a kid who was nearby when Max and Kess came back to meet Culver. Was this correct? Also, is T1R okay, or shall I call you something else? :)
  14. Max’s laugh was startling and a little loud. Kess had been about to start worrying about her dad again, but his words just then: “Unless that’s too boring for youâ€, had a distinctly familiar ring to them, as if the phrase had been directed at her many times before. Was it Max’s voice she almost remembered hearing? Or someone else’s? His laughing cut her thoughts down, first replacing them with another dose of confidence, then undercutting that with his next answers. Or rather, the way he stated them. There was no way Max could have mentioned John’s death without so much as blinking. Come to think of it, he’d always avoided stating what happened. It was the first time Kess had ever heard “bullet to the faceâ€. Kess frowned at him around her pipe and Max’s as he chuckled again. “Sure, Max. Funny…Are you sure you didn’t whack your head on the car earlier?†She was reminded again how little she knew about the guy she’d spent the past two days with. Should she even trust him to follow through on the plan? Treating Val like an enemy just seemed wrong. Culver couldn’t have actually got to her, could he? She hadn’t really hurt them. Maybe she was already planning something, too. Kess decided now probably wasn’t the best time to bring up the issue. Val herself could be right outside their door. “She hates being called Valerie,†Kess automatically informed Max, “but I guess I don’t have any more questions right now.†Kess was certain; something was wrong with Max. She had to get that odd not-tattoo off of him, and she had to keep her mouth shut about the girl currently sitting on the pipe above above. Max apparently hadn’t noticed the perception filter around her, and the only way to keep it that way was for him to fall asleep. “Yeah,†Kess leaned her forehead against the pipe, “yeah, sleep sounds great. We can’t really get much else done, anyway.†There wasn’t really a comfortable way to sit, but that didn’t matter as much since Kess was staying awake, anyway. It seemed to take forever for Max to fall asleep, but his breathing finally evened out, and didn’t falter when Kess whispered his name. There would be no reason for not-Culver to fake sleeping, as he would hear and see everything that happened whether Max was awake or not. So, Kess figured everything was as it seemed and turned her face upward to the girl who’d followed Kess since the mall. “If you’re working with them,†Kess asked quietly, “why are you hiding up there?†The girl dropped down by Kess’ right shoulder. I’m not working with them, she spoke in the odd, silent way of hers. Kess saw the tiniest of tremors shake her hands. “Are you okay?†Kess nodded at them. The girl met Kess’ eyes, then locked her gaze in somehow. My brother and I need those keys, she held up a hand. Kess remembered the boy from the library with his reflexive grip, and the way he’d had to fight what his hands started to do. “I’m sorry, I really want to help, but I have no idea what keys you need or where they are.†Kess found even actively turning her head couldn’t break the hold this girl had on her gaze. “What are you doing?†she shifted back, but couldn’t really go anywhere with her hands cuffed to the pipe. Sorry, the girl reached out a hand, I’m gonna have to wake you up a bit to find them. “Wh-“ Kess started, but something stopped her. Not with a hand on her mouth, more like a block of the path between her thought and her voice. Kess felt her eyes widen, or start to. Even that tiny motion was took forever from her current point of view. Was the room slowed down, or was Kess’ mind sped up? With a silent shift that felt like rushing air, the room disappeared. Remember not to talk, Kessa. Not-Culver! What is this? And don’t you dare use my dad’s voice! Something was different about him, but Kess placed the difference almost immediately. It was like answering a call and talking to an automated recording rather than a person. Could Not-Culver do that? I’m not Not-Culver. I’m a memory planted years ago to help you figure this process out. If I’m coming up, it means you need to relearn how to unlock somebody. That, or something has got deep enough into your head to start pulling things out. Either way, you have to stay with Culver. No one else knows how to handle you just yet. The grin Kess heard behind her dad’s voice sealed it. It was Dad, a long time ago. The voice on the phone hadn’t been Dad, Val had confirmed at the mall. So this memory had to be safe. Okay, Kess replied. As soon a she spoke, heaviness poured over her in the form of millions and millions of half-second images, layering over each other, urgently pressing against her vision. First find yourself in the memory, past-Dad instructed. Instict shot a miniature picture of Kess into the rapidly piling images. Before Kess could even wonder how that happened, the images stopped. Kess was in the picture in front of her, along with an elderly man and a red-haired woman. They were sitting in a park somewhere, the couple on a bench, Kess in the tree’s lowest branch. A little ways off was the memory of the other girl, swimming in the lake with a brown-haired boy. Her brother? Don’t remember this, past-Dad warned, just find the key. Kess was halfway into the picture already, it took an outside hand pulling her back to keep her out. Kess smiled at the other girl, completely unsurprised to find her there. At that moment, the Kess in the memory spoke while tugging a seed off of a tree branch. She gripped it in her hand, and carefully placed it in her pocket. When she pulled her hand out again, the seed was thicker, more solid somehow, and it drew Kess toward it. She glanced over at the other girl, who nodded and pointed back to the picture. Apparently this was a key. Kess stuck her hand into the picture- her hand moved at normal speed this time- and snatched the seed from memory-Kess. As suddenly as they’d come, the millions on millions of pictures vanished. The seed in Kess’ hand thrummed with bottled energy. This is so weird, Kess giggled. The other girl nodded back at her before turning sharply to examine some distant image. Kess leaned around her. Is something wrong? Cause if not, that’s kinda my memory and it’s weird having you able to see everyth- At this point, it’s almost been long enough to seem strange to those around you, memory-Dad interrupted, unless you’re by yourself, you’ll have to keep this key until later. Go ahead and put it in your pocket, and when you’re back to normal, don’t act like anything happened, okay? People are probably used to you spacing out. Kess slid the seed into her pocket, and with the same rushing sensation as before, Kess and the other girl were back in the room with Max. It took a bit for Kess to readjust to the comparatively sluggish speed at which her body moved. She tried to ask the girl what to do next, but her thoughts wouldn’t reconnect to her mouth. “Don’t worry about it, you’ll reintegrate,†the girl held out a water bottle, which Kess greatfully emptied with her help. “Why’d you try to kidnap me earlier?†Kess questioned her. “I have to get my brother unlocked so I can find him. Sorry about that.†Kess smiled. “Sorry about aiming a gun at your face.†“I could tell you wouldn’t actually shoot me. Anyway, now you have his key, so all we have to do is wait for Max’s plan to take its course. I’ll meet up with you later and then we can-“ The door’s huge lock-bars scraped open. The girl seized Kess’ water bottle and dove for some shadows. A filter’s blurry edges rose around her as Val and her partner entered the room, guns drawn. “Who else is here?†Val demanded of Kess. Her partner double-took a spot on the floor near Kess. When Kess followed his glance, her eyes found a trail of water drops spilled across the floor. She looked back, wide-eyed, at Val’s partner just in time to see him fire into the shadows. The girl fell soundlessly out of the shadows and her filter. Kess only turned back in time to see her forehead hit the floor. Kess screamed, Pierson flipped keys into his hand and unlocked her cuffs. Val pulled Kess toward the door when she lunged back. “Pierson! What the hell!†Val shouted. Her face was a little whiter than normal. “Culver needed her for as long as she could last!†“She was aiding in their escape,†Pierson stated calmly, and freed Max from the pipe. “Come on, they’re supposed to be at Culver’s door in an hour.†It's been all night already? Kess had room for one confused thought before the library boy and the girl here with them crowded her mind. Just how often did death happen around these people? Just how often was it some kid trying to look out for her brother? Val steered Kess out the door after they both shot a last look at the girl. “We can still call…†Kess tried. Val shook her head. “No. We can’t," Val grimaced when Pierson wasn't looking, "We’ve got to get you back to school.†~ Jenny peered into what used to be Shawyne Clearwater’s room. It was already blank-slated; All of the past teacher’s things were boxed and crowded into a far corner from which Miss Knight would later make them disappear as effectively as their owner. Jenny glanced at the empty desk and then gazed at the chipped grey floor tiles as she approached the lone boy in the classroom. “I believe you’re one of the transfers, correct?†Jenny asked. She continued before anyone could walk through the doorway. “A word of advice, strange thought it will seem at present: Please consider transferring out of this class, and any other classes taught by Jordan.â€
  15. NC-17 [Private] Falling Star

    Zoe peered back at Alex as she descended the RV steps. He did look pretty sick. If the meds Zoe could find in town didn’t help, there would be no choice but to send him home. Twenty-four hours ago, Zoe would have immediately leapt at the chance to spend time out here without Alex, even with the weird food. After the spaceship, though… She’d spent all morning trying to figure out how the whole thing could have been a prank, or a setup from some TV show. A few options she’d worked out made sense up until her arm had turned into freaking metal. There was no denying that evidence, unless there’d been hallucinogens pumped out of the spaceship or something, which was both illegal and super expensive. “And stupid,†Zoe stated aloud. Her voice sounded sharper than she’d expected it to; she was almost embarrassed at its sound cutting through the subtler noises that filled the air around her. It was an odd feeling for a city girl, being the only person out in the forest. It was half disorienting and half peaceful; Zoe would normally have taken as long as she could to get to the road. Today, however, all thought not centered on the life and breath around her was glued to the necklace under her jacket. What exactly was it supposed to do? Ought she try pushing her thumb against it again and seeing if she started turning silver? Or was it a fluke last night that she hadn’t become a life-sized Zoe monument? Or memorial. She didn’t hear the road before she saw it as there was nobody currently driving. She was surprised at how fast she arrived; the events weighing on her mind must have pushed her legs to nervous pacing speed. The town was only a little further, and she could already see the store Uncle Jake had mentioned. It wasn’t that far off, but it was the first time Zoe had been in an unknown town completely on her own before. She slowed her feet to a less noticeable pace, taking in all she could while trying not to draw any attention to herself. The town was essentially a small cluster of houses and family-operated shops. A single steeple stretched above one corner, a library and an auditorium dominated the other. Some of the houses were immaculate and charming, some showcased old paint curling up from warped wood. A couple were abandoned and slowly becoming the town’s blind spots behind tall grass and layers of dust. Zoe was torn between a desire to explore one of them, and the fact that such an act would clearly be trespassing. Not to mention the instability of the houses’ structure at that point. One more tap and the shell of a shelter would probably come crashing down. Of course, crashing made Zoe think of the spaceship and its occupant. What tragedy had she and her brother walked in on? If it had even been real. Despite the undeniable reality of the metal loop around her neck, Zoe still struggled to believe that she’d seen an alien between three and four that morning. Dylan’s Grocery was clean and organized; Dylan himself smiled behind the counter as Zoe tried to pick which medicine was best for her brother. When she was as confident in her choice, she rushed through the remainder of her mental list and arranged it all on the front counter. She could see perfectly out the side window from the register. The sun was bright and hot, an older couple was out for a jog. A boy a year or two younger than Zoe was sitting on a bench in the town’s little park, sketching something. Zoe was amazed. Everything looked so normal for what had happened right outside town hours ago. While Dylan made a bit of small talk, Zoe attempted to figure out what the kid was sketching. The window was just high enough that she couldn’t see the sketchbook, but that was alright, as she would be walking right by him when she left Dylan’s. He probably wouldn’t notice her. He was completely absorbed in his work. Zoe thanked Dylan and swung out the door to find the shop she’d seen across the park. She tried not to take too long swimming in the tie dyed, crystal studded store, stopping only long enough to buy a perfectly dyed head scarf she could tie around her choker. She also bought a cream one, in case she needed something quieter. For that she needed to dip into her own cash, but she’d thought ahead and brought some along. Just as Zoe stepped through the shop’s open doorway, the kid stood from his bench and flipped his sketchbook closed. Zoe tried to say hi to him, but he ducked his head and sped past her. Huh, Zoe thought. She watched him hurry ahead and noticed a guy who would have been cute if not for the superior smirk on his face. He, flanked by two guys, stepped out as the boy reached a side street off the park. The kid tried to back away, but one of the guys had already circled behind him. Zoe and the kid both slowed and drew a nervous breath. “Where’re you running to?†the lead guy demanded, and called him a name that made Zoe feel slimy just hearing. The almost-cute leader crossed his arms and leaned forward. The boy was backed against a dirty brick wall before he’d taken another step. “I asked you where you’re running to,†the guy shoved him, grinning, “Your boyfriend? Gonna show him your pretty drawing?†“I’m not-†the boy tried, and one of the guys slammed a fist into him to shut him up. Zoe faltered. She’d never punched anyone other than Alex in her life. What if she got seriously hurt? “Back off, Kyle!†the leader barked, “this freak’s mine.†He snapped his arm forward; the boy flinched back but the guy didn’t hit him this time. Instead he yanked the sketchbook away. The boy’s face blanched, but he didn’t try protesting again. “Let’s see what the gaywad’s got in his gaywad notebook.†Zoe grimaced, but kept her mouth shut. At least this guy’s awful with words, she thought. Although, that probably made it worse, cause it'd mean he'd fall back on his fists quicker. Zoe searched the streets around them. Wasn’t anybody around besides her? But the side street’s walls were backs of buildings, and the only windows were on the far end of the block. The leader flung the sketchbook open to a random page and ripped it first from the book, then into several pieces that he spat on and mashed against the boy’s face. The others ripped chunks of pages for themselves, shredding them or stomping on them or ripping them with their teeth and spitting them back at the kid between razored words that Zoe could feel cutting at her even as a bystander. Zoe snatched her hand away from her neck, where it had nervously played with the choker while she agonized over what she should do. All his artwork was going to be gone of somebody didn’t step up soon. The kid tried to scoop up a few of the larger scraps, and the leader just tossed the sketchbook and pinned him against the wall. Fist to the ribs, fist to the face, knee to the stomach, kick to the chest as the kid slid down the bricks. This guy’s bloodlust didn’t come with words, but it was almost worse silent, as Zoe heard every blow land and every sound the kid made. The street ahead and behind them remained empty. She clenched one fist and kept her pace as she approached them, hating herself for angling away. With the other hand, she pulled out her phone to at least call 911 so they could maybe do something. The moment her hand touched her phone, a current jolted at her fingertips. It was so much stronger than the carpet-shock from last night, but it didn’t touch her, not really. She could feel its force in her hand, but the current wasn’t scrambling her fingers at all. Only sitting there. Zoe realized in half a moment what this meant, and slapped her hand against the leader guy’s back. He cried out as the current emptied into him; Zoe hopped out of anybody’s reach and kept her hand up in front of her. “What kinda tazer is that?†the guy asked sharply. His face was fearful, though, not angry. Zoe had absolutely no response, so she redoubled her grip on her phone and stepped toward him again. “Take the freakin notebook, then!†the guy kicked it across the ground before leaving as fast as he could without breaking into a run. The other two guys hurried after him. Zoe watched until she was sure they were leaving for good, then turned to find the boy curled against the wall. His eyes roved the semicircle of chewed-up, ground-up, stepped-on sketch scraps. “Leave me alone,†his voice barely carried up to Zoe, who did a double-take. “Wait, what? They’re gone, let’s gather these up, I’m sure some of them will be fine-†“None of its fine,†the boy pushed himself into a sitting position, back still to the wall. Zoe couldn’t tell if he was glaring at her or keeping any more mortifying tears off his face. “They’re all ruined. Leave them there. Leave me alone.†“But,†Zoe stammered, “but-“ The boy sat stony-faced, only softening the slightest bit when Zoe handed over his sketchbook. “You’ve gotta tell somebody about this,†Zoe attempted. “No!†The boy leaned against the wall to support his effort to stand, “and don’t you dare, either. When Tyler finds out that I ran to some teacher or someone, d’you really think that’ll make him stop? That’ll make it worse!†“If it was just a teacher, it would,†a tiny male voice startled both of them. The boy jumped, then hissed and held his ribs again. Zoe stared at her phone. “You heard all that?†“All of it, and recorded it, too,†the voice responded, “somebody should be arriving right about now.†“Thank you,†Zoe grinned down at her phone. The boy’s eyes were panicked. “The police? You called the police?†“What else was I supposed to do, let them hospitalize you?†Zoe snapped at him. “Fine! Fine,†the boy reached over and hung up Zoe’s phone. “Just leave before they get here, okay? They have the recording as proof and I bet you haven’t got a good lie prepared about your hand.†“…Fine,†Zoe glared. He was right about that much. “You’re welcome.†“Thanks,†the kid muttered at the floor. “What were you sketching?†Zoe blurted. The boy’s eyes flicked up at her. “Huh?†“What were you sketching before?†“Stuff,†he dug his toe into the sidewalk. “Thanks for this,†he held up his sketchbook, actually sounding halfway sincere this time, “now get out of here.†Zoe took the street the three guys had come from and found herself on the road home one block later. She readjusted the tie dye cloth, making sure the necklace was covered, and gratefully pulled the jacket off her back. The groceries were miraculously still in a bag in her left hand, along with her phone, which she gingerly slid into her pocket. That kid would be safe now, Zoe assured herself. Police always took care of everything. He wouldn’t have to be afraid of those other guys anymore, and eventually he would realize that. She thought of the strange power which had bounced around her right hand before zapping into that bully. She must have accidentally pushed a finger onto her choker’s disc before grabbing her phone. Apparently the choker didn’t just change appearances? If that was the case, why hadn’t her spaceship-colored hand been as strong as that type of metal? The questions filled Zoe’s thoughts as she exited town. She slid her jacket into the grocery bag, letting a new realization sink into her mind. If this thing didn’t just do appearances, it could do practically anything. If Zoe could control this thing, she could do all kinds of good. She could help a thousand bullied kids, or even a thousand hostages or something, and she’d be safe the whole time. Zoe could be a legit super hero. She laughed as she left the road in the direction of the RV. Super Zoe. She grinned and daydreamed about what sort of things her super self could accomplish. More impossibilities seemed to be happening every day.
  16. G First Day Discussion

    Hey, yeah, sounds great! Hop on in. :) If you've got questions, let us know; if we know the answer ourselves, we'll pass it on.
  17. NC-17 [Private] Falling Star

    Zoe’s mind clearly registered the soft swish-click of the choker’s clasp, and its weight settling around her neck. She held completely still, face stark white, trying not to trigger something movement-activated. Her brother yelled and ran toward her, and her fragile stillness snapped; she clutched at the choker and yanked at it with both hands, running back toward the ship and therefore away from Alex. “It’s stuck! It’s stuck! Get it off! Stay back! I’m gonna die!†The choker slid under her hands; she couldn’t get a good grip anywhere on its surface. When she took her hands away, it pulled a slight bit tighter around her neck so she couldn’t get her fingers beneath it anymore. Zoe found herself frozen again, staring at a slightly rounded reflection of her short red-blond hair, awkward-skinny limbs, round grey eyes. She didn’t want to see the choker, but her eyes were drawn anyway. Two dark bands of metal, and one lighter, were bound together and shot through with thin veins of something either deep blue or deep purple. Right in the front sat a stone that had been shaped into a disc. As Zoe watched, parts of it shifted between shades of purple, dark green, and blue as if the three colors were actively being stirred in the stone together. It was easier to see by only the pulsing blue ship light than it should have been. Zoe couldn’t figure out how; maybe something inside it was glowing? If so, it was impossible to tell what. “Stay over there,†Zoe warned, but with a calmer tone than before, “it’s still not letting me pull it off…what do you think this thing is?†Shaking his head frantically, Alex looked from the alien technology bound to his sister's neck, to Zoe herself. "How the hell do you expect me to know? I'm not some kind of alien specialist or whatever." Curiosity peaked and Alex leaned in to examine it closer, "Why didn't it do that when I was holding it?" He asked. “It found the intelligent life form?†Zoe made a face, “I dunno. It’s actually kinda pretty though, if you don’t think about how it could explode or shoot death rays or whatever. Check out the disc thing in the middle…†Whatever it was, it was mesmerizing if Zoe kept looking too long. She found herself putting her finger to its surface, and jerking it back at a sudden swirl of deep green. Her hand buzzed like a carpet shock. “Ow!†Zoe flapped her hand at the air, and accidentally slapped the ship. Zoe felt an odd sensation roll up her hand and arm, like she’d dipped it in cold water. When she brought it to her face, fear flared in her again. “My hand is metal,†she whispered, then flung her arm up so Alex could see the sheen spreading up her arm. “What is this! Why is it on my hand? Get this off-“ Zoe took a panicky breath and then a pointedly quieter one. Her voice shook when she spoke next, but that was pretty good for a person who was about to be a statue. “Okay. Okay. What about in the ship? Is anything in there that looks like it matches this?†"It all looks the same!!" Alex yelled back at Zoe, while his eyes were glued to his sister's metallic hand. "What the hell did it do to you?!" Alex worriedly looked at the choker. After a few seconds had passed he swallowed and pointed at the affected hand, "What does it feel like?" Zoe glanced past the open door, but hurriedly spun away at the sight of whatever-his-name-was. She couldn't go rummaging around the ship when there was a dead body in it. "I, um, I'm not sure..." Zoe told her hand to flex, and the slivery fingers at the end of her arm spread open. "Like, like the pool when it's not quite warm, or like running a hand on the side of this ship, actually..." Zoe curled her hand into a fist and opened it again. "Why isn't it spreading? Here," she said nervously, "maybe if someone else touches it, it takes the effect off of me?" she snatched at her brother's hand with the newly metal one to pull his thumb toward the central stone. "Hey!" Alex snapped, as Zoe grabbed for his hand, "Get off, I don't want your alien thing messing up my hand too!!" He pulled away but it was too late, his hand touched the center of the device, Alex tensed ready for something to happen to him, but the choker didn't react. "You suck." Alex muttered and yanked his hand free. "Anyway, whatever that is, you're going to have to hide it from Uncle Jake, or he is going to freak. Out." “Weird,†Zoe frowned. She watched Alex’s hand, but it didn’t change. Her own hand remained coated in metal. “Yeah, he’s gonna freak out about my necklace, not about my metal hand…†Zoe turned back to the ship’s door, slowly, so the choker didn’t do anything else. “I think we should show him this thing. I think we should show him both things.†She waved her normal hand back at the ship. “I mean, what if someone else finds this and reports it to, I dunno, the government or something?†"You can do what you like, but you know mom, she grounded us for like two weeks when we forgot to do homework, what do you think will happen if mom and Uncle Jake find out that we found an alien and stole his technology. Better to just cover that up and hope your hand goes back to normal." Alex took one last look at the necklace and then turned to walk back in the direction they'd come, back to camp. "I know I wanted excitement, but I meant like a holiday or something, not E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial." Zoe struggled with leaving the ship and the foreigner, versus staying by herself in the dark. With a body. In the end, when Alex stared walking, Zoe ran after him. Though she did try to shut the door again with her metal hand. It didn’t work. “We didn’t steal it. He gave it to us. Well, he tried to.†Her long black gloves were back at home, and her hand was still solid metal. Zoe glanced down at it, then did a sharp double-take. “It’s actually going away!†Zoe hadn’t done anything she’d been aware of to reverse the effect. Hadn’t even touched the necklace itself. As the metal coating receded past her palm and off her fingertips, her mind suddenly felt heavy and slow. There was way too much churning around in her brain right now, and it was something like four in the morning. “Okay, okay, we won’t tell him,†she gave in, just to kick one dilemma out of her thoughts, “you’d better know how to get back from here.†Either Alex knew, or he guessed right. The two of them eventually stumbled into the campsite’s clearing, and Zoe even remembered to tug her shoes off her feet before climbing into the tent. She stuck her head through the divider to Uncle Jack’s room, but it was still empty. “Where’s he at,†Zoe mumbled, and flopped down on the air mattress she’d insisted on bringing. The choker pressed against her neck and she slapped at it with her formerly metal hand. Whatever. This was probably just a dream anyway; Uncle Jack would be there in the morning. Now, it was just time to sleep.
  18. NC-17 [Private] Falling Star

    The RV ride would actually have been cool if Alex hadn’t been there. Zoe watched the city disappear behind them, the traffic thin out, the trees get denser. She would have been perfectly happy with music filling her mind and hundreds of shades of green filling her vision. That is, until they swerved off the main road and suddenly the RV was in an earthquake. Object flew off of shelves and the tiny counter. Everything rattled. Zoe yelped as something hit her in the back of the head, then chunked it at Alex in case he’d taken advantage of the avalanche and thown it. He probably had. Why hadn’t Uncle Jake thought to fasten everything down? Soon, the RV came to a stop in a quiet clearing surrounded by giant, brooding trees. Uncle Jake was setting up camp, and Alex was blasting his crappy music loud enough for Zoe to hear through her own. Zoe reached to yank the headphones off Alex’s head. “You’re gonna make us both deaf, idiot, turn it down or listen to something good for once.†"Geez..." Alex muttered, "Speak for yourself, dweeb." And then he walked back into the RV, pulling the headset back over his ears and slamming the door behind him. “You both ought to take those doodads out of your ears,†Uncle Jake called, “if you’re ever going to get the full effect of being out here, you’ll need the great outdoors in your ears, not whatever you kids are calling music these days.†Zoe shot him a half-smile, until he held out his hand. For a moment she didn’t understand, then her eyes widened in horror. “You’re not serious.†“Hand em over,†Uncle Jake beckoned, “just for tonight.†“But Alex-“ “I’ll get his, too.†Zoe faded her music at the best possible time, which was still awful in the middle of a song, and tugged her earbuds out of her ears. Once her phone was in Uncle Jake’s pocket and Jake was getting Alex’s, she had no idea what to do with herself. “Let’s have em, Alex,†Uncle Jake’s voice bled easily into the clearing. "Seriously...?" Alex replied, his jaw tensing. A moment passed and his Uncle's expression made it clear. With a deep sigh, Alex pulled off his headphones and handed them to his Uncle, along with his iPod. "Would have run out of battery soon, anyway." He muttered. There was a brief moment that for Zoe was full of disorienting silence. Then Jake came back with Alex in tow, and handed Zoe a hammer. “What’s this for?†she asked him. “Have you ever set up a tent before, Zoe?†Uncle Jake asked in reply. “I didn’t pack for a tent,†Zoe blurted. Uncle Jake laughed. After about sixteen fails, fifteen of which Zoe decided were Alex’s fault, the tent was finally up and secured. Uncle Jake then moved on to teaching them how to start a fire and keep it going. Zoe nabbed the matches, but every time she got a flame started, something happened to make it go out. After a couple minutes, Zoe shoved the box back into Jake’s hands. “Uncle Jake,†Zoe whined, “it’s dark and I’m cold. Just do it, will you?†Uncle Jake looked from her to Alex and back, then gave a quiet sigh and got a decent fire going. Once the flames actually stuck around, Zoe thought, they were really quite beautiful. Quieter than she’d thought they’d be, but with more cracking and popping and other little sounds she hadn’t expected either. Uncle Jake was telling some ghost story, and Zoe was half-listening so she could respond at the appropriate times, and Alex was definitely hogging the best flames to cook a hotdog. Zoe shoved him sideways enough so there was room for her food and that almost escalated, but Uncle Jake managed to keep things down for the time being. There was a brief time where everything in the clearing was actually quiet, and Zoe was a bit unnerved by some of the sounds which began echoing through the trees as the sun sank under the horizon line. As the fire sank into hypnotizing embers, Zoe tilted her head back, feeling both uneasy and peaceful at the vast spread of stars above them. “I don’t think I’ve seen so many stars ever in my life,†Zoe breathed. She forgot herself and nudged Alex. “D’you see all that?†"Yeah," Alex looked up at the night sky for a moment, scanning the stars in quiet contemplation and then leant forwards and stared back into the campfire, "Big deal." He muttered, resting one elbow on his knee, and his head on his hand. “You could at least try to appreciate things other than girls,†Zoe bit into her second hamburger. Two s’mores and several ghost stories later, Zoe caught her breath. A sudden streak of light, thick against the pinprick stars, blazed across sky above them. “Look, quick guys, Uncle Jake, is that a shooting star?†Looking up, Alex's face shifted into genuine surprise, "Whoah... is it?" He turned to look at their Uncle, but Jake's face seemed strangely tense. "Uncle Jake?" "Hrmm?" He slowly pulled his eyes from the shooting star and looked at Alex, "What?" "Is that really a shooting star?" Alex repeated Zoe's question. "Oh... yeah. Yeah it is." Their Uncle replied, smiling back at them and laughing, "Make a wish, kids." Zoe had been about to wish for Alex to disappear for the rest of the trip so she could enjoy the forest in peace, but his seemingly genuine interest kept her from speaking. “I wish the trip can keep being interesting like right now,†Zoe said instead. "I wish I wasn't here." Alex muttered, staring at the fire, "Another planet would be nice," he said sarcastically, "But being out of that rust-bucket would do." Zoe gave an irritated sigh. So much for a bit of genuine anything from him. Both wishes seemed to have an odd effect on Uncle Jake’s thoughts, but only for a moment, and then the three of them were going about moving into the three-part tent. Zoe unzipped her window so she could still see stars through the mesh, and tried to keep an eye out for shooting stars while she drifted off to sleep.
  19. Kess couldn’t help a small, relieved smile when Max responded. It was infinitely better being stuck here with him than being stuck here on her own. He didn’t even seem bothered, which must have meant things weren’t too bad at the moment. Kess hadn’t realized her hood wasn’t tied down or anything, but at Max’s suggestion, she felt the edges of it on her shoulders and realized it would come right off. Her hands couldn’t quite reach it, so she planted one foot against the thick pipe -up by her head, to pin the hood down- and pulled off the hood with her foot. When it landed in a small heap on the floor, Kess stomped on it. “Gymnastics to the rescue. Right,†she acknowledged Max, and gulped in a breath of fresher air, “listening carefully.†She felt much more able to handle the situation with Max in the room and the hood off her face. And hair. She turned slightly confused eyes on the pipe-filled room as she took in everything Max said. Kess was glad the plan hadn’t been disrupted, not glad that it included the center of Culver’s base. Wouldn’t that make it harder for her and Max to get out? And how was Max so sure he could escape from a place he’d never seen? The perception-altering bit didn’t bother Kess too badly, she could find every one of those thrown her way at this point. There was one wrapping the pipe above her head right now, for example. Max smiled her way. Simple plan. Simple execution. No big deal. Kess voiced her amused thought instead of her questions. “Your teeth look like a toothpaste commercial. Brighten your dungeon with a Colgate smile, or something.†As she spoke, teeth reminded her of food, which reminded her she hadn’t eaten since breakfast. Her stomach grumbled in complaint, and all her questions fled across the room. “Oh, man, when do we eat? No, that’s not my question. Um,†Kess tucked one knee and unconsciously tapped her foot, thinking. “There were three,†she said thoughtfully, and asked each as she remembered. Not all of them were the same as before, but it couldn’t really matter. If they were gone, they were gone. “One, are we meeting up with Katy or getting straight out? Two…um…two, how are we getting Dad out…three…this one was important…oh!†She brightened as she met Max’s eyes again. “I remember! How are you sure you’ll-um,†the meaning of her question sank in again. Kess bit her lip, but for once she didn’t look away when asking a question she was afraid of. “How do you know you’ll be able to get out? And my security might be higher than yours…†Kess trailed off and went with not finishing. If her brain was really as important as Culver was making it, she ought to be able to think for herself. And her dad was there, too. Maybe the two of them could work together. She had to stop dumping all her fear on Max. “Never mind," she said quietly, "I just didn’t mean to get involved in any of this stuff. And I really thought Val was...I don't understand, she was helping us...†Kess tipped her head back to gaze at the perception filter. Not-Culver’s mark was still stamped on Max’s neck, so she wouldn’t talk about that…Another question that had been in her head since the mall poked at her. Maybe it was safer to ask here, where the cuffs wouldn’t let Max freak out as much if it came to that. Kess grimaced. It had to be asked at some point. “Max…I know I’m asking too many questions, and I’m sorry to bring this up, but I think it’s important to know, so…so d’you know how John got to be friends with shady people like Katy?†~~ Val clutched the phone and fumed. “Unwise. Do you want the only piece of unsecured evidence back or not?" she muttered, "Here's what's unwise: letting Ray Ruine walk out of that house. There is never going to be another opportunity like this one. He’s unconscious right now, will be for only a little longer-†A thought occurred to her that maybe Pierson could get him, but Val immediately rejected it. Val would be the one bringing in the Ruines, not her partner. Not anyone else. Val took one step toward the door, clenched her teeth, and forced herself to walk past it and pace the room instead. If he was still unconscious, what was left of her team would be able to move him. If he wasn’t, well, she still had Max. He and Kit should be enough to reel Ray in any time Val chose. Val leaned rigidly against the wall. She wasn’t any less angry, but at least this goal could still be accomplished.
  20. NC-17 [Private] Falling Star Discussion

    Name: Zoe Cooper Age: 13 Appearance: Zoe is five foot nothing, and currently all elbows, knees, and awkward limbs. Her wide grey eyes are set in a face somehow round and thin at the same time. Her clothes aren’t necessarily fashion-attentive, but are always pristine, and her straight red-blond hair is always in place. Personality: Zoe firmly believes in looking before leaping, to the point where she may just look and back off. She is a neat freak who keeps everything in its place, and finds it extremely difficult to deal with sudden changes of plan or disorganization. She has an eye for patterns and connections, and this leads her to know what pushes peoples nerves as well as what would help them the most. It’s easy for Zoe to relate to others in her own mind, and talk to people both older and younger than her. When it comes to people her own age, however, she has a mortifying habit of freezing up in the middle of conversations. This makes the other students uncomfortable enough to leave her alone if not get in her face about it. Zoe is wired to not only see and appreciate order, but also to see and deeply appreciate beauty around her. Easily drawn in by unusual things or events, Zoe enjoys absorbing amazing details about whatever catches her eye in whatever way she can. Bio: Great Falls, Montana has been home to Zoe, her brother Alex, and her mother Christine for as long as Zoe remembers. Her father hasn’t been around since she was three years old, but Christine has been a good mother as far as Zoe is concerned. Schoolwork has always come naturally for Zoe. She’s taking full advantage of this, working toward possible college full-rides in the future. She would rather be basically anywhere other than an RV with aggravating Alex and monotonous Uncle Jake. The fact that her mother wants her to go is the only thing getting Zoe packed and ready, and that with liberal complaints. Zoe hopes they’ll spend the whole time driving and sleeping, so she can stick earbuds in her ears and call it good.
  21. G First Day Discussion

    Reiterating that you've got free reign over Val! Also apologizing again for the wait. (PS: I'd like Val to be easily frustrated, especially over the fact that she was switched from Ray Ruine to Max and Kess.Unless you want the current driving guy, who's Val's equal rank wise, to take charge of Max and Kess while Val goes back to Ray? Culver still doesn't completely trust her. Okay, I think that's everything!) Also also, thanks for the fight, haha. : )
  22. Not-Culver’s indicator was still on Max’s neck, so Kess followed without asking anything. She was trying to figure out why his eyes had gleamed like they had before; it seemed like a far cry from a standard reaction to this type of situation. “Although,†Kess mumbled as she walked, “what do I know about this sort of thing?†Oh, good, she momentarily grinned, talking to myself. I must be getting back to normal. The people around her were definitely not, however. Kess pushed most of her thoughts to the side and squinted through the near-dark. There were two figures by a car with a broken window, one of them kneeling on the ground. Had she dropped something? The other woman- Kess was close enough to see they were both women now- didn’t look like she was helping to find the thing. Maybe they’d just hit something with their car, which had smashed the window, and now one of them was freaking out? Max yelled toward them, just as Jake the Driver showered the street in a third car’s glass. “Katy, were there people in that car? In the back, I mean?†Kess spun to ask, but Katy had already vanished somewhere in the layers of tree-shaped shadows. “Get the hell away from my sister.†Max demanded. Kess finally understood why one woman was on her feet and the other one wasn’t. She zoned in on the kneeling woman first, who tried to say something to Max but couldn’t get her words out. Kess ran to kneel next to her. “Kit, right? Are you okay? I’ve got some painkillers in my bag, oh, which is at a motel we escaped from, this guy named Tony was chasing us, and kidnapped us, but then Max-†Kess screwed her eyes shut long enough to refocus again. “Sorry,†she finished awkwardly, “I guess I can’t help, then.†Again. Max had just mentioned her name. Kess glanced his way, and then the way of the woman he addressed. Another blow of confusion struck her brain. “Wh-Val?†Max outlined his idea for Val, in the confident voice Kess had heard last year at school. No, two days ago at school. Val eyed him in a silence that stretched Kess’ shredded nerves. At this point, Kess quickly realized she was not up to waiting. “Val,†Kess repeated, “Val, what the hell?†Val’s frown deepened. “No, no, that’s not right,†she informed Kess. She glanced back at Max, scrutinizing his face for something. “Okay, Max. I’ll take you up on that deal,†she decided, though she kept a suspicious eye on him. “Are you working for Culver?†Kess questioned in disbelief. She stood, but didn’t move away from Kit. “Not the time, Kess,†Val muttered. She flipped open her own phone, hesitated, and held out her hand for Kit’s instead. “It’s the plan,†Kess silently formed the words to Kit while Val dialed. “…well, I think it is,†she added at normal volume. Val raised an eyebrow at that, but nothing more. “Kit, stay there,†Val instructed, “Kess, by me. Max, hands on the Crown Vic and don’t move. That’s your dad’s, by the way.†Max’s dad? Maybe he was part of Max’s plan? Kess glanced down the street to look for him, but of course she didn’t see anyone. Val’s grin hovered around her lips while the phone connected. Kess’ eyes trailed back to Kit before snapping up to Val’s face. “You beat up Kit,†Kess stared at Val, “you can beat people up. You can beat trained police officers up. Why would you-†“Yes, Kess, thank you for pointing that out,†Val narrowed her eyes, “the things you learn following your boyfriend around, huh?†“What?†Kess frowned, “wait, no, that’s not it. Actually, that’s weird now.†It was, too, when Kess thought about it at this point. Thank God she didn’t have to worry about that anymore. Maybe it had been an effect of whatever tried to hijack Max’s brain. “And anyway, Val, the point is why would you-“ “Okay, whatever,†Val held up a hand, “just shut up for a minute.†Kess dutifully shut up. Culver’s deep voice filtered through the phone and caused a shudder through Kess’ spine. Val responded confidently: “Tony apparently managed to lose these two, because I found them. Yep, Maxwell Ruine and Kessandra Carter, five minutes from Max’s house. They’ll be in tomorrow morning.†Val paused, and motioned at the trees. Kess squinted in that direction. She watched shadows within shadows solidify into two tank-built guys about a head shorter than Max. “Find the driver,†Val ordered one. He one-eightied back into the trees. I hope Jake’ll be okay, Kess bit her lip. While she was distracted, the other man grabbed Kess’ wrists and cuffed her hands before she could pull back. “Val?†She only saw them for a half-second before something else was jerked down over her eyes. “Val!†“Don’t panic, Kessa. Just wait for a second.†Kess waited. Val took a few steps away from her. Something cracked against the pavement. Kess jumped, then wrung her brain to find where she’d heard the sound before. “Wasn’t like I could leave Kitty conscious,†Val explained, “Come on, this way. Dammit, I hate small cars.†Kess could practically hear Val’s teeth grinding. She ducked Kess’ head into the backseat of a car. Kess squirmed her way to the far side of the car, bashing a knee on the door and getting hair stuck hopelessly between her face and the thing over her head. Kess wondered how in the world they would get Max wedged in his side of the car. Her own legs would barely fit. The car rolled off soon enough. Kess tried to glance back at Kit, to see if she was okay. Unyielding blackness pushed back at her, as did a deep swell of uneasiness. With no conversation to distract it, her brain zeroed in on her blindness. Whatever was over her face was thick and smelled strange. It wasn’t impossible to breathe, but it took too much effort, it shouldn’t take that much effort to breathe. Especially breathing this fast. Fast breath should bring in air, wide eyes should bring in colors, shapes, at least some bit of light. How could it be so dark? The car swung a curve faster than Kess was expecting; she fell first against Max and then against the door. Someone had attached her hands to the door handle and the cuffs cut into Kess’ wrists. As soon as she felt this, Kess pulled against it, adding more and more pressure until she was using all of her strength. It wouldn’t budge. “I don’t like this,†Kess murmured nervously. She tugged sharply at it, at first just once, but then several times, jerking her arms back, twisting her wrists against their restraints, one foot braced against the door. “I don’t like this! I don’t like this! Let me out! Get this thing off my face!†“Kess! Cut it out!†Val snapped at her. Something clicked in the front seat, and Kess automatically pictured Val pulling a gun on her. Unimaginable as that image still was, it scared Kess into silence anyway. “You’re supposed to be new and improved, Kessa,†Val sounded intrigued rather than worried. The click happened again, and Kess breathed relief. That was no gun. That must have been the glovebox. Val was still talking, so Kess tuned in again. “What’s flawed? What else has been playing with that mind of yours?†Kess tilted her head around where Val’s headrest would be. She stared hard, as if sheer will would give her some glimpse of Val’s face. “‘What else’? As in you already know of one thing?†“Something else has definitely been here,†Val’s voice darkened just enough for Kess to edge back, “you’re supposed to be terrified of authority figures. Here, this might straighten you out in a bit…†Something unsnapped up front. Before Kess could ask what Val was getting, something thin and sharp poked into her left arm. “Ow!†Kess protested, “Hey, what’s…this’s…weird…†Val’s voice blurred, the chafing on her wrists eased, even the inky dark of her vision seemed to soften. “You need to sleep, Kessa,†Val instructed her, “See you in a few hours.†…bye… When Kess’ head tipped back against the headrest, Val reached back and grabbed a fistful of Max’s hair through the hood. “And you-“ She stopped short of slamming his head against something when the driver spoke up. “Val, he needs to be checked over tomorrow, too.†Val scowled fiercely and kept her fist tight. “Why did Culver send you, anyway? I can clearly handle both my original task and this on my own.†“I’m here because you won’t control your actions, Valerie. Let the kid be until we’re sure he hasn’t been tampered with.†“Don’t call me Valerie,†Val growled. She shoved Max’s head away from her and settled into the front seat. “Damn Ruine kid. You’re already too much trouble. Don’t go getting comfortable; we’re gonna talk later about that List you stole from Culver’s office. Try to remember where it’s gotten to before we arrive, huh? Although, even if you don’t, I bet Kess would come up with a couple ideas pretty fast.†Val flung her feet onto the dashboard. “Enjoy the ride, Max-y boy.†Kess’ whole being throbbed with her head. That was the first thing she was aware of; a deep pounding in her skull, along with the heaviness of hands dead from the wrist down. She groaned out something between a question and a complaint, and the person carrying her promptly put her on her feet. Out of the car, then… Someone led Kess wordlessly down hallways, around corners, down stairs. She was still mostly unconscious until her hands were uncuffed and recuffed around something cold and stiff. This time her wrists had just enough room to let blood flood into her hands again. Kess sucked in a breath at the stinging which came with it. Not-Culver? Max? Anybody around? Is this really part of the plan? Kess thought. She blinked into the dark until she felt more awake, spat hair out of her face, and repeated part of her question aloud. “Max? You’re in here too, right?â€
  23. G First Day Discussion

    Mm, right. I might think of a different sequence of events then. It's been pretty buy around here, but I should have the post up in the next couple of days.
  24. G First Day Discussion

    Hey, presently working on my post. I felt like I should ask this in spite of the looseness of this RP, since this would be essentially controlling Max for a tiny bit: Is it alright if he and Kess go under for a bit as well as Ray? If that's cool, how long do you want it to be before Max wakes up again? Also, I've attempted to leave it open for you to have one guy in the other car if you want one. This'll make more sense after the post is up, but thought I'd go ahead and say it now and avoid double-posting. :)
  25. NC-17 [Private] Blood Oath

    "--it must be all the bodies of nosy children they keep finding." A voice far too deep to be Noah’s cut through Mari’s thoughts. She spun, half-thinking she was hearing things, and screamed at the viciously scarred face of a man not two feet from her. One scar slashed across his face, just under his eyes, and the other cut from his forehead right through his left eye. This was wide and blind, the right eye bright green. Mari instinctively leapt away from him, fear pushing her muscles enough to slam her into Noah’s chest. Mari heard several sharp sounds explode behind her, but didn’t process them until she felt cool night air against her back. Another stab of fear dragged her eyes from the man to the shattered window. Another scream, Noah’s name this time, ripped out of her mouth and stopped short when three black spikes from the gate stabbed straight through him. Mari clutched at her own stomach, completely forgetting the stranger behind her, completely forgetting the house and the book in her jacket and her sister coming home. She froze for three solid seconds until, still impaled on the fence, Noah shifted. Mari leapt down most of the staircase in one jump, sprinted down the other one, and crashed through the door of the house toward Noah. The moon was just bright enough to display Noah’s body slumped limply over the fence and shine off the bloody tips of the posts shoved through his shoulder, his chest, his stomach. Mari raced up to him, but she wasn’t tall enough to reach him, much less get him down. Her gut twisted at her first close-up sight of the spikes through Noah’s back. His blood was already dripping down the fence posts, staining her face and hands as she tried to climb up to him. The moment Mari caught the man in her peripheral vision, she whipped around to face him. "You!" Mari yelled at him, her voice panicked and shaky, "call the police! Get him down! Do something! He's still alive..." "First of all," The man replied, his voice both deep and smooth with a slight drawl, holding the unmistakable accent of a southern gentleman, "I am not 'you' - my name is John Matthews, and you can call me Mr. Matthews, y'understand?" He brought a claw-like black nail up to his pale face and scratched at the scar below his milky, white eye, "Second of all, why should I?" He paused, staring at Mari with an incredulous expression, then ran a hand through his long black mane of hair and explained himself, "If I was to call the police, it would be to report the break-in of two children to my property." He paused, staring at her without blinking, "An ambulance would make more sense, if you wanted to save his life. But it's a little late for that, I'm afraid. That looked reasonably fatal to me." Mari was struck speechless. This man was standing mere feet away from a teenage boy who was dying in front of him, and instead of calling an ambulance, he was correcting her. Casually, as if Noah wasn’t even there. Or as if he was some annoying setback rather than a horrible tragedy. “I don’t care who you are! My best friend is dying, and you’re getting him off of that fence right now because there’s some slight chance that he could live and if you don’t do everything you can to help you’re a fucking monster! Help me or call someone who will!†Mari shoved her phone into his hand and began trying to climb up to the top of the fence again. "I would think pulling him off the fence would be a bad idea," John hummed and then walked around to the side of the fence, "But, as you wish." He added, and then with a single swipe of his hand, sliced through five or six of the thick, metal bars as if they were nothing, and then Noah collapsed to the ground along with the fence spikes protruding from his body, "There. Wish granted." He muttered, and started back inside the house, intending to leave Mari and Noah to their own devices. “Wh-what was that!†Mari squeaked. Her heart stuttered at the way Noah fell, the metal beams jerking at him as they landed. Mari forced back a retch. “Wait, come back! Mr. Matthews- how did you do that? Why is it a bad idea to pull these awful things off him? At least give me my phone back…†Mari didn’t have a clue what to do. She wasn’t even sure Noah was breathing at this point. She was too scared to check. It was possible that Mr. Matthews knew something about how to help Noah, though, if he knew to keep the fence posts in him. Mari had to keep the man here. “Please," Mari cried after him, "isn’t there anything you can do to help him?†"It doesn't matter how I did that." John replied, stopping to throw the phone back to Mari. "You wanted him off, so he's off. Be content with that." To her second question, he frowned as though she'd asked the most obvious question in the world, "Child, if you pull those spikes from his body, the only things holding him together will no longer stop the blood rushing out of his body like a great wave, and he will die. Well, all the quicker, anyway." He paused at her final, desperate question. A flash of several different emotions momentarily danced across John Matthews’ face. Then he opened his mouth to speak, hesitated then at last, answered, "No. There is nothing I can do to help him. Make your peace while you still can, and if you're going to call someone, try the ambulance then the police." Mr. Matthews disappeared down his hallway, and the door shut silently behind him. Mari stared at the door while she flipped open her phone. She got the address out the first time, but had to repeat herself twice before the woman on the other end understood what had happened. Mari stayed on the line with her but didn’t say anything else until the ambulance shrieked its way to the street in front of the house. Mari stepped two steps back, but no further. Nobody asked her how the spikes had been broken so cleanly off, because nobody wanted to talk to her at all. Mari could tell. They knew what she would ask and they didn’t want to answer her. So she called Mr. White’s cell phone instead, walked through the story again in her mind, and said she’d be there at the hospital as soon as she could get her car. The whole time, the back door remained shut tight; the house remained abandoned. Mr. Matthews had disappeared. Mari shot a silent curse at him through the stained wood. As soon as Noah was loaded into the ambulance, Mari sprinted back down the block. If her car would just start on the first try this time, she was determined to reach the hospital before Noah did. -- It was obvious Noah was going to die the moment he was admitted. The various medical staff were kind enough to avoid directly saying so for as long as they could, but everyone knew what they meant. Denial was held in the waiting room by everyone who could muster enough willpower. Mari was on the computer the whole time, searching anything she could think of that remotely connected to people cutting through metal with their bare hands. She was convinced that something connected to Mr. Matthews' ability could help Noah. Nothing believable turned up for the first few hours. Mari eventually stumbled across one man’s crying out that he’d seen some guy's nails slice through a car. When he went on to describe how he’d then drained the car’s driver of his blood before something he called ‘turning’ the passenger, Mari glared at the article and stuffed the madman’s words back into the Internet void. She couldn’t shove some of his account out of her mind, though. The nails were black and clawlike, as Mr. Matthews’ had been. At his house, the man had paused before saying he couldn’t do anything to help Noah, and avoided any explanation about the metal beams. Mr. Matthews hadn’t come outside until after nightfall, and Mari still had How to Deal with Mortals hidden in her car. Plus, Mari admitted, he kinda looked like something out of a stereotypical Victorian mansion. She almost growled at herself, but brought the article back up. The idea was wild and unlikely, but the way things were going, it was truly Noah’s last shot. Mari told Noah's family she was running by home for a bit, which she technically was. She tried to print the article when she arrived, but the printer was out of ink, so she snapped some distorted pictures on her phone. The TV was only on softly in her mother’s room, which meant that she was asleep. Mari didn’t bother walking quietly, she just threw on her black hoodie and old tennis shoes. She got the door shut and locked despite a quiet shaking in her right hand, and stepped quickly down the block until she was rounding the corner of Mr. Matthews’ house. Mari set her jaw and took a final breath as she knocked on the back door. “Mr. Matthews,†she whispered once, and then again. If it was true, and it had to be true, that sound was more than enough to alert him. He had probably known she was there before she knocked. Complete silence answered her for ten seconds, twenty. It could be twenty seconds too many for Noah, but Mari didn’t dare step inside the house uninvited again. She knocked a third time and let her forehead fall against the door. “Mr. Matthews, please come out,†then, before she could stop herself, “I know how you cut the beams.†Seconds turned to minutes, silence seemed to stretch on forever until it was finally interrupted by the bark of a dog further down the street. Suddenly, the back door opened and John Matthews stood before Mari once more, as pale as he had been the first time she'd seen him. He yawned, theatrically placing a hand over his mouth and stretching, "I was sleeping, you know. It's rude to knock on a person's door at three in the morning. What do you want from me now, child? I suppose you would like me to read his eulogy, or perhaps you would like me to dig the grave, too?" Turning from her with a flat, emotionless face, John pushed on the door to swing closed behind him and paid her no mind as he walked back into his house. Mari put out a hand and caught the door just before it blocked him from her vision. “I don’t want you to dig any grave, I think you can make it unnecessary,†she poked her head through the door, but kept both her feet planted outside. “I don’t think you were sleeping either, Mr. Matthews, I think you’re-“ She couldn’t get the unbelievable word to form, so she said instead, “Your nails must be really sharp, to cut through solid metal. Like,†her voice wavered a bit, “inhumanly…sharp.†John sighed, "I don't know what children learn these days... I have a very old house," He gave a weak, knowing smile, "So parts of my fence are extremely rusty, the idea of my nails cutting through anything is ridiculous. The fence was rusty, I pushed on it and it snapped. Go home, girl. Your parents wouldn't be pleased to know you were bothering strangers," Then flashed a toothy grin, "No less ones that can cut through metal with their fingernails." Then he laughed, and threw himself into the red armchair. "The very idea..." He muttered. For the first time that night, Mari wondered if this had truly been a good idea. There was no way she could turn back now, though. “My mom doesn’t care who I bother,†Mari eased the door open again, “especially if the best they can do is make weak excuses about rusty fences. That thing held up Noah falling on it,†her voice caught but she pushed her words through, “it would have snapped then, if it would snap under the pressure of your hand.†Mari wasn’t certain of this, but she didn’t particularly care about the fence. There were more important things to talk about. Her pulse rose as she forced both feet into Mr. Matthews’ hallway and eased the door halfway shut. “But that’s not what matters. Look, my mom wouldn’t care who I bothered, my sister’s too far away to know and she's overworked anyway, but Noah would care. He’s the only one left who ever cared anything about me and I really, really need him to stay here...and you can save him. By- by turning him. Right? Vampires can turn people into more vampires…†Mari flushed bright red as she voiced her impossible, ridiculous last hope. “Mr. Matthews, you’ve got to come to the hospital. Please turn Noah before he dies,†Mari clenched both fists against tears that she figured would just make Mr. Matthews laugh and turn away. “I don’t know if there’s something I can do, but if there is, I’ll do it. That’s fine. Just please come…†If Mari kept talking, she’d just be repeating herself, so she clamped her mouth shut and made herself look Mr. Matthews in the face. After a long period of silence, in which John had appeared to have not heard Mari at all, choosing instead to pick little bits of fluff from his clothes, he suddenly threw off a question as though it was the most insignificant of things, "And what do you have that I could want? What would you do, to save the life of your friend?" Then after a pause, he offered her a weak smile, a smile that betrayed an older, wiser person than the one that seemed to sit before her, "Besides, it's a lonely, miserable life. Why not let him die in peace, instead of mourning his life." His questions drained the flush from Mari’s face. He wasn't denying anything now, just calling her on her offer. She was certain Mr. Matthews knew exactly what he was asking. Mari answered his easiest question first. “Maybe it wouldn’t be so lonely, if there were others like you around,†she attempted. Her voice grew quieter as she continued, but at least this time it didn’t shake like her hands. “As for what I have, well, I’m human. So I have-†Mari swallowed, and her eyes cut to Mr. Matthews’ richly colored rug. “I have blood.†"Because there's a shortage of that going around, I hear. What are we at these days? Six billion people, seven? No. If I wanted blood, I could have it quite easily." Then a thought struck him, "Although..." He paused, licking his lips and leaning back in his chair. Mari shuddered just a bit. "Hmm... yes." He resolved his inner-dispute, whatever it had been and addressed her, "You, as well." Mari seemed confused by his statement and he smiled, holding his hands up, "I want you, as well. If I turn this boy, then I will have to teach him everything about being a member of my kin. I could use a couple of assistants. Two is better than one, wouldn't you say?" He paused again, flashing another toothy grin, "Yes. If you want me to turn him, then I shall also turn you. That is to be the agreement." He said, with an air of finality. “What?†Mari blinked. Confusion temporarily overrode her fear. Why would he jump so quickly from refusing to turn Noah to wanting both of them for his assistants? “But what kinds of stuff does a vampire's assistant need to do? No, forget it, I don't care. That’s- that’s fine. Yeah, that’s fine.†She spoke without thinking, and her brain flew into a rage for it. Now that he’d so easily agreed, she wondered if Mr. Matthews was only playing along, seeing how far the game with the pathetic girl could go. The idea of vampires was completely ridiculous, after all. Something Mari would have laughed at twenty-four hours ago. She turned her gaze back to his milky white eye. “You’re not just playing me, right? If I bring you to Noah, you really can turn him?†"Blood." John corrected, and she stared at him with a confused expression. "I will blood him. Yes." He nodded, solemnly. "But know that you are doing him no great favour. We are not the creatures you have seen in modern media. We live hard, solitary lives - lives of honour and great challenge. If you or Noah are found to be weak. If you cannot truly become vampires, then, well..." John trailed off as he thought of something, a minute passed in silence before he took in a deep breath, "Well then, shall we?" He grinned. Mari nodded slowly as Mr. Matthews spoke. Something heavy and final sank into her, solidifying into a strange sort of amazed certainty. He was absolutely not lying. This was absolutely true, and while Mari wasn’t going to end up dead, everything about her life and Noah’s was about to be thrown upside down. “Okay, yeah,†she said quietly, “we should probably get going.†She took two steps toward the door before she turned back to him. “Thank you.†"Save it." John Matthews strolled up to Mari, and placed his arm around her, ushering her from his house, "If you still want to thank me--" He said, shutting his door and locking it behind them, pocketing the key, "--do so a few centuries from now, perhaps. Maybe then, if you are happy, it will mean something. But do not expect to be so for some time." A frigid hand that could cut through metal rested lightly on her shoulder. Mari stiffened until it lifted off again to lock Mr. Matthews’ back door. She breathed in the nighttime air, windswept and bitter now with cold. Mari and Noah would figure it out. They had to, so they would. That’s how life worked. Mari was certain Noah was better off this way, and he’d probably be glad to be alive. It was an obvious choice, even if Mari had no idea what she was getting into at this point. Mari tugged her jacket tighter and glanced up at Mr. Matthews. It looked like she was going to find out soon enough. --- “We’re here to see Noah White. Room 403?†Mari had been in and out of Room 403 all night, but it still came out as a question. Behind the counter, a man with a grey mustache and thin wire-framed glasses gave the two of them a suspicious once-over. “Only family is allowed past these doors until 10 am tomorrow. Sorry about that,†he wasn’t, “but it’s the policy.†“I’m his cousin,†Mari blurted, “let me in.†The fact that she’d been around as much as Noah’s family, and the way they’d interacted with her, made the man nod. “Cousin…?†“Mari White,†Mari told him, “Cousin Mari White. His dad’s side, of course. My parents live in Missouri, but I’m here at the university.†Mari strode for the doors, and after a beat, the man opened them. Then he turned his attention to Mr. Matthews. "I'm her Uncle." John paused, "Phil... I'm her Uncle Phil." The man looked from John to Mari and back to John, "Twice removed." He added, smiling before walking on. Mari nodded earnestly, and the doors remained open for Mr. Matthews. “Phil?†Mari questioned, grasping at ways to ease tension, “You’ve apparently heard centuries of cool names, and you use Phil?†Then they were at Noah’s door, outside of which his father was sprawled across several chairs. Mari eased the door open as quietly as she was able. The nurse checking on Noah recognized Mari and gave her a slight wave on her way out. Mari shut the door behind her. Noah was obviously unconscious, but Mari felt the need to announce herself anyway. “Hi, Noah, it’s Mari. This is Mr. Matthews. He’s gonna help us…um…I’ll explain later, but…†Mari frowned while anxiety rose in her chest again. “Mr. Matthews, what do we do now?†"We?" John repeated, "We, are going to do nothing. You, are going to sit over there and be quiet, while I save Noah's life. Be quiet." John leant over Noah's bed, examining the boy. He already looked as pale as death, this boy was almost certainly not going to see through the night. He sighed to himself and using the claws on each of the thumbs on his hands, pierced the skin on his fingers, then did the same with the claws on his forefingers into his thumbs, creating ten little wounds. Repeating the process for Noah who groaned while heavily sedated, John pressed each of their fingers up against one another so that all ten were matched. "I hate this part." He muttered, and a second or two later, stifled a yelp as their blood began flowing into one another's bodies. It seemed much worse for Noah who convulsed in the bed, and John had a time trying to hold onto him at the tips of their fingers. A few seconds passed, and John quickly withdrew his hands, licking the tips of his fingers which seemed to heal them almost instantaneously. "There." He paused, looking at Mari, "My apologies. This must appear real." With a sudden twirl, John turned back to Noah and with a quick flick of his hands, snapped Noah's neck. The machines beside the boy whirred into a variety of klaxons, sirens and a single, endless, heart-stopping beep. Noah was dead. Another flick of the wrists, and John snapped Noah's neck back into place, so that nothing appeared out of place. "I'll see you the night after the funeral. Bring a shovel." John muttered, and before Mari could say anything, John vanished. Seconds later, nurses ran into the room and started fussing over Noah, but it was too late. Mari yelped at Mr. Matthew's easily snapping Noah's neck, but the sound was lost against sudden chaos. She flung her gaze around the room, trying to see where Mr. Matthews had hidden so fast. She hung back at the edge of the room while Noah’s father woke and pushed his way inside. He ended up next to Mari, raw panic in his voice as he called his wife in the waiting room. Noah’s family was kept out of the room from that time on, at one point nearly with physical force. They watched through the curtained window while the medical staff tried to start Noah’s heart again. An eternity later, one of the younger doctors emerged from the room. He opened his mouth to speak, shut it again, and opted for a detached explanation of everything the doctors had just tried. He stopped himself midsentence, a deep shade of guilt already shadowing his eyes. “We’ve tried everything. There’s nothing we can do. He’s gone.†Even though Mari knew differently, his words still struck her in the gut. Noah’s mother stopped at blank shock, and said in a quiet voice that it wasn’t the doctor’s fault. Noah’s brother cried that it was; Mari had to hold him down in his chair to keep him from trying to attack the doctor. Noah’s father forced his way back into the room and soon tore at it with deep sobs. Mari, who hadn’t thought once about this part of the plan, and who had never seen Mr. White cry in her life, only lasted until Noah’s mom walked shakily to Noah’s bed, saw his face, pressed her face to the blankets on his chest and screamed. Mari bolted out of the room, out of the hallway, down the stairs, through the parking lot, past her car and back again, and cried for a family who could never know that their son was alive. She wondered how in the world she was ever going to make it through Noah's funeral, especially since she hadn't needed to attend any previous ones. However, at least in this case, it was actually more of a confusing scene than a wrenching, despairing one. Noah's family somehow kept face. They remembered amazing soccer wins and crazy stories of Noah being an amusing idiot, and Mari even talked a bit about how she’d learned from him to see life in a brighter way. She didn’t want anybody forgetting he could do that for people, now that he’d never see any of them again. The whole thing just felt like he had moved overseas or something: as if he wasn't really dead, just not around this group of people anymore. Which Mari knew for fact, but watching his family act as if it were true was confusing. Had it still not sunk in? Were they all just acting for the sake of the attendees? Maybe not. Mari still couldn't believe what had happened a day ago, and she'd been the only other human to see it. Mari's own vision blurred at Noah’s mom’s silent tears while his casket was lowered into the ground. Mari quietly left for a while to get dinner and give Noah’s real family the time they needed, and stopped by home long enough to grab the rusted, dented shovel from the front yard. By then it was nearly dark, so Mari started walking. If she timed it right, she’d get to the cemetery just as the last scraps of sunlight disappeared.