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The Others [IC/PG-16/Accepting]

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It, like every night, was dark. However it wasn't stormy. Instead it was cold and somewhat clammy. The time was 10 PM and, unlike some larger cities, the streets were mostly barren. The moon in the sky, and the streetlights on the ground, made the dark night possible to traverse without being blind.

They, in this case being Brian James Trantor and Carmen O'Conner, had gotten a message not long ago. It was from their mysterious savior/employer, Shiki. This was unusual, the first of several unusual moments, as the girl hardly ever used text messages to contact them. Though it was only a couple words, "Dagen Park" which was why they both had made their way towards said park.

Park might be something of an exaggeration. it was rather large, it would only take a couple minutes to cross it, and only had a singular bench, under an old gazebo, to sit in. Some trees were scattered around, mostly around the edge to the left facing from the street, but not many and only one or two that were truly large. A playground sat in the center of the small grassy field which consisted of a couple slides, monkey bars, and a bit of a distance from that a pair of seesaws and a swing set that creaked with the slight breeze. Off to the side of said playground, at the right edge of the park, was a concrete area for parking. And there sat a singular vehicle.

They each would recognize it as belonging to Shiki. A large van, practically a camper, that looked like it shouldn't be able to run. Yet they knew it did. Usually, yet another unusual thing tonight, this van was parked outside of their houses, or wherever they happened to be when Shiki wanted to contact them, and they'd use it to get to whatever Shiki needed them to do.

However this time it was in another location. The reason why was clear to them soon.

The third unusual thing of the night. Whenever they found said van they were the only ones who ever paid it any mind. However today there was another. For Brian this was Carmen. And for Carmen this was Brian.

Without any warning it seemed that Shiki had decided that the two of them would meet tonight. In this park. On this cold and clammy night.


Not much to start with, I know, if you wanted instant spooks sorry about that. But yes, it's time to meet. I tried to describe everything best I could but I didn't want to get too specific with where things are and such in this intro post. If you want more details about anything let me know.

Leaving how you get there and which gets there first up to you but basically there's only one road that you can take to reach here (actually will provide a bit of a map to explain)

Also I should mention this isn't the destination for the spook, the usual way is you'd get instructions inside the van.



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Even in his younger years (and, at the ripe age of twenty-six, those years were certainly far behind him), Brian had never been the type of person to run around on a playground going up and down a four-foot slide for some petty amusement. Now, he just trudged across the mulch lot in the middle of Dagen Park to the asphalt one on the other side, not even paying the jungle gym any mind at all. His hand instinctively reached for a pocket on the inner left side of his coat and came up wanting, cigaretteless. God, he thought, cold turkey was the worst way to go, but he also had to prove to himself the value of his own will. He could stop this if he wanted. Just as he would have stopped going down those stairs a month ago.

He could have taken up a different vice. No, perhaps his new vice was whatever this new nonsense was. It certainly would explain why he was enduring the cold such as it was. It wasn’t even raining, which would have given a reason for the miserable weather. Instead, the weather was just miserable of its own accord. Brian jammed his hands back in his pants pockets and shrunk further into his coat. Only just a little bit further.

Shiki had directed him to the van like Shiki always had, even if this time it had been somewhere other than just outside his house. Maybe the heat was fixed this time, Brian thought, and he could experience some semblance of sanctuary before committing himself to whatever ineffable task had been given to him, but he wasn’t holding out much hope. The van actually looked worse than how he remembered it, not helped by the fact that it had apparently attracted a loiterer in the meantime.

Brian had always assumed the reason Shiki lent him such a shitty mode of transportation was to avoid such attention. If you saw a nearly inoperable car you didn’t really care what was inside it, he figured. Even if it were easier to break into, the contents surely wouldn’t be worth the effort. And yet, as he stepped onto the concrete and shuffled even closer, he could make out someone poking around the van. They had to be the desperate sort, then. His hands balled into fists in his pockets. It wasn’t that he was about to fight some vagrant over something that wasn’t even his to lose, but it put him in the right frame of reference for what he had to do next.

“You looking for money or something?” Brian said. “I’m not gonna fund a drug habit or anything but I can buy you something from Taco Bell or whatever I guess.” He pointed at the van. “I am going to need to get into that, though.”

Edited by radio414

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Carmen wore a miserable expression as she  made her way down the night time streets of Marinton. A pronounced frown was on her face and her eyes told that they would rather be anywhere else then where she was currently. It wasn't as though she hated being out and about at night. There were always less people around and being able to move freely down both the streets and sidewalk were their own kind of comfort. However she felt like anybody she did see at this time of night was far more dangerous and terrifying then anyone she would meet otherwise. The girl continued to survey her surroundings as she eventually got to the park, seeing the somewhat unfamiliar vehicle that had been awaiting her. Were it a more standard vehicle, even with the location matching and the fact that it was by itself Carmen was likely to mistake it. However, the vehicle itself was unmistakably out of place no matter where it was that Carmen had an easy enough time getting up to it. 

Of course, between her and the van was the entire rest of the small, empty park. There was no one there and nothing out of the ordinary, aside from the van, to actually obstruct her way. Yet, in spite of this, the girl couldn't help but feel some level of anxiety, that if she stepped on the grass that some vengeful spirit might shoot out from underneath. Things to that affect at least. Yet, with her new, unwilling, job that she had to deal with it was inevitable that she'd have to deal with things of that nature eventually anyway. She just wished "eventually" was tomorrow. 

Taking a few deep breaths the girl eventually made her way over to the van - without incident! - to go and check what kind of secondary cryptic message she would receive. As she peered into the window of the van, the girl looked momentarily for - 

“You looking for money or something?”

The girl froze like a statue, her heart likely stopping for a second as she heard the unfamiliar voice call out from behind her. She remained unblinking looking at the window of the car, trying to see if she could piece together who the man was from the reflection in the window. Her first thought suggested that it might've been a police officer, and so the girl was quickly looking for anything she did wrong. She wasn't aware of any curfew in place so perhaps she just looked suspicious to the officer? She wasn't wearing particularly bright clothing nor did she look that well dressed - though that might've looked more suspicious? - so she could only assume that they thought they were going to burglarize the vehicle. Of course this wasn't her vehicle and she had no claim or proof that she had anything to do with it, and would explaining that it was her employers vehicle she was supposed to look for going to fly? For that matter was calling Shiki her "employer" all that accurate? She could maybe get them to call Shiki since Carmen did have her contact info, but then the officer would have her phone and find some of her illicitly downloaded music and make things even worse for her. 

“I’m not gonna fund a drug habit or anything but I can buy you something from Taco Bell or whatever I guess.”

It wasn't a cop! The girl turned around to look at the man, generously offering to buy her food at this hour. "Oh! Uh well um, no...no no I don't need money for drugs...but, um, well, Tacos do sound kind of nice..." Though she was in the middle of a job, sort of, and she wasn't sure if her employer would be good with her just ditching for tacos right now and she wasn't sure if being full of fast food would be a good idea before doing...whatever it was she was supposed to do. Besides, tacos weren't great to eat before going to sleep and it was getting late into the night. Not like she would've gone to bed in the next few hours on a normal night anyway. "Hehehe..." The girl chuckled to herself at the thought, only to look up and realize she had been standing there silent for a bit without actually answering them.

"Ah but um...I uh..." Carmen trailed off as she started to explain, now looking at the man up and down and realizing how strange it was for a stranger to also be here, at this time of night, looking at this shabby of a van in this exact park. There were two thoughts. One, that Shiki had sent someone else here for one reason or another and they were here for the very same reason that Carmen was. Two, he was in fact some kind of burglar who saw the old van to be an easy mark, being old it probably was much simpler to open then a more modern car. If he was in fact a burglar she didn't want to implicate she was interested in the contents inside the truck lest he also mug her. She was also hired to deal with paranormal stuff, not people crime so Shiki couldn't hold anything against them if things worked out like that, right? Though, if she didn't get what was in the car then she couldn't do her actual job and that would also end poorly. So, instead, shuffling to the side, she gestured to the door and said, "uh, go ahead." But was clear that she was intent to continue hovering around the car, wanting to see what was inside. 

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The girl didn’t react how Brian expected. She was jumpy but not in that weird druggie sort of way, and while she did accept the offer of food instead of money, she didn’t do any of that “God bless you, sir,” stuff. She kind of laughed and mumbled, and Brian could only stare. Maybe he just didn’t understand women. This one got out of the way, so he went to the driver’s-side door, climbed in, and surveyed the scene.

Shiki’s camper van was just as much a run-down piece of junk on the inside as it was on the outside. There were still dishes in the miserable little sink, for one, and he was pretty sure the interior of the mini-fridge still smelled of cheese. Either way, he didn’t want to open it and check. The purple shag carpet in the back by the bed had seen better days, and the less said about the state of the microwave the better. At least all the stuff for actual jobs was there -- flashlights, cameras, a spirit box, the works. Brian wondered what the girl would think about all that. It was a weird image thing, would she think he lived like this? Would she think the only thing he did for fun was watch old VHS tapes on an even older television set? It didn’t matter, Brian thought. He wasn’t about to apologize for Shiki’s mess, especially to some girl he was driving to fake Mexican tacos before whatever job Shiki had in mind.

He found the keys in their usual hiding place and rolled down the window with the little hand crank. It always took a bit more effort than he expected, but he managed. “You getting in?” he said, looking at the girl through the mirror. “Just look out for the door, it doesn’t close right unless you really slam it.”

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Carmen looked into the camper van as the man walked inside, a bit impressed with how naturally he seemed to be navigating it. The man certainly looked like he had gone through this vehicle before, with how quickly he also managed to find the keys to it. The girl was a bit surprised though her assumption that he was here at Shiki's behest and was not, in fact, some kind of late night van robber was growing. Of course that did little to allay her suspicions of him, especially as he asked if she was getting in. For all she knew the place Shiki hid their keys was an incredibly common place and the man just had a calm and natural demeanor about him. Carmen did step into the vehicle of course, she really had no choice in the matter if she was going to do her job and not just let some stranger take Shiki's van right in front of her, but she also realized that she was getting into a van with a strange man that had promised her food. 

Deciding that it was best for her own sake to clear things up and figure out just who this man was, Carmen looked ready to speak. Of course, the act of actually speaking was much harder then most gave it credit for and instead of voicing anything her eyes drifted to immediately look around the camper, taking a few moments to examine the interior of the vehicle instead. She hadn't been doing this for long and so the utter outdatedness of the van had continued to surprise Carmen, as well as how much it looked like it was meant to be lived in. In a sense, Carmen couldn't help but wonder if this was actually where Shiki usually spent their days and hung out, and thus also wasn't sure how she felt about someone just driving off with their home. Similarly what was the mysterious person doing while they left their house on wheels to a near stranger. Maybe that just meant this new person and Shiki were actually close friends? After spending some time in contemplation about this, Carmen eventually looked back to the man and asked, "your uh, vehicle is pretty retro looking...do you like, live in here?" 

His hands tightened on the steering wheel. He didn't even give her the decency to look back at her. "No," he said. "The only people who live in their vans are rock climbers and cultists and I'm about as far removed from those people as you can get. I'm just borrowing it."

"Ahh...yeah I suppose...wait you don't think they're some kind of cultist do you? I mean, I guess that would make sense they do wear pretty weird gear..." Carmen wondered for a second if this meant that she was also part some kind of cult. Most cults asked for money though as opposed to providing them, and didn't usually have a sense of actual factual basing in their supernatural talk. Though most of that was from inferencing on hearsay as opposed to actual fact and experience so maybe she was just being judgmental? No no, they were definitely bad news. And the thought of actually joining a cult to find out was far more terrifying then the thought of getting tacos with a stranger. She didn't even want to be a part of this one to begin with. Though maybe Shiki was just some kind of mountain climber? Breaking her own chain of thought again the girl continued to probe this maybe robber for information. "Oh um, so uh, this uh, friend of yours...that owns this thing, they don't happen to have some kind of weird unorthodox job or something?"

"I didn't say Shiki was my friend."

"Oh! So you know Shiki too? Oh phew, I thought you were a robber and were trying to silence me or turn me into taco meat or something, hehehe." Her nerves settled, the girl let out a deep sigh of relief, before she stood to attention realizing something. "So, uh...where are you driving to?"

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Saying Shiki’s name like that was a stupid slip of the tongue. If the girl had been at the van for any other reason, it would have been a peek behind the veil that he would have been responsible for, and if there was one thing Brian didn’t want to be with random strangers, it was being responsible for them. He was doing this paranormal stuff for his own sake and nobody else’s. The fact that the girl had already been brought through was relieving. Of course she had been. Who else would have been interested in that van? He nearly laughed in spite of himself when she said he could have been a Sweeny Todd-esque taco vendor, completely forgetting the assumptions that he had made about her. 

Well, she could still be homeless. It seemed like Shiki was, after all, probably the most normal thing about Shiki if Brian thought about it. Why couldn't anyone working for Shiki also be homeless? It wasn’t like this job paid that much.

“I’m driving to Taco Bell,” he said. “Until Shiki figures out how to give a straightforward instruction. If whatever this is is going to ruin my night, at least I can ruin my night on my own terms. And yours, by proxy, since I’m still paying. I’m Brian, by the way.”

Shiki was lucky he knew how to drive manual. It seemed like nobody else in the world could. There were reality tv competitions involving driving -- not that Brian had watched any, but he had been in the room occasionally when an episode came on -- and there was always a challenge involving a manual gearbox. It seemed like even in a situation where learning how to drive properly would be beneficial, people still refused to do it. That didn’t make the van easy to drive, of course. It ran only slightly better than it looked.

No matter where he was, it always seemed like there was a Taco Bell nearby. This fact didn’t surprise Brian -- he knew how the franchise model worked -- but he was glad for it. It meant he didn’t have to endure driving for too long. He pulled into the parking lot and rubbed his palms; he hadn’t relaxed his grip since the girl had asked him those questions. “Alright,” he said. “Let’s- wait.”

He had just spotted something in the rear mirror. In the back of the van, next to the TV, was an ominously unlabeled VCR tape, the kind of ominous that made Brian swear it had not been there before even though it easily could have. “Yeah, hold up,” he said. “I think this is it.” He checked to make sure the tape was wound properly and stuck it in the slot.

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Static. That was all that showed when the tape was put in and the tv turned on. A low humming noise could be heard while on the screen the glitchy jumble of black and white, with occasional color, repeated again and again.

Then they saw a familiar face. Or rather a familiar paper talisman covering a face. Shiki appeared on the screen, sitting too close to the camera so that all they could see was said talisman and some of their hair.

"We are Shiki." They began, as they always did no matter how many times they have introduced themselves. "If you are not Carmen or Brian please stop the tape and rewind it. Thank you." They were silent for a few moments. Not moving the slightest amounts the entire time.

"Marinton High School. Two disappearances. One was two weeks ago. A janitor that was fixing a bathroom vanished overnight. The other was one week ago. A janitor that was fixing another bathroom vanished overnight. I was contacted. You will investigate. Meet the contact at the entrance. They will be waiting to let you in. There are a new batch of seals in the second tote under the bed. When you are finished bring the van to where you found it and we will collect it at sunrise. Thank you."

There was silence that followed. Shiki didn't say anything nor did they move. After a few moments they said. "Please stop the tape. Thank you." Then continued to sit there.

If they kept watching they would quickly begin to suspect that Shiki didn't know how to stop recording and simply continued to sit there in silence until the tape ran out.

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Carmen had just been standing awkwardly in the camper van, not really wanting to sit down anywhere in the moving vehicle and not interjecting with Brian's plan at all. She was becoming less and less sure about getting tacos before a mission to deal with some kind of ghost, but Brian seemed gung-ho for them so she said nothing about it. Instead, she just responded to his comments with a, "h-hi, Brian," neglecting entirely to introduce herself. The ride to the Taco Bell Pizza Hut combo was a short lived one, thankfully, and once there Brian got up from his seat and found the video to start their briefing on the mission. 

Carmen didn't have very fond of memories of school, in any year she went, and was dreading entering the old building more so than she was the ghosts at first. Of course the prospect of having to deal with a bathroom ghost didn't fill her with delight either, figuring that such specters were amongst the most heinous to deal with. Once the briefing ending, Carmen looked to the video of Shiki, then to Brian wondering if he'd stop it. Then, as Shiki told them to stop the tape, the girl looked back to the man and, not wanting to go against her paranormal hunting employer's wishes the girl awkwardly shuffled up to the television and shut it off. "Um...uh...yeah," the girl tried to say something, really anything, about the mission they were just given but instead went with nothing and shuffled over to the bed. Looking in the tote as described the girl pulled out a few familiar looking rectangular slips of paper just saying, "they're uh, here," and then put them back inside almost immediately before leaving the camper. 

While moments earlier Carmen had been having doubts about whether she wanted tacos at all and typically not wanting to spend too much of another person's money when they were buying, the combination of stress and newfound hunger had wrapped all the way back around to her ordering four tacos and a large soda. As she got her food, the girl looked sheepishly towards Brian saying, "so uh...well, I don't really feel comfortable um, driving, so, uhhh..." Having just mooched off the kindness of a stranger and then telling him to drive her, Carmen truly felt like she wished to go hide in a bathroom and vanish. 

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Brian sighed as he bit into something called a “Black Bean Chalupa Supreme®” which tasted, well, it didn’t taste great, but then again, he wasn’t going to Taco Bell at ass-o’clock at night for a majestic palate experience. He was doing this to pay off a debt. That justification worked for the broader scenario too. He owed his life to Shiki, didn’t he?

Come inside. Come inside.

He shivered. His Chalupa wasn’t appealing to him anymore, which left the videotape and Carmen. The girl was Carmen, right? She’d already outed them both as associates of Shiki, though she hadn’t introduced herself yet despite Brian doing so and he wouldn’t put it past their employer to make that sort of logistical issue. He’d just call her Carmen and see where that took him. If she wasn’t, he figured she would say something.

Carmen did say something, but it still was barely anything worth listening to. “I don’t feel comfortable driving,” she said.

Which was fine. It was fine. “That’s fine,” Brian said. “I can drive, no problem. Just let me…” He took another bite of his Chalupa, managing to hold back his gag reflex long enough to keep it down. A sip of lemonade helped, but as he got back into the camper van he still wedged the thing into one of its cupholders and tried to forget about it. He grabbed the steering wheel and positioned his arm so he wouldn’t even have to look at it, but he was still aware of its presence and the grip was awkward, so he moved it back.

His hands went to his coat pocket again. Still no cigarettes. Okay. Shiki wanted them to poke around in a bathroom for a couple hours, so that’s what they were going to do. He turned the key in the ignition and the camper van sputtered to life once more. “Let’s get this over with.”

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As the van went down the road, flanked by trees, that led to the high school there was a sense of unease. No matter the number of times they did this there was always a disquiet when heading to the scene. Perhaps it was their own expectations, or perhaps there truly was something unnatural that only those who have encountered entities can detect, but this feeling didn't go away as they passed the treeline and could see the school itself.

The atmosphere certainly wasn't helped by the cemetery located across the street on the left.

The building itself didn't seem threatening, except of course for students arriving late. It was long, with two stories, and shaped vaguely like a stretched out U. As they turned, passing by the electronic sign which had an advertisement for a bank under it, a constant reminder to students about the responsibility that awaited them as soon as they graduated, down the curved road that took them to the front of the school, they felt as though someone, or something, was watching them.

In front of the main building was attached a smaller structure, still wide but shorter than even the bottom of the U, which at two ends had openings supported by three pillars at one side that led to a series of glass doors.

While the night was dark the area under one such openings was even darker. They would need flashlights to even see on their way towards the doors.

As one of the lights flashed across a door they saw a face pressed up against it. A thin old woman with chalk white skin and greying hair.

Suddenly the door opened and the woman stuck her head out. They could see that across the back of her neck hung at least half a dozen rosaries which jingled lightly as she moved. As the woman slowly stepped a bit farther out they could see she was covered in religious imagery and religious paraphernalia.

"Y-you aren't Shiki. Are y-you here for the...." Her eyes, small and beady, darted around nervously. "d-demon?" She gasped as she said this then made the sign of the cross across her chest.


You are now at the outside of the school. For lines or any other information, which you'll likely need unless you stop your post right as you approach the school (which I would be okay with provided you intend to continue after a round), I will be around at more/less all times.

I did my best but I'm not great at describing buildings. Best image I could find was at the opposite end but here.

Make sure to specify what you're taking in with you by the way.


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Carmen was quite glad that she didn't have to do any of the driving. Not only was she not that confident in her ability to drive, especially in the dead of night, but the ominous atmosphere was doing nothing for her nerves. As such she didn't have to worry about going to slow and finding a cop that would've just been out at this time of the night going to give her a ticket in a vehicle that wasn't hers to begin with. However none of this was the case, especially as she wasn't driving, and they managed to get to the school no worse for the wear. As the girl stepped out of the vehicle, a look of dread appeared across her face as she looked up towards the high school. The building itself was nothing short of ominous especially at this time of the night, but the notion of going into a high school at her age was far more daunting to her then any ghost that might've lurked there. It hadn't been that long since she had graduated from college and she was glad to have school finally behind her, though that didn't stop her from having nightmares about it. Classes she didn't have, deadlines that didn't exist, failing the most basic questions on a test. With the building right before her, Carmen grimaced knowing that the nightmare of school was never truly over. 

As she got closer to the building, however, her nerves were set ablaze even more as she saw a pale white figure open a door, and slowly make their way towards them. "Eeeeeeeep," the girl let out as she slowly backed off, using Brian for cover from the being. The old, chalk white woman who made their way over to them, beads jingling as she walked and a ghastly expression on her face. Carmen had been expecting to go looking for the ghost but she was at a blank now that it was coming for them, and right on the onset of the job as well. As Carmen was making peace with her fate, the woman then spoke up. Carmen first wondered if this was still truly a ghost, trying to catch them off guard and figure out if they were connected to Shiki so it would know if it had to kill them right away or not. But, so far it had only been targeting janitors and people already inside the school. Carmen was not a janitor and they were going to go into the school anyway so it would've had plenty of time to get the job on them and kill them without making itself known. 

Trying to calm herself the girl said, "uh, y-yeah. We uh...we're Shiki's employees and uh, yeah. Are um, you the person who's supposed to like, let us in?"

The woman yelps in response and clutches at the rosaries around her neck. "T-that's me, I'm Ms. White." The woman emphasized the "Miss," in her name coming out more like a long drawn out "mizzzz" instead. 

Looking again at the pale figure she said, "right. White...Um," the girl cleared her throat before saying, "so uh, wh-where is the uh, toilet, ghost, demon, thing monster. Right now?"

"How would I know? I didn't go looking for it. I've been barricaded in the principle's office waiting for you all night." The longer she spoke the more high pitched her voice got. Then she narrowed her eyes. "What took you so long to get here?"

"Eh? Uh, um..." Caught off guard by the question, Carmen felt that if she were to answer with "tacos" the woman would promptly beat her with a ruler and scold her for all the mistakes she made in her life. So, fumbling around trying to think of an excuse the girl eventually said the first thing that came to mind. "The bathroom..."

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Posted (edited)

In high school, Brian had fallen in with the swim team, a group that was a bit bro-y for him, but it meant he was part of something, and if you were a part of something in high school, your chances of getting bullied drastically went down. Even when he was technically the one “nerdy” one on the swim team, what with his head always being in a book and trying to figure out how it worked, his times and making the varsity roster sophomore year kept things in his favor. All this was to say, no, he didn’t have a bad experience in high school, and the fact that Carmen seemed to cower before even the slightest hint of high school pressure told Brian a lot about her.

“What took you so long to get here?” Ms. White asked.

Brian responded with a sign of the cross of his own, though he intentionally did it wrong. He wasn’t about to entertain protections that didn’t work. He also noticed a bit of refried bean that had dripped out of his chalupa and stuck to his jacket, so he wiped that off with his index finger and stuck it in his mouth. It tasted about the same. “Pretty sure trades give two-hour windows of when they might show up for a reason,” he said. “Honestly, I thought we made pretty good time, all things considered.”

The woman seemed to grow paler by the second as both of the young adults spoke. “Oh, what a trial you have given me tonight,” she muttered. “Well, you’re here now, so… you can get rid of it, right? I didn't wait all this time in this forsaken place for nothing?”

“Of course we can, Miss White,” Brian said. “Just gotta get some tools and you’ll be demon-free in no time. Just gotta…” He went to the back of the van (intentionally exposing Carmen to the woman’s insanity for a moment) and came out with the box of seals Shiki had left them. “Alright, he said. “You’re going to have to show us to these bathrooms, you know. Sorry, your trial’s going to involve a bit more.”

“S-show you? Oh no, no no, I couldn't possibly go anywhere near...those places. It’s not a large school, surely you can find them yourself.” She begins muttering to herself, “I’d rather just lock up and leave and come back in the morning, to be honest, but then oh what might they do to the school while I am away…”

“If you say so,” Brian said. “I guess we’ll find you in the principal’s office under the desk when we’re done then?” He hefted the box again and added, “Let’s go, Carmen,” before heading towards the door.

As they crossed the threshold, though with the door still open and certainly within the woman’s earshot, Brian couldn’t help but add an additional crack. “What do you think she teaches, anyway? I’m going to guess Biology.”

Edited by radio414

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"I teach Home Ec, thank you very much.....my sister is the Biology teacher." The woman looked indignant for a moment. However as the door shut, and the three of them were back inside the school, she seemed to go back to the nervous wreck she was before. "H-hurry it up, come to the office when it's...finished." She then proceeded to scurry off towards a different room. Before entering a door on the left she could be heard saying, "These riffraff better not steal anything...I'll have to speak to their manager after this."

Said riffraff were now alone in the large open room.

The entrance doors opened up directly to the cafeteria, a large scattering of tables with attached benches across the floor. On the wall directly to their left were several rooms, the office that the teacher hid in as well as another for the school counselor. Opposite these rooms were a couple openings that led to the area that served up food for the students. To the right of their location, and to the right side opposite their location, were glass doors that opened up into hallways. On the opposite end of the doors they entered as well was another hallway leg off to more rooms.

On the left of the food serving area was an opening that branched off to the left and right that contained bathrooms and to the far left of the room were a series of doors that opened up into a gymnasium.

Now that the odd woman was gone, and her clinking necklaces, they could feel the full brunt of the atmosphere of this place. A sense of anxiety, more anxiety in Carmen's case, was at the forefront. An odd feeling of wanting to hide away, just as the teacher did. However this feeling wasn't so strong as to actually compel them to hide. It was closer to the feeling of watching someone anxious struggling to combat a panic attack. As if the anxiety wasn't there's and instead was something being thrust upon them externally.

And then, despite that it should not be active at this time, a bell rung, and the glass doors leading to the right opened up without anyone having touched the large square buttons on the walls that activated the automatic doors.


Aight so, gonna put up a basic map to give better idea of what's in the immediate vicinity, going based off memory and adding things here and there to make it fit more so if something seems like it doesn't make sense that's user error probably. Likely am forgetting specifics, and certain rooms, also the map is not to scale of sizes of rooms more just to get idea of placement.


It should be obvious but this sorta RP relies a lot on you two getting info not just from me but each other before moving on too far.


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In terms of cafeterias, Brian had seen better. You had to pay to get into college ones, which was annoying, but at least they had half-decent food and a soda machine. This one just had a stall for one or two lunch ladies to slop some food on dozens, maybe hundreds of trays in an hour, and a sad yellow lighting scheme overhead to really keep students in their place. The ambiance intensified as Ms. White the not-Biology teacher slammed the door behind her and he and Carmen were left alone with an entire high school to explore, but even as the doors opened up on their own, Brian’s thoughts lingered on locations that were a bit closer.

“I rate it seven out of ten spooks so far,” Brian said. He hefted the box with all the seals in it. “Anyway, Shiki said whatever it is is in the restrooms so give me a hand with the box.” He cocked his head towards the other corner of the cafeteria. “You go seal all the toilets in the women’s restroom and I'll take the men’s, okay?”

Carmen nodded along, but she didn’t seem to really grasp the situation until they were actually at the restrooms. “Eh? Y-You mean… by myself?”

“I mean, I’m not going into a women’s restroom.” Brian picked up a handful of seals and held them right in front of Carmen’s chest. “Whatever else you might think of me, I'm not a pervert.”

Her expression brightened as she said, “Oh, that’s good.” Then, after a few moment’s pause, her expression became more defeated and downcast. “I’m not a pervert either…” she muttered. Which was weird, because Brian never said she was, and he was pretty sure he never implied it either, like, he wasn’t suggesting she go in the men’s restroom, but it didn’t matter. She agreed to the plan and that was enough.

The men’s restroom had three toilets and three urinals and was pretty clean for a high-school bathroom especially one so close to the cafeteria. Brian remembered it was janitors who had gone missing, so they were probably done with the room when whatever attacked them… attacked them. The lights were flickering, but that was the sort of problem he expected from a school suddenly down two custodial staff members, so he didn’t pay it much mind and instead got to work putting seals on all the toilets. The urinals were closets so he started with those, just sticking one up right near the handle.

Nothing worth noting happened so he started on the toilets, which were a bit more annoying because the doors were in the way, and he had to step into the stall entirely to actually reach the toilet. The first toilet he sealed he forgot to block the door from swinging closed so it made this loud BANG! that nearly got him to drop the seal in the toilet water, which would have been a pain. The second time was much the same, which meant by the time he was pulling at the third toilet door, he was swearing to himself not to make the same mistake three times in a row.

Touching the third toilet door, though, felt weird. It felt weird for a few reasons. The first was it was stuck closed, not to the point of being stuck entirely, just, like, it needed a little extra pull. The second was how every time he seemed to touch the door, the lights flickered, and they flickered more violently than they were when he’d just been sealing up the urinals. The third reason was biological: every time he touched the door -- or even got near to the door -- every single hair on his arms stood straight up.

He sighed. This wasn’t going to be easy, then. He flung open the door and rushed in, slapping a seal on whatever he could reach. The walls too because why not? When he actually reached the toilet, the lights went out. “Fuck,” Brian said. Then the door slammed shut. BANG!

“Fuck!” Brian said again. He dropped the seals and booked it, wheeling around and sprinting out of the bathroom, not even looking behind him until he was safely back in the cafeteria catching his breath. Maybe Carmen was having a better time of it. He’d seen that she’d brought a flashlight. That was smart of her, at least.

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Carmen had followed after Brian, trying to figure out what the teacher's subject was before she had told them directly. As they entered the school properly, the girl let out another squeal and backed up a bit as the school itself seemed to come to life. Carmen had hardly wanted to be here in the first place and that the school seemed to be welcoming them with the familiar sound of a bell ringing made her not want to stay here any longer. The girl had often thought that average every day life was something of a "seven out of ten spooks," maybe five on a good day, so she was certainly more willing to put this experience already at an eleven. As she was recovering, Brian then spoke up about their task that they had to get done. “You go seal all the toilets in the women’s restroom and I'll take the men’s, okay?”

Not really paying attention to his words at first, the girl absently nodded along at first, only to then suddenly realize what that implied. “Eh? Y-You mean… by myself?”

“I mean, I’m not going into a women’s restroom.” Brian picked up a handful of seals and held them right in front of Carmen’s chest. “Whatever else you might think of me, I'm not a pervert.”

"Oh, that's good." Her expression brightened and she seemed to be genuinely more assured as a result of this. It wasn't as though that she had thought of Brian as a pervert before now, really all he had been was the guy who drove and bought tacos for her. But, being in the situation she was in, taking his statement entirely at face value she was relieved that that was one thing she wouldn't have to worry about throughout the night. However, she then realized something else. If she was to try to insist on going in pairs that would mean that she would also have to go into the men's restroom. And if going into the woman's restroom made a man a pervert it held true that the other way around would be as well. Carmen didn't want to live with the thought of arguing with a man until he dismissed her as just having perverted delusions and making the entire rest of the night that much more awkward and difficult. Which would mean that she would have to be left by her lonesome when he went to the men's bathroom, and similarly have to be left alone when she went into the women's. Defeated and downcast the girl muttered, “I’m not a pervert either…” before grabbing the seals and going into the bathroom. 

The bathroom itself seemed to be fairly normal, outside of the lights all still being on in the middle of the night. In fact add to that weirdness, there were five stalls in the bathroom and yet all of them had their doors closed. As a veteran of sequestering herself in the bathroom, Carmen knew that the doors to such stalls were typically only closed if there was someone in them. And so, while the girl began to walk over, she paused as she realized that the stalls could in fact be occupied. It would be utterly bizarre if they were at this time of night, but what would be more bizarre would be this random adult woman barging in on some high schooler while they were using the toilet at the same time of night. Carmen would die on the spot if she had to live through such an embarrassment and so paused before continuing forward. Of course, she could just call out to check if anyone was around, but she knew that the less she spoke, the less people spoke back to her and that could only be seen as a net gain. So instead, she lowered her gaze, crouching a little to look under the stalls. 

Of course Carmen was no pervert, and in no rush to be labeled as such, so this was a technique that she had perfected over years of hiding from responsibility by using the bathroom as an excuse. Looking under just enough, and moving her body just casually so to not be seen as if she were actually trying to look under the stalls. To her relief, there seemed to be no feet that could be seen which meant that her risk of having to live through being called a voyeur of some kind was -


The girl reflexively lurched forward as she heard something that she personally would describe as a gunshot, echoing through the desolate bathroom. Keeping herself from falling from her stumble, the girl turned around only to see that the source of this noise was nothing more than a wayward mop that had fallen to the ground. Carmen breathed a sigh of relief, though couldn't help but wonder about it. Mops weren't typically stored in the bathrooms they were used to clean. Warily looking at the cleaning implement, the girl took a deep breath again, resolving to get this over with. 

Though she had already checked, the girl couldn't help but gulp nervously at the prospect that there was in fact someone in there. And so, slowly, she opened the door to find...nothing. The girl exhaled in relief once more, her heart working overtime with each new obstacle that presented itself. Walking over to the toilet, Carmen came to the realization that she wasn't exactly sure about what she was doing here. She had barely done this before and typically she was so scared out of her wits that she hardly wanted to remember what happened during. But, she had seals, and this was a toilet ghost of some kind so it made sense to her to just slap the seal on the toilet. Of course she didn't know which toilet in particular this ghost was inhabiting so it was best to be thorough and hit all of them. She moved to the second stall without incident, placing a seal on that. Then, as she opened the door to the third one, the girl immediately slammed it shut as something that wasn't a toilet came into her vision. 

She had no idea what it was, but anything that wasn't a toilet in an empty stall had to be bad news. The girl was ready to just walk out and get Brian to check it out for her, but, she knew she still had a job to do here and also didn't want to have to try and actually convince him of anything. And so, she pushed opened the door only to find...a toilet plunger sticking out of the toilet. The girl cocked her head to the side, curious and confused at the sight. Storing a mop in the bathroom was certainly weird, but storing a plunger in the toilet certainly wasn't ordinary anywhere. The girl didn't really want to interact with it, but she figured that if the ghost was inhabiting a toilet it made sense that the toilet had to be closed first before it was sealed. So, awkwardly, she grabbed the plunger and placed it on the ground before putting on the third seal, and without incident the girl made it to the fourth stall, placing the seal on that one as well. 

Flicker. Flicker. 

The girl stiffened her posture, standing still for a moment and letting out a small squeal as the lights began to flicker. Darting her eyes around, seeing if there was any sort of being in there with her she saw nothing out of the ordinary, though what she could see was getting more limited as the lights began to flicker more and more. Knowing that something much worse was coming then just intermintent blindness from darkness, the girl scurried to the fifth stall door only to find it jammed. With it not opening immediately, Carmen couldn't help but wonder if there was someone in there who had locked the door, as impossible as it sounded, and so first politely asked, "uhh- sorry-  uh, is someone in there?"

Her question was answered with only a chill. Feeling a strange cold sensation creep up on her, the girl had decided to instinctually seek refuge in the stall by shoving the door open. The door itself wasn't actually locked and so the force she used was far more then necessary, causing her to stumble in the dark as the lights had completely gone out. Shuffling around a little, the girl's mind was at a blank for what to do until she remembered she came prepared for such a situation. Pulling out her flashlight, the girl turned it on and looked towards the toilet, freezing in place. 

A humanoid figure, practically towering over Carmen was standing where the toilet was. A long, gnarled mess of sopping wet hair cloaked her body, stretching all the way to the floor. Carmen stared at the entity, the figure in turn reaching out to her with a grey, thinning hand. "Sorry." Carmen bolted for the door, the hands narrowly missing her as she let out an, "Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!" Bursting out the door and running through the cafeteria, panic clear on her face the girl shouted, "Briiiiiiiiiaaaaaaaaaaaaannnnnn!"

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“Catching his breath” meant retching a couple times -- the rare occasion where he wanted to throw up and had to leave the restroom to do so -- but Brian managed to keep the Taco Bell inside him as he pulled himself up from his doubled-over crouch. “Fuck,” he said again, wiping his mouth and spitting into a nearby trash can. He leaned back and stretched his back. “Okay.”

Carmen was having a worse time of it, it seemed. Even having taken the flashlight into the restroom with her, she was now running around the whole cafeteria. Brian almost wondered what Ms. White was thinking watching all this before remembering that he didn’t actually care. He just had a job to do, so he followed after Carmen, “Carmen. Hey, Carmen. Carmen.”

He kept saying her name until she actually calmed down and started listening to him. “Carmen,” he said one more time. “Listen to me. I’m sorry you’re feeling like this and it’s a perfectly reasonable reaction to have, but also I feel like this is part of the job so you're going to have to take some deep breaths and be a big girl, okay?” He was projecting a lot more confidence than he actually had but he wasn't about to look weak in front of Carmen, Ms. White, or whatever was in the restrooms.

Carmen had indeed been taking deep breaths. Though they were much less the calming deep breaths that he had suggested and much more a result of her hyperventilating. “A- b- t- there-  bath- geh-” In trying to stammer out everything the girl’s tongue tripped on her own words and ended up having a bit of a coughing fit. After a slight wheeze, the girl took another deep breath and exhaled. “Phew, that was close,” she said. Then, after a moment panic returned to her eyes as she pointed to the bathroom shouting, “Ghost!”

“So you did see a ghost then?” Brian said. “Not a demon or like a djinn or something else? Because all I saw could be attributed to bad wiring and carbon monoxide and while I've accepted that ghosts exist and all that, I didn’t see any ghosts. Speaking of,” He gestured to her flashlight. “Give me that. Electrical failure or ghost, whichever it is I'm pretty sure it's not gonna turn the lights back on for me and I need to finish up.”

“I uh- I’m- maybe a demon? Or maybe it's a toilet Djinn?” Carmen seemed to be thrown off by the first question, trying to figure out the specifics before explaining further. “Big- it was tall and went,” and Carmen lifted her hands, wiggling them in Brian's direction. At his flashlight request, the girl hugged it closer to her saying, “It was dark in there too!” The girl looked dejected, her gaze moving downward as she said, “It's gonna drag me into the toilet isn't it…”

“Probably,” Brian said, “although if it was a demon I think it would have done so already. It sounds like a ghost.” He made another grab at the flashlight, an actual physical grab and not just a gesture. “You don't have to go back in right away. You can stay out here while I finish up. Do you have your phone on you? You can even stay on the line so you'll know if something happens, okay?”

Carmen’s grip on it was tight but she didn't put up much of a fight as he yanked out of her hand. The girl shook her head and said, “That sounds even scarier. I’ll uh… just…” She sat down at a table and planted her face against it.

“Okay, suit yourself,” Brian said. He went back to in front of the restrooms and fiddled with the flashlight, making sure he knew how it worked (and, for that matter, that it even worked at all) as he steeled himself to reenter the haunted bathroom. He’d have to do this himself. He didn’t want to, but he had to.

Did he have to? There were always other options. He could be like Carmen and just close himself off until morning or even exit the building and drive back to the park. Each had its own appeal over going into girl’s restrooms and fighting things that went aboogy-woogy-woo or whatever Carmen did with her arms. He looked back at Carmen. She was still there, which, now that he was thinking of other options, was kind of a weird middle-ground. She wasn’t participating, but she hadn’t left.

He walked back over and tapped the table with the flashlight to get her attention. “Okay, actually, you’re going to have to tell me why you’re here, then,” he said. “Not like a smarmy reason like, ‘you drove us here in that van, Brian,’ why are you working for Shiki if you’re going to shut down at the first mildly spooky thing you come across?” He was downplaying his own emotions again, but fuck it. “Did Shiki save your life or something like me? Are you paying off some debt? Is that it?

“Or maybe you can’t tell me. Or you can’t right now. Whatever. I’ve gotta go seal up one more toilet, ghost or no ghost. But whatever reason it is, you can’t tell me cowering like a schoolgirl is going to align with those reasons at all. Figure it out.” He took out a pen and wrote his number on the back of a seal. “Call me if you change your mind. I’m going in there.”

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Carmen only continued to groan in discomfort as Brian began to press her for an answer...or didn't? She wasn't entirely sure on that but she was certainly certain that he was quite angry with how she was acting. But, there was not much else the girl could do in this situation. She was scared out of her wits and she wanted to only partake in as much scary things as were particularly necessary. As the boy's bathroom was not her domain to investigate she figured that she would be better off just not doing anything at all. Of course, having someone angry with her while her face was buried into a table in a place she knew was haunted was actually incredibly unnerving. Every moment that he stopped moving or paused she briefly wondered if he had gotten eaten by a ghost or not, and the idea of lifting her head up to see him either dead, vanished, or a ghost in his place was similarly terrifying. Realizing that she had put herself into a no win situation, the girl slowly lifted her head up to see the paper seal with a cryptic string of numbers on it that she had to take a moment to parse was in fact a phone number. 

Looking up fully to see that Brian was still there and waiting for her answer on the matter, the girl had a clear discouraged frown on her face. Matter of factly the girl stated, "Shiki is scary and ghosts are scary." As if this was all the explanation that she needed to give as to why she was here in the first place. "But, well, uh, um...I don't really want to go back because uh," the girl pointed to the flashlight in Brian's hand. "And I don't want to talk on the phone since well, if you got attacked by a ghost I don't want to hear that second hand. That would be kind of spooky in its own right and I would have to hear you screaming from two places at once but on a delay, unless you just vanished which might be even worse over the phone but then I guess I'd just be sitting here waiting for you to never come out and get murdered by a ghost myself. I guess it's better than dying in a bathroom though but a school is still a bad place to go in...I guess you never can escape school, hehehehehe...." The girl chuckled to herself after giving a longwinded chat to herself, pulling out her phone and calling the number on the slip. Looking much calmer then she was before, though still having the expression of a nervous puppy, the girl pointed to the boy's bathroom. "Oh uh, but I still can't go in there." 

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Brian dutifully answered his phone when called. “Check, check,” he said. He heard his voice coming from Carmen’s phone, which would have been the most unnerving thing he’d experienced that day if not for, you know, the ghosts. But again, the ghosts weren’t going to keep him from doing his job, and neither was the phone thing. He went over to the box of seals and refreshed his own personal stock of the things, before turning the flashlight on and pointing it at a wall to make sure it worked. It was pretty cheap, just like everything else Shiki seemed to give them, Brian mused, but it shone bright enough to see the spot even with all the lights in the cafeteria on, which was good enough for him.

“There’s this guy in my fraternity,” Brian mused as he finished gearing up, “uh, Rho Alpha Delta if you care. His name is Carmichael, and he’s as much a stick in the mud as that sort of name suggests. He was always trying to tell us off for doing admittedly stupid shit, like jumping onto a trampoline from the frat house roof or whatever. Everyone else in turn would call him a coward for, you know, obvious reasons and Carmichael was always like, ‘Cowards live.’ And, you know, fair enough. Carmichael Jones is still alive and with us today, and doing Jackass stunts is a good way to end up dead. But he’s also a nervous wreck with no hobbies working a dead-end job because he’s too fucking scared to quit.

“Anyway, the point is, cowards live, sure,” Brian said, “but that’s because they don’t do anything else. Going in now.” He crossed the threshold back into the restroom.

The lights were back on, which made having the flashlight on a little embarrassing, but there wasn’t anyone to see it, so the embarrassment quickly faded. “Pretty normal in here,” Brian said. He realized Carmen probably didn’t have a good idea of what a “normal” high school boy’s restroom looked like, but he wasn’t about to elaborate. “Like I said, I’m mostly done, just gotta take care of the one toilet that spooked me the first time around.” He pulled out the seals and aimed the flashlight right at the corner toilet. The lights flickered, but the flashlight was just good enough to keep the ambient light levels above the proper spooky zone. He stuck his phone in the crook of his shoulder and pulled out the seals. “Just gonna keep talking until this is done, Carmen. I promise I won’t cry wolf or anything either, just for you.”

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Brian would notice that the flickering didn't seem as intense as it had before. At least not at first. As he neared the stall the lights flickered more. In between the flickers, for a moment, he thought he noticed something cross his vision. He couldn't see anything instead it was more like he felt like there had been something there. Something floating across his field of vision from the right and towards the left where the stall was.

Right before he got to the stall the door creaked to a close and the lights suddenly dimmed.

Perhaps it was knowing what had happened before but when he opened the door again and looked at the toilet he felt a sense of unease. There wasn't anything there he could see and yet it seemed like there was. The closer he got the stronger this sensation would get until, just as he fully stepped inside, the lights flickered before they went out entirely.

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“Ah, there’s that light failure again,” Brian said into his phone. He was glad he kept the flashlight on so he didn’t have to fumble around in the dark. “But I’m still here. I’m alive.” He scanned the area again with the light taking note of his surroundings. Yeah, it was still the same room he was just in, no mystic fakery there. There were urinals and a sink and a - “Jesus Christ.”

Where the toilet had been was a ghost. It was the kind of ghost with wet hair that covered her face and stretched all the way to the ground where it mangled together into a heap. It was a sorry wretch of a ghost, all things considered, Brian thought. Still, its sudden appearance had given him a little jump, “I’m not going to say I didn’t believe you before, Carmen, but I found the ghost,” he said. To the ghost, but still with the phone listening in, he said, “Excuse me, can I just…”

He extended his arm out with one of the seals in hand and kept going forward, ignoring the nagging feeling in the back of his mind that whatever it was it really ought not to be. If the ghost disappeared again, he’d just stick the seal on the toilet. If it stayed dormant, he’d stick it on its forehead and figure out something from there. He didn’t actually know how the seals were supposed to work.

The ghost, though, did neither of those things. It grabbed Brian’s arm with a speed he wasn’t ready for, and its hand was clammy to the touch. “Excuse me, that’s-” Brian grunted. He tried to push forward, just, like, slide down the grip so he could stick the seal on something, but the ghost’s grip was firm enough there to make it kind of a struggle. And it had one free hand too, but it didn’t try to grab Brian with that one. Instead, it reached up to its head area and parted its hair, revealing itself to not only not have a face, but had a void instead of a face, a gaping hole that was impossibly deep for its place in the ghost’s body. It was directing the seal -- and Brian’s arm -- towards that.

“Nope. Nope nope nope. No thanks,” Brian said. He yanked his arm back, but it took a few tries before he could get his wrist free. For the second time that night, Brian found himself sprinting for the bathroom door.

He spotted Carmen as he came out, hung up the phone, and ran back over. “Okay, new plan. Let’s go back to the van and, uh, see what other stuff Shiki might have left for us.”

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      “As you are no doubt aware, the Renegade Cape Cassandra predicted the end of the world at Hallowmas last night,” he said. “This is so obviously S-Class, it’s practically the definition of the term. Unfortunately, the actual words on the truces don’t agree here. They were written more for singular, concrete threats. A tornado, some supervillain who’s gotten too big for their britches, a bio-Tinker’s experiment run amok. Not something as nebulous and off in the distance as this. If we try to litigate this through the normal channels, that’s precious time lost we could have spent dealing with whatever the fuck this actually is, so we’re hoping to avoid that.”
      He tossed the folders down the table, one at a time. Landing them neatly at the edge right in front of his target without anything spilling out was something that had taken countless briefings just like these to perfect, but it was worth it every time. “We do have some language in our favor, however. We just need the leaders of each of the three main gangs to agree with us, and sign a document saying as much. You three will be facilitating that.”
      “In those folders are our profiles on the three gangs and the leaders,” Bard said, standing up as well. “Gibbons’ Caesar” -- he pronounced it “ˈsi zər” -- “The Zodiac’s Ophiuchus, and, of course, the Moray Clan’s three Fates. Most of it’s common knowledge, but make sure you’re up to date on it. It also has my best guesses as to how the negotiations are going to play out. Unfortunately, it is probably going to be a negotiation. Six months is a lot of time for Scarlet City’s underworld to play nice.”
      “We’re going to have to play nice in return,” Director Sekelsky said. “We were the ones with the most cape activity last night. Again, the extenuating circumstances favor us, and obviously so, but they’ll be looking for any concession they can get. Also included in those folders is a copy of a temporary S-Class agreement. It won’t last until April, but it’s something we can use when the Peacekeepers get their act together, so as long as you don’t do anything stupid like make a legally binding agreement without our negotiators present -”
      “Or start a fight,” Bard said.
      “- or start a fight, we’re giving you a lot of leeway on this. We need those signatures, you understand? The meetings are already set up. Catty Key buzzed everyone earlier, so be sure to thank her when you get the chance. Your first meeting is with the Fates in Echo Park, the other places and times are in there as well.”
      His eyes met Ember’s “Ember, you’re not going to that last one as per our existing agreement regarding Gibbons, report back here after The Zodiac meeting instead for a different assignment.”
      The last moment lingered a bit longer than Director Sekelsky intended, which mattered in the face of all the time pressure, but was still recoverable. “You have a few minutes to finish your reading, ask any questions, you might have, and then get going. Leave through the back while the sixes don’t have the building completely surrounded yet.”
      Hidden World
      Clotho, Lachesis, and Atropos Lanthimos, the Moray Clan’s three Fates, arranged themselves in various positions about their lair’s (for lack of a better word) throne room searching for something that might fit the correct vibe. It was the new costumes that were the problem here. They’d just gotten three matching dresses from Rajawongse made out of Clotho’s fibers -- and they were the kind of dresses that came with pockets! -- but the room had been put together with their old aesthetic in mind. They’d started out so stereotypical, even getting one of those prop replica thrones from that one show, but the dresses were some kind of postmodern art. They had a flow to them that looked especially nice when they all stood together and the blotches of color started to blur. It was a total clash. The only pieces of fabric left from their old costumes were their blindfolds.
      “Blindfolds” was another one of those words that was technically true but not really. They were a solid black, but The Fates could all see through them just fine. Part of the magic of Clotho’s string was that its properties could be whatever she wanted it to be. That was one of the reasons Rajawongse had been so inspired in the first place -- a practically infinite amount of new materials, right there at his fingertips, who wouldn’t? But phrasing it that way would also sell the Renegade clothier short. He was a master of his craft even without his power. Rajawongse had created dresses that were identical down to the tiniest stitch. With them, the only way to identify which Fate was which was their distinctive manner of speech.
      “Maybe it’s the room that needs to change, not us,” Clotho said.
      “Sure,” Lachesis said.
      “But that doesn’t change the fact we need to figure out what we’re doing right now,” Atropos said. She was also identifiable by the butterfly knife she carried with her, a helpful outlet for not just her power, but idle hands in general. The swish-clack sound of its handles seemed to punctuate everything that particular Fate said, and frequently some of her sisters’.
      They settled on one of their standard formations -- Lachesis lounging on the throne flanked on either by her two sisters -- just as three of their underlings entered the room. Vi, Sibyl, and Demiurge were their names. The Fates gave them some time to get situated and even offered them some fruit in case they hadn’t eaten breakfast yet. It was still early in the morning, after all. It also gave them an excuse to get everyone up to speed on the previous night's events, the prophecy, the riots, everything.
      “The Stadium isn’t our territory, though it’s close enough that it might as well be,” Lachesis said.
      “And we’re going to have to deal with the smashed windows that are in our territory. Some of our people are already on it.”
      “It won’t be finished until later, though. Right now, G3 --”
      “-- The Generic Good Guys --”
      “-- The Group of Giant Goobers --”
      “-- is going to be pushing us for some kind of temporary truce until they can get their act together, and we don’t have any reason not to accept.”
      “But we also have reason to believe the Gibbons aren’t going to take the deal,” Lachesis said. “There are a couple of reasons for that. The first is that, like, it’s Gibbons. There’s no way Caesar” -- she pronounced it “ˈsi zər” -- “is going to let a land grab opportunity slip through his fingers, no matter how bad of an opportunity it is.”
      “That’s what happens when most of your territory is crap,” Atropos said. Swish. Clack. “Even when you have the most of any gang in all of Skitty.”
      “So it’s in character for him,” Clotho said. “But perhaps more damningly, he laid out his plans this morning while Worm still had one of his walls bugged, and later we hear some Gibbons capes are on the way to our territory. So we just- we know it’s going to happen. ”
      “Sorry to bury the lede like that.”
      “Our people cleaning up Nola Street already know this,” Clotho said. “There are some pretty hefty capes helping out there, both ours and otherwise, and DEUS is still in the area for at least a little bit longer.”
      “We’ll fight too if we goddamn have to.” The swish-clack of Atropos’ knife was especially forceful that time.
      “The point is, there’s a little time before anything goes down. There are still a few preparations to make, though. More thorough battle plans, making sure complementary powers are together, that sort of thing. Your job this morning is to keep Caesar distracted, and the way we’d like you to do it is to wreck some of his shit first.”
      “The target is a warehouse eleven point five nine kilometers that way.” Lachesis pointed in a direction she knew to be Northeast. This was her showing off her Thinker power and she relished the opportunity. “Pretty close to The Shimmer without getting up and personal with it, about as far as possible away from what’s going to be happening here.”
      “We think it’s a lab for a Tinker on Caesar’s payroll, which means it’ll have a skeleton crew of just that one Tinker and an assistant or two.”
      “The point is to get them calling for help. We’re not killing them or anything. Just roughing them up a bit to get Caesar’s attention, you know?” Clotho winked. “Of course, if they do go running to the hills leaving a trove of Tinker tech behind, you might as well take any of the interesting shit, right?”
      “At the same time,” Lachesis was quick to add, “if help does show up, that’s your cue to get out of there. Remember The Stanley Principle. You’re not invincible no matter how far ahead you might seem.”
      The Fates finally went silent as the invocation of that nearly-sacred rule brought a little extra weight to the proceedings. Both Clotho and Atropos shifted uncomfortably where they stood, and Lachesis had to stop lounging and actually sit in her chair. “Oh, that was a lot, wasn’t it?” Clotho eventually said. “Sorry about that.”
      “Anyway, the actual meat and potatoes planning of this mission, that’s up to you,” Atropos said.
      “We’ve given you the place and the goal, kinda want to just see what you come up with,” Lachesis said. “Call it a test, you know? Show us what you can do.”
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