Chapter 1: An Ominous Advent.   Posted by Retro DM.Group: 0
July Coates
 player, 43 posts
 i'll sing along
 yeah with every emergency
Fri 3 May 2019
at 19:19
Chapter 1: An Ominous Advent
July jumped as a familiar, but thoroughly out of place, voice cut through the quiet of the lab. Nothing could have prepared her for the sight of her third period science teacher looking more like she'd walked out of Stargate than Gridley High. It was weird enough seeing teachers out and about in town, let alone popping up all clandestine in a secret underground lab.

"Hi," July said belatedly, remember manners in spite of her trepidation. She wanted to trust that Mr. Lunesby had his reasons for calling in Ms. Calhoon, but she'd already taken so much on board on faith. Even July could see that there was more going on here than was being explained, and it made her distinctly uncomfortable.

Garrett, at least, was able to articulate that suspicion. July folded her arms, leaning forward on the table, blue eyes narrowing as she studied the adults in the room.

July Coates rolled 14 using 1d20+1.  A wild insight check appears!
Whitney Zabka-Cabot
 player, 34 posts
 I will not bow
 I will not break
Fri 3 May 2019
at 22:09
Chapter 1: An Ominous Advent
July’s pleasant performance helped calm him down. He might not have been the target of the magic, but music held its own charms. Whitney didn’t recognize the song, but it held a timelessness. Perhaps it was an older folk song. The smell of campfire and dirt wouldn’t be amiss around this tune.

All good things come to an end. Whitney found himself finally cooled down from his early explosive attitude. His face had lost its smirk and regained its normal composure. Ms. Lunesby was making notes, but it was Mr. Drake’s remark that caught his attention.

Had they been given these unusual talents in accordance with their own predilections? It would certainly explain his archery. Ms. Lunesby and Mr. Drake also had hobbies or interests that seemed to complement their new gifts. It could also be looking too far into it. Too little data.

Deep in thought, Whitney was once again surprised by his surroundings that day. The science teacher, Ms. Calhoon, had seeming stepped from nowhere. Were the doors they had entered through that quiet? Whitney had suspected other entrances to the lab. It would be inconvenient for large groups of people to all travel through one house. Especially if you wanted to avoid suspicion.

In typical Garret fashion, he finally remembered that this whole thing was suspicious. A convenient lab designed for exactly what their testing for? Apparently, that was something to wow over. The local science teacher being in league with the lab? Now it was suddenly suspicious. As if people looking for these results wouldn’t want eyes in as many places as possible. Somehow not being annoying enough was Garret’s thing and he confronted her with the subtlety of tractor.

July let out a simple “hi,” Mr. Drake stated his surprise, and Ms. Lunesby continued to think out loud. Oh good, we have a full spectrum of responses. Whitney did his level best not to pinch the bridge of his nose and sigh.

“Good evening, Ms. Calhoon. I think you will find we are all understandably suspicious of secret underground laboratories and people dressed in all black who appear out of the shadows.” Well, subtle responses were out the window anyways.

"I would be very curious to know who "us" is. That seems a good place to begin." Hopefully some real answer would start. They had done their part.

Whitney didn't trust her friendly approach. An old phrase popped into his head, the bigger the smile, the sharper the knife. Also her white bow tie was ridiculous. It through the whole outfit off.

Insight 16. Forget we were playing D&D for a sec.
Ms. Calhoon
 NPC, 1 post
Fri 3 May 2019
at 22:41
Chapter 1: An Ominous Advent
The young teacher folded her arms and listened to what the teens had to say. She knew there would be questions, and that some might not be so trusting. It was understandable, and she didn’t get angry or really change her demeanor. She responded in even tones, like she did when she was giving a lecture.

“Right. I know this is a lot to take in, and given how much you’ve been through today, I’m surprised you’ve been this cooperative. Most kids your age wouldn’t be. Like I said, I’m glad your here, and not somewhere else.”

She walked over to stand beside Marcus, her eyes darting around the lab.

“The ubiquitous ‘we’ in this case is the White Tie Society. Our organization is... shall we say, extra legal. It was founded on the idea that, one day, humanity would experience a reawakening of mystic potential. Based on your summer reading lists, a few of you have read the Odessey, or La Morte de Arthur, possibly both. Those stories, and others, are based on real events. Centuries ago, mankind did have access to fantastic powers, and mythical beasts roamed the earth. We don’t know where they went, or why they disappeared, but their reappearance was inevitable - our founders thought so anyway. Turns out they were right. Before now, we just gathered resources, watched, and waited.”

She paused to look in the eyes of each of her students, her gaze calm, but piercing.

“We’ve been waiting for an event like this, some of us our whole lives. I didn’t think I’d ever see it.”
Garret Blake
 player, 53 posts
 Do good deeds
 Stay out of trouble
Fri 3 May 2019
at 23:11
Chapter 1: An Ominous Advent
Garrett’s eyebrows climbed up his forehead as each successive piece of information was revealed. Dark eyes focused on her face, trying to make sense of the information she was conveying. It didn’t seem like a joke, and there was something about it, too absurd to be a lie. Either way, they were now well past the point of doubting what they’d seen. He’d freak out about the fifty-ton-punch to his understanding of the world later. First there was the small matter of actually getting an answer to his question.

“Okay,” Garrett said, taking a deep breath and doing his best to keep his tone measured and even. “That’s... amazing, but it’s also not really an answer. What do you want? It’s real swell of you to help us figure these new powers out, but I’m guessing this isn’t just out of science curiosity.”

While not as confrontational as before, the large boy did cross knotted forearms across his chest. “These powers can do amazing things, yeah, but they can also be seriously dangerous. What’s your Society want with them?”
Ms. Calhoon
 NPC, 2 posts
Sat 4 May 2019
at 01:16
Chapter 1: An Ominous Advent
First she raised and eyebrow, then smirked and shook her head.

“I would think that’s obvious, but maybe not. The return of this kind of power has a lot of implications for the world. The fact that you five have manifested these abilities is proof that others will also. What we want, and hope for, is that you’ll master these powers, and use them for good. With our help, I’d imagine you could master these new powers a lot quicker, and more safely. We have been preparing for it, after all.”

She gave each of them a fairly serious glance before continuing. “To be clear, we are not holding you to anything. We want to be allies, and friends. Your gifts are extraordinary, and there are many in this world who would exploit them. That is not us. We do want to learn more about them, and if possible, learn to harness this mystic force, to protect humanity from sinister entities. I’ve skimmed over the report while you were practicing, and that giant snake appearing right when your powers did is not a coincidence. Humanity is ill equipped to deal with threats like that. But you aren’t.

In short, I’m asking you, all of you, to be our fire fighters. It’s a lot to ask, I know that, but you five might be our best defense.”
Mariko 'Malun' Lunesby
 player, 42 posts
 Obligatory child genius
 Don't touch my PortCon!
Sat 4 May 2019
at 01:47
Chapter 1: An Ominous Advent
"Five? My equipment seems to have been enhanced and there's some manner of hopefully friendly AI utilizing my PortCon, but none of this appears to stem from me." Malun couldn't help but wrinkle her nose a bit at the thought of the AI in her device, she was rather protective of it and something being inside it without it being of her doing was a bit annoying.

But then she just shrugged, "naturally I will assist regardless. The AI is proving to be likely the fastest and most reliable method of codifying these mystical abilities and allowing them to be harnessed via technology, and I do not mind serving as the point of contact for it."
July Coates
 player, 44 posts
 i'll sing along
 yeah with every emergency
Sat 4 May 2019
at 03:31
Chapter 1: An Ominous Advent
Ms. Calhoon spoke of myth and magic and machinations with the same confidence she'd lectured about electromagnetism with only a few hours ago. July supposed that confidence was earned--the past several hours had proven that the rules of reality she'd been taught were no longer quite so rigid. The monsters and heroes of myth were more than metaphors, and this 'White Tie Society' had been waiting eagerly for their return.

Was that seriously why Ms. Calhoon had ruined her look with that dorky bow tie? To keep with the aesthetic of some secret organization with a dumb name? July wasn't a historian, but she was reasonably certain Odysseus or King Arthur hadn't worn neckties. They seemed like a more recent(ish) fashion invention. So either this society was (relatively) recent, or they'd had an ill-advised rebranding effort to try and keep current and they ought to fire their marketing team. Either way, this wasn't exactly the caliber of shadowy cabal pop culture had sold her on with the Illuminati.

Of course, this was Gridley. They probably didn't rate Illuminati involvement. So, really, that their shadowy, "extralegal" (shamelessly illegal, then--possible cult?) group had a dumb name and an even dumber aesthetic made a lot of sense. No sense wasting the big budget stuff here when the knock-off would do.

More magic and more monsters would manifest, apparently. That seemed to be confirmed by the monitors July had poked around earlier. July rested her chin in hand, watching Ms. Calhoon for several moments. The woman seemed sincere, even if she didn't seem to be telling them everything. Of course, this did seem to be more of the elevator pitch than the full history lesson.

"I mean, I'm not going to just sit around if people are going to get hurt. If I can help, I will," July said plainly. "But also, like, you're asking us to take a lot on faith here. Just pointing that out."

July Coates rolled 18 using 1d20+3.  Um, when did neck ties become like, a thing? Did Odysseus wear a tie??
Garret Blake
 player, 54 posts
 Do good deeds
 Stay out of trouble
Sat 4 May 2019
at 05:00
Chapter 1: An Ominous Advent
Garrett took a breath. Malun was throwing in, and July had... sort-of? He was silent for a few seconds. He remembered what Jason had said before, about heroes and villains and stepping up. He'd resisted that because it sounded like so much ridiculousness, and he'd seen enough happen--and heard enough stories from his mom's time in the ER--to know that that story often didn't end the way they wanted.

But on the other hand, his best friend could heal. His other best fr--nevermind not parsing that--could shatter walls with her voice and infuse people with the power of rock'n'roll. Malun was a fucking genius and Whitney'd been enhanced too. And then there was him. The compulsion to go after Skittles, even if it was stupid.

"Okay," he said, and this time something was a bit different. Garrett's shoulders straightened and he seemed to breathe something out. His voice wasn't particularly loud, but there was a presence to it that hadn't been there before. A weight and a sudden focus. "I don't like all of this secret society stuff. It feels off. I don't like the idea of us being the unconditional gophers of some sort of an organization I don't know much about, either."

Here his voice wavered just a bit. "And then there's my mom--I made her worry for years. I can't hurt her like that again. And it's not just me, everyone here has people they love and who love them. But apparently they're now all at risk."

Garrett looked back and forth between Ms Calhoon and Mr. Lunesby. "Look, I can't completely explain it, but when I saw that snake today, I couldn't walk away from it. I could feel it before it attacked us. I don't know how it was for everyone else, but dealing with that creature when it showed its face was non-optional for me. So if doing this will protect innocent people, and keep my mom safe, and all their families too, and if you can promise us honesty..." he glanced around at the faces of his friends. Even Whitney. Then he looked back at the two people putting this job in front of them. His shoulders squared and his arms hung by his sides. No slouch. No reservations.

No take-backs.

Mom.

"Then yeah," he said. "I'm in."

This message was last edited by the player at 05:20, Sat 04 May 2019.

Jason Drake
 player, 38 posts
 Welding, forging, wood
 Working with my hands
Sat 4 May 2019
at 15:39
Chapter 1: An Ominous Advent
Coming down from the awe of the situation, Jason listened intently to the new reality that Ms Calhoon was explaining. He had no reason to think she was lying, though he felt she had much more to tell them, and was just waiting for the right time. Even what she was saying now had a lot of implications to it. The red haired boy listened as Malun, July, and Garret all got onboard, even though the latter two were skeptical. Jason figured this was the time to chime in.

“Your not wrong Ms Calhoon. This is a lot. Having powers like what we have, I mean, the moral questions alone could fill a book. I happen to have read up on a couple books about heroes, though. Great power, great responsibility. I’m in too.”
Whitney Zabka-Cabot
 player, 35 posts
 I will not bow
 I will not break
Sun 5 May 2019
at 02:29
Chapter 1: An Ominous Advent
Whitney wasn’t sure how to handle such a genuine response. Before he’d moved to Gridley, all sorts had approached him. Students, teachers, so-called friends of the family, and actual family had tried to get close to Whitney. His parents were substantially wealthy, both his elder sibling were looking to make their own mark on the world, and the youngest member of the family was an angle that no one ignored. Gridley was abhorrently boring, but moving to this tiny town was ultimately a gift from his parents. While his parents had put their wealth to improving numerous parts of the school and other public works, very few in town kowtowed to Whitney because of it. The woman in front of him however, desperately wanted something from him.

Ms. Calhoon was so genuine. While of course she had yet to tell them everything of import, he was sure she didn’t want any bad faith between them. People who tell the truth were always the most dangerous.

“If someone in front of me needs help and I can offer it, then I will. I don’t need a secret organization with a preference for neckwear to tell me that.” She openly admitted to extra legal activities. You don’t build something like this without a lot of money.

“I expect full transparency from you and a promise that we have total autonomy. I will be telling Woolsworth everything.” She likely knew who his butler was already. In fact, now that he thought of it, Whitney was sure she had taken a once over everyone’s backgrounds before arriving.

This whole situation was much too out of his control. Even if he got assurances from her, there’s no telling what other people in this strange cult would want. What they would want from him. It came down to that in the end, even in Gridley.
Retro DM
 GM, 36 posts
Sun 5 May 2019
at 04:46
Chapter 1: An Ominous Advent
Ms Calhoon listened quietly to each of them, nodding as they spoke, and seemed satisfied that they were agreeing with her proposal. Marcus had finished his notes by that time, and stood up from his workstation to speak.

"Very good. It would have been a shame to lose any of you, there is much work to be done."

Ms Calhoon nodded in agreement, and looked at her watch.

"Ten PM. You all have families to get to. I know you want transparency, and we aren't exactly looking to hide, but I'd rather not have the police come knocking on these doors, at least not yet. If you feel you can trust your parents with this, then do let them know. They all have my number to confirm the story. Obviously this wont be a problem for Malun, but the rest of you, use your best judgement. Eventually, the world will know about the return of mystic forces, and there won't be any hiding. I suggest we meet again tomorrow and Sunday for more practice."

Marcus nodded in agreement. "That would be prudent, yes. The lab is well equipped for at least preliminary training and tests, though we'll need to procure additional equipment for further learning. Should arrive by next week at the latest if we have our order in tomorrow."

With that, Ms Calhoon reached into her pocket, producing her car keys. "Anyone need a lift home?"

--------------------------------------------

When the group came back outside, to the front of Marcus' and Mariko's house, they saw Ms Calhoon's old 89' Buick station wagon parked there. It had seen better days, but it still ran well. "Better not to draw attention with flashy cars. James Bond could learn a thing or two" she said, smirking. She gave each of the teenagers one more look before they departed for the evening. "We'll talk a lot more this weekend, I promise. I want you to believe you are making the right choice, and I'll give you everything I can to prove that."
Garret Blake
 player, 55 posts
 Do good deeds
 Stay out of trouble
Sun 5 May 2019
at 14:02
Chapter 1: An Ominous Advent
It was over. There were still small conversation pieces to have maybe... but the hard stuff was done. The night air was cool on the back of his sweat-damp neck, eliciting a small shiver as he stretched out. Ms. Calhoon gave him a look, and he managed a tired smile in response. "... I appreciate the honesty," he said after a beat of uncomfortable silence. Then, looking from face to face, he said "Everybody take care, okay? Today was... a lot. Get some sleep."

A pause. Yeah that hadn't been the best pep-talk.

He scratched the back of his head and shifted his boots before pulling his jacket on. His fingers were in danger of starting to shake--the dirtbike would help. Give him something to focus on. His mental inventory of everyone's wellbeing was quick. July would probably get a ride home from Ms Calhoon or Whitney. Jason had his bike. Malun was already home. He blew out a small, quiet sigh as he started towards the scarred, battered up machine he'd arrived on. Keys. He had those, right? Yeah. Wrong pocket. He reached down for the helmet and paused for a second, taking a last glance at everyone else before swinging his leg over the beatup kawasaki, taking another fortifying breath.

"... what am I gonna tell my mom?"
July Coates
 player, 45 posts
 i'll sing along
 yeah with every emergency
Sun 5 May 2019
at 16:30
Chapter 1: An Ominous Advent
The crisp breeze against her face was a relief. July hitched her pink bag onto a shoulder, watching Ms. Calhoon warily as she spoke of meeting up again tomorrow, reaffirming her desire to do right by the five of them. July looked between the others, uncertain what to make of everything. Malun was...July wasn't sure she'd ever be able to read the other girl. Jason seemed ready to go all in, and she couldn't help but appreciate the irony that her most level-headed friend was gung-ho while she was cautious for literally the first time in the years she'd known him. Whitney was even on board, albeit with his eye trained for an out if necessary. And Garrett was...leaving.

"I'll see you guys tomorrow," July called over her shoulder, already jogging towards Garrett and his bike. He looked more than exhausted. Drained. Empty. She drew to a halt at his side and flashed a small smile, suppressing the pang of guilt even as she asked, "Hey. Can you give me a ride home?"
Garret Blake
 player, 56 posts
 Do good deeds
 Stay out of trouble
Sun 5 May 2019
at 17:42
Chapter 1: An Ominous Advent
He was momentarily spaced as he sat on the bike. Mostly it was that it had really been a long day, and Garrett was still processing it. He wanted to be more present for his friends. Physically. Mentally. But it was all just... so much. That on top of everything else going on in his head--weeks worth of churning shit and uncertainty related to, well, everything if he was honest.

"Hey. Can you give me a ride home?"

Garrett looked up. Blinked twice. Brown eyes took a half-second to focus in on the blue-ones watching his face with that odd sort of attentiveness she had lately. Had that always been a thing, or was he just imagining it now that he was paying closer attention. His mouth opened for a half-second of silence before he remembered to speak. It wasn't entirely his fault. Her expression was distracting.

Then the immense flood of relief passed through him. An untensing down in the gut at the simple fact of being needed earnestly, even if it was just for a moment. She couldn't help but notice his shoulders relaxing just a bit as something previously wound up tighter than a steel coil unfurled.

"Sorry, what--oh," he said after a second. Then one of his boyish smiles appeared. Subdued, yes. A little pained still. But there. Not gone. He handed her his helmet. A small laugh escaped him. Genuine. "You know your dad will kill both of us if he sees you on this thing, right?"

Garrett shifted just a bit forward on the dirtbike. "You got everything you need?"
Mariko 'Malun' Lunesby
 player, 43 posts
 Obligatory child genius
 Don't touch my PortCon!
Sun 5 May 2019
at 18:31
Chapter 1: An Ominous Advent
As the others went outside, Malun made her way back to her own workshop in the re-purposed garage. It didn't occur to her until it was likely too late that going right back to work without saying goodbye or seeing them off was probably rude, but surely they'd understand that her mind was focused on her work.

Standing in her workspace, the small genius took a look around and really reevaluated things for the first time in a long time. She had made do with second hand and second rate equipment for some time, but now with what she had learned she was going to need an upgrade. More space, better tools...and specifically the tools she'd need to make equipment for herself to survive.

The others all had superpowers now. July and Jason had the more obvious ones, but Garret and Whitney still had greatly increased physical capabilities, they were capable of handling themselves against the monsters and other supernatural threats that were being anticipated. For all her projected confidence earlier, Malun knew very well that she was at a disadvantage. She was small, she didn't have the same powers the others did. She had no business assisting them in fieldwork, she knew she should simply support from the lab.

But that's not what she wanted to do. And if she wanted to be able to help soon, she needed to make do with what she had.

"My Hard Light Projector should be testable soon," Malun thought out-loud as she looked over her options, "I can probably rig up some kind of protection from a reinforced coat...but I'll need other options. I have to cover options the others can't." She began to pace back and forth between her workbench and her desk, pausing to plug her PortCon back in to the monitor output.

As she hooked it back up, she looked at a small drawer near her keyboard, considering the bottle inside of it. It would take twenty-eight minutes from taking her medicine until she was able to actually sleep...on an average day. On a day like this it might be longer, there was too much to think about. And there was too much to do.

It wouldn't be the first night she spent in her workshop.

"PortCon," Malun addressed the AI in her machine as it finished connecting to the monitor, "I need options. Analytics, information gathering, things like that. Things the others can't do on their own. Show me what you've got."

This message was last edited by the player at 18:33, Sun 05 May 2019.

Whitney Zabka-Cabot
 player, 36 posts
 I will not bow
 I will not break
Sun 5 May 2019
at 18:38
Chapter 1: An Ominous Advent
Whitney welcomed the smell of the night air as they stepped outside. He never did like cramped spaces and stale air. That odd lab probably had some weird oxygen scrubbers or was able to seal itself up against biohazards. He shook his head to himself; he’d been reading too many of Woolsworth’s sci-fi stories.

Garret took off have mumbling out a thank you for Ms. Calhoon’s honesty. No doubt overwhelmed by today’s events. Biting his lip, Whitney realized that he was also overwhelmed. None of this seemed real yet, like his brain had filed it under things to process later.

Whitney turned to offer July an alternative ride home if she’d didn’t feel comfortable with the teacher. Only she had already begun running of to Garret. She was practically skipping.

Knowing her, she was likely trying to address her friends’ obvious discomfort. July’s habit of putting others before herself would drain her dry one day. Whitney frowned to himself. She might be able to actually do that to herself now.

Whitney was also sure that there were, ulterior motives to asking for a ride home. There was no accounting for taste after all. Taste, oh yeah the basket. Whitney decided he’d leave the basket. No need for his butler to know how full it still was.

“Good evening, everyone. I’ll be off. Do bike home safe, Mr. Drake. These backroads are poorly lit.” Whitney made his way out towards Garret and July and looked around before smiling to himself.

He placed two fingers to the sides of his mouth and let out the loudest whistle he could muster. It echoed into the night.

“Ah, apologies you two. I trust you will see her home safely, Garret. I think we have a long day tomorrow.”

With that the sound of hoofbeats came toward them. Approaching the light, Raphael trotted right up to Whitney.

“Raphael.” Whitney let out an unguarded smile, his vicious eyes softening at the horse’s approach. “You’ve really earned your sugar cubes today.” The young man leaned into the horses head and gave him a pet.

“Good night.” Nodding to Garret and July, he mounted. Patting Raphael’s neck, he began his slow trot home. None of this was over, but at least some things stay the same.
July Coates
 player, 46 posts
 i'll sing along
 yeah with every emergency
Sun 5 May 2019
at 21:16
Chapter 1: An Ominous Advent
She'd never seen Garrett quite like this, like the weight of the world had landed squarely on his shoulders. To be friends with Garrett was to see him exhausted, running himself ragged between football and baseball and fixing everyone else's problems. She couldn't count the number of times he'd crashed on the couch in Noel's basement, or on the swing on her porch. This was...more.

"Ground Control to Major Garrett?" July asked as he slowly focused on her, a frown creasing her features. He finally seemed to finish booting up, his shoulders relaxing. A wave of tension rolled off of him, and though the smile he gave her was strained, it was an improvement. July took the helmet from him, unable to keep from snorting as he asked about her dad.

"Oh, absolutely. That's why you're going to drop me off at the corner and not at my front door," July grinned, tucking her bangs as she put on Garrett's helmet. She'd barely swung a leg over the bike and gotten settled when Whitney's whistle caught her attention. The sight of her friend summoning a horse from the night was weird, but after the day they'd had, July couldn't muster the energy to be shocked anymore.

"We'll be fine. See you tomorrow," July offered a wave to Raphael and Whitney, before her hand dropped to Garrett's hip which was...unexpectedly nice. The warmth of his back was a comfort, and she could practically feel the embers in her skin reignite at the contact. This is new.
Garret Blake
 player, 57 posts
 Do good deeds
 Stay out of trouble
Mon 6 May 2019
at 00:59
Chapter 1: An Ominous Advent
He flashed a small smirk over his shoulder as she settled in. "I mean yeah, that's sensible. But I dunno, you sure? I feel like there's real potential for a total disaster here. Nights still--" her face was very, very close. Even with the helmet "--uh. Young."

Garrett almost didn't notice Whitney's arrival, but it was thankfully enough to snap him free of the moment. Horse. He'd seen the horse before. Whitney had arrived on that damn horse, and still he was surprised. "Uh... horse you tomorrow," he said. Beat. "I mean see you tohorseo. No."

He shook his head as July's friend trotted off. "I am never going to get used to that," she heard him murmur. She was... holding on really tight. The teenage boy took a breath that he hoped didn't seem as shaky as it felt. This is fine. Keep your cool.

Then, throwing everyone else a smile--a genuine one for once--and a nod, he kicked the bike into gear and the buzzing grumble of the engine filled the air. Garrett turned, adjusting to the presence of another person making him adjust his lean. Then they were moving swiftly down the driveway, the buzz of the engine filling his ears. Acutely aware of the girl wrapped around him from behind, he tried his best to focus on the streets. The whipping lights and the branches of the trees. Still. Jesus she was warm. He could feel it through his coat. A burning heat that definitely wasn't there before. Embers. Flickering flame.

And if he was honest, it made him want to pour on the speed.

He only partially resisted, coming to a stop--as requested--approximately a block from the island in the night that was the Coates house. A pause followed as he killed the engine and let out a long breath before turning and looking at her. It was... hard to figure out what to say, exactly. A thousand thoughts racing through his mind. So, finally, he just settled on what seemed most appropriate.

"So," he said after a few moments. "That all happened."
Jason Drake
 player, 39 posts
 Welding, forging, wood
 Working with my hands
Mon 6 May 2019
at 01:24
Chapter 1: An Ominous Advent
With it now being so late, and having a decent trek home on his bike, the ride that Ms Calhoon offered grew more and more tempting. He was still hesitant, given all the new information they just got, but hey, this was his science teacher, she was a nice woman, and seemed truthful, if not totally forthright with them. In a world where adults were hard to trust, it appeared she was doing her best to build it with him and his friends. Jason grabbed his bicycle and scratched his head. "You know, Ms Calhoon, I'll take that lift. The bike should fit in the back."

The bike did fit, of course, it was a station wagon, practically made for hauling stuff. Jason took a few deep breaths to get over his initial discomfort. He looked out the window to his friends and waved, taking note of the sudden horse arrival but not really being taken aback by it. "See you all tomorrow!"
July Coates
 player, 47 posts
 i'll sing along
 yeah with every emergency
Mon 6 May 2019
at 03:12
Chapter 1: An Ominous Advent
The world flew by in monochrome, startlingly clear despite the mere sliver of moon hanging in the sky. It was strange how quickly the shift in her vision felt normal. Just another gift from whatever had awoken the fire in her veins. July squeezed her eyes shut tight, trying not to think about everything. She sank into the roar of the engine, the warmth of Garrett's broad back, the giddy rush that bubbled in her stomach as they whipped round a corner.

She kept holding on, even after they'd drawn to a halt beneath a street sign reading Wisteria Lane. She knew she ought to let go, but Garrett was warm and solid and she just...couldn't. After a long moment he shifted, and July reluctantly loosened her grip. She fumbled with the clasp on the helmet for a moment, before finally managing to pull it free. Her buns were mussed, and if the day hadn't been such an aggressively weird roller-coaster of awful and awesome, she might have been concerned. Instead she sucked in a serrated breath of crisp air. It gave way to a shaky laugh, and she met Garrett's dark gaze with as bright a smile as she could muster.

"It did, didn't it? This isn't just a dream or whatever. Bleh," July pulled a face, as if her wrinkled nose could at all do justice to how wrung out and depleted she felt. She forced her gaze onward to the immaculate white bungalow down towards the end of the lane, the porch light winking through the boughs of the willow trees out front. Her dad was probably still up, sat in his favorite armchair with scotch and a book. Ms. Calhoon had said they could tell their parents, that they would need to at some point. God, how the hell was she supposed to tell them about this? What if they thought she was crazy? Or, worse, dangerous?

July shook her head, forcing her smile more firmly in place. She could freak out later, when everyone else was asleep and the world was silent. Blue eyes traced Garrett's face, and though she kept her smile firmly in place, it softened as she studied him.

"Are you okay?" July paused and her smile was interrupted by a wince. "That's kind of a stupid question, isn't it?"

This message was last edited by the player at 03:13, Mon 06 May 2019.

Garret Blake
 player, 58 posts
 Do good deeds
 Stay out of trouble
Mon 6 May 2019
at 04:41
Chapter 1: An Ominous Advent
He knew he didn't want her to let go, but he didn't know how much until she did. His frame let out a small exhale. Them's the breaks.

The street lamps were glimmering islands in the darkness. His vision hadn't fully reoriented, or maybe he hadn't reoriented to it, but as she let go and he watched her face, the silver streaks in her hair enhanced by the strange way he was now seeing the world. He watched the pain bubble up in her, pull her taught like a string--only for her to suppress it again under a smile and concern.

Concern for him.

He sighed, looking down for just a moment. "No," he said with a quiet shake of his head. "No stupid questions. I'm... about as well as can be expected. It was a lot, on the one hand, but on the other hand we at least know more about it than we did at the start. That's... well, it's still scary, but maybe a little less." He let that sit for a few moments. Brows furrowed. Then he did something a little unusual.

Garrett reached out and took her hand. This time he looked at her, cocking his head slightly to the side. His dark eyes were inquiring--a little worried. This girl who would do anything for anyone, who burned with the need to do and be more than the sum of all the expectations put upon her plus her wildest dreams, was on the verge of breaking herself in half trying to keep on a brave face.

"... Hey, July?" He said quietly after a few seconds, "you... don't have to smile around me if you don't feel like it." A pause. His expression was earnest, and his fingers tightened gently around hers, momentarily.

"You know that, right?"
July Coates
 player, 48 posts
 i'll sing along
 yeah with every emergency
Tue 7 May 2019
at 04:38
Chapter 1: An Ominous Advent
All July could do was watch Garrett, almost completely devoid of colour in the night. He looked down and she felt her heart clench like a vice. She had never felt so useless. She had asked if he was alright, as if she could do anything to make any of this better. He spoke of the relief in having found answers. July knew she should be more grateful they'd found any answers at all, let alone a secret lab and benefactor, but there was still so much they didn't know, and all she felt was cold. She knew there was a path to walk, but she could see nothing of the way forward, and the terror of that was paralysing.

July started at the brush of his fingertips, dropping her gaze to find his larger hand enveloping her own. His calluses caught against her skin, and she swore she could feel each individual nerve firing from his touch. The warmth radiating from his palm was gentler than the fire that had awoken within her, but it robbed her of breath. July's eyes traced the switchbacks of a vein across the back of his hand, through the palest slivers of scar tissue.

Her name. July forced herself to look up, to meet Garrett's gaze, ready with a quip to dissolve the tension. She wasn't expecting to find him looking at her so intensely, his dark eyes as gentle as the warmth of his hand. His voice was low and soft, but his words seemed to slip through her defences like blades. You don't have to smile around me if you don't feel like it.

She'd never felt her heart ache quite so keenly, straining against her ribs in a protest she didn't understand. For a moment she just smiled at him, uncertain. His fingers tightened around hers, and inch by inch her shoulders crumpled. The smile she'd fought so hard to keep up began to slip, lower lip trembling with one last ditch effort to keep it together.

You know that, right?

July dropped the smile. Her eyes were stinging furiously and she took a shuddering breath, looking away from Garrett. Her free hand tried to stem the stupid, useless tears gathering in her lashes. She blinked hard, focusing her vision on the few shreds of colour on the street sign, as if it could offer her any answers.

"Yeah," July's voice cracked on the word, and she forced another deep breath. Her hand shifted under his, her knuckles flashing white as she clutched back desperately. A few traitorous tears streaked down her cheeks, which she chased with the sleeve of Noel's flannel. She chanced a look back at Garrett, and the care in his eyes slammed into her with the force of a train. Her eyes welled up, and she just couldn't anymore. "I know. I'm sorry. This is all just...so weird and so awful and I don't know what to do."
Garret Blake
 player, 59 posts
 Do good deeds
 Stay out of trouble
Tue 7 May 2019
at 14:59
Chapter 1: An Ominous Advent
He'd suspected it was coming. The tension that had swirled around her all day, rippling outwards, started to break down along with the facade that this wonderful, smart, intelligent, beautiful girl wore every single day. He'd known it was coming. Because July wasn't nearly as good at hiding her actual feelings as she thought she was. Because the tension laying on her shoulders from every direction in her life even before the chaotic events of today was crushing her.

It didn't make it any easier to see. And selfishly, quietly, a part of him was grateful. Grateful for this rarest of trusts. Grateful for the hands tracing his. Grateful that she didn't see his eyes close for just a second when she did that. For the electricity that thrummed through all his senses at the act, making the hairs on the back of his neck stand on end.

When she met his eyes and the tears started to run down her face, an ache shot through him that made it hurt to breathe for just a second. Fingers white-knuckled his hand so hard his knuckles hurt. She was crying in front of him. Still trying to restrain herself from letting go. He opened his mouth, pausing for a second because every ounce of him burned to do something. His throat ran dry and the impulse to move engaged in a fierce tug of war with every other feeling held at bay by decisions made weeks ago. One hand reflexively rose and brushed a tear away with a rough thumb.

"This is all just...so weird and so awful and I don't know what to do."

A compromise, then. Taking both her hands, Garrett swung his leg off the bike, standing up and gently helping her do the same. They stood alone beneath the island lamps of the streetlights. His eyes watched her face, and for just a second she caught sight of an ache behind his gaze. Then he pulled her in for a fierce, enveloping hug, momentarily--nearly--overwhelmed by that distinct floral scent she had, her hair against the side of his face. A deep breath filled him before she felt the exhale exit his broad frame. His voice was low and quiet.

"July, you don't have to do anything, right now. Just... be."
July Coates
 player, 49 posts
 i'll sing along
 yeah with every emergency
Thu 9 May 2019
at 00:54
Chapter 1: An Ominous Advent
July couldn't remember the last time she'd cried in front of someone other than Noel. She'd always held her head high, no matter the pressure. Crying was raw, ugly, vulnerable, and she hated how it swept over her, dragging her under like the riptide. The tears wouldn't stop and July squeezed her eyes shut, fighting for a shred of composure.

Garrett helped her off the bike and she went with him, cheeks burning with shame and frustration. If she had just kept it together for a little bit longer, everything would have been fine. Instead she'd dumped her mess on him. Selfish. She'd barely opened her mouth to eke out a good night when he'd pulled her flush in an unexpected hug.

They'd hugged countless times over the past two years, but never like this. He overwhelmed her senses, blotting out the night around them. July breathed in worn leather, sweat, the faint hint of sandalwood, burying her face in the curve of his neck. Slim arms wrapped around his back, like she could pull herself together if she squeezed tight enough.

Just be. As if simply being was enough. As if she wouldn't be alone if she wasn't everything the world demanded of her. It sounded impossible. But everything about today had been impossible, and Garrett was as honest as the day was long. Would it be so awful to believe it, if only for a moment?

Eventually the tears stopped, and July managed to breathe without the panic of her world crashing down around her. Callused fingers slowly eased off their death grip and her shoulders, inch by inch, relaxed. His warmth had surrounded her, and she could have sworn the fire felt grateful, as if it had needed that moment of comfort too.

July pulled back, reluctantly releasing Garrett as she found the space to wipe her face with her sleeve. Hopefully her mascara hadn't run too atrociously. Sniffing, she met Garrett's gaze with a shaky, but sincere, smile.

"I...thank you, Garrett. I needed that." There was an awkward silence, and July opened her mouth to say something but reconsidered, instead smoothing out her tousled bangs and tucking them behind her ears. "It's really late. You should get home and rest. I'll see you tomorrow?"
Garret Blake
 player, 62 posts
 Do good deeds
 Stay out of trouble
Thu 9 May 2019
at 02:31
Chapter 1: An Ominous Advent
She clung to him. His eyes closed. For a silent eternity, Blake's world was a melting cascade of emotions that burned through him from head to toe. But for what seemed like the first time in a long time, it wasn't going to kill him. He knew it couldn't happen. Knew deep in the marrow of his bones that this selfishness was only something he could temporarily have. Fleeting. Ephemeral. This instance, where he was needed like this by her, would not last.

So he took his own advice and just let the scent, and sense, of her flood him. Held her through her sobbing, and felt the clenching ache in his chest as she let go. Pulled back. The pain was still there as he drank in her face... but it was manageable, now. She'd be okay.

Enough. It's enough.

It had to be.

He took a deep breath of his own, one hand resting on her shoulder until she wiped her sleeve, then letting go after the tiniest, selfish pause. She was steadied. Fortified. He watched her tuck her hair behind her ears, then stepped back. "... you're welcome," he said quietly, taking back his helmet and slowly buckling it back on his matted head. The warm smile was back, if still a tiny bit pained. "You better," he said, giving her hand a last, small squeeze. "I'm not done watching you be awesome, yeah?"

A long pause followed as he hesitated. Not knowing what she'd meant to say. His mouth opened for just a half-second. Something unvoiced. Natural as the day following night. But also not allowed.

Garrett's mouth closed, he half-smiled, and said "G'nite, Jules."

He waited in the lingering dark until she'd made it back into the house. Then the tall boy let out a deep sigh and gunned the engine, turning and riding all the way back home. Sleep. He needed sleep. And to figure out what the hell he was gonna say to his mother.

Yeah.

That was gonna go great.