Nightmare Dor Chapter 2: Hot Potato

Prophecy has been spoken. The gods saw an event coming and hoped they knew a way to deal with it. But they did not foresee people.

People have a little thing called free will.

A great evil was unleashed. A cult did dark terrible things to produce a child who walked both in the living world and the world beyond. This child has been a trophy among occultists for thirty years, but it is a cursed folly. No one who held the child lasted long as from one side of the door evil looked for a way into the world of flesh and from the other side zealots seek the door for their own imagined uses. The child Dor/Dorit is a supernatural hot potato that destroys whoever holds onto it too long.

Until Conner stepped in. The gods had assigned Conner the task, a fact if he knew he'd not find amusing. Dark forces used one of the cult's other experiments, a school group called Playtime, to lure him there. Now that he's met the child, his inner compulsion draws him to the right ethical choice.

The gods have set Belinda to clean the door, though she has a long journey and a lot of difficult trials to face before she can. If she is successful, the very fate of the world hangs on her choices.

These were propagandized by the ordered gods of light and dark a thousand years ago.

The gods of chaos, however, quickly threw a monkey wrench into the mix by ensuring that Conner's sister Eliza would follow. Her presence throws everything off, and now the Prophecy is no longer valid. In addition, they've crossed paths with a small research group looking for the lost city of Atlantis whose presence further shifts the path of the future.

The pieces of the board have been set. Free will has shattered expectation. Not it is up to the various choices of those involved to decide the inevitable outcome.

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DarkMoonINC's picture

If you did not see the last post, feel free to refresh yourself on "Previously, on Ballad of the Nightmare Door."

-

Sunday and Rosie refuse to do anything until they rest, and both are so worn and exhausted from the day that Conner and Eliza sleep easy. Give that they're miles away from a neighbor and any sign of civilization, when the thermometer drops to twenty five degrees.

Wednesday is standing outside in the morning snow with her breath fogging up into the sky, fiddling with a large device between her hands that seems like she's looking through a view finder that requires two hands. She wields it like bicycle handles.

"Hey." she says, turning to whoever approaches. "I can show you how the Diving Gear works. And I'll show you how a Nexus works too. You might want to grab some food or something for the road. I think Sunday keeps granola bars in the pantry."

Bun-bun is running around the snow trying to catch snowflakes on her tongue.

ACROSS THE WORLD

The car pulls up to the end of the road in a large forest reserve. A castle in the distance is a tourist trap unused this time of year. At the road's end is a park with benches covered in brown leaves and aside them a stream passes quietly. The stream leads to a swampy area with thick trees.

The driver nods her off. "I don't know what you're out here to do, but Hugo vouched and I trust him. I can wait here if you think it won't be long, or I can come back in a few hours. Whatever you think."

He does sit for the next thirty minutes and chain smokes cigarettes, regardless of what she does.

Skip is ballistic, recognizing the out doors and the freedom of a world away from man. A natural place where birds fat and lazy are terrified of the hopping barking furbag. Around her a cold wind blows and the sword seems to pulse.

Inside her head she hears a voice, a very noble and righteous voice. It tells her "Deception is afoot." The voice, it turns out, comes from the sword.

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Conner Penroe

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Conner slept like a log, for at least 9 hours. No nightmares, no weird dreams either -just comforting darkness, cozy black, and rest. Rest, a hot dinner, a hot shower, a hot breakfast -everything is right with the world once again. For now. He even enjoys the slightly chilled breeze in this beautiful-in-its-own-desolate-way part of the United States.

"Hey, I appreciate you're doing this for us [he says to Wednesday]. I'm usually someone who just jumps in and does stuff if they feel right. But here, I feel I'm a bit in over my head. I feel like we should make a plan. But I can't think of any. Usually that's Eliza's job."

He takes a few steps, rubbing his hands together, kicking idly the snow.

"At least with the diving gear we have options. We can go in and out of the Summerland without .. .er.. liquids, right? {That was not a pleasant experience...}. And if we can come back out at any place, I say we come back out where the Priests are."

{The thing though... [and he doesn't say this to Wednesday.. not yet] is that even if all goes well, it wouldn't be the end. We would be one more group of hapless bastards holding the hot potato before a bigger dog yanks it away from us. The right thing to do is to end it. ..... shit, that's a dark thought...}

But Conner knows it's true. The kids, Dor/Dorit, are seen as an object of power, and assholes from all over will simply never stop contesting it... until it is no more. {The real goal... [he thinks] should be to disable this door. So it has no value to anyone anymore. So they leave the kids alone. ... but even that would cut off a brother from her sister. Do we have the right? Fuck... [the dark thought returns] if the boy died, at least he'd be together with her again in the Summerland...}

Dark thoughts are shadows in the corner of the room... which seem to grow larger the more you focus in them, and once seen, can't be unseen and demand constant revisiting and attention. {Kill the kid?} feels like one of those awful, awful things that people later on say 'it was the right thing to do'. {Fuck that.}. Conner has never been one of those people. But right now he can't think of anything else, and it worries him.

Maybe Eliza will have a better plan. He turns to see if she's going to come out here?

"Sure, yeah, please show me everything about this diving thing. {Pay attention folks [he says to the SetHeads] It could save our lives to know this stuff.}"

Conner is ready to learn.

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Eliza Penroe

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EYB EY

[Eliza is up at 6, showered and dressed by 6:30, brushed up on her string theory by 6:45. At which point she approached Wednesday for Diving Gear training]

"Alright, now show me what to do. In theory I have a few ideas about how these things could work. If you could just do me a favor and explain a few things." [She awaits instructions eagerly, jotting down each everything she said in a small spiral bound notebook.]

(Spending my Easy Yes But EE Card on understanding the Diving Equipment and how to use it.)

(Later)"You know, last night it was the best sleep I've had in months." [She converses with Bun-bun over a home cooked meal made by Sunday.] "I have my brother back, I made a friend, not that it's that rare of course, I have a bunch of friends, tons even. No I'm getting off topic." [She trails off at the end before she takes another bite of eggs to shut herself up.] "Anyway, I'm excited. Brave new worlds to explore, people to meet, things to learn. So much to learn. Which reminds me. Tell me EVERYTHING you know about the Deep, er, Summerland. They really need a unified naming structure for clarity. Oh, that's a good idea." [She says, pulling out her notebook and jotting down a few notes, getting a little bacon grease on the pages in the process.]

"Alright, now if everyone's ready lets get out there!" {God that was cheesy. If I'm going to have to pull it together if I'm going to lead this expedition.}

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Eliza and Wednesday stand in the snow breathing spirals of thick breath. Conner is still asleep and Bun-bun passed up the early event for sugar cereal and cartoons. Wednesday wouldn't divulge details until they were outside.

"The Scavs call it Shadowside, I like it better than Sunday's weird ocean terms. Sunday thinks a lot about corporate espionage. One one hand he wants to keep the secret only among members, so we're not suppose to share. On the other hand, he fears every other group trying to do the same and bury him." Wednesday speaks clear and calm, a real professional, her jacket thick and warm. "I'm booting it up. Here, your first lesson."

She tosses her what looks like a blue rubber ball used in hand ball courts. The swarm within her are terrified of it, scrambling in all directions. At first she gets an odd sensation. She knows true north, or more so, she has a distinct impression of direction. Without looking, she feels a fuzzy unsure but intense direction of every location is that she's been to. Holding that ball lets her know roughly what direction her childhood home is, where the Hive with the Goats squabble in decay, and where the child's location. Not exact, but relative, as if she can feel a general map. But the sensation increases more and more. It disrupts her equilibrium, her head under intense pressure, pounding pressure as her body can feel every direction at once. It's too intense to control and if she doesn't drop it out of contact with her skin she will eventually spin, vomit, and fall with an exceptional nausea. The Tilt-A-Whirl vertigo ebbs out of her when it's left contact.

Wednesday puts a hand on her shoulder, taking the ball back. "You ok there? No worries. I wear gloves for it, only works on skin contact." she pockets it. "That is a Nexus. It pulls you towards the nearest piece of Atlantis. But since the Shadowside exists everywhere at once, time and space are illusions there, then outside in the real world the ball pulls you every direction." she grins, checking a beeping icon on her Diving Gear. "It also helps you pull yourself back out into reality, if you want an exit."

A BIT EARLIER

Conner awakens to find Sunday reading a newspaper and Bun-bun giggling to early morning cartoons, spooning cereal into her face. The show she's watching flickers and only Conner notices his Sethead friends waving to him from the screen.

"Oh my god, dude, dude, I am so hype. Let's do this. Let's save the kid and get me back home and hey have you ever smoked meth it's not that bad after all and sometimes I like to put different dangerous insects in a cage together and watch them battle to the death and-" Bun-bun speed talks as she bounces up and down in place and cuts herself off mid sentence with more marshmallows. "Hey, they went outside to use the device and maybe we're alone and you're going to have to babysit me until we take a taxi or something."

OUTSIDE

She points it around and Eliza can see it's like watching a fishing radar. Dots appear around them.

"Good. Good. We've caught the attention of our local Swarm." she nods to the workshop they arrived in, leading her inside and out of the cold. "Alright, first rule, getting in and out is difficult. It's why most people never get to see the Shadowside." she pulls up a trap door in the floor down stairs to a basement room. The room is lined in sigils and markings of what appear to be blood. "You can make the wall between world thin. Makes it easier to punch a hole through." she leans in to Eliza.

She closes the door behind her, shutting them in a darkness only lit by the florescence of the device. "Darkness. Places away from science. Wilderness. Best places to do this. It would take days to explain the hardware itself, but all the device does is send out a signal. A form of vibration harmony, like binaural beats? High frequency pitch. It attracts... them."

The darkness brightens abnormally as a hole swirls open in front of them. Beyond, she can see a tunnel made of liquid stone churning and opening. At the end is an opening into some overcast lit sky. The hole approaches, as if the two ends seek to merge and turn the tunnel into a doorway. As Eliza watches, the swirling and the tunnel itself move with the shape of billions of tiny nearly microscopic particles.

The swirling stops and fades as Wednesday turns it off. She opens the trap door and leaves back up to the workshop, finding a chair. "Curiosity solved?" she grins, placing the Diving Gear on the table. "I'll wait for the others. You see those particles? The shapes? That's the Swarm. I-" she hesitates, looking to the door, ensuring no one has entered. "You have the spark. The passion. Between you and me, we think they're Nano-machines the Atlanteans built before the fall, you can't see them directly, they're like Predator cloaking. And they have a soul. Well. Soul fragments." her face turns somber as she hesitates to add the next part. My instincts don't like your brother. I know he's your brother. But how well do you trust him?" {It is unclear why Wednesday is attempting to sow dissent. Is she lying to turn them against one another? Or is Conner tainted?}

She smiles warmly. "I know I can trust you."

AS THEY REJOIN

When Conner has woken and found them, Bun-bun following him like a puppy. Wednesday turns to them. "You two ready? I'm giving Eliza the keys to drive. Go ahead Eliza. Take it for a test run." She turns to Conner and listens to him talk about the gear. "The device likes to be in a secluded place with no witnesses." there she nods to the cellar. "We can look for the priests if you want, though I'd be careful of emerging into God territory with this device. They're good people but I don't want them to get their hands on this gear."

She hands the device over to Eliza, and unlike the ball the rodents inside her seem very interested in it. "If you really want to know, Conner, the gear is like the Pied Piper, and a swarm... of things on the other side re-arrange the Shadowsi- er Summerland around us. We understand the signal that controls the Swarms but we're not exactly sure how they work."

After watching her use it, Eliza can easily operate the machine, though getting it to go where she wants will be a whole 'nother can of worms. Wednesday tosses Conner the Nexus and tells him the same spiel about the blue rubber ball.

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Conner Penroe

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Conner is relieved that Eliza, the responsible one, will do the driving here. He wouldn't want that on him.

"So Sis, remember yesterday when Monday said he agrees every group is just a different flavor of asshole? Let's do the Priests. [he glances at Wednesday] We don't have to show up like, right in their kitchen if we don't want them to see the Diving Gear [he gives her back the Blue Ball of Tingling] maybe, I dunno, a few blocks away and take an Uber."

The talk about summoning a swarm of Atlantean critters feels slightly unnerving -but by far preferable to the liquid-based alternative the goatwhores prefer. Hearing Bun-Bun speak of meth earlier made him hope she was just joking. {I guess we'll never know, guys... [he says to the SetHeads] She has too many good looking teeth for meth though...}.

"Sis, I don't know if you've thought this through, but here's what I was thinking: we show up with the priests, we tell them these sick fucks are abusing kids -the whole story Jeeves gave us, and then see what ideas they have to get the kids out of the Manor. After that... we need to find a way to permanently disable the bridge, I think. Because as long as that bridge works... assholes from all over are going to kill each other to get their turn at abusing them. It'll never end."

Conner is ready. He had the best break he could have hoped for, and surprising even himself, he feels 100% comfortable with the SetHeads running around in his noggin. If the portal opens, he'll dive right in. It's the adventure of a life time. And for someone who has been looking for the meaning of life... a perfectly testable proposition.

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Eliza Penroe

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EYB EY

"For now I'll defer to you talking to the priests. You've always been better with people than me. If you REALLY think they'll help us, I'll trust you. This on the other hand, is my domain." [She holds Diving Gear in front of her and leads them into the woods.] "From what Wednesday told me it works best if we're away from civilization, if we're lost." [They're now deep enough in the woods to be lost with nothing but the diving gear and a packed lunch, Eliza tunes the dials and attempts to fire up the machine.]

"Speaking of people, I don't think Wednesday likes you very much. Didn't think you could be trusted. Anyhow it should be working right now. [The sparkling portal appears just above the frozen ground. Eliza grasps the device in one hand and holds Bun-bun's hand with the other. Physical contact is important. They don't want to get lost or seperated. They step through the portal.] "And awaaaaay we go!"

(Will our heroes be able to safely cross into the Shadowside using the gear? I'm going to play my No Magic card. Let's see where this takes us!)

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Conner Penroe

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She has a point: he has talked his way out of plenty of hairy situations. This time though, it's a little different. He feels he's not in for himself. It's for something else.. is it justice? Is it morality? {Why am I doing this? I literally have supernatural powers. I could make a fortune in Vegas. I could become... anything I wanted to. Why am I getting myself involved in this when the only permanent solution I can think of is killing the boy? Which I couldn't do. Oh god, guys, I don't think I could. Even if... that would be for the better...}.

Suddenly Conner seems somber and thoughtful as he holds Bun-Bun's hand and follows into the void once again.

"I thought Wednesday was coming, was she not? Did her husband talk some sense into her at the last minute, or... Liz, do you have to, like, think of a particular place before this thing sends us there?"

Conner isn't too surprised to hear Wednesday dislikes him; it's a wonder they tolerate him at all, being he a stranger, being they real scientists, and having such technological wonders too.

"I guess she just doesn't like me.. [he shrugs] not everyone's perfect. [He follows Eliza] meaning they, of course."

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Wednesday rejoined them as they approached the deep woods, missing their brother sister communication. Bun-Bun is there by their sides as well.

The tunnel through reality leads them inwards.

Wednesday squeezes the rubber ball and looks north. "This device pulls me towards pieces of Atlantis. But we're headed elsewhere. Do you have anything..." she reaches over and taps Bun-bun's glove. "This. You came from the same general area over there. Yeah?"

"What's it worth to you?" Bun-bun snarks. She finally rolls her eyes and hands the glove over, exposing neon green nail polish.
"Fine. Here."

Wednesday concentrates and focuses on the ball. Eliza can feel the swarm of of reality around them react. The tunnel curves slightly. She hands over the glove and the ball. When Eliza uses them, she can feel reality pull towards where Bun-bun came from. The tunnel itself shifts and swirls until they are pointing towards a tunnel end where, far away, they can see a city.

Dozens of feet walking past shifting walls and moving structure, they arrive at Minneapolis. But it's not the city they left previous. Here it's different. Longer shadows. Fogged windows. No sign of people. They emerge to an ice cream shop, possibly three blocks from the Hive and a few miles from the mansion the child is at.

Bun-bun snatches her glove back and runs to the shop. "HOME AT LAST!" she giggles as she opens the door, launches inside, and starts scooping ice cream into a cone. No one is behind the counter.

"The gear's destination feeds off of the user's will but the Nexus ball overrides it. In conjunction with an object, the ball amplifies the signal." Wednesday turns to them. "The nature of this place is always unpredictable. What you think you're asking for it's always what you get. Here, Eliza, I want to show you something." she pushes several buttons on the diving gear and reality swarms in around them, shifting like a force field. "This is your defense command. If you are under attack, this setting will pull the swarm back to protect the user. We never programmed it to be offensive, however, as we're not... fighters. We run or hide. We don't attack."

Somewhere in the city there are sirens.

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Conner Penroe

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{There are no priests here... [grumbles Conner, inwardly] ah, fuck it. We'll find them.}

"Okay, Wednesday, you know more of them than I do, so, priests. Where are they? How do we find them? [He glances at Bun-Bun enjoying the ice cream and once again wonders how in the world she keeps her fantastic figure] also, watch out for that siren. From the little time I've spent in the Summerland it could mean freaking anything... [a glancing memory of the Tin-Man crosses his mind]".

"Hey SetHeads, where you guys at? Come on out, you're among friends. Oz, you may need to be our guide again. You took us to the city once... this time we need to find another group of people to help us. They're really religious. Christian. Can you think of something?"

Conner is wondering a few things himself. The fact that they've got nothing comes at the forefront. Jack. Zero. Dor is locked in a cage in a manor even though he personally tried to carry him out. And Dorit, who somehow was with his sister, is now simply.. gone?

{We're basically pretenders. Just one more team of spirit-powered assholes after the kids, like so many others before us. Nothing special about us, except perhaps that we want to end the bridge instead of profiting from it. And if ending means killing Dor, then what fucking right do we have?}

Conner, unfortunately, is full of uncertainty about what the group should be doing. Just like at the beginning, when the question in his mind was bigger and had to do with the meaning of life -his in particular. Now it's about the meaning of a child's death.

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Eliza Penroe

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HYB, HY
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, NYA
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EY
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EYB EY

"Amazing! I was nervous it might not work right for me. I mean, this stuff is incredibly advanced and the Deep is unknown by it's very nature."

[Eliza scans the empty streets around her. Somewhere she can feel the Swarm in the back of her mind, she can feel hundreds of beady eyes on her from below piles of garbage, underneath parked cars. Hiding in every nook and cranny.] {Is this a parallel Minneapolis? Someone's interpretation of the city? Someone's vision for the future? I need more information, more data.}

[She takes a deep breath and allows one of the rats to scurry up her arm and climbs onto her hand.]

"I know this isn't what you signed up for, but I could use your help again." [Without realizing it Eliza's slipped into speaking another language, a soft, chittering whisper she shares with Swarm.] "This place feeds off the unknown. It plays tricks on you. With your help, I have hundreds of eyes, not just two. I could understand this place, tame it. Honestly I need your help. I know I don't have much to offer in return, but if you can help me understand this place. I'll give you anything that's mine to give."

[As if in a trance, Eliza moves down the street like she's being pulled by an invisible force. About a block over she stops and points to a red neon sign high above the sidewalk. It's in the shape of a cross with "Jesus" written horizontally and "Saves" written vertically coming down from the "S" in "Jesus".]

"This is the place, I can feel it."

[The rat has now perched itself on her shoulder like a parrot. Occasionally chittering in her ear.]

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"The priests keep to churches. Where else would you find them?" Wednesday says shimming up a telephone pole like an expert. She scopes around and finally barks in exclamation, sliding back down. "We could find them back in the real world. This shadowed land is dangerous sometimes. But I think we are in luck." she turns to Eliza. "The diving gear is relatively mundane. Most people have to travel through irregular lengths here. But the diving gear pulls the self and the destination together. Unfortunately, if it is not the Swarm's home in Atlantis, they are not entirely accurate. You give them an object and they will return it to the most... memorable place that object is from." she whispers in "The device's signal is very simple, LOOK it says. They look. We cannot transmit our minds to them, not like your..." she goes silent, looking at the rats in shadows and above at five objects.

Around them screens flicker on. One at a time. In a pentagram like circle they hover in the air, pulling closer on tinny whirring blades. Drones, but below them are connected television sets whose tapes play on loop. "We sure missed hanging out with our friends. Isn't that right?" a tiny green shirted man says from one screen. "Now that the witch is dead, and we've found Emerald City, what else is there?" a tiny girl with a yappy dog quivers in worry.

They circle around Conner in a clockwise pattern, occasionally zooming across and trading places. Wednesday looks up to them, fascinated. "SetHeads, eh? Like TV Set... head. Clever." she rubs her chin, then calls out to them. "I've seen a glowing cross two blocks over. Can you lift and see it?"

One of them zooms up high, wobbling still in the dark sky, before falling back down and wobbling into position again. A tiny cyborg cop calls out "Affirmative. Mission acquired. Let's get these civilians to safety!" A sixth SetHead sails down, this one with wings and much faster. Inside the screen a tiny man with glasses says "We're here to kick ass and chew bubble gum but-" yet his airplane form is too fast and he sails beyond hearing. This screen seems to be making wide circles around them, rising and lowering, erratic and far less stable than the others.

Bun-bun watches the things fly around above, scooping ice cream into her lips. Behind the counter a man appears between everyone's blinking eyes. He stands tall, hunched over at the ceiling. He wears a paper hat, wears and apron, and has a long metal ice cream scoop in once hand. All of his parts are elongated, the fingers almost skeletal, his nose is long, teeth like chopsticks, a wicked cartoon caricature of a person. "Excuse me, little girl. But you will have to pay for that ice cream."

"Of course. Why could anything be free?" Bun-bun looks up at the man and continues eating. Behind her from the shadows the clink of metal and boots. The wasteland survivor is at Bun-bun's back. He jingles a small bag and tosses it to the counter. The creature, whatever it is, narrows it's eyes and examines the small bag, before begrudgingly accepting the payment.

The creature even tips it's hat as she leaves, calling "Come back any time."

Bun-bun stares up at the SetHeads, behind her the wasteland explorer has faded to the shadows, perhaps watching, perhaps scouting ahead. "I gotta tell you Conner you got the weirdest little friends." she smacks her lips and licks a spoon nosily. "You guys want demon ice cream?"

The rat on Eliza's shoulder whispers in her ear. "We are yours as long as you care for us. The pest is shunned, stepped on and starved. Yet we persist. This is the power we offer." it preens itself and then looks around. "We are in a rolling landfill, only the trash is made of memories. Echoes. Cast off perceptions. You are sifting through the dead skin of the world's mind." it cleans her ear while it's there, then pauses to sniff the air. "Give us shelter, give us love. We do not make deals, not like others. We protect the pack, and the pack protects us."

With or without the others, Eliza finds herself wandering in that direction. Bun-bun stays by her. Eventually she finds a neon JESUS SAVES cross on the side of an old abandoned building. Then across the way, another small cross in Christmas lights. Then she sees it. Down a long street. A white, small, simple cross on the top of a very pristine and simple single form church, white with blue timing, it's like the one from Little House on the Prairie her mother watched when she was young. It almost feels unreal and miniature, as if plucked from the miniature town in Mister Rogers.

The rat on her shoulder goes very still. "Evil men are nearby. We must keep to shadows. Not ghosts. People like you."

Around them the siren grows closer. The SetHeads lift up and lower occasionally, making sure one of them is always watching from above. Every time they lower they spout small phrases before cycling back up. "Church, that way." "Cops, incoming." "Carnival, far north."

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Conner Penroe

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Despite how gloomy his thoughts were mere moments ago, the display of the setHeads, the rats {Liz can speak rat now?} and the strange man who paid for beautiful Bun-Bun's ice cream, reminds Conner that he is uniquely privileged to visit this land of wonder, something many would give their right hand for. Or [as he glances to Wednesday] spend their lives building machines for, and studying.

Alas, there's little time to wander around. From the sixth SetHead drone, to the sirens, to the inherent danger of the nightmare ice cream vendor, the signs are clear that trouble is coming, and the team better clear out.

"Let's move it guys! [He says, as he picks up the pace towards the cute-as-a-button church] let's not wait to discover what the sirens are for..."

The Summerland is many wondrous things, but safe isn't one of them. If he had heard the rat's way of putting it 'sifting through the dead skin of the world's mind' he would have wholeheartedly agreed.

Conner goes for the church, trusting his drone friends to give advance warning of anything nasty, and when facing the door, he hesitates for a second between knocking vs just walking in.

"Well, it's a church. Everyone's welcome, right? [He comments as he pushes in the door, merely announcing] Hello? We're real people here; not from the spirit world {God knows what the priests call it} Looking for the priests, need help!"

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Eliza Penroe

Combat: 
HYB, HY
Magic: 
, NYA
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Else: 
EYB EY

[With the sound of the sirens, Eliza's whole body tenses up for a moment. With that she grabs Bun-bun's hand and tugs her towards the church, nearly making her drop her demon ice-cream.] "Bro's right, we need to move." [She glances towards the Wanderer for a moment.] "You should come with us too. I don't know who you are, but you keep running into us. That has to mean something." {Especially here. In this place I should avoid using the term 'coincidence'.}

"How did they find us? I mean, were they looking for us? They weren't supposed to be here. Not yet. Calm down Eliza. It's alright, it's going to be alright." [Bun-bun can feel Eliza's hand shaking. This is the first time she's really felt real immediate danger. Her fight or flight response is off the charts, amplified by her connection to the Swarm.]

"I'm right behind you bro."

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Down the street they witness the source of the siren roll by. It's a large 4x4 highway patrol truck, red and blue siren a'blazing. But hanging from the back and passenger windows are what appear to be hooligans with baseball bats chasing down some helpless creatures. The people in the vehicle look like college kids but they zoom by before they can see much more.

The wanderer does not respond to Eliza's offer. Behind her a flood of rodents keeps the rear, as if watching. Bun-bun giggles at being touched, trying to eat ice cream from the bowl directly with one hand and making a mess of her face as she follows.

"It is soothing, here, a place of love." the rat whispers to Eliza, as they enter.

Inside the church they discover pews have been moved aside for tables and several men and women sit drinking coffee, playing cards, and chatting. They all have white button up shirts and many wear sweater vests. All of them have white priest collars around their necks. Most of them casually glance at the group and return to their lounging activity. One lifts and greets them.

Outside the SetHeads descent and their drone parts break away, each forming a small body that grows beneath them. They are like small children now, wandering in and around the back of the Church pews. The sixth SetHead, the They Live dissident Conner rescued, tries to do the same but his jet propulsion brings him in too fast and he rolls thumping along the carpet and bowls Conner over, stopping at Davis feet, staring up into his face with a bewildered macho man in jeans on his screen.

Davis helps him up and dusts him off, squatting down. "There you go, little fella, a rough landing. But you look like you're fine. You run along now." He pats the mini SetHead who scurries to hide behind Conner. Davis stands again and places his hands in his pockets.

"Hello there, folks. I'm Brother Davis. We're a church group. Priests, technically." his smile is warm and open, and behind him everyone else waves. He looks at slightly disorganized layout and blushes. "We, um, well this is sort of our recreational center when we're not on the streets. But we open our doors to anyone in need. What can we all do for you this day."

He eyes Wednesday and her device with a brief flash of suspicious calculation but his warm attitude never wavers.

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Conner Penroe

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--

Relief. Double, at seeing that the freed prisoner made it out, too. "Hey there! I was wondering if that was you! Oz nearly bit the big one for you back in the city, glad to see it wasn't in vain -welcome to the family man! [He'd pat the little rogue, and for a brief second contemplates whether the SetHeads have the power to merge together into one giant megabot, Transformer style. But there'll be time for that later] give me a sec bro, I want to introduce the group to our new hosts..."

"Name's Conner [he says, shaking Davis' hand] the video kids are with me. And this is my sis Eliza with the rat critters and her... friend Bun-Bun [the lesbian joke wouldn't fly with people who believe in Exodus]. That's our friend Wednesday [if Davis knows anything at all about Divers, then the name alone is clue enough, not to mention the gear. Then there's the wanderer... one big question mark]. Thank you for taking us in. We heard the sirens and, well, we really don't know what to expect out there. It's the spirit world and... hey, are you a spirit too? Cuz, we're human. Not from here."

Conner hesitates before spilling the beans on the whole Dor/Dorit dilemma; the priests seem like good people so far but Conner needs more evidence. Davis seems like a good man, but they've barely made introductions. Maybe he could ask a few more things first, besides whether he's a spirit or not.

"Is there a place where we could have a private chat? I'd like to learn more about you, possibly ask for your help with a delicate issue... {and SetHeads: we're in the house of God, so don't do anything fun. Goes double for you Emanueles -all the more in those kids bodies and we don't know if these guys are Catholic, just saying... So sit tight.}

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Eliza Penroe

Combat: 
HYB, HY
Magic: 
, NYA
Influence: 
EY
Else: 
EYB EY

[Eliza is dead silent as soon as they enter the church. Raised with a healthy sense of Catholic guilt, she never really felt comfortable in churches. Especially since a place this friendly had to be hiding something this deep in the spirit world.] {Aw jeez, I haven't been to confession in years.}

"He- hello Brother Davis. Thank for for your hospitality, it seems unusual in this place."

[She nods staying behind her brother. Behind her back she tightly grips the diving gear with her finger on the panic button. Her other hand is still tightly clamped around Bun-bun's.]

{God, I hope she doesn't notice how much I'm sweating. Wait, no I shouldn't take the Lord's name in vain. Not here. You really don't feel that Swarm? I don't know, you've survived here for who knows how long. I'm sure you have a sharp instinct for avoiding danger. If you feel comfortable in this place it should be safe, but I can't help but feel something is about to go very wrong.}

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Davis shakes their hands, he's very real or at least appears to be. "Good, good. Nice to meet you folks. We take a break from our community work and our services by stopping here in Purgatory to chat and relax. So busy out there." he turns to kitchenette behind them. "Hot coco? Bring the ingredients in from our Churches. Never trust the devil's food here in Purgatory." he smiles sheepishly. "But you folks don't know us from no one, so s'ppose safer for you to say no."

He motions them to the table where everyone is rather inviting and warm. He pours himself some Hot Coco. Bun-bun squeezes Eliza's hand and grins at her with a wink, she's a mischievous one playing up to her nervousness.

"No privacy round here, not really. We're Agents of Love. We don't take much to the old hellfire and damnation, you ask me, mankind makes it's own hell and damnation in the Land of Nod. Reason why we duck out to Purgatory here. News just gives us all a heartache." he sits down on top of a table, resting one foot on the bench seat. "Agents was formed by Presbyterians but we break bread with them all. Good friends with Pagans and Athiests a'like. We don't all have to agree with each other, wouldn't be free will if we did. We're all children of the world and Agents don't turn anyone away. However, I'll come right clear with you folks. Everyone of us has service time. Military, police, fire and such. Our main goal is feeding the homeless, bringing communities together, and unifying people."

He walks to a wall and taps a soft part of the drywall. The wall swivels around and reveals an armory of weapons. Submachine guns, rifles, shotguns. Explosives. Something they'd expect from the Punisher. He smiles and caresses a pistol, then nods to himself and wanders a few steps to them as he sips on his Hot Coco.

"We drive out drug dealers. Pimps. Gangs we try and rehabilitate, but most need a strong arm." he thumbs the weapon racks. "We got no qualms putting down bad men like rabid dogs. We know if there's a punishment, God'll send it to us. And be clear, we ain't seen no visions of our agency being God's divine business on Earth. None o' that nonsense. We're just good honest folk who think the laws and the other Churches aren't willing to do what needs done." he waits as the wall slowly unswivels the weapons back behind drywall. "Last resort of course. As Stephen King wrote in the Dark Tower, well, first comes smiles, then lies. Last is gunfire. We want a better world with everyone working together and happy. We got laws for regular crime. But if cancer seeps in our neighborhood, well, sometimes you gotta excise a tumor to save a host. And we cherish our neighborhood. Won't you.." he hums.

The others laugh and hum and mumble "Won't you be my neighbor." Davis sits on the table again. All the other agents watch with calm expressions. Conner and Eliza all notice small details now, tattoos in places, dogtags. Soldiers, if not in body in mind. Everyone is rather fit, not all lean but sturdy, arms scraped and dirt under fingernails. They don't wait in pulpits all their day, they have the determined hands of people who work hard.

"Now normally we wouldn't give you that little bit of info, just say hi, offer some drinks, and send you to a safer place. But all our Angels, they're up in Heaven when they're not needed." he gazes upwards to the roof and sips his Hot Coco. He wipes his face and points to Conner. "My Guardian Angel been whisperin' into my ear before you even stepped in the door. Tells me you're here to shut the gates of Hell. Well, I never heard my Angel mention Hell, this place, this place is only Limbo, not that I ever bought the charade of Catholics, but she says you are here to ask us to save small children from evil men and to enact righteousness upon true evil and slam shut the gates to capital H, Cenobite chattering, suffering din type of Hell." he thumbs behind him. "It's really good Coco, we can make some back in the boring world if you wanna wait."

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Eliza Penroe

Combat: 
HYB, HY
Magic: 
, NYA
Influence: 
EY
Else: 
EYB EY

"Guardian Angel? Like my friend here?" [She gestures to the rat on her shoulder.) {Is there a way to hide yourself? To read minds? That's something I need to look into. Expanding our abilities could be to our benefit.}

[Eliza smiles and accepts the coco.]

"We don't want to hurt you or your neighborhood. We're just trying to help someone, well someones. Two children, bound to each other since birth that act as a permanent link between this place" [She waves her hand around gesturing to the church around them.] "and the real world. Er, the physical world." {Things in this world need scientific names, like animals. Maybe it'd help get everyone on the same page.}

"They've been used for their connection for decades, we want to stop it. Look, this place is amazing. It holds literally infinite possibilities for science, medicine, philosophy. It could save the world but it could also destroy it. All I've ever wanted is to do what I love, supporting myself, and making the world a better place. I thought going into research would let me do that,and it would have but this place is something else entirely."

"I guess what I'm trying to say is I'm happy you're willing to help us. Though I'm not sure what you mean when you say 'gateway to hell'. As far as I know the connection is just between where the two twins happen to be. It's stable, which is why it's valuable. Though if you think there's a possibility of them creating a gateway to something worse..." [She recoils as she burns herself briefly on the hot chocolate.]

"Well I guess first we need to find a way to separate them. Do you or your, uh, angels know anyway to do that?"

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Conner Penroe

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Although never one to lose sleep over it, Conner rarely had had confirmation that he made the right decision. Except now. This is confirmation. Coming to the priests was the right decision.

"You guys seem all kinds of alright. [He says, and there's no point declining the Coco when the person has an "angel" that can read your mind. Conner pours himself a cup, and exhales deeply thinking here finally is a group of people who knows what they're doing, what to do, and have the means to do it. He can hand over responsibility to them, then]. Honestly, I don't know what to do. These children... their butler lives as a spirit here in the summer... limbo. He told us their story. Twins, boy and girl. Girl was beheaded and lives here. Boy is kept in a cage in a manor. The two of them form a permanent bridge between the two worlds -solid, stable. You can see why many people would want to get their hands on that, right? [He sips the Coco] not us. We just want justice for the kids. The boy, I held him in my arms, he's barely fed. Catatonic. Doesn't even talk or respond. The fuckers who did this to them {Oh shit don't curse in the house of God!} deserve some biblical retribution if you ask me. And the kids, well.... here's where it gets difficult."

He glances at his sister, as he mentioned this to her once. {Here goes nothing...}

"Either we sever the bridge or we don't. If we don't, then progressively bigger dogs will play tug of war with that bone, possibly doing the world a lot of damage along the way. But if we sever that bridge... yeah, people would stop fighting over them but... well, they'd be away from each other. And each other, and that grim butler of theirs... Is all they have. All they've ever had. So father Davis, or brother, whatever you are... I really hope you know more than me on this one... because the only way I've thought of reuniting the kids and destroying the bridge at the same time... is by killing the boy..."

He felt dirty just saying the words. But they had to be said. It was not exactly like Confession... but it came close. And if anyone can exorcise these mental demons out of his head, is gonna be Davis -at least that's what Conner hopes.

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{In truth, we've always been in your mind.} the spirit Swarm responds to Eliza.

The Agents all go real quiet and look among one another, then look to Davis who nods knowingly, as if he agrees with them. He sits down and listens to Eliza talk before he leans to one and whispers something. They nod to each other and then there's an attention that sweeps across them. Backs straighten, eyes alert. The calm demeanor has been replaced with one of cool apprehension. He listens to Conner and only smirks when he curses.

"Two children. Gate to hell." Davis muses to himself, finishing his Coco. "You know why people don't get to tourist through Purgatory here? Because they don't know what to do with it. They'd turn it into some capitalist venture. Probably the gate to hell too. It's what people do. Agents, we were formed from excommunicated members of another group. Calls themselves Malleus Diaboli. With them, if people found out how to get here, they'd silence them and, if they couldn't, they'd kill em."

The others look at him, but he waves a hand as if to relax their mood.

"Agents of Love didn't agree with Malleus. We use a kinder hand. You come and go as you please, just for our sake, sake of others, don't tell no one about this place or how to get in and out." he points to Wednesday's device. "That thing right there will only draw doom on you. The Angels call it anathema, tell me it enslaves the tormented fragments of shattered souls. Whatever that means." he tries to smile. "I'd ask you to keep that device out of our house."

Wednesday looks to them and agrees, patting Eliza on the shoulder she steps out to wait by the door outside.

"Sorry about that folks. Something wrong with that woman." he dusts his pants and stands tall. "Ok, here's all we know. If this is the door, which the Angels swear, then it's been a big problem for years. Story says the door lines up between the twins but one of the kids keeps being pulled into a gateway to hell, place they call The Estate. When they line up there, only evil pours out. Even when they line up their door anywhere else, evil comes calling to enter our world. Whoever had the kids hid it from the Angels and the others until..." he tilts his head listening, then points a finger at Conner "You tried to break the kid free, yeah? Whatever you did it broke the spell hiding them. Went off on the radar. A lot of people are gonna be after those kids now that the word's out."

Davis looks to the wall where the guns are hidden, then turns to look over his colleagues.

"Problem is, if the story is right, the kids can't enter or exit Purgatory as we all could because they're technically already in both at once, it's what makes them a door. So one kid can only move around in the physical world, other kid can only move around in Purgatory. We need a two pronged attack. The physical kid the immediate worry. We can provide muscle and firepower to get that one out. Other kid will need someone guarding them until the transfer is made. Once we get them both to a safe location we can spend a bit of leisure figuring out how to sever the connection. I'd hate to end a poor child's life, so I really suggest we exhaust every other route we can. Though if it comes to euthanasia of a tortured child or the fate of millions, no hesitancy in that." he rubs his chin. "Thing is, people will come for us. That kid's been an omen in the spirit community, something of a hot potato. No one holds them for too long."

The others rise and their first duty is cleaning up. They start emptying plates into trash cans, sweeping, tiding the place. It's an imaginary realm, as far as Conner and Eliza can tell, and yet they make the rote behaviors in honor of their discipline and ethics. Then the wall unwinds and people start shouldering weapons.

Davis walks over towards them and offers a weapon of their choice handle out. "Where, exactly, are they holding this kid? Somewhere North? The ping on the radar isn't exact."

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Conner Penroe

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That feeling. That slow-motion, chest-oppressing feeling of something that's just a teeny bit wrong, but not wrong enough to do something about it. The tiniest sensation of the hair on his arms standing -the calm second before he dives literally in over his head. It hits him when he sees the men arming themselves -men that by their own description are less ruthless than the major group they splintered from.

"We're just... gonna shoot up the place? Like, now? [he blinks, again, he's not sure he's up for this]. I mean, if you're right, then there's a lot of people heading up to shoot up the place. If everyone now knows where Dor is, the boy twin, then that includes the bastards who keep him in a cage. Now what would you do if you knew all the big dogs are gearing up to come and get your prize away from you? Look [he turns to glance at Elizabeth for a second] up until last week we were just... 'muggles'-you know what I mean? I was on a finding-myself kind of journey, and sis came after me -that's it. I just feel we're in over our heads here. I've never... fired a gun before. [He looks over to Elizabeth] Neither has she."

Suddenly the Coco tastes a little bitter -probably just the Summerland making 'reality' match his emotions.

{What if we just call the cops? [he thinks, speaking to the SetHeads in his mind] No, listen, I know what that sounds like -just hear me out. They have a kid in a cage. If we can get cops to get to the basement, they're going to see the kid and they're going to have some questions, right? Child Services is going to get called. Now the bad guys have a choice: surrender the kid to Child Services, or fight the cops. Fighting the cops is a bad choice -isn't that so, Officer Murphy? But it will keep all the other occult groups away. And sooner or later the cops win -they always do- and the kid will be placed in Juvie, or some temporary orphanage -much easier for these Catholic Punishers to get into than the Manor... [suddenly a new thought enter his head and he realizes why the priests are gearing up for war right now] Oops. Yeah.. just that little detail called 'hell'. As in, if the kid gets out of the cage, literally all hell breaks loose. Yeah, no. We wouldn't want that happening in an orphanage. We really wouldn't.}

Conner once again, is back to the single idea that has darkened his mind ever since the seed was first planted. Kill Dor. Slip in, bullet through the head, slip out, the end. Only way to save ... did Davis say 'the fate of millions'? Jesus.

"I'll follow your lead. [He finally says] ... I don't know if I'm useful anymore. I had no idea that by trying to break the kid out I basically rang the dinner bell for all these groups, and started a race. But if you think I'm useful, tell me what to do and... [he glances to Eliza] we'll try."

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Eliza Penroe

Combat: 
HYB, HY
Magic: 
, NYA
Influence: 
EY
Else: 
EYB EY

(It's been a week. Finals week to be precise, but I probably should have warned you about that before. Anyway I'm back now.)

"Wait, put the guns down. We can't just march in there without a plan. That place is heavily secured. Here, I'll show you." [Eliza digs rummages around in her bag until she unearths her notebook. Thumbing past the incomprehensible rantings about The Deep and theoretical physics, she comes to her notes about the Manor the first time she broke in. She has layouts, notes, on security, ect.] "This might be a little out of date, they've probably beefed up security since the break in. In fact, if they know the Twins have a target on their back they might already have plans to move them."

{Too many variables to solve for. I need to study the latest security measures, intrusion countermeasures, I need to learn more SWAT tactics, and a dozen other things. This is messy, it's going to be bad.}

"Look, Davis, Brother Davis. I know you're the one in charge here, and the one with the guns and stuff. But we brought this to you, I'm going to need you to trust me. Going in there guns blazing is only going to get people killed. Give me a moment, let me find the solution. I can figure out how to achieve our goals without anyone... "[She trails off for a moment.] "With minimum casualties."

{I can do this, but I'll need your help. I need the thousands of eyes, whiskers, and antenna in and around the Estate. I need the Swarm's senses.}

[NYA Magic card. Can I pick Swarm Senses for one of my powers?]

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Davis nods to the other priests who start filing out through a rear door at the back. He puts his hands in his pockets and looks between them. Two of the Agents stay to wash dishes, they notice these two have not armed themselves with weapons. Conner and Eliza get the feeling this church stays stable because it's never emptied, and they likely take turns "preserving" it here.

"I don't know what we're going to do. Not until we see the place. Until we recon our objective. I said several times our goal is negotiation, disarmament or neutralization, and last is a hot fight." he breathes a few times from his nostrils. "Your words tell me this person has money and a place to keep the kid from discovery. Anyone that thorough will also be ready for a fight." he looks at them. "What if he owns the police? What if he owns a Governor or a Senator? What if he holds us off while he routes the kid out the back? How powerful is his network of influence? So many questions. Tell me, what do you expect when you go there? A fun chat? Anyone who bought this kid can be anything from a harmless researcher to a warlord of carnage and torture."

When Eliza makes her notepad layout he considers it and then Davis nods them all towards the door in the back.

"I never go in guns blazing. This is our contingency plan, we don't want to go in there without backup. You're right, too, we don't know much, and neither does anyone else. So far, I think, you two know the most. So it's your show. We're your support." Davis opens the back door to reveal a round chamber of doors. The other priests are gone. He puts a reassuring hand to Conner. "Everyone is useful, each in a different way. I served three tours bringing civilians out of terrorist controlled cities, and I'm good at killing bad guys and saving the innocent. Most of us Agents are. Whatever you're good at, you'll do that even if it isn't what we do. The angels tell me you were brought to the kid to guard the door, that's how they phrased it."

In the center of the room there is a pedestal, atop it a silver chalice. Through slim cracks in the room they can see an upper chamber, obscured by candle flickers, and what little they can glimpse from difficult angles appears to be several large crosses of Jesus and statues of Mother Mary. Each bleeds in small irregular amounts and the thin strands of blood funnel to the center where the blood drips into the chalice. Some of the doors have esoteric Gnostic and Kabbalahic symbols painted in dried red on their centers.

Davis turns to Eliza and hands her a walkie talkie. "When we arrive at the location, you are on lead. The Agents have exited to our churches across Minneapolis, they'll bring transportation and whatever we need. Three of my Brothers and Sisters will be waiting for us with a nice car, and we will scope out this location unseen. Then it's your plan. You know the layout and the score. We will stand by for orders."

He pulls the silver chalice from the pedestal and gets on his knees before a door, chanting in Latin as he marks it with a cross, surrounding it with a tetragrammaton. His words translate to roughly "Son, Father, the Holy Spirit, the Mother, the child, the lamb. You are the doorway to eternity. Your blood is the passage to eternity." When he returns the chalice to it's collection spot he then opens the door to a small room somewhere. He smiles to them. "Shall we?"

Eliza's Swarm Sense power will work, the rats whisper inside her head, but they need to get close to the place she describes, one they've never been and is very far from this place. Many of them will follow here in the Shadowside, looking, and scout out the mansion where the kid is held. They will let her know as soon as they find it. [Holding card aside until she nears the location.]

The rats can tell her now that the door leads into a church somewhere north of Minneapolis. Next to her Bun-bun breathes a sigh of relief. The SetHead children cautiously watch from behind Conner.

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Conner Penroe

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{I wonder if this will make me religious... [he thinks, as he secretly admires... well, everything about the priests. Their unity, their sense of community, their gear, their faith. They believe in something. Someone greater than them. He believes in nothing. Or does he?] Probably it will. Probably it will...}

Conner nods back, he's so glad -and at the same time so not surprised to see his sister has detailed plans. Makes him feel better. The reassurance that violence will only be a last resort makes him feel better too. And lastly, those words from Davis and that pat on the shoulder, telling him everyone is useful in their own way... that has him seriously considering Bible study.

{But not yet my peeps. First we need the lay of the land. So listen up: [he is very confident when talking to 'his people', the setHeads] Remember how when I asked you to peek into Sunday's phone to see whom he was texting, you were able to do so? Well, we're going to need more of that. The moment we cross that door we're going to be back in the real world, not too far from Luigi's Mansion. You're gonna spread out and try to peek into anything you can about that place, you get me? I know your thing is 'screens' but I bet there're plenty of screens in there. Every bad guy has a cell phone. There are security cameras. There has to be at least one computer if nothing else but for Shorty McSweatface to check his third-world cam girls -get in that shit. Try not to be detected. When the time comes we'll start a light snow, believe me it's gonna be something, but for now just snoop and try to get us all the Intel you can, got it? I'm particularly interested in finding out what the hell are they planning to do with the kids and why the hell haven't they done it already. Those two things are key. Alright. Ready? Let's go.}

With a lot more confidence in his face, Conner goes through the blood-chalice-powered threshold, ready to get back into the fray -play it by ear for now- and see what fate brings next.

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Eliza Penroe

Combat: 
HYB, HY
Magic: 
, NYA
Influence: 
EY
Else: 
EYB EY

[Eliza follows her brother through the threshold. Her nose firmly planted in her journal. This is her in study mode, her brain working in overdrive to figure out the problem and derive solutions. Conner would know this look. It's the look she had before her SATs when she locked herself in her room and was dead to the world. She doesn't speak and barely pays any attention to what's happening around her.]

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[As a side note, Holidays, unruly toddler, and six day work weeks have exhausted me this month. I apologize for the slowdown of posts. I'm not giving up, and by January things should speed back up again.]

They emerge into a small Baptist church a few miles south of the wealthy estate woodlands Eliza and Bun-bun previously visited. Brother Davis has a van outside which several other Priests are checking over tools. Binoculars, walkie talkies, their weapons. Outside the sun is low upon the warm horizon, dipping melted past mountains as the purple of dusk encompasses around and behind up into the cloudlines.

He's waiting on them.

Bun-bun pulls back, however, and checks her cell phone. "Finally! The Summerland has shitty 4G reception." she begins texting and giggles in apprehensive glee. "Hey, Eliza, it's been real." she slides a piece of folded paper that, if unfolded, reveals a phone number scrawled in crayon. "I got my spirit companion so uh, well, I gotta get back to my Sisters and prove I'm not a Goat anymore." she laughs wildly, looking at a world that is different and new to her now, a world she wasn't sure to see through her old eyes and here they are wide, the dark secrets below everything revealed to her finally.

Davis looks between them. "We're ready on your call. Do you have any other stops on the way? Eliza? Conner?"

Inside his head Conner can feel his SetHeads traversing far cables, crawling lines of code, phone cables, and through cell towers. They are searching for what he seeks.

Bun-bun hugs Eliza tight. "I got an Uber on the way, I'll be back at the Hive before you know it." At the corner she keeps glancing back at her, as if saying goodbye to a long lost friend.

Soon Conner's spirits reach the mansion. They can't get into the system directly, it seems it's a closed circuit, but by bouncing into cell phones and then jumping into the mainline from inside the house, they're able to bypass it. Before they arrive at the estate they will have access to the internal security system. Though they're not computer experts, their minds like wide eye children, they will take some practice to get the results they want. Then again, what is life without experimentation? Something else Conner picks up, however, is a high tech device in the forest away from the mansion. Someone with very expensive monitoring devices watching the mansion, though there's not enough info to determine who.

Before they reach the mansion estate, the pest Swarm will have also discovered the mansion. Eliza on the ride over will get impressions of shadow obscured views, of a dozen armed body guards watching the outside parameters of the building, some inside. And that strange woman that accompanied the short millionaire is hanging upside down from a doorway clasp, doing upside down situps while listening to Chopin on wireless earplugs. Synthia, her name is Synthia, and her abs are rock hard, her sweaty barely clad body sinew and muscle, no fat, yet she continues exercising relentless with a look of mindless determination as if the exercise is the only way to feel at all.

The short fat man Albert Klien sits in the dungeon watching the nightmare child with quiet observation, he drinks tea and reads the newspaper. Dor sits quietly on the bad, back against wall, catatonic as before. When her spirit rats find corners through the gateway he creates, Dor turns for the first time and smiles subtle to the rat.

Then Eliza has a terrible fear that hits her. Through that spirit doorway where both Dor and Dorit sit now in a bed on both sides of reality, there's a balding man with an eyepatch and fine suit who waits outside the door, watching from the Shadowside. Eliza can see the other Estate, the one Conner mentioned, as the angels and others did. A Silent Hill meets Hellraiser horror show where blood and pain move endlessly. An Estate Dor and Dorit carry with them, in a way, where behind the man with the eyepatch a dozen terrible large things wait. Monstrous demonic forms are on standby, waiting for the moment to move through the door into Reality.

Before all of that comes to light, however, Brother Davis puts on some Creedence Clearwater Revival and offers them some Fig Bars as he prepares for the drive over to the mansion.

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Forge's picture

Conner Penroe

Combat: 
--
Magic: 
--
Influence: 
--
Else: 
--

Conner at first, thinks this will get some getting used to. He thinks it's going to be like in those TV shows, where the character goes in a trance and starts speaking in tongues and then comes back not having any memory of what he just said. It's not like that at all. The SetHeads are part of him, as much as his arms and legs are. And just like he has positional awareness of where his arms and legs are, at any given time, he so has awareness of where the SetHeads are, what they are doing, what they are learning. It's such marvelous gift it nearly brings a tear to his eye.

"What was that group Sunday mentioned [he says to Wednesday] when he was listing all the different groups that access the spirit world -and I said they're all different flavors of asshole except for the Priests- what was the group with a lot of technology? Because they're monitoring the Manor right now. Whoever they are. And if my SetHeads were able to detect them, chances are they by now have been able to detect us. [He takes a deep breath. His role for now is to support the big dogs in what's about to be, he fears, a long and protracted fight with heavy casualties on both sides] {At least Bun-Bun made it out. Good for her. I wouldn't have wanted to see her knock-out body get hurt...} Other than that [he continues] the SetHeads haven't found any obvious exhaust port to the Death Star yet. But they're still looking."

Idly, he finds himself holding a gun -a Glock he found in the vehicle, and the first thing he does is find the safety and make sure it's 'on'. It's a bit scary to merely hold this instrument of death... but it's also a bit of a thrill. He gets that feeling in the pit of his stomach that the rollercoaster is just starting to move.

"So what's the plan, Brother Davis? Show up, knock on the door, demand to see the kid? Or just hang around and wait for some of the other groups to make their demands, shoot it out and then move in? Thing is.... [here goes Conner with his negative thoughts again] if the kid is put out of the cage, then what prevents the bad guests from the other world to barge in into ours? In other words... do we really want to take Dor out of his cage?"

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Trapturtle's picture

Eliza Penroe

Combat: 
HYB, HY
Magic: 
, NYA
Influence: 
EY
Else: 
EYB EY

(Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand we're back. Hope everyone enjoyed their holiday)

"I-I have an idea, we might have missed the obvious route." [She looks around at the armed men and women, and visualized the trained security guards in the mansion.] "With all these guns and so much at stake, people are going to die if we run in there. On both sides. Conner, I didn't spend three months trying to save you just to watch you get shot. We need to try the diplomatic approach. If I don't hear back from me in twenty minutes, you can all come in guns blazing."

"For all we know they might be on the same side as us. What would they have to gain from the gates to hell opening? Maybe they're, uh, trying to find a way to sever the connection safely as well. I know it's a long shot, but if we have a chance to stop all this without a bloodbath. Conner, I'd like you to come with me. I don't trust anyone more."

[With that, Eliza puts down her weapon and begins calmly walking towards the front door of the mansion and uses the huge, lion's head knocker.]

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DarkMoonINC's picture

Brother Davis turns with a sly grin to him. "Looks like your sister's plan is to march right in."

Pinging inside his head, SetHeads are fuzzy remote signals, like tiny RV camera drones beaming back occasionally static filled views into other places. Their minds are so different, naive and yet alien, as if they had once been human but time in the Shadowside had changed them. Their senses are not the same as his and the confusion transition causes the distortion. One he's adapting to.

Two of the body guards watch Eliza approach cautiously, speaking into their ear pieces. When they arrive, the door opens to a tall woman in a quality pantsuit. Her hair slicked back and trimmed to the neck. Her eyes are those of a predator, calculating, cool and calm, she looks the two of them over, then as if seeing something behind them gazes across the yard, then nods to herself in decision.

"Come in." she says, leading them to a front foyer waiting room. Above two staircases lift to the upper floors but the spot she brings them to has couches and an open fire all overlooking a large fish tank. She offers them a seat. "Drink? Food? Our kitchen is fully stocked."

When they have given to repose she sits half on a table. Beneath her clothing her body moves lithe, the way panthers move. She is nearly all muscle but sleek from habitual laps around the pool out back. She's an apex specimen of exercise. "You were the two in the basement. We didn't have enough time for introductions proper. I'm Synthia. I assume you're aware of my employer Albert Klien. That's whose estate you've wandered into. I'm very curious why you've returned and what you intend to achieve."

Below, Eliza's rats can sense movement. Something horrible is with Dor down there but it's simply waiting, stepped into the cross over half world between life and death. Demonic entities are waiting in Dor's room, hiding in shadows, as the room is halfway into the Shadowside they could pluck someone unsuspecting into their world. Something bad is about to be put into motion.

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Forge's picture

Conner Penroe

Combat: 
--
Magic: 
--
Influence: 
--
Else: 
--

{Look for weaknesses, guys.}

It's not a frantic call, he's not even raising his 'mental' voice as he addresses the setHeads. It's the icy certainty, cold as the tombstone, that terrible terrible things are about to happen. He followed his sister. Now it's time to think on his feet.

"Okay: white flag. Parley. Time out -whatever the hell the code is -every goddamn group calls the same things by different names it looks like. My sister and I are just messengers. Think of us as the last ditch effort to resolve things via diplomacy before the barbarians storm the gates... From both sides [he gives panther woman a knowing look]."

"Synthia [he has to nail this part, for all their sakes, so he looks at her in the eye] there are many groups right outside this building, right now, armed to the fucking teeth. This should not surprise you -not since I took down the veil when I was last here {and I fucking didn't mean to, but if I'm gonna sell this now I gotta own it}. Your milkshake [he points down to the floor, the basement] has brought aaalll the boys to the yard [finger circles]. I plead: give me a message to bring back to the people outside ready to raise hell. And I mean that literally -you and I both know if the cage breaks it's going to get biblical real fucking quick-like. I don't want this. I want us home by dinner. So please... please give me a message I can give to the folks outside, that keeps them from firing 28 mortars at the front door."

{This is it...}

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