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Freestyle Roleplay / Re: a wretched wonder
« on: May 22, 2014, 02:40:14 pm »
He did not know what his face betrayed, she realized immediately. His hand didn’t leave hers quickly enough, and he asked her if she was all right. She said yes. She said yes and she looked to Garry—could Garry see that Ned Knew?

Garry moved toward the elevator, with his token positivity, and she drew from it. The grin on his face as he looked at her and at Ned told her that Garry couldn’t see. It was just for her, like so many things. She and Ned followed Garry. She noted that Ned kept touching the gun like a child might seek a security blanket. She wondered how often it had been fired in the last test. If it had been at all.

“There’s a lot of new blue,” Ned said.

She didn’t know what to make of it. Garry’s smile this time even seemed to have a touch of being forced onto his face. He certainly didn’t mean the blue vials, as not one of them had carried anything out of the tunnels. Did she and Garry have writing on their own faces? She wasn’t going to ask, and neither was Garry.

“I think there’s always going to be blue until we get out of here,” He said. Ned didn’t like that. “I’m not a big man in that sense, I think, but until it’s relevant that we address it, let’s just say it’s all forgiven.”

Silence, a moment. She thought that might be the best strategy. She thought that perhaps she had been wrong, that Garry could in fact see that Ned Knew, and he was putting on the same false face as hers, as though she could see nothing. But, to say something, to tell Ned what was written on his face—what good could come of it?

Garry went on as the elevator reached their destination, “We’re stretched thin. We’re in the trenches. We might die when we step out of this box and Cal will grow up without a family.” Ned scoffed again, less in disbelief and more in humor, this time. Genevieve, for her own part, snorted a laugh.

“I say things are as bad as they can get, which means all that other shit, that blue shit, is just imaginary,” Garry said. “You don’t worry about clean underwear in war. You just want to make it to your next ration.”

And of course, he was right, perhaps more right than he’d been at any point in his life until now. And he had unintentionally confirmed it for her. He could see that Ned Knows, if perhaps not what Ned Knew. She noticed too that Garry’s eyes didn’t tend to focus too long on one of them or the other. She wondered if she was blue. She wondered what was scrawled across her bloody, dirty face, whether it was the same to both Ned and Garry. Whether it extended to her arms, over her torso, streaked with red.

The men stepped off of the elevator lightened, somewhat. She again stole from their light to smother her darkness, unknown to either of them. Garry asked, what about her. What about her, indeed. Whatever about her, she couldn’t and wouldn’t say. Instead she said,

“As ever.”

And as ever they moved on to the next test. A test that required swimming. In spite of the horrors that befell them repeatedly, she was able to unsee it all, to spend focus and energy on her own rapid stroke, the burn in her arms and thighs, imagining herself in a race rather than another violent test of—whatever the hell it was being tested. And again, as before, they woke up at the end, weapons and all. They performed the familiar trudge to the elevator, but each of them was different, this time. Less consumed. The swimming test had perhaps been a drag on the other two, but for the most part it had been entirely physical, a relief from BOA’s constant mindfuck.

Ned’s mood was markedly improved from the task, in spite of his lack of capability. “Never told me you were such a good swimmer. Hopefully 27 will be something I’m good at. Not sure they make tests involving bossing people around and delegating.”

Genevieve stole a look at Garry. Ned had said 27, but 18 was next on the list. She said nothing. They had agreed before to simply go in order. Ned’s choice of 27 over 18 spoke to what it was Ned Knew. Garry’s eyes were not on her, her exhausted mind could not read his thoughts.

And when they got off on 27, at the end of the corridor, the answer to her thoughts. Two tunnels. Two. Protected by a wall of impenetrable glass, meant to reveal the answer but not to allow them to pass.

And Ned changed in an instant. Suddenly violent. Kicking, punching at the glass. She watched this with stoicism, unsurprised. Garry moved to calm him, but the storm in Ned raged. And suddenly, the gun.

“Garry!” She shouted, her coldness shattered by fear. “Ned, what the fuck!”

And Garry tried, too—“For fuck’s sake, Ned! Let’s just go to eighteen like they said. You can’t be—”

But Garry was wrong, because Ned could and he did. He fired at the glass, the bullet ricocheted. Genevieve and Garry shrank away from the sound, but she had been too slow to react. Her right shoulder exploded. Her hand by instinct moved to grasp it, but the touch overwhelmed her with pain.

“You crazy fuck!” She heard Garry say through a fog, and she laughed agreement, or thought she did, forcing herself to blink through the white-hot pain. The two of them turned to look at her, and she continued right on laughing. Forced herself to stand somehow while blood poured through the fingers of her left hand, her right arm hanging uselessly. It felt like a weight, unmovable.

“Yes, Ned,” She said, her vision still blurred, “You fucking crazy fuck.” As the pain sharpened, her vision began to return, she could see that thankfully Garry had taken the gun. “You fucking shot me,” She said, wry.

She realized then what those in the Complex refused to. Yes, everything was a fucking test, and every test was pass or fail, but there were no right answers and no wrong ones. Everyone bought the oxygen tank when it suddenly went on sale and waited for the water to rise and recede, and yes, they passed the test. But so had she. Whatever direction Ned had been given could have been followed or not followed, and the test could still be passed. But he was too fucking self-absorbed to realized it, just like the rest of the ghosts in the Complex who wasted away, and of course because of that he had

“—fucking shot me, bleeding Christ. We’re going to fucking Eighteen.”

Freestyle Roleplay / Re: a wretched wonder
« on: February 05, 2014, 02:08:59 pm »
In spite of her quick and deep thrust of the plunger on the syringe, the liquid seemed to move slowly as it bled to new color from black. For a heartbeat, she thought that she could pull it out if she wanted, stop all this nonsense—but to what end?

Then the heat, as though her thigh were splitting, the liquid oozing over sinew and vein and bone. The heat spread like wildfire, in one moment nearly unbearable, in the next like an embrace beside a fireplace in the dark.

Her knees began to weaken. She half-heartedly steeled herself against the fire, soothing and tearing at the same time, in the end allowing it to fully overtake her. this is the end, she thought stupidly, wanting to laugh but unable to put forth the energy or effort. She barely felt her knees making contact with the floor, could not sense its coldness through her pants. She was on air. We all float down here, Georgie, damn right we do.

And in the midst of pain that wasn’t really pain, heat that poured from within, the images flashed before her as though they were recorded on withering old film. She could feel her hand in her former husband’s, feel the wrapped organza of her gown, feel the tears. She could feel her feet pounding pavement, rain. And yet, these moments that pierced her heart still somehow did not feel like hers, as though they had been willfully given up and they were now being forcibly reunited with their owner. It was another life, someone else’s, a different woman who reminded her of herself but who would never have been shot in the heart, stabbed repeatedly, bled from the eyes by invisible forces. The memories she saw were of a real life, it had been so good. How could she have fucked it up so badly?

She closed her eyes and willed it all away.

Of course, nothing went away. When she opened her eyes she was sprawled on the floor, her head and body one single repetitive throbbing ache, as though it had only just now decided to register all that she had put it through in—what, three days? Four? 100 years, now, for fuck’s sake?

Ned, beside her. He opened his eyes, half-dead. But she didn’t look into his eyes. On his face, in that tattle-tale blue indicating secrets or lies, two simple words that held all of the significance of the world.

He Knows.

She sat up too quickly, looked away from him, trusting that the desperation on her face would be attributed only to their prior tests. He was speaking but she wasn’t listening. He knows, he knows, he knows—and there was so much to know, now, wasn’t there? Where all this would end up. Perhaps the answer to whatever had been written privately to Ned on the note. Or, worse. Worse would be that he knew how she had come to be there, what she was doing. Worse would be that he knew how far beyond them this all reached. It could have broken him, that knowledge—could have broken them. Because even in spite of or because of her own personal tests, her beginning, so different from the two of theirs, might seem to say that her fate had already been decided. That type of thinking could do her in.

He could snap and kill her at any moment, based on what He Knows.

Gary’s laughter further confused the pieces of her scattered thoughts. He was in good spirits. She focused on his energy, took it in, made it a part of her. Thrived on it. Found herself able to stand.

“Come on, Ned,” She said, holding out her hand to help him up, her eyes unable to avoid the shrieking blue on his face. “We have to move on.”


Freestyle Roleplay / Re: a wretched wonder
« on: January 15, 2014, 02:26:26 pm »
She stopped moving toward the other tunnel, early out of the water, when she realized that she wasn’t being followed. Something willed her to turn around, to look back.

Gore. Blood. The dogs had uniformly leaned down at the water to void themselves of a disgusting blend of what appeared to be blood and their own guts. Still all screaming names, female names. Genevieve watched with fascination that ought to have been more toward horror—but what would it take, really, for her to be horrified at whatever she saw in fucking House?

The answer would come. The largest, screaming Anne, had its wet, rolling eyes locked on Genevieve. Slowly, it began to dip a paw in the water. Not hesitant. Willfully slow. Deliberate taunting. Dog screaming Lisa went to attack the Anne-dog, and Genevieve did not look away as the powerful jaws of Anne ended Lisa in a sickening crushing of bone.

And as the dog finally forced itself into the water, the surface seemed to roil and sizzle as though it were boiling hot. This was Genevieve’s cue to get the fuck out. She pushed herself out of the water, first throwing the sword up onto land to avoid dropping it foolishly. She picked it up. Again, she turned around, facing the dogs but inching back toward the tunnel.

The naked arm of a woman forced itself up out of the water. The pool was now a sludge of fur, pink grease. She emerged, hair seeming to sprout from her head in a slimy film, a grey-brown. The rolling black eyes rippled to a startling blue. This Anne-thing reached the opposite side of the pool. She was beginning to hoist herself up.

Genevieve’s eyes slipped back and forth between the disgusting mess in the water and this naked creature with limbs that seemed too elongated, flat breasts hanging weakly from its chest, water dripping from its too-thin body. Genevieve recognized it as female, but could not bring herself to see it as human.

The remaining dogs then attacked, all of them beginning to transform in the same manner, while trying to kill the Anne-thing. As the fur and dog skin sloughed off, the water began to turn a deeper red, churning with skin and fur and parts and blood. She had seen quite enough. She turned and went into the next tunnel, thankful when the same manner of door slid shut behind her. She leaned back against it, realizing then that her chest was tight, she was woefully out of breath, bleeding still. She tried to calm herself in effort to slow the bleeding from her side, her wrist.

All she could see was the innards. The water turned soupy with gore. Somehow that was what it had taken for her to feel the BOA had crossed a line. In spite of the knowledge that they could likely read her every though, in spite of her desperation to keep a shield up in her mind at all times, she said aloud, “That’s fucked up,” then, louder, “That’s FUCKED up!” The scene replayed before her over and over. Nothing before had made her formless thoughts of BOA as an enemy to be defeated more solid.

no. you didn’t see that and that didn’t happen. it’s a trick like so many others. they want to see it change you.

Yes. That was it. They were trying to draw her rebellion out of her, trying to make her prove her intentions, shake her up. Fuck her up. If she let them, they would simply end it. The one thing everyone in House, in the Complex, agreed on was that BOA was full of tricks. Could she even prove she had experienced any of this? How? The simple fact that the series of rooms was impossible to exist within the confines of House should have been enough. How much of anything they had seen or experienced was real?

Fact or fiction, it was another part of the story, of Can You? BOA said they Could. Now, Can She?

yes. yes, always yes.

When she opened her eyes, she took in the new room. Black-filled syringes on her left, orange on her right. Her gaze drifted toward the ceiling. No sooner did her eyes meet speakers than did Anthony’s voice lilt from above.

“Always bet on black.”

A sudden shift, and a phrase that repeated ten times exactly, “—doesn’t matter, she won’t make it, anyway. At least let me—”

Words played on. Black, black, repeated as she moved down the hall. And then things changed. The lilt returned to her voice, and his voice joined by Irna’s. Genevieve could almost feel the intended heat between them, the sweat, the air electric with passion. Genevieve felt her face grow hot as the voices did what she knew they were intended to do. This was a mental shakedown. Whether the scene she imagined was real or false, it was being presented to her to rearrange her priorities.

i died for one, you think you can beat that, Red

A pet name. BOA went above and beyond, didn’t they. And why not? They had well understood her reaction to the letter, the way she had worked Ned over to get it. She had felt rewarded when the letter had said something for her comrades, too. It had proved the choice, and BOA had allowed it.

black. black. bet on black

The end of the tunnel before her abruptly, a table with the same two syringes that had lined her procession. She knew the task. In spite of the recorded voice of Anthony, she did not know the choice. BOA had designed these voices to play in such a specific way. Was she supposed to trust the insistence on black, trust the other phrases and words tossed about? Trust that Anthony had said of her that she wouldn’t make it, anyway?

If she could not bring herself to trust the rest of it, why then would it make any sense for her to trust that she should select black because she heard it from his own voice?

It was a mind game she was sore to play. She could finally feel herself beginning to wear down from the exploits of the past 48 hours. Should she take Anthony’s word, black, at face value? Should she go for orange because BOA was using Anthony to try to select black? Or, did BOA realize that she wouldn’t trust them for using Anthony’s voice, and expect her to select orange simply to be contrary?

bet on black

In the end she reached for the black, deciding that even if the entire thing ended right here at this wall, at this table, that that was fine. If BOA defeated her here, with Anthony’s voice, she laughed hoarsely at the thought that at least she had gotten to hear it once more.

“Fuck you,” She said to BOA. She plunged the black syringe into her right thigh through her pants.

Freestyle Roleplay / Re: a wretched wonder
« on: January 04, 2014, 02:07:55 pm »
“BOA looks at the individual,” Garry reminded them. A hint of reproach touched his words, reproach for BOA. She wondered how much of BOA’s insistence, as she saw it, on splitting them up was for her, and how much was for Garry and Ned. She realized then that this could be the last moment she ever saw either of them. Would either of them be waiting on the other side? How long should she wait if she got through first? What if one of them faced a challenge that was designed simply to be longer than the others, was the end of the test to see how long any of them would wait for the others to come out?

She had thought of none of these things when they first came upon this test, and something stopped her from speaking any of them before they all went on. Perhaps if they didn’t consider any of that, if they all just thought they’d make it to the end and all would be well, such would come true. After all, wasn’t it true that so many outcomes were dictated by an individual’s belief that they would be?

The last thing Ned said before disappearing into his tunnel was that he thought it would be fun. She hoped in some small sense that for him, it might be. He had seemed to walk much taller from the enclosed space of the elevator, seemed to have overcome whatever had been on his portion of the letter—the one neither she nor Garry could see. He reached for his gun in a way that suggested he was more prepared to use it than she had seen him.

Garry took one sword off to her right, and she took the remaining one to the center. She was the last to go in. Not for any fear for herself, but for fear for them. As she so often reminded herself, she had been prepared to sign her life away. She had a goal, certainly, and she had two partners to look after, now, but there were no guarantees about the end result if she made it through house. An old fictional man from Maine once said, “Sometimes, dead is better.” And she believed that.

She moved forward. The tunnel was only large enough for her, she couldn’t even totally stand upright, partially bent. She held the sword to her side, blade behind her, imagining what would she do if the tunnel started to fill with water, or if a space opened up and something came out to kill her. There was no swinging room, here—Ned had the best weapon for this particular job. She was listening for gunshots.

The tunnel bent and turned and went on in a manner that she tried not to consider—it was senseless with what she knew about the construction of House, the fact that there had been two tunnels on either side of her. She hated the sense of claustrophobia creeping up on her,  made all the worse by the sudden sound of a door sliding shut behind her. There was no turning back, no changing her mind.

As she pressed on, the tunnel began to widen, light began to filter in more strongly. When she came to the all-metal room, she could see what looked like a small creek, something floating on the top of it. And a scent. Cinnamon. She felt herself raising the sword in preparedness, only one thing did her mind’s eye see when she smelled that scent, and when she took yet another step closer, they rose from the water with rage, their almost mechanical, chafing voices screaming the names of women.

They were less uniform in their structure than those she’d encountered on the beach, and this time she had a more dangerous weapon. She recalled the dancing doll, its maneuvers, the way that it had slashed and jumped so artfully. She called on that memory, now. She was the doll. Only she would be uninhibited by the sound of music or the scent of cinnamon.

“Bring it on!” She found herself shouting, ridiculous, charging toward the animals to gain some ground toward the opposite tunnel.

All four of them were on her at once, but she had brought her sword up in such an extreme arc that she managed to knock the smallest one in the face. The heavy paw of the largest beast, claws and all, got her at her side and threw her down. She felt little pain from the wound, but blood gushed from four jagged edges. She rolled and pushed herself up, making the effort to position her back toward the new tunnel and the remaining dogs toward the one she’d come out of.

When one of the smaller dogs came at her this time, the others seemed more hesitant, their fallen smallest comrade twitching where she’d opened its head. She brought the sword down hard on the back of the one that charged her, the sword stuck a moment and between a yelp of pain the dog managed to reach its head up and clamp its teeth down on her left wrist.

She screamed and kicked it away, moving ever-backwards toward the new tunnel. Her feet went into the water, she tried to keep her balance at the edge—it was surprisingly deep—probably chest-high at its lowest point, but so simple to cross. She reached toward the things floating in the water. The jerky. The same old stupid jerky that had once hidden a trigger, a button, help me help me.

She held the sword with her right hand and dipped her left, trailing blood, into the water, grabbing madly at the cinnamon scented jerky. She lifted them as she grabbed them and threw them to the remaining two dogs. Even if they didn’t eat them, it might distract them long enough for her to get into the tunnel—and she could only hope a door would slide shut behind her again, like the last one. She was not in such a way this time to defeat four dogs—she would have died the last time if not for the ingenious healing properties of BOA’s carrier. She wouldn’t try her luck twice, if she could avoid it.

She made four or five quick tosses of jerky to the dogs, one sheet hitting on of them square on the nose, and she then turned and quickly made her way across the water without looking back. If she could get to the tunnel, the smaller space might make it more difficult for both dogs to attack her at once if no relieving door slammed shut behind her. It seemed so close.

« on: December 25, 2013, 03:04:57 pm »

everyone at a Para, please have a very very very happy holiday, and thank you for being such an awesome community!

for anyone celebrating Christmas today, let us all know the favorite gifts you received and the best gifts you gave this season!

Freestyle Roleplay / Re: a wretched wonder
« on: December 20, 2013, 01:52:05 pm »
Ned’s response about seventeen, and how the group he had been with had little interest in trying to solve the puzzle of the room, stood as a stark example as to how people could languish in House for months upon months. Playing The Game was something her mother had taught her to do, something she had long railed against, feeling that she was sacrificing her personality and her beliefs to go along with things that others wanted her to do that she felt were stupid. But to get where you wanted to go, you had to Play The Game. Dress the part. Mute your true feelings. Make the effort to be what they wanted you to be—for a time. Then, re-introduce yourself when you’ve won.

This was more of the same, if this time life-or-death. When BOA presented you with an invitation to Play The Game, you did it or you could stay in House, what the hell did they care? Wherever they were farming their money for upkeep, it was enough that they didn’t mind the stragglers. Ned said he held only bitterness for fourteen, he’d only encountered badness there. She thought but did not say that it might have been because his mindset was all wrong. She thought of Cal as the perfect example. She was beginning to feel that they had won over Cal because of, not in spite of, their willingness to try to do so at all.

Garry half-joked, as all of their jokes in House seemed to be, about the fact that it would just be boring if they all died on the first floor they were expected to tackle.

“I don’t think BOA tests people with the intent of watching them fail,” She said. She agreed with his assessment of BOA. “If they wanted to watch us flounder, they wouldn’t have given us any direction at all.” It went back, again, to the Complex, the hints about upcoming tests and what might be needed. The fact that BOA didn’t stop Angel shooting her in the heart, when they so easily could have. It was mind-numbing when one considered the absolute hell that was House, the forceful breaking down that was the Complex. BOA didn’t seem to want people to fail.

But what, then, did they fucking want?

She was with Garry, too, on his thoughts that their small group was far better than a large one, perhaps a pod who stuck together—though not so much for the entertainment factor. “Lord of the Flies,” She said, again becoming The Editor, “The group led by the maniac got larger, and suddenly everybody’s acting like a fucking maniac. The small group managed to stay nearly sane. Proper decision-making, clear thought, was their driving force. Blood was the driving force of the other.

“And the idea showed itself in everyday life, as well,” She went on, staring at the wall, “Occupy Wall Street. Tea Parties. The larger a group becomes, the more muddled the message, the less any one person knows the goal or the reasons or the sane argument that started the thing. The world sees a giant bloc of fucking morons, the message is lost, suddenly people are spouting racist epithets and shitting on police cars and raping people in a fantasy tent city. And they lose the world’s attention, eventually, the crowd begins to disperse and nobody remembers what it was anybody gave a damn about in the first place. The group as a whole just loses its fucking mind.”

The elevator ride seemed unusually long, to her, they passed the floor they’d chosen a number of times as groups and individuals went on and came off. No one really spoke. No one eyed them with misgivings. There was only a dark, mutual understanding about what anybody was there to do. Some of the people she had seen might be stepping off the elevator and straight to an untimely death by refusal to play the game. Can You? or Will You?

When they were finally ushered to the floor they had chosen, the elevator was empty. Garry said, “I guess they want us alone on this quest. I gotta say, I like it better this way.”

“Me too,” She said, following his lead. As with so many floors, they followed a corridor to another opening that stopped short into a tall wall. Three tunnels. When she looked into them, she could just see that they were metal from the light in the main room, but they quickly grew dark as she tried to look down them. The tunnels were clearly marked for each of them, by eye color. Ned said with some sarcasm that he wondered what it was BOA wanted them to do.

“What we do,” She said, answering him whether he wanted the answer or not, “Is take our tunnels to wherever they end up. They're marked by eye color, and as if that wasn’t enough, size.”

The idea that they’d be split up was worrisome, but she said, before they could comment on the fact, “They have to see. They have to see if we’ll actually do it. The floors are going to be specific to us, now, you see? I bet if anybody tries to choose this floor on the elevator, the button won’t light up or the door won’t open. This is ours, now. We should see it as an accomplishment. We need to distribute among us the weapons we have on us, and then go forth.”

Freestyle Roleplay / Re: a wretched wonder
« on: December 19, 2013, 01:49:47 pm »
At least they were on the right track, Ned had said. This, more than anything, had calmed her rather than amped up her fear and frustration. The fact that they were given a specific number of days also seemed promising. But suspicion lingered. That Ned and Garry had been given the direction to go to floor ten, and she had not, seemed strange. She reminded herself then that she had been through a wholly different type of ordeal to place her here. Perhaps whatever would await the other men on floor ten, BOA thought she had already paid her dues. Would what they encountered be different for all three of them, as the letter?

And whatever Ned’s version of the letter had said bothered her as well. Her mind immediately jumped to the idea that the letter told him the sacrifice would indeed be him, brief panic shot through her. His zeal had been dampened by the contents of the letter. Surely, though, whatever it said couldn’t have doomed him to death—had hers, she would have ultimately decided the way she would be going out before whatever BOA insisted could come true. This had been her decision from moment one.

Garry gave them both a good-natured clap on the back. The gesture made it impossible not to smile, not to bring her up a little.

“Well, there’s our game plan, friends,” He said, looking at her in a manner that her exhausted mind could not quite place. It was partially congratulatory. She took the moment to be thankful that neither man had questioned what had been so important to her about the letter. Thankful that BOA had given the two men their own letters to read. It heightened the importance of the object, the desperation of her need to Pick That One. Garry clapped his hands together in a manner she imagined he had done at the conclusion of a number of meetings where he’d discussed with a contracting crew a building plan and laid out the schedule for how the work needed to be done.

Garry said he was happy for the direction from BOA. She shared this feeling. She had never been a directionless woman, someone who abandoned structure and planning in favor of spontaneous wandering. Garry said, “Ned, you’ll probably die, and Gen, you’ll probably die trying to save him, but now we have a map for it all.”

Garry winked at her, she smiled again, this time with a bit of a laugh. She was joyless underneath at his words. The realization that it could only be two who walked out of House seemed to underscore their plight and diminish the humor.

Ned teased Garry about his problems with the force field, moving toward him to start collecting the belongings that they were going to take with them. All had forgotten about the Dolls, lying in their pile, seeming useless to her, like discarded playthings. She hoped that they would stay that way.

Genevieve carefully folded the letter and tucked it into her pocket, feeling almost more grateful for the words of encouragement inside than for the almost-explicit instructions, as valuable as they were. The two men had not questioned what instinct drove her to the letter—she had not even been momentarily tempted by the gun, or by the food, as soon as she had seen it. Something told her that BOA would have made them regret picking any of those options, prolonging their stay in House.

She followed them to the elevator, where they had to wait. She supposed it was early afternoon, by then, and that any who were brave enough to venture about would be so doing.

“What was the first floor again?” Garry asked, breaking the silence after they’d been waiting about a minute. She thought he was trying to ease the last bit of remaining tension as the three resigned themselves to the plan BOA had laid out for them, had tacked on to Genevieve’s initial suggestion to tackle the floors with intentionality.

“Fourteen,” She said, “One we’ve never been on as a group.” She said so to again acknowledge that Ned may have been there before, may have some insight. Give him a chance to share more of what he knew. Whatever his version of the letter had said, she wanted to bring him out of it. She realized then that whatever it had said could come to pass as soon as they hit the first floor on their list. She wanted to press him about it, but wouldn’t. If BOA said he couldn’t tell, and he decided to, it could fuck them all over irreparably.

The elevator opened a small group spilled out, among them a woman with startlingly similar coloring to herself. Black hair. Grey eyes.  She whispered something in Ned’s ear, touched him gently before she was on her way. It was an odd moment of reinforcement. Garry rolled his eyes at Genevieve, she surprised herself by having to stop herself sharing the gesture.

She abruptly changed subjects, trying to force a more determined mood, “Have you been to 14 before, Ned? What’ve you seen there before?”

Freestyle Roleplay / Re: a wretched wonder
« on: December 13, 2013, 02:02:50 pm »
Ned explained to them what he thought sacrifice might mean. The implications were exceptionally disturbing, and went completely against the grain of what she was built to do as a person. The thought also didn’t seem to mesh with what she knew of BOA. Even in the Complex, they presented the people there with tests—unless Irna got involved, it had appeared to Genevieve while she was still Channing that BOA did extend some kind of opportunity to those within to know what was coming. As Angel had told her, if you kept your eyes open, you could usually prepare with at least some measure of adequacy. And even short of that, BOA had allowed her to manipulate the environment to put the odds more in the favor of those being tested—particularly Oliver. After all, what was a little broken café glass to the almighty BOA?

Garry said it was interesting, and she didn’t answer, because she thought maybe that was the rub. If you performed this task, maybe you’d proven you could kidnap people no problem. She was questioning her ability to do so, if it turned out that Ned was right. She couldn’t imagine what one could possibly get on floor 18 for a sacrifice that would be worth it. She also couldn’t imagine what someone would have to do, how despicable a person they’d have to be, for her to have any desire to kill them. Did they even get a choice? Or did BOA somehow signal to them who it was they needed to sacrifice?

Both men stated after reading that where her portion of the letter had had a message from Angel, all that theirs read was 10. Whatever number of days they’d come in with, both of theirs now matched hers at seven. She was surprised to hear that they had the number 10 at the bottom and it had not been at the bottom of hers.

She accepted the letter back from Garry, and Garry asked her what hers had said. Fortunately, Ned answered Garry before she could. Ned was visibly shaken, visibly bothered. He said he couldn’t say what his had said.

She said, “Mine didn’t say anything else,” Because even if they knew what hers had actually said, it wasn’t anything of value to either of them. “There certainly wasn’t a ten,” She continued, shocked to even say so. “I can’t believe they’d have tens on yours, but not on mine. But there’s nothing stopping me from going on floor ten. Since it’s not on our list, maybe we can save it for the end.”

Freestyle Roleplay / Re: a wretched wonder
« on: December 10, 2013, 01:45:45 pm »
As was promised by the instruction to Pick One, as soon as Ned had his hands on the letter, everything dissolved in the same spectacular array in which it had appeared, only now, the force field was gone with it. It was just Ned and her, and Garry, along in a room with a depressed red button on a central pedestal.

She was less than surprised when he handed her the letter with her middle name on it, which only one person had ever called her by and meant it. Genevieve was surprised, however, to find that her bloody hand shook when she reached out to accept it, and not because of the immense pain she had just endured. It was a lot like the letters or phone calls she would receive from the higher-ups when she sent off a finished project for approval. Something she had slaved away over, that the author had slaved away over, gone to war with her over. When she got these calls, sometimes she would just let them ring four or five times before answering. She’d let the letters sit on her desk for a few minutes before opening them. Though they so often had the go-ahead, Congratulations, We Have A Winner, she never lost that feeling of nervousness as to whether or not the work had all been worth it.

And this, too, brought back that feeling, but she wasn’t just about to lose her job or be forced into a demotion—she was about to potentially lose all the credibility she’d worked to build between these two men. Her “we’re no worse off if it’s garbage” argument would only go so far, true as it might have been. She was betting everything on the fact that the letter had said “Jane” on the front. That could only have been a signal to her of its importance, its worth.

She looked at Ned and then looked at Garry. Then she opened it.

Blue text at the top: Seven Days. Same as she’d been told at the outset. By the end of this day, she would have five remaining. She tried to remember what Garry said he’d been told, she wasn’t sure if Ned had told them what his sentence was, only how long it had ended up being.

The handwriting was nearly illegible, but she had encountered such so many times, deciphering was a non-issue.

You are doing well. I am allowed to say so. BOA has instructed me to give you the following numbers.

She knew without reading further who had sent the letter, and she was overcome with emotion that she purposefully choked back beneath a stone-faced exterior. She hardly knew him, not really, but he’d shot in her the heart to bring her here, to save her from Irna, to perhaps better equip her to do the fucking to Irna. She realized with some dark amusement that Angel was one of her only real friends, now. And BOA had allowed it. BOA had put their seal of approval on whatever else this letter contained. That indicated to her that this was not some kind of trick.

“We’re doing well,” She said to the men, whether or not Anthony had meant only her or the three as a group. She took as it all three, as she might not be where she was without them. That part was in orange, same as the outside, which they had all been able to read. She wasn’t sure what the different ink signified. “And there’s a list of six numbers, here.”

She read the numbers aloud. Slowly, with deliberation.

“14. 13. 18. 27. 6. 8. And there’s this,” She said, slipping the dagger from the fold of the envelope. “It instructs us to use it for sacrifices.”

They were silent a moment at the ominous turn.

The letters contents abruptly switched back to blue, the rest she did not read to them—short enough that it might look to them like she was still staring at the bright orange parts. He mentioned Oliver, equated him to Ned. She could not help but smile in her dry way. The scribble at the end, it could have been Angel or it could have been Anthony—she could have kissed the scrawl if she had not been among present company.

She would hand the letter over if either of them asked to see it, trusting that the colors of ink commanded what was read. BOA would not have put her in so precarious a position as to tell all about the Complex if the others could read what was in blue—they had approved of the letter being written, after all, surely they would protect themselves. She had gotten out of the situation on her own, trying to prove to them her trustworthiness, if that was still a part of the game.

“The series of numbers,” She said, staring at them. “None of them go over 30. They could be the order in which we’re supposed to visit these specific floors.” But she wasn’t sure if that was right, as the reportedly most dangerous floor Ten wasn’t in the series, and the reportedly religious 18 was right in the middle. “What do you think?”

Freestyle Roleplay / Re: a wretched wonder
« on: December 07, 2013, 01:53:45 pm »
Garry asked her how she could be sure they weren’t just baiting her. She couldn’t, was the answer. But she also couldn’t explain to them that the circumstances of her own demise, the one that brought her here, had been far different than theirs. If BOA was baiting her, they were baiting her to tell her secret, one that could easily leave them all stranded in House forever if she spilled. No one in House seemed to have the slightest hint as to wait waited for them—it was clear that BOA didn’t want them to. They knew of BOA, they had been told that much at some point either before or shortly after getting into House. But they didn’t know of the Complex.

Her knowledge of the Complex was her sole reason for feeling that the letter was not just a piece of garbage waiting to taunt her, that it really was some effort of communication beyond House to her with whatever BOA allowed its contents to proclaim. And this reason was one she could not communicate to them. After all, why wouldn’t they assume that, if she was just like them, dead and ripped away from her life and brought to House with another chance mired in near-torture, there should be no reason she ought to be singled out? They were a team now, Garry had noted. What motive did BOA have to point their finger at her so brazenly?

Ned reinforced his opinion of the need for the gun, the need for firepower. And Garry said,

“I suppose since we’re on three starkly different sides right now, we can somewhat guess what BOA’s intention was with this.”

But, of course. BOA’s intention was likely to divide them. If she did indeed choose the letter, and it was pointless nothing, would they ever forgive her? Would they just disperse, go their separate ways? Abandon what they had accomplished in a short time together?

She thought then that if it did in fact turn out to be completely blank, she might just spill all about the Complex. Explain why it had been so important to her. After all, if that was how BOA was going to be, send them on a pointless errand designed specifically to cause dissent among them, then that meant to her that they were only toying with her and this was all a game she wasn’t sure she did in fact possess the stamina to keep playing.

Garry bowed out, suddenly, raising his hands in mock-surrender. He didn’t want a fight because he felt that BOA wanted a fight, and she was becoming more strongly certain by the second that Garry was right. Ned, however, was still very much attached to the glistening metal object before them.

“Ned,” She said, “I’m going to give it one last effort. We have a gun, yeah, and you got us some ammo with your trade skill. But consider the fact that guns and ammunition are among the most readily available items here in House. We got a gun on our very first day, ammo on our second. I think we’ve got a pretty damn good track record as far as earning our items.”

It amazed her as she paused, absently wiping blood from her chin, that not a soul ever seemed to come upon them when the three of them were together on one of the floors. It amazed her that no one had come upon this set up, yet—or, if they had, and they’d tried to work it, they’d gotten a different result very unlike the one that had been reserved for the three of them.

“The gun could allow us to survive for weeks, if we’re sparing. That much is true. But what if what’s in the letter could help us get out of here in a matter of days? What if something in it directs us to where we need to go next? A final test, so to speak. Or something. But the last and final argument I’m going to make is that we already have or know how to get everything else on display, here. There is no challenge to accepting one of these other items. We lose nothing but our sense of pride by taking what’s easy—and isn’t that part of the whole thing? Not doing what’s easy?”

(i’m starting to think none of the things you do are easy)

“If I turn out to be wrong,” She said, “And you and Garry decide you’ve had enough and would be better on your own, I understand that. And if you would rather grab the gun, then go ahead and take it. I won’t be the one to pick it up.”

Genevieve in her final words put the onus fully on Ned, something she knew would make him squirm but that she felt was unavoidable. He’d been here three months. Give or take. It was this fact that put him squarely into a bizarre mental situation—he had had little hope of getting out, moving on, before meeting Garry and Genevieve. He was conditioned to collect items to help him live day to day, he’d had no goals, whatever purpose he’d come in here with had left him—if there had been any to begin with. This pattern would be one that required a serious amount of proving the opposite to be true to break it.

Survival had never been her goal. Her goal had been to get out or die trying. Her life had been forfeit from moment one. It was why she had no trouble going up against the dogs, and BOA hadn’t let her die, then.

And perhaps there was one final thought that would nag at Ned, something that she had not explicitly stated but that might be wearing away at his mind: She didn’t need him. She could carry on to her success or death on her own, willfully embracing either. But had he come to a point where he needed her?

Freestyle Roleplay / Re: a wretched wonder
« on: December 06, 2013, 01:55:03 pm »
“The Gun.”

The Gun. Of course, the gun. They could get at things from a distance. She thought of mentioning how much good the gun they already had had been working out for them, but she stayed silent. They had been trying not to use it to save it for emergencies. It would be unfair of her to say that having it in their possession, though it seemed so powerful, had done nothing to get them as far as they  stood.

Garry, momentarily, came to the rescue, his voice still projecting some strength in spite of his weakened stance. He argued for a heartbeat in favor of the letter—how often did it come to pass, really, that anything drifted into House specifically addressed to anyone? But his most powerful argument fell on the vials of blue—they were as good as money, more of an equalizer in House than any weapon. Were the letter not a factor, she thought she would be on Garry’s side on this one.

Ned held steadfastly to the idea of having the gun. She knew from what dark place his desire came. How long had he spent his time in House as someone who could only hope to defend himself with a pipe, a pipe that she had seen easily removed from his grip. He felt power for the first time. For the first time, he felt like a threat. And his earlier altercation, whatever little Garry and Genevieve had pulled from him about it, was only making this feeling more powerful in him.

And she realized then while she pretended to be considering what Ned was saying that BOA was daring her to explain. To tell them both that this thing was far larger than either of them could have possibly imagined, even in spite of the things they’d seen in House. BOA was inviting her to go on, go right on ahead and tell them exactly how it was she came to be in House, a story likely very much unlike the ones Ned had seen play out before. Could she convince them without telling? Was there a way to make a letter look more attractive than a gun, or a healing vial of blue?

Can You, Channing Majors?

It wasn’t lost on her that the letter inside the envelope could just be blank. Could be totally useless. And it was that moment she realized she, in fact, Could, once again.

“What if the gun doesn’t work?” She posed to them. “What if the blue liquid is just water dyed blue, the food poisoned or somehow inedible? Have we not so far been making the choice that is most risky to try and receive the highest possible payout? How many people would just ignore the letter, in favor of what helps them survive? Didn’t we make a choice, us three, when we first opened that music box and watched the crate move, when we opened it and dealt with that fucking Doll for the first time? We could have just walked away, left everything. But we didn’t. We could choose a gun now, we could choose the vials—two things we’ve already got. Does that signal to BOA that we are getting greedy, getting too comfortable?”

She was almost surprised at the level of passion in her own voice. She had been making a number of these little speeches since the moment she set foot in the Complex. She remembered what she told Oliver when she’d  left. They weren’t just words, just speeches. She said what she said and she fucking meant it.

“Since when, for us, have the most obvious choices been the most profitable ones? I ask you again, are we trying to survive, or are we trying to get out?”

Yes, guns and food and vials would help them survive. But she thought they had long since decided that simple survival was not the goal. If all BOA wanted you to do was survive, Ned had been doing three months of a fantastic job, and House would ultimately be his grave. She thought about reminding him of that. She’d told many people across from her desk, If people wanted to read this, you’d be a best seller, by now. So many in the world considered themselves edgy, original—and yet were unwilling to push the boundaries of their craft to move forward. They were content to survive.

And now the other part of the game. She looked at Ned, looked at Garry. Did She? Though, wouldn’t that question only truly be answered when she did get her hands on the letter. This part of Can You was only the convincing. What would really determine whether she was voted out of the circle were the letter’s contents.

Freestyle Roleplay / Re: a wretched wonder
« on: December 04, 2013, 02:53:20 pm »
“Is it weird that I miss Cal?” Garry laughed a bit as the three of them hauled the Dolls they’d gathered into the room.

It was clear he’d been half-kidding, but Genevieve agreed, “So do I.”

Ned mentioned Cal’s usefulness on the floor, for sniffing out traps. He was right, and Genevieve thought his usefulness would extend elsewhere. In spite of the way it would look to anyone who saw them with a tamed BOA monster, she thought he would intimidate the others. She doubted they could necessarily control Cal. If they had brought him with them and someone unknowingly stepped off the elevator onto the same floor, Cal might attack them without hesitation or waiting for a signal from the Triumvirate. Cal’s only half-decent experience with humans had come from Garry, Ned, and Genevieve, as far as she could tell—what reason had he to not revert back to the way he’d been when they met him toward anyone else?

And of course, if they ran into the wrong group with Cal, that group might be well equipped enough to kill him. It hadn’t happened to Cal on his own floor, not yet, but certain people might have felt emboldened if they brought Cal out of his own territory. She thought then of the tragedy of the situation—that she was only having these thoughts about what they could do with Cal because BOA was allowing her to. They could easily return to Cal’s floor and everything would be totally different, with Cal moved to another floor or disposed of entirely.

Ned told everybody to grab a limb and get moving, Garry and Genevieve complied readily. They followed Ned down the familiar corridor. She was surprised to see that the room before them when they arrived was starkly empty, with nothing but a pillar with a bright red button rising from the center, not terribly high. It was almost a joke, she wanted to laugh. Did BOA think people were so fucking stupid? Did they think that anyone could possibly imagine that they’d press that button and be awarded with anything but danger?

Ned offered that they dump the dolls, and again Genevieve didn’t need to be told twice. He then mentioned that the room didn’t feel right, and almost as though his words had been strongly suggestive, she began to feel the same way.

Garry poked the sword into the room. Nothing. He then set about to stab the floor with the tip, but it slipped forward, and neither Ned nor Genevieve were fast enough to stop him falling. He recovered in a moment, grabbing the sword, standing. He started to tell them there was nothing, but then  he was suddenly swept right, his feet nearly coming out from under him again. Ned was faster than Genevieve, making a move toward him, but Garry stopped him. His lunch escaped him. He explained that he was experiencing some kind of strong but invisible force.

She almost laughed. “So, they don’t want us to touch the button.” But that wasn’t really correct, was it? BOA wanted that button pressed. But they also wanted answered, once again, the question, Can You?

Genevieve put her hand out to where the arc seemed to begin. The tips of her fingers immediately folded back some, the way they might if she’d pushed on a solid surface. She glanced at Ned, knowing it would be unlikely that she could easily be pulled out if she stepped forward. But she felt strongly based on the push of the field that this was not a killing trap. This was a test of will. It seemed almost designed for her, as she recalled pulling Irna toward her, pulling herself toward Irna’s stabbing motion.

Without a word, she stepped forward, into the field. The force was immediate and immense. Her head immediately ached, her vision blurred, she struggled to keep her eyes open. She felt as though weights were hanging from her arms and legs. Her lungs felt compressed, air was a struggle. She was suddenly blinded more by pain with each forced step. She pulled her arm up with an impossible struggle toward the button. Her ears rang with a sharp, piercing tone, and before she was only a few feet away from the button, she felt blood vessels pop, blood rushing from her nose, breaking in her eyes to fill them with eerie red. She felt it trickling from her right ear, could hear nothing, see little else but the red fucking button. Her breath was gone. She couldn’t even pull a thick wheeze. She thought, and this won’t kill me, that’s a fucking laugh.

On the verge of collapse, her hand fell heavily against the button.

A bizarre, colored fog seeped into the room, and before their eyes was a shocking, unimaginable display as particles seemed to attach and solidify right in front of them. She was surrounded by a rail with plenty of objects, Ned and Garry on the opposite side. Food, the life-saving blue liquid, an identical pistol to theirs but with—what fucking luck!!—three magazines! And—

And. A letter. A letter that stuck out to her more than any of the other items. A letter with the name Jane. Bright orange.

And the instructions, of course. The instructions to Pick One. And she knew it would be only one, that there were no little tricks she could pull or cleverness she could rouse to get around that rule. They had watched all of these things appear out of thin air, it would be classic BOA to make them vanish once she’d followed the rules, once she’d Picked One.

And of course, this had been designed for her, hadn’t it? The letter, whoever it was from, though that list of possibilities was very short, had been placed here intentionally. Would she selfishly sacrifice the needs of the others, to satisfy her own need to see the letter? She had introduced herself to them as Genevieve, the letter said Jane. It was simple enough to explain that it was her middle name, that she used to go by anything else.

“The letter is for me,” She said to them, whether they had already noticed it or not. “My middle name is Jane. Only a few people know that,” She chose her next words carefully. “I’m sure BOA is aware.”

The letter could have intensely valuable information. The letter cold contain information that could spur them on, could lessen their struggle, point them in the direction they needed to go to get the fuck out. But it could just as easily be a taunt from Irna, or something equally useless. It could just be words of encouragement from Angel, which, while very welcome to her, would not impress her two companions when she could have picked anything else. She wanted the letter. But she wanted Ned and Garry to survive, and to have the opportunity to speak their part.

“What say you?” She asked them, her voice thick with blood in the back of her throat, more demanding than polite. “The rules are for me to Pick One, and I don’t see any getting around that. We don’t want to make the wrong choice. But when we look at these options, we have to consider: do we just want to survive, or do we want to get the fuck up out of here?”

Freestyle Roleplay / Re: a wretched wonder
« on: December 03, 2013, 02:13:30 pm »
“Should we leave some on seventeen, then? If they redo the floors every night, and people don’t go anywhere anyway, we could just drop Dolls as we go along. Maybe tomorrow they’ll be gone.”

Redo the floors every night. She’d forgotten Ned had mentioned that. They’d brought it up earlier when talking about staying on Cal’s floor. They were banking on the fact that Cal was a constant on this floor to hope that it was one that perhaps didn’t change much—that the only thing they’d have to contend with daily would be new traps interspersed throughout the floor itself.

“I think you’re on to something there, Garry,” She said, spilling her train of thought to the others, “Maybe if we’ve proven them ineffective, or figured them out, BOA will move them themselves for someone else to find. Someone else who is not so clever.”

She was still holding the music box, and another thought occurred to her. But Ned said, “Maybe. But maybe not, too. The only promise in here is that you’ll get surprises at any corner, and that BOA will move mountains to mess with you. I’ve been thinking, how will the music work on the Marching Dolls during the night, when they're probably up and about anyway? Will the music turn them off, instead? Or will they be the same as our Dancing Doll, and not move at all unless there’s music?”

“It doesn’t seem to make much sense that they’d be activated by music and by something else,” She said, still holding the music box. Her thoughts were lingering on their plan to distribute the Dolls. She thought that if they left the music box on whatever floor, let it play and got the hell out of there, the Dolls would be active and stay active on whatever floor they left them. Whoever came upon that floor next would come upon them, or force BOA’s hand and make them get rid of them, themselves—or go through the work of putting them elsewhere.

Garry rehashed their plan and suggested they drop Dolls at separate floors, Ned confirmed they had enough time. Garry’s only concern was that they’d run out of time making too many trips.

Genevieve said, “I say we put them all on Seventeen. We go down, drop as many as we can, get what we can out of some crates—but not spend too much time there. Then, when we’ve got all the dolls piled in the furthest corner of the room, we leave the music box on at the entrance and split for the elevator. We don’t need to see what happens, we already know. If they’re active, this could buy us a little time. It’s not like BOA designed them specifically for us. They designed them to cause a problem—it shouldn’t matter whose problem they are. We’re just making them somebody else’s problem,” so we can move on to bigger, more important problems, She thought but did not say.

The men were carrying on with the plan, Ned removing and putting off to the side the swords, Garry starting to uncover those still buried but which had begun their rise from the dirt. She would be glad to be rid of them, if they got so far as all that. They were becoming tiresome, and she wondered how it looked to BOA that they were spending so much time dealing with this single issue, when House was a myriad of bullshit they hadn’t even begun to experience.

The idea that BOA was continuing to force the issue, which was entirely possible, infuriated her. What did it matter to them if they found themselves sleeping quarters that didn’t involve the other hopeless assholes scattered throughout House, even if it only lasted them one evening? She was suddenly becoming more anxious even than when she and Garry had discussed seeing the other floors to get moving and do so. It was only day two for her and Garry in House, but it was beginning to feel like a month, ten months. She was beginning to question to herself the value in all of this, the value in survival. She was beginning to doubt that even if she survived all of this, she could actually live up to the Retriever duties having had so much of this heaped upon her. She had been expecting it to be bad, she had been expecting riddles and terrible games, but she had not been expecting that they should get so wrapped up in these humanoid, bizarre things.

“I guess we ought to be prepared to not be able to stay here,” She said, frustration tainting her tone. “But I’m not sure how much it pays to sit by and accept BOA’s made-up-as-they-go, bullshit rules. If I were BOA—”

She’d been moving to set down the music box a ways off from the Dolls, when the dancing Doll caught her eye at the sound of a metal screech caused by Ned and the swords. She recalled when they first came upon it, that it had appeared to breathe, somehow. She had cut herself off when she’d noticed the movement. Garry had been nearby and it was in his line of sight, but he didn’t appear to react. It reminded her of when they’d first played the music. When the crate moved. When the thing was in the crate and it moved but couldn’t escape—

“The crates,” She said, staring at the Doll, waiting for it to move again. “I swear I saw this fucker move. I’m probably imagining things. But, fuck, it made me think. We first met these things in the crates. The crates change every night. Maybe we can force BOA’s hand by putting them back in some of the empties.”

Freestyle Roleplay / Re: a wretched wonder
« on: November 30, 2013, 02:00:53 pm »
“I just thought that if Cal could go out, so could I, Gen. At least now we know. No people allowed, only things already live on the floor. And that our Doll is different. And I was pretty sure they'd stop when you closed the box.”

Pretty sure isn’t good enough, Garry,” She snapped. “What if they hadn’t? What, then? Ned and I just stand there and watch you get sliced apart? That thing had not one, but both of its swords.”

She didn’t necessarily want to argue, didn’t want to cause a problem between the three of them. He was defensive, wearing a smirk that was almost defiant in its near-juvenile petulance. It was a sulking sort of look she’d seen numerous times before, when she’d assigned a would-be author vast portions of their so-called life’s work to rewrite and re-evaluate, and they’d come back to her with only a small percentage of her recommendations completed or assessed. It was a look she understood and did not despise, but it was also a signal to her—that sometimes their answer to Can You? wasn’t I Can’t, but rather, I Won’t.

“It’s foolish to be so rash,” She said, “If we’re to stick together and protect each other.”

Cal had lied down beside her on the ground. His presence was something of a comfort to her, helped to diffuse her frustration. She understood Garry’s point of view, that perhaps a change in venue of the dolls would somehow make them less likely to attack, but they weren’t created to go after Cal. She still wondered about Cal’s original reaction to them, but thought now that that was indicative of what Cal had seen these Dolls do to others. Cal had wanted them aware.

Ned cut in then, further tapering her ire, “I think we should start with seventeen. The ones over twenty are usually hit and misses, so I’d say we try the teens first. The single digits get bad, I hear; really bad, with good payoff.  And then we can see Eighteen, the “holy” floor if you want. It gets gnarly, but it’s not dangerous, per se.”

She looked at Garry apologetically, but did not say she was sorry. “Seventeen is a good choice. We’re at least comfortable with it. We have an idea of what to expect. Hopefully, we can find some more to trade and possibly some things to make us more comfortable up here. She considered all that they had gone through so far that day, and the fact that none of them had gotten the most restful sleep the night before. “I’m not sure how we are on time, how much daylight we have left. But I think we ought to dig up the rest of these Dolls and get rid of them, put them on other floors, something. If we want to keep one, two, maybe three, I don’t take issue with that. But I think it would be prudent of us to get rid of the bulk of them. Leave them wherever we can—and disarm the one with the swords. Then, we go back to seventeen.”

Freestyle Roleplay / Re: a wretched wonder
« on: November 27, 2013, 01:59:16 pm »
Garry muttered, barely audible, as they watched the horrible creature tear itself from its black plastic confinements, “Why the fuck is it so slow this time?”

She wondered the same, sickeningly intrigued as to the answer. She suspected the reason could lie in the fact that the Doll had nothing to attack in its immediate line of whatever passed in it for sight, as it had during their previous encounter. They’d all been standing around it dumbly waiting for whatever might happen, and it attacked them immediately. This time, it could see no immediate threat—if the three of them could really be considered threatening to this thing. She recalled the pinging sound of their first bullet against its metal, how it had seemed to do nothing. Her arms ached in sympathy with the memory of the heavy sword in her hands as she fought to defend herself against its rapid-fire slashes, even when it only had the one—

“The swords! The fucking swords!” From Ned, his words finishing her thought as the Doll with its bizarrely graceful mechanics leapt to pick them up. It continued its maneuvers by the waters’ edge, as though performing some ancient, symbolic war dance. It occurred to her that the Doll at least did not somehow understand the connection between its activity and music, did not know the source of its ability to move. She thought this helped them fare a little better, that it was not so artificially intelligent as to have programming that made it seek out the music.

“Fucking BOA,” Garry said as they watched, stating what the three of them were likely all thinking. Fucking BOA, indeed. She again wondered what the hell the intended purpose of these things could be, until the other two began to arise. The movements of these new Dolls were far more rigid and somehow more disciplined. She could only liken them to soldiers, and that partially answered her question. But why, again, would BOA need Soldiers if their end goal was to run the Complex? And it seemed that, whatever experiment they’d been conducting with these Dolls, they had decided in the end humans were better. She would not soon forget the army of men in tactical dress that Irna had called to descend upon her.

Movement beside her tore her gaze away from the scene before them, and she realized that Cal was brushing past them all and out from the hiding place. From some inexplicable instinct, one hand released its grip on the box and shot out to grab Cal by one of his back plates, but Ned’s hand was quicker to her wrist. She didn’t rip her hand away from his grip.

He released her as Cal moved effortlessly around the now-three Dolls. She was awed. She wondered, why, then, had Cal bothered to point them out to the Triumvirate, why had he seemed to have such distaste toward them, if they would typically leave him undisturbed?

Garry broke her from her thoughts with the insane proposition that he was leaving their cover to a purpose she had not deigned nor even figured out. If shit hits the fan, close the box, he’d said, or something like it, but she didn’t need telling twice nor did she think they had any chance against three dolls at once, especially not one fully equipped with both of its weapons.

She thought that in one of those novels she was always reading, always editing, always correcting, that this might be a moment where two of the other heroes stupidly stood by and did nothing but watch, because what was more important than seeing the outcomes? But this was real fucking life, Garry’s fucking life, for which she was responsible. She was not eager to see the Doll with the swords make mincemeat of the defenseless Garry. She snapped the box shut as all three Dolls took near-immediate notice of him, and Cal spat at them in aggression.

She charged from their cover, fully expecting the Dolls to collapse once again without the music, ready to tear into Garry for almost sacrificing himself so foolishly.

Freestyle Roleplay / Re: a wretched wonder
« on: November 26, 2013, 04:27:33 pm »
Cal urged her up as the men collected the Dolls and their other belongings. Though she felt she ought to have been more helpful in dragging the Dolls, she couldn’t bring herself to touch them. Just the sight of them brought waves of disgust with the flotsam of anguish. She could see a slightly overwhelmed look on Ned’s face when he eyed the pile of three (one for each of us, she thought madly). It was a feeling she shared. They had all agreed that their level of preparedness was far higher. Genevieve didn’t let her mind wander over the what-ifs.

Ned pulled the music box, such a strange little item with its strange faceless dancer, from its dark depths in the bag. Garry came over, Cal watched with his impressive curiosity, and Ned handed the box the Genevieve. She almost mentioned Cal’s lack of reaction to it. The three of course shared the suspicion that there was something else that activated these horrific, twisted skeletons, but if they had the box, they had a small modicum of power.

Ned laid out the plan. She was, as usual, on the same wavelength. The box would be slammed shut the second things started to go awry. This time, they would be hidden in some part by the overgrowth, and separated from the things by almost an entire room’s length. Out of sight. They gathered toward their hiding place. Again, she found herself gripping the music box as though it were some priceless artifact under great threat of being torn away from her.

Garry led Cal with them to the spot. In spite of the distraction of the vial, she was still concerned for Cal’s reaction. She hoped that he would realized this was something they had to do, to understand better their situation. She was somewhat worried he would turn on them, thinking they were willfully inciting violence against them. An animal could only understand so much. So far, their efforts to reward and entice him in their favor had worked, she hoped their effort at sheltering Cal from these awful things would be clear to him as well.

“Let’s get in front of Cal,” She suggested, hoping that the Dolls being mostly blocked from his view would help deter him from an overreaction.

She stood between the men, peering through the leaves at the heap of Dolls. She thought that perhaps with the way Ned and Garry had stacked them, it would be exceptionally easy for their bizarre, lengthened limbs to become tangled with one another.

The lake was not too far from them. She doubted they would do well in water. It would be easy enough to throw them in there, she thought, then turn on the music box and watch them—drown?

“Okay,” She said, only then realizing she’d been holding her breath.

She opened the box.

Freestyle Roleplay / Re: a wretched wonder
« on: November 25, 2013, 02:09:39 pm »
Garry made a terrible joke, and the three of them laughed together—she and Ned more at Garry’s own amusement at himself. As she’d felt before anytime the three of them found something too funny to resist, she was far more at ease. She often felt as though she’d never laughed so much before. After all, laughter—especially Garry’s, she was finding—was often contagious. And misery only loved company. She wondered if that was how some of these groups became so large. She found it exceptionally true that a positive attitude often demanded better outcomes, and a negative one dictated failure.

Cal’s head in her lap stood as a reminder of that very fact. They had shifted their attitude from one of fear that demanded destruction of a threat to one of positivity and solution-oriented results. They had performed a major risk in trusting this animal, and had so far been handsomely rewarded. She wondered if things might not have gone so swimmingly with regard to Cal if the three of them hadn’t believed so strongly in making him theirs. She knew animals had a sense about people, could sense their fear or aggression. Cal had sensed cooperation.

Ned readily agreed with their plans to explore the floors in a systematic way. “Since you know a bit more about these floors than we do, Ned, we could probably tackle them in the order that you’ve heard they are the most dangerous, so we can build our defenses for more dangerous floors as we conquer the less dangerous ones.”

She knew he would appreciate that, too. He would not only be able to put his greater knowledge to use once again, but he would also rest assured that they—though having Floor Ten in their crosshairs—weren’t stupid enough to start out somewhere that they were likely most defenseless against. They had to continue to build their defenses as well as come up with some more aggressive tactics. And who knew, they might get the hell out of there before they faced floor ten, or they might get some intel from someone else about what was there of late, to attempt it earlier than planned.

But yes. The Dolls. They had to figure out what to do with the Dolls. As Ned or Garry had said earlier, she felt they were correct that distance was key. They had been far too close to the first Doll when they’d opened the music box, and it had caused some horrible chaos. And they did not yet know what kind of weapons all the Dolls possessed, as the two that had been uncovered were either buried on top of the weapons, or whether they had any, at all.

“We do have to figure out the situation on those. But I do say that once we do, we get them off this floor if they are going to pose a problem,” She said, still wondering what the hell that problem could be. The fact that they were buried raised more questions than answered them. Surely they couldn’t operate on a level that included burying themselves. And the fact that Cal had dug them up to show them raised its own set of questions, principally why. Ned was probably right that something—whether darkness or otherwise—awakened them at some point, but how could Cal understand anything other than that they were dangerous? Why would he unbury them, even as a way to alert them? Cal had to know something else he couldn’t say, because if these Dolls did have swords, it seemed unlikely Cal would be able to survive all of them attacking him at once nightly.

“Before we leave, we also have to make sure we hide all this stuff, and should probably rebury the vials,” Genevieve said, pointing toward a back corner of the room well-covered by growth and leaves. “We could probably hide everything back there okay. It just needs to look like we were never here every time we leave.”

Freestyle Roleplay / Re: a wretched wonder
« on: November 23, 2013, 02:05:53 pm »
Garry looked a bit disappointed at the amount of food, but Genevieve was surprised that Ned had been able to gather so much. She considered each item as Ned announced what he had gotten, to include fresh meat that they could cook. He said he thought that the others had likely traded it because they weren’t sure how they’d be able to cook it, which made their newfound matches even more valuable.

She considered the box of cereal, still sealed, and how easy it had been outside—or even in the Complex, to take for granted all that was readily available to you. There were likely even some times where a homeless individual on the outside might have had a better shot at a meal from a soup kitchen or a kind soul buying them fast food than the folks in House would. She hadn’t considered food much since she’d been caught up in all this. The sandwiches Garry pulled out were likely gas station convenience store-level fare, but they looked amazing to her.

The men waved her over, and she sat between Ned and Cal, where Cal had attempted to dip his nose into one of the bags. She gladly took a sandwich from Ned—tuna salad, and it tasted impossibly fresh.

“Hold on, Cal,” She said with a mouthful, using her free hand to dig into the bag with the meat. She came up with two packages of beef jerky—the protein would be very useful to help bolster their energy. Genevieve tore on of the packages open and pulled out a long, thick piece. She held it out directly in front of Cal’s mouth. “Here, you can have one of these,” She said, “But we have to be sparing,” As though the monster could understand a word she said.

Genevieve ate her sandwich slowly, savoring it, allowing her hunger to slowly abate rather than awaken it more fully. She wondered how BOA managed when it came to dropping food, how likely or unlikely it was that people got to the food before it would spoil, if BOA disposed of it quickly enough when it went unclaimed. She thought Ned was right about their fresh meat, if they wrapped it tightly enough in one of the bags and stored it directly by the waterfall, where the water was coldest, it should keep until the evening when they might have the opportunity to cook it. And if they made sure to clean it first and cook it well-done, they’d probably be able to kill any bacteria that could pose greater problems. And of course, BOA probably treated their meat with impossibly good enzymes or other protections to keep it from spoiling as quickly—if BOA could create the monstrosities they’d seen so far, surely they could stop meat from spoiling.

After all, she did not think even BOA was so heartless as to let someone die from bacterial infection due to bad food. They were more likely to allow someone to die from starvation for lack of even trying to find food. All this, of course, was her still riding on her assumptions that risks were rewarded; and the greater the risk, the more handsome the reward. This assumption had so far worked solely in their favor. The end game was to create people who would risk to live a comfortable life in the Complex, to give up their freedom and do whatever it is BOA required to maintain a luxurious lifestyle, if in captivity. She imagined that for those selected to be Retrievers, a kidnapping every now and then more than paid for not having to stay in House.

The food had a very enlivening effect on the three of them. She doubted that any of them had truly realized how hungry they were, subsisting only on what little they had found or been given since they woke up in the cells to be chased by dogs. And she had been living on coffee and a doughnut and whatever nutrients BOA had hooked up to her while they were repairing her slashed body. She felt more energized, more prepared to attack their next problems. She estimated that there was enough daylight to resolve the issue of the Dolls, to create a plan for them if they had to, and then to visit a new floor. If their luck held out, they’d be able to camp with Cal overnight.

She wondered if either of the men had considered that any one of the three—if not all three at once, however unlikely that might seem—could be plucked out of House by BOA and moved on to the next thing. She had imagined after the dogs that this time would be a series of tests in multiple locations, but now she suspected that House was the last stop before BOA decided whether you moved on, or whether you were garbage. She would never breathe a word of these thoughts to them, and she wouldn’t ask Ned whether many people disappeared at once, or if they were always gone singly, to get them thinking on the possibility. Thinking on the fact that they could be released from House one at a  time might damage the group dynamic.

She knew that she could keep things rolling if Garry or Ned were selected by themselves before she was—it would be simple enough to work as two rather than one. But she worried about what it might do to the two of them if she were selected first. Would they continue to stick together? Keep going? Keep proving themselves? She hoped that the changes to them were permanent—or that BOA would keep things simple and remove them together as a group.

In spite of the fact that there was no guarantee any of them would make it out at all, she found these somewhat dark thoughts more comforting than dwelling on the need to get out, and consuming herself with counting the hours since they’d been there. It had only been one night, but to her, it felt like an age with all they had so far accomplished.

Freestyle Roleplay / Re: a wretched wonder
« on: November 21, 2013, 01:44:09 pm »
Then men put forth their ideas regarding the Dolls. She didn’t answer, yet, letting them be heard, considering what they’d said. Garry’s point that the couple they’d seen so far didn’t appear to have swords with them, an important factor. There was a possibility they had something else. Where she didn’t align was on the idea of digging all of them up. It made sense in theory—so that they could see how each of them reacted to the music at once. But the point she thought most odd was that the way they had found them was buried in the ground. If they came “alive” at night, as Ned had suggested, how did they all become reburied by morning?

But at the moment she was more interested in Ned’s bags. The first thing he did was flip her a book of matches, which she caught, unable to stop the expression of surprise and delight that came over her face. She unfolded the book—there were only five matches, as it were, BOA hated the idea of fire in here. She would absolutely have at least one of the packet of cigarette’s they’d scored earlier, but she wouldn’t waste the matches on simple pleasures. The ability to create fire was a rare treat.

He told them the Diet soda had gone over exceptionally well, which brought her equal joy, especially at Ned’s pride when he told them of the bullets he’d managed to collect. Blankets, pipes. They each collected some of the items and began to haul them back to the deepest room.

“This is pretty damn amazing, Ned,” She said, realizing he hadn’t even yet shown them what he’d managed to collect for food—she hardly cared. The fact that he’d managed to get the bullets without revealing that they had the gun to match them was more than enough. Cal came along with them, of course, moving a bit faster than they did toward the back, exploring the path they chose before the Triumvirate reached each point. “We’ll have to try other floors today and see what else we can get, after we’ve solved the problem of the Dolls.”

Her thoughts on the Dolls were still somewhat unclear. As they dropped the bags in the clearing, she went to their stash of blue vials to open one for Cal, and pour it onto his rock for him to lap up. “I’m not sure we should dig every single one up,” She said, “If only because we don’t know how they become unburied, if at all. If we dig them all up, and they can easily seek us out, are we prepared to deal with 8 Dolls? I agree that we have to solve this. BOA put that single Doll and the music box out for a reason. This that we’ve come upon is the second piece to one more fucked up puzzle. We can’t ignore it. But we have to make certain that we don’t run our own selves out of this place by doing something we haven’t thought through.”

She watched Cal’s face as he eagerly awaited her to pour the liquid onto what had become his dish. It was almost a mockery of having a pet. She leaned far more toward Cal being an accident of BOA’s, something that started with intention, but had perhaps ended up with too much of one type of DNA than another, making it behave too much like an intelligent animal than the killing machine they had probably intended. She wondered, did they realize when they’d set Cal up in here that Cal could be tamed, could learn to communicate with humans if they showed it they were willing to communicate with actions other than violence, or cowardice?

“If we dig up all eight, open the music box, and they spring to action—what if some of them have equipment more dangerous than swords? And what if we close the music box and the only one that stops moving is the one we found earlier? We’d be fucked.”

She finally poured out the vial for Cal, hoping they would soon find more vials—they did still have plenty, but she felt that they ought to be careful.

“We’ve got three so far, ours and the two Cal uncovered. What if a couple of us took them to another floor to test them? Worse came to worst, if they didn’t stop when we closed the music box, we could position ourselves closest to the elevator and just run for it. Then, I say we uncover them all and distribute them among the floors, get rid of them. If they do turn out to all be activated by the music box, I guess then we’d have to figure out what the hell to do about the rest.”

Freestyle Roleplay / Re: a wretched wonder
« on: November 20, 2013, 01:54:05 pm »
Ned offered, “If I had to guess, this is what happens at night. Every floor gets lethal at night. Guess they didn’t want to pack these Dolls up and ship them off during the day.”

The thought didn’t sit well with her. “I don’t know,” She said. “From what we’ve seen, the Dolls have to be activated, and they just automatically start to destroy and attack. It doesn’t seem worth BOA’s time to have a bunch of them up here, freaking out every night. I had assumed Cal was the lethal part of this floor. Not to mention,” She said, “If they suddenly came alive at night, why didn’t the one we took do the same when you kept it with you last night? And Garry and I were on the elevator the whole time, the only noise we heard or saw on this floor came from Cal—and Cal was way more preoccupied with us than anything else that could have been going on back here. If they behave the way we saw, wouldn’t Cal be agitated, or scared, or trying to hide, somehow?”

Ned said they clearly needed to test the music box on them. She wasn’t so sure about that, either. A lot more was at stake, now, she thought, looking at Cal. It was obvious that Cal didn’t like the Dolls, and knew them to be something negative. But why deliberately dig them up, if Cal knew them to be a problem? He wasn’t reacting as though nervous, or scared of the Dolls. He was continuing to uncover them. And how did they get reburied every single night, if they were meant to come up?

Ned told them he was going to need help retrieving the rest of their things and the things Bryce had managed to collect for them. He started at a slow jog. And then, the fear they’d all been sitting on since the moment they tamed the monster came to pass. Cal leapt. Garry and Genevieve sprang into action with little hesitation. They had been anticipating the dreaded moment where Cal would prove himself to be still an animal, after all; where their momentary joy would be turned on its face and smashed into the concrete. She ducked down to fumble for one of the swords they’d left by the pond, and as they reached Ned in record time, partway through the next room.

They could see as they entered the room, fighting with a bit of overgrowth on their way, that Cal spun, hitting Ned with his tail. The powerful tail would move him, no doubt, but it wasn’t the claws or teeth she had been expecting to see. Ned pressed himself up against the wall. As she and Garry finally drew close, they could see that Cal and Ned were inspecting something together. Relief unlike any she’d so far experienced washed over her in a cool wave not unlike their little waterfall. She drew the sword behind her, so as not to make Cal feel threatened.

Ned told them Cal had saved him from a trap, they all seemed to breathe a sigh releasing tension at once.

Garry rewarded Cal with a rub. Cal seemed very self-satisfied, and Genevieve could almost have laughed. “Thank you, Cal,” She said, smiling.

Garry told the creature it had earned itself a reward, and she wholeheartedly agreed. Whatever they could give the monster that it would enjoy, they most certainly would. It had become a vital part of their survival, now, it only made sense to give it whatever they could, as it had so far given them solace, something near impossible to attain in House.

Then Gary said, in a manner that only half-sounded like a joke, “Maybe you’ll like some Trey later, eh?”

Whether Gary was serious or not, she found herself thinking on the subject. She doubted BOA would allow Trey and his ilk to simply ride things out on Floor One, and if they did, Trey was signing himself up for a very long stay in House. Though she’d never had any intention of the Triumvirate flaunting their new digs, it would catch on to people eventually that they were staying there, even if just for blocks of time during the day. Anyone who thought they could come in here would be treated to Cal. It was possible that the right people with the right weapons could destroy Cal, but all that she and Ned and Garry had managed to do was wound it. If they’d simply wounded it and retreated, Cal may have eventually been able to open that vial on his own, at least to recover from his wounds.

The point was, as the three of them recognized, Cal was still very dangerous. She did not think he would take so kindly to strangers. It wouldn’t be their fault if someone tried to wander onto the floor seeing them all leave it, unscathed, and didn’t make it back out. She did not think she could deliberately lead Trey here, but if, in his arrogance, he thought he could end Cal and Cal got a well-deserved meal, it was not on their heads.

“If we’re going to try the music box on these things,” She said, as they made their way to the things that Ned had brought up to collect them, “We have to make sure that we and Cal are protected. That they wouldn’t notice any of us. We’ve never seen whether they operate differently when they think that whatever they are supposed to attack is out of range. And I don’t know if the ones that are still buried would even be able to… ‘hear’ the music box, or whatever.”

Freestyle Roleplay / Re: a wretched wonder
« on: November 19, 2013, 01:58:59 pm »
She listened and she accepted his answers. He had no reason to lie. She even believed him when he said it was an even fight, if only because of what she had seen him accomplish in their short time together. She might have passed him into the liar category if he had said so upon their first meeting. But now, she thought that what he was saying must have been true. He would look a lot worse off if it had been a lie, for one thing. She didn’t think Trey was one to back off if he’d found someone weak enough to best. Trey was unavoidably marked, however, in her mind. Not for death, and perhaps not by her hand. If things came down to it, though, she would do everything in her power to let him prove himself to BOA to be a waste of their resources.

She doubted there would be much she would have to do. She could only imagine him with Irna, what a pair. She wondered whether Irna had shown herself the way Trey was doing during her time in House, or if she had only become what she was after having passed all the tests, when BOA was more or less bound by the terms of whatever promises they had made. She almost laughed at the concept of the all-powerful BOA being bound by anything, but they had kept their hands out of her affairs from the moment she had been awakened in the Complex—she was limited only by the fact that she was a prisoner. They could easily have put an end to her at any moment.

Cal was impatient with the way they’d gotten sidetracked. He abandoned them at the hole he’d dug, and went to dig another. Rather than press Ned any further, she forced herself back to the mystery at hand, one she was not quite so willing to discover.

“Cal found this,” She said to Ned, “Just moments before you walked in. I don’t really know if “found” is the right word. I don’t know if he’s always known this was here, or not. I don’t even really know if every mound contains a Doll,” But they’d have an answer to that question in mere moments, as Cal was already quite ahead in his second digging.

It was easy to let fear nag at the back of her mind, but, “The most important question to ask ourselves is why they are buried, and then why the hell they are buried on this particular floor? I also think it means something that Cal clearly hates these things.” And one of her earlier ideas had been that they find a way to make sure they were not targeted and just let the Doll loose on this floor to deal with the beast if they had to. The idea that Cal had somehow already had some kind of run-in with these things was difficult to grasp. She couldn’t decide whether Cal had already been aware of them being here and was just showing them what he knew, for some reason, or if the first mound had been his first disappointing find, and now he was determined to see whether each mound contained a Doll.

But why? And of course, the most pressing question, did they all answer to the music box? Or did each one have some bizarre activation?

“Mostly, I’m wary,” She said, “Because I’m right now failing to see how more than one of these could serve any purpose, let alone—” She counted the mounds quickly, if there was truly a Doll beneath each one, “—a fucking army of them.”

Freestyle Roleplay / Re: a wretched wonder
« on: November 18, 2013, 01:45:04 pm »
She was reassured by Cal’s behavior toward her and Garry as they eyed the partially uncovered Doll, tension firing the air between them. The animal had recognized their change in attitude, and with it there seemed to develop a greater understanding between the three.

Ned announced himself. Cal did not appear aggressive toward him, but became more alert at the sound of his voice. That was good, Cal recognized him, but was still pensive about the interruption, perhaps ready for the voice to not have belonged to Ned, and instead to an intruder. Her expression grew dark as she noted his wounds. She wanted to curse herself for staying behind, though Garry had been correct in that it was best for two to stay, and one to go—especially the one most familiar with House.

Though Ned immediately pulled his attention toward the Doll they’d unburied, and informed them that he’d brought with him all of their as yet meager belongings to include the music box, her attention was focused on his face.

“What happened,” She demanded, though she could already guess. Though her first encounter with Ned had indicated that other groups found him somewhat of a pushover, even the meanest-looking individual who had disarmed Ned of his pipe had not made the effort to physically harm him—only his pride had been wounded in that first meeting. And Ned had shown himself to others to be as much of a fair player as House allowed when it came to trading. He wasn’t going to try to screw anyone over to the point that things would escalate to physical violence.

There was only one person who came immediately to her mind, and that was Trey.

Genevieve even in her days as Channing Jane Majors had not been someone with a penchant for violence. She had never imagined herself capable or willing to intentionally harm someone, and she had taken exactly one self-defense course when they’d offered it at the gym because a female friend she’d met there had expressed interest. She was a fighter to the extent that she had made every effort to hone a powerful intellect for use with and against authors, the publishing heads, whoever she needed to.

The first time she had willfully turned violence on someone had been Irna, and that, Genevieve believed, had been a situation both forced upon her and in some aspect welcomed, and, Genevieve thought now, entirely deserved.

But she was surprised to find her thoughts now tainted with deep red-colored anger. Her fierce loyalty was overtaking her and turning to anger—in large part because she knew that had an altercation occurred between Ned and Trey, it had been brought on because of her own actions. It was easy to forget the Doll—possibly Dolls—that Cal had showed them, as her thoughts were beginning to center on a mission she was starting to consider far more important. Her entire career had been built around identifying and eliminating problems on the road toward turning a labor of love into a moneymaker of love, a task at which she had been starting to become exceptionally successful. In here, Garry and Ned’s survival and success was her labor of love. Trey was proving himself to be a problem that had to be eliminated.

She attempted to calm herself by reminding herself that there was a chance that Trey had done this to deliberately provoke her and Garry, to draw them out, purposefully inciting a confrontation. She was not going to allow the anger that tried to overwhelm her to march the Triumvirate into a trap—however poorly laid that trap may have been.

And, she further reminded herself, what did it look like to BOA that a House prisoner took it upon themselves to deliberately kill another, even if for the greater good?

but what about Irna, that is Irna’s fucking MO—though not for the greater good, for her own fucking amusement

They would deal with the Doll(s) in a moment. But she could not focus on that until she heard from Ned exactly what happened, and whether or not Trey thought he was sending a message which she would happily answer, or if he was just trying to show off.

Freestyle Roleplay / Re: a wretched wonder
« on: November 17, 2013, 05:04:43 pm »
“That’s how it is,” Garry said. “We’re going to get through this shit.”

As she had so many times since her bizarre nightmare had begun, she positioned herself back at her desk in her office. Nighttime, working late, reading this as though it had been placed on her desk. She mulled over what he’d said, examining their situation as a manuscript. She thought his words at this point in a book would be indicative that one of them, one of the Triumvirate, would die. It made for good storytelling, authors always thought, to build up characters and form a bond or relationship with the reader, only to rip them away by some tragic death.

Who would the author choose, Genevieve wondered, of the three of them, in a third person narrative? She almost laughed, again, wondering would she as editor slash through the decision, writing CLICHÉ in her bright red pen, giant X through the paragraphs or pages describing the character’s brutal demise? Or would the death be carried out so artfully to deem it worthy of the necessity of proper storytelling? Would she be moved by the words, an occasion so rare in her line of work?

Garry offered that he thought BOA ought to give them more information, something to work toward, to make them better slaves or soldiers. The truth was perhaps that they were a little bit of both. Genevieve had thought before that her position of prior knowledge had given her some benefit, but the longer she considered what was at stake, the more questions she had about the truth of why they were in House. Certainly, she could have sold her memories of the escape, of her wet, dark life pouring out of her in the woods. She could have stayed, tried to earn BOA’s  trust another way. But she didn’t. Did Angel or Anthony know that she could end up trapped forever in House?

Whatever BOA thought they needed from them. More and more, she questioned what that might be. House had to rival the Complex in expenses to maintain, though the Complex’s prisoners lived a pampered life of luxury in comparison. Oliver had said that BOA even allowed—though frowned upon—being able to see your friends and family on the outside. She did not regret her decision, not by a long shot, but she was slammed with the hard realization that she had barely learned the Complex before taking on so willingly this endeavor.

Garry moved toward the hole that Cal had dug in effort to reveal the vials. Cal stood with interest, moving aside her, dragging his tail past her shoulder, almost beckoning. She followed willingly. Always better to obey the beast, continue to show it respect. She looked back at Garry, taking inventory of the vials in the ground.

“Cal likes you,” Garry said. Joked about Cal being male for that reason. She laughed a little. She had mentally assigned it male attributes, much in the way that her grandfather had always referred to dogs as “he” and cats as “she,” regardless of the animal’s actual gender.

Then Garry said, his voice tinted with seriousness, “Ned likes you, too.” He’d offered that the conversation might be awkward. It wasn’t awkward for her, not necessarily. But it was now out in the open. She had to address it.

“I know,” She said. “It sometimes happens when working in close proximity to whatever gender you are attracted to.” Made worse by the fact that they had experienced now multiple life-and-death situations together in an exceptionally brief amount of time. It always seemed so unbelievable in film and books that two characters would garner such sudden attraction, but here they were faced with a living example. “But Ned doesn’t know me, this is purely circumstantial,” She said, thinking of Dallas for the first time in what felt like years.

She hadn’t loved him, not yet. But she knew that he loved her, would have done a lot to see that she was safe, happy, and free. She thought of him sitting in the police station with his head in his worn hands, running them over and over through his Robert Downey Jr. hair. Saying again and again, “I don’t know, I don’t know anything. She’s just gone. Just fucking gone.”

She wondered whether she had been slipped into the “presumed dead” category, yet. For the first time, she allowed her heart to ache for him.

oh dallas you pitiful fuck, she thought, suddenly lonely in spite of herself, if only you knew.

Cal was digging again. She abandoned her miserable thoughts, happy for the distraction.

“More vials, Cal?” She asked, amused. But, no. Metal. And her heart caught in her throat as the metal Cal uncovered became devastatingly familiar. Cal uttered a low growl, somewhat menacing, though not toward her or Garry. Cal slashed at the Doll, the fucking Doll like the one they’d managed to subdue and bag up, clearly displeased. Her eyes scanned the perimeter, and the realization dawned on her—

“Garry. Garry! Those fucking things. Jesus fucking Christ, one of those fucking dancing dolls. Cal just dug one up,” She pointed to similar mounds, “There’s shit buried all over in here,” And, to Cal, to acknowledge him though he could not understand, “We hate those fuckers, too, buddypal.”

Freestyle Roleplay / Re: a wretched wonder
« on: November 16, 2013, 01:47:51 pm »
She listened as Garry spoke his reasoning aloud, agreeing. The tiny splashes as Garry attempted to skip rocks on the surface  of the created pond was comforting. She doubted this was something anyone in the Complex was able to experience, and thought maybe it was an idea Garry could bring back with him. Thought she still couldn’t fathom BOA’s larger intent with the Complex, if they didn’t want people to escape, offering them a slice of outdoors could do wonders for the overall morale in the place. It had certainly helped her, Garry, and Ned in House.

Cal removed his large, heavy paw, which relieved her in a small way, but then forced both paws beneath her as though to roll her over. She did, then using her hands to push herself up as Garry came over to rub on the creature again. She stood before it, unsure of what the thing wanted from her. She held out both palms to it, fully aware that it could easily bite each hand cleanly off her wrists, if it decided to.

Garry said, “I bet there’s floors Ned’s never been on. I think that’s the case with many people here.”

And she thought the same. “Hell, Garry, I bet there are people who only leave the safe floors for a floor like the first one Ned showed us—just crates, where you’re aware enough that some are rigged, it’s not too hard to avoid their traps if you’re careful. Payouts aren’t great, but you might come across shit decent enough to trade and simply extend your existence. I tend to think those people are more dangerous than the ones with heavy weapons.”

She said so and believed so because people who were unwilling to take many risks, though they could survive, ultimately ended up holding others back from success as well.

Some would consider the attitudes of Genevieve, Garry, and now Ned, dangerous. Risky. But she had decided what felt like a lifetime ago that she would be the one who dictated the manner of her own death, and it would come forging her way through this fucking mental warzone.

Garry went on, his words peppered with excitement. Resolve. “You’re right, Gen. We should check every floor at least once. How the fuck else are we going to get all the pieces to this fucking puzzle? Ned talks about the safe floors. I could easily see that being the case with everyone else too. Why wouldn’t you go for the safer ones and then chill out after you got what you needed? And then there’s the merchants, who probably never put themselves in harm’s way.”

“My thoughts exactly. I have a theory that we could gauge how long people had been here based on the plan of action they’ve conceived about how to operate in House. I guarandamntee you the ones who’ve been here the longest have seen the fewest floors of this hellhole.”

They grew silent for a moment. She considered the implications of her own words. She was thankful again that she’d ended up in a small group of three. Whatever life was like for Ned in House before, she and Garry had spurred him on to a different path. In spite of his own reservations, he had in the end come along with them quite willingly. After as long has he’d gone with no clear goal other than “don’t die,” she imagined it was refreshing to him to find a sense of duty, something to fight for. The thought of how many came in here feeling hopelessly trapped after whatever number of days they’d heard ticked by and began to stretch into months, who just gave up having no idea what would have awaited them—if anything—on the outside .

The general assumption of most was that those who disappeared had died, not that they made it out. Not that they survived House. She made a mental note to ask Ned if he had any way of telling who had made it out, already thinking she knew the answer was no.

As though he had read her mind, Garry said, “Hey, Gen. Do you think we’re going to survive house? Forget whatever else they’ll have us do after. But do you think we'll be one of those missing people that made it out?”

She smiled coldly. “I have to believe that, Garry. I came into this deciding that it was a horrible game with an incredible prize to be won. From what we’ve seen already, BOA dots this place with items that complement each other, that make sense to fit with the situation. I’m guessing the floors work the same way, too. The point, I think, is to not let fear consume you. After all, I should have died from dog attacks, back there. Hell, we were all dead when this whole thing started. When we’ve been dead, we already know we can’t go back to the lives we had before. I guess the whole point of this is BOA saying, ‘Welcome back, we’ve selected you for resurrection. Now tell us why we made the right decision.’ I don’t know what their end goal is, but I feel like I know what ours should be.”

She paused. Her voice grew somewhat dark. “And I want to pull back the curtain,” She said. “I want to meet the wizard.”

Freestyle Roleplay / Re: a wretched wonder
« on: November 15, 2013, 02:06:45 pm »
“I want to see what passes for haunted in this place. Imagine what sick shit there would be. And imagine what treasures! It has to be a trick, smoke and mirrors, but you know it’s going to be sick.”

Yes, smoke and mirrors. “Sick. And the only difference in here is that the smoke and mirrors can kill you,” She said. Ned had used the term ghosts, but she wondered how much of that was Ned being totally honest about what he’d seen and how much was a symptom of knowing what hell could be wrought on that floor. She wondered exactly how many times he’d been on the floor himself, and how much of his opinion was based on the horror stories of others. If he’d been on more than once during his three month stint in-House, she knew they could build him up to give it another go. And she hoped that all they had done so far had increased trust enough that he knew they would not abandon him—ever.

“Religious. Of course there’d be something like that. Now that I want to see. I want to ask Ned more about that one, since he doesn’t seem as frightened of it as of floor ten, right? Religious isn’t always worse than ghosts. Bet there’s cults too. People will make a religion out of anything. Bet BOA’s got followers, too.”

She nodded in agreement that he could not have known was confirmation.

(i am thomas, faithful. everything else i've sold)

It should not have but did surprise her that there was even a possibility of Faithful in here, even if they did not know or go by that name. She supposed it would be easy enough to fall into that trap. Ned had told him that some people had languished in here for years, hadn’t he? Perhaps once you get to a certain point, you manage to find a few amazing items as loot, you started to think of BOA as gods. She had to kill a shudder before it started. She wondered if religion had ever been BOA’s intent for floor eighteen, or if these people driven mad by House had simply taken it over. If that was the case, BOA allowed it.

(everything else i’ve sold)

Thoughts of the Reverend James Jones came to her, then. The Peoples Temple members had in fact sold everything they had, or gave it to the Temple and Jim Jones to remain a part of it. He made them pliable that way. And dangerous.

Did BOA view their Faithful, here or in the Complex, with anything other than the ambivalence they held for anyone else? They hadn’t seen any indication of it here, and Ned had only mentioned it once. Of course, the Triumvirate had been quite busy the last few hours.

Her train of thought was interrupted by Cal, moving to stand, throwing their hands from its sides in a non-threatening gesture. Cal nudged her suddenly, it took three times to send her on her back, and Cal placed a heavy but not forceful paw on her abdomen. A momentary fright had taken hold in her throat, but it vanished almost as suddenly as it had appeared. Garry laughed, and she did, too. It was amazing. BOA had not created a total killing machine, they had given it life and with life, autonomy. The other enlarged and treacherous creatures had not been quite the same, but had those not been built to die? The test in the fields was to kill those creatures. She was beginning to suspect more and more that killing this monster in this room was in fact not the test.

She did not mind Cal showing playfulness and perhaps a small bit of possessiveness. They would do well to remember that this space belonged to Cal first, and the three of them second. They had to respect the beast and its property if they expected this relationship to become stronger. She didn’t count on Ned being able to bring back something for Cal, but she did certainly hope for it. If he couldn’t this time, maybe they could find something together on their next trip out.

“So, when he comes back, we ask him about eighteen, and maybe see where he is on his adventure meter, for future explorations of ten. After we fucking eat, of course. Or do you have another plan, Cal?”

She smiled, shook her head somewhat, believe that Cal’s only other plans would likely revolve around his own next meal. “Right,” She said. “We have the good fortune of knowing that there are plenty of other floors to go to aside from Ten to keep warming him up. We know that three of the floors are trading and sleeping floors. This one is ours,” She looked into Cal’s eyes as thought to ask, ‘right?’ though the beast could not response, “We know what’s on the first one we visited—killer crates. Ten is the final circle of hell. Eighteen is religious. There are still plenty to go to until he will tackle floor ten with us.”

Genevieve said all of this in spite of herself. Deep down, she didn’t care if she ever saw floor ten, if it meant getting the fuck out of here. But she knew that getting out likely demanded a visit to floor ten, even if just once.

Welcome Noobel Blewd! / Re: zZz
« on: November 15, 2013, 05:03:59 am »
i'm going to tread carefully, as every time i try to capture Snorlax, i end up accidentally killing it. so i'll just take another Route for now...

Freestyle Roleplay / Re: a wretched wonder
« on: November 14, 2013, 04:01:27 pm »
She watched Ned give a short wave to the beast as he disappeared back into the rooms in their varying degrees of calculated overgrowth. The genuineness in the gesture touched her in an odd sort of way. They had created for themselves some degree of normalcy. She imagined that, in spite of—or even now, because of—the monster, this place had humanized them. Even though you could see the corners of the room if you looked past the growth, and you could see the light from the ceiling—likely plant lights—it was still simple enough to feel as though you were outside. The temperature of the room was perfectly mild. The plants created lusciously breathable air.

When Ned was gone, the monster took up his vacant place between Genevieve and Garry, lying beside them in a manner that was strangely comforting. It had not taken them long to win the beast’s trust, but she had long been a firm believer that such a thing was not a trying task with animals. This one’s only prior experiences of humans were as things to be conquered or defeated. It likely regarded their behavior toward it with as much interest as they now had for it. They had drastically altered its known universe by treating it with a small kindness.

Garry pointed at the monster’s shoulder. “Watch this,” He said. She tensed somewhat as his hand moved toward the monster, but the animal did not shy away from his touch. Garry said, “I’m betting the more veins, the more sensitivity. Try a spot.”

She joined him, closer to the animal. It looked toward her, ever-interested. She showed it her hand, and then she herself smoothed her hand over one of the more venous areas. The same strange bubbling noise sounded as her hand ran over them. Her eyes met the beast’s. “It’s okay,” She assured it, a vague croon touching her words.

In spite of its bizarre anatomy, the colors of the creature, deep purples and blues, were stunning. She wondered if BOA had anticipated anyone coming to appreciate their genetic mistake, and would they allow the Triumvirate to keep this up for very long. She and Garry pet the animal, marveling over its membranes and plates, further attempting to cement this new relationship to their ever more bizarre environment.

She looked around them. The rocks forming up the back wall to house whatever mechanism fueled the waterfall and likely worked to purify the water seemed like they might be flat enough on top that the three could sleep up there, potentially. It was quite close to the ceiling, so that it would be impossible to stand on top, but there was certainly sitting room. She doubted, however, that it would be easy to climb up to get there. The rock formation was largely smooth.

Having a home base dulled the feeling of displacement and spurred her on as far as exploration of other floors. Her mind, for the first time, did wander back to Floor Ten. Ned had said he’d seen ghosts there, a snake with three tails. Things you couldn’t think up around a campfire with the most grisly intent. But he’d also said ten had the biggest payoffs. Having a home base, knowing they wouldn’t have to sleep among the packed, sweaty masses, might embolden them.

And there was something odd he’d said at their first meeting, something she hadn’t recalled until now, that Eighteen was religious ground. Everyone goes there in the end, he’d said. The three of them had been so caught up in hunting and gathering in the past 48 hours, she had completely forgotten.

“I wouldn’t be so stupid as to mention this to Ned just yet, but I remember him saying Floor Ten was the most bizarre and dangerous floor, but that it had the biggest payoffs. I think Floor Ten should be our next goal. Maybe not today or tomorrow, but soon. We can’t stay stagnant. I have a feeling if BOA thought we were just going to plant ourselves here and wallow around every day in our little slice of paradise, they’d sure as shit take it away. I doubt they mind us taking it over as a home base for sleeping and recuperating, but if we stay here all day, I bet they’d change it to kick us out. As for other people wandering onto our floor, we only have to worry about that during the day, when we’ll usually be out exploring the building, anyway. And this guy,” She thumbed toward the creature, “Seems to have a pretty damn good track record of keeping people away or teaching them why they shouldn’t be here.”

“Then, there’s Floor Eighteen,” She said. Somewhat mysterious. “I don’t remember if he said this before or after you joined our conversation, but he said it was religious ground. He said, ‘everyone goes there in the end.’ I wonder what that meant. I hadn’t even thought of it once again, until now.”

Freestyle Roleplay / Re: a wretched wonder
« on: November 13, 2013, 02:02:57 pm »
She nodded along at the ideas they proposed, most particularly keeping their stash of blue vials a secret. Based on Ned’s comments, she imagined that one or two was a rare and valuable surprise for most people to find, let alone an entire stash.

“When you go out,” She said, “Take two vials to trade and carry one extra on your person for you, in case you run into trouble.” They had tripped just one trap on their way in, but there was no reason to think that there wouldn’t be more. After her own mishap, she knew Ned would be extra careful if he strayed from the path they forged coming in, or if it had changed mysteriously in the time they’d been in the back. Or he could have another run-in with Trey, who struck her as a type not to go on other floors exploring and gathering resources, but who would wander waiting to attack someone out by themselves.

Garry breathed the truth that it would be best for two—not one—to remain with the monster, who seemed to be listening so intently to their conversation that she almost wanted to laugh at its engaged expression. “We should name it something, by the way,” Garry added. Oliver was the first name that came to her mind, as the beast represented to her Oliver in reverse: rather than being coaxed out of a timid shell, the beast had been coaxed into one.

Ned suggested food for their vials, then inquired about anything else. “Food is most important,” She agreed. “If we have nothing else, we need energy the most. And if you can find any sort of thing we could give to this guy,” She thumbed toward the beast. Though she didn’t know what sort of thing that might be, “Get it. I’d say ammunition that would match our gun would be second. This probably goes without saying, but avoid if you can letting people know we actually have the gun. I’m betting no one would guess we actually have one, I’d guess it’s pretty commonplace to stockpile ammunition in the event that you can actually find one.”

She thought for a moment, also considering Garry’s important points about creating some kind of structure to guard them from the monster while they slept. “I’ve noticed that BOA seems to change what’s available on the floors that sometimes match certain situations,” She said, thinking of the doll and the music box. “If BOA approves of our plans to stay here, we might be able to find some items on other floors that would help us build a protective structure, a wall or something, to enclose ourselves in while we sleep. That would obviously take more than one of us to help bring up, we’d have to leave our things here and trust that the creature won’t forget us when we come back.”

She thought it could be like the Complex. Things go on sale when there will be a test, and it was up to the individual to take note and prepare themselves. Perhaps in House was similar, except in House, it was the individual’s responsibility to guide their destiny, and BOA just responded in kind if it approved of the choices.

“Obviously, that would be a trip for the three of us to take together, after Ned gets back. We would just have to trust our new friend to allow us back in when we returned.”

Ned’s own return would be a small test of that situation. By now, they had sparred enough and been close enough with the beast that it should be familiar enough with each of their distinct scents. It would know Ned by smell when he returned. Anyone else trying to brave the floor would likely not be so lucky.

Freestyle Roleplay / Re: a wretched wonder
« on: November 12, 2013, 03:18:38 pm »
She realized then that she was thirsty, overwhelmingly so, watching the men enjoy the crisp, clear water. Genevieve was careful to keep herself within the monster’s eyesight, as the men had, moving slowly and with no suddenness to her movements, as they had become so accustomed in the moments that seemed brief, but had likely now stretched into a few hours.

Ned uncovered a piece of skull by the mud, and Garry laughed. No, they were not surprised, but she looked toward the creature with a stance that she hoped conveyed respect. By the water’s edge, she dipped her hand into the artificial waterfall. Cold. She stuck her face right in it, wetting her long, dark hair, her head, drinking the water. The sense of refreshment was overwhelming, cathartic. She felt as though they had won the lottery.

She wrung out her hair and knelt by the pool to cup her hands and drink some more. The only time in her mind that compared to this moment was splashing into the river at the end of one of the triathlon’s she’d competed in, the chilly water a welcome prize.

The three of them were comfortable and the monster was calm, accepting of them for the moment. The three would not fool themselves into believing that the thing could turn on them at any moment, but were grateful for their momentary solace.

She realized then, as they celebrated with emotion such a simple thing as water, why it was so easy for BOA to present Retrievership as a reward. After the hell one lives through in House—if they lived through it—a lovely apartment furnished exactly as a person wanted it to be with free reign over an immaculately-run, recreationally complete Complex with the small caveat of having to kidnap people seemed like a pretty goddamn sweet deal. After House, BOA probably did not have a whole hell of a lot of convincing to do when it came to explaining what, exactly, a Retriever was expected to do.

And then, on the heels of that, her earlier realization that Retriever was certainly not the only position available in the Complex. It was the one the Angel knew of as far as how you got the job, and the one she had gone after. But what if BOA thought her talents could be useful elsewhere? Or Ned’s, or Garry’s? Especially Ned, who only since meeting Genevieve had taken the opportunity—in some sense, because she had forced him to, to show his. She could easily see Ned in the role of the man—Victor, his name, she wouldn’t forget again—on the carrier. Who knew what the extent of his role was, she had only seen him during that moment. But she saw him in a role as an overseer.

Garry, unflappable Garry, she could see as a Retriever, skilled and strong enough to quickly manage the negative aspect of the deed, humorous and unflappable enough to help accommodate new prisoners, perhaps with enough of his good nature that they would not feel so much like prisoners in the Complex. With his architectural background, he might even find himself in another role—helping to build and design the insane mechanisms that went into making the Complex state-of-the-art.

The temptation to spill all about the Complex overwhelmed her. Garry and Ned knew only what they had been given—that House was their new state of being, and they were supposed to survive. But she was convinced that what they were doing was beyond surviving, as the monster playfully continued to mess with its vial, a monster that just hours ago had been ready to tear them to pieces. This moment illustrated how far beyond survival the three of them were, how industrious, thoughtful, prepared—the list of impressive qualities went on.

And she believed, more strongly by the hour, that they were, while not the first ever, the first in a while to figure it out. Angel had made little mention of new Complex staff—Retrievers or otherwise. Had in fact made it clear by his demeanor and lack of information about the process that new staff was something of a rarity. And Ned, even, had he not said that on occasion, people just disappeared? And more often than not, it was chalked up to a most unfortunate death?

She doubted whether or not a tale about the Complex they had to look forward to should they be selected would spur them on, or if they would even believe her. And if she told her tale of how she came to be in the Complex—the one tale that would stand out starkly from the rest—BOA might just draw a line through her name rather than under it, and she would remain trapped here with those who could potentially have been here for fucking years. They hadn’t told her not to tell anyone. She had not been told to remain silent. But as she had thought earlier, that was probably a singular test created intentionally just for her, to see how she would handle it—would she give up the secrets, just because she wasn’t told not to?

New Dan—and likely Garry—had been somewhat suspicious of her at the outset for her lack of displayed confusion and frustration at the situation, for her seemingly secretive knowledge about what and why they were supposed to be doing. She could not explain to them that she had already been broken down somewhat at the Complex, under far different circumstances. But of course, compared to this, the Complex was a paradise, a reward. She thought with amazement that only five or so days ago, she had been fighting to escape the Complex, and now she only wanted to get back in.

She moved nearer to Garry and sat beside him, still careful to stay within eyesight of the monster.

“We need to figure out our next move,” She said. “If we have some confidence that we can set up a base camp here, we’ll need more supplies. And it might pay to check in with our trader,” She glanced at Ned.

Freestyle Roleplay / Re: a wretched wonder
« on: November 11, 2013, 01:55:06 pm »
She exhaled a breath she hadn’t realized she’d been holding as the three of them watched the monster lap up the liquid in a tortured silence laced with curiosity. None of them spoke as the creature drank. She realized that Garry had come up behind her, taped her, held out a second vial to her. With the amount of liquid they had found, giving another to the creature would not be a waste.

The creature made no aggressive movement, it simple held its eyes on Garry’s second vial, occasionally glancing back and forth between the rock, and Genevieve, the one who had made its plate. Whatever the creature thought of them, it had created a valuable link between the three of them and the dispensing of liquid for it.

Genevieve took the second vial from Garry, making sure to keep her movements slow and rational, well within the creatures line of sight. Nothing too sudden, nothing unexpected. She repeated her action of breaking the vial and then pouring the liquid, allowing the animal—far larger than a human—another chance to drink. She was certain that the creature was still as wary of them as they were of it as she labored to build a different kind of understanding between monster and human: You don’t hurt us, we won’t hurt you.

They had the benefit today of the animal having had attacked them first. Had they gone after it, she doubted that there would have been any possibility of creating this tenuous moment. It would associate the three of them only with unprovoked  violence.

Still on her guard, she took a quiet step back toward Garry. She glanced back at Ned. “I wonder how it survives when no one heads to this floor,” She said to them, her voice low and non-threatening. Did BOA give it just enough fresh meat to keep it hungry, keep it ready to attack for its next meal? She thought the animal must have it at least a small bit better than that, if they had been able to get this far with it. She did wonder then exactly how much of a hand BOA had on this floor. Ned had mentioned that the foremost room, the only one you could see from the elevator, changed like the others. She suspected that this one did not change so frequently.

She looked around at the area, and finally the small body of water that resembled a lake, but would only qualify in the space to be called a pond, registered with her. At the back wall, there was rock—likely artificial, and a waterfall that fell out in front of the wall just enough that one could walk behind. It looked to her like it could serve as an extremely pleasant shower—even if it would be cold. And this room was set far back enough in the twisting corridors that they would be well alerted to others entering the floor if need be. Plus, they had the beast. If anyone wanted to brave the floor that they might just be setting up base camp on—for as long as BOA would allow—they would have to deal with the principal owner of it, first.

Genevieve thought too that if BOA approved of their resourcefulness, taming and claiming and entire floor as their own, they might just drop items that the Triumvirate could give to the beast—fresh, raw meat, even. There was no way to cook it for themselves, the beast could just enjoy it.

Her thoughts were rushing through her mind, making their victory and its implications larger by the second.  They had been told no rules about where to sleep, only that there were exactly 3 “safe” floors where nothing would come out to get you in the night. No one had said anything about creating your own home base on one of the floors, if you managed to solve the puzzle. She would submit that the three of them had. And it would be simple enough to keep showing the beast that they were worth a damn to it, should they happen to find anything on one of the other floors to give it. Hell, she wondered if there might even be some small fish in the pond to catch—they certainly couldn’t eat it themselves, with the lack of fire.

This reminded her of how badly she needed a cigarette.

“I would call this a success,” She said to them, wondered if their thoughts paralleled hers. “A big one. If we can keep up this kind of relationship, we basically own a floor to ourselves.”

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