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Aberrant: Wild Card - Act I:Scene IV - Forest

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David burst through, then came to a halt as soon as he saw Jadzia and the environment beyond, which at immediate first glance, did not match a suburban setting. A momentary glance at the forest brush behind him confirmed he wasn't in Kansas anymore. Then as his mouth began an incredulous "Jaz-"

Well, he caught a good view of Matt and the shadow thing engaged in a struggle in the middle of the river. "Shit!!" he bellowed as he darted down to the river, anxious to get a better view, and to help Matt. The shout was more in surprise at what Matt was fighting, but something inside told David he gotten in over his head.

Click to reveal..

Per+AW

(09:54:52) ChatBot: (David) rolls 5d10 and gets 2,6,1,9,10.

2 sux

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The shadow-thing seemed to shrug off her attack and when Matt crashed into its oddly yielding mass, pinning it against a rock in the middle of the frothing river, Jadzia felt her limbs freeze with trepidation. This was turning out to be far more real than the simulated environments where most of her high-paced action took place. Her admittedly stupid plan failed and now she hesitated on what to do next.

Then David lumbered in from the foliage, startling Jadzia something awful and making her heart leap up in her throat. "David!" Jadzia squeaked in surprise, "What the fu- Never mind, go help Matt!" The short woman pointed unnecessarily with the heavy steel, ineffective flashlight.

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It was only a feeling, but Matt could tell that the Shadow was smirking at him. They struggled in the water, their strength contested for several moments as Matt and the current fought to keep pinned that which shouldn't even exist.

As the seconds ticked by, Matt could feel the favor falling away from him. The Shadow managed to get his hands up against Matt's chest, sending an icy chill of death to his core, which caused a momentary slip of his numbed grip.

Quick to take advantage, the darkened image shifted to one side and Matt found himself hugging the very rock he had been struggling against with the Shadow.

Eager for its prey, the Shadow, with inhuman quickness, moved to the shore and started to climb out of the water towards Lizzie, Alexa, and their patient. Water sluicing off of it silently.

The two women, oblivious to the struggle as they concentrated on their charge, kept the rhythm and kept it strong. Which, luckily for the woman under their care, was enough to bring her back from the brink of death.

With a cough, a sputter, and a large amount of regurgitated river water, she reflexively tried to turn on her side as he breathing restarted.

Click to reveal..
Perc/Aware for Alexa & Lizzie to notice the silent shadow approaching need at least 2 sux. We are more or less in a combat situation, but I'm not necessairly seeing a need for initiative unless you guys want to. I just have the bad guy go after all of you do. You can post opinions in OOC.

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Click to reveal..
Alexa rolled the woman on to her side, patting her back to help her get the rest of the water out of her lungs. She caught the movement of the shadow-creature as it headed for shore; a quick assesment told her just how stupid trying to make the woman that was still hacking up half the river run away at this point.

"Keep her breathing, and if you two get the chance, run like hell," she said as she stepped between them and the malevolent thing. Where Matty's attacks had been the primal rage of man, Alexa merely put herself between it and what it sought with the calm (read: terrified) determination of a caregiver and protector. They'd rescued this woman from the river and from water-filled lungs; she wasn't going to give her up to this thing without at least one more fight. She fumbled open the catch on her purse, wondering if either the little can of mace or the lighter would be effective at more than making her look like a fool.

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Click to reveal..
Per + Aware: 7d10 → [4,6,8,1,3,5,2] = 1 suxx

Lizzie had been too engrossed to really notice much of anything save the woman's breathing, and helping her turn so she could cough up the river water from her lungs. But as Alexa stood up and spoke, Lizzie glanced up, and her eyes widened in surprise. She swallowed back the fear she felt rising in her throat. She scrambled to her feet, trying to help the woman up so they could run.

"C'mon, I know it hurts, but you've gotta get up..."

Click to reveal..
Posting a Strength roll to try to help lift the woman, let me know if I need to do more. Str: 2d10 → [6,10] = 1 suxx
Popping the ten: 1d10 → [9] = 1 suxx
Total Suxx: 2
http://invisiblecastle.com/roller/view/2454144/
http://invisiblecastle.com/roller/view/2454146/

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Matty was still full of rage, and hug-tackling a rock wasn't enough to abate it. He was so angry that he couldn't even feel the cold of the water anymore, though it was still taxing his system. He was right behind the Shadow as Alexa moved to block the way.

Without hesitation, he grabbed at it again, throwing his arms around it and trying to grapple with it again. The freezing cold stole his breath away, but Matt still managed to groan, "Stay away from her!"

Click to reveal..
Str+Might: 2 sux

3,9,4,5,7

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David swallowed, as he noted the expanse of the river, which he could most certainly not swim across. Suddenly, he spied a large rock which if he could leap onto, he probably could leap off of onto the other side to help.

Swallowing his fear, he started and put an (for David) inordinate amount of physical effort and leaped out onto the rock and continued onward for the second leap. But the rock was slippery from all the water washed over by a strong river, and losing his balance, he toppled unceremoniously forward into the painfully chilly waters.

Gasped and teeth chattering, he barely managed to grab an outcropping to hold onto before slowly pulling himself onto the next rock. Or not so slowly, as desperation made his forehead suddenly meet the rock in a rough fashion. His hands loosed their grip, and the last thought going through David's head before he lost consciousness was: Splendid idea, mate.

Click to reveal..

(16:39:31) (David): Str+ Athletics (None) = 2 dice

(16:39:41) (David): spending WP for first roll

(16:39:52) ChatBot: (David) rolls 2d10 and gets 10,5.

(16:41:06) (David): 2 sux. Reaches first rock

(16:41:18) (David): second roll

(16:41:22) ChatBot: (David) rolls 2d10 and gets 1,5.

(16:41:28) (David): botch frown

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Damn it! I hate it when video games make you back-track! And I don't care for it in real(?) life, either, Jadzia cursed silently to herself as she watched David fall into the river and Matt once again grapple the shadow-man. She looked around for an easier way to cross back to the other side, and grunted when her eyes fell on the fallen log spanning the churning expanse of water.

"Fuck, again?" The light thrown by her flashlight hadn't done anything to the shadow-man, but it was made of heavy, solid steel, and would do as a club. With a gasping sigh, Jadzia jogged back to the log and tried to make her way across it once more, again swearing that she'd start exercising to get rid of the few - Fine! More than few - extra pounds she was carrying.

They better not move back to this side of the damned river once I get over there...

Click to reveal..

Roll to cross the log again, if needed...Dexterity + Athletics: 3d10.hits(7) = 1 success

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Matt's skin frosted over wherever it touched the Shadow, hissing and popping in protest as it started to dry out and crack from the abuse. The Shadow itself seemed unfazed by Matt's attempt at stopping it and continued forward, dragging the freezing man with it on its back.

At Alexa's obvious display to confront it, it paused, but only long enough to grab Matt's arm and fling him around like a rag doll at her. She managed to sidestep out of the way, but only at the expense of Matt landing roughly on the shore face first, his nose making a sickening cracking sound as it cushioned his fall on the rocks.

Jadzia made it quickly to the log, fueled by the adrenaline pumping through her veins. With nary a thought to falling or slipping, she trundled across, easily making it to the other side.

The saturated girl's eyes rolled open slowly and without focus, though her arms did push out and try to pull herself off the ground, if uncoordinated and sluggish, testing Lizzie's fear-soaked patience.

Click to reveal..

Matt failed to exceed the Shad's roll. You are down 3 health levels currently, 1 from before and 2 from this round [burns + rocks]. Blood is flowing fairly freely from your nose and the skin that touched the shadow is starting to blister pretty bad.

The shadow failed to roll well enough to hit Alexa with Matt.

Jadzia can engage this round if she charges, or she can make it to them and attack/action next round.

The girl is kinda on her feet, but not really and Lizzie is not strong enough to carry her, you are however, keeping her from falling down completely.

David is unconscious and floating downriver.

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Hiking boots skittering over loose rocks and the torn dirt around the fallen tree, Jadzia panted, hesitating. She had no problem blasting pixels into oblivion, but this was real. Is it real? It's real enough. But Matt was deathly pale, bleeding on the rocks of the riverbank, and the Shadow-man was turning on her room-mate.

Shaking off the paralyzing fear, Jadzia charged, biting her lip to suppress the urge to yell a warning battle-cry, her steel-hafted flashlight upraised to club the shadow-man in the back.

Click to reveal.. (PixelPixi Power Attack!)

Not sure if there are any modifiers for a charge attack, so just rolling it as a normal attack.

Spending a Willpower Point (3/5)

Charge! 3d10.hits(7) = 2 Successes + 1 Success (WP) = 3 successes

Rolling Damage as if using a Club, adding 2 dice for accuracy.

Damage: 8d10.hits(7) = 4 successes

If there are any dice modifiers, subtract rolled dice from the right and go left.

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Matty staggered to his feet, only to have his knees fold and drop him again. This time, his hands managed to keep his face from connecting with the ground.

He wanted to lie down and just suffer in the prone position. His entire face hurt, from his chin to this forehead, from ear to ear. His hands were half-frozen and partially blistered. He couldn't see anything for the tears streaming down his face - an all-too natural reaction to having his nose assaulted. He'd fallen from a tree, been dipped in icy water twice, freeze-burned and now had broken a fall with his face. He even remembered drowning, though that might have been a bad dream. However, today was going to poorly that he added it to the list of complaints anyway. When one looked at that list, it was easy to say that it was time to rest.

But nothing was wrong with his ears, and he could still hear his friends fighting that thing. And Cyn - she was there too. Matt planted his feet on the ground and tried to rise again. It was another stagger and fall again, but at least he was stumbling in the right direction.

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Alexa's sidestepping gave her a view of the unconscious form bobbing downriver. "Lizzie, get them out of here!" She scooped up her own branch, sidling herself around the shadow until she was directly across from Jadzia, "Jadzia, get the guy in the river! He's drowning!"

She took her own swing as she yelled, hoping to pull the shadow-creature's attention on to her again.

Click to reveal..
Perception:

Roll(6d10)+0: 3,10,8,8,9,4,+0

(Observant quality) Roll(1d10)+0: 10,+0

Roll(1d10)+0: 8,+0

6 suxx to catch sight of David

Melee:

Roll(3d10)+0: 4,10,8,+0

2 suxx for attack/attention

(for rp purposes and because she has the skill wink ) Command:

Roll(3d10)+0: 9,4,2,+0

1 suxx

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Jadzia and Alexa attacked the Shadow with the fervor of Amazons, seeking to protect friends and victims alike. As Jadzia was finishing her swing, her body reflexively bracing for the impact that was about to happen, the feeling of the diamond pattern grip on the steel flashlight changed, the texture becoming something softer and smaller.

When the weapon connected, instead of stopping, there was very little resistance and Jadzia found herself holding the hilt of a sword whose blade had gone clear through the Shadow.

Alexa likewise found herself holding the hilt of an identical weapon, its blade having not met resistance until it met Jadzia's halfway through the body of the shadow. The blades instantly frosted over, as though they had been dipped in liquid nitrogen and both girls let go instinctively.

Without any auditory sound, the Shadow, defeated, toppled over and both swords shattered on impact, scattering shards over the riverbank. The body of their adversary seemed to melt and then disappear slowly as though it were absorbed into the ground.

Both girls turned to the sounds of crying to see 'Cyn' standing on her own, one hand outstretched towards them, the other firmly griping Lizzie's arm. Lizzie herself appeared in a daze, her mind somewhere else than here. But before either could react, Cyn's eyes rolled back into her head and she collapsed, leaving an angry red handprint on Lizzie's arm where she had been squeezing it. The lack of contact seemed to snap Lizzie out of her daze, but she instantly felt as though she hadn't eaten or slept in a week and nearly collapsed herself.

David continued to float downstream, his lungs slowly filling with water.

Click to reveal..
'Cyn' is unconscious but otherwise seemingly okay upon inspection.

Lizzie is down 2 health levels and is exhausted and literally starving (Alexa doesn't need all her fingers does she?)

Matt's nose will stop bleeding on its own abnormally quickly, but it is broke and needs set.

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Matt staggered to his feet. He had time now to make another attempt, and then a third before he managed to stagger over to his 'wife'. Dropping to his knees next to her, he gently turned her. "Cyn," he rasped before he turned her over - and stopped. This woman wasn't his wife - not even close.

"Unh," was all the man could manage as adrenaline abandoned him. There was just enough gentleman left in Matt that he flopped over backwards instead of on top of the unconscious woman. For a moment, he couldn't do anything other than lie on his back and hurt. He'd never ached like this before. Even the car accident he'd been in as a reckless teen hadn't made him hurt like this.

Unaware that the danger wasn't over yet, Matt sagged against the ground and tried not to whimper like a kicked puppy.

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Jadzia stared at the ground where the shadow-man had melted away, where the shattered remains of... her flashlight(?) and Alexa's branch lay scattered, the looked at her room-mate, grey eyes wide.

"Huh, I wished I'd known about that setting on the flashlight before, though honestly, dont'cha think it should have been a lightsaber?" Jadzia quipped, trying, and failing to make sense of the situation, as she and Alexa turned around, finding Lizzie, the woman, and Matt tumbled in a collapsed heap. Jadzia's eyes widened even further.

"Shit! David!" Jadzia spun around, racing down the river bank after the bobbing figure drifting face down in the water, until she was level with him, breath coming in deep gasps. At least, the river isn't as rough here, pass the rapids the gamer girl thought nervously. I hope the swimming controls are easy to use, here. At least my extra fat might help keep me afloat...

Waiting for a bend in the river, hoping David would come closer to shore, Jadzia jumped into the bracingly chill water, teeth already chattering as she paddled determinedly after his slack form.

Click to reveal.. (Under the Sea!)

If needed, here's an Athletics Roll for Jadzia trying to recover the drowning David. Spending another Willpower (2/5 WP).

Athletics Roll: 3d10.hits(7) = 2 Successes + 1 (WP) = 3 Successes

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The water was cold, achingly so.

"Swietego pieprzyc!" she said, repeatedly, as she swam as fast as she could, if only to escape the water that much faster.

She caught up to the drifting form of David and managed to brace her feet for a moment on boulder sticking up from the bottom and flip him over. His normal California tan had paled to a sickly grey, and his lips were a shade of purple normally found on the girlfriends of Matt's roommate.

Wasting no time, she quickly pulled him to shore, beaching themselves downriver about 30 yards from where she went in. Even before she could stand, Jadzia's body started the uncontrollable shivering of hypothermia as it tried to create the heat necessary to keep her vital organs toasty.

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Lizzie glanced around at the scene that had unfolded around her. She was shaking slightly on her feet, but it was a sharp pain in her stomach from lack of food that finally got to her, and she doubled over slightly with a small groan, then dropped unceremoniously onto her ass, though she managed not to pass out completely. She motioned Alexa impatiently towards the riverbank as the other woman's attention focused on the group of invalids on the ground in front of her, shaking her head to indicate that they'd be fine.

"Go.. be ready to help her. I'll check these two out."

And without waiting for a response, she started first with the unconscious woman she'd been trying to move, her fingers searching the side of her neck for a pulse, while at the same time she spoke to Matt.

"Hey, stay with me okay? Try to stay awake. I need to get you both taken care of."

Click to reveal..
Rolling Int/Med to check out the woman and Matt so that she can figure out what's wrong and treat them both: 5d10 → [1,10,3,1,7] = 2 suxx + 1d10 → [10] = 1 suxx + 1d10 → [10] = 1 suxx + 1d10 → [9] = 1 suxx. Total Suxx: 5

Holy crap.. really? LOL!

http://invisiblecastle.com/roller/view/2834568/

http://invisiblecastle.com/roller/view/2834571/

http://invisiblecastle.com/roller/view/2834575/

http://invisiblecastle.com/roller/view/2834580/

Burning two WP to keep focused on treatment and try to ignore the hunger. Current WP: 4/6

A quick check on the woman revealed that she was unconscious, but breathing, so she moved over to Matt. As she inspected him her fingers trembled, and she drew in a shaky breath.

"Matt, can you hear me? We need to get you somewhere warmer - do you think you can walk if I help you? You have frostbite, and I need to treat it. And I need to set your nose, it's broken. Do you understand what I'm saying?"

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"Lizzie, get my purse if you can! It's a just up the shore; we need to get everyone warm!" Alexa was moving away from Lizzie as she spoke, heading as quickly as she could for Jadzia and the unconscious David. She fell to her knees next to man, her instincts from her days as a lifeguard crashing back on her; she bent over him and began resuscitation, fitting her words in between breaths.

"Jadzia, help Lizzie if you can."

Come on, breathe.

"We need to get a fire started. Get warmed up."

Come on!

"There's a lighter in my purse. Upstream."

Breathe!

Click to reveal..

Medicine Check:

Roll(4d10)+0:

6,10,10,4,+0

Total:30

Roll(2d10)+0:

1,8,+0

Total:9

3 successes

Medicine for resuscitation:

Roll(4d10)+0:

3,8,7,10,+0

Total:28

Roll(1d10)+0:

2,+0

Total:2

2 successes

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Gotta get off the ground, Jadzia thought to herself, face against the dirt, body wracked with shivers. She was just struggling to her feet when Alexa got there, bending over David. Seeing that he was in good hands, at least better ones than hers at the moment - With these shivers, I'd miss the sky in Halo - nodded at Alexa's command.

"G-g-g-got it, 'Lexa." Alternating between wringing out her shirt and rubbing her arms to help still her shivers, Jadzia staggered up the river-bank, picking up her computer-bag from where she had dropped it before jumping in the river, then looking for Alexa's purse.

With the meager supplies gathered, Jadzia debated where to build the fire, but not for long, she was closer to Lizze, Matt, and the other woman and expediency won out. She dropped her pair of bags near them, but closer to the verge of the trees than the river. She was about to start looking for firewood - moving was better than not moviing at the moment, if no less miserable - when she heard Lizzie's stomach growl from where she was fussing over Matt.

"H-h-here, sounds like you n-need, this," Jadzia offered, pulling out the second smooshed chocolate bar and the half-full bag of trail mix from her computer bag and dropping them on top. Then she went looking for something to burn.

To her relief, she found a branch longer than she was tall, fallen from a lightning struck tree, dry and about as thick as her wrist in short order. With several stomps with her booted feet and sharp, crackling snaps, Jadzia broke a portion of it down into a manageable armful, though she did earn herself a few scratches in the process. At least it was enough to get started.

She carefully made her way back and dumped the wood unceremoniously next to the computer bag and the purse, then plopped down next to them. With Alexa's lighter and pieces of paper from her wrinkly-edged sketchbook, Jadzia hopefully tried to start a chill-chasing fire.

"Catch, ci przekleci kurwa*, catch, damn you," Jadzia swore, her fingers shaking.

Click to reveal.. (Fire!)

Jadzia attempting to get a fire going, giving her a -1 penalty for her chills.

Fire-building (Intelligence + Survival): 3d10.hits(7) = 2 Successes

*ci przekleci kurwa: you damned whore

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Alexa's lifeguard training took over, her emotions relinquishing control to her mind and body as they attempted to bring life back to David. As she forced her own breath into his lungs, she heard the telltale gurgle that told her to get him on his side.

Immediately, with a cough and sputter and a large amount of glacial melt, David started breathing again, if roughly as he continued to expel water.

Meanwhile, Jadzia, scooped out a few handfuls of riverbank and piled her tinder in it, followed by splinters and progressing to larger wood. She lit the paper at a couple different spots and within a few minutes, a small fire was forming.

Bear Grylls, eat your heart out.

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Matt's eyes struggled to focus on Lizzie; after a moment, he managed to nod. Liz slipped an arm around his shoulders as he mumbled something; leaning closer, she asked, "What?"

"Said, payback for the leg," Matt rasped. He could barely see, and his nose was making his entire face throb in time with his heart. "That really happened, right? The ship... the storm..."

Part of him didn't care. All he really cared about right now was that he hurt in many ways. All he really wanted was for the pain to stop. Part of him knew that it wasn't going to anytime soon - instead, he had to look forward to his nose getting set.

When Jadzia dumped the food on Lizzie's lap, the woman tore into them. Matt was fine with this; if she was eating, she wasn't setting his nose. It had to be done but he knew it was going to hurt like hell. Jadzia's efforts with the fire caught his eye and Matt crawled over. Without a word, he cleared away twigs, computer bags and other flammables and started to create a fire break so that they didn't burn anything they didn't want burned.

There were plenty of stones rubbed into round lumps by the river, and Matt distracted himself with arranging them around Jadzia's fire-making attempts.

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Facing down on his hands and knees did nothing for the pain in face and the blisters on his hands screamed in protest against the sand that assaulted them.

Finishing, he sat back up on his knees and went to gingerly brush the grit off of his hands and watched as the burns faded to fresh pink skin, and then all vestiges of the injuries were gone, including the callouses on his fingers. More disturbing was the feeling of shifting cartilage and bone as his nose shifted to where it was suppose to be. Even the swelling subsided, clearing his vision.

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"Shit!" The barked explicative was startling in both volume and intensity, but it was shocking coming from Matt. He rarely cursed, and no one here had heard him use anything harsher than 'damn' before. Everyone looked at him to see him staring at his unblemished hands; jaws dropped as he reached up to touch his nose.

He stared back at them, his grey eyes wide with fear. "What's goin' on? I thought this wassa dream... but this isn't. Does anyone knew what is going on!?"

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Lizzie's willpower had held on until food was actually dropped in her lap. That was the tipping point, and at that point Matt's injuries were shoved to the back of her mind, along with all thoughts of warmth, as she ripped the wrapper open and tore into the caloric feast, consuming the candy bar first. She was halfway through the remainder of the trail mix when she heard Matt's curse, and it was enough to jar her from the junk food feast. She stood up, hurrying over towards Matt, unaware at first of his miraculous healing. She only realized that she'd abandoned her efforts to help him in favor of food, and her face burned with shame as she hurried over and knelt down next to him.

"Matt, be careful! We need to--"

She stopped, mouth opening slightly in shock, as she looked him over. She reached up and ran her fingers over his nose, and then took hold of his arms, turning them over to look at the places the frostbite had singed his skin. He saw her swallow nervously, and she shook her head, looking scared. The whole scenario went against everything that made Lizzie's life stable, and coherent, and it terrified her.

"I.. I don't know. It's got to be. I.. I remember the ship, so it's got to be true, but.. I don't know, Matt."

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A wheeze, and water gushed out. It still felt like an ocean remained in his lungs. Another rough movement of chest, mouth and lungs, and more cold water came out of the air tube, splattering eventually onto the hard ground. David's eyes fluttered open, as his continued retching of water came repeated, a rough pained sound, seemingly in rhythm with his uncontrollable shivering.

Finally, at last finally, his lungs felt clear and as David sputtered, he drew in a row of rushed breaths of air. For a survivor of near-drowning, he couldn't get enough of the air. Finally, he settled, though still shivering.

"I-.. ddd-don't... think I could ever go to the pool again after this... Ccc-cold." David gasped, strained words coming from a still quite tight-feeling throat.

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Jadzia was focus on the warmth of her small fire, nodding her thanks to Matt for placing the stones around the fire when she heard the muted crackling and his sharp curse. She quickly looked up and watched his nose twitch and wriggle as it reformed on his face.

"That was completely gross."

Holding her hands near the fire, Jadzia looked at the others, her grey eyes wide. "This is real and not real, like true VR immersion," Jadzia commented, her husky, accented voice low. "There was the ship, then I woke up in a tent with... with Maddie, and we were in the Okanagan region, exactly like when we went camping together over a year ago... Except it was raining. Then that guy showed up on my laptop, Mulligan, and said he wanted to talk to me, then Maddie was gone and I was wherever Mulligan was, until he made the forest appear. He said it was the same campsite. He also talk about the path I had to choose... which ended up here, with you guys and that... thing."

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Alexa helped him sit up and get the rest of the water out of his lungs before scooping one of his arms over her shoulder and pulling him up to stand. "C'mon, they're getting a fire started just a little bit aways. We all need to get warm before hypothermia sets in." She got balanced enough that they could both stagger over to the fire and collapse there. "Don't try to talk too much until you're warm. Then we can all figure out what the hell just happened."

She rubbed her arms and leaned into the growing fire to catch the heat, "Jadzia, Lizzie, Matt? Everyone okay?"

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"I remember the boat, too," Matt said, his voice shaky. He didn't want to; there were few things more pleasant than drowning in a raging sea. Or at least, that was his experience. It wasn't one he should have either. The memory of drowning prompted another and he rose from the fire, amazed at how fine he felt.

Shaking off that disturbing thought, he walked to the nearby shoreline and found the woman. She was still non-responsive, though alive. She needed to be warmed. Carefully, Matt picked up the woman. She was cold to the touch and he quickly got her back to the fire. Opening his jacket, he pulled her against his chest and wrapped the jacket around her. Her legs, curled up on his, were hopefully close enough to benefit from the fire. His jacket was wet, but it had been warmed by his body and he hoped that enclosing her in another layer would warm her up faster.

He remained fell silent as Alexa and David approached; he frowned to see how bad the other man was - and who. David Brown-Helton was the last person he'd see here "David?" he asked nervously. The shivering man just nodded as Alexa helped him kneel next to the flames.

Matt adjusted the woman against him, taking turns holding his hands out to the flame. In part it was for warmth, but he was also marveling at his healed flesh. He cleared his throat and said, "As I was sayin', I remember the boat. Then drownin'. Then I woke up in the woods, after falling in the river. I did that once before, too, right after starting school. I was reliving that, but I wasn't found this time. There was no woman ta rescue, no shadow ta fight. I just got rescued."

He paused and swallowed before adding, "And then with what just happened to me... I don't even know anymore."

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David sat at the fire, letting the warmth work out and restore the vitality in his bones while he listened to the discussion about the group's present situation. He noticeably scowled at the mention of Mulligan- he still blamed the crazy old man for popping up and dragooning him into that pledge- and then went back to nodding quietly as he put the pieces together and made a guess.

"Correct me if I'm wrong," he said finally, a little dull from the cold, "but I'm going to guess something like this happened to all of us, because the following certainly happened to me. I was on the boat- and I didn't see you guys there- and out comes the super storm. Leaving aside what did precisely happen, the water comes up, and I land in... a significant memory of mine. Then, in comes a crazily dressed man named Mulligan. Without giving the Who, What, When, Where, Why or How, he asks me to save the world. Somehow, I agree, and then in short order I wind up here. Slipping on the rocks while going to help at Jadzia's request was just the icing on the cake."

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Jadzia nodded at her room-mate. "I ju-just need to warm up," Jadzia said, huddling close to the fire. "I wish I had my fuzzy, fleece blanket."

"I thought you said you were Canadian? Aren't you supposed to like the cold?"

"I grew up in Canada, yes. I also moved out to Vancouver and then down to Seattle and Tacoma as soon as I could," Jadzia retorted. She looked over at Matt, sparing a glance for the woman he held to his chest, then at David.

"So, this is real, whatever is happening, but just how real is it? Discounting the fact the technology doesn't exist as far as I know, is this like the Matrix? Are we plugged into a simulated reality where the... Architects can rewrite the rules as they see fit? Our brains could be plugged in, psychosomatically making our bodies respond to the stimulation we're experiencing..."

Jadzia trailed off, grey eyes staring at her computer bag, considering the hard, rectangular object inside, imagining she still smelled the scent of wrecked circuitry. But it had still worked, enough to video-conference or whatever with Mulligan...

Refusing to ponder the impossibility - enough of the impossible had already happened - Jadzia reached into her bag and pulled out her laptop, settling it on her lap. She stared at the alien-head logo on the top, then flipped up the monitor. She gave the others a shrug and a crooked smile.

"It worked before."

Jadzia stabbed the power button with a stiff finger.

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For a moment it didn't look as though anything was going to happen, but then a 'whirr' emitted from the laptop and it began its startup. The screen remained strangely blank, no BIOS or Windows logo signaling normal operation.

After the boot sequence seemed finished, and all the electronics had calmed down and still nothing appeared on the screen, it seemed as though the LCD was going to be the fault, but then it flickered to life with a blinking white cursor on a black screen. It was very reminiscent of a DOS command prompt, but without a starting location.

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Jadzia stared at the screen. "Huh. It's something at least, right guys?"

She stared at the screen a moment longer, fingers hovering over the keyboard, debating how to start, and deciding on the basics, if she could recall something so primitive.

dir [C:][/O:AD] *enter*

Invalid directory

Hmm, okay, more basic.

dir *enter*

Invalid command.

Stupid Not-DOS!

dir [MULLIGAN:]

Invalid directory.

mem /program *enter*

Interface.exe 100

Okay, let's see...

attrib [+r][+a}[+s][+h][interface.exe][/s [/d]] *enter*

Password:

Mulligan *enter*

Invalid password.

Password:

Admittedly, that was a long shot. Well, this is my computer. Jadzia enters her own password, a long string of upper and lower-case letters, numerals, and symbols.

Password accepted.

File is protected. Unable to execute command.

You BASTARD! *enter*

Invalid command.

Jadzia glared at the offending piece of technology, giving it a whap. "You bastard," she growled. After a series of irritated breaths where she wished she had a two liter bottle of Jolt Cola, she sighed, and relented ungraciously. I never read the instructions to video games...

help *enter*

Specify Query

Help Interface.exe *enter*

Invalid command

Help [interface.exe] *enter*

File not found.

Jadzia pounded her thigh in frustration, sparing the Alienware laptop her wrath, the Not-DOS program taunting her as she hoped for an epiphany that would enable her to make some progress with the damned thing. She angrily typed in another

command.

Epiphany.exe *enter*

Ask.

What the Hell is this? *enter*

Definition needed.

ren Hell fuckingprogram *enter*

Invalid command

ren this = fuckingprogram *enter*

Define 'fuckingprogram'

Jadzia glared at the monitor with the fury of a thousand suns.

This is some sort of interface with Mulligan, isn't it? ISN'T IT?! *enter*

No. No.

"..." Jadzia said with vehement emphasis.

date *enter*

Define parameters.

God, I hated DOS before, and this perverse pseudo-DOS isn't helping!

date /d *enter*

Define location.

Jadzia narrowed her eyes to silver-grey slits.

location = here *enter*

Date not defined here.

Fucking wonderful *enter*

Too late, Jadzia realized she had transcribed her thoughts into the system. Dammit!

Thank you.

I hate you sooooooooooooooooooooooo much right now. Wait! Idea!

fuckingprogram = veryhelpfulprogram *enter*

*blinking cursor*

mode windows *enter*

Please? *enter*

Unknown parameters, sorry.

path [interface.exe] *enter*

Interface.exe

Fuckit! Enough of this DOS shit.

purpose of Interface.exe *enter*

Interface.

Interface between who *enter*

User and Program

Jadzia silently cursed the fact that the program was hardly user-friendly - which at another time, might have been a challenge - but sitting next to a fire to warm-uo, who knew where, was just making it infuriating. Then she pondered her earlier comments to Mulligan about the Matrix, recalled the odd video on the laptop she and Maddie had watched in the car with the rain coming, then looked up the log of her earlier commands into Interface, lingering over the results from querying the Date and Location.

Okay, let's see what you can do Interface. Jadzia craned her neck around and focused on a river rock half buried in the sand, grey with blue flecks.

assign rock [/A:grey+blue] =rock[/A:red] *enter*

The rock's color seems to start to change for a moment, but then settled back to its original color. The change was so slight, it is questionable if Jadzia didn't just imagine it.Jadzia suppressed a shiver, both terrified and excited by the possibilities - if what she had seen, she had really seen - and looked around at the others, turning her laptop so the others could see the monitor.

"I'm not sure guys, but I think I just tried to reprogram the universe - or at least, whatever part of it we're in." Jadzia retyped a command and gestured at the others with gameshow panache. "Anyone else want a turn?"

Epiphany.exe *enter*

Ask.

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David shifted on his seat, trying to keep warm, but also observing Jadzia's work on the computer. When she struck mental gold and displayed it for all to observe, David peered towards the screen as best he could. He didn't understand computer code, but the last few lines were clear enough for him to make the connection to Jadzia's words.

His brow furrowed. What did this mean, and how much could they do? It was the second part of that question that encouraged him. "Jadzia, can you see if you can whisk up a paper with a detailed explanation of threats to the world? I really want to understand what Mulligan was going on about."

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"Guys, what are you talking about?" Matt asked, shifting the girl a little. He was slowly warming up, his body sharing heat with the girl. The little shivers that had rocked him had finally ceased.

"I mean, really," Matt went on. "What the hell is going on? I just saw her boot up her computer. None of that makes sense. I mean, none of this makes sense. I..." Matt trailed off. He wanted it to all make sense. It wasn't going to, though; he was trapped in his bizarre dream without any foreseeable exit.

Time to roll with it. "Forget what I just said." Swallowing hard, he took a deep breath. "OK, we wanna reprogram the universe? Let's try something good. Jadzia, can you define this area as safe? Like... those save places in a game? Somewhere we won't get jumped again."

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"Whoa,whoa, whoa!" Jadzia protested, holding up a placating hand towards the guys. "I said 'I think I just tried to reprogram the universe - or at least, whatever part of it we're in,' not that I succeeded. When coding, you need to know what you want the end result to be, then you use coding language to get there. I still don't know what the goal is for whatever is running on my laptop - or how my laptop is even working - nor what the rules are for the 'coding language' are. I don't even have full access."

Epiphany.exe *enter*

Ask.

The text on the monitor blinked at her, a passive-agressive taunt. Her lips tightened, chin jutting stubbornly as she placed her fingers on the keyboard once more. "But let's see what I can find out."

Define Program *enter*

Define Parameters.

Purpose of Program *enter*

An plethora of foreign text scrolled across the screen faster than Jadzia could on focus or read. This continued for a good fifteen seconds before the screen cleared and a blinking cursor popped up again.

Jadzia hissed in annoyance. “Guys, gather ‘round, can any of you read this?" she asked, typing in the command again, with the addendum '/p'. "It doesn't look Cyrillic to me."

Once more, the foreign text scrolled across the screen, this time pausing when the screen was full, rather than continuing. Jadzia looked up at the others, giving them a long moment to look at the screen before tabbing to the next page. "Well?"

The others took a look, but all of them shook their heads negatively at the flowing, elaborate script, which must have included well of a hundred unique characters, not including the modifying accents.. Jadzia's lips twisted in a wry grin. "Of course, that would've been too easy. Not a single one of use can read Elvish++, figures."

Jadzia glanced over at the guys again, and huffed. She might as well give their requests a shot. Hmm, the program knew exactly which rock I was refering to, so it's somehow intuitive. Maybe multiple people requesting the same thing will do something...

List threats to World [path]David Brown-Helton [/A:Mulligan] *enter*

Unknown path

List Paths *enter*

There are two, live or cease.

Path Live *enter*

Unknown path.

Jadzia muttered a stream of profane Polish under her breath as she reviewed the log, trying to get a clue on how to work the damn thing. Her eyes lingered most on where she had begun typing things in frustration and the more direct responses she had received. Aha!

Interface.exe. *enter*

Ask.

Where are we? *enter*

The In-between, the Void.

Why? *enter*

I do not know your intentions.

Who needs to know? *enter*

I do not understand the inquiry

We are here, in The In-Between, because you do not know our intentions. Who are you and for what reason do you need to know our intentions? *enter*

You misunderstood. I do not know why you are here, so was therefore unable to answer the inquiry.

Ah. *enter*

Jadzia glanced at Matt, still with the girl on his lap, then looked back towards the river, where they had fought the shadow... thing. Where a branch and a flashlight had become a pair of swords.

Who is the girl we found in the river? *enter*

A Traveler.

Am I a Traveler as well? Are all of us Travelers? *enter*

Yes, you and your companions are.

Who sent us to The In-Between? *enter*

I do not know.

Jadzia pondered this, the responses the 'program' was giving her. So far, it seemed like it could only answer questions pertaining to where they were, such as it was, not where they came from.

What is the shadow creature and why did it attack us? *enter*

It was not a Traveler, I do not know the origin of its aggression.

Why did my flashlight become a sword when I swung it at the shadow creature?

A Traveler told it to.

Jadzia felt, more than heard her sharply indrawn breath. There was the flashlight/sword, Matt’s disappearing wounds and even the rock.

Which Traveler? *enter*

You all look the same to me.

Well now, that's a little racist. *enter*

Is The In-Between defined by our needs and/or intentions and/or desires? *enter*

It can be.

Jadzia exhaled, long and ragged. Her fingers paused over the keyboard, hesitating. This should have been exciting, overwhelming - it was VIrtual Reality with access to the programming code - and it was, but it was real and terrifying too.

How do we get home? How do we leave The In-Between? *enter*

I do not know.

"Guys, we're most certainly not in Kansas anymore. And I'm not sure how we get back." Jadzia spun the laptop around again, scrolling back up through the log for the benefit of the others. "But where ever we are, The Void, The In-Between, reality here isn't as static as we're used to."

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Alexa pulled herself enough out of her hypothermia and glanced over at the laptop. "Why don't you ask it how we get to a settlement? Um....a friendly settlement."

She started to say something else, stopped her self, frowned, sighed, and then, "Um, could you ask it if my mother was a...a Traveler? Her name was Jalena Holmes. Jalena Anna Holmes. I-I got here through her crypt." She swallowed and blinked back tears that surprised her as much as they annoyed her. She hated her mother. Her mother had abandoned them, just walked off one day as if her family meant nothing. Why should I care if she's dead?

"May-maybe ask how many travelers are here, or....what it means by the In-Between? In between what?" She gave a dry swallow, "In between life and death? The storm...."

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"Maybe we can ask it how to figure out who's who among the Travelers, too," Matty said. "I know its got the whole racist stuff going on, but maybe we'll be able to tell them apart. Oh, at least ask what a traveler is." He wasn't sure his comments were helpful; he'd probably just sound like a moron. The truth was, he was upset and confused, and he really wanted something to happen. At this point, he wasn't sure what, but it might provide some answers.

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Jadzia looked from her room-mate to Matt and back, running her hands through her red-streaked black hair. This was supposed to be her area of expertise, but she felt like she was floundering and she didn't want to let her friends down. And Alexa's conjecture on the nature of the In-Between made her her shudder, body tensing almost painfully.

"The, uh, 'Program', seems to trouble with given names, but there might be a way to work around that - to a degree, anyway," Jadzia, without a great deal of confidence, but her lips tightened stubbornly at she glanced at Alexa, her grey eyes sympathetic. "And I'll ask about you mother, 'Lexa."

Confidence, need, intentions... She turned back to her computer, the tip of her tongue poking out of the side of her mouth as she focused on the blinking cursor. This is going to work, because I want it to work...

I have several questions and requests, please answer them sequentially *enter*

1- What is a Traveler? *enter*

2- Was and/or is currently Jalena Holmes a Traveler? *enter*

3- Are any of my companions a direct descendant of a pass or current Traveler? *enter*

4- List the names of all Travelers currently in The In-Between *enter*

5- List Directions to other concentrations of Travelers, consisting of 2+ Travelers, as measured from my current location *enter*

Jadzia hesitated a moment before inputting her last question. The possible answers made her heart thump painfully, but she wanted to know too. This was like being in a video game, the biggest rush of her life, terrifying and potentially exhilarating.

6- Why is The In-Between called the In-Between? It is a reference between what and what?

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Lizzie sat quietly, observing the others as they tried to think of questions. If it seemed that she was unengaged, it was only because she was absorbed in what was going on, and trying to puzzle it out in her mind. Finally, though, she glanced up.. and when she spoke, her voice trembled slightly, though she did her best to suppress it.

"And could you ask it if.. if there's a way back?"

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Originally Posted By: Jadzia Gryczon
I have several questions and requests, please answer them sequentially *enter*
1- What is a Traveler? *enter*
2- Was and/or is currently Jalena Holmes a Traveler? *enter*
3- Are any of my companions a direct descendant of a pass[sic] or current Traveler? *enter*
4- List the names of all Travelers currently in The In-Between *enter*
5- List Directions to other concentrations of Travelers, consisting of 2+ Travelers, as measured from my current location *enter*

6- Why is The In-Between called the In-Between? It is a reference between what and what?


The cursor blinked for a few seconds, seeming to wait to see if she was done inputting questions. Then the answers appeared on the screen, the blinking cursor patiently waiting at the end.

1. A human that is Here.

2. I do not know the labels with which you identify yourselves, only if you are Here, or not Here.

3. I do not know.

4. I do not know the labels with which you identify yourselves.

5. The physics of your world do not apply Here, therefore I cannot fulfill your request.

6. In-Between is a translation to your language, the actual name beyond your understanding. Life and none.

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