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WEIRDER STUFF

About This Game

Weirder Stuff is a Trinity Continuum game using an re-imagined version of our AWS setting. In Weirder Stuff (henceforth WS) you will play a teenage high school student caught up in the weird happenings and mysteries in the northern Montana town of Shelly. The characters will begin play as normal humans and will have the opportunity to develop into either Talents or Psions. This is primarily a Modern setting with Thriller, Sci Fi, and Supernatural components.

Game System

Other

Status

Active

Full Description

WEIRDER STUFF: TRINITY CONTINUUM EDITION

Weirder Stuff is a Trinity Continuum game using an re-imagined version of our AWS setting. While we will be using the Trinity Continuum Rules (also called the Story Path System) we will be using none of the published setting. Any material I introduce from the published setting will be adapted to our setting and does not imply that the two universes co-exist. As far as we are concerned WS is a self contained Universe.

In Weirder Stuff (henceforth WS) you will play a teenage high school student caught up in the weird happenings and mysteries in the northern Montana town of Shelly. It is a modern setting which will run in a concurrent time line to our own reality i.e. the year is 2019, the president is Trump, Avengers End Game made a billion bucks in its first week, and so on. The game is loosely inspired by Netflix's Stranger Things, the teen dramas of the CW Network, and of course our own canceled Aberrant Weirder Stuff game.

**WARNING: While the game features teens it is an adult game with adult themes of horror, sci-fi, and high school. Consider it rated R to NC-17.**

The game is set in the small town of Shelly Montana. The town is a Fictionalized version of Shelby Montana which can be googled (  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shelby,_Montana   Map https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shelby,_Montana  ). If you want to know something about Shelly, and I am not available, you can look it up and see it for the most part at the Shelby website. I will note in a setting post any concrete differences and changes I make. The general public are not aware of the strange things going on in this area of the state, although if your a nerd and google every weird thing in the world there are stories of... well weird stuff happening, some of which are true.

While the characters are human, this is a game using the Trinity Continuum rules and will feature both Talents and Psions. Talents ( The Inspired from classic Adventure RPG) have always been around and there is no special classification or even understanding that they are anything more than lucky or skilled persons. For all intents and purposes Talents are just people who are good at what they do, maybe even exceptional.

Psions on the other hand are an unknown. Knowledge and understanding of Psioncs in the world of WS is just like it is in our real world, an unproven pseudo-science which is more often ridiculed than taken seriously, a staple of science fiction stories, the subject of hoaxes and charlatans running money grabbing schemes. There are those who think it is real and those who don't and then there are those who want to make it real and to use it for their own purposes. To date in the world of WS there has never been a Documented, Verified instance of actual Psionic activity.

Characters while starting off as normal human can become either Talented or eventually Psionic. Psionic characters will use a some what modified version of the Psion rules found in Trinity Continuum Aeon the modifications to those rules will be detailed later.

I wish to be clear about something, while this game is obviously an iteration of the former AWS game, it is not a continuation of that game nor is it a remake per se. It takes what I had wanted that game to be and has re imagined it into what I hope will be a better and more satisfying experience for all of us. But let me be clear, WS is not AWS. Even though there will be and are similarities with AWS, they are not the same. Internally as far as WS is concerned AWS does not exist. It is not an alternate world, it is not a story written by one of the current characters, it is not a program Sean is working on for a game. As far as WS is concerned AWS isn't a thing.

Characters based on the Original AWS Characters are welcome as are new characters. Those based on the AWS characters may have to alter some of their background to better fit into the new setting but the changes required will not be drastic.

We will be using the new Trinity Continuum Core and the Trinity Continuum: Aeon books. No other published material will be used by you the players although I as Story Teller may use some material adapted from the 1st Edition of Trinity, Aberrant, or Adventure or other non Trinity resources. In some instances I may make these additional resources available to some or all of you as the story demands.

 

  1. What's new in this game
  2. "I most certainly can not, Mr. Enterich," Marissa looked passed Marshal Dale and offered Mr. Enterich a polite smile in greeting. "No more than you, or your little badge gifted henchpersons. However, under the terms previously discussed, testing the already thin ice with heroics would be hardly beneficial, nor profitable for either of us. I'm an ambitious opportunist, not an idiot." "Henchpersons?" Marshal Marshall asked softy and with a hint of confused inquisitiveness from his position behinds her. His eyes fighting the crushing the weight of his desire to allow his eyes to wander all over her perfect frame. "It's 2019, Marshall, even minions should be properly labeled with non gender specific pronouns. We don't assume these days. I'd hate to offend." Her head cocked in a sway of innocence as her tone matched and he beautiful lashes batted his way distracting him for a moment. "If you two will excuse me," she winked at Marshall, but clicked her tongue a couple times and jerked her head to the right, signaling Dale to get out of her way, like a good dog. Dale's expression silently spoke the truth that Enterich's presence was the only thing saving the teen Queen from getting two in the back as Marissa walked past her. Clunky black suede, knee-high heels thumped on the carpeted floor as she approached Enterich. Dark makeup complimented the black turtleneck that hugged her curves like it was painted on to meet the red, white, and black squares of her plaid pleated skirt that short enough to barely still be considered classy. A black hairband pulled her long bangs back and out of her field of vision as the rest of her dark brown hair cascaded down her shoulders, groomed to perfection. Her stylish prescription lenses sold the outfit. Not her first choice, but beauty was her super not grace and a lack of grace is what caused her to drop her contact down the sink drain the night before. She almost qualified as a Bond girl/villain, or the daughter of one, if they all looked like innocent boarding school girls in twelve centimeter heels. "No way is she only sixteen." Marshal Marshall let slip quietly as his eyes reminded locked on the sway of her skirt in opposition with her hips. Dale rolled her eyes and grabbed her partner, leading them away from the meeting about to take place. "Oh, shut up." The two of them left the sight of the Marshals, excusing themselves to a room off to the side that seemed like it was a meeting room. Simple. Square. Large table and a small coffee/snack station on a countertop not far to the left as one entered the room. Like the rest of this place, it was lit with the same Joe Vs. The Volcano soul-sucking florescent lightning. Her eyes strained under the horrible hue of jaundice yellow that it seemed like they let off, but she'd not worn her glasses casually for years, fully expecting a headache later on in the day. "Your penchant for an entrance is certainly not lacking, Ms. Jauntsen. May I offer you a coffee? Tea, perhaps?" Enterich offered with politeness he'd honed like a scalpel's edge. With a few words Marissa requested tea and within moments the two were sitting across from each other, hot beverages at the ready. It was like Enterich was sitting across from his own, younger, feminine doppelganger, right down to the moment they both sipped their low quality beverages and made a face that told the tale that both of them demanded a higher quality of coffee and tea. "You have what I asked for?" He wasn't looking for excuses or reasons for failure, he'd sent her to complete a task and now the game was afoot. There was no backing out or second guessing. She couldn't slip back through the folder and spare anyone anything that she might not Enterich to know at this point. Thankful her, Courtney and Annette had scrubbed the information as best they could. This was it. Go time. "Are you being serious right now?" She rolled her eyes, displaying an obvious annoyance that he would dare doubt her. She produced a thick folder from her oversized (designer) handbag and set it on the table between them. "Of course I do. One folder, broken down into chapters. One for each of the Nerd Herd and excluding my brother, per our agreement. Unfortunately there isn't much there that you don't already know, as they have only Doctor Cook's notes and recent appraisals of their own to go on. What with school and all, they're not really spending much time with the nobilis bellator in their little bat cave, or whatever." She fluttered her hand, dismissing the thought. "This data is factual and current then?" He asked, sifting through a few random papers he scanned them but didn't really read them, not yet. "There are no facts, only interpretations." She replied calmly, quoting Nietzche. Now, all she needed to do was reel him in, just like Annette and her rehearsed, and hey, no pressure. If this didn't work she'd just end up in a dumpster somewhere a few counties away. "Everything in your hand is exactly as it appeared in their respective files. Unfortunately, their abilities and the observations of those abilities do not have a very large description, since the losers prefer to do all their training and self exploration off site at a private location. It's a shame, really. The more I read those files the more I realized how little everyone really knows. If only you knew someone who spent an unfortunately exorbitant amount of time around them. Their sleep overs... their parties... possibly sleeping with one, or more, of them." She grimaced at her cup. "The tea is horrible by the way. I have some Caykur Burgamont at home I special ordered a few weeks ago, you have to try it. Remind me next time I'm dropping by, I'll bring you a few bags."
  3. Sunday Morning Her brother had already left, off to the reservation with Cassandra, the Psychopath, and the Crush-Stealing Freckle-Faced Harlot-Bestie who so help me God better not have done anything more than made smores with Jas- Marissa took a deep breath, looked at herself in the mirror, and let it out. Game face. She smiled, a polite, cold smile. She was the Queen, she was in control, and she was about to go and meet with Enterich, full of fun facts and observations about her fri- the Fellowship. Most of which he would already know from Cook's files, plus some personal tidbits from Yours Truly to sell the lie. This was going to work out. She wasn't going to be murdered by Enterich's goons and dumped in a ditch, or worse, ostracized as a traitor by the nerd herd and then murdered by Jason and used as a novelty hatstand. She wasn't exactly sure how he'd react to being sold out to shadowy evil dudes, but given how he'd wanted to roast Etienne in his own juices, Marissa wasn't rating her chances. Unless she controlled the situation, made sure the others found out in a way and at a time of her choosing. Or better yet, never found out. Ugh. Sunday mornings were quiet in the Jauntsen house. Dad and Mom were each sleeping off their respective vices - booze for Dad, booze and pills for Mom. No-one was there as Mari headed through the kitchen, grabbed her keys, and left. The black Mercedes purred into life and the elegant beauty behind the wheel took a deep breath of the air-conditioned interior, blew it out, then put the car in gear. She'd gone maybe five miles when the unmarked sedan swung out into the road behind her, and a glance in the rear-view mirror showed Marshal Marshall behind the wheel, giving her a perfunctory wave of greeting and a flash of his lights. She blew him a kiss in the rear-view mirror, smirking to herself as he backed off from her bumper a little. She made the handsome corrupt Federal agent nervous when she flirted with him, that much was apparent. Which was reasonable enough - whilst she wasn't jailbait, in Montana at least, an affair with a Junior would likely end or at least stall his career in the Marshal Service. A sobering thought occurred then. Maybe he was maintaining aloof distance so it would be easier to put a bullet in her when Enterich snapped his fingers... The same disused office, the other marshal - Whatshername - just inside the door, who nodded to Marissa and held out a hand, palm up. "Your phone. Enterich is waiting in the back." she said. "You can have it back when you go." "That won't be necessary, Dale." Enterich's smooth voice interjected as Marissa eyed the older woman's hand. "I'm certain Ms Jauntsen can be extended a little trust." Looking over as Marshal Dale stepped back like a dog told to 'heel', Mari saw him step from the rear office, dressed much the same as last time, only absent a tie and with the top button of his shirt undone. His sable eyes crinkled at the edges as he smiled at her. "Can't you, Ms Jauntsen?"
  4. "Lets fight inside," Cassandra suggested as she headed for the front door. "I can smell breakfast cooking from out here. And coffee. Once the adrenaline from thinking Devin was going to kill us wears off, I'm definitely going to need coffee." She did have the presence of mind to wait for Autumn to go ahead of her back into the house though. They were friends, but Cassie hadn't been invited into the house before. Maybe she was a vampire? Jesus, were there vampires? There were psychic space aliens and interdimensional monsters and psychic powers...what wasn't there? And who knew it and when did they know? Following Autumn in, with the boys right on her heels, Cass waved hello to Mrs Keane. "Hey," she chirped in greeting. "Smells awesome! Also, I'm Cassandra, hi." Offering a hand to shake, she added, "Jason's the tall one annnnnd sorry in advance for Devin. We have to take him around with us for a school project. It's kind of like that egg thing, only instead of an egg, it's Devin." She turned around a little to flash Devin a grin as she took a seat at the table.
  5. The Ducati purred and came to a stop at an angle in front of Jason's car, making it impossible for him to pull away without having to back up first. Classic Devin. Cassie's arms were tight around his waist and her grip loosened considerably as the bike slowed down. As Jason and Autumn kissed he revved the bike loudly, adding no opportunity for a quiet moment. Devin lifted his leg over the bike and offered Cassie a hand to help her off so they could remove their helmets. "Didn't know you could jaunt a whole motorcycle, with us on it," Cassie laughed nervously. Referring to Devin going down an alleyway not but a moment ago and them suddenly appearing not far from Autumn's home. "Me either," Devin said with a mixture of worry and mirth. "Glad it worked, we could have ended up in Idaho or the inside of a mountain or something. Woo." Cassie glared at him, mentally chastising him with her glare. He laughed. "Relax, Blondie, I'm kidding. My motorcycle I can do. Cars cause a nose bleed and massive headache, but I'm getting there." He took a few steps to the new couple and smirked in the devilish Devin manner. "My sister is so pissed at the two of you. This?" He waggled his finger in between the two of them. "Oh, she is livid. I love it, don't ever change you crazy kids. So, we doing this or what? Feed me, I'm famished." He smiled and winked at Autumn. "I'll need my strength if I'm going to be surrounded by depression and chronic alcoholism all day." "Wow," Cassie said in mock surprise. "Culturally insensitive-" "-and racist." Autumn finished for her, rolling her eyes at the ex-bully turned annoying companion against The Dark. She looked at the watch she wasn't wearing. "And it's only eight-thirty. Way to get a jump on the day, Deej." Autumn used his moniker, reminding him that she'd been given a letter name by Marissa was now an official member of their Inner Circle... whatever that meant. "Yeah," he inhaled proudly. "You're welcome."
  6. Keane Residence, around 08:20 "About time." Dana Keane, concerned mother to four dogs and a teenage daughter, grumped as Autumn shuffled into the kitchen, yawning, and made a bee-line for the coffee pot. An observant maternal eye noted the slight touches of makeup and attention paid to the fiery tumble of red hair as Autumn filled her mug, sweetened and added cream, then sipped, absently ruffling the fur of the large German Shepherd, Briggs, as he politely nudged her for a petting. "So Jason, Cassie, and Devin Jauntsen, hmm?" Hazel eyes narrowed. "This isn't some double date, I take it?" "What? No!" Autumn seemed jolted out of her distraction by the question, laughing a little. "I mean, Cassie and Devin are just friends, I think. And just because Jase is coming along doesn't make it automatically a date, mom." her daughter added, cheeks pinking a little as Dana made a feminine snort of disbelief. "Not technically, no." Autumn's mother said mock-sternly as though suspecting, and disapproving of, shenanigans. She then smiled a little as she turned back to the griddle pan. "Well, seeing as I'm feeding extra mouths, you'd better pull out some eggs and get to work." The two of them worked in companionable silence for a short while, music from the radio unobtrusively filling the air in the comfortable kitchen. Preparations were almost complete when the soft rumble of an engine outside sparked an excited bark or two from the dogs, all four of whom were hanging around just out from under foot, hoping for dropped tidbits with large pleading eyes. Dana looked at where Autumn had been, sighing and shaking her head with a smile as, with a soft patter of feet, the younger redhead hurried to the door. "Not a date, my butt." she commented quietly to Lexi, who merely panted good-naturedly and let out a little whine of protest at the lack of dropped bacon bits. Jason climbed out of the Charger as he removed his mirrored shades, hooking them into the neck of his t-shirt as he closed the car door behind him, and breathed deeply, pale eyes sweeping over the fields and woods surrounding the Keane home. The morning dew had already mostly burned away, but the day still felt fresh and new to him as he made his way around the car and headed up the front steps onto the porch. The country air was quiet, despite the sporadic barking of the dogs inside as they sensed a familiar presence, and there was a peacefulness that hung over the scene which was not lost on him. The front door opened as he approached, and Autumn slipped out quickly, closing it behind her and turning to face him, a smile curving her lips before she stepped forward and comfortably slipped her arms around his neck. "Hey." she murmured, smile becoming a grin as she felt his hands slide over her waist in a return embrace. "Hey." he echoed with a slight twitch of his lips answering her smile. He could smell the warm scent of her hair, and resisted the temptation to simply bury his face in it. "I just wanted to thank you for last night." Autumn said in a low tone, mindful her mother might be listening as she studied the flicker of reflected sunlight - as well as the deeper flame her nearness kindled - in his pale green eyes. He looked a little tired, as might be expected, but alert and focused as usual. "You're welc-" Jason started, but stopped as Autumn, grinning, put a finger over his lips, shifting her body against his, pressing closer. "I said I wanted to thank you, not say thank you." she breathed as she leaned up and kissed him, feeling the zip and zing of that flame running through her nerves at the contact, her arms tightening around his neck as, for a long moment, the two forgot everything else. So much so, in fact, that the purring whine of a high performance motorcycle didn't intrude on their private moment until it was too late.
  7. "Right, yeah. Okay. So, maybe he's not a native, or maybe it's not his real name, but you're right. If he was the one who put Air Force guy up to..." Autumn hesitated, sucked in a sharp breath, and pushed onward. "Up to that, then we need to know more about him. God, this is all crazy. It's like, the more we find out, the more we realize how much we don't know. You know?" Cassandra nodded as she slurped up her milkshake. The horror was still there, hiding in the shadows of her mind...but here in the bright, cheerful restaurant, eating delicious food that was really bad for her, that horror was muted, like a dream. "I'll start online. I mean, it's a weird name. I can probably just google 'enterich shelly montana' and find SOMEthing. I figure he's almost gotta be at the base...or maybe the prison. Remember how their mad scientist had basically moved in there and made it his playground? He could be part of that. It'd explain him knowing so much..." She rubbed her temple. "Ugh. Okay, I feel like once I get off the sugar rush from this, I'm going to pass out. We should get home. Get some rest. I'll look into Enterich, and we'll get everyone together and let them know what we found out. Sound good?"
  8. Charlie Laying on the bed, grinning up at the ceiling as he heard the shower start, Charlie was feeling pretty good about life. Sure, the problems he'd pondered earlier were still at his doorstep - in a week or so he'd be leaving Shelly, his friends and their struggles, and his girlfriend behind for what seemed like too long a time. But it was hard to be morose with that many endorphins and post-sex feel-good hormones rushing around his body. Sophia had definitely achieved her goal of being memorable, that was for certain. For a moment, he reconsidered his acceptance of the theater camp placement. Sure, it was only a few weeks. But then, it was a few weeks without Sophia. Sighing, he sat up and swung his legs over so his feet touched the floor. At least it was after Homecoming. At least he'd be able to help fight the Dark with his friends, rather than leave it roaming free in Shelly where it might even conceivably hurt Sophia. He remembered what he'd said to her, in the conference room under the Marias Medical Center when she'd asked what the Dark was. "Evil force of evil." Charlie had whispered to her. "But I'll never let it hurt you." It was important, that promise. It had seemed casual when he'd uttered it, a bit of bravado to allay her fears (and his own). But he found, reflecting on that moment, that he meant it, powers or no. Standing, he stretched, then turned and frowned at the state of the sheets and blankets before quickly stripping the bed. After all, they were both getting showers, so clean sheets was probably a good thing too, right? Dumping the sheets in the hamper, he quickly re-made the bed with fresh ones then, hearing the shower still running, decided to go and get them both a drink. Humming, he pulled on a pair of shorts and headed downstairs. The lights were turned down in the lounge, the flickering of the TV screen still casting shadow-puppets on the walls. They'd moved their shenanigans from the couch to upstairs without bothering with niceties like thumbing the remote. Grinning at that, Charlie picked up the remote and flicked the TV off, leaving the lounge quieter and darker, the shadow of a tree cast across one wall by light from the street. Barefoot, he ambled into the kitchen and opened up the fridge, rummaging around for some suitable refreshment and finding a couple of bottled wine coolers near the back. He stared at them for a moment, doubt nagging at his mind. His mom wasn't likely to raise hell over the wine coolers, but it would lead to questions, which would lead to awkward conversation... He shrugged, grabbing the bottles. The hell with it. But the nagging doubt persisted, causing him to frown as he opened the bottles and poured them into a pair of glasses. Something was off. Something was- He paused as he set a bottle down, staring blankly at the doorway to the lounge. Then it occurred to him with a chilling realisation: The shadow. On the wall. There was no tree in the yard to cast a shadow from the streetlights. Fuck, he thought as he moved to the lounge doorway and peered inside. The light from outside shone on the wall unblemished, no shadow cast across it. Had he imagined it? A prickling on the back of his neck said that no, he hadn't. Lately, Charlie had learned to trust that cold prickle. He'd felt it looking into Jason's eyes. He'd felt it more strongly meeting the mysterious Mr Enterich. And right now, he felt it most strongly of all, accompanied by a slick, oily cold slithering sensation that crawled his flesh. He knew what that meant. Cold prickles were one thing, gut feelings. But this was something else. This was the presence of the Dark. He turned, his first thought to get upstairs, to get to Sophia, his mind filled with fears of her being vulnerable and alone, easy prey. And ran into a solid figure that had, unheard, slipped behind him in the gloom of the downstairs hallway. In his instinctive concern, he hadn't recalled what they had learned as a group. The Dark didn't really care about regular folks. It needed the deaths of those with a little extra. Those with Shine. Not-Cody grinned down at him, a skeletal noseless mockery of a human face, crowned with spreading antlers, his mouth a red sideways gash lined with scalpel-like teeth. Charlie felt a bony hand grip his shoulder, the points of claws digging into his flesh, smelled the rotten charnel reek of Cody's breath as the monster's other hand moved from here to there. Staring, in shock, Charlie dimly registered a pulling across his abdomen, a warmth that flashed into hot pain, cold around the edges, and some part of his panicked mind registered that he had just been opened up like one of Cade's landed trout. A stink filled the air. That's me, he dimly thought. That's my insides. That jolted another realisation. I'm dying. Setting his teeth against the pain, he started to shapeshift, chitinous armor plate beginning to form as his hands shifted to ferocious clawed appendages. Cody / The Horned Man laughed, a glottal sound of sick amusement, and his long arm with a hand tipped with claws flashed once more across Charlie's field of vision. The teen felt his blood gout, hot vital fluid drenching his bare chest as his throat was opened from ear to ear. Choking, he lost his concentration, shapeshift forgotten as he dropped to his knees, drowning as his lungs filled. Cody squatted on his haunches, grinning his awful shark grin. "I'll never let it hurt you." he said in a deep, hoarse voice that, despite it's inhumanity, nevertheless conveyed mockery. "Oh, but I will hurt her, boy. She will satisfy my many hungers until there is nothing left." Red-rimmed eyes flared hellishly as a clawed finger swiped through Charlie's pooling blood and came up to the beast's mouth, a long tongue cleaning the talon. "Picture it as you die. Hear her screams. Know despair!" Charlie opened his mouth, shut it again, gaping like a fish in air. He couldn't speak... but perhaps he didn't need to. The thing had quoted his own words at him. Perhaps it was reading his mind. His vision darkened, contracting around the red eyes glowering at him from a face no longer human, and Charlie put all the effort he could into one final thought. My friends... are gonna fuck you up. They'll beat your ass till you scream and fry you in your own skin. He cast the thought at the creature with every ounce of defiance and dark amusement he could muster, and was rewarded with a hiss of anger and, dare he say, fear. You'll lose. Charlie added with a sense of fatalistic triumph. So you despair, fucker. Hissing louder, almost a shriek of rage, the creature half-rose and struck out. Charlie, his vision dimmed, saw the taloned hand sweep towards his- The creature that had been Cody Sikes stood, breathing deeply as it looked down at the body at his feet. The defiance had not tasted good, and it was with a growl that he brought the still-warm heart to his maw and devoured it in several bites. The warmth of the boy's Radiance was delicious, a tingling sensation that spread through Cody's limbs and brought a low moan of pleasure from his throat. Somewhere, he knew the Tree was likewise pleased, the conduit between them transferring the Radiance to it, nourishing it. "Charlie?" The girl's voice from upstairs, laced with mischief. "I need some help washing my back." A giggle, then the sound of the bathroom door shutting. Cody looked up the stairs, a grin that was equal parts snarl crossing his deformed features. Turning from the now-useless husk at his feet, he moved to the foot of the stairs and started up them. The night's hunt had been productive, but after all, he had many hungers.
  9. Enterich... Enterich. Hmm. Autumn chewed over Cassie's revelations along with a bite of her fries, resting her phone on her thigh. It didn't sound like a Shelly name, if there was such a thing; a lot of the older families had Irish roots, and this sounded sort of German. Someone from Marias, or the military, maybe? If he had something to do with Bulwark, that could explain how he knew Cody's... What would you even call him? His predecessor, she guessed. There were other possibilities, sure, apart from being someone on the base- that it wasn't his real name, that it was part of some crazy-convoluted plot by Mr. Black as he played chess with peoples' lives, that he might be Mr. Black himself, or that through the miracle of the internet the guy wasn't even geographically anywhere near them, like some rando on a subreddit. That didn't explain how Cody got involved, though, did it? There were probably- no, definitely- options she couldn't even imagine. Cass was right, regardless: if this guy was involved, whoever he was, they needed to find him and figure out the part he was playing in what was happening. What she'd said about ritual sacrifice did, in an awful way, sort of fit with what they'd found in the Old Town Hall, especially those weird drawings scattered around. Which meant maybe this Enterich had been the one to bring Cody into it. There were other thoughts, too, or at least fragments of them, but after what they'd seen down there, it was hard to put them in any kind of order; every time she tried, the image of those little reflective strips glowing incandescent in the shadows filled her mind's eye. The ride to Bunnee's had helped a little, the fresh air both cleansing her lungs and drying the faint trails her tears had left in the smudges of dirt on her cheeks, while salt and grease (somewhat ironically) were helping with the lingering nausea. Once the food was gone, though, and this was over... She shivered involuntarily and took another drink of her soda. Just focus on what you can do right now, she reminded herself. There was a time and a place for meltdowns, and as the past week had illustrated so very clearly, it was almost always going to be "later," and "not here." "It doesn't sound familiar to me," the red-haired teen finally replied, her brows knitting together in an uncharacteristically thoughtful frown. "So either he's not from Shelly originally, or-" "Hey, ladies, have you decided?" Their waitress, a somewhat matronly woman who, despite looking generally exhausted with life was still making a laudable effort to sound pleasant, derailed Autumn's train of thought. "Oh, hey, sorry. Um, yeah," the redhead replied, picking up the menu she hadn't really given more than a cursory glance yet. Aware of the warmth flooding her cheeks under Connie's polite scrutiny, her eyes flicked across the table at Cass in a silent plea. "Right! So, I'm thinking the extra thick chocolate shake looks good," Cassie chimed in helpfully. "What exactly makes it 'extra thick,' though?" As the weary server patiently explained that they used three times the normal serving of chocolate ice cream, so it was almost impossible to drink it through a straw, Autumn quickly scanned the list of flavor options and silently thanked whatever innate telepathy girls seemed to share. "Oooh, good to know," the future Pulitzer winner chirped brightly. "Yeah, I'll have that. And maybe a spoon. Autumn?" "Umm... Yeah, I think I'm gonna go with the strawberry shortcake shake this time. Thanks." Smiling up at the obviously overworked waitress, she waited until the older woman was almost back to the counter before continuing. Just in case. "Okay, so... Where was I?" "He's not from Shelly, or..." "Right, yeah. Okay. So, maybe he's not a native, or maybe it's not his real name, but you're right. If he was the one who put Air Force guy up to..." Autumn hesitated, sucked in a sharp breath, and pushed onward. "Up to that, then we need to know more about him. God, this is all crazy. It's like, the more we find out, the more we realize how much we don't know. You know?" Meanwhile The Jauntsen compound, as their neighbors joked, lit up the Montana horizon with a brilliant dome of soft white light visible from quite a distance away. It originated from the training yard the family had constructed about two years ago. It was a large area, roughly a fifty yard square on their property that was dedicated to various gymnastic and acrobatic athletic endeavors separated by stretching and rest stations throughout. Like a fifty yard by fifty yard gymnastic obstacle course in possessed nearly everything from space of a floor show to station for rings to one for vaulting. Uneven bars and parallel bars were about half way through the course, since those were what Devin favored the least, making sure he had to do use them or live with knowing he skipped them and left his work out incomplete. It was a sly trick on his father's part, preying on his son's ego and 'not a quitter' attitude. Carl Jauntsen had the construction commissioned a couple years back so his son would have something to do while he was bored in Shelly. Most of the equipment itself wasn't difficult to obtain inexpensively on line once the workers had cleared and leveled the land. Since then it was where his son had retired nearly every evening for no less than an hour, often times longer and when he was particularly stressed or irritated, Devin could spend all day on the course. Marissa, to a lesser degree, would use the stretching station and open floor for yoga and stretching exercises. It allowed the twins more time together and kept them out of their parents' hair. Devin and Marissa were out there now, talking and carrying on about whatever the twin's found time to gossip about. They lowered closer and closer to ground as their legs slipped further and further apart until they were both doing the splits side by side. Marissa leaned to right and left, stretching her body and leaning forward so her chest touched the mat. Devin was no less flexible. Resting his palms on the mat he slowly lifted himself until he was horizontal, then pushing himself up until he was in a handstand with his legs still in the splits. "Look! Look!" His voice was strained trying to get his sister's attention under his own weight. "I got it! Do I get a laser sword now?" "What? Like a Jedi?" Marissa answers, looking back in his direction as she continued stretching. "And they're called 'lightsabers', dumbass. Also, I don't think so. You have to be able to do that with nothing but your magical space body parasites or something... I don't know. I was never really a big fan of Star Wars. It's so convoluted. I mean, Terry Brooks might be wordy, but at least he's always made sense and not changed his mind mid-story.” “Nerd.” He grunted, as he continued to push himself up slowly, bringing his legs together in an attempt to rise to a full hand stand. “I'm not a nerd, I just read. You know, books? Those things with pages and all the words.” When the blinking of Devin's phone caught her eye she rolled from her stretching and scooped it up, swiping it on to take a look at who was texting. “Texts from Autumn, huh? She says they're all good.” Devin's arms wobbled from the exertion but his legs came together and he allowed himself to arch forward swiftly, bending until legs touched the mat and he swung himself up until he was standing next to his sister. “Better,” she critiqued. “You need more strength training though, you're still too wobbly.” “Yeah,” he nodded in agreement. “It's harder than I thought it would be. Lemme see,” he accepted his phone from her and took a look at the screen. “Looks like they're done with the Scooby Dooing.” Glaring at the screen he tapped out a response. [Nice, Scrappy. Good to know you two are okay. If you and Velma need anything, HMU.] He set down his phone and scooped up a towel, padding himself across his shoulders and forehead. He quieted a bit as he dried himself from his exertions. “Alright, what's up?” His sister sighed, noticing he was a bit less interesting after replying to their text. “Spill.” “Huh? Oh, nothing really,” Devin had both ends of the towel and looped up and over the back his neck. “It's just, being current year, I don't want to be all macho and smother them when they go out to do something stupid like that alone, I mean, I dunno.” “You're worried about them.” Marissa said plainly, dabbing her abdomen with her own towel and letting it drape over one shoulder before twisting the cap off a bottle of water. “Yeah, I mean, I trust them, sure, but, if something were to happen and I wasn't there-” “Then you'd be either dead or dying right along with them,” Shelly's Queen Bee put it simply. “Those two want to explore spooky ruins on their own without thinking of taking an obvious, instant, emergency exit along with them 'just in case', then I say Darwinism will simply do the work that social media, bullying and public schooling have failed at. Pick your battles, Galahad.” “You're all heart, Emjay.” Devin smirked. “Alright, two more sets, lets go.” The twins stepped away from their phones and went back to their exercises.
  10. "Chocolate," Cassandra said automatically. "Definitely chocolate." The brief bike ride and the smell of deliciously unhealthy food were helping drive the lingering nightmare-dust off of her brain. It'd be a long time before she'd be able to eat pasta again though, that was for sure. She dabbed the end of a napkin into her complimentary glass of water and then dabbed it under her eyes, trying to keep them from getting all 'cry-eyed,' There were words hanging between them. Words like 'thanks for helping me when I was freaking out' that Cassandra felt like she ought to say, but also felt awkward about saying, and reminding them both of the whole incident. Better, easier, to focus on what had been gained than on the price paid to gain it. "I saw who was serving the tree before Cody," she said in a low voice after Autumn finished her text. "It was that guy. That...guy from the little cabin near where we had the party back when this all started. The guy that me and Devin saw get...cephaloed up." Cass frowned, realizing something. "Wait, did we ever tell you that story?" Autumn gave Cassandra a wry look. "The 'cephalogina'?" she asked, making air quotes. Cassie winced slightly. "Okay, yeah, you heard it. Anyway, he was the one doing it...BUT...he wasn't totally possessed by the Dark is the thing." She tapped the table, as if trying to get Autumn's attention. Totally unnecessary in this case. "He was put up to it by someone named Enterich. Some kind of ritual sacrifice. He changed his mind at the last second and tried to stop it...but..." Cassandra shook her head and took a quick drink from her soda, trying to wash away the memory as it came back up. "Anyway. The point is that this Enterich guy must have known...everything. We have to find him."
  11. Sean gave a wry chuckle as he lead Cade back to the main room of The Barn, who returned the firearm to the gym bag, along with the modified gloves. "Do we really need any more insanity in our lives right now, Cade?" Sean pursed his lips in thought, then gave his friend a shrug. "I'll give it some thought, but no promises."
  12. At first, there was nothing but the sounds of the building slowly decaying over their heads as Autumn waited, glancing now and then at Cass who sat still as stone on the floor with the dusty, blood-flecked shoe in her hands. Restless and on-edge, the red-haired young woman shifted from one foot to the other, occasionally giving the heavy wrecking bar an experimental swing. It was reassuringly heavy, solid, something tangible to hold onto as the minutes crept ponderously by in the oppressive gloom. The past two days had flown past, but now- when she wanted time to go quickly- her concept of what time even meant seemed to just sort of... dissolve. It left nowhere to direct her energy, nothing to do but wait, as if her entire body were a bowstring drawn without an arrow. Directionless. Unfocused. Nothing to concentrate on but the smell of death, the sound of the old Hall breathing around them in the darkness, and the awful image of dark rust-red stains on a small white shoe. Then Cassie cried out in alarm, and all of that potential translated into movement: the beam of her flashlight cutting through the shadows, the pry bar falling to the filthy concrete like the angry tolling of an iron bell, her hiking boots striking the floor in a quick flurry of steps that brought her to the pretty blonde's side. "It's okay," Autumn replied automatically as awareness dawned on her companion's face at the sound of her name, her arms going around Cassandra's shoulders even as she tried to slow the mad surging of her own heartbeat. The horrors the young seer had borne witness to manifested in violent trembling as the redhead squeezed her close, resting her chin atop the other girl's hair. "It's okay," she tried again, wanting to at least sound as if she believed it, attempting to summon forth some of the confident reassurance her mom used with agitated animals and what are panicking teenagers but seriously agitated animals but... Could it be okay? Even without hearing any specifics, it was pretty obvious from Cass's reaction that whoever had owned that little shoe didn't miraculously escape the basement to return home safe and sound. The same awful feeling she'd had on seeing it- really seeing it and recognizing what it meant- constricted around her heart, mingling horror and despair into an unfamiliar weight in her chest. Things like this didn't happen in the world she knew. But does that world even exist anymore? Did it ever? These weren't questions to be considered in the dark, surrounded by tiny furred bodies and ominous drawings and the almost unbearable psychic miasma of suffering and fear. Swallowing her nerves and revulsion, Autumn slowly got to her feet and glanced from the door to the Door, pulling Cass carefully up with her. "Hey, listen... Let's get out of here," she all-but whispered as she gave the plucky reporter another quick squeeze, almost succeeding in keeping the quaver from her voice. There was no guarantee that just because no-one had caught them there yet, no one would, and she had absolutely zero desire to be there any longer than absolutely necessary. "I need some fresh air and a whole lot of sugar, and not to be here." She was quiet for a moment and then added soberly, "...without a couple of gas cans and some matches." Before long the two girls, both looking dishevelled and ill-at-ease, were seated on opposite sides of a massive basket of fries, the overhead lights of Bunnee's relegating literal darkness to the world outside the diner. Carbohydrate therapy was a time-honored and well-documented practice, and one of which Autumn was particularly fond. As she scraped a pile of golden-fried deliciousness onto her plate, she peered across the table at her friend- because after the hospital and now this, Cassie had to be a friend, right?- and then back at the crowded restaurant. Saturday night in Shelly. "What kind of milkshake are you thinking?" the redhead began conversationally, breaking the relative silence. "I mean, I know we probably need to talk about... Well." Shrugging uncomfortably, she made a vague gesture with the fork in her hand. "About what you saw. I just kind of wanted to, I don't know... Just breathe for a little bit, first, you know?" Pause. "Also, we should probably text Devin, because I don't trust him to not grab Jason and go looking for us." She managed to muster up what felt like a smile and took a sip of her soda, pulling her phone from the zippered side pocket of the pack sitting next to her on the seat. Swiping the screen with her thumb, Autumn savored the comforting normality of French fries and a Coke before tapping out a quick message to the teleporter. [We're out. No search party needed. Meet at my house for breakfast in the AM, 0830ish if you're hungry. Will let Cass and Jase know. Ask if you need directions.]
  13. Cade Considered the limitations that Sean thought they'd have, but still it would be so much better than how things were currently. Then he answered the question about Marissa. "Yeah, though I do actually need to ask her." he sighed. "Pretty sure I'll get lectured for taking so long, but hell it's not like we've been dating for a long time." "You oughta go too. I'm sure it will be fun. I mean I think everyone else is going, and any time we all get together the potential for insanity rises doesn't it?" He smiled, though it was abit bittersweet. They didn't really get to have the most normal lives anymore.
  14. "Maybe not a Danger Room, but I might be able to manage some kick ass VR that would be nearly as good, especially if the Project will share their tech with me - us," Sean countered as he neatly replaced the needle, thread, and glue, and gathered up the unused RFID chips. "Not quite X-men, but likely a lot more convenient and less potential collateral damage." Sean returned the microchips to their cubby, then arched a nonplussed brow up at Cade when he asked him about Homecoming. "Since when have I ever been big on going to school events unless Mom and Dad dragged me to something Teagan or Laurie were doing?" Sean shook his head in apparent exasperation. "Haven't really given Homecoming a thought." That wasn't strictly true. With his friends starting to pair off, the idea had on occasion skirted the edge of his thoughts. He could go stag, but he hadn't ever been one to go to school Dances. And especially with his mates taking their own dates instead of them going as a group, he'd feel like an extraneous wheel. There might have been one person he'd consider asking, but knowing her for only a couple of days, it felt presumptuous to him. Besides, he didn't have anything to wear to something like Homecoming. Last time he'd worn something... suit-ish, it had been at his grandfather's funeral, when he was about eleven. "How 'bout you, Cade? Marissa, hmm?"
  15. "Jesus shit!" Cassandra yelped, and she tried to yank herself back from the vision, tried NOT to see, to close her Eye...but it wasn't as easy as a physical eyelid was. The image of it pursued her even as she batted at her eyes and tried reflexively to cover them. At the same time the raw fear, and the anguish, drilled like augers into her mind from the people she was witnessing. She wasn't even aware of herself falling over backwards. Coming back out meant passing through the choking, cloying Darkness, and it closed fingers around her throat...or maybe it was just panic...or maybe it was the same thing. She couldn't scream along with Cooper because she couldn't breathe. She tried to grab the floor under her, fingers scratching ineffectually at old concrete. The world was moving too fast. There wasn't any oxygen in the air. And all the while black tendrils reached out, reached for her, questing, gripping, tearing... "Cassie!" Autumn's voice reached her finally, and her eyes opened wide, terrified. She looked up to see Autumn's face, wracked by fear for her. Just seeing that she wasn't alone was like a splash of water, cleaning the Dark away...or at least easing it. With a whimper Cassandra sat up and flung her arms around her friend, clutching her like a drowning woman. "Oh my god," Cass whispered. "Oh my god. I saw it. He was just a little boy." With those words out, there was nothing left but to break into tears.
  16. Taking a deep breath - or six - Cassandra looked around, nose wrinkling slightly as she considered her options. The thought of sitting on the floor made her flesh crawl and yet she didn't want to risk spazzing out, falling over and cracking her head. Not at the best of times, and certainly not here. With a grimace of distaste, she lowered herself to sit cross-legged, facing the ominous mural on one wall of the cellar, and tried to unfocus her regular senses, throwing light on the hazy grey clouds of her... what did Jason and Sean call it? Sub-quantum awareness? A layer of reality where time and distance did not matter - at least to the degree they normally did. Devin could connect points in space, Sean could pull encoded electronic information from the air, and she - in theory - could know... Everything? Or at least, anything she needed to and pointed her awareness at. In part to distract herself from the thought of the little animal bodies hanging from the ceiling and the looming horror of what she might discover, Cass mused what it would be like to truly know everything, all the time, past, present and future. Like the world's most pervasive surveillance system. Sometimes that seemed cool, and other times seemed... too much. Like when she'd first awakened to her power and sensed the vast gulf looming and waiting to swallow her whole. The slick, oily miasma she was semi-familiar with hung over this place, so strong and thick that it was almost choking, a tarry smog that laid over everything, spilling out into the world from that wall. She was right - that was a doorway, the wound that Mr Black had described. The stones and air resonated with a sickness so strong it felt evil, a spiritual pestilence that swirled around her and Autumn, kept at bay by the light that spilled from them. A flash of insight - a normal person would gradually be infected by this sickness, becoming twisted in mind and body. The effect would be strongest here, but then would spread out into the town, subtle radiation, a silent twister of minds. This, then, was the source of all Shelly's tragic, bloody history. It was hard, to force herself to focus through the psychic smog. The aura of this place was innately antithetical to Shine. As Autumn collected herself, wiping tears from reddened eyes and moving to keep an eye and ear on the basement stairs, Cassie tried several times before finally feeling the bonds of her physical form on her spirit loosen and then... ...she was still in the the cellar, not long ago in the scheme of things. There were less dead animals here, but the large black sooty image on the wall still leered out at the world. The gloom of the basement was as oppressive as ever, though. Cassie waited, trusting the vision to show her what she needed to- There. From the steps leading up, the sounds of someone - or something - coming. A weird shuffling step, accompanied by muttering and a kind of muffled sobbing sound. Dread rose in Cassandra's soul, telling her to close her 'third eye', to not see... but stronger than her fear was the need to bear witness. Something terrible was about to happen - from her perspective had already happened - and she needed to know. She was the Eyes, she told herself sternly. Her job was to See. Two figures, one large and one small, emerged from the stairwell. A man who lurched and shuffled like a zombie, carrying in his arms a struggling - ohgod - a child. The man was wide-eyed, twitching like a meth-head, his gaze darting around the gloom of the cellar fearfully. With a sudden shock of recognition, Cassie realised this was the same man who had accosted her and Devin in the woods on the night of the party before being swallowed up by the weird fanged starfish thing. The Air Force dude. Captain Cooper, dressed in civilian clothing. The child in his arms was maybe seven or eight years old, squirming and crying, tied hand and foot with their voice muffled by a gag over their mouth. Cooper brought his captive to the center of the basement room, looking around and then tossing the child he carried down before the mural. "Stay there. You stay." he hissed, pointing at the kid, a small boy. "I'm so close now. So close. He promised me this would work, and that I would see." The child - a small boy - sobbed in blind fear as Cooper started to whisper something, over and over. Something that sounded Gaelic to Cassandra's ears, with harsh throat noises and the occasional growling syllable. The whispers filled the room, rebounding from the walls as Cooper chanted whatever it was repeatedly for what seemed like half an hour, before falling silent. Nothing happened. Cooper sighed, a deep exhalation of mingled relief and disappointment. "He lied. Enterich lied." he muttered, scratching at his left arm with his right hand. "I knew he was lying. I knew it wasn't real. Now I can get that psych eval and tell-" And then Hell broke loose. There was a thin screeching at first, a whistling moan as of wind through wire fencing. The bricks of the wall under the mural seemed to dance, to waver, to shift and then simply dissipated as though never there. Captain Cooper - and Cassandra - stared through at what was beyond. At least one of them had seen the sight before, however. A plain of bones. Pools of stagnant, half-clotted blood. An empty throne surmounted with an antlered human-shaped skull. The Tree. Pulsing with terrible, perverse life, it spread it's foul roots and branches over the now-kneeling Captain Cooper. Whispers filled the air, urging the Captain to step through. To sit down on the throne. To claim his reward. Cassie could see a sudden awful realisation strike the man as he saw what he had conjured, could see him shake his head and draw back from this final stage. "No! No. This is wrong." he muttered, tottering to his feet. "No. This is fucked up. I thought it was just a scam. A hazing. An initiation. Not real. Not real!" This last was screeched and Cooper stepped forward, bending down and grabbing at the child, plainly intending to pull them away and flee. Anger pulsed from the consciousness beyond the Door even as dark, sickly tendrils crept through, coiling around the bound child on the floor. The boy screamed. Cooper screamed. The foul-smelling charnel-house stink from beyond the door washed over them both. Cooper tugged frantically, his hands around the boy's ankles, heaving with all his might as more thick, fibrous pseudopods wrapped around legs, arms, and neck. "Let the fuck go!" Cooper howled, his beset mind suddenly latching onto a desperate idea. "I withdraw my offering. I withdraw my offering!" A sudden withering emanation of rage from the skull was accompanied by sepulchral laughter. The offering had been made, and could not be withdrawn. The tendrils around the small body tightened their grasp, and Cooper's eyes lost the last of their flame of sanity at what he saw as an abysmal wet, crackling, tearing sound filled the air... ...and the Door closed as Cooper fell back, unprepared for the sudden lack of resistance in his tug of war. The cellar was dark again, no longer lit by the rotten bloody radiance from beyond. The figure on the wall leered down at him as he stared blankly at the single, solitary sneaker in his hand, blood staining its lining. And he screamed and screamed and screamed...
  17. Cassandra stopped pushing on the wall when Autumn made her case and just stood there for a moment. It looked like she was using the wall to hold herself up more than trying to open it. Her eyes dropped down to the shoe again, but she didn't say anything. There were a dozen reasons not to do it. Or, at least to wait to do it. If the shoe really had been there that long, it didn't seem likely another hour would change anything. And she remembered well how the presence of the Dark had made it hard to focus on her vision down here. And also she just was really unsure she wanted to see what had happened to the owner of this shoe. But this was kind of her thing, right? What good was an eye that refused to open? She pushed off from the wall and bent over to scoop the forlorn little shoe up in her hand. Her eyes never left it as she spoke to Autumn. "I'll give it a try, but...the Dark is boiling in the air here. It made it hard to see through before. And if it does work...there is a fair to...to average chance I may freak out or something? Because I think I get it. What happened to this...to whoever had this." Cassie nodded at the drawing on the wall, the one the trail ended at. "That's not a secret door. I remember it now. It's the spot the Dark was strongest. I think it must be where Cody can push through. And...I guess he can take other people with him." The wannabe reporter let out a shuddering breath. "I don't want to do it, but...I think I have to try. If there's even a chance they're still alive, we need to know about it now."
  18. "I don't... I don't know, Cass," she replied distantly, the sound of the other girl's voice and the light pressure on her shoulder dragging the horror-stricken young woman back from the nightmarish precipice. She blinked, turning to focus on vague shape of the pretty blonde who, in the grayish ambience of their flashlights, was also visibly struggling to keep from totally losing her shit. "I mean, maybe...? But this looks like it's been here a few weeks, at least." As she spoke, something clicked into place, a puzzle piece that suddenly fit. "...Since before Cody disappeared. Oh, fuck." Never the most studious or intellectual of her peers, Autumn was nevertheless faced with what seemed, in the face of what they'd seen in the last few minutes, to be an inevitable conclusion: Cody Sikes probably wasn't the first, or the only person aiding the Dark in Shelly. If the drawings were any indication, there may even have been other "Codys" before him. The whole cycle-thing had been going on for decades- generations, really- but was it always like this? This... horned, skeletal figure? Someone being possessed? Like a, a cult, or something... And if so, could some of the people from the last time, people who weren't stopped, still be in town? She kind of wished she'd gone through some of those old journals, now, but that'd have to wait. A shiver rippled down her spine that had nothing to do with the chill in the dank air, or the ticklish trickle of icy sweat that rolled down her neck. Slowly, she got to her feet, freezing as the end of the pry bar scraped in angry protest against the grimy concrete floor, but only the ordinary sounds of old buildings filled that aeons-long moment of tense silence, the muffled groans of aged wood and the skittering of mice insinuating themselves into the space between heartbeats. The tense, hard line of her jaw softened fractionally, and the redhead took a shaky breath before exhaling. "Listen, um." She hesitated, joining the young seer next to the ominous sketch on the wall. "If you want to find out what happened..." The earnest, wide-eyed adventuress peering at Cassandra from the shadows of the basement hesitated, her free hand instinctively rising in a placating gesture, fingers spread. "And if you don't want to do it, I totally get it, and it's fine, because this is a whole lot and I kind of want to just set the building on fire and walk away, but we still have stuff to do, so... Maybe you could do the thing from Dr. Cook's office? On the, uh... On the shoe, I mean. And, maybe you're right, you know?" Autumn continued, attempting to inject what she thought sounded like optimism into her voice. "Maybe somebody was just... I don't know, just playing down here, and nothing happened, right? But we'll know for sure, and then we can just not worry about it and focus on all the other stuff."
  19. Cassandra froze on seeing the shoe, both mentally and physically. Like a passenger in her body she could only watch as Autumn knelt down and examined it more closely. All she could focus on was a phrase that kept repeating in her head, like a panicked mantra. I didn't see this. I didn't see this. I didn't see this. It was a feeble attempt at a denial. If she hadn't seen it, it couldn't be. If she hadn't seen it, it wasn't her fault. She couldn't have stopped it. Stopped...wait, stopped what? Scuffs on the floor. Leading to a wall. Bloody marks. Blood on the shoe...but not a lot of blood? Maybe? She leaned down and took hold of Autumn's shoulder. Her eyes were too wide, her breath was too fast, but there was a frantic clarity shining through the horror and instinctive disgust. They didn't KNOW yet. "Autumn, we have to get through that wall," Cassie whispered. "They might still be alive. We have to find them." Everything else could wait. The panic, the disbelief, the guilt. They could wait. She brought her light up and shone it on the wall, on the disquieting image that had been scrawled on it. It didn't make sense. A secret door? In a town hall? Why? Start simple. Start basic. Cassie moved up to the wall and pressed her palm against it, trying to see if it would move...or even if it was real at all. At this point there was almost nothing she wouldn't believe.
  20. "Fuck." The thought and the its vocalization were simultaneous, the latter being more quietly intense- an anguished exhalation at the sight of the abandoned shoe and the recognition of what it signified. "Jesus fucking..." The strained whisper trailed off into silence. As the bright beam of her flashlight wavered, the wide-eyed redhead stepped somnolently forward, gaze fixed on the reflective yellow-green-silver stripes as they flashed bright in the darkness. Blazed like a beacon. Like a warning. The blue-white circle of light shrank as Autumn got closer, knelt down beside the little shoe that looked so painfully out of place down here. She didn't want to look. Didn't want to see it. Didn't want to think about it. Something in her brain rebelled against every movement, an instinctual urge for self-preservation that extended not only to her physical well-being, but the retention of her sanity as well, as if the unconscious part of her was somehow aware that this single, mundane object was more dangerous to her peace of mind than all the nightmare beasts and inter-dimensional horrors she'd experienced thus far. That any of them had experienced thus far. And yet... Before she realized it, her hand was outstretched, trembling fingertips brushing against the dingy white faux-leather. The thin, superficial layer of dust smudged easily, and the mold prevalent throughout the building had only just begun to creep over its surface; it couldn't have been here more than a couple of months, at most. Even as the pragmatic portion of her brain processed that, synthesizing this new information with what had -before her involvement with all of this insanity- seemed sad, if fairly ordinary news at the time, a soft, despairing whimper clawed past the lump in Autumn's throat as the child-sized shoe rolled toward her. The rust-brown smudges, the dark flecks on the gently-worn interior fabric and embedded in the rough texture of the tiny velcro closures, were neither mold nor dirt. Oh god. Ohgod, ohgodohfuckfuckfuck Skittering gracelessly backward and falling into an awkward seated position on the dirty floor, Autumn clamped a hand over her mouth as hot tears streamed down suddenly ashen cheeks. The animals were bad enough, but this... Dimly aware that it was just a child's shoe, that there was no broken little body left behind, no garish resolution to the implication of its abandonment here save for the marks leading to the wall, the girl's chest hitched painfully, spasmodically, her sobs stifled only through sheer force of will and the fear of being discovered. All thoughts of whether Not-Cody could ever be Cody again, of the decades-old drawings on the walls, of secret government facilities and implausible family legacies and strange powers, fled abruptly in the face of this forlorn little remnant of a lost boy's life.
  21. Team Pluck The basement door was ajar, a fact that gave both fearless, plucky explorers pause, during which they glanced at one another as if to remind themselves that yes, they had company and yes, they were indeed as plucky as they had initially believed. Both gripped their flashlights tightly, and Autumn's grip on the prybar was white-knuckled as she reached out and gently prodded the door further open, ready to thwack anything that popped out of the gloom at them. The door swung open in relative silence, only a whispering groan from the hinges betraying that it had been moved, and both girls tensed for a long moment. Cassie stepped forward then, playing her flashlight down the stairs, half-expecting to see some skeletal, clawed version of Cody come lunging up at her with the light shining red in his feral eyes... But nothing was there. Just bare stone steps and the floor at the base of them. She glanced back at Autumn with a smile she didn't feel. "Imagine if Devin suddenly popped out of nowhere right now." she said with a smirk. "I think I'd shriek loud enough to break glass." "Don't even joke." Autumn felt the faintest of urges to giggle, nervous tension warring with the grimness of the place. She waggled the prybar. "He can be an asshat, but I don't actually want to brain him with this thing." "Yeah." Cassie looked back down the stone steps and took a deep breath. "Okay. Let's do this." "Let me go first. " Autumn firmly suggested as she stepped up. "Anyone or thing grabs me, I've got this plus my Shine to fight with." For a moment Cassie wanted to argue, but reluctantly conceded the point and nodded, then nodded again as Autumn handed her the pepper spray. Thus armed, the two of them started down a few paces apart... Meanwhile He stood in the shadows and watched the two of them together, eyes burning with conflicting hungers as the conjoined minds of Cody Sikes and the Horned Man took in the sight of Charlie and Sophia coupling on the TV room couch. Cody was barely aware he was Cody anymore. Every day, it seemed, he was less Cody and more Araun, something that he realised dimly in some parts of his mind that were still his own was not what he had bargained for when he had struck this deal. Araun had promised him accolades, and girls, and revenge on those who thought themselves better than him, and most of all he had been promised power. Power to achieve his dreams. First Homecoming King, then star player for the team, then college on a scholarship ride... But he didn't dream of those things anymore, did he? Now when he tried to think of what he wanted, he saw blood flowing black in the moonlight, he heard screams and felt soft flesh rending under his claws. He dreamed of chasing girls as prey, girls he'd once dreamed of fucking, only now sex wasn't the only thing he wanted from them. He wondered if that was why he'd wanted so badly to hurt Coraline, with her long legs and pretty smile. Had he always been Araun's creature? No, the thought came back to him. No, he was his own person when he'd had those urges. All Araun did was strip away the pretentious morality that told him such things were bad. The strong did as they pleased, the weak suffered what they must. Once, Cody had been weak and afraid. Now, he wasn't afraid of anything, was he? No, Cody decided as he listened to Sophia's gasping cries and Charlie's soft climactic grunts, watching the sweat bead on their skins as they screwed like rabbits. He wasn't afraid of anything anymore. It was time for them to be afraid. And then, to be dead. Team Pluck The cellar was much as Cassandra's vision had described it. A large, gloomy, dank space, unfurnished but for an old oil furnace at one end, long gone to rust. Well, almost unfurnished. As Cassie had hinted, there were dead animals hanging from the low ceiling, strung up with nails and wire or twine. Cats... possums... small dogs... all killed and then strung up like gross, perverse hunting trophies. The smell of old death and decay was noticeable here, but not quite overpowering. "Shit." Autumn muttered. "Oh, shit." "Yeah." Cassie replied, her mood somber as she played her torch over the walls and floor. Scrawled in black charcoal or some similar substance on one wall, just as her vision had shown, was a weird cave-painting stick figure of the large man with antlers branching from his skull. The floor bore scuffs, footprints in the dust and, most disturbingly, bloody drag-marks as though something had been dragged across the floor. Perhaps most eerily, the drag marks disappeared at the wall with the antlered man drawn on it, with no sign that of going anywhere else. "Look." Autumn said in a low voice. Cassie followed the beam of her flashlight and saw a small shoe. A child's sneaker, laying in one corner, a patina of dust on the fluorescent strips on it's sides.
  22. Cassandra nodded as she solemnly lifted her flashlight-phone and snapped a shot...first of the wall marking, then of the victims used to make it. "Definitely," she whispered. "There's more in the basement. Animals strung up. I didn't know why before, but...yeah, collecting blood could be one reason. Also I think it may be what he's eating?" Cass winced at that. "This is why I wanted to come back though. Remote viewing is kind of...wispy...it's not like being here." She shook her head and looked away, feeling her stomach move uneasily. Even prepared as she was for what they'd find, there was something profoundly more disturbing actually seeing it. It was the smell, maybe...or the feel of the old, dusty dry air on her arms. Standing here she could imagine what it must have been like when Cody had been here, killing this creature. Holding it. Cutting it. Letting blood just...pour out. "Damnit," she muttered, then reprimanded her brain privately. Not the time! "Okay...I think we've seen enough up here. Just the basement left. It's..." Cassandra gave Autumn an apologetic look. "...it's worse than this. A lot worse. Just so you know." Then she headed back down to the dry, worryingly bendy stairs to get to the ground floor...and from there, to the basement stairs. Where they would be both very grateful, and very unhappy, that they had flashlights.
  23. She'd heard the occasional complaint about someone's pet going missing lately, mostly from her mom, but hawks, coyotes, wolves, inattentive drivers- there were all kinds of perils to be blamed for Mittens not coming home. Now, though? Now they knew the real reason, for all that she wished they didn't. "Ohgod," Autumn managed hoarsely, choking back the bile she could taste at the back of her throat. The nausea was as much a response to the sight itself, to the smell of the small flyblown corpses now that they were close enough, as to the pointless savagery of the cats' deaths and the haphazard disposal of their bodies. Even when hunting, the goal was supposed to be to make the kill as quick and painless as possible, to treat the animal with respect because it was going to feed you and keep you alive. This was... It was as wrong, in its way, as the oil-slick feeling of the air on her skin, or the burnt-sugar smell of those other woods. She shook her head as the reality of what Cass had told them about Not-Cody finally began to sink in. The instant she'd processed how brutally they'd been killed and casually disposed of, another, more gut-wrenching thought occurred to the horrified redhead: what if they were still- No. Nuh-uh. Absolutely fucking not, Autumn Keane. Not right now, because if you don't move your ass, you might find out for sure. Worry about it when you get what you need and both of you get the fuck out of here. It was hard to argue the logic. Grimacing at both the scene and the dull ache in the pit of her stomach, the redhead exhaled slowly and swallowed. Hard. They hadn't even gotten to the basement yet, and she wondered, not for the first time that day, what she was even doing. "Get a picture, and let's, um. Let's go." Turning back toward the door they'd come through, Autumn lingered just inside the room, waiting and listening to the quiet creaks of the near-century-old building. "Do you..." She hesitated, her voice barely more than a whisper. "Do you think Cody did this?"
  24. Meanwhile "How long is it for?" Sophia asked plaintively, with an understandable pout of her lower lip. After all, she had just gotten Charlie to be her boyfriend, and now he was going away. "Eight weeks." Charlie replied, his own feelings mixed on the matter. On the one hand, the exclusive theater and performing arts workshop camp that his father had sprung on him was a massive stepping stone for someone who wanted to make a career on the stage. It would look brilliant on his resume when time came to pick the right stage school post-graduation. On the other hand, he was leaving his girlfriend... and his friends to face unknowable peril and exciting adventures without him. "I go after Homecoming, and will be back before Thanksgiving, so it's not so bad." he said as much to himself as her. After all, he'd get to take Sophia to Homecoming - and he wouldn't be abandoning the team when they needed him most, taking down Cody and the Dark. After all, that had to happen before Homecoming, according to Cassie's vision. It was odd for Charlie to think of himself as the tank - though his Dwarven cleric in Sean's game was pretty resilient, he wasn't the frontline lynchpin of the group. But now real life had bestowed powers on Charlie that made him a literal combat monster - Devin's jokes about him being Zoidberg aside. That was an important role to play, and though he was as scared as any of the Fellowship - apart from Jase, he mentally appended - he was eager to be there for his friends. "I guess it's not so bad." Sophia grumped, snuggling up against him. The TV loaned it's flicker to the soft warm illumination of the lamps in the lounge, and the busty girl smiled, a naughty little smile, as she realised something. "Say, your mom is gone till Monday, right?" "Yeah." Charlie's attention was torn between the snuggling and the comedy special on the TV, so he was momentarily surprised as he felt nimble fingers tugging at his fly zipper. "Uh, something on your mind?" he asked with a grin starting on his lips. Sophia gave a soft, breathy giggle and leaned in, kissing him soundly. "Yeah. Making sure I'm on your mind when all those theater hoes start trying too hard." she murmured, kissing him again as she felt him stirring under her questing fingers. "Call it safeguarding my investment." she quipped as she lowered her head to his lap. "Investment?" Charlie asked, a laugh in his voice which swiftly faded as he felt her warm breath on his skin... Team Pluck The search of the ground floor had yielded nothing except more creeping unease. The sibilance of whispers seemed to be caught and echoed a little too readily by the derelict building , so the intrepid duo conversed in low murmurs. The rooms were all bare, not even old desks or furniture yielding up to the perfunctory search. The walls were the same patchy leprousness throughout, though here and there like ancient cave paintings were stick-figure drawings depicting disturbing images - at least, they were disturbing to Cassie and Autumn. Apparently no more than childish scrawls, in a variety of pigments, they were all variations on a single theme: A cluster of small stick figures, under... A larger stick figure with antlers growing from his head, standing before... A large, dark tree. In some of the drawings, the antlered figure seemed to be chasing the smaller figures. In others, the smaller ones seemed to be worshipping him. And in all the depictions of the tree, it was shown the same way: bare of branch, black, twisted, gnarled. Cassie realised that the drawings were all of varying ages, some more faded than others, as if drawn in different decades. She pointed this out to Autumn, who swallowed and nodded. "How old did you say this place was?" she asked. Cassie took a quick snapshot of one of the wall paintings before answering. "It was built in 1923. Before that, there was an old railway shed on this site. The town hall was supposed to put Shelly on the map, but like Jase pointed out in his mini-lecture, for some reason Shelly never boomed. Almost like someone didn't want it to." Autumn nodded, thinking of the possible suspects, all with their own reasons for keeping Shelly low-key. Heck, even her own family and the local Blackfeet might have preferred it that way. There were so many reasons to keep the world away from Shelly - but now with the Aeon Society on one hand and the mysterious Crossroads on the other, parts of the world had realised Shelly was unusual, which loaned an urgency to everything even without the imminent threat of a crazy possessed boy doing something horrible before Homecoming. A tour of the top floor yielded more of the same, the single-room loft office containing only cobwebs, mouse turds and, on the east wall, a larger version of the stick-figure paintings. This one had been made in a rusty brown pigment, and it wasn't until Cassie stepped closer that she realised that the source of the 'paint' was lying in a heap at the bottom of the wall. Cats. Several of them, dead as doornails with flies crawling on the dusty fur of their limp little bodies. They had been slashed open and the blood used as... as... Holy fucking shit, both teens thought with an almost identical urge to throw up rising in their stomachs.
  25. Cassandra nodded and whispered back, "The basement's where his...lair is, I guess. But yeah, lets take a look around before we head down there. When I was doing the vision quest thing, I didn't stop and look for details. But...well...I don't feel like Cody's here, but he could come back any time so lets not take too much time doing it." She started her phone camera recording, and swing her flashlight around a bit, checking to see how it was dealing with the low light. Not great...the 'image' was grainy at best, and most of the time was just not useful. When Cass flicked the flashlight on though, it worked fine...the beam landing nearly right on the center of the camera's field of view. It taken her forever to get that alignment right. The flashlight winked out again, but she left the recording running for audio. "Okay, room by room, we stick together. Lets start with this one." She motioned towards the room closest to their point of entry and moved towards its doorframe...testing each step before putting weight on it to try to minimize squeaking.
  26.  

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