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Fate: No Exit - [FATE Core] No Exit Episode 1: A Little Knowledge Is a Dangerous Thing...

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It started as just another day at the Westmarch living complex.

The fog off the river bank was thicker than normal. Not that there was ever a day the fog was thin, but on a relatively clear day, a resident in one of the higher floors could see the shoreline of the adjoining coast. Not today, however. Despite the fog, the air was only just crisp enough to invigorate those who lived there, not cold enough to chill.

It was an okay day. Most days were okay. For most of the people at the Westmarch living complex - just "the Complex" as it was commonly dubbed - okay days were all they needed. They'd had one too many of the bad. Okay would do for a while.

The Complex came with all the amenities the body and soul needed. If you needed something, it was ordered in, from the kiosk in the foyer. If you needed food, you could eat on site, at the coffee shop and restaurant that cooked just about everything and where the nice girl with the sad eyes put a happy face in the foam on your coffee if you looked distracted or depressed. There was an onsite doctor, there was the helpful operator on the other end of the telephone, a beautiful view, and plenty of time to think. Or just relax. Mostly relax.

Everything you needed was right here. Why would you leave?

Why would anyone?

* * *

OOC


* * *

Emanuel Francis

Emanuel's apartment was on the fifth floor. He had the windows open, because the thermostat was broken again. He found himself doodling on the back of an envelope, to pass the time. He'd ordered in food, and sipped his drink... not too quickly, because it was the time of day when the voices in the hall were raised, and he could hear them with a bit too much clarity if he was in the bathroom.

He gladly paid the extra charge to have food delivered, because he found himself hurrying a bit too quickly at times when he had to walk down the hallway. He was sure that the last time he'd done it (yesterday? Last week?) there was bright yellow police tape across a door and a red stain on the carpet. But he'd looked through his keyhole, and no, everything was fine.

People looked through their keyholes a lot on the fifth floor of the Complex.

As he took another sip, the mail slot flipped open, and deposited his mail on the carpet. The mail was typical. Bills, bills, bills. The last package through, however, was a brightly colored envelope, that caught his eye. He found his gaze drawn to its cover. He'd seen it before.

Westmarch Living Complex!

If You Lived Here You'd Be Home By Now!

You Won't Leave Here Unhappy. We Promise.™


He'd seen the brochure before, and that was enough to rouse suspicion, because why send him an invitation to live where he already lived? But that wasn't what drew his attention. What drew his attention was how the cover of the envelope was defaced. Words blacked out in felt pen, with little X's.

Westmarch Living Complex!

If You Lived XXXX You'd Be Home XX XXX!

You Won't Leave Here XXXXXXX. We Promise.™


The envelope, like all the others, was sealed. The others, however, were sealed with glue. This one had been cut opened and taped shut.

* * *

James Duncan

James Duncan didn't know if he had the best apartment in the Complex or not, but he liked to think that he did. A very tasteful couch that he took care not to spill anything on. A very tasteful poster of two women kissing - hey, it was art. A very tasteful bed with room for one (but fitting in two was twice the fun, wasn't it...?)

James had an eye for art, and he wanted that painting from out in the hall, the one with the creature with the head of a man, the paws of a lion, the body of a dragon and the tail of a scorpion. Every time he'd tried to buy it, however, the Management, that guy from the Management, what was his name... it wasn't important, the Management had politely declined. James sometimes opened up his door to stare at it. He liked looking towards the door, because he could swear that when his back was turned was when the whispering started.

People didn't turn their backs on their doors a lot, on the seventh floor of the Complex.

Today was the day James was going to get some writing done. Right after he took in the view, which he did. And read a few old Emails, which he did. And sorted through some old documents, which he was doing, and that's when he found the slip of paper, sticking out at an angle from one of the folders.

He pulled it out, and unfolded it, and stared at the picture of the wedding band, printed on the page. It was 18 karat gold. It had a large inset diamond, finely cut. It was valued at roughed $1,250 - up to $3,000 with its mated pair, since it was typically sold in pairs. He felt uncomfortably aware of the weight of the ring on his finger, which wasn't the picture on the page. The picture on the page was the ring that belonged to

DON'T THINK ABOUT HER

To someone. To someone important. It was appraised as a wedding band which didn't fit because... no, it fit. It fit, because

YOU KNOW WHAT HAPPENS IF YOU THINK ABOUT HER

Because he could feel one half of the set on his finger, and the other one was in his pocket. Where he'd put it every day since the

JAMES! OH GOD JAMES I

James felt the paper slip from his fingers. It drifted gently down to the floor. He knew, without looking, that the door to the hallway was behind him.

* * *

Uriel Arcadia

Uriel passed the time by breaking into his own apartment in his head.

It would be difficult. There wasn't much to hide behind. Uriel kept the walls clean and bare. Nice and boring. He liked boring. It was easy to hide in "exciting," but boring let you see it all... all little there was.

The hardest part would be getting inside from the outside. Forget a second story man, you'd need a sixth story man. Uriel had wanted an apartment on the seventh, since it'd be safer, but the voice on the other end of the phone insisted that he was on the right floor, and in the end Uriel decided that the sixth was safe enough. Even then, he was sure someone had been in here. He'd kept things as bland as possible to ensure that there was nowhere to hide a mistake, and he didn't see any mistakes. there was no evidence of any mistakes, no signs of entry, but still: Uriel knew that They had been in here. He just knew.

People said "I just know" a lot, on the sixth floor of the Complex.

Uriel walked past the carefully arranged pile of New Age brochures, pamphlets asking him to accept Christ as his savior, along with similar pleas for received salvation from Allah, from Cthulhu, from Santa Claus and from Superman. He kept them in such a way next to the door that a careless intruder would spill them. They'd never been spilt. He was sure they'd never been spilt. But still. He just knew.

He just knew.

When his celphone buzzed, he about leapt out of his skin. He pulled drawers open searching for it (why was he searching for it?) He dug it out of the junk drawer, and checked its screen.

You Have One (1) New Message

Uriel used his phone every day, didn't he? Except not any more. That's how they tracked you. He'd gotten one with a detachable battery and he swore he'd taken it out. He just couldn't remember when.

The voicemail message light blinked atop the phone, and with a slightly trembling thumb, Uriel pressed the green button.

"Mmmm, hey, Uriel - "

Uriel all but dropped the phone, but he kept his grip on it. The woman's voice continued. "Just calling you back. Just a casual callback. No pressure. But still. Last night. Mmm. You bad, bad boy. So I guess you know who this is, don't you? So listen, if you want to meet up again, you just call me up. Or maybe I'll call you. Maybe next time you can show me that thing you did with my handcuffs... oh, shift's starting. We'll talk later, okay? Ciao."

A "new message." Except he hadn't seen her in... in...

In forever.

Uriel stared at the phone's screen.

(DELETE) (CALL BACK) (SAVE)

* * *

Charles Volcov

Drip. Drip. Drip.

Charles was in the middle of one of his experiments. He was testing the hypothesis: just how much was a good night's sleep worth?

He hadn't slept well. He tried relaxation therapy. He tried looking out the window at the relaxing view of the river. He tried, to his own personal shame, meditation, humming to himself like an idiot. None of it had worked. He had tried stuffing the door to his bedroom with spare clothes and sheets to fill the cracks. No luck.

People didn't sleep too well, on the seventh floor of the Complex.

He'd gotten into an argument about the leaking faucet, again, like he'd done an infinite several times before. The voice had been patient at first, and then firm. And then, so firm, that he found himself growing quiet at her tone, finding himself asking if they could please come fix his faucet.

Drip. Drip. Drip.

They'd set someone up earlier today. The repairman was the nice fellow who walked in and out of the front gate with his lunch in hand every day. He'd smiled the whole time, while Volcov found himself at a loss. Usually he was a good judge of character and what hidden phobias lay half-covered in the shallow grave of someone's psyche. Not with the repairman. Not with Earnest, the elderly black man with white hair who always smiled. That smile was all Charles could read.

"I guarantee, Doctor Volcov - " Earnest always called Charles by his full title. "That's the last time water's going to drip out of that faucet."

He was lying. Charles couldn't prove it, but he knew it. He could feel it. He lied and he smiled and Charles shook his hand before he left. Earnest walked down the hallway, whistling as he went. Not a second after Charles shut the door, the whistling stopped.

He went back to organizing his research. Science marched on. The world needed sense made out of it. And there were so many mysteries to the mind left to unravel. So Charles pulled out his pen, and sat down, and -

Drip. Drip. Drip.

Charles about snapped the pen in half from squeezing it.

Drip. Drip. Drip.

It hadn't even been thirty seconds. The lying son of a bitch promised -

Drip. Drip. Tak.

At the sound, Charles stopped. He looked towards the kitchen.

Tak.

He stood up. He walked slowly towards the sink, feeling tingling along his skin building with each step, the hairs standing up.

Tak.

He reached the sink, and looked in, and didn't believe what he was seeing. In the midst of the small puddle formed by a few drops of water, sat three small white pills.

His hand only shaking slightly, he reached out and picked one up. He looked at the half-melted lettering stamped into it. Loxitane.

He'd seen the name before, though it was called "loxapine" when he'd written it out, because that was the generic drug name, and he always wrote the generic name when prescribing a drug. It was an anti-psychotic. The kind of pill you gave to someone who was prone to holding a knife to other people's throats.

Tak. Another pill fell out of the faucet head.

It was the case that had made him famous, back when he could do no wrong.

* * *

OOC
You are now partially awakened, and are in control of your own actions.

For all the good it may do you.
Edited by Mike From Nowhere
Episode One is concluded. Episode Two soon.

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Uriel blinked, trying to understand this ghostly-seeming message from the past. Josephina, that first night, or rather, the morning after the first night. It had been...so indefinably long. He turned and looked at the picture, still there, framed on the windowsill, though he still could swear it had moved a bit, like it was pushed or nudged.

,,

That in turn, let to another creeping echo, this time, a voice in his mind that was his own... Well, this should only be a week or two.

,,

That was right, Uriel could swear he'd only be... thinking or staying, whatever it was, for a short time. How long had he been there? Curious with a edge tinted by paranoia, he went to the phone and dialed. "This is Uriel Arcadia, sixth floor. How long have I been at the Complex?"

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Dr. Volcov grimaced down into the sink and delicately picked up the pills. One never knew when prescription anti-psychotics would come in handy. He rattled the faucet back and forth to see if anything else impossible was forthcoming. It must have been Earnest. That was the only rational explanation.

,,

He stared out at the mist. A walk. He used to take walks, didn't he? That would clear his head, of course. Once certain his faucet held no more surprises he began making his way toward the lobby.

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James' hand clenched reflexively, crushing the appraisal like the piece of paper it was. With the pain came a moment of clarity. Why the hell do I stay here if it's driving me crazy? Immediately the answer occurred to him in the dry, cynical voice of the writer within. Then again, it's a shorter ride than sane would be, and the view's a hell of a lot more interesting. He snorted at that, and uncrinkled the paper. He heard the whispering from the door, siblant and slanderous.

,,

The urge to yank the door open and demand to know who was saying those things was strong. Confront! Challenge! DO YOU KNOW WHO I AM?!

,,

But having that appraisal paper in his hand, his wife's ring photographed at the top, weighed him down to the floor. He couldn't move to the door. Thin and fragile, that paper seemed suddenly massive to him, more solid and real than anything else in the room, including himself. As if it had been crafted from the degenerate matter at the heart of a neutron star and weighed a billion pounds per square inch.

,,

She hated it when he called her 'Ira.' Hated it in the giggly sort of way that people SAY they hate things they really find kind of endearing. Irene.

,,

James, in his fictional guise as 'Damien Drake' had once told an interviewer that he wrote because he was a deviant; a masochist and exhibitionist. Like everything Damien said, it was exactly true. Damien never lied, even if he was rarely completely clear...because the truth was always scarier than something made up.

,,

It was that masochism now that convinced James to keep his back to the door. Let them talk. Let them lie. Maybe his publisher would listen, or his friends, and maybe that would be terrible for him. Maybe he even hoped that would happen. The tall house of cards that was his life would tumble and fall, and he'd ride the one on the top, the Ace of Spades, all the way down laughing like Slim Pickens in Dr. Strangelove.

,,

So he ignored the whispers this time, and turned his back on the lies. Instead James trailed his fingertips over the image of the ring on the page, then with a sudden decisiveness, jammed that hand into his pocket to grasp the real article in his pocket like an extremely poorly-cast understudy for the part of Frodo Baggins. The gold band was like that page, heavier than anything real had any right to be, and somehow warm as if it had just been held for a long time in someone's hand immediately before he grabbed it.

,,

Hurt me he begged the paper, the ring, the memory...reality. Make me as real as you are.

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James Duncan

,,

They took their time, for once. They left James alone with the black thoughts that sat in his head every day. He felt the weight of the ring in his hand, and he could all but reach out and touch her hand. But they came. Voices talking behind his back.

,,

it's his real name, he had it legally changed

,,

It was as if the whole floor waited until he was turned away, before it started.

,,

he wasn't even in the car when it happened

,,

An entire floor made of lies, just waiting for him to look away before it started spreading itself around.

,,

he turned down the advance and gave it all away

,,

James looked down at the appraisal paper and remembered the bills that didn't go away no matter how much he stared at them and drank, and all but laughed. Who the hell would give away that much money? Sometimes the voices didn't even try.

,,

Usually they didn't sting. His skin was too thick. Today however...

,,

she'd be proud of who he is now

,,

Today was different.

,,
OOC

James may, if his player chooses, hear part of or all of the conversation between Charles and Earnest should he be close enough to the door to hear out of it. Unless he likes what the whispers have to say...

,,

Charles Volcov

,,

As Charles emerged into the hallway, he regarded the painting on the wall, in clear view of all the tenant's doors - the man-dragon-scorpion-lion thing, which always seemed slightly askew. He spotted Earnest straightening it. As Earnest stepped back and regarded his handiwork, he caught sight of Charles, and smiled.

,,

"Well now. Pleased to see you, Doctor Volcov. I'd say I didn't mean to wake you, but..." He smiled. "Well, why lie. Especially here."

,,

Earnest started towards the stairwell. "You take care, Doctor Volcov. I got a feeling today's going to be one of those days."

,,

Charles looked towards the elevator - the sign reading Out of Service - then back towards the stairwell door that Earnest's hand was reaching towards.

,,

Normally Charles would be content to merely observe the man's odd behavior, jotting down notes in his head...

,,

But today was different.

,,
OOC

Charles is out of his apartment and cannot invoke or be compelled by the Aspects therein. Instead, the seventh floor has the following Aspects:

  • They're All Out To Get You
  • Lies Will Save You
,,

Uriel Arcadia

,,

"This is the Operator. How may we help you, sir?"

,,

Uriel asked his question, stealing a furtive glance towards the screen of his phone. It read one (1) new message, and a full battery.

,,

"One moment, sir. I'm looking that up."

,,

Uriel still felt the same as he remembered. He didn't remember any birthdays, at least. He'd have remembered having everyone over. He didn't remember having anyone over... mostly, granted, because there was no one to have over. He didn't have many friends.

,,

"I'm sorry, sir, can I ask you to bear with me a minute longer?"

,,

At that, the phone's screen glitched out for a second. When it returned, Uriel had texts.

,,

THEY'RE STALLING URIEL

,,

The battery's indicator read 85%. Then, suddenly, 75%.

,,

THEY'LL NEVER TELL YOU URIEL

,,

65%. Now 60%.

,,

"Sir, I'm afraid we've had a little bit of a system crash here..."

,,

THEY KNOW YOU WON'T LIKE THE ANSWER URIEL

,,

"... and I can't pull your records up right now."

,,

Now 40%. Now 30%.

,,

THAT'S WHY THEY NEVER ANSWER YOU EVERY TIME YOU ASK

,,

AND YOU ASK SO MANY TIMES

,,

"You're on the sixth floor, aren't you, Mister Arcadia? I can call you back."

,,

MOST DAYS THEY JUST STALL AND WAIT FOR YOU TO FALL ASLEEP AGAIN URIEL

,,

"In the meantime, how about you have a seat and relax? Enjoy the view. It's gorgeous today."

,,

BUT TODAY IS DIFFERENT ISN'T IT

,,

Uriel stared at the text, then the phone glitched again, and they were gone, leaving only the message from her.

,,

(DELETE) (CALL BACK) (SAVE)

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Like in a trance the architect walked back to his desk. Although his latest project had grown into the kind of obsession he was used to (when did he do all this detail work? how long did this take?), the area at the center blow the lamp was immaculately clean. He placed the envelop on the table and took a seat. His thoughts honed in on this artifact of paper and pigments, bleeding away the color from all his surroundings. Those simple 'X's had cut through his existence here like a scalpel. His X-Acto knife was in his hand, all of the sudden in a latex glove. Who had given it to him?

4 - 2 3 - 7

This called for a list. Tip of the fountain pen sang on the heavy paper as he outlined the stages of his investigation:

  1. Cut away the tape, carefully. Check for finger prints.
  2. Was the envelop sealed before it was reopened and taped shut? Had someone licked it?
  3. Carefully extract what is inside.
  4. Keep the envelop for later. Check stamp for UV ink. Try to read the date.
  5. Document contents of envelop on a new list.
  6. Plan further investigation. List.

He had been blind. Maybe he had needed to be blind for a while. But that time was over, wasn't it. What was hidden would be uncovered. The 'X's had made sure of that. But what did they hide themselves?

Here - by now - unhappy

That sounded about right, didn't it?

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Emanuel Francis

,,
OOC
,,
Mike *rolls* 4d6: 5+5+4+2: 16
[Jordan] 11:18 pm: Witnessed
[Jordan] 11:18 pm:
[Mike] 11:18 pm: Two plusses, one minues, total +1.
With Emanuel's Investigation bonus of +2, that brings us to 3. If Emanuel wishes, he can spend a FATE point to invoke a relevant Aspect.
Emanuel carefully studies the envelope. Whoever had done this had been careful not to leave any prints, and there were no signs of UV watermarks. The date from the postmark was unusual, in that it was entirely absent.
It had been sealed conventionally before, by an automated mailer, showing none of the signs of a hand-sealed envelope. The cut, by contrast, was obvious, as was the tape.
Emanuel carefully extracted the contents, and he felt his pulse quicken. It was the same kind of pamphlet that he'd gotten about living at the Westmarch Living Complex, except it had been defaced. Scrawled all over it in ugly black felt marker were the same words, over and over:
MANAGEMENT LIES
THERE IS NO EXIT
Then Emanuel got to the page with the floorplan, which had been torn out. In its place was a crude black and white photocopy of something that couldn't exist, because the blueprints to that building were in a sealed safe at the company he'd designed the building for. It was the layout for one of his finest buildings, tasteful and efficient, with every window catching a pleasant view. And he knew, he knew​, that it couldn't be the layout of the Complex, because he had an eye for that sort of thing, and he knew that this room was different. It felt like home, but still, it was...
... about six inches longer than it was yesterday, come to think of it. He could swear it was.
Normally Emanuel would write that off as the product of a tired mind.
But today was different.

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Uriel blinked every time the phone did, wondering more and more how his phone was being - hacked, tampered, something...? But yet, he couldn't deny the message. The Operator's response just had the air of stalling. Classic situation. The key was to recognize they were, go along with it, and then find another angle. "Any time, sure."

,,

He hung up and looked at the screen one last time. Wouldn't he have remembered asking so often? But something, something was wrong here. Today was different yet. Uriel had to understand what was going on. Were they afraid he'd leave? They couldn't stop him if he chose to depart the Complex, couldn't they?

,,

But that would be a bit overt. Uriel tapped a command on his phone...

,,

(SAVE)

,,

...as a reminder that something was going on. And then he turned if off too. Except this failsafe - he just instinctively knew he needed it to be one - had to be hidden somewhere. Now his preparations against intrusion worked against him... this would have to just require a bit more forethought and hands on effort.

,,
Rolls
Deceit if it is required to not let the Operator know something's up.

Jeremy *rolls* 4d3: 3+2+1+1-8: -1

-1 + 4 = Result +3


Stealth to hide the phone.

Jeremy *rolls* 4d3: 1+3+1+1-8: -2

-2 + 3 = Result +1

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OOC
Empathy Roll to Resist Uriel's Deceit: -1 + 2 = 1.
Uriel succeeds; the operator is none the wiser.
Investigation to find the phone later on: 1.
Uriel succeeds with a minor cost; for now, the phone is safe. However, to best hide it from cellphone scanners, Uriel has to detach the battery and keep it separate - meaning if he needs it in a pinch, it'll take time to boot up. (I'm letting Uriel know about this because he'd have to.)
"Of course, sir. Be seeing you." The Operator hung up.
Uriel stashed the phone and its battery safely away. Once he was reasonably sure that no one was about to bust down his door, he found the time to figure out what to do next.

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James turned back towards the door, words of retort forming in his mind to snarl out his mouth. Then maybe she shouldn't have...

,,

But then he stopped, his snarl turning to slack-jawed disbelief. The voices outside his door weren't whispers. They were normal people's voices. And he recognized one. He'd never forget that calm, slightly oily voice asking question after question, making observations that always seemed somehow snide, even if you could never quite isolate why.

,,

But that was impossible!

,,

He went to the door to his room and opened it, eyes opened wide still in startled refusal to accept what they were going to see; what he KNEW they were going to see even before he spied Charles there across the hall talking to some workman or something.

,,

"Volkov," he said flatly. Then it dawned on him, and he laughed his bitter little laugh and clapped his hand to his forehead.

,,

"Really? You actually managed to find me here? Am I going to have to get a court order?"

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"One of those days. Yes." Dr. Volcov's tone was distant but his eyes bored into Ernest's head. "I will be following you down stairs now. Perhaps you would like to talk about your work? How does one become a handyman at an establishment like this?"

,,

He we stepping toward the exit when he heard his name. He recognized the voice instantly and, for a split second, allowed a look of bewilderment to cross his face. He squelched that before he turned.

,,

"Mister Duncan? What a pleasant surprise." He didn't sound pleasant at all. Curious, but not pleased. "I readily admit I would have sought you out eventually if it were still within my purview but this is merely a happy... indeed an unprecedented coincidence."

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OOC
James has now left his apartment and the Aspects therein no longer apply. Instead, the seventh floor has the following Aspects:
  • They're All Out To Get You
  • Lies Will Save You
,,

"How'd I become one? Oh, you know how it is. One of those things you just fall into."

,,

At the emergence of James from his apartment, Earnest nodded at the writer. "You two know each other? Small world. I'll let you two catch up." He lowered his voice a bit. "And when you're done catching up, ask yourself if you feel any different than before."

,,

With that, he opened the door. Charles stepped towards him, then stopped to look at James... who, in turn, found himself looking at the painting on the wall.

,,
FATE Point Aspect Compel

James, I'm going to Compel your Aspect "I Don't Know Art But I Know What I Like," to have James drawn towards the painting to the point he can't look away for a few crucial moments. If you accept this invoke, I will give you a FATE point; alternately, if you choose to ignore this compel you can pay a FATE point.

,,

Likewise, Charles, I'm going to Compel your Amoral Curiosity towards James and what he's staring at (the painting.) The same applies; you may gain a FATE point by accepting the Compel, or you may pay a FATE point to reject it.

,,

The choice, and the consequences, are yours.

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OOC
Invoke Aspect "People are complex tools, but infinitely useful if you know how to wield them." to reveal more about who and/or why someone sent the note. He gets into the mind of that person and goes through every motion that person would have done to change the pamphlet.

The floor plan in his hands could not match the complexes. The very concept was absurd. He would dispel it right after finishing the investigation of the mysterious package.

He had welcomed his stay here. The noises and voices he had accepted with a numbness that was quite uncharacteristic for Emanuel Francis. But today was different. He felt anger welling up in him. Someone would have to pay for this. He took a good hard look at his lodgings. It had been a comforting cocoon. Yet in this new light it presented itself as the innards of some monstrosity. He had been swallowed hole, and without a struggle. Yes, he would find someone that would pay. And soon.

The flame of anger burning in him, he would foster it.

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James glanced at the workman with a thunderous frown...who the hell did he think he was saying something like that?...but in doing so he caught sight of that damn picture again. It was ironic maybe, given his choice of careers, but James always had a sort of instinctive feel for the unconscious language of images. They slipped under the watchful gaze of his superego and went straight to the seething cauldron of the id for him.

,,

The painting...a manticore if he recalled his Freakish Mythological Beasts correctly...was fascinating in its unbridled awfulness. Not awful in its craft, but in the details of how it revealed the monster. As someone who's stock in trade was crafting monstrous, frightening images, he loved it. But it was a hateful kind of love. Like now, for example...he felt like it was looking at him, even though its eyes were clearly looking up off the corner of the canvas. And it was always crooked. That was the worst of it. No matter how often he'd seen it straightened...and it had BEEN straight when he'd stepped out and seen Volkov, he was sure of it...it was always crooked again shortly afterwards.

,,

It was like the thing in the painting had actual weight, and that weight was off-center, pulling it always a little to the side.

,,

His eyes roved back to the monster's face, and no, it being crooked wasn't the worst part after all.

,,

The teeth were the worst part. Had it always had that many? Had it always been grinning that widely?

,,

Abruptly James wrenched his eyes away back to the 'doctor.' Volkov. This was his fault. Just a few minutes in his presence, and suddenly he was jumping at shadows and paintings.

,,

"If you're thinking about moving in," he said, grumbled really, but then trailed off. What? What did he want to advise Volkov to do, or not to do? Was he going to threaten? Plead? Warn? Warn of what?

,,

"...just keep clear of me," James finally finished lamely. He closed his door behind him and started to pass by the psychologist in the hall. Air. He needed air. And water, or something with water in it. Not much water though. Not much at all.

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Dr. Volcov's eyes ticked toward the painting as James's did. But then they fell back on his former patient. The harried look in his eyes told the doctor all he needed to know. James Duncan was still an interesting subject.

,,

"Actually I've been living here for.." he squinted, unused to his memory failing him "..for some time. It's a surprise we haven't come across one another before now. We should catch up." The almost genial tone of voice he used was at odds with the probing look he gave James as he spoke. "It is better to be on speaking terms with one's neighbors don't you think? I was about to head out for a walk. You look like some fresh air might do you some good as well." He gestured toward the door to the stairs.

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Emanuel Francis

,,
OOC
You spend the FATE point and gain +2 to your roll, which is a Success With Style. You now have two FATE points.
,,

Emanuel held up the envelope, turning it this way and that.

,,

The intent seemed to be to provoke a reaction in him. Tying his work into this building he was in, the scrawlings on the pamphlet, the X'ed out letters, and most damningly, opening the envelope and resealing it with tape.

,,

It was a standard glue envelope. They could have held it next to a humidifier and opened it without a fuss. The tape job was sloppy and obvious... and, obviously, obvious on purpose. They wanted him to know that they could get this to him.

,,

Someone wanted him to react to it. They wanted it to shock him.

,,

Now, who? That was another question.

,,

James Duncan & Charles Volkov

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OOC
Both James and Charles gain a FATE point. James now has three (3.) Charles now has four (4.)
,,

James and Charles had been so wrapped up in the painting and James' reaction to it that they didn't notice the door shutting until the click of the lock. They turned, and Earnest was gone, having left through the service exit.

,,

The elevator was out of service. That left the conventional stairs. Both James and Charles remembered the cafe and coffee shop on the ground floor, the Daily Java. They'd eaten there before. They felt their memories become sharper as they remembered their time together... not perfectly by any stretch, but the stupor had left them somewhat.

,,

They both knew, they both felt it: something was off.

,,

This building wasn't right.

,,

Both James and Charles have achieved a level of Clarity due to their proximity to each other and the resultant triggered memories. Their Clarity rank is +1. Full details on how this special skill works in No Exit are detailed here.

,,

In addition, there is a new version of FATE Core. These are the changes. More info here.

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Uriel gave it some thought, as he tucked away the battery into a pocket. Something was wrong, he was sure. But the question was what, and how deeply spread was it. Feeling a hint of thirst, he decided to exit his room, taking one look back through the doorway to remind himself that nobody was in. Sit around, hide his intentions, and look around with new eyes.... starting at the Cafe.

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"We're not neighbors," James informs Dr. Volkov crisply. "Even if you live here in this building, even if you live on this FLOOR...we are not neighbors. That word does not just mean people who live near each other. It implies a certain degree of friendship which is entirely lacking between us. Just so we're clear."

,,

He shakes his head and starts stalking away, then pauses and looks back, a little furrow of dawning confusion on his brow. "You must be new though. I mean, there's always a big production when someone moves in. Boxes and movers and...all of that. Except..."

,,

Except that does make sense. If he's new, I'd remember seeing the movers. If he's been here for awhile, I'd have bumped into him before. I'm out and about quite a bit, after all.

,,

Was he? Wasn't he? Surely he didn't just sit in his room all day...no, he remembered the cafe, remembered...all kinds of things outside his room.

,,

Reluctantly James looked back at Volkov, eyes crinkled in consternation. Just looking at his face brought anger bubbling to the surface. But the anger seemed to clear the haze in his head a bit. It was easier to focus with it.

,,

"This doesn't make any sense," he said with finality. "You can't BE here. Not without me knowing it. What the hell is this?"

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The Doctor smiled, almost chuckling, at James's initial outburst. His levity vanished quickly as he continued to listen. "It is a bit unusual, isn't it? I assure you, if I had been aware of your presence you would have known about it. There's something more than a little wrong here. Just recently I saw.."

,,

He fell silent and reached into his pocket, making certain the pills were still there.

,,

"..never mind. To get to the point, I think it might be to our mutual advantage to become more neighborly. I can't help you if I can't typify your environment and mental state and I'm not entirely certain of my own at the moment."

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Uriel Arcadia

,,
OOC
Uriel has left his apartment and cannot call on the Aspects therein. The sixth floor of the Complex has the following Aspects:
  • You're Always Right
  • Someone's Behind It All

The floor Uriel's apartment was on was somewhat quiet, though her could hear his neighbor with the TV turned up too loud, with a blowhard shock jock ranting about how clearly it had been an inside job using holograms, and his guest agree that clearly it was an inside job, but the planes were real and their pilots were merely under mental control.

,,

Stuffed in each doorjamb, including his own, was another pamphlet. He got a lot of them proclaiming some secret truth behind it all. This one must have just been added. It had a crude drawing of a lizard creature with a royal crown on top of its head, and proclaimed that the Royal Family of Great Britain and the President of the United States were lizard people.

,,

He looked at the elevator, which was out of service, and the notice next to it.

,,

gallery_673_56_1915.png

The stairs were right next to the elevator. If he wanted to, he could take them down to ground level. They seemed okay.

,,

James Duncan & Charles Volcov

,, ,,

You seem to be doing okay together for the moment, so I'll leave you both alone unless and until you decide to interact with the environment or an NPC.

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Uriel Arcadia

Uriel ignored the paranoia of his own floor, and made his way downstairs.

OOC
Uriel makes his way down to the Lobby. It has the following Aspects:
  • Management is Watching
  • We Have What You Need

Uriel emerged into the lobby of the Complex.

There was a desk marked Security that was currently unmanned, yet Uriel didn't feel like he'd have an easy time running a game on the place. There was a single entrance with a single revolving door, and across from the inoperative elevators was a bank of mailboxes with tenant names. There was also the cafe, the Daily Java, which was a combination bar, coffee shop, restaurant and general store.

There was also the Kiosk, a touchscreen device that people used to have packages delivered and to do online shopping. It could also access simple Management services. For less simple Management services, there was the Management Office, a simple oak door that he could never recall seeing open.

The girl at the Daily Java - what was her name? Angie? - saw Uriel, and waved.

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The Doctor smiled, almost chuckling, at James's initial outburst. His levity vanished quickly as he continued to listen. "It is a bit unusual, isn't it? I assure you, if I had been aware of your presence you would have known about it. There's something more than a little wrong here. Just recently I saw.."

,,

He fell silent and reached into his pocket, making certain the pills were still there.

,,

"..never mind. To get to the point, I think it might be to our mutual advantage to become more neighborly. I can't help you if I can't typify your environment and mental state and I'm not entirely certain of my own at the moment."

,,

James' eyes narrowed slightly. It wasn't what Volkov had said...it was what he hadn't said. What he'd almost said.

,,

"Recently you saw...what?" he pressed. The Doctor had never showed a crack or chink before; the idea that there was something here that he wasn't comfortable with...it was both profoundly disturbing and fascinating. The offer to help he ignored. He'd had MORE than enough of Doctor Volkov's brand of help. "Something that bothers you? I thought you'd seen it all, doc. What could get you of all people, tongue-tied?"

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Emanuel Francis felt the walls closing in on him. He had to get out of here. But he did not want to get away from the new-found revelation. The wrongness of his surroundings was palpable. It was time to take another step. The core of the building would have to be laid bare. That sounded like the right way to go. Location of load-bearing elements would be best identified in the spacious lobby.

He grabbed a clipboard with immaculate, heavy paper and his pen.

Only after the door had fallen in its lock behind him, he realized that he had been holding his breath, like wading into surf.

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Emanuel Francis

,,
OOC
Emanuel has left his apartment and cannot invoke the Aspects therein. The fifth floor of the Complex has the following Aspects:
  • Blood Is In The Air

  • Violence is So Easy


,,

Emanuel felt his pulse quicken as he set foot outside his apartment.

,,

There was a metallic tang to the smells in the air, exacerbated by the thermostat being up too high again. He caught, out of the corner of his eye, one of his neighbors peeking at him through a half-ajar door - which quickly shut, and Emanuel could hear the telltale sound of a deadbolt.

,,

The carpet had ancient stains that were dark brown in hue. He remembered, vaguely, the trash room on this floor being even worse, but that wasn't his destination. He looked towards the elevator, and swallowed thickly.

,,

It was out of order, and Emanuel could see why - the door had been dented, and dented severely, and it smelt of freshly sprayed antiseptic. The dent in the elevator door looked like a cannonball or a sledgehammer or a human head had been rammed into it.

,,

The stairs, however, were available. Emanuel could descend to the lobby if he so wished.

,,

Uriel Arcadia

,,

No response yet, so holding.

,,

James Duncan & Charles Volcov

,,

Still mostly interacting with just each other, so holding.

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Hastily Emanuel Francis opened the door to the staircase. He had forgotten how bad the hallway was.

What had felt like a push forwards to unravel the truth now was tinged with an edge of primal fear.

But today he would not shrink back in his flat. Today he would bring back answers. And his gut feeling told him that he would find some in the lobby. So he pressed on.

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James' eyes narrowed slightly. It wasn't what Volkov had said...it was what he hadn't said. What he'd almost said.

,,

"Recently you saw...what?" he pressed. The Doctor had never showed a crack or chink before; the idea that there was something here that he wasn't comfortable with...it was both profoundly disturbing and fascinating. The offer to help he ignored. He'd had MORE than enough of Doctor Volkov's brand of help. "Something that bothers you? I thought you'd seen it all, doc. What could get you of all people, tongue-tied?"

,,

"The plumbing. Strange business with the plumbing. And things not adding up quite right in general. You being here, for example." His eyes narrowed, his voice lowered. "I could almost believe I was being subjected to some sort of test."

,,

Just as quickly his coldly professional demeanor returned, "At any rate, I need to step outside. Come along and we can discuss what came out of my faucet. Or we could chat later perhaps, if my presence doesn't agitate you too much."

,,

Dr. Volcov frowned at the service door where Ernie had vanished and stepped toward the stairs.

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James' eyes followed Volkov's to the service door briefly, then locked back on the Doc. His presence DID agitate him...but there was a weird sort of quality to that agitation that made it almost welcome. It was like waking up. It was a FEELING, something real. Without thinking about it, he put his hand in his pocket to touch the ring.

,,

Would he have stepped outside his room today if he hadn't seen that form? Or would he have sat down at his desk and lost himself in his writing again, never noticing the sounds outside?

,,

Writing? Is that what I've been doing? I thought I said I'd stop.

,,

Suddenly filling the time with talk about the plumbing problems of a man he despised seemed like an okay way to go. For now at least.

,,

"I was planning to get something from the cafe regardless," he said coolly. "I'm not going to change my mind just because you're going." After just a moment, because even under the circumstances he had an inquisitive mind, James added, "What's so scary that came out of your faucet? Blood? The accusations of your victims? Healthcare reform legislation?"

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Emanuel Francis, James Duncan & Charles Volcov

OOC
All of you are in the Lobby now. It has the following Aspects:
  • Management Is Watching
  • We Have What You Need

Emanuel, James and Charles made their way to the ground floor without incident, though Emanuel did feel his pulse quicken slightly at the sound of footsteps behind him.

Emanuel arrived first, followed by Charles and James. There was a desk marked Security that was currently unmanned. There was a single entrance with a single revolving door, and across from the inoperative elevators was a bank of mailboxes with tenant names. There was also the cafe, the Daily Java, which was a combination bar, coffee shop, restaurant and general store. There was also the Kiosk, a touchscreen device that people used to have packages delivered and to do online shopping. It could also access simple Management services. For less simple Management services, there was the Management Office, a simple oak door that he could never recall seeing open. The girl at the Daily Java - what was her name? Angie? - was waving as someone...

Then that someone noticed the newcomers. And those who had cause to remember, did remember.

Then gently, there was the patter of raindrops on glass, as the clouds burst and it started to rain outside.

Feel free to narrate your descent travel down the staircase - you won't run into each other until you hit the lobby and you won't discover anything new. I'm fast-forwarding a bit to get everyone in the same place.

You may now converse as freely as you think you can get away with.

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Uriel paused to wave back at Angie, politely and quickly, before he turned... now this was getting ridiculous. One of the three down there he recognized, one he doubted would ever appear at this place. Volcov had been a good client, despite breaking off his business when times got tough. And Uriel had heard something of the man's disgrace - but Charles Volcov had always seemed the type to go off instead and play underground mad scientist.

,,

Uriel cracked a small grin as he locked eyes with the doctor then the architect, then turned and went over to Angie. Was Volcov involved in this suspicious activity with the Complex? It fitted... or he could be an ally valuable enough... if he knew what any inkling of what was going on.

,,

Also, Emmanuel Francis was an odd wild card, to say the least.

,,

"Hello, Angie. I'll have a cup of coffee, decaf, and skim milk please."

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"Antipsychotics." Dr. Volcov didn't seem to register James's sarcasm but answered his question as they descended the stairs. "Solid pills. They fell out of the faucet after the repairman left. Even the most obvious answer, that he inserted them while he was working, raises unfortunate questions. And I am not convinced the most obvious answer is the correct one."

,,

Dr. Volcov stopped after stepping into the lobby and squinted with one eye as he recognized Uriel. After an awkward moment of skepticism he nodded with recognition, though his expression remained impenetrably grim. He wasn't happy to see Uriel. Not for personal reasons but because meeting him and James at essentially the same time by accident was very unlikely and all possible alternatives extremely displeasing.

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"Decaf and skim, got it." Angie drew from the tap, the coffee machine making gurgling noises as it shuddered slightly. She twisted the cup this way and that, and handed it to him.

,,

There was a happy face drawn into the foam with a mustache on it.

,,

At his glance, she shrugged. "You look a little troubled." She waved to another customer. "The usual, Lana?"

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"Sure, sure, sure." The new arrival was a middle aged woman who seemed all but ready to fold in on herself, eyes half-open and arms clasped across her chest. Silently, she waited for her coffee. When Angie handed it to her, Lana just nodded.

,,

"Don't be a stranger, Lana!"

,,

"Sure, sure, sure." Lana turned, walking towards a table, carrying the cup as if it were solid gold.

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"What else would it be?" James said as he went over to the counter, ignoring the stranger standing there and not giving Lana a second glance as she cruised by cradling her coffee.

,,

"Morning," he said to the girl behind the counter, because he wasn't 100% sure of her name. Angelina? Eh. "Double-shot espresso, light on the foam. Thanks."

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Emanuel Francis had come down here to draw a map from the maze he somehow was sure he was at the middle of. Instead he seemed to have run straight into another kind of trap.

This guy - what was his name? Oh yes, Uriel Arcadia - did have some very specific wishes concerning the security in his apartment in one of the buildings Francis had designed. Was that the building the floor plan of which was send to him this morning? Are we playing games, Mr. Arcadia?

They hadn't met the writer in person, but recognized him from the back of a book he had picked up on an airport years ago. Long before James Duncan had tried to milk Fancis' professional and personal misery for his so-called art.

,,

Right now he didn't feel ready to talk to people. He would circle the room and get a feel for it, before someone would walk over and engage him.

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"You got it, James." Angie drew from the tap, the coffee machine gurgling gently. She skimmed the foam off the top, filling it up some more, then handed it to him. "This ought to wake you up, huh?"

Meanwhile, Emanuel paced the breadth and width of the lobby with care. Everything seemed okay - that feeling of nervous unease he got from his apartment was significantly lessened here. Still...

OOC

[Mike] 3:41 pm: Rolling for Emanuel

Mike *rolls* 4d6: 1+4+2+2: 9

That's three minuses and a Neutral, so Emanuel's Investigation roll (bonus +2) currently stands at -1. He is rolling against Great opposition.

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Uriel paused, took the cup and gave it a light sip, letting the drink warm his throat before he sought out one person whom he - cautiously - intended to sound out for intelligence... and possible assistance. Volcov, if he wasn't involved in the secrets already, was the kind of man who would investigate because he could.

,,

"Doctor Volcov, I didn't expect you to be staying here as well."

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As Uriel approached Volcov, Angie came out from behind her counter and approached the woman she'd called Lana. "Are you all finished?"

"Sure, sure, sure." Lana peered at the bottom of the emptied cup.

,,

"Okay. Can I have the cup back?"

,,

A pause. Then: "No, no, no."

,,

"Lana..." Angie sighed. "C'mon. Give it back."

,,

"No, no, no."

,,

"It's store property - please - "

,,

"NO! NO! NO!" Lana shouted in Angie's face with sudden, all but feral anger, driving the younger woman back. "NO! NO! NO!"

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James quickly stepped in between the two ladies, holding his hands out to try to avoid actual fighting. His own cup was still in his right hand with a thin layer of cooling brown liquid sloshing around at the bottom.

,,

"Hey! Hey...everyone calm down. Angie, lets cool it with the cup for a second. This woman is clearly...very into it."

,,

He looked at Lana queryingly. "Ease up. No one's taking the cup from you right now, okay? What's got you so worked up over a coffee cup though, I have to ask."

,,

There might have been more, but at that moment he caught sight of a man behind Lana, skulking around the edges of the room; circling like a buzzard. A man he recognized.

,,

Jesus Christ, it's that architect...the one who's building fell over. What the hell is HE doing here?

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The Doctor nodded at Uriel. The initial tension drained from his face. It was easy to believe that he was taking the surprise in stride. "Mr. Arcadia, how... interesting to meet you here. I've just met another old friend. It seems we've been neighbors for some time. Have you been here long? Apparently is's uncannily possible for people to miss one another in the halls..."

,,

He glanced over at Lana as she began to cry out. There was genuine interest on his face but no hint of concern. He bit his lip as James moved to intervene. A full breakdown would make diagnosis much easier. Just asking what the problem was outright felt like cheating.

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This was too confusing. Where these men staying in the same building he was? That couldn't be coincidence. Maybe they just stopped by to play tricks on Francis Emanuel. He looked around to see something to give him a hint. Would he find the names Arcadia and Duncan (was that his real name, pulp writer that he was?) on or near the package station he spotted on the other side of the coffee cup drama. He moved over there without hiding, just staying out of any conversations he was not ready for yet.

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