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

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She was breathing hard, hot flashes of panic racing through her body as she tore through the apartment. She shoved boxes out of the way, even ripping them open as her mind blazed past coherent thought to purely livid instinct of a mother searching for her child. "Daniel!" She knew yelling wouldn't help, probably. Maybe if she'd yell loud enough he'd hear her and cry. She'd been through the apartment twice now and he was still gone. She slammed out her front door and into the hallway, crying and still calling out his name. "Daniel Bashir!"

,,

The hallway seemed to pitch to the side and she was sliding along a wall, sobbing and trying to think through panic and adrenaline. She needed to call the police. She'd done something to her phone. She needed a new phone. She didn't care right now that all the neighbors whispered about her and made up their own stories about why she was a single mother. She didn't care about the disapproving looks or the callous indifference or the sleazy come-ons because she must be 'easy' if she got knocked up and didn't have a ring on her finger. Her son was missing and that was all that mattered right now.

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She stumbled forward, trying to use the wall to hold her up and get her to the next apartment door she could see. She pounded on the door as hard as she could. "Please, someone, please! I need help! I need to call the police," she shouted. "My ph-phone's broken. My baby, he's gone! Please!"

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Agrippina set down the beer with a shaking hand; leaving her fridge open, she staggered over to one of her sturdy, plain chairs and sank into the cushions. She left a beer-soaked imprint of her hand on the arm, then did the same to her hair and face as she pushed her palms against her eyes. Her thumb brushed the scar material around her right eye and the ex-con jerked her head back.

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The scar. Sometimes she forgot it was there. How could she forgot? She had forgotten though, walking around without wondering where she’d gotten that damned ugly mark. As if her feet were under someone else’s control, Agri rose and headed to the bathroom. She paused in the doorway of the interior room, noting how dark it was in the room without the lights. It was almost omnious.

,,

The big woman flipped on the light, pretending her bathroom wasn’t creeping her out. Her eyes rose to the mirror without thought, looking at her face—

,,

blood poured down her skin

,,

—which was perfectly fine, aside from her old friend the scar. Agri snorted at her choice of word and went back out into the main room of the apartment. She went back to the window and stared out it, wondering if she needed to see a doctor. Probably.

,,

She wouldn’t though. Not if going meant leaving her room and being in the hallway.

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"An excellent suggestion Mr. Duncan." Dr. Volcov followed the other two with his hands clasped behind his back, like a teacher ushering problem students out to recess. "It has been a strange morning... and getting some fresh error has been my primary goal for most of it."

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Charles, James and Emanuel

,,

The three of them made their way down to the ground floor without incident. They draw a couple of stares from people as they exit the lobby, but no one stops them.

,, ,,

Directly outside the lobby's entrance is the Square. It has the following Aspects:

  • Mundane To The Point Of Madness

  • Everything Looks The Same


,,
,, ,,

The Square is a large, spacious area with identical benches and a water fountain. The water in the fountain ripples outward from the central spout, gurgling softly.

,,

Asides from the three of you, there is one other person here. A middle aged man, dancing in the middle of the square, which isn't so odd. What is odd is that he's slow-dancing with someone who is either invisible or not actually there. He wears a faded tuxedo. He's smiling.

,,

Beyond the Square are the rest of the grounds. The Complex is at the tip of a peninsula - surrounded on three sides by fog-shrouded water. The fourth direction, possibly inland, is barred by a thick iron and concrete gate that extends down to the water.

,,

Agrippina

,,

As Agri stared out the window, she looked down at the Square, and her eyes were drawn to the man dancing. It tugged at a long forgotten memory of dancing at a bar somewhere, but tug is all it did, and the memory was long faded.

,,

Then she looked at the newcomers stepping out onto it, and she recognized one of them. The man from the bar, the night that she got the scar. He was here. Somehow, he was here.

,, ,,

If Agri wishes, she can also choose to remember James Duncan as "Damien Drake," if she happened to have read any of his novels.

,, ,,

Lien

,, ,,

Lien is now on the seventh floor of the Complex. It has the following Aspects:

  • They're All Out To Get You

  • Lies Will Save You


,,
,, ,,

The seventh floor of the Complex was quiet as a church mouse. Lien didn't pay any mind to the weird scratches on the walls, not that creepy painting that never hung right, nor the Out of Order sign that hung in front of the elevator. She kept pounding on the door.

,,

The door opened. A young woman - she looked like a runaway - peered out through the door chain.

,,

"I..." She looked side to side. "You're from down the hall? I... your baby?" She swallowed thickly. "Miss... are... are you sure? I've been here for - for - I don't know how long but... I've never heard a baby crying..." She swallowed again. "And I hear things. A lot of things.

,,

"Do you want me to call the Operator? I can call the Operator. They'll - I'm sure that they - do you want me to call the Operator?"

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Lien nearly collapsed in relief, nodding and trying to stop her sobbing. "Yes, yes, please!" She sniffed and wiped her hand over her moist face. "Thank you," she added a touch less hysterically.

,,

She glanced down the hallway and shuddered, the creepiness of the floor starting to settle in. "I'm-I'm gonna go back and see if I can, if I can fix my ph-phone and....and...." Her head was fogging up as the adrenaline dropped, she shook her head and hugged her arms around herself, going through the exercises she'd been taught on how to deal with panic in the field. They weren't helping much, but a little was better than nothing. "I'll be right back."

,,

She had turned to leave when she remembered, "Um, my name is Lien, Lien Siva. Apartment 707."

,,

She nearly scurried back to the safety(?) of her apartment, pretty sure that the girl wasn't really going to call anyone - which wasn't fair, she didn't even know the girl, but there was the warm fear in the pit of her stomach. What if she'd taken Daniel? How could she have never heard him crying? He was a baby. Babies cried. Loudly. The walls weren't that thick, they couldn't be, with all the other sounds constantly filtering through. She sifted through the boxes that filled most of the rooms, sneezing as puffs of dust wafted off them. How had they gotten so dusty? She'd only moved in....wait, how long had it been?

,,

She was still fighting the fogginess, trying to remember and count the days, when she finally found the cellphone battery she'd chucked across the room. She took a deep breath and slipped it back into the phone, hoping it wouldn't start up that damn video again. Someone must have sent it to her phone. Jerald, or maybe Mikey. Pricks.

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Uriel blinked, and at first was about to disregard him, but then the mention of the apartment being trespassed in changed his mind. How many times had he just knew that? Thus he gave far more patient attention to Samuel as the young man continued his frenetic, frantic rambling.

,,

It was when the other members of Management arrived that Uriel became really concerned. With pardonable exaggeration, Samuel was largely correct, Management personnel had an unsettling and extreme uniformity to them, and these strange occurrences and the mystery of the door was reaching its apex.

,,

Uriel paused, to let the Managers go by and follow Samuel. After counting down his head several moments, he turned and followed them in turn. Time to see who the Head Manager was, and glean as much as he could.

,,
Stealth
Jeremy *rolls* 4d6: 6+3+5+3
Ooh, Stealth 3+2= +5 total...

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“The fuck?!” Agri stared down at the Square, feeling her jaw struggling to drop. How was that guy here? Why was her memory of that day so clear, and everything else was just fuzzy ass?

,,

Something’s wrong. That was fucking evident, and Agri stared at the man from that night, wondering what the hell to do about it.

,,

She needed a doctor. She might have an aneurysm or something. Or being having an aneurysm. How did those things work? Agrippina knew that they affected the brain and killed people. She thought they might also damage nerves. Or was that strokes?

,,

Shaking off her useless pondering, Agri turned toward the door. She needed to see a doctor. They had a nurse or something here, right? But that meant leaving her apartment, her oasis, and going down the hall, past all the weirdness, and to the elevator.

,,

Nervously, she grabbed her wallet and a pocket knife. What else was she going to want? She didn’t want to come back to the room until she was done with everything, so she had to take all the stuff needed with her now. She grabbed the paperback she was reading, a dog-eared Clive Clusser novel that was at least five years old, and her spare change. She could eat while downstairs, if she got hungry.

,,

Then she left her apartment, locked the door, and started for the elevator.

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In the courtyard, James pauses at the sight of the crazy old man dancing around.

,,

"You know," he says to no one in particular, "This place is feeling more like an asylum than an apartment complex every time I turn around. First Lana, then this guy."

,,

It strikes him then, suddenly, that the dancing man isn't really that old. Maybe late 30's, early 40's. Not that much older than him.

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Is that going to be me someday?

,,

The thought is not comfortable, and he looks into the fountain for a second, perhaps hoping the water will cleanse that vision from his head.

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When he looks up, it's at the big, imposing gate that leads out of the Complex.

,,

"That look like the gate of a residential building to you?" he asks the others as he looks the giant slab of iron over. Without waiting for an answer he already knows, he starts heading towards that gate. Why, he's not sure...it's fairly clear it's not meant to open easily. To test its mettle, perhaps.

,,

Heh. Mettle. Metal. He still had it.

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Lien

,,

She fumbled the battery back into the phone, waiting for it to boot up. It didn't go straight to the video. But it also wasn't showing any cellular signal, or any wifi, or any data... not even roaming or emergency service.

,,

She paged through the phone's menus, and noticed something odd. The apps to record video and sound were missing. She didn't remember deleting them - but why would anyone leave the phone and delete those? She could play video, but actually recording it seemed out of the question.

,,

The phone - the apartment phone - chirped, in its rhythmic three-tone chirp that Lien recognized as coming from the Operator. She didn't remember them ever calling her, or what they'd spoken about, but she recognized that sound. Why was that?

,,

Agri

,, ,,

Agri is now out of her apartment and is on the fifth floor. It has the following Aspects:

  • Blood Is In The Air

  • Violence Is So Easy


,,
,, ,,

The first thing Agri noticed was the sound of the gunshot.

,,

It stopped her dead in her tracks. It couldn't have been more than a few feet away. The damn thermostat was broken again and it was too hot in the hallway, too damn hot. And of course, the elevator was out of order, so -

,,

There were more gunshots. They were muffled by a thick door. They were followed by the classic William Tell Overture that served as the theme song to The Lone Ranger, and yes, he heard a man's voice shout "Hi Yo Silver - away!" in that tinny, faded tone that old recordings had.

,,

It had to be on the TV. Just a sound effect on TV.

,,

That's all it was.

,,

Directly ahead lay the staircase.

,,

Uriel

,,

Sam chose the right direction - down - and the Managers followed him.

,,

Uriel knew the tricks of the trade, honed by years of practice, and paced himself carefully, following them. He'd have to hustle a bit to keep up with them, but where was Sam going to go?

,,

Uriel descended the staircase. He peered over the side, and then...

,,

And then Uriel was hit with an uncanny wave of vertigo as he saw Samuel running, and he saw the Managers in pursuit...

,,

And Uriel saw himself.

,,

And past that, Uriel saw Samuel running, and he saw the Managers in pursuit, and Uriel saw himself. And past that, Uriel saw Samuel running, and he saw the Managers in pursuit, and Uriel saw himself. AND PAST THAT, URIEL SAW SAMUEL RUNNING, AND HE SAW THE MANAGERS IN PURSUIT, AND URIEL SAW HIMSELF. And past that, Uriel saw Samuel running, and he saw the Managers in pursuit, and Uriel saw himself. And past that, Uriel saw Samuel running, and he saw the Managers in pursuit, and Uriel saw himself. And past that, Uriel saw Samuel running, and he saw the Managers in pursuit, and Uriel saw himself. And past that, Uriel saw Samuel running, and he saw the Managers in pursuit, and Uriel saw himse

,,

Uriel shook his head, disoriented, and then...

,,

Running down the stairs, coming from behind him, Sam ran past.

,,

Sam stopped, He turned. His eyes were wide as saucers. "Oh God. Oh God. You're one of Them - "

,,

He ran. Uriel heard the Managers in pursuit. He looked over the railing. He could hide from them, easily. He'd done it dozens of times. Just dangle over the side for a few moments.

,,

But he'd never done it in a place like this. Looking down the staircase's center was like looking into...

,,

Into a loop that went on forever.

,,

James Duncan

,, ,,

James is heading towards the Front Gate. It has the following Aspects:

  • Always Guards

  • No Access Without Management Permission


,,
,, ,,

The sign along the road leading to the gate was marked Eastmarch Lane. It was a two-lane road that fed into a small traffic circle and beyond that, the gate itself.

,,

There was a single guard house there and James could see someone inside of it. Despite himself, he felt intimidated. There was no way they hadn't seen him.

,,

On either side, the gate's iron and concrete ran partway into the water. Not all the way, but enough so that to get around it he'd need to get into the water itself. The fog was thick. James' breath made little puffs of it.

,,

The guard house's window opened. James could see one of the Managers inside, peering over the guard's shoulder. The guard seemed keenly interested in James, yet friendly. The Manager seemed just keenly interested.

,,

"Sorry, James. Rest of the buildings are still under quarantine. You'll just have to wait a little while longer."

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Uriel simply found himself stumbling back a fraction, trying to shake clear of the Groundhog Day loop in miniature. Everything was breaking all sense, reality even, and at this moment he wasn't sure even if he could keep standing... Tottering on his hurt leg, it would have been so easy to fall, just let it go.

,,

After all, it didn't make sense... it didn't make sense...didn't make sense...

,,

didn't make sense.

,,

Uriel closed his eyes to center himself, and the effect weakened, lifting enough for him to remind himself of his commitment to solve the damn mysteries, so he could not have to worry again. The railing was close enough in his mind's eye to make the motion easy enough - even without sight.

,,

Step one, forward. Step two, opposite foot forward. Step three, grab twist over the railing to dangle down. Step four, keep a comfortable, secure grip. Step five - Uriel dared, and opened his eyes.

,,
OOC
Clarity roll for this one, to see if Uriel can really see what is going on. And repulse the time vertigo and TARDIS generator. ,,

Jeremy *rolls* 4d6: 4+1+5+4: 14

0 + 1 = +1...

Invoking Searching for Meaning to help Uriel break through the vertigo effect. If accepted, that will increase his total to +3.

,,

FP Total: 2->1

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She rubbed her forehead, her body shaking from the adrenaline drop still, and made her way over to the slightly-out-of-date looking phone sitting on the buffet counter of the kitchen. "Hello?" she asked tentatively, then said in a rush, "I need someone to call the police. Daniel, my son, he's missing!"

,,

She was still thumbing through the menus on her own phone, trying to find a way to restore the factory settings or otherwise fix the stupid thing. What good was a phone when it couldn't take pictures, record things, or even make a simple stupid call?

,,

Sorry for the really short post, I just don't know what to post more than that since she'll be waiting on the response from the Operator.

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Agrippina shivered in the middle of the hallway. She hated the fucking stairs. They paid good rent in order to have a goddamned working elevator.

,,

How much did she pay in rent?

,,

The question wouldn’t stay in her head, slipping away like smoke through cracked glass.

,,

The big woman hurried to the stairwell, fighting the urge to go back to her room for a weapon. She was in her apartment building. She shouldn’t need a fucking weapon to go down some stairs.

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The door of the stairwell was too loud as she opened it; the latch popping sounded like bone cracking, while the door slamming reminded her of the solid, meaty sound her foot had made when kicking that man. Agri took the steps two or three at a time as she hurried down them, and her footfalls sounded like fists slamming into a man.

,,

Why did she smell blood?

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"Sorry, James. Rest of the buildings are still under quarantine. You'll just have to wait a little while longer."

,,

That, James thought, was the stupidest thing he'd heard so far. And this morning had been neck deep in stupid.

,,

He strolled up to the booth and looked the guard over, then the Manager. Why did these guys always look the same even though they were different guys?

,,

"Quarantine," he repeated flatly. "Funny, you'd think that would have merited a memo or something. Note under the door. Something in the lobby. Minor little detail, 'By the way, you can't leave and you might die.' Unless of course there's no actual quarantine, and you're just messing with us because you don't want us to leave."

,,

As a writer, he was almost...offended, that he'd pick a story so easily riddled with holes. There were so many possibilities, and he'd gone with quarantine. It was like using amnesia, for Christ's sake. A cliche' so ancient that it had worms in it.

,,

"So what's going around?" he asked. "Besides crazy, I mean."

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James

,,

"Wish I knew." The security guard shrugged. "They don't even have a name for it yet, or at least, one I can pronounce. Necrotizing fascistic... stephanopolous? It's bad, no question. We think it's rats that spread it."

,,

The Manager stepped forward, his eyes meeting James'. "We have gone over this before, James Duncan. In the event that you have forgotten, we will be happy to send the memorandum to your apartment on the 7th floor. In the meantime, we have all the amenities that you could want here in the Westmarch Complex. Why would you wish to leave?"

,,

Lien

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There was a long pause at the other end, as Lien fiddled with her phone. Attempting to reset to factory settings just froze the phone. It came back after restarting it, but if she wanted to record anything that didn't seem to be an option.

,,

"Lien Binti Siva, yes? Your son? Miss... when you agreed to stay with us, we did specify that this was a building for people who've reached the age of majority only. You agreed to those terms. Your son Daniel has never been a resident of the Westmarch Living Complex."

,,

Lien's gaze darted around the room as the Voice spoke. "You said you would leave your son with a relative for the time you would be staying with us. We agreed and so did you."

,,

There was dust all over the crib, and there was no indentation on the mattress. The bottles she'd been washing all looked clean. Lien had a horrible vision of her cradling empty air. Of her feeding an invisible baby with stored formula - no. No, a quick self-exam made it even worse. She'd stopped producing milk. She'd been feeding a phantom baby with phantom milk.

,,

"Your Kiosk order history does show a record of many baby and child care items being delivered to your apartment. We made special arrangements because of how insistent you were at the time..."

,,

The Voice seemed to drift away, as if waiting for Lien to respond.

,,

Uriel

,, ,,

The bad news is that without that FATE point, Uriel's Clarity roll doesn't succeed, so he still sees the infinite staircase.

,,

The good news (heh) has been sent to him via private message.

,, ,,

Uriel dangled from the stairwell, trying to push this impossible sight away from himself. He heard the thump of one of the Managers body-tackling Samuel. It felt so far away. It reverberated up and down the stairs.

,,

Uriel refused to give in so easily. This had to make sense somehow. It had to. He had come here looking for meaning in his life and he was not about to let this impossible paradox of a stairwell stop him...

,,

... except...

,,

... except it was just like this, wasn't it. Him held aloft only by his arms. Just like this...

,,

Uriel lost his grip. He fell for what felt like a brief eternity. When eternity ended and the stairwell became normal, he grabbed the ledge with one arm. His one arm slipped free - but the change in momentum and direction was enough to swing him underneath the stairwell. For all the good that did him.

,,

He landed, on his bad leg, and it buckled out from underneath him. He tumbled down the stairs, hitting his head twice, seeing stars. He rolled to a stop on the landing, the wind knocked out of him, unable to stand for long moments...

,,
Uriel's Consequence

Uriel's bad landing has given him a Minor Physical Consequence: Took a Nasty Fall. This signifies him being bruised, banged up and a little out of breath.

,,

Agri

,,

... and worse, there was someone there.

,,

The strange man in the good suit had all but swooped down beside Agri, but swooped wasn't quite the right word for such an ungraceful landing.

,,

She'd had a good few seconds to figure out he was no threat, the way he spilled down the stairs. He rolled to a stop in front of her. Despite the shock, there was a part of Agri that was puzzled. Why had this man tried to catch himself with one hand, the other tucked inside of his suit jacket?Why not use both hands...?

,,

The man's hand opened. Agri could see what he was holding. It was an invitation, well-creased and worn, and Agri could feel - not know, but feel - that this was one of the most important things in the world to this man.

,,

Las Vegas Metropolitan Museum of Art

Presents

I See Tomorrows

The Visionary Work of Artist

Howard Tulchinsky

Three Nights Only

,,

The man groaned. He was still alive, and conscious, if only able to wheeze out a few words and gesticulate for now. Agri could hear footsteps further up the stairwell.

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There was a long silence as the gears shifted in Lien's mind, her jaw setting with an audible click as panic settled into the pool of seething rage that had been simmering in her since...since that video and all the fear and humiliation that had followed it. Followed her.

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"That is bullshit." Her voice should have frosted the counter and broken the phone with the chill. "My family disowned me. I moved because my only friend left didn't have room for another person in the house, let alone a baby. I would never have moved somewhere where I couldn't be with Daniel."

,,

Her knuckles were white and she could hear the hard plastic of the phone groaning from the pressure of the grip. "I don't know what you've done to me, what you've been keeping me on, but you are going to listen very carefully. You are going to tell me right now what is going on. Every. Detail." She enunciated the two words carefully, her rage trying to boil hot again and held in cold check by years of training, service in war, and the endurance you can only learn from betrayal on every intimate level.

,,

"Because I will find my son," she continued relentlessly. "I will hunt down every person that is involved in this, and I will do things to them, to you, things that break a soldier's mind just to see, for taking him away from me." The groan turned to a sharp crack as she felt a line of sharp, rough plastic rip across the side of her hand, a wet line of crimson rolling down the slick outer shell and fall in jagged drop on the counter. "Do you understand me?"

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Agrippina had long lived a life in defiance of authority. It had always come back to bite her in the ass, but she couldn’t stop the feeling of joy that came from looking The Man right in the eye and giving him a one-fingered salute with both hands. The man seemed to be fleeing something, so Agri snatched up his flyer, stuffed it into his jacket pocket and then said, “What the fuck, ya du— guy?” The last word was wedged in awkwardly after she saw how cute he was. “Nevermind, let’s getdafuckouttahere.”

,,

Grabbing his arm, she hauled him easily to his feet and started for the stairs. As he wheezed something that was probably thanks, Agrippina went down to the next landing and exited through the door. She turned and closed it as quietly as she could, hopeful that whomever was watching wouldn’t catch what floor they had exited on. Turning, she hurried toward the other end of the building; there should be another stairwell there to go up. Maybe even back to fifth. She shuddered as she hustled down the hall.

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Uriel was vaguely aware, through the spinning and shock, of the woman assisting him and his mumbled thanks. He was all too caught up in the flyer, planted now, he realized in horror, as all the suspicions of home invasion made sense - and bewildered, Uriel tried to catch at how he could have so completely internalized a false memory.

,,

But it faded away, replaced by anger as Uriel steadied himself, even with his hurt leg.

,,

Really, they couldn't have just left him be?! Well, if they were running this place, or affiliated with the Complex, Uriel would just find out what his 'old friend' and company had buried deep here, take the secrets, and take it down around their heads. The memory again did move him to caution, but that was not a significant issue. Volcov and others, he could recruit them for this.

,,

"Thanks." Uriel told the lady, more clearly now. "My leg sometimes..." It wasn't the best excuse but maybe she wouldn't challenge him on it. He stuck out a hand. "Uriel Arcadia."

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For a moment James was almost visibly building steam. Did his eyes bulge a little?

,,

"It doesn't matter why we want to leave," he answered with exagerrated calm. "We are residents here, not prisoners. Therefore, we can leave whenever we want, for whatever reason we want, or none. Right?"

,,

He cracked a humorless smile and waved a hand around, indicating the courtyard.

,,

"I mean, if it wasn't a seething hotbed of plague around here, of course. I'm sure we'll be having doctors or people from the CDC come around and do tests any time now. They're probably just really busy, taking their time getting here. Hey," he holds up a finger, "remember, if they don't cure it within half an hour, the vaccine's free!"

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Her eyebrows rose at his name, the one crossed by the scar pulling grotesquely. The whole scar took from whatever questionable beauty she might have possessed away. Agri thought about making a comment about his name, but only for a second. She hardly had room to talk.

,,

“Agrippina Solas.” Perhaps she wouldn’t get the inevitable question about how she got that name. She wasn’t going to ask him; she was just going to assume his mother had been fuckin’ nuts, too. “Call me Agri, if ya want.” Her hand was firm and strong. It matched her appearance.

,,

“So… do I dare ask why they’re chasing you?” She asked, peering around at the door numbers. What floor were they on? She usually avoided other floors; they were not as terrible as fifth, but she’d found them all to be unsettling in their own way. Fourth? I coulda sworn I’d gotten further down. It wasn’t the first time that physics had defied her in this place.

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Agri & Uriel

,, ,,
,,

You are now on the 4th floor of the Complex. It has the following Aspects:

  • Can't Hear You Over The Shouting

  • Quick To Rage


,,
,, ,,

Uriel and Agri staggered down the steps. Uriel still felt banged up, but ready to walk on his own.

,,

As they entered, they bore witness to a shouting match between a man and a woman, that had descended so far into an argument that neither Uriel nor Agri could decipher what it meant. They were waving and shouting and red in the face.

,,

Both of them stopped dead when they realized that next to the elevator was a door labelled Security Office. No one was coming out of it, but still - that meant the Management couldn't be far away.

,,

Scratched on the elevator itself - still out of order - there was a sentence carved in with a key.

,,

FUCK ALL HOPE

YE WHO ENTER

HERE

,,

A "fresh paint" sign was affixed to the door, but no one seemed to be painting it at the moment. It read:

,,

Lien

,,

"What is going on, Lien Binti Siva, is that upon learning that you would not be able to bring your newborn son to the Complex, you asked if your son could be left with a relative for the duration of your stay here. With great reluctance, we agreed. Since then, you have been a model tenant.

,,

"Currently, contact with the mainland is down due to both the recent storm and the quarantine. We regret that we will be unable to put you in contact with your son at this time. Would you like me to pass you along a notification when one or the other problem is cleared up?"

,,

The Voice, to its credit, was utterly polite and restrained, showing only the slightest hint of apprehension or frustration. It was at this point that Lien noticed that she had broken the receiver and that a shard of plastic had sliced into her palm.

,,

James

,,

"You are, of course, correct, James Duncan." The Manager smiled. "We do not like this either. Your comfort is our foremost concern and we are making ever effort to restore the natural order of things. If you'll excuse me."

,,

The Manager withdrew back into the building, and the security guard just shrugged. "It is what it is, James. Why don't you go back to your apartment? You'll feel better. Or take a walk along the riverbed - not too close, though. Wasn't too long ago that somebody drowned."

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"No, that was someone else." Uriel admitted, released his hold on Agrippina and making his own way forward. "I did have reasons to watch and follow unnoticed. Blasted leg." Security Office? This was getting excessively ridiculous, and the elevator carvings didn't help. Eloquent yet expletive-laced.

,,

To try and divert the topic away from sensitive matters, Uriel went back to the obvious. "I know you're going to ask about the name. It started as a silly idea from a friend for picking up women. After I did the legal name change, told women I had the name of an angels and then presented the business cards, it was too late to undo anything."

,,

He said it with such a straight face too. Nothing like that at all - Uriel was born Uriel.

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While James engaged in his altercation with the Management Dr. Volcov examined the dancing man. He paced around the subject slowly, taking note of any response or lack thereof to his presence. Only after conducing this initial appraisal did he clear his throat and attempt to get the man's attention. If successful he would proceed in his usual brusque, professional manner, "Greetings sir. May I ask what you are performing?" If not, as he hoped would be the case, he would have to proceed to other forms of stimulus...

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She spotted the drop of blood and let out a quiet curse in Farsi and loosed her grip on the phone. Her tone was still anger and steel as she juggled the receiver and tried to clean up the mess. "Daniel doesn't have any other relatives," she ground out, "and I would not have moved here or anywhere without him. Fuck the storm, and what they hell do you mean by quarantine?"

,,

She was trying to cuss less, but it was a harder habit to break when your child was missing and your hand was trying to do paint-by-number roses on her palm. She finally managed to rummage a washcloth out of one of the boxes and wrapped it around her hand; she grabbed the receiver more gently this time, but it was good for pressure and placed her hand above her heart. The logical part of her brain was telling her that this wasn't the fault of the person on the other end of the phone. They were probably just a low-paid phone grunt, but this was her son and none of it made any fucking sense.

,,

Her mind snagged on an odd phrase and she added, "And what do you mean by 'duration of my stay'? My lease? How the fu- how long is the da- the lease?" Not that it fucking matters. How much cash do I have left? Is there anything left to pawn? She looked around the apartment while she waited for the infuriatingly calm voice to answer her questions.

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“You choose Uriel? Here I thought your mom just liked dumb names like mine,” Agri said, one ginger eyebrow rising on her face. For all that she was talking to the cute guy, her attention was more on the door to security. As a felon, you learned to be cautious of authority in all its forms. It had the nasty tendency to bite you in the ass.

,,

Act like you belong. In prison, that had served her well and meant that she’d avoided being anyone’s bitch. She’d been muscle, but not a bitch. “C’mon,” she grunted and started to walk past the door, her head held high.

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James watched the Manager leave for a second. What had he been doing out here in the first place? Waiting for James to show up and mouth off to him?

,,

He looked back at the guard.

,,

Do I want to have this fight right now?

,,

They'd fucked it up, these guys. Most of the time, their little excuse would have been fine. How many people knew anything about necrotizing fasciitis other than that it sounded terrifying? What were the odds one of those people would show up here today? But he did, and he had.

,,

Necrotizing fasciitis was terrifying too. That's why he knew about it. Horror writers had to learn some truly fucked up things somehow. James was aware of how long it would take for a human body to entirely drain of blood through a slit throat, while hanging upside down. He knew how long a man could survive if forced to eat nothing but his own flesh. And he knew that among the pathogens that could cause necrotizing fasciitis, one was staphylococcus pyogenes...which sounded a little like what the guard had been mangling.

,,

He also knew that unless there was a plague of cannibals running around, or people were uncontrollably eating each other's feces, this disease wasn't spreading. It wasn't transmitted through the air, or even casual contact. The infection took place underneath the skin.

,,

So. He'd caught them in a lie. The question was, what to do about it? It was bigger than it seemed, because behind it lurked the much larger question, why are they lying about a quarantine to stop us from leaving? And looming over that, what will they do if they know I know?

,,

"Riverbed," he repeated distractedly. "Drowning. Right. Maybe I'll try that. Excuse me."

,,

James looked back into the courtyard, and spied Dr Volkov there. Anger rekindled. This was looking mighty fucking suspicious right now. Trapped in a building full of insane people, kept in what he could only describe as a medicated state, and lied to about why he couldn't leave. That had Volkov written all over it. And where was he? Why, embedded in with the subjects of course. How better to observe and record and measure? In the trenches! Creating rapport by pretending to be one of them!

,,

Jaw set, he strode over to where Charles was talking to the crazy man, intent on getting some answers.

,,

"Volkov. I need to have a word with you."

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James & Charles

,,

At the sound of Charles' voice, the man stopped. Charles could see that he was holding a fake plastic carnation in his hand.

,,

"Just... remembering." He smiled at Charles. "The way things used to be." He sighed, looking out over the fog-shrouded riverbank. "I'm sorry if I bothered you with my singing - oh, hello there, sir." He tipped an imaginary hat to James as he walked up. "Friends, I take it?"

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Agri & Uriel

,, ,,
,,

The security office is on high alert due to the argument, so you and Uriel will have to roll Deceit against a +5 (Superb) Challenge.

,,

It's probably best if Agri combines her skill with Uriel's and lets him roll, adding a +1. Both Agri and Uriel can spend FATE points to invoke their Aspects as they wish.

,,

Success means that you make it past to the stairwell and can proceed as you wish.

,,
,, ,,

Lien

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"I'm afraid I'll have to get back to you with the details of your lease, ma'am, and the particulars of in whose care you left your son. Those records aren't readily available to me at the moment.

,,

"I can, however, tell you that travel on or off the peninsula at the moment is restricted due to a quarantine at the other living complexes outside of this one. A recent storm has also knocked out much of our long-range telecommunications. The good news is that parcel transport is still possible, so if you wish to order anything via our Kiosk it will not be a problem."

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"So you can get shit back and forth, even through a quarantine, though you can't apparently tell me what the quarantine's for or-" She hung up before she let herself go on a full out sailor's cussing rant. Useless bitch.

,,

A few minutes rummaging through the boxes turned up her first aid kit. She cleaned up her hand properly and bound it up with some disinfecting goo, gauze, and medical tape. It would ache for a while, but she hadn't cut too deep to do any long-term damage. Another foray through the boxes led her to the depressing conclusion that she didn't have anything left to pawn, and with her phone zonked out from the storm or whatever, she couldn't check her bank balance. Lease or no, she was getting the hell away from this place and finding her son. If they wanted to come after her for breaking the contract, well, they could go to hell and take all the money she didn't have with them. Given the creepy-ass way this was all going, they'd probably already drained her bank account anyways.

,,

Dark thoughts hanging over her like the stormclouds out the window, Lien continued her methodical search through the boxes for useful, portable objects. A change of clothes was due, with her bra and underwear switched out for the swimsuit she'd bought while still at Fiona's; she'd love swimming from when she was as little as she could remember and she had wanted to get Daniel in the water as soon as the little infant floaties would fit on his arms. She blinked away tears as she pulled a fresh shirt on over her head and pulled up a pair of clean, durable jeans. Clean socks, her heavy-duty boots, and her warm service jacket finished her change of clothes. She found her baby duffle, full of unused diapers, wipes, toys....she dumped it out roughly, caught in another wave of sadness-followed-by-rage and started stocking it with whatever might come in handy when she left the apartment. The first-aid kit, which was in waterproof plastic, a full change of clothes, her multi-tool which wasn't Swiss but was still handy, her phone, keys....she looked around, wondering if there was anything else she should take.

,,

The paranoid part of her that was hating the whole situation and the fact that she hadn't found her hand-gun (Fiona had hated having it in the house, so it stayed in its carry-case along with the bullets) and finally prompted her to grab three of the knives out of the carving block - the small paring knife, a serrated blade a little larger than a steak knife and the large butcher's knife, and wrap them carefully in a hand-towel before setting them in the bag. They wouldn't be all the accessible in a quick fight, but at least she'd have something if she had to plan a fight to get her off the peninsula. They could kick her out of the Navy for sleeping with her CO, but they couldn't take away the years of training and experience she'd gathered while there.

,,

She slung the half-filled duffle over her head, securing the strap across her chest, and stepped back out into the hallway. She ignored the sign on the elevator, having decided to use the stairs before she even saw it, and headed for the ground floor.

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"Just stay quiet and follow me," Uriel advised Agrippina in barely more than a whisper, going with her past in the casual, unruffled fashion of anyone not aware of recent events. It was a matter of some internal debate whether or not to speak to this woman, and if so, when?

,,
OOC
Jeremy *rolls* 4d6: 3+1+3+2: 9
[Jeremy] 2:02 pm: Oh, Frabjous Day.
[Jeremy] 2:02 pm: I'm going to invoke the high concept for a reroll.
Jeremy *rolls* 4d6: 2+6+2+3: 13

So... the total result is Deceit 4 + Assist 1 - Roll 1 = +4.

Current FP: 0

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The writers footsteps passing by startled Emanuel Francis. He had just stared at the complex. Couldn't have been more than a couple of moments. But then again, it felt like this a place where time slipped through your fingers if you didn't pay attention, wasn't it?

,,

He had missed his chance to ask James Duncan who the other man was. They seemed to have some uneasy history.

,,

"So what is the story at the gate, mister Duncan? Any recommendations concerning coffee around here?". He tried to be casual, but the feeling of unease here was just to strong.

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James, Charles & Emanuel

,,

"Oh, hello." The man in the faded tuxedo waved hesitantly at Emanuel as he walked up. "All of you are friends? That's nice. I think I have... I think... no." He shook his head. "I'd have seen them again if it was really them..."

,,

Agri & Uriel

,,

Uriel was good, but not good enough to fool the security office when it was on high alert. His luck appeared to have run out.

,,

As they headed for the stairwell, Agri stole a glance over her shoulder, and one of the Managers had appeared outside the security office - she hadn't seen him open the door, but obviously he had to have, right?

,,

He watched them as Uriel opened the door to the stairwell...

,,

Lien

,,

... and as Lien descended the stairs, she saw the door open. Then she caught sight of Uriel and Agri - but not, at the angle of the stairs, the Manager watching them.

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James' attention went from Volkov to their fellow inmate to Emmanuel, pretty quickly. Charles looked like he was considering his answer...or maybe he was just more interested in the crazy guy.

,,

So James focused on Emmanuel.

,,

"They're not letting us out," he replied tartly. "And they're lying about why. I'm thinking our good friend Doctor Volkov probably has some idea why, seeing as how this place is feeling more and more like an asylum, and less like an apartment complex."

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Lien frowned and did actually pinch herself. She was pretty sure the people in this 'apartment complex' had been drugging her, and obviously using hallucinates, which would explain why her last 'stray', as Fiona called the people she'd helped, and her last one-night-stand were camped out in the stairwell. She hesitated, not wanting to encourage the messed up parts of her brain to continue being messed up, but also knowing from experience that sometimes when your mind is messed up, it tries to help you in ways you'd only really understand in a dream. She said a quiet prayer - further proof she'd lost it, she hadn't prayed since her mother informed her that she'd been disowned, well, not respectfully, anyways. Yelling at God didn't count as prayer, right?

,,

She slid quietly downs the stairs after the pair, her instincts and training on high alert, hoping they were ruby slippers to take her take to sanity and not white rabbits just pulling her farther down the hole. What am I now, some freaking English Lit grad?

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Emanuel Francis' eyes darted to the gate. "So I finally have a reason for feeling trapped. Comes as kind of a relieve, I must say." he told James in muted tones as they approached to curious couple. He mustered the man in the faded tuxedo. And reluctantly offered a smile. "Good day."

,,

He would let the others take the lead. His regrettable outburst at Lanas apartment had unfortunately presented his antisocial side. And he had the feeling, that he would need these peoples help. Any help he could get really. Acting quirky would not do.

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"Glad all of you could make it to the first meeting of the 'lost and found' club. My name is Emanuel and I don't quite think I belong her."

Damn his mouth. So much for letting the others take the lead...

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Lien, Uriel & Agri

,,

Uriel and Agri made their way down the stairs without incident - but they were still being followed by a Manager. The Manager seemed fixated on the pair, not acknowledging Lien's existence - for the moment.

,, ,,

Of course, if Uriel or Agri want to spot Lien, they may do so with opposed rolls. Likewise, if Lien wants to ensure that the Manager doesn't see her, she'll need to roll.

,, ,,

James, Emanuel and Charles

,,

"An asylum? Oh no no no no no. No. No, this is a nice place to live. It really is. If this were an asylum wouldn't I be - well, wouldn't there be doctors? Wouldn't we be talking to them?" He looked at Emanuel. "It's so nice here. Why would you want to leave? Why do you feel like you don't belong here? You - you know you can order in whatever you want, right? They just bring it right to you if you order it off the Kiosk..."

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She frowned when the Manager swung into view and ducked back a little farther, trying to remain unseen by the trio. Old skills, nearly a year - I think - unused, came back with the sting of adrenaline still rushing through her. This might not be some village in BFE - Then again, it might be. How the hell do I know at this point? - but it was now firmly marked as 'unfriendly territory' in Lien's instincts and her footfalls were soft, nearly silent, as she made her way after the Manager and the two near-strangers. The bag was annoying, pulling at her balance and threatening to brush up against the railing or the wall and make noise, but the contents were still worth the inconvenience right now, especially if things were going to get any weirder.

,,
Roll
Malachite *rolls* 4d6: 4+3+5+4: 16 ,,

That's three neutrals and a one plus, for a total of +3 for Lien's Stealth.

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Dr. Volcov shook his head and stood back, watching the exchange between the two, trying to identify the dancing man's major malfunction. He wasn't as off as most of the others he had encountered so far, but clearly something was amiss.

,,

Insight check:

4d6=12
4d6 → [6,3,2,1] = (12) for a total of -1 adjusted by modifier

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"I am glad you can embrace the convenience." he told the dancing man.

"Have you been down to the shore? It's a little misty at the moment, but why don't we take a stroll there. What do you say, gentlemen?"

The building and the gardens had been design just so, to serve a specific purpose. That was the case with every thing men had build since they learned how to stack wood and stones. He would approach this as another architectural challenge. Find ways to pierce its mundane surface. His interest might draw too much of the Managements attention if he went by himself. But in a meandering group Emanuel might keep his curiosity and alertness concealed. And his erstwhile companions would certainly come in handy at some point.

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Uriel kept going calmly, with a smile to Agrippina without worry. "See, everything's-" A flicker of movement down the stairs drew his attention, but that was banished when the prickly sense of being watched again kicked in. He turned around, and fought to keep down any fear, or concern... so they had been spotted after all.

,,

"Can I help you, sir?" Uriel asked, as casually as possible.

,,
OOC
Notice Roll

Jeremy *rolls* 4d6: 4+2+5+3: 14

That totals out to a +0 dice result, total +2.

Lien avoids Notice.

,,

FP: 0

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At Uriel’s words, Agrippina spun and glared at the security man. She didn’t say anything; her actions would be determined by his answer. While he was trying to be casual, she just glared silently.

,,

Notice roll: Carver *rolls* 4d6: 5+1+4+4: 14 +1 Notice = 1

Agri doesn’t see Lien.

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Lien, Uriel and Agri

,,
OOC
,,

Notice at +2. (4d6=8)

,,

The roll is -2, which leaves the final total at +0. The Manager does not notice Lien.

,,
,,

"There has been a disturbance," said the Manager flatly. "As a result, the Complex is in a heightened state of awareness and we are keeping our eyes open for any... irregularities.

,,

"May I inquire as to where you are headed?" He regarded Uriel. "To the infirmary, perhaps?"

,,

James, Emanuel and Charles

,,
Charles' Evaluation
,,

Going to assume you meant Empathy when you said Insight? If so, that's a net of 3.

,,

Charles might peg the man as suffering from delusions on the basis of him having danced with an imaginary woman, but the man seems lucid and aware - and happy. If Charles didn't know better, he'd swear that the man recently had a theraputic breakthrough.

,,
,,

"The shore! The shore. Yes. It's lovely." He looked confused for a second. "I'm... not sure if I've ever been down there. Isn't that weird! So much to do." He laughed. "Yes, yes, of course, we can go down to the shore. I'm Paul."

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