Day's End, Ends Meet

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Solid sheet, approved!

Entries will be closing and the opening post will be submitted after Lost In The Void posts his sheet and it is finalised. If your sheet has been read and considered 'solid', please join the group. Anyone who has not joined the group by the time Lost in the Void has tomorrow will be considered not in the RP.

Okay, clicked the "join group" option on the group page. Do I have to wait for anything?

EDIT: Never mind, think I got it.

the silence:

Solid sheet, no grammatical errors or continuity errors, good work.

So what is the plan for the conflict? Are we looking at a villain? An antagonistic organization? Just slice of life troubles? Is the prom tomorrow and we have nothing to wear?

So what is the plan for the conflict? Are we looking at a villain? An antagonistic organization? Just slice of life troubles? Is the prom tomorrow and we have nothing to wear?

The weird thing is that the actual answer to this question is 'all of the above' (aside from the last thing).
But any more information is spoilers.


Lost In The Void:


the silence:






In the backwoods of Spokane county, Washington, the snow is melting. Just like that it's Spring again, and nothing yet has changed. A figure stands in a second floor window, gazing into the courtyard, her hands clasped behind her back. Her breath mists the windows and she is back lit by a fire. The fire is a pile of mattresses; bilious toxic smoke escapes through a hole in the ceiling from which drips melt water. A shape as skinny as a rake and infinitely sharper huddles by it, warming his hands upon the roaring flames, the fire in his eyes reflecting the fire in his heart. They have stood here in silence for some time; the rake is running out mattresses to burn, on this floor at least. He gives a hacking cough, breaking the silence, and sufficiently warmed he turns to the woman by the window.

"You don't expect them to come do you? A letter and directions to the middle of nowhere is hardly anything to go on," he meanders dismissively, with a pace and tone that fails to betray his nature as a firebrand. In days to come, this nature will be all too clear.
"If I made the right choice, they'll come; they have nowhere else to go."
The rake flexes his jaw, and it snaps and grinds. He stands and stretches his back, which cracks like a ballista arming, and now towers over the woman at the window. He leans over her head, staring out the some window. The courtyard does not stir. A once-frozen fountain now gurgles; its pump has been dying for years, and shows no sign of stopping. The rake watches with the woman for a time, then heaves a sigh, his hot breath overcoming all the condensation his mother had already created in the course of her contemplation. When his breath condenses, it condenses thick; it is sulphur yellow, and it runs down the window in lazy rivulets.
"I'd hope for your sake, but we both know that I do not care for it. I have my doubts about this experiment of yours, as I have had about all your experiments. That monster in the basement being one of them," the Rake mutters as he trods away, in search of new fuel, his every footfall breaking something blackened, charred. The woman tuts softly as he walks away.
"Josef is a guest, and I will not suffer unkindness to him; you must recall he is further from home than we could ever imagine."
She is not blessed with the gift of a response; the Rake is gone, rooms away, hunting for something else to destroy.

The Woman at the Window watches the Courtyard from the third floor of her Manor. Along an improperly maintained road, far away from her, a sign stands. Inscribed upon that sign (it is a heavy marble thing, perhaps 'chiseled' is more accurate a descriptor). Chiseled upon that sign is the following:
"Spokane County Awakened Residential School, care of the Matron Thurgood"

This long abandoned road will soon be disturbed from its decade long slumber by the footfalls and vehicles of those the Woman at the Window awaits. While she waits, she taps a titanium ring against the glass, and it rattles, ready to break.

The border crossing was hellish. Having that kind of rap sheet, and being an Awakened, meant that, for Mohammad Charmchi, bringing anything besides the Ural M70 he rode in on, a backpack with granola bars, his travel papers, a few hundred dollars, and the clothes on his back was impossible. Couple that with a two day drive across most of Canada in early spring on a motorcycle, and it makes for one very unhappy man showing up at the abandoned residential school.

Mohammad had, thanks partially to his parents and partially to the Iranian government's low standards, been able to avoid Residential schooling, but he'd heard about them on the news. Places of torture, severe beatings, every kind of abuse imaginable, all in the name of "security." Awful places not fit for anyone to live in. So, obviously, they'd sent children there.

As he sped through the streets leading to the school, Mohammad tried to think why he was coming here. Sure, he didn't have a lot going on, but he had enough. He had his store with steady customers, he picked up some odd jobs here and there, really, things were looking up, considering his beginnings. Yet this letter seemed to call to him. He sped through his orders, put up a notice on the store's Facebook that he'd be gone for a little bit, a referral to another computer repair place, then got his bag together and rode out.

And that's what brought him here. He quickly eyes the marble sign as he passes by. So that's where she got her name. As Mohammad closes on the school, going down the poorly maintained road, he drops his speed down so as to not break something. As he pulls into the courtyard, he stops for a moment, looking around. Something with an acrid, toxic stench in the air burning from the dilapidated building, the fountain letting out little spurts, nature starting to reclaim this place. It reminded him of a few movies he'd seen of the end of the world.

He put the kick stand down on his bike, then dismounted it, the engine stopping when he stopped touching the machine. There wasn't any other way to start or stop the engine, with the motorcycle modified to not have any human interface elements, a little personal touch Mohammad had done up himself.

He pulled his jacket, a threadbare New Brunswick Hawks jacket he got from answering a question right on the radio, closer around him to keep the chill out. He leans against the bike for a moment, seeing if anyone else was coming, then moves towards the door, picking up a stone from the ground just in case.

Not too far down the road, a black sedan came to a stop. The passenger's side door opened and a young man stepped out, hiking a battered black backpack over his shoulder.

"You really wanna stop here?" The driver queried nervously, eyes darting towards the direction of the school.

"Yeah, this is the place. Thanks for the ride, man." Emil shut the door and began walking, behind him he heard the driver speed away.

Hitch-hiking was a pretty risky business, thankfully Emil's powers let him escape from unwanted situations pretty easily. They sure as hell had gotten him out of some pretty bad scrapes in the past.

Emil wrinkled his nose at the acrid scent coming from not too far off. "Great. Wonder what kinda nutjob I'm gonna meet this time." He muttered.

Still, he threw on his headphones and kept on walking. Not like he had anything better to do...

Slush and gravel crunched under his feet as Ryan trudged along the side of the road at a brisk pace. He looked every bit the average hiker; muddied boots and jeans, with a red sports backpack slung over a dark blue polyester jacket zipped up to his neck. His clothes were muddy but not old or worn. His ample beard and shoulder length hair were wet but not unkempt. His face was heavily lined, though, his eyes were harsh, and his hair was the stark gray of a much older man. He had the look of someone ten years his senior, and the wrinkles on his brow were fixed in a near permanent frown.

Ryan tensed at the sound of an engine approaching. Presently a black sedan sped past him, spraying cold mist behind it. His eyes followed it warily until it disappeared around the bend ahead; it was the first car he'd seen in hours.

He continued on, and before long the a side road came into view. A large marble sign at the corner read "Spokane County Awakened Residential School" and underneath in smaller letters, "Care of the Matron Thurgood". It looked like someone had recently cut away the surrounding snowbrush and juniper from the sign's face, giving it the impression of an uncovered bone of some ancient beast. Green molds and dirt still clung to its crevices.

Ryan stopped at the sign and sniffed as he peered around. The wet spring air was heavy with the scent of rotting wood and new buds; maple and alder, chickweed and goat's beard. Purple dots speckling the roadside between patches of snow marked where harvest lilies would soon bloom. Every color was saturated under the overcast sky, and behind everything was the constant, quiet sound of water trickling.

As Ryan lowered his gaze he noticed tire tracks in the mud at the head of the driveway, and footprints. Someone had been dropped off, maybe only minutes ago. He tightened the straps on his backpack and eyed the driveway anxiously. It curved away into the dark fir trees fifty yards ahead. For a few moments he stood at the crossroads and listened, not moving. No engines approached from either direction on the main road, and nothing moved save water dripping from the surrounding trees. A crow called from somewhere deeper in the forest.

With an unsatisfied grunt Ryan started up the driveway, only taking his eyes off the next bend to glance behind him or quickly scan the woods on either side. He checked his pace, having no desire to catch up to whoever had arrived ahead of him.

So this is where I get murdered. Octavio thought to himself as he spied the run-down school as he walked towards it. His skepticism skyrocketed when he got close enough to make out the sign. He had his own memories of an institution like this one, none of them were happy. At least his old school had been brand new at the time, this place looked condemned. He was starting to have second thoughts.

He took a step back but became aware of just how sore his feet were. He had hiked all day and knew it would be just as long to get back to anywhere he could stay the night. He was also out of food, water, and cash. There wasn't anything for him back in California and he had come all this way, he had to take a look. So he stepped forward and marched his weary feet towards the manor.

As he walked into the road he spotted another hiker with a beard and red backpack walking up the road, Octavio greeted him, " Hey, I'm guessing you're heading there too? Man I don't know what I was expecting."

Ryan gave the young man a sharp look, then made a quiet sound that may have been a response.

The kid was average height and thin as a rail. His dark hair was wet and his shoes were muddy, meaning he'd probably hiked here just as Ryan had. He looked foreign. As they walked, Ryan turned his eyes back to the road, but kept the newcomer in the corner of his eye.

A caustic smell began to tint the air as they continued onward. The manor soon came into view, and Ryan inspected it with the same watchfulness. Dense evergreens hemed a dilapidated courtyard that was being slowly swallowed by weeds and low bushes. Two rusted cars, as old if not older than Ryan himself, sat in the drive. They'd clearly not moved in years. He was surprised to see water bubbling from a grimy fountain in the center of the courtyard. Up a flight of low steps at the far end sat the manor itself. It was still an impressive building despite its disrepair.

Ryan spotted another person walking ahead of them, a teenager by his looks. He wore a black hoodie and baggy jeans, and Ryan thought he caught the glint of earrings. As they neared the manor Ryan saw an old motorcyle parked near the entrance and another figure climbing the steps to the front door. He slowed his pace.

Vagari - Ari for short - had hated the north ever since she'd gotten on that Greyhound bus to it. Sure, Arizona and Nevada had their problems, namely dust and people trying to kick her ass for sleeping on a park bench, but at least there she wasn't frozen to the bone on a clear spring day. On the other hand, this place had trees and lots of them, so she didn't -entirely- hate it.

Ari wasn't paranoid, honest. She just didn't trust people. So instead of getting on the road she paralleled it. She stood on a tree, balancing easily on the huge oak log, and looked up through a winding maze of trees jutting sideways out of the Earth, and wondered if anyone had ever had -that- perspective before. From outside she knew it must look bizarre, a woman standing sideways mostways up a huge oak, but for her it felt completely normal.

Although she admonished herself, not for the first time, that she needed a few things. One, she noted as she noticed she had gripped too tightly and crushed her cigarettes, she needed zippered pockets instead of trying to hold onto this shit mid-fall. Two, she really needed clothes that fit a little more and didn't dangle ridiculously when she wasn't playing nice with Earth's gravity. She shrugged - it was whatever - and leapt for the next tree. As her hands touched it she took her point of gravity - the tree she had just leapt from - and shifted it to the one she now held onto. Ari couldn't have described the sensation or mechanism if she had a hundred years and a chalkboard the size of South Dakota, but it worked fine, and that was what counted. There was that familiar lurch in her gut as gravity suddenly reversed directions, a shudder from her inner ear as her body did something that as far as its basest instincts were concerned couldn't happen, and then she was lying on another tree.

It wasn't the most graceful movement in the world, but it worked, it was fairly quiet, and it avoided attention. And plus, she hadn't had an opportunity to really practice with her powers that often. This was fairly old hat for her, but when you haven't worn that old hat that often even the oldest of old hats still needs to be flexed, and somewhere this metaphor got lost.

She could glimpse the destination in the distance, and decided to stretch her wings a little bit, picking out a large tree a good bit closer to the road for a clearer vantage point. She remembered reading that if you rolled with the impact you could soften it, that seemed simple enough. It wasn't that far anyway. So she'd just shift...and she was falling.

This might have been a mistake, she thought as she dropped towards it. Ten feet doesn't seem very far at all to walk, but when you're falling it suddenly seems like very far indeed. She landed feet first and did her best - and a decent job of it - to roll with the impact. It still hurt like a, "Motherfucker!" Ari shouted.

That was really stupid. Both parts, actually. And she could only imagine the sight along the ground, of her essentially spinning around the trunk of a tree. She'd seen video of herself in action a few times, and those minor stunts had been surreal enough to look at. As the throbbing in her knees subsided she straightened up, noting that she'd crushed her cigarettes to basically dust with a glance of disgust, and took a look.

"Oh good..." She muttered as she took a look at the mansion. "I was worried I might be overdressed."

Given that she hadn't washed in two weeks, hadn't used shampoo in two months, and had been wearing the same unwashed clothes for three months that was saying something, and it wasn't like a hoodie, a pair of jeans, and tennis shoes that were about six months past their expiration date judging by the wear on the sole and toe. But on the other hand, she only stank like sweat and cheap liquor. Ari may not have had super senses, but she could tell this place smelled like black mold, urine, and regret. Great.

She straightened up and proceeded to walk down the length of the trunk, shifting gravity as she reached the end and stepping onto the side of the road, then beginning her walk up towards this place. What were they going to do, kill her and put her out of her misery? She'd already lost her cigarettes, she didn't have anything left to lose.

Upon hearing voices and movement behind him, Mohammad turns back. Some kids and a few hobos. He was either about to get jumped, or these were others that got the messages. Either way, he'd have better luck up close than letting them have space. He raises a hand as a greeting, slowly approaching them. "Hey." He shouts out, his voice still carrying the slightest accent. He'd tried hard to lose it, finding that getting by without it was easier than getting by with it. "Not looking for trouble, just meeting somebody." He adds.

He eyes up the two walking together, then the one that just landed, then the one on their own. Not really a threat, probably just others that got his messages. "None of you would happen to be 'The Matron,' are you?" He asks, focusing on the woman who just flew in especially.

What the hell am I doing here? Why am I doing this?

As the classic rock strains of Blink-182 blasted over the speakers of the Audi S17 that tore through the Washington forests, it wasn't the lip-synced lyrics that strained through the drivers mind. It wasn't the thought that the arboreal countryside made for a nice change from Nevada desert and Idaho nothingness.

It wasn't the thought that the Audi was due back at the rental place off the Strip three days ago. No, those were Amanda Nelson's problems. And she skipped town. Good luck finding the girl with the half-dyed green hair and totally not-fake tattoos.

No, the thoughts that ran through the driver's head were of her motivations in coming out to some forsaken God's country just to answer a letter she wasn't sure was a fake. Or a trap. Or a fake trap.

But it was better to be alive and wondering the answers to these questions than dead in a Clark County ditch.

The Audi continued along what seemed like a rather lonely path out to the indicated address. Asking around in Spokane did nothing to allay her fears about what exactly she was doing coming up to the Pacific Northwest. The supposed building hadn't been seen or cared about since the days when the residential schools were in effect. Horror stories told of the crimes committed in the name of protecting the populace.

The driver never had to know those horrors. She had been far too young. The government unaware of the abilities she possessed. Not even sure about what she possessed now. Or how this Matron woman managed to get into contact with her. If this Matron woman even existed.

But if she did, maybe that was why the driver was here. To learn about what she could do. To test the limits of her potential talents. Maybe they could do more than extend a dice roll or change the gear of a slot machine. Maybe there was a greater purpose.

Or maybe there was a casino across the border in Idaho she could hit up to replace the money she left behind in Vegas.

It wasn't really left behind. All safe in a bank account, waiting for Alexis Crosby to come back and claim it.

Too bad Alexis had to leave town in such a hurry too.

Someday I'll come back when the heat dies down and thank you properly, Shang. You're one of the good ones. Enjoy those Raiders tickets if you can.

As she pulled down the driveway that led towards the intended destination, those questions she worried about started to yield unsavory answers. The building looked neglected, forgotten, and most importantly, on fire given the smoke rising from it. Maybe it was a welcome fireplace burning, but the outside ruled against that thought. The car husks sitting on the front lawn reminded the driver of her trip through the remains of Alabama, cleaning out those rednecks of their remaining treasures.

But what really set off the alarm bells for the driver were the people now clustered around a fountain that was barely squirting out water. A Middle Eastern man preciously guarding a motorcycle that looked like it belonged in a Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoon. A couple of kids, not much younger than the driver herself, either hitchhikers or wanderers but with nowhere near the means to enjoy the life she enjoyed. Another shielded by a jacket, but not looking like they moved with the vigor of youth. And the hobo, female, looking like they smelled of the streets and of discarded food. They just started to mingle together, yet all of them looked as trustworthy as a wooden Trumpbuck.

So here's your holidaaaaayyyyyyy... Hope you enjoy it this time, you gave it all awaaaaaayyyyy...It was mine...So when you're dead-

The music was silenced. The driver tilted her Raybans, as if in disbelief that this really was the place she had driven all this way to see. Green eyes saw no lies. She had changed into driving clothes, a comfy pair of jeans, a black tank top, a blacker jacket when she reached the nippy Idaho air, and she still had every one of these vagrants outdressed to the nines. She nervously fiddled with her silver bracelet with the emerald inlays, now feeling vulnerable in the middle of nowhere. Not wanting to expose any part of herself to these undesirables. Aware of how naked she was, even sitting in her silver chariot. A new thought occurred,

Why didn't I fucking spring for the tinted windows?

It was a momentary distraction from her real problems, like what was the quickest way out of the area, and where she was going to get her next bankroll from to get back into the black. But for the moment, frozen by uncertainty and fear, Mia Riley sat in her now technically stolen Audi. Unsure whether to peel out of the driveway or let them think that she was the danger, Mia stayed put for the moment, weighing her options.

From a fourth story window, a Rake dragging mattresses spies something strange. Something he has not seen since he was a child, far before his ship ran aground and he was rendered into the rib frames of it and nought else. At first, he could not believe his eyes (These would not be the first such hallucinations he had suffered), but nonetheless he dropped the mattress and threw himself against the window. No doubt in the mind of The Rake now; there were visitors in the courtyard. Mother's mad and half-baked scheme was coming to bear fruit. Unacceptable, impossible, no reality would allow for such a thing, and yet here it was, staring and slapping him in the face by it's simple existence. The stress started up another coughing fit; yellow spit hit the glass in heavy drops and the glass turned black in an instant, and as the resultant vapour hit his skin a fire burned and blackened his bald head before water condensed upon it, mixing with the sweat that had begun to form in heavy layers. The Rake, shuddering, shaking, fearful, angry, turned away from the window, set his mark, and took off, pounding his way down the wooden steps. On the second floor, he tumbled, but went with the roll continuing down the stairs, his once-white shirt turning a fresher and darker shade of the yellow it had already been stayed over the years he had worn it. He reached the first floor with no plan, having acted on basic instinct and winding up where it leaves most; scared and ready to fight to the death. He stood, panting and shaking, all six foot six of him, across the hall from the heavy double front door, flexing and winding his wrists, which cracked and ground and popped with sounds appropriately befitting his anxiety.

From the same third story window, the Matron Thurgood watched the courtyard, relishing the chance to assay her candidates personally from afar. She heard violent movement somewhere else in the house; no doubt her boy had also noticed their visitors and was taking the steps he deemed appropriate. She would go down and attempt to control him when more had arrived; she wanted as much time as possible to get used to the idea of interacting with her esteemed guests. She had no company save for her boy and Josef for ten years, all she needed instead brought to her by runners and drones she would program and send out to collect from the nearby townships individually. She reached for tea, which steamed ceaselessly in the cold of the house, held it to her for warmth, and took a sip. They were an interesting assortment; almost exactly what she had expected from reading their dossiers, but some people must be witnessed in the flesh to truly grasp the shape of them; Mr Strias, in particular, was a specimen of some note, as well as Madam Vagari, whose reckless use of her powers seemed unbefitting of someone of her past; perhaps those addictions that had been mentioned were some variety of death seeking to circumvent or allay a desire to end it all. More than this ran through the Matron's mind; the various ways in which her guests could be manipulated and controlled and understood scientifically ran there also, great deltas of thought running all at once. After more of this than would be kind, she shook her head, and looked down at herself, closing her eyes. Such unkindness was supposed to be behind her. She was here to help these people, not experiment on them. That was Josef's job.

"What do you think, chumley?" She said to the scarred-up Arabic guy. "Underneath the smell of two weeks of BO and all the shit I've got ground into my clothes, no, I'm not a fifty plus woman." She fumbled open her packet of cigarettes and withdrew a bundle of crushed and mutilated smokes, digging her lighter out of her back pocket and one of the smokes that was less crumpled and shredded than the others, lighting up and taking a long drag, feeling some of her nerves drain away as the smoke filled her lungs. She blew it out in a long stream. "I'd offer to share, but they didn't exactly survive the journey." She took a moment to sort through them, pushing the ones that were beyond saving into her hoodie's front pocket. She could try and salvage something out of them later. She was left with three remaining more or less intact ones, and wasn't looking forward to when those ran out. She frankly had no idea where the nearest gas station was to here, and she was -pretty- sure that Oregon had bumped up the smoking age, like Cali and Hawaii, so getting them would be an even bigger irritation.

She turned around as an honest to god car pulled up the driveway, a change from the collection of destitute messes that seemed to be percolating into this place like so much sewer runoff, Vagari herself included. Nice car, too. -Really- nice car. Vagari ran through some options in her head - a wealthy awakened? Not likely. Possible, but unlikely. Rich people had a hard time keeping their heads down and maintaining their wealth, and Awakened who didn't keep their heads down tended to wind up dead. The cops could always find a reason to murder an Awakened, Ari thought. Too nice and too foreign to be one of the Feds, most of them didn't rate anything nicer than a Ford Taurus.

Someone who just pulled up the wrong driveway? Investor? Stolen? The Matron?

Ari leaned down and looked in the window - young woman, twenty-five, thirty-ish. Normal. Maybe the legitimate car owner. "I'd say this one is more likely our Matron, but I doubt it. Someone's inside." She tilted her head at the plume of smoke rising over the estate as she turned her attention away from the Audi and its driver. "Best guess is that she's in there...the real question is, why in the Hell would anyone set up a haven for Awakened in -this- place? It's bad enough that it's a rotted out McMansion, but this is like inviting a bunch of Sioux to an old burned out aboriginal residential school."

"And what the -fuck- is that sound? Sounds like someone is beating a cat against the windows." She glanced around at the others who had trickled up. "Yeah, I know what that sounds like, don't ask."

"Are you sure you are going to the right place?" her driver asked Dana, as they traveled along a really bumpy road. This was a really old cab, you could feel it, and the taxi driver was definitely not used to going out this far into the country. To be fair, neither was Dana.
"Yes." she answered regardless, putting back the doubts in her mind. She had triple-checked the adress before going across the border, she could not be wrong.

The cab slowed to a crawl and the driver spoke up again, which was maybe the most he had spoken since starting the ride: "Are you sure you know what you are doing here?" There was concern in his voice. 'No.' Dana thought, but she answered differently: "Umm... yeah. I think so. Why do you ask?" This could not be a place dragging her down as much as the last appartment in Vancouver. This had to be a new chance.

The car stopped. The guy opened the door on his side, and spoke again: "Nevermind then." As he helped her out on her side, Dana took in the sounds and smells of this site. There were a few people here, smelling various amounts of bad, speaking with one another. And there was a large structure in front of her. A mansion.

The taxi driver dropped off her two bags next to her. "Well, I'm out of here. Good luck." he said, and vanished. And then there was pounding and some kind of screams at the mansion, and Dana was a lot more scared than she had been before. "Wait!" she called out, as she heard the motor start and the cab drive away in a hurry.

"Shit ..." she said to herself, as she was just standing there in the courtyard, wearing a casual outfit consisting of dark sunglasses, a white shirt and a black jacket, sneakers and black trousers, next to her bags, hoping she had not just made the biggest mistake of her life.

Shalim's feet hit rhythmically one after the other, crunching on the gravel path as they had been for the last half hour. He had only managed to hitchhike so far, and so began jogging the last 5 or 6 miles from the nearest town. He was beginning to feel the burn in his thighs with all the extra weight and rocking from his backpack. He'd seen a couple of cars pass him on the way up, and assumed that he must be going in the right direction. By the time he caught sight of them again it was at least another 15 minutes. Noting the dilapidated manor he slowed down to a walk to warm down and compose himself.

Thinking about having to meet a new bunch of people did nothing to get his heart-rate down and his sweat began turning cold in the chill spring air. Untying the thick duffel coat from around his waist, he re-arranged himself to keep himself insulated and in part to give him a sense of security.

He began thinking about why he accepted this random request. He had to conclude that the air of mystery gave him something resembling hope- more of escapism than any real chance of improvement. It was fairly well timed too as he'd have to be changing employment anyway on the account of his colleagues nearly forcing him into a fight the other day. He didn't want to have to be put into a position where he would have to use his ability without thinking. Only through careful timing and releasing only some of the facts to the authorities that he'd been afforded the amount of freedom he'd had up until now. There were still relatively large gaps in his document and he intended to keep it that way. In any case he was here now, and the small amount of adrenaline from his run was keeping his nerves in check. He took a deep breath as he managed to make out figures and voices down the road ahead.

Shalim immediately stopped in his tracks. He was within a stones throw of the manor now, and he made out the sign. Images of fire and screams and haunting silhouttes rushed through his head, overcoming him with nausea. He dropped to his knees, fighting back the bile he could feel clamouring its way up his throat. 'What kind of sick joke is this, bringing these kinds of people to this place' he muttered desperately to himself. He looked up to see the looming figures by the windows. Was it a trap after all? Has the government had enough of me? Can I handle this? all these questions swelled in his mind exacerbating the nausea. He clutched his head. Breaths became more erratic and shallow before finally one long exhale. 'I need to move on from that.' 'I don't have to be a frightened boy I once was.' Shalim let the mindfulness he had trained restore his composure and he raised up from his knees in a practiced movement and completely emptied his lungs before opening his eyes again to meet staring faces.

His ritual gained confidence and composure practically felt him, his face dropping to a more timid expression and gravitated to the edge of the drive by a tree. 'Fuck first impressions' he scorned himself sardonically.

"Alright Justin! Today's the day!" An exasperated yell was accompanied by a series of heavy knocks. 56-year-old Robert Hope had owned the three story complex Justin and Joseph Locke resided in since the early 2010s. The landlord was in the process of evicting the young 20-year-old. Between the boy's abrasive attitude, late rent payments, and his status as an "Awaker" left the balding man in a bit of a sour mood. It was a long time coming, honestly. Once Joe passed, Mr. Hope was essentially counting down the days until Justin ran out of money.

"Don't make me call the authorities!" The landlord yelled and banged again. (Fun Fact: eviction is considered a civil matter by the law, and cannot be enforced by the police. Mr. Hope could twist another trespassing on the boy, however.) "I don't know what they do to you people, but I bet it ain't nothing good!" About a story up, and in his bedroom, Justin could easily ignore the threats. Instead, he was in the process of packing a bag.

"Fucking hell." He mumbled feverishly as he unravelled and laid out circuit blueprints and schematics. "Can't bring none of my shit with me..." He grew frustrated as he tools pictures with his phone. If he hoped to fly across country, it meant he would have to show up to the airport with clothes and not much else. It's one thing to try and pass homemade defense weapons and suspicious-looking blueprints under airport scanners and through metal detectors. It's another thing entirely to try and do that while being considered an inhuman mutant.

Sheesh, could you imagine? They'd lock him up in some TSA-owned dungeon and he'd never see the light of day ever again. Either that or they'd publicly execute him right there in the terminal. Luckily for him, modern day camera phones meant he could take pictures that he could keep. As long as he had his schematics in some way or form, his creations would continue to live. Once he was certain he had all the pictures he needed, he resumed shoving clothes into a dingy brown duffel bag. He paused as he caught sight of the letter invading his peripheral vision. It rested on his cluttered computer stand, with a message that spurred the boy's rise to action.

The nature of the paper was almost less than simple; a cryptic message on some surprisingly nice stationary:

"If you are Awakened, and seek prosperity,
Trace the path of SCARS
And find what you seek."

Under that, were some coordinates that brought Justin to some old house in Washington, a busted Residential School.

"This better be fucking worth it." He mumbled beyond gritted teeth, shoving the letter into his pocket. Whether it was worth it or not, he didn't have much of a choice otherwise. The last of his money went into this venture. If it turned out to be some sort of scam, or a weird murder-cult, he was going to be stuck on the west coast.

As he slung his prepared duffle over his shoulder, he gave one last longful look at the contents of his room. His creations, his memories, his family, it was all being left behind. He let out a frustrated sigh before exiting the house.

Naturally, the landlord met him on the staircase, eager to greet him. "Where's the rest of your shit?" Old Man Hope spat as the boy shoved past him. "Right where I left it." Justin grumbled in frustration. "How's 'bout you go back in there and get the rest of it?" The landlord suggested angrily. The request was less of an "ask", and more of a "tell".

"Nope. Throw it away if you want. I ain't coming back here." Justin was heading down the street by this point. "Good! Ya fuckin' non-humie." The landlord muttered to the nerd's back.


Getting to Washington wasn't nearly as bad as it could've been...for an Awakened human, at least. The seat he had assigned to him was taken by a couple who refused to move, and the flight attendants did nary to fix. He might've been a tier away from hanging with the pets in the cargo hold. Nevertheless, he touched down safely after the flight.

"Spokane county...wherever the fuck that is..." He mumbled as he piled himself into an awaiting cab. "Get me to...SCARS?" The driver looked as confused as Justin sounded. He quickly scoured his brain to find a better name; he remembered seeing it in full when he found it on a map. "Uh, the Spokane County Awakened Residential School. That place." Justin clarified. The taxi driver still displayed some confusion, but at least he had a better understanding of his destination.

"You...Awakened?" The driver asked with caution. "Yup." Justin replied simply. The driver seemed hesitant to continue the conversation. "Oh calm down, Shahid. I ain't one'a those powerful ones. Can't shoot anything outta my hands." Justin took in the depressing gray scenery from then on.

It was a solid 45-minute drive before they slowed down a sloppy, gravel path that lead to an ancient, worn manor. The look the boy wore was one of utter disbelief. "Whaat the fuuuuuuuuck?" He uttered breathlessly as he stared down the hot mess laid before him. The driver nodded in simple reply before asking for payment.

"Sure, whatever. You take debit?" Justin looked like he was about to puke. The driver nodded, and the boy handed him the old plastic card. He didn't wait for him to give it back.

"Thanks. As-salāmu 'alaykum, Muhammad." Justin quickly replied as he exited the vehicle. That comment garnered a proper response from the taxi driver. "I'm not Muslim you fuck-" Justin missed the tail end of that colorful comment as he slammed the taxi door shut.

With a cautious meander, Justin approached the rundown mansion. "I'm not the only one here, surprisingly..." It didn't take much for him to notice the gaggle of individuals grouped up in the courtyard.

The other hiker was standoffish, everyone else seemed to have no clue why they were here, the air smelled like death, the estate was in disrepair, something was making a racket in the house, and if Octavio was piecing things together everyone here was an Awakened. The fact that he hungry, thirsty, and hadn't been dry in over a week didn't help his paper thin patience either.

" Yup, this place is totally fucked," Octavio said what felt like the biggest understatement of his life. He started searching for the source of the commotion and saw the door. "Screw this! I'm not waiting to see what the hell is going on!" He started marching up the stairs toward the great double doors, clenching his fists and expecting a fight. Had Octavio been in a better state of mind he might of thought twice about confronting whatever was behind the door. He reached the door and grabbed the handle; but because it was locked or just in disrepair it didn't open immediately. He held his palm out to the knob and was just about to blast door open before he caught himself, instead he balled up his fist and started aggressively knocking on the door, "Hey!" He yelled, "Well you got us here! So just what the fuck is going on!"

"Oh, good." Ari mused to herself as she watched one of the arrivals just about flip his lid as he started knocking. She half expected his fist to sink into the door, or smash it to splinters, but it managed to hold up - at least, under the first rap of his knuckles. She took a long draw on her smoke, drawing it down to the filter before flicking it to the ground and stepping on it as she blew out the last of the smoke. "They didn't invite us here for our scintillating personalities, or our fine aroma. Think they want to see what we've got." She walked over to where the man was pounding on the door and put her foot on the wall beside him, then shifted gravity, and began walking up the wall.

Shit, everyone here knew she was Awakened, no reason not to flaunt it a little.

Ari came up to the balcony just over the front door and swung herself over, correcting gravity as she did so, and tried the door. This usually worked, most people didn' thave the presence of mind to lock upper-story doors leading outside, because most thieves didn't think to bring a cherry picker and didn't have the proficiency to use a rope and grapnel. Then again, most people weren't expecting the company of a handful of Awakened, not that a locked door would do much to stop a committed Awakened of most variety.

Emil watched the whole scene dispassionately. These folks had been gathered here for a reason, but what that reason was, he had no clue. All he had was a strange message delivered to him at the shitty motel he was staying at, and that was rather vague. Still... couldn't hurt to show what he could do.

Slipping through the walls was child's play, all he had to do was will it, and he could pass through to the other side like it was nothing. He was used to the slight tingling sensation he got when passing through solid matter, but the interior of this run-down place... was not what he was expecting.

For starters, it was clean and spotless, obviously someone had been taking good care of the inside more than the outside. There was a sizable living room with a number of moth-eaten couches and a rather adorable - if ill-fitting - Winnie the Pooh teapot. Behind that was a spotless kitchen with many modern appliances, and to the right was a smoking room complete with bar and billiards table.

Somebody had been renovating this place, there was no way all of this was here when the SCARS was still open for business.

And... Emil froze. There was a tall man in a yellow shirt, waistcoat, and tattered slacks standing by the door and staring at it with a terrified expression and compulsively rotating his wrists.

Emil wasn't sure if the man had seen him yet, but that probably was a bad idea...

"...And then I told the guy that if he wanted my balls that badly he could just reach into my wife's purse and take them!"

Enrique's eyes were watering with laughter as the trucker finished another loud story with a dramatic fashion. They'd been driving together for the last few days. Most of Enrique's cross-state travel was done this way and honestly, he loved it. There was usually a trucker like the one now, which wanted some company on a long drive and was willing to go a little out of their way for it.

He wiped the tears from his eyes, "I tell you, I didn't expect to hear a trucker backtalking commercial cops like that, how'd you get away without a ticket?"

"Oh those guys are pussies, they just wanted to up their search numbers but didn't have shit to do for it. That's probably why they wanted my balls, so that at least one of them would have a set," and it was the Trucker's turn to burst out laughing, "Hey do you mind grabbing a couple from the back, I think we've gone a couple hours without a beverage."

Enrique nodded and pulled a couple beers out of the bedding area of the truck cab and passed one to the Trucker and opened one himself. It was cheap stuff, but he liked the cheap stuff, handy for a budding alcoholic on the street, "I gotta thank you again for going out of your way to drop me off here by the way, wasn't sure if you'd be willing to deviate from the route."

"Nah it's all good, I'm ahead of schedule anyways and I've always believed in Karma. But why the hell are you headed to that old school anyways? I've heard they're all shutdown and it looks like it's been a long time since you've been in school."

Enrique waved his hand theatrically, "Nah, Nah I didn't go to school there or anything, it just seemed like somewhere where I could hide out for a while. No heat or anything, but it just feels like I need a reset you know? Get out of the city for a while."

The Trucker nodded lit a cigarette, rolling down the window with the other hand. Enrique wondered, for a brief moment, what would happen if a deer had jumped in front of them in that moment, but no such thing happened and soon one of the Trucker's hands was back on the wheel. The Trucker passed him a cigarette as well. Enrique thanked him and lit it, breathing in the cheap tobacco and feeling the cool wind from the open window hit his face. The mood that had been cheerful the whole drive suddenly turned solemn. Enrique thought he saw the Trucker's hands shake once on the wheel.

"Let me tell you one more story since we're getting so close to the school. You know I had a kid once. Beautiful kid, he had a lot going for him. He was a heartbreaker from an early age. Had all the girls around him in his kindergarten class."

Another drag of the cigarette, "And he had talent too you know, he studied in school, got good grades I bet he could have been a real winner you know? Better than a trucker drinking beer and smoking with a stranger for sure."

The Past Tense. Enrique could see this story would not have a happy ending. He wanted out of the truck that very moment. The air was getting heavy. The Trucker locked the doors, "No, I've taken you all this way and this is a story I need to tell someone ok?"

Enrique slumped into his seat and took another long drag of the cigarette. The Trucker took a long pull from his can of beer and threw it out the window, "You know these schools that you're visiting? They fucked up the kids real good and then they just let them out, apologized and closed their doors. Let them all fall through the cracks. What did they think would happen?"

The Trucker's voice had cracked for the last bit and he reached for another drink behind him, deftly opening it and drinking it quickly. One large pull and that one was gone too, "Well and see the worst part is they stuck some of these kids with the normal ones. Back into school just to show that they hadn't fucking damaged them. The liars, those goddamned fucking liars."

Enrique spoke for the first time since the story started, "We can pull over, you're not looking good man."

"They picked a fight with my boy, because apparently one of them said he looked like the kid who had stolen one of his meals once. They showed me the comparison shots, that kid looked completely different. But this kid was determined they were the same kid and he wanted to fight. 30 years ago I would have said let them have it out, he could have stood his own against a punk in school."

Enrique knew it was the wrong thing to say but he had to know, "What was the kid's power?"

"Atmospheric pressure in an isolated ward, is what they called it. My wife called it hell and I called it a mess that destroyed my son's life. They put down the other kid, rifles out, no mercy. They didn't have mercy then, not for the kid whose life they fucked up, not for my son's life that ended that day, or for me and my wife who had to look at the twisted mess and discern that it was once our child."

Enrique pushed the cigarette into his hand feeling the heat draw into his body. He didn't want to be caught off guard. The Trucker scoffed, "Don't worry I know you're Awakened, only the Awakened ever visit places like this. And I don't blame all Awakened for what happened to my son. They're victims too, you're a victim too. Fuck I don't know why I wanted to tell you this story. Maybe I'm drunk, maybe I wanted you to feel guilty, who the fuck knows..."

The school finally pulled into view and despite the tears and the alcohol, the Trucker maneuvered the turns and stopped in an area he was sure he could turn around in. Enrique and the Trucker looked at each other, "So where to from here old man?" Enrique asked.

"I'm gonna drop this load off and go home. Gonna leave a lot of baggage right here too if you don't mind."

Enrique opened the door and turned to look at the Trucker again just in time to see the rest of the cigarette pack thrown at him, "You're broke right? Take those for now then, I can grab another pack later."

"Alright. Thanks."

Enrique started to shut the door, "Thanks again for the lift here."

The Trucker smiled in a way that made the goodbye feel even more final than it already was, "Try to remember, when the dust settles, what kind of consequences your actions have for the rest of us."

Enrique lit another cigarette, using the heat leftover from the last one to ignite the dry paper, "Consequences of my actions eh? Nothing I do will ever make the news pal so you don't have to worry about that."

He began walking, hiking up the ragged jacket he had stolen from another homeless man not too long ago. It didn't keep all the wind out, but it helped. As he hiked he saw that he wasn't alone at this so-called abandoned school. There was a ragtag group of people who almost looked as poor as him, a bike, a car. It looked a little crowded.

He raised his hand a little as he approached the group. He saw one person had not quite yet entered the mixed and mingled group, but chose to ignore them. Better to join with a group in situations like this, it kept you alive longer, "Hey, any of you guys know who called us out here? I want to get out of this wind."

She was thankful that none of the people had made a move towards her car just yet. There was a moment when the hobo girl motioned towards the car which was worrying, but so far Mia had no reason to actually act on her belief that these people were all out here to steal her stuff and dump her body in that nasty looking fountain. In fact, the more people that showed up by cab, the more at ease she felt with the situation.

At the very least, if there are this many pour souls here, whoever sent that letter is gonna be heavily outnumbered.

It also meant that if they did move on her and her fancy looking car, by far the class of transportation that had shown up to this ramshackle school, she'd be outnumbered too.

Maybe I should join them first. At the very least I can try and fight out in the open... As she looked at the now vertical hobo girl return to normal orientation and head for the door, it was time for her to make her move.

Worst case New Mexico I can turn the tide on her probably. I definitely got her beat in hygiene at the very least.

As Mia finally opened the door and stepped out of the Audi, she noticed the overpowering smells of wood and smoke. Both from the surrounding forest and the still burning fire. It combined to unsettle the Jersey girl, not used to trees of any kind, and certainly not a fan of the flames. She swallowed a gulp and shut the door, pressing the keyfob to lock it as if that would protect her remaining belongings out here.

As she walked, another man walked up the driveway, hand raised.

"Hey, any of you guys know who called us out here? I want to get out of this wind."

In this situation, unsure of what to do, she defaulted to what her father always taught her. When you are truly afraid, show no fear. Best way to get through the scary part.

Mia let out a pfft sound, blowing a stream of air that rustled one of her blonde streaks. "You call this wind? I've seen worse wind. Far worse. Huge gusts. Blow that jacket right off your skinny ass."

A powerhouse right out of the gate, making her presence known. She had come from the nice car in the driveway and yet, she was making it sound like she wasn't the one who called them here. Made Enrique wonder if there'd be an even fancier ride on the way. Anyone who could afford drones to deliver letters had to be rich after all.

"You call this wind? I've seen worse wind. Far worse. Huge gusts. Blow that jacket right off your skinny ass."

He chuckled, "Yeah, yeah but we're not all made as tough as you apparently are missy. Most of us also don't got a fancy ass car to hide in either."

It wasn't about being aggressive, meeting aggression with more just equalled a fight and he didn't wanna be in a fight right now. He just wanted to warm up a little. But at the same time you couldn't get pushed around either; everyone was gonna be establishing the pecking order now and it wouldn't do him any good to get steamrolled by the first person he talked to.

He continued walking toward the group, but addressed the woman who had first addressed him, "So you're not the Matron then eh? Damned shame, I was really hoping to get a look at them, see what I hitchhiked all this way for. So far all I'm seeing is people somehow more hopeless looking than me and a couple people who have vehicles, which man, you must be doing well for yourself if you got one of those."

Dana took her bags and created a weird clicking sound with her tongue as she approached the group of misfits near her. At least there were people in the same situation as her, so if this had been a mistake, it was not only her own. And while the sounds of the manor were less than comforting, the gurgling of the fountain and the far-away sounds of birds helped her to stay grounded in reality.

"So far all I'm seeing is people somehow more hopeless looking than me and a couple people who have vehicles, which man, you must be doing well for yourself if you got one of those." a young man with a spanish accent just finished his speech.

Dropping her bags with a heavy thud right next to the group, she tried to chime in:

"I just used all my left-over money for the cab. So ... does anyone of you know what this place is? ... Who are you people?"

She spoke with a slight german accent, showing she was less than native to this part of the country as well. Still, her voice was high and clear.

"I'm Dana. Nice to meet you all ... I guess."

"Hey! Well you got us here! So just what the fuck is going on?"

The Rake licked his dry, cracked lips. Very brash, to be expected from some people, though he had no idea what to expect from any of these wayward souls. Mother had not allowed him to see the dossiers, and as far as The Rake was concerned, every one of these visitors was more a trespasser and invader at his fortress walls. He coughed, several hacking coughs, both to clear his throat and due to his mounting anxiety. He called back through the door, attempting to be brave and relying upon his fume-ruined vocal chords to lend him some gravitas and intimidation, all while eminently aware of the fear in his voice.

"Why did you even come here? Wasn't it pretty obvious you were walking into the lion's den?"
As he spoke, he heard something in the room (or felt it?) and was once more struck by a terrible fear; the intruders had already made their way inside, his fortress compromised before any defense could be mounted. Upstairs now, footsteps, movement, could it just be mother? There was no telling, there were no knowing, and there was all the quaking as The Rake moved from the rotating of wrists to the snapping of fingers and the stamping of feet. To the nothing, he called out, once more putting on a brave face to hide his coward's heart.
"I warn you, little geats, you are trespassing upon Grendel's den! My mother awaits upstairs, ten time the monster I could ever hope to be!" he called out to the nothing, invigourating himself by taking on a character he could never hope to fulfill, "Below, a dragon sits upon his hoard and slumbers restlessly! You best hope there is a Beowulf among you!" he continued incessantly, spitting the words out ceaselessly, and when he was done he rasped and struggled for breath.

Upstairs, the Matron Thurgood heard all that which was transpiring within the house, and with a sigh, she began to move downstairs with a calm grace, preparing herself for conversations she had played over in her mind for months. She held the tea to herself, sheltering it within her shawl to maintain her warmth as she moved through the parts of the house she had failed to pull from their disrepair. There would be more work to do, in time, as these visitors would no doubt demand more comfortable quarters than acrimonious and burnt out wards for lost souls. Her wrinkled, dark hands clutched the tea tight as she took dainty steps down the stairs, careful not to scare the boy, lest she be as blackened and charred as the upper floors. When she reached the second floor, she spied from the hall and through the window of the balcony door a vagabond, the one known as Vagari. She gave as warm a smile as she could muster (though perhaps it was not as warm as she may have liked), and a small wave. Then, when she was sure she had acquired the attention of Vagari, she motioned downstairs, and then continued on her way, gentle, gentle, to the first floor.

There the boy stood, across from the door, all puffed up and doing his best to put on brave airs that the Matron Thurgood knew he could no more back up than a bearded dragon could act upon a claim to breathe fire; all of the look, and none of the substance, a pale shade of death. With an authoritative tone, the kind she used to control her son despite his perpetual teenage resentment and rebellion, she chided him.
"Why must you always be so unkind to guests, Henry? First to Josef and now to these fine folks. Stand down, you foolish boy; mother will take care of this," she spoke as she glided down the steps, her worn, patched and plain dress trailing behind her as she moved, graceful as a ghost moving across the landing. With a heavy, black and iron key she pulled from a satchel at her side, she unlocked the door, and opened it slowly, coming face to face with a young man, brash and brazen. She scanned over the dossiers in her mind as she scanned the boy's features with a smile; brown hair? brown eyes? Just the slightest hint of a tan, couldn't be more than forty.
"Now let's see...Justin Locke? Octavio DeSanto? Enrique Shackerov? I'm afraid you'll have to qualify your name for me dear, some of you are rather less distinct from eachother when all you are known by is government descriptions on dossiers," she chattered, still smiling that same attempt at a warm smile, with a hand outstretched to shake.

Octavio looked at the woman and replied, " I'm Octavio, I'm guessing you're the Madame?" he was still anxious but seeing the interior of the building had given him pause.

"The Matron, but yes, I am your host. It is customary to shake a hand that is offered to you, and I apologize for Henry's behavior, the boy has been alone in here with me for some time, and he refuses to take his anti-depressants."

Octavio was starting to feel foolish as he reached out and shook the Matron's hand, but he continued to inquire, " So we're here, like you asked, what did you want?"

"I recognize the journey you have made, but I must ask for a mite more patience. Please come inside, the parlor is on the left as you arrive. There's tea in the pot, if you wish for a refreshment. Once I have greeted everyone, we will take our tea and I will give you an explanation."
The Matron turns to Henry, and calls out softly.
"Henry, make yourself useful and go get Josef, his presence is required. Take down some roadkill as tribute, if you're scared."
Henry sullenly follows this order, padding off to the kitchen, through the parlor.

"Tea sounds nice," Octavio said as he remembered just how thirsty he was, "Wait roadkill? Who are you feeding roadkill to?"

The Matron gives a gentle laugh.
"Oh we're not feeding it to him, we're not savages or hillfolk. Josef is a rather...practical biologist; he enjoys performing dissections."

" Makes sense sort of, so is he an Awakened too?" He asked as he scanned the interior, before he looked back at the others. He gave them a shrug as if he meant to say: 'We're probably not going to get murdered.'

"Oh heavens no, and neither am I for that matter. Josef's nature will be eminently clear the moment you see him in the flesh."

Octavio began wiping the mud off of his boots on the doormat as he prepared to enter. " So where is the parlor exactly?" He asked, a hint of caution still lingering in his tone. He wasn't completely sold but he wasn't just going to keep standing in the doorway like an ass. The Matron has moved past Octavio, considering him dealt with. While Octavio noticed Henry moving towards the room that he assumed was the parlor and followed.

The inside of this place didn't exactly buoy Vagari's confidence. Sure, she'd seen worse spots, like crackhouses, but as a secret school for the supernaturally gifted this didn't exactly fill her with hope. The creepy, patchwork-dressed woman gesturing for her to follow her downstairs, and the screeching lunatic below didn't exactly improve matters. On the flip side of the coin, she was pretty sure this wasn't a trap set by the feds, they'd go for something a little less slasher movie than this. She kept her distance until the Matron had called off her deranged attack dog and let the others in, then followed her down the stairs and found a spot to lean against the wall behind her - leaning was a matter of perspective, she actually altered gravity so that she was comfortably lying on her back, but you'd have to look closely to realize that.

It wasn't that she was at ease here so much that she'd learned to take advantages to rest where she could get it. Besides, she liked to flex her power, fine tune it.

She met Octavio's eyes over the Matron's shoulder and raised her hand in a little wave, then shifted gravity to fall into step alongside him as they moved into the next room.

"Octavio, right? Vagari." She introduced herself with her usual warm candor. She lowered her voice until she thought that neither the creepy old woman nor the bald-headed freak ahead of them could hear. "I'm trying to decide what horror movie we're in. The House says the second-rate Oregon-based remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but the locals are telling me The Hills Have Eyes, and what she's saying says Island of Doctor Moreau." People liked humor. Funny people were ingratiating, and everyone liked talking about movies. Plus, Vagari was nervous and it was the one common point of reference you could generally be sure of, that other people have seen or at least heard of American film.

Mohammad was startled when the banging started, and he thought for a moment it was gunfire. When he saw no impacts or anyone getting hit, however, he realized it was just something throwing itself into the walls. He turned to face the manor, taking a few more steps away from it and hefting the rock. When the creature threatened, he prepared to throw but, on the woman opening the door, and not it bursting open as whatever beast lay behind it burst forth, he lowered it. As she introduced herself, he dropped the rock, hearing it roll for a moment on the ground before he walked towards the woman.

He looked to the people around him. He doubted any of these people in their circumstances would be too rough on him for his name... He approached cautiously, getting within about ten feet of her. "I'm Mohammad Charmchi, ma'am." He said, adding a small bow. Best not disrespect someone who was able to control a crowd of hormonal and angsty Awakened in a shit hole like this.

He still kept an eye on the others, though, occasionally glancing back at them. Especially the one in the car. He had to build his Ural from spare parts and most of a frame, and this person rolls up in a new Audi. At most, a thief. At worst, a government agent.

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