20th of January - 2020
The weeks since you had arrived at Goodnight under the protection of the Violet Underground had been chaotic, exhausting, and stressful. The atmosphere was initially lifted by the sudden availability of hot showers and reasonable food - especially after the days gone without either by the arriving refugees - but before long it had become obvious that keeping a good few hundred, maybe even a thousand, of the most stressed, outcast, magically supercharged people on the planet all together in one mall would be trying.
The incident with Abigail was the first, and to the veterans of the underground it was probably the most outstanding on account of the revelations that came with it, but it was by no means the only one.
The Violet Underground had promised everyone basic instruction on how to control their magic, and use it safely, and these classes were delivered by more or less whoever was on hand to give them; they were useful, surprisingly thorough, and if nothing else an engaging diversion - but even still, accidents happened. The medics were kept busy by a constant stream of self-injury and magical exhaustion, and the sentries had to get used to keeping as much of an eye on the refugees as they were on their surroundings - but even worse were the fights.
It could have been because tensions were high, or because of something one person had done, or simply because people liked violence, but life in Goodnight had become punctuated by arguments which had an alarming tendency to devolve into violence. They weren’t so commonplace that you couldn’t avoid them, but they were frequent enough that everyone knew it was happening - and it was leading to tribalism in the mall. Worse still were the times people tried to bring their magic into the matter - more often than not, they were shut down almost instantly by the more experienced mages of the Underground, and the few times things did get out of hand still weren’t all that serious… but the change in atmosphere was obvious.
At 7AM that monday morning, two weeks after your arrival, things changed for you again.
Headquarters was not a place most of you had been before - only Abi, so far, had been inside the bare, freezing room at the back of the mall - but it was the sort of environment you were all familiar with in one way or another. It was a cross between a staff room, an office, a war room, and - bizarrely enough - an AA meeting, what with the row of coffee urns that had been repaired and refilled since Abigail in particular was last here.
Simon had sent some people out to find you, wake you if necessary, and bring you to him first thing in the morning.
When you got there, he was standing at one of the tables, his eyes deeply shadowed from lack of sleep and a cup of what might genuinely have been military grade instant coffee in his hand.
“Morning, guys.” He said, with a voice that screamed all-nighter. Simon looked up from the map, and drew his gaze across the assembly that had gathered in front of him. He paused then, for a moment, as if he were deciding where to begin. In the background, Brooks was filling his own cup with coffee, and Billy was idly thumbing through a small book, looking up at you as you entered. Brooks inclined his head - almost begrudgingly - towards Abigail.
“I’ve had to listen to well over a hundred reports from the bootleggers - the smugglers responsible for getting you here - in just the past two weeks. My colleagues have had to receive many more still.” He placed the cup down on the table, next to the stack of papers he had been looking over. “But in the middle of all that, you guys and a few others managed to stand out.”
He nodded, pacing around the table, folding his arms, looking the party over again.
“I’m looking at a group of people right now who can do some pretty amazing stuff. Turning your skin to volcanic rock and lifting steel beams, fighting street art come alive and helping your own rescuer pick up where others had fallen, healing the dead flesh of the seriously injured, even taking up arms against an agent of the FOE. I’m very impressed.”
Simon laid his hands on the table, leaning on them, taking some of the weight off his feet and sighing loudly.
“Look, I don’t really want to beat around the bush with this, so I’m gonna just… come right out and say it. We are not doing great at the moment. We were never exactly a well coordinated group to begin with, but there have been entire cells and groups of our people that have just disappeared in the last couple of weeks, and we’re recording a lot of…” he stumbled, struggling for the right word to make it seem less than it really was, and failing to find it, “... losses. Casualties.”
A young woman with dark skin and a serious expression wordlessly took his cup and refilled it as he continued.
“To get to the point, I’m asking you if you might be interested in volunteering. Working with us. I need to be completely clear right now, you have no obligation to, and it will not be held against you if you refuse.” He held his hands up, cutting an X into the air for emphasis. “We do dangerous work, as you all know, and while we’re certainly not in a position to refuse anyone who might be willing to help, we are not holding it over anyone. The Underground will continue to protect you regardless.”
“But we need the help.” Brooks added, curtly.
Billy nodded, tucking the book away into the chest pocket of his body warmer.
Simon’s lips curled downwards, a bitter expression on his face - bitter and, possibly, disappointed.
“We do need the help. In fact, if you were interested, I’d even be able to set you up on a job with Brooks and Billy here, get you started right away.” Simon looked up at you, hopefully.