Hidden 1 yr ago Post by Pascal
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"Yea, we understand." Ellen replied. "For now, you enjoy the view-- dirty old man." She grinned playfully, but her mind was already moving onto the next thing.

Ellen reached into her back pocket for her phone, but felt nothing, of course. She had lost track of the number of times she had reached for her phone over the last few weeks-- especially those first few days-- only to have a jarring reminder that didn't have a life like that anymore. She couldn't just idly check the time (seriously, she never would have guessed she would have craved an actual watch in her adult life) or play a game, or look through old pictures. And right now, she couldn't call or text anyone. But someone else on their team could.

Was the ragtag team really trained well-enough and comfortable enough with their powers to track down the agents who stole the medicine they needed? Did they even have the right sort of abilities for a case like this? Ellen, for one, felt unprepared for such a venture. But hey, fake it till you make it, right?

With an intensifying case of imposter syndrome bubbling beneath the surface, Ellen moved her remaining hand from the compress, pushing off the floor to stand. Her hand left a bloody print on the floor, and she needed to at least wipe off some of the excess. Looking around, her gaze settled on the sink.

Fortunately, the water turned on. It wasn't the most pleasant in color, and the pipes let out a nasty groan as some water-like liquid came trickling out. She followed up with a towel, wiping her hands as she exited the room.

The phone was with Brooks, or Billy, or someone like that. She wondered if there was any way to get like… satellite (or magic insight) information on exactly how far away and in which direction these baddies were. Could she ask in a straight-forward manner, or did she need to use something coded? Someone else probably knew…

Ellen rounded up the others as she moved back to the billy bus, unless they chose to stay behind with the man bleeding out, or were otherwise preoccupied. Reaching the bus, she found Billy, and Abi, who already looked hurt. Had she found the agents? Since they were just sitting around, she didn't think so. "You okay?" Ellen asked her.

She gave the girl a few moments to reply before jumping into a debrief/consultation. "There is a guy inside still alive. Angeline did what she could for him but we need to reach out to Goodnight and let them know that this has all gone sideways. See if they can offer any insight for how we catch up to the supplies and get them back. Unless any of you have skills useful for tracking."

Ellen reached out for the phone, and thought for a few moments before she began to compose the message, ”Will be late to the cookout. Can't find the cooler. Maybe it's in the car? Will keep looking. Any ideas?”

Ellen sent the message and then looked at the screen for a few more moments before Swyping another message. ”Oh, and the hot dogs got wrecked on the trip. I think you can save one...maybe? But gotta act fast! I'll leave it in the kitchen for you :)”

Almost immediately there came a reply.

"What the fuck are you talking about?"

Maybe a coded message was a bad idea. Someone really should have asked more questions before they started this mission. Ellen looked down at the phone with a frown. Despite the danger in beating around the bush, Ellen felt more compelled than before to keep moving with the extended cookout metaphor.

”Sheesh. You don't HAVE to, I guess. He is Drowning in ketchup at this point. Hope you've got more beer, though. Cuz we're not getting any more moonshine outta this joint.”

Maybe a pronoun, an implication of heavy bleeding, plus a direct reference to the boot letter position would be enough. Of not, she couldn't be blamed for the denseness.

“R U trying 2 talk in Code?”

Fine. Screw being subtle. Ellen was TRYING to keep things on the DL, but someone at Goodnight was just being thick on purpose. "Yes. The bootleggers were attacked before we got here. One is still alive and has a lot of internal bleeding. The medicine is gone but we are going after it." If they weren't being so dense, she wouldn't have had to send so many messages.

"Hlyshit ok hng on, Ill see what can do to help."

About half a minute, maybe less, passed. It felt like an hour.

"Move him to basement. Doctor standby. Reinforcements coming."

Ellen looked up at the group, who may or may not have been arguing about just burning or offing the man to make it easier for them to go on with their day. She hadn’t really been listening to them, since her focus had been on tapping the letters on the nokia’s old keyboard so many times to get each individual letter. She didn’t answer the last text, but instead spoke up to the group.

“Goodnight wants us to move him to the basement. I think they are sending a doctor. They said reinforcements are coming, but I am not sure if that is help for us or help for him. Either way, we can’t afford to waste too much time before we go after them. I guess… if anyone doesn’t want to, they can hang out in the basement and hitch a ride back instead.” She offered an out since things were certainly going to get more difficult. And maybe Abi wanted to return to get medical care since she managed to injure herself.
Hidden 1 yr ago Post by Jessikka
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Angeline watched as Ellen stood up and left, presumably to go get help? She sat with the man and sighed “I wish there was more I could do for you..” She sighed and looked around, suddenly her vision went black. She shoved her hand on the floor so she doesn’t fall. Angie looked around panicked but saw a faint glow coming from the window, she pushed herself to her feet, wobbling awkwardly. From her standing position she can see a few plants glowing dimly. In her confusion, the spell dispersed and her vision came flooding back. “What…” She muttered. Not yet able to put the pieces together on what exactly was happening she looked back down at the hurting man. “That was weird,” she commented and stepped back, leaning against the wall.

“You alright?” Brooks asked, squat down on the opposite side of the wounded man.

“Uhhh” she started and rubbed her forehead with the back of her hand, leaving a slight smudge of blood. “I think so, I mean my vision went black and I could see something glowing but before I could really figure out what was happening my sight came back to normal.” she started “I guess it’s probably like a spell or something? But I don’t really know exactly what it does yet..” She admitted, defeatedly.

Brooks furrowed his brows, “Keep working on keeping the man alive. I’m going to check up on the rest and then i’ll be back to help move him in the van, alright?”

Angie nodded “I’ll do my best, better be quick-” She held her hand up beside her mouth, as if that were going to stop the dying man from hearing what she said next “Not sure how long he has left..” She went back to squatting down beside the man and dabbing away any blood left on him gently.

Brooks put a hand on his knee and hauled himself up with a grunt. He turned to head outside the house, giving the holes embedded in the house another once-over before returning to the van with the others. He caught the tail end of Ellen speaking to the others and interjected: “We ain’t going after them unless Goodnight specifically tells us to. Last thing we’re doing is sending a gaggle of unarmed recruits after armed enemies. I’m going to go back to help Angie with the body, everyone else start making your way back outside of the basement, and for the love of god don’t stand where the teleporting happens...We’ll talk to whoever they send what the plan is from there.”

He paused, looking at Abigail and then Siobhan: “You two find anything worthwhile in the cabin? You’re both in relative one piece so I assume there wasn’t someone hiding in a cupboard.” he waited for their response but didn’t stay for a conversation before hastily pointing back at the basement and everyone to hurry before rushing back up to the house with Angie, refusing to waste time. “Alright, where’s he bleeding from? We’ll be real careful.”

Angeline looked at Brooks “Well, the surface level bleeding has subsided a lot, I think… Lord only knows what’s going on in there.” She gestured vaguely at his core. “What are we doing?” She asked but could gather by the way Brooks was setting himself up by the body. “Ah, I see.” She took the head side, but picked him up from the side, as if she were cradling a child or something of the sort as to not stretch the wound open by hooking her arms under his arms. “Okay this is probably the best way to move him, you take the opposite side and we’ll go nice and careful…”
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Hidden 1 yr ago Post by Bazmund
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By the Billy Bus


Abigail and Billy






As Siobhan appeared practically out of nowhere, and began having a go at Abi, Billy’s eyes widened in shock. He stuttered for a moment as she threatened Abi, standing sharply and holding out his hand to tell her to stop - as she vanished.

“I- I, what the fuck? Shit, Abigail, you alright?”

Abigail stared at the space where Siobhan used to be, open-mouthed and silent. She turned to gawp at Billy, then at her hand, then she sank back into the seats with a low hiss. "My hand hurts," she croaked.

“I-” he stuttered again, looking between Abi’s hand and the void Siobhan had left behind. After a moment he started to look all around, too, as if Siobhan would still be there, just watching.

“Fuck.” Billy swore, fists clenching for a moment as he tried to decide what to do. “Shit, Abi, what- no, what the fuck, Siobhan?!”

"What. What?" Abigail watched Billy as a frown started to creep onto her features.

“Well, I- I- Look, Abi, I don’t know what all this is about her race or ethnicity, but she ain’t allowed to just go round threatenin’ you. Are you alright?”

"S'fine bud, I kinda had it comin' to me," Abigail slurred as she continued her gradual melt into the vehicle's furniture, twisting her body so she was lying on her back, hand in the air. "Hand still hurts though," she reminded him with a twinge of cheeriness. Her expression was clouded by thought.

“No, that ain’t fine. Ain’t no part of that fine. I don’t care what you said or did, you didn’t visit violence upon ‘er and ought not have had it threatened against you. An’ I didn’t ask if it were justified, Abigail,” he added, his voice softening a bit as he handed her the little tube of anaesthetic cream, “I asked you if you were alright.”

"Peachy, chief, I'm fuckin' peachy." Abigail grabbed the edge of the dressing and tugged - once, twice - with grunts of discomfort. She muttered under her breath. She gingerly tried to peel back the swabs of material. "AwyagoddabefugginkiddinmeeeeRRRRARGH-!" she groaned, growled then yelled out as she tore off the wound dressing like a cheap bikini line wax strip. Her back curled with the pain, launching her back into a sitting position. Clumps of her hair stuck to her face with the residual sweat of her wound treatment and she squeezed half the tube in one hefty blob, smearing it into her hand and down her arm.

As she tore off the dressing and a part of her own hand Billy paled a little.

“Holy shit. Hey, ya might wanna keep that on.”

"I'm gonna fuckin' 'visit violence' on your ass in a minute if you don'-...fffuck it, man! It's FINE! Now ain't the time for this shit!" Her voice was shrill and her breathing ragged. "We got bigger shit to deal with," she wheezed, regaining some composure. "Forget about the-...the lady. There's corpses everywhere! Priorities!"

At the comment of visiting violence upon him, Billy’s eyebrow quirked upwards.

“Somehow, I doubt I’ll have to worry about you beatin’ the shit outta me, Abigail. Alright, you have a point, we can talk about this later - but Abigail, we are gon’ talk about it later. As for that crazy bitch…” Billy’s fist clenched again as he turned and looked towards the house, where he could only imagine she’d gone.

“She won’t try anything, Abi. I ain’t gonna let her make good on any threats, alright? If she does try something then I hope she brought water, because she’ll be walkin’ home.” He spat into the dust. “An’ I very much mean that.”

"Good. Yeah. I…" she was staring at her hand again, watching it shake and ooze. "I shouldn't have done that."

With Billy's assistance, Abigail redressed her wound and mumbled something about lightheadedness. She was lying back on the seats when Ellen came in, and waved her bandaged hand around like a prize. "Hand's fucked!" She chirped. Her other hand pulled down the brim of her greasy baseball cap over her brow as she tuned out for the rest of the discussion, half-turning towards the backs of the seats as everyone crowded back into the bus.

Billy turned to face Ellen as she asked for the phone.

“Well shit, it’s good to know someone made it, even if they are in bad shape.” He replied, handing the phone over as Brooks approached. “Yeah, no, I reckon we prob’ly got a bit more than we bargained for with this one. Let’s just see what the folks at Goodnight think of it.”





The House






As the wounded bootlegger was heaved up, he gave a weak, agonised groan.

“Shit.” He muttered. “Fuck, wait, if you- if you need weapons, I had my gun with me in the kitchen, Alex- Alex dropped his in the living room when he got hit. You gotta, you…” he trailed off into mumbled grunts of pain as he was moved to the basement.

Just as they approached the basement, the door down to it opened, and Hans and Mark stepped out into the house, dressed in light clothes and carrying weapons; Hans was the more heavily armed of the two, carrying his rifle and wearing a body armour vest, magazines for the rifle tucked into pouches on its front, whereas Mark was holding an uzi uncomfortably in one hand, and had a baseball bat in the other. Which he awkwardly dropped about as soon as he saw all the blood in the house.

“Hallo.” Hans held up a hand in greeting as he approached the group. “Get him into the basement, they’re going to perform the transport to bring him back to Goodnight in two minutes.”

After that was done, and the wounded man no longer an issue, Mark and Hans organised everyone. The injured bootlegger was right, and there were two pistols to be found in the house - a browning hi-power in the kitchen, and a 1911 that had been dropped under the sofa in the living room, handle bloodied and stained, but perfectly functional.

Once they were all by the van, they broke the bad news.

“We have orders from Goodnight.” Hans began.

“Yep.” Mark agreed, before continuing. “You ain’t gonna like this, but it turns out this delivery was needed a lot more badly than we thought. Unless it turns out we’re somehow going straight up against the fuckin army or the FOE or some shit, we’ve been told to come help you track down and retrieve the supplies, a cool box in particular.”

“Yes. By any means we deem necessary.” Hans nodded grimly, patting the side of his weapon.

“So uh… what do you think, guys?”
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“Are you kiddin’ me? They want us to take these kids and haul after armed bandits?”

“That’s why they sent us, as backup.” remarked Mark, a little snidely.

“I agree with you, Brooks.” Hans added curtly, practically cutting Mark off from any further comment. “Even the most capable people in this group don’t have the training or experience for something like this. At Goodnight, I objected to this idea.”

“So did I, at first.” the shorter man continued, “but as much as I hate to say it and as fucked as the situation is, there’s just no other mother fucker who can even respond right now - and these new bloods already have a reputation, given their rescues.”

“Ja. This isn’t good, but it is the best we have. And people will die without the insulin.”

Brooks clenched his jaw. He was silent for a moment then he nodded. “Abigail, with me. If we’re confronting ‘em we’ll need those guns. Everyone else, start getting in the van. We’re going to give chase.”

Abigail split off from the group, stalking up the path to the house and following Brooks' footsteps. "You don't sound so sure 'bout this," she pointed out.

“‘Course I ain’t. We’re following after killers with a pack of rascals.” he stepped up to the house, opened it and went where the injured bootlegger claimed to have dropped the guns. “Besides, what’s got you all giddy. You’re looking like a one armed bandit with broken lights.”

"The blood, for starters," Abigail intoned quietly. The sight of the house's interior had started to sink in. "And the pain, but that's more of a, a constant…" she stopped, checking under the coffee table for any weaponry.

“And I’m askin’. How the hell did you injure yourself with no one that’s trying to kill you in sight?”

"Occupational hazard," Abigail remarked as she ran her fingers across the bullet holes, entranced. "I uh, it was an accident really, I got a little carried away and melted a bunch'a zip-ties into my hand. But we're good now," she added on hastily.

“No, we really ain’t.” he found the two guns where the injured man said they would be. He checked them for ammunition. “You don’t seem to grasp just how serious in a situation you are. Do you? Have you -still- not gotten in your head?”

"What, because I'm cracking jokes? Better to laugh than cry, right? And the state'ah this house is really tellin' of what I got ahead of me." Abigail swallowed hard, staring at the pools of blood and Alex's body. "What is this anyway, huh? You didn't bring me here to get the guns. What do you want from me?"

“I left you alone for what, five minutes and look at what you gone and done.”

"You missed the part where Billy spent another five minutes yanking shit out of my melted hand, and I didn't so much as spark. I told you. It's been two weeks. I'm not gonna be a goddamn master."

Brooks narrowed his eyes slightly then exhaled. “You’re going to trail behind when we run into the bandits, not run off on your own. You might get in the way with a bust up hand like that.”

"Hey man, I ain't complainin'." Abigail skirted towards Brooks, then away from him - back to the body in the kitchen. "Do I get one of them fancy guns?" She asked over her shoulder as she weighed her options...then squatted and started to rifle through the dead man's pockets.

Brooks let out a sharp breath of air through his nose, rolling his eyes up at the ceiling. “MhmNo.”

Abigail found a couple of extra ammunition magazines and a blister pack of caffeine pills. Being unable to locate anything else of importance on the man's person, she trotted to Brooks' side and offered out the extra ammunition. "Then I hope whoever you give the spare to has some damn good aim," she grinned at him, all sweaty and dirty with blood down her arm. Brooks took the ammo and left the building to return to the bus.

As Brooks returned back to the van he voiced out at the group collectively: “Any shooters amongst you? We got two guns spare, one with eight bullets and the other with six. We’ll need ‘em where we’re going.” he turned to Billy next: “We’ll follow their tracks. Might have to go off road, can the bus handle it?”
Hidden 1 yr ago Post by Pascal
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Hans was a sight for sore eyes, and Ellen was glad it was him who came from the basement. He was armed and ready for action--exactly as they should have been at the start of this business. They were wasting precious time that they needed to be using to follow the assholes who made off with their medications.

Hans and Mark broke the news, and Ellen was eager to chime in that she was ready to go right now. But Brooks retorted that they were clearly the wrong group for this sort of mission. Looking around, Ellen couldn’t help but agree. There just had to be people better suited for this at Goodnight. But for whatever reason, no one else was available.

Brooks told them to get in the van, and walked off with Abigail for a bit. Ellen silently hoped that he would bring her to the basement of the house so she could get picked up. With her injury, she wasn’t going to likely be able to actually help them on this mission. She wasn’t sure how much they could all do piled into the Billy Bus, either, but she wasn’t going to argue.

“Good to see you, Hans.” Ellen said. She knew they weren’t going anywhere just yet. They had to wait for Brooks (at least) to return, so she leaned against the van. She looked around, wondering how much use they would all be loaded up in one van. It would have been easier, perhaps, if they had two vehicles. Didn’t the bootleggers have a car? The one they used to bring the supplies here in the first place?

Ellen didn’t see any other car or truck here, and after a few moments, realized that the attackers must have taken the entire vehicle. Assholes.

“You think we can do this?” Ellen asked, looking at Hans. In theory, it was simple. Drive fast, catch up with a truck, take possession of it again. But these guys had clearly been well-armed, and...well nothing was ever simple anymore. And they weren’t exactly the cream of the crop.

“Hard to say. Not sure who we’re dealing with, what experience they have, if they’re expecting us. They had foresight enough to ambush the bootleggers, but anyone who’s thrown a punch before can tell you it is a lot easier when the other poor bastard isn’t expecting it - and, army or not, it is very easy to let your guard down when you think you are alone.” Hans gestured to one of the bodies, still lying in the sand.

Ellen nodded, looking over at the nearby body. It felt...wrong, to just leave it here. This person had died trying to get the medical supplies to the people of Goodnight, and they were going to just leave the dead behind to decay out here in the hot Australian sun. On the one hand, she knew there was nothing they could do for the dead, and they needed to spend their time trying to help the living. On the other, it left her with a sobering realization that when she died, her body would likely just be left on the ground. People would move on, and she would be forgotten.

Shrugging off the uncomfortable feeling, Ellen looked at Hans again, and the armored vest he wore to protect himself. “Well, hopefully they won’t expect us to come after them--and maybe they wasted most of their ammunition putting holes in the house.” She gestured to the abode with one hand, wondering what Brooks and Abigail were up to.

“That’s unlikely. Bullets are much cheaper than you might think, Ellen, easy to stockpile. If they were willing to use them on a group of strangers out in the middle of nowhere like this, you can bet they have more wherever it is they came from.”

He paused for a moment, looking around, noticing Ellen’s gaze falling on one of the bodies.

“Hm.” He grunted. “I doubt they knew what they were dealing with, all the same. Probably thought our bootleggers were dealing drugs or some other contraband.”

Hans clicked his tongue, then looked back to Ellen.

“Thinking about the odds is a mixed proposition. On the one hand, you need to maintain an accurate assessment of your abilities, and make sure you manage the risks - but also, it can be more valuable to just do. If you think too much that you will fail, if you think so much about the danger, then it distracts you. Do you know what I mean?”

It was hardly reassuring to think that the men were still well-armed. But Hans seemed to suggest that they were probably going after the drugs just to steal them, rather than this being an organized anti-Underground sort of effort. So while they might be expecting weaponry, they weren’t likely expecting magic.

Hans warned her about overthinking things, and Ellen grinned lightly. Over-thinking generally wasn’t one of her problems. Keeping an accurate assessment of her abilities might be more of a challenge, but she would never really know what she could do unless she pushed herself.

“Yea, I think so.” Ellen replied. She saw Brooks coming back with Abigail, both coming back with extra firepower. She frowned at the sight of the injured kid returning, but it really wasn't her place to judge, and so she kept her thoughts to herself.

At Brooks’ question about who had experience with firearms, Ellen looked over the others in the group before answering. She knew if nothing else, she was better-suited than Abigail, and she had a feeling Angeline was pretty adverse to firearms as well.

“I fired a pistol once.” Ellen told him. “I was only a few feet away, but I did hit the person I was aiming for, so I think that counts for something.” More than the number of times she had fired a gun, in terms of relevant experience, was the underlying fact that Ellen had pointed her weapon at an actual person and pulled the trigger. In theory, Hans could tell her about the safety and such along the way, right? Still, she would gladly let another take the extra gun if they pressed.

Shortly after answering, Ellen got back into the van, hoping they could get moving sooner rather than later.
Hidden 1 yr ago Post by Jessikka
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Angeline looked stunned as Mark stepped out of the basement, with someone else she didn’t know and sighed “Man they really only have like 10 guys back at base huh? Can’t catch a break.” She almost seemed sorry for Mark even though she had seen first hand he could handle himself… Very well… She peered curiously at the foreign-sounding Hans but at the order, she obliged and helped Brooks take the man into the basement, and subsequently follow the both of them out of the house and to the van. Feeling too awkward to step in front of them while they doled out orders she hovered behind until they stopped talking to go stand by the van with the others.

After the ‘briefing’ she climbed inside and sat down, kicking up dust. She could hear Ellen talking away with Hans, but Mark didn’t seem the talkative type and well... Thinking back to their introduction… Perhaps the passed-out woman covered in vomit wasn’t his go-to conversation partner so she settled in quietly, trying to not-so-obviously listen to the conversation happening a few metres away from her. A lot of theorising about things she wasn’t really sure she understood. Brooks’ arrival was a blessing and a curse.

Frankly, the sight of a gun made her sick, it all brought on rather bitter memories and she didn’t really want to be involved. Especially considering there were still traces of blood in the cracks and crevices of her skin from being elbow deep in some poor man’s wounds just a few minutes earlier. “I… Don’t have any experience.” Though she was almost positive that excuse won’t last much longer. She’ll need to learn in this life, surely. There were not many ways to weasel out of it. “But-... I could learn?” She didn’t want to look useless and well while she may be pretty strong, as far as she was aware none of the magics she encountered would be any good in combat, and from what she’s heard about the others… Well, let’s say she felt a bit like a rabbit surrounded by wolves at the moment.

She watched Ellen climb into the van and decided to try and make conversation while everyone else readied up. “I’m afraid I won’t be much help uh- you know - ’out there’” She started, before promptly adding “Well, aside from patching everyone up afterward… Not sure if I have seen all that I can do but so far not much that sounds useful in a situation like this.” She laughed, though it seemed a little tense as she peered around the group “Can’t help but feel a little underqualified, you know? Like I lied on my CV, or uh, resume or something to get here.” despite that, she was still smiling “I guess I better wait and see what they want us to do, first, maybe I can do a lil’ somethin’ somethin’”, She flexed her legs, though her musculature was more on the lean side, it wasn’t like she was particularly ‘weak’, though her fighting experience is next to none. She smoothed her hair back, it was currently in a ponytail but she started re-affixing it into a bun, she had a feeling she wouldn’t want anything easily “grabbable”

“If you don’t mind me asking, what did you do… Like.. Before all this?” Angeline asked, unprompted “It’s just- well if I’ve been keeping track of the days today was the date of my first ever real big performance - I was a ballerina” She explained as if the way she walked and held herself didn’t make it massively obvious. “Just got me thinking about everything I guess I’m missing out on… And now I’m in the back of this dusty sm-” she peered out the van at Billy “...Lovely and perfectly functional van about to drive off into the Australian outback on some crazy mission like out of a film or something..” She again smoothed her hair down, it was starting to look like a nervous tic or something. “It’s all so different.” She commented.

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Angeline had no experience, which hardly surprised Ellen. The girl looked like she was trying to avoid being physically sick when she first came upon the injured man before. She didn’t have any experience thus far, and Ellen raised her brow skeptically as Angeline said she could learn. It wasn’t exactly the best time to learn how to use a weapon, especially with their limited ammunition.

Ellen settled in the van and listened as Angeline told her she didn’t have much she could contribute to this...whatever this was going to be. “Patching us up is probably the most important thing you could do.” Ellen chuckled lightly.

She totally understood Angeline’s concern about Imposter Syndrome, though. None of them really had enough experience to embark upon this mission. Regardless of their experience and particular magic abilities, though, they were here, and the people in Goodnight needed this medication.

“A ballerina, that makes sense.” Ellen said after stifling back a chuckle with the ‘slip’ regarding the features of their transport. “I would have guessed gymnast, but I supposed both make you pretty agile, and dedicated.” Ellen recalled watching the woman stretch and do yoga poses some of the days at Goodnight.

“I...actually spent the last few years working on a crab fishing boat. You know, like those Deadliest Catch-type of shows.” Ellen explained. “It was a little dangerous, but not nearly as dramatic as it was made out to be. I did get this nasty scar one time, though.” Ellen held up her left arm, where a nearly twelve cm scar went down the length of her forearm.

A taut cord snapped and struck her on the arm. It would have been her face, had she reacted a bit slower. “It wasn’t exactly what I dreamed of as a kid, but...life threw me a few curveballs even before this, so I’m used to adapting and going with the flow.”

Angeline’s face lit up at the mention of ‘Deadliest catch’ “Ah- I used to love watching those shows with my mum!” She sounded excited, though the scar did somber her a little “I guess that’s why they call it uh - ‘deadliest’ huh?” She didn’t want to comment too harshly, she could only imagine the state she’d have been in after the accident. “Sounds so adventurous… I mean even though this is totally different you must be a little in your element.” She commented, though in her head she had Ellen paged as this swashbuckling rugged fisherman type although wildly inaccurate. “You know… Unpredictable nature of the sea and whatnot. I got to admit, shamefully, the hardest thing to give up was my nice double bed with fluffy blankets and soft pillows.” she laughed, she didn’t seem at all ashamed of missing the finer things in life, though. The sleeping bag on the hard floor was a harsh wake-up call, or… Bed-time call for her.

“And - well as far as what we’re about to do… I guess like you said just got to ‘adapt and go with the flow’ I’m not entirely sure what I can do to help but there are people back in goodnight who need these supplies and well any good person would try their best to help.” She laughed, though the twinge of nerve was notable in her voice. Her experience so far with violence was rocky at best and downright catastrophic at worst, and she wasn’t eager to face any more of it any time soon. “I mean I’ve seen Mark in action, he saved my life once before. Not that I want him to do it again, wayyy too much pressure for one man but you know, good to know we’re not alone. And you seem to know that Hans guy, they both seem pretty ‘well-versed’ in this kind of thing, you know?” she had lowered her voice to talk about them, almost conspiratorially.

"Hans… has a great balance between thinking and doing. Whereas I think I definitely am a do-first, think about it maybe after, kind of person." Hans had also saved her life, after she recklessly put herself into danger.

"I think what I miss most is…" sex. Could she say sex? Ellen looked to where Abigail was nursing her injured hand, and had the sudden urge to be a bit more G- rated. Maybe she could go more vague and just mention the eye candy. Strong, confident types were definitely better than scared injured folks back at Goodnight.

"Probably the company. You know, drinking, playing games, hanging out with friends." Company and companionship, sort of lumped it all together.

"So what do you do, other than shove plants in open wounds to heal them?" Ellen asked. She wasn't trying to be rude, she was just curious and wanted to make conversation.

Angeline nodded understandingly “Yeah it’s odd for now but who knows maybe things can become more normal in the future? Life is what we make of it and whatnot, no need to say that those kinds of things can’t happen here in our life now… It’ll just be a little different from how we expected it to be?” She suggested. She did want similar things too, just an ounce of normality. Goodnight was a pretty bleak environment and while she did her best to try and keep things how they were, her yoga, dance practices and the like it was all bound to be different from how it was.

“What can I do? Well… Aside from that, I can make a little water in my hands? And…. Go blind, apparently.” She laughed, recalling her experience earlier. “I think it shows me certain types of plants… Or something like that? But I can’t see anything else, and since I was inside a house there weren’t many plants to see so yeah not sure how useful it will be but a very jarring experience nonetheless.” She snickered again, such an odd sounding ‘power’. “And yourself? I don’t think I’ve seen first hand anything you can do yet, though I guess that’s a good thing that we haven’t been in enough danger to need it.”

Different than they expected was probably a huge understatement for most of the people who had awoken to their new powers. Ellen felt...like she had always known this was coming, and was waiting for it for the last few years, but she figured she was an outlier for having such a mindset.

She listened as Angeline explained she could create water, and have some sort of plant-vision. “Interesting, though. And we are in the desert, I feel like creating water could come in handy in a variety of ways.” Ellen offered. “Is it like, a geyser of water, or a stream, and can you control how much?” She asked curiously.

“Hmmm well I haven’t had much practice with it, it’s probably closer to a stream. I think a geyser could be pretty extreme as I’m fairly certain it comes from like somewhere inside me? So I can get dehydration headaches if I use a lot of it…” She grimaced, the water was always clear and as far as she was aware it was fine to drink but… Body-water… Gross. “I guess if people really need it, it can come in handy.” She agreed, hesitantly.

“Huh, Interesting.” Ellen replied, thinking about the water coming from her body. If she had like, a hand in a river, could she absorb it too, and then shoot it out of her other hand at someone? Or if it was pure water, could she filter out pollutants and stuff? Ellen had tons of questions, and thought it was mildly amusing how much more interested she was when it was someone else’s ability, compared to hers.

Probably a coping mechanism, degrees of separation, sort of thing.

“So I can make my body really slippery, I think it is also a water thing, but it doesn’t make me dehydrated. I think the water comes from like… evaporated water in the air around me. I can also turn my hands into this really fucking trippy crab claws.” She mimed the way her fingers sort of molded together to make a claw with one hand and a pincher with the other. “When it is really cold outside, I get a second layer of skin that keeps me from feeling the effects of the cold, like a blubber. Not super helpful in the desert though. I can turn glass into sand, and I can sort of create a hologram version of myself and control that while my body stays in a different spot.” There was something she had recently fiddled with regarding plants, but Ellen didn’t quite understand that one enough yet.

“Basically, I turn into a bizarre sea creature fit for an episode of Scooby Doo.” Ellen grinned again, preferring to find the whole scenario amusing, rather than slightly horrific.

Angie was definitely taken aback, letting out a quiet “Woah-” before catching herself. “Ah, sorry not sure on the whole etiquette about talking about other people’s powers, just sounds very…” She trailed off, unsure exactly how she felt, was the transformation gruesome and ugly? Were they fleshy claws or normal hard claws… Was it impolite to ask? “Oh- I mean very varied.” She finally settled on a neutral term. “Mine all feel quite samey aha but you’ve got all these interesting and unique abilities, should I be jealous?” she queried, chuckling afterwards, what an absurd thing to be jealous of.

“That hologram one sounds like it’ll be useful in a pinch-” she cut off, the totally unintentional crab pun causing her to laugh “Sorry, I mean for this little mission of ours, nice way to scope an area out without giving me extra work afterwards, don’t you think?” She suggested, although she felt very smart thinking of the idea she was sure Ellen had probably already considered that being a very likely possibility. “How long can you be a hologram for, anyways? Is there any like… Distance cap or something? Can’t be too far away to your real body? And what happens to your body, do you pass out or something?” She laughed again, guess the curiosities of learning things about different powers to your own just brings on a whole host of questions, just as she herself was asked many questions, she had many to ask of Ellen.

“I would have gone with Gross.” Ellen replied when Angeline tactfully tried to call it ‘varied.’ There were a variety of things, but they came together to make her into a rather terrifying sea beast--at least, she imagined they would if she tried to use them all at once.

Ellen caught onto the crab pun a moment after Angeline and laughed as well. Why not go into almost certain death with a pun and a chuckle?

“But yea, I totally agree. If I can ever stop myself from running into the line of fire like an idiot, I think the hologram thing will be great, especially for sneaking around and checking things out. Still… not super helpful in a car.” None of her skills were particularly useful when they were actually in this van, as she doubted she was going to get into melee combat with someone in the Billy Bus. Thus, she hoped they were able to track these thieves to their hideout and then do some sneaking when they got there.

As for Angeline’s questions, Ellen didn’t mind them, but she didn’t have a lot of the answers, yet. “At Goodnight, I practiced the hologram thing for a minute or two. I was definitely able to go like… around corners and into rooms that my body couldn’t have seen. When I looked back at myself, I am just sort of sitting in a sort of ‘trance’ state. Man, if we get back, we should have you like… jab me while I’m doing it so I can figure out if I can still feel things going on to my actual body when I’m doing this.” Ellen mused aloud. They might get the chance on this mission, but now probably wasn’t the ideal time for testing what she was capable of.

“I haven’t figured out the downside of that one yet. Other than maybe I am still visible, so it isn’t like I can really be super sneaky.” Ellen voiced. So far she had learned that all of their abilities came at a price. That one, though, she hadn’t quite figured out.

“We don’t know how this is going to go so I guess we’ll have to make do with what little firepower we have.” She was subtly referring to the guns, even though she paled at the thought of using one herself. “Definitely a good idea to practice somewhere safe and out of the way of danger.. I.E. not here. I should hope no one tries anything they don’t already know, we’re already in enough trouble as it is.” Angeline readjusted her position and looked at the others nervously. It wasn’t a warning per se as she assumed everyone would be sensible, but…

She dropped her voice to a whisper “Speaking of, surely it’s not very smart to bring…” She trailed off but gestured with a flick of her eyes towards Abigail. “I mean- not to underestimate her or anything but she’s already injured, and she’s young I can’t imagine how traumatising this might be for her… And I heard she and the other girl had a spat as well…” All signs pointed to BAD IDEA in Angeline’s mind and she couldn’t shake the moral force driving her to have her sent back with the other injured man…

Ellen hardly thought they would get anywhere if they could only do things they already knew. If Ellen stuck to that mantra, she definitely wouldn’t have gotten out of her first mess. Angeline then whispered her concerns about Abigail being there. “I don’t like her being here, either. I thought Brooks was bringing her to get picked up earlier. Maybe they had a talk… Maybe she is really fucking strong. I don’t know. And it really isn’t our call. I’m sure if the kid wanted to leave, she would have.”

"Well hi there, Angie!" Mark gave her a sly wink as he tucked his own weapon into the waistband of his trousers - to the obvious horror of Hans.

"Mark…"

"What? What? Relax, Hans, the safety's on."

Hans sighed, and gave Ellen a look.

Mark turned back to the two ladies.

"Excitin', huh? Bein' on task like this. Been cooped up in either Goodnight or my apartment way too much recently, happy to get back into the shit. Plus I ain't never been to Australia."

“Hans just doesn't want you to waste our ammunition.” She left unsaid the rest of her thoughts, that he probably didn’t have much down there to shoot off anyway. Overcompensating much? Ellen grinned at the obviously delinquent man in front of her. “I’m Ellen.” She introduced herself.

Angeline didn’t really know how to react so just waved back at him with a little “Hi, are you well?” She didn’t talk to him much in her extraction, and it hardly shone her in a good light anyways. “Ready to go?” She asked him, but also everyone else. No point waiting on things for much longer… “If everyone’s in the van that is..”

Ellen nodded to the ballerina. She was eager to get things started. Had she been driving the Billy Bus, they would have left ages ago... for better or worse.
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The Billy Bus


10:37AM






The journey was long and arduous - although there were some pretty obvious tire tracks heading down the road, they departed notably from it after only a few miles, and the rest of the path they led was over dusty rolling hills; the going was slow and occasionally dangerous, with some portions of the journey requiring that the heavier and less mobile van either make departures from the obvious tracks where the trucks had gone up an incline that the kombi couldn’t, and with other parts requiring that the passengers disembark and walk alongside it.

Before long, the sun came up, and the heat of the desert woke up with it. Between the sweet smell of the cooking oil engine and the growing heat of the Aussie sun, rising fast against the stark blue of the outback sky, it was becoming increasingly clear that time was not on their side.

As the team got further and further into the journey, the question of just how the bootleggers had been spotted all the way out here started to grow in its importance. They travelled for hours, and since leaving the dirt road there hadn’t even been a hint of civilisation - no other roads, no other buildings, nothing apart from some old electrical pylons carrying thin wires across the desert, stretched out like black strings pulled over the amber-orange dirt.

Five hours of slow work, five hours of painstaking tracking, five hours until they found anything.

There was a small plume of smoke - around the size you might expect from a poorly maintained campfire or barbecue or something - just over the next hill. Hans pointed it out, and Billy stopped the van. With a little more investigation, it quickly became evident that this was indeed the hideout of whoever it was that had hit the ‘leggers - or at least that the tracks left by those people led here, and that both the trucks involved were parked out front.

The base itself was a simple affair, composed of two beat up old caravans that had clearly been there for a long time, and a large red van with its hood open and engine very conspicuously missing. All three of these were arranged in a semicircle - or at least as much of one as could be achieved with only three components - around a firepit, which was the source of the smoke by which the place had been identified.

Most pertinently, there were four people outside, all huddled around a fifth person - who was lying on the floor.

Second most pertinently, the coolbox was nowhere to be seen.







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The drive took hours. Over that time, most of the group chatted with each other between bouts of silence and assisting the kombi. Taking a cue, perhaps, from Ellen and Angeline, they spoke of the things they had learned about their abilities, none of them entirely sure how it would become relevant when they arrived at their destination. Ellen told a few stories from her time working as a crab fisher, mostly the dramatic stories and that would have made for their own reality show episode--with only some embellishments.

The plume of smoke was a welcome sight, despite the fact that it meant they would actually have to act soon. The first time Ellen had faced someone with her magic, it was something she had done suddenly and without thought. She vastly preferred that method to this one, stewing for hours and considering all of the possible ways it could go horribly wrong and end in death.

When they departed from the van, the group made their way up the hill enough to get a look at the set-up being used by the thieves. Something about their whole set-up didn’t make a lot of sense to Ellen. She didn’t mind the old caravans, newer trucks, and obviously broken-down red van. But the whole… fact that a group whose home base was here had found their way 5 hours away to a deserted house just as it had medical supplies delivered… It didn’t make sense.

Were these guys mercenaries for hire? If so, did the FOE or some Aussie equivalent organization hire them?

Ellen had initially thought the attack was carried out by the FOE, something targeted towards them--and she wasn’t entirely sure that was wrong yet. Who else could have had such… luck?

She was too cynical to believe it was luck, so either these guys were hired for this particular job (which meant someone else knew about this pick up) or these guys had magic of their own, the kind that perhaps told them where to go to relieve people of their supplies. In either case, there was a strong chance they were expecting someone to come after the coolbox, which… unfortunately, was nowhere in sight.

There were four or five people they could make out from their vantage point. Numbers were perhaps the only advantage Ellen and the others had. She watched them for a few moments, and tried to see if she could make out any other movement before she backed away from the hill and turned to the group, speaking softly.

“We need to find the coolbox. Here’s what I think. Abi, you and I are going to do a wide pass, use the trees for cover, to try to get behind these guys and see inside of the caravans. I’ll use my doubling ability, so I won’t make any sound. But we should get cover anyway. Matt, cast your fog thing centered at their fire, obscure their view. They can’t shoot what they can’t see.” And maybe they would waste some of their ammunition shooting at the fog, or each other. Maybe they would fall into the fire and take care of themselves. A gal could dream, right?

“I’ll convey to folks up here where the coolbox is so the others can have a more focused approach. Matt probably won’t be able to hold that for too long, so once it dissipates and they start shooting in earnest at us, use your Time Out to make everyone down there stop fighting. You can certainly try to persuade people towards peace.” Ellen couldn’t speak to Zephyr's ability to make people actually want a ceasefire. And she didn’t want him wearing himself out, they might need his strength later, if the coolbox was still intact.

“But that leaves Hans, Brooks, Mark, and maybe me depending on my recovery, outside of Zephyr’s range, able to take them down, or whatever you can manage based on how close you can get. Angeline, you can stay with Billy and the bus, so when it all gets fucked up, you can ride in and fix our shit. Maybe start scoping out plants now.”

Ellen looked over each of the members of the group. She had included all of them, and those with magic had some sort of magic to do to contribute to the group. She was well-aware she had suggested putting the youngest kid in the most danger--but none of them had run alongside Abigail. That kid was fast. Zephyr would have to get down there as well, hopefully using Matt’s fog as cover.

In truth, not all of Ellen’s “plan” made the most sense-- but this was why Ellen had tried to insist someone else take the reins and control of the plan-making.. If they were going to assassinate these thieves, then they really didn’t need to rush to find the coolbox at the same time. But Ellen wasn’t planning for just one thing...well, she wasn’t sure she would consider it a plan at all. It was more of a series of things they could do with their magic that MIGHT be able to help them get the shit they needed and MAYBE not die in the process.

Ellen looked at Hans with a helpless shrug. “Hey, it’s a helluva lot better than my plan last time.” She said.
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Abigail trailed after Brooks and shuffled into the back of the bus. The arrival of Hans and Mark meant little to her; they were nameless gunmen sent to make their lives a little easier. She avoided the pointed looks at her return. Her hand throbbed and itched. She was tired. As everyone else filed into the bus and hunkered down for a long ride, Abigail shut her eyes and lay down across multiple seats to-

Don't sleep.

Abigail opened her eyes, grimacing. You don't know what happens if you're woken up in the middle of one of those weird dreams, her hindbrain muttered. Don't know what'll happen if you die while dreaming either. Don't risk it. She wearily sat up and stared out of the window instead as the engine sputtered to life and sent the bus trundling down the road and then out into the brush.

Boredom and hunger quickly settled in. A five hour trip wasn't alien to the kid, but she usually had her whole bedroom travelling with her. All she had to entertain herself with were strangers twice her age, most of whom had split into their own conversations and didn't give the injured brat in the back much acknowledgement - save for the glances. The whispering. A ripple of indignation flowed through her but it was softened by a thick blanket of shame, alienation, awkwardness. Again, Abigail was painfully aware that she didn't belong here. She was too young and out of place. She flitted between having something to prove and wanting to be left alone. The excess of attention to a kid who never received enough in her early years, was nauseating. It eventually congealed into resentment of these strange heathens and their disgusting magic, hiding like rats in a sewer drain; this quickly turned into self loathing. The unavoidable truth that she was also an affront to God, riding a greasy bus to find and kill the fuckers that crossed these degenerates, lingered in her mind like a bad stench.

And yet...the heat of the day was starting to swell. By god, Abigail was hungry. This wasn't peckishness - it was full blown 'Meemaw lost her EBT card after one too many cans of Busch and now we have to drive around churches and food banks and hope for the best' hungry. Gut-pinching, back-hunching, hand-shaking hunger. For many, these sensations of discomfort would have only exacerbated the wretched mood they were in but Abigail was hit with a wave of nostalgia. With it came the optimism and self-assurances. How many of these fancy-pants 'tenants' and 'homeowners' could teeter on the border of famished with a fucked up hand in sweltering ninety-something degree heat and feel like they were back home? This was her element. This was why she was here.

During those five hours - particularly when they all had to shuffle off the bus in order to let it roll up a hill - Abigail had to stand out in the baking hot sun. One hand pointed back the way they came, the other (injured) hand stabilising it at the wrist, a quick check to make sure nobody was in the way then a searing burst of purple fire, high enough to avoid skirting the brush, low enough to avoid giving away their position. Like clockwork. The kid made it look as mundane as brushing one's teeth. It was easy to deduce what her magic entailed from her practical demonstrations. Consequentially when Ellen concocted a plan, she seemed a little thrown off by her role in all of it. "You mean...I get to cover you and run back to tell the others when you find the coolbox?" She asked. "Then it's just, stay in the bus, right?" Abigail blinked, nodded to herself, the brief flit of a smile twitching on her lips as she agreed with a gentle "Cool. Ready when you are."
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Angeline, with the heat and hours travelled increasing, eventually just drifted off to sleep after suitable amounts of conversation at the start. She wasn’t sure exactly when she drifted off, somewhere around the third or fourth hour, but was woken when there was a hustle and bustle of a discovery. She gently rubbed her eyes and followed the others out of the van.

Stepping out of the van, although it was like a little hot-people oven with the smell to boot, Angeline was faced with the direct Australian heat and didn’t like it. Her mind flicked to her air-conditioned dance studio for a second, or the always-too-cold lecture theatres, and regretted ever taking them for granted.

After a quick pass of the campsite, she stepped away from the crest of the hill so as to not get spotted. She watched as Ellen hatched a little plan, she wasn’t so strategic-minded but it sounded logical. She especially liked the part where she wasn’t involved. She decided to contribute her thoughts to the little brainstorm session: “Not much in the way of cover… Wasn’t there someone who could turn to stone or something? Maybe have them at the front to draw fire for a little bit just to give you guys a head start?” She suggested though it was dangerous to just send someone inexperienced out just to get hit.

“Or uh have him flank and go first, drawing the attention away from the direction you guys will come in? Maybe send like someone with him so his ‘attack’ doesn’t seem so meager?”

She really wasn’t a strategist but ideally, this ends up with the fewest amount of injuries she’ll have to patch up...
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Brooks nodded along at Ellen's words. “I can tell you for certain those people ain’t FOE, they would have spotted us a mile away. The scouting part is good, you and Abigail sneaking up and getting a precise location on the coolbox before we start shooting. Since they don’t seem to be a part of any official organisation we shouldn’t be worried about any crazy firepower they’re packing. You two move in, give us a wave for the go ahead and we’ll dispatch the bandits.”
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The first to okay the plan was Abigail, who seemed thrilled that her job was to run around and then stay in the bus. “Sort of.” Ellen replied. “You shouldn’t have to high-tail it back to the van to tell people because I should be able to do that more quickly.” She held up her hand for a moment to pause the youth, anticipating that Abigail would remind her that she was faster than Ellen. “What I mean is, my body won’t be running down to scout. Since it is staying here, I should be able to tell everyone faster. Instead, I want us to split up and peek into the windows of their different vehicles. You take the farther white one and I’ll take the closer, but we’ll both do wide loops.” Even with her power, Ellen wasn’t going to be faster than Abigail, so it made sense to her to tell the youth to take the farther vehicle, though it meant she would have to run farther to get back to the bus, as well.

“You’ll have to try to stay quiet. I can’t make noise in that form… But if you have any difficulty or get spotted, just blast some of that purple fire at them and then run like hell.”

Abigail's smile dropped. "Now hang on, missy-" she said, sitting bolt upright. "I'm fast, but I ain't faster than a bullet. I thought that the plan was...well, I ain't too sure about the particulars of yer ability, but I thought I'd just be lookin' after your body while you go on ahead."

Of course it couldn't go that smoothly. Ellen frowned as Abi elaborated and clearly misunderstood what Ellen was planning for them to do. "Sorry for not being clear. I think you and my eyes will go around and try to peak in through their windows. If you find it first, you wave at me. My body will stay up here and I can then tell people what I've seen and anything you can pantomime with me. When we've gotten the info we can, you come back and hide out." Ellen paused to give Abi time to process and follow up with any additional questions.

Abigail stared at Ellen, then back at Brooks and Billy. She rubbed her nose on the back of her arm. "I mean...if everyone else is okay with it…?"

"Hey, what you do isn't up to everyone else. If you don't want to, then don't. Stay here and I'll go scope things out myself." Ellen did not want to force anyone to do something against their will, especially something dangerous.

"Sure, but I ain't no pussy. But I also ain't stupid." Abigail pulled a face. "I'll keep an eye on your real body while you go take a look around, how's that sound?"

Ellen considered the proposal for a few moments before nodding. She had intended to leave her body all the way up here, but she honestly wasn't sure about how far she could go with this ability anyway. If she went down further before using the magic, she would be more likely to actually be able to scope out the vehicles. And if they didn't need to put the kid in danger, they probably shouldn't.

"Sure. Yeah. I should probably get closer before using this anyway. We will go down together to a spot closer to them but with hopefully decent cover. I'll tell you the important stuff and you get back up here to these guys." Ellen recapped. At least she would have that extra gun, since no one else had claimed it.

Angeline had some suggestions about Zephyr’s ability use, and it was a fair point. Ellen had been hoping to save his abilities for other things, but she didn’t know how much he was capable of, or if he was willing to call Time Out for the express purpose of getting the edge to snipe them. “We can leave it up to Zephyr, then.” Ellen suggested. She didn’t love the idea of sending him in just to get attacked. She hoped instead that she and Abi could be sneaky, and then the fog would make it difficult for them to attack any of the party. She wasn’t intending to make anyone in the party into cannon fodder, and everyone had a say in what they did.

On the plus side, Angeline wasn’t complaining about her own role in any of this.

Brooks was the final one to weigh in. He declared that they weren’t FOE, and agreed that using Abigail and herself as scouts might be a good way to get information on the coolbox. Maybe Ellen could even spot their weapons, and whether or not they were being carried.

"Well, no point in waiting any longer. Abi, you ready to head on down there? Ellen asked. She threw her hair up in a ponytail and looked over the group. She did NOT feel ready for this, but people needed these supplies, and no one else was going to swoop in and save the day. They only had each other… so she would just have to fake it until they made it. When Abi was ready, Ellen set off in a direction a bit off front the camp down the hill. After all, they didn't want to be spotted before they could do any scouting.

The trail they made down towards the camp was a reasonably straight one, cutting between shrub and brush to conceal their movements until they eventually came to rest between one especially dry dead tree and another. At their first look up towards the bandits, however, it became apparent that circumstances had already changed.

Two of the criminals - a short, stocky woman carrying a hunting rifle over her back, and a man with a slightly bizarre ratty face - had turned and started walking towards the defunct red van. Their comrades, one of them carrying a pistol in a holster, and the other carrying a pistol tucked into the front of his pants, were otherwise still occupied standing around the final member of the gang, who was lying still on the floor.

The thieves split up while Ellen and Abigail were getting into a nice spot, which would make it harder for Ellen to keep an eye on them without being spotted. She had to make a choice of where to focus. For now, she wanted to try to check the two white campers, since the coolbox wasn't in either the green or blue pickup truck. It could have been in the broken down red van, but if they pulled medical supplies out of it, Abigail might spot it before Ellen could.

"This is precisely why I ain't going in," Abigail pointed out the two going to the van. "Seemed to me your plan involved 'em standing still, and not having eyes. If any of 'em spotted your... double, big whoop. But if any of 'em spotted me..." She trailed off, grimacing.

Ellen sat down against one of the trees, her attempt at keeping cover for her body. She hadn't ever used this ability when it really mattered, but now was as good of a time as any. Ellen took the gun that she had gotten from Hans and lay it on the ground beside her right hand. She wanted to know where it was in case they were in danger as soon as she returned. Silently, Ellen looked at Abigail, gave her a nod, and then closed her eyes to focus.

A few moments later, a figure appeared beside the sitting woman. She looked identical. Abigail scratched the back of her neck and went for an awkward "howdy," unable to muster up a more appropriate response. Ellen looked down at her sitting body, smiled at Abigail, and then moved towards the hideout, checking for the positions of the thieves as she silently moved towards the white camper on the far side of their position.

Abigail hunkered down into a squat, watching the second Ellen wander off. Her expression twisted into one of disgust - borderline contempt - at the sight of a mage in action, but she knew better than to start complaining about it.

There was silence for a long minute, then a brief chuckle. "Y'know," Abigail muttered, "when I didn't wanna go to school, my folks used to sometimes have me sit out on this rise all day and keep an eye on our generator - make sure nobody's stealin' our 'lectricity." Abigail shifted her weight. "Basically the same idea here, 'cept the stakes are higher, and we're the ones doing the stealin'."

"We only stealing back what was already ours." Ellen replied to Abi, perhaps surprising the youth. Granted, Ellen had no idea how 'legally' Goodnight bootleggers had acquired the goods in the first place, but she doubted they came from these guys.

"A sin's a sin, no matter which way you wanna sugar coat it. 'Thou shalt not steal' n' all that." Abigail lifted the brim of her cap, watching the two furthest from Ellen's double with the belief that the woman was keeping an eye on the more immediate threat.

The other thing Abigail had said was that she preferred watching a generator over going to school. She wasn't old enough to be talking about college, and Ellen was stuck with the sudden realization that this poor kid would never be able to finish high school… not that it sounded like she had stellar attendance before all this anyway. "Why did you stop going to school?" She asked. Yes, it probably wasn't the ideal time for chit chat, but it was sort of nice to keep her mind split on two different things instead of solely focused on the dangerous mission.

Ellen approached the farthest white vehicle, looking for uncovered windows on that side to peak through.

"Started shootin' purple fire n' hid in the back of a truck," Abigail responded flatly. After a moment, she decided to actually answer. "School wasn't an obligation. We moved around too much for it to matter…'sides, some of the stuff the government wants you to believe is bullshit. I'm keeping an eye on the fellers furthest from you, by the way."

“I can’t hear them, so if you can let me know if any start getting close, that’d be great.” Ellen said, addressing what was definitely the more important part first. “The truth is often determined by the victor, I agree. But at least if you learn the stuff, you can make up your own mind about what you believe.”

Ellen knew that sort of mindset. She heard it loads of times on the boat. Mostly it was people pissed about regulations on what size crabs they kept and the laws about tossing back pregnant female crabs. They said how could men who hadn’t ever caught a crab say which ones the fishermen could keep? They’d rant and rave and complain about regulations--but were the same ones to take the tax breaks and discounts when offered.

She paused for a few moments, wondering if she wanted to voice the next thought on her mind. If nothing else, it was good to hear Abi to know that the kid hadn’t abandoned her body. “Who was it that made up your mind about the government’s bullshit?” She asked.

"I did. There's three people you should always trust - God, yerself n' yer family." Abigail decided against telling Ellen she wasn't on speaking terms with two of them. "Math n' geometry...I got all that. There's proof of that. But I tuned out when they started tellin' me we used to be monkeys, lizards n' fish."

As Ellen's double made its way over to the far camper, the two thieves who had made their way over to the red van produced a shovel from somewhere inside it, and one of the others who'd stayed around the fire turned to head back towards the trucks.

"I see, well I was raised Catholic so if you ever want to-- Shit." Ellen interrupted her train of thought with a curse as she investigated all of the windows on the outside and found that they were covered from the inside with something shiny and metallic looking. Aluminum foil, maybe?

"I can't see inside at all. The windows are all covered." She got down to the ground and looked for the feet of the thieves. When she was sure they were all looking away, she shifted over to the back of the caravan and peaked around the corner to the back door. It was shut. "I can't open doors like this." Ellen said to Abi, and started to crawl under the caravan. She inched forward to get a better view of where the thieves were, and hopefully the front of the other caravan.

Abigail cocked her head to the side. "Well don't get caught tryin' to open it," she responded. "Just figure out where everybody's at n' come back. Once the others gun 'em down we'll have all the time in the world to open doors n' shit."

"Got it." Ellen replied and shifted to a play by play of what she could see them doing. She said she saw two get shovels from the red van, and looked at the one laying on the ground, wondering if she could see any movement of his chest to indicate breathing.

The guy who’d wandered over to the pickup trucks opened one of the passenger doors and began rummaging inside - though neither Abigail nor Ellen could see precisely what he was doing - and the two who’d gone to grab shovels paused by the open slide-door of the red van to talk. Even at the distance she was, Abi could just about make out the words “... fucking idiot…” being used more than once in that conversation. If it weren’t for the weird accent, it might even have made her feel more at home.

As Ellen focused more on the laid out body, it became gradually clear that she wasn’t quite close enough to get a good bead on whether or not they were breathing - but their eyes were closed and they didn’t seem to be moving even slightly. Ellen felt the beginnings of dread starting to pool in her stomach - the instinctual response to looking at what you think is a dead body.

After another moment they were both roused by the sound of a car door slamming shut, as the bandit who’d gone to the trucks returned with a four pack of beer and started to distribute it.

Ellen watched the group for a few moments before reporting back to Abigail. "I think the guy on the ground is dead and they are about to bury him." She voiced. One less guy they had to take care of…And it was less likely that he was some advanced magic user doing something similar to Ellen. Still didn't explain how their supplies were found, though.

"We need to get moving, and with them shoveling, they won't be hearing as well… hopefully. Do you think you should report back to the group?"

Ellen probably wouldn't go back up behind her. Her body was already close. She could instead try to flank with the weapon from the same location her presence was currently. She didn't have a lot of ammunition, or great experience, but with them focused on digging instead of on their weapons, it was going to be their best chance… maybe.

"Not until you're whole again, sunshine." Abi picked her teeth with her nail. "Last thing I wanna do is turn my back on ya and find out you got spotted. What'll you do from here when the guns start firin'?"

Ellen began to crawl back from her position and head quickly back the way she came to rejoin Abigail and her body. "I going to take my gun and head back to where I was. Even if I don't hit anything, I will be on the opposite side as the rest of our guys and that might spook them." She figured if they turned two different directions to fire, Hans and the other competent marksman would be much more likely to hit their targets quickly.

Ellen made it back to her body relatively quickly. She actually wasn't sure if she HAD to make it back or if she could just 'shut off' the power, but it was jarring enough even without extra physical distance. She took a few deep breaths and began to stretch and roll her shoulders.

"Sounds sensible," Abi agreed. Once Ellen was back in her real body she could see that Abigail's expression was...strange, slightly angry. She clapped her hands together once and stood up, stretching. "I'll get back to the others."

Abigail couldn't do much, but by god.

The kid can run.

After a careful glance down the rise to make sure she wouldn't take a bullet, Abigail took off in a dead sprint. Her gangly legs hit the grit and sand, shifted, twisted her foot slightly and pushed off like a professional and closed the gap in a startling amount of time. "Ellen says they're burying one of their dead buddies," she said, still stumbling to a halt behind the Billy bus. "There's two of them coming back from the red van, can't see into the trailers though. She's staying where she is and shooting from behind. Says you should advance when they start diggin'." She pushed a clump of greasy hair out of her face, looking up at Brooks for an answer.
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The Outback Camp


10:46AM






As everything fell into place and the bandits broke earth with their shovels - right next to the campfire, no less - an unspoken tension in the party finally broke and as Brooks gave the nod, Matthew raised his hand to focus on the embers below. Fog as thick as a forest began to flow from the embers of the firepit, slowly at first but steadily growing to a rapid and unnatural billow, fanning itself out and covering a gradually growing area of the camp.

After just a moment the bandits noticed it and froze in place. The would-be ambushers froze too, the tension building as it seemed more and more like their prey would see through the plan, realise what was going on, and rush for their weapons any moment now…

“Rodney, you fuckin mug! What the fuck did I tell you?” One of them bellowed, turning to face their colleague - who dropped his shovel in shock.

“I- I- what?”

“It doesn’t fuckin matter how much you use, it is funda-fucking-mentally impossible to hotbox the fuckin outback, you stupid goddamn motherfucking degenerate!” The smaller man continued, before throwing his still full can of beer at the other guy, who yelped almost exactly like a dog and failed tragically to dodge it, landing flat on his ass after it hit him in the head.

After breathing a sigh of relief, the shooters in the group retook their aim, and waited just a moment more for the fog to reach its critical point - the point at which the enemy was almost engulfed by it, but still visible enough to be shot at, so that in the very next moment they would be unable to react and return fire if they survived.

The smaller of the pair that were screaming at eachother took a step towards the other man, who had more or less fallen into the mist and was no longer visible, and then-

The staccato chorus of gunfire tore through the fog like knives through cloth, and the aggressor’s head jerked backwards violently as his body was perforated, and he spasmed reflexively away from wherever it was he thought the pain was coming from, before collapsing limply to the ground in the same movement.

Two others were hit in the opening salvo, one of them simply dropping dead as their head was abruptly opened, the other giving a low, guttural cry as she was hit in the stomach and doubled over instantly. The final man had vanished into the fog and couldn’t be seen.

It was over in less than half a minute. As the gunfire died down and the air was filled instead by the plastic-metal clacks of weapons being handled and reloaded, the camp itself fell deathly silent, and the fog started to lift even quicker than it’d come, pulling away from the bodies like a sheet being pulled back in a morgue. One of them was still moving, but not much - and it was rapidly fading, slipping away as quickly as the great stain on her stomach grew, with all the certainty of an absolutely mortal wound.

After a moment of pause, a silhouette emerged at a sprint from the fading remnants of the fog - the man who’d disappeared into it to begin with - and headed, panting like a terrified dog, towards Ellen. He was a big man, lanky and inelegant as he ran, hair blonde but streaked with blood, eyes wild; and he held one arm with the other as he ran, blood oozing between his fingers. When he locked eyes with Ellen, his face twisted into a confused complex of rage, fear, and hesitation, and he let go of his wounded arm to form a fist with his one functional hand.

“No!” He screamed at her as he charged, voice rich with agony and not knowing what else to say, straight at her.




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Ellen took up a position where she could see the thieves around their campfire. It was mildly disorienting to see them from this location versus where she had been before, but Ellen was able to take a few moments leaning against a tree to re-orient herself to the situation, and the gun in her hand. Would she actually use it?

She thought that she would, if she needed it. After all, she had used a gun before and fired at a person.The fog began to set in and Ellen saw the men seem to argue with each other. One fell to the ground. They disappeared from her view before she heard the gunshots. The shots came quickly, and Ellen expected to hear shouting, and an exchange of gunfire perhaps, but there was nothing. Had they really taken care of everyone?

A few seconds passed and then it was over--or nearly so. The fog lifted, and Ellen went from straining to see anything to realizing there was a man running at a near full-sprint right at her. She straightened, aiming her gun for the man.

It was only in that instant she knew how different this was. This wasn’t defending herself and her friend from someone who had already tried to kill her. This wasn’t adrenaline fueled--it was fueled by a more complicated fear. One she would have to process later.

Ellen fired her gun, and if the man did not halt in his steps, she would level the gun again and fire twice more, aiming for his center of mass.

She continued to look at him for a while after he fell. She probably should have re-grouped with the team and made sure everyone was alright, but she was likely in her own state of shock. She took the life of a person who...might not have meant her any harm. She didn’t know for sure, and now she never would.
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Abigail was getting used to the wretched, clunking monstrosity that was their only form of transportation. The stench of stale cigarettes, body odour, food and Christ knows what else had become a background irritation that she'd gotten used to. She also claimed her seats - plural. The back left corner of the bus was her domain and she had bled all over it, which was a handy deterrent for any potential seat-stealers. She strode to the back of the bus and settled into her spot with anxious laziness, both trying to relax and straining for the gunshots.

Angeline had returned to the van once the plan was in motion, opting not to watch whatever may happen. She had spent much more of her energy steeling herself for the worst, she glanced over at the greasy kid, somehow looking relaxed sprawled out across the litany of blood-stained seats. “Um… How’s the hand?” She proposed. It wasn’t exactly a good atmosphere for chit-chat but she’d rather that than to listen to the fight going on outside.

"Itchy," Abigail muttered. She twitched her fingers. "I'm gonna have to get somebody who knows what they're doing to take these bandages off, I dunno what happened last time but I stuck to 'em."

“Um, you mean like the blood or something stuck to the bandages?” Angie was no professional so she wasn’t about to offer her services, whatever what weeping out of that ugly wound would eventually dry up and stick to the bandages regardless. “Well let’s hope you’re the only person here I have to patch up, I suppose…” she eyed the girl, she was hardly the most easiest person to get along with in the group… “Oh, I heard about what happened, with the girl? I mean… Putting a random group of people together will always result in some unsavoury clashes I suppose.”

Abigail sighed through her nostrils in a big wheeze. "I melted those things into my hand, she grabbed my wrist, I told her to get off me n' she didn't like that I called her a gyppo." She scratched her wrist just under the bandages, where the skin was irritated and flakey from the heat. "Then I went to...get help for my hand, get out of the shed, whatever, n' she cornered me, and threatened the shit outta me in the back of the bus."

Angie flinched a bit “Oh yikes that wasn’t very nice.” she paused “From both of you.” she then added. “It’s not very polite to call people names like that, though I don’t suppose she handled being insulted very well either.” she sort of danced around the topic, she didn’t want to set the kid off but it wasn’t exactly acceptable. From either parties. And it didn’t seem like anyone else wanted to take on the role of disciplining her.

Abigail lifted her head a little to take a good look at Angie's face. "Lady," she started slowly, "we're in the middle of buttfuck nowhere. In a couple minutes, about five people are getting shot to death - for gunnin' down people just like us earlier today." She paused for a moment, looking confused. "I ain't sure any of us are havin' the best of days...weeks...but Jesus Christ. If I had t'pick between snappin' at a stranger who was blockin' the only exit and grabbin' me or sticking around t'see what crazy shit she was gonna do to my hand, I'd have called her something way worse n' given a good kick to the shin to boot!" She flopped back onto the seats. "I'll apologize when I'm fuckin' positive she ain't gonna stalk to my sleeping bag n' smother me to death," she decided.

Angeline allowed the kid to go off on her, taking it relatively calm. Her instructors have said worse things about her ten times over. “My name’s Angeline.” She corrected, firstly. “I support you’re right in some sense.” She adjusted her sitting position and smoothed down her hair, noting the blood still under her fingernails grimly. “It’s a… Unique situation we find ourselves in. But we’re all in the same situation and I don’t know about you, but I’d rather find myself surrounded with friends than enemies.” she eyed the kid slowly, she looked tense and uncomfortable. “Even if that lady made you uncomfortable your choice of words was gyppo, specifically. You understand? You didn’t decide to call her...” she snorted a laugh “I dunno… A creep or a pervert or whatever for ‘trapping’ a young girl in a shed, so I wonder why your mind went to ‘gyppo’ first. I don’t want to sound condescending but do you know what that means?”

"Yeah it's like…" Abi wafted a hand. "The brown fellas who don't have a home and go 'round taking all your copper, right?"

Angie takes a good, hot second to let that sink in, both for Abigail and for Angeline. “Um, not-... Quite accurate, the ‘brown fellas’ are Romanian, which I suppose are the people you’re referring to, there’s also Irish Travellers, who are also subject to being called ‘gypsies’ but they’re white, like you. Oh, and they do have homes… What kind of house did you live in? If that’s not too prying a question, I suppose? I can go first and say that I lived in a flat?” She offered.

"What kinda weird ass question…" Abigail trailed off, looking away from Angeline and at a crusty stain in one of the seat cushions. "Ain't never had a house," she mumbled.

“Oh, okay, where did you stay then? Because travellers often live in caravan parks and trailer parks, so they have homes, and they don’t like to be called gypsies because it’s synonymous with the stereotype you brought up. The wrong doings of the few should not represent the many, right?” Angeline had no idea if she was getting anywhere as Abi entertained herself with a crusty seat. “Otherwise… Every white American teen is a school shooter, and every underprivileged youth is a drug dealer, or swept up in gang activities. I can’t imagine either of those things represent you, right? So calling someone a ‘gyppo’ would be just as insulting as me calling you like… A drug addled school shooter or something.”

"Is it worth threatening to kill someone over?" Abi asked, pulling a face as she gingerly rolled onto her belly to peer up at Angie. "How bad can it really be, huh? I been called worse before. Ain't so sure what's got everyone all riled up - in the middle of a mission, no less."

“Well, no it’s not worth threatening to kill someone over. That’s why I said that both you and her had handled the situation poorly. It is, I suppose, accentuated by the fact that she was an ethnic minority and probably has to deal with insults and harassment and stereotypes just like what you’d said for all her life. Consider, perhaps, if it were merely the ‘straw that broke the camel’s back’ instead of it just being related to your one insult.” She leaned back in her seat, exhaling as she did so, trying to get somewhat comfortable. “Plus I would imagine a mission is where it’s most likely to get people riled up. Everyone’s tense, we’re being relied on by many people right now and it’s lot’s of pressure. All it takes is one crack for it all to blow up so I can see why it got such a reaction.” Angeline looked out the window past Abigail. “I can’t understand how, in this kind of situation that we’re in, surrounded by confusion and negativity, it would be beneficial to anyone to bring up more negativity like discrimination on top of everything we’ve got to deal with…” She sat up and looked at Abigail again “After all, what’s a “gyppo” to a white person when we’re all mages now?” She eyed Abigail carefully “Aren’t we all going to be discriminated against now? May as well try and get along with the one’s on ‘our side’ right?”

Angeline watched as Abigail went blank, then nervous, then angry in the scope of her speech. “Don’t think that using fancy words makes you right,” she muttered. Humiliation crept into her voice. She immediately went on the defensive, starting to push herself up onto her elbows. “You sound like the goddamn counsellors. I don’t need my life picked apart by some-”

Then the gunshots rang out.

They were much louder and more jarring at close range, punching through the conversation and letting the light and air in. Abigail’s initial reaction was a flinch so hard it looked like a spasm - she fell off the bench in the process, losing all her bravado in an instant as she covered her head with the back of her hands and huddled on the floor.

Angeline sighed a little to herself as Abigail reverted to defensiveness. As the gunshots came she paled and instinctively covered her ears, a large wave of nausea hitting her like a greasy, smelly, combi-bus thing. They were over before she knew it with a final, single shot and when she opened her eyes she saw the kid curled up on the floor. A weird mix of sympathy and discomfort hit her. “You can get up now, I think it’s over. You alright?” She tried to pretend she wasn’t as affected as she was, for the sake of the girl.

Abigail looked up and saw Angie largely unaffected by the gunshots. She went red with embarrassment, making her even more ashamed as she miserably picked herself up off the floor. "It's uh. Louder up close, ain't it?" She huffed, trying to save face. The facade was pointless; she was frightened, and angry with herself for getting frightened.

Angeline nodded “Yeah. I don’t like guns. I thought with you being American you’d be a little more accustomed?” She tried to draw away the subject so Abi would feel less embarrassed “Never been to a shooting range or something with your family?” She got up and dusted her butt down of whatever grossness had stuck to it and opened the door and stepped out. Eventually, she would have to face the facts and see if there were any injuries to take care of.

About a second after she stepped out, Angie heard footsteps, rushing at her from behind.

“Who the fuck do you work for?!” screamed a man as he barreled into her and brought her to the ground on the last word, hands scrambling for her throat.

Angeline coughed as her back hit the floor too winded to say much except a wheezed “Help…”

“You fucking bitch! Who the fuck do you work for? Who’s fuckin’ payin’ you!?”

After a moment's hesitation that went on for what felt like an eternity, something hot and bright and tinged purple shot out of the open bus door, aiming indiscriminately above Angie and the final bandit in a searing burst of magic.

The bandit jerked backwards and off of Angie, jumping reflexively away from the burning heat as it struck him in the space of the joint between his neck and shoulder.

“Fuck!” he yelped, before realising in more conscious detail what had happened, and where the fire had come from, as he reached to start patting the fire out and it just disappeared. He gave a low, tense scream through his clenched teeth, and looked up at Abi.

“What the fuck?” the man, tall and slim, thought aloud, as he reached behind himself for something in the waist of his jeans.

Angeline coughed roughly as the crispy man got off her, though as she saw him reach for the gun she instinctively ran at him and hunkered low, jumping with her shoulder and arm extended for his chest to try and knock him down.

As her body - smaller than his, but strong from years of ballet, and graced with deceptively powerful control of her balance - made its impact, he budged, and his shoes left a little streak behind in the sand as he slid for a bit before adjusting his own balance to counter Angie’s, leaving them in a deadly stalemate - as he produced the pistol.

It wasn’t a small thing, but not as big in his hand as Abi imagined it would have been in hers, as the top slide of the weapon gave a dull glint, catching the warmth and light of the sun as the criminal in front of her adjusted his footing once again - and delivered a swift, brutal kick straight to Angie’s chest, knocking her back to the floor, winded.

The bandit backed up from them both as he released the safety and pulled the slide on the pistol, a faint click inside the weapon registering the chambering of a round, like a long-dreaded knock on the door. He glanced between the two of them - ballerina and teenager - his eyes alive with an unpleasant mixture of fury, triumph, and intelligence, even as the flesh on his shoulder still smouldered and the patchwork of his jacket began to fell away in ashes around it.

“I won’t fuckin’ ask again.” He held the pistol up, taking his time to line up a shot. “Who, the fuck, do you fuckin’ bastards, fuckin’ work f-”

Just as he began to bring the gun down, while it was still aimed up and above them both, a shot rang out. He jerked like a puppet being struck abruptly with a stick, tiny dots of blood suddenly colouring the air behind him, and the gun went off in his hand as his fist clenched reflexively.

Another shot. Identifiably from just at the top of the little gully they’d left the van in. Again, the man jerked, his eyes widening as the pain hit him properly and he realised what was happening. His own gun didn’t go off again - it had been too fast for him to have released the trigger, and both shots had hit him in the center of his chest.
Probably right in the heart.

A pause, just long enough for him to groan, and start the long lurch backwards into the dirt, when the third and final gunshot rang out like a clarion bell, and every sin he’d ever committed was blown clean out of the right side of his temple.

When he hit the dirt the gun went off again, sending his last mistake flying off well away from his two hostages, far out into the outback.

At the top of the hill, still aiming his own weapon down at the recently neutralised hostile as he made his way down towards the van, calm as ever, was Brooks.

After that, it really was all over.

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The Outback Camp


10:48AM






The first bullet struck him in his right side, piercing his chest and lung - but it seemed as though he barely noticed, apart from a twitch in his arm and a lapse in his stride. The next shot was a miss, from over correcting her aim for her attacker's centre mass, but then he got within fifteen feet of her and a little switch in the back of her mind flipped - the lights didn't go out, but the thought of letting him get any closer dimmed them.

Ellen meant to fire one more shot, hit him in the chest, and conserve her ammo. Consciously, she'd meant to do nothing more than protect herself, do no more damage than absolutely necessary.

Instead she fired three.

One round found its home just above his stomach, one hit him in the dead centre of his chest, and one struck just to the left of his Adam's apple.

He made it a few more stumbling steps, powered mostly by his own inertia, before losing focus and clutching desperately at his wounds, not quite realising that he didn't have - and would never have - enough hands. He wound up face down in the sand, chest heaving against the incredible finality of his injuries, body movements gradually slowing.

It was slower than she expected, not that Ellen had spent a lot of time thinking about how long someone took to die. But when she had told herself that she would be alright with this, she imagined it being a moment--something filled with adrenaline that would pass quickly, and she would process the event later.

Instead, she stood and watched the man fall to the ground, his movements slow. He was dying. There was no way the shots she fired weren’t fatal, but she had expected something much more...instantaneous.

Ellen sunk to the ground a few feet away from the man, painfully aware with each breath she took that the man dying in front of her would not continue to do the same. After about a minute, she straightened, remembering that there were other people around and someone else could be coming her way--or her friends could be dead/dying. She should go and make sure they were okay.

But frankly, what could she do if they were dying? Ellen looked at the man on the ground in front of her, feeling powerless when perhaps she should have felt more powerful than she ever had before. Either her friends were fine and they had been successful, or they were dead and all was lost. Ellen wasn’t quite ready to find out which.

She flicked the safety on, not wanting to be startled into shooting a friend.

And then she flicked it off again, worried that one of the thieves might be the one to stumble upon her.

Ellen needed to know what was going on. She stood up and took a few steps away from the body on the ground. When she looked closely, she could see he was still breathing, barely. He didn’t even have a weapon. Maybe she had made a mistake.

Maybe he had the keys to the caravan. Maybe he had a wallet. Could Goodnight use a credit card for a short while until this guy was reported dead? Could they use cash? Was it heartless of her to wonder? Or was it practical?

Ellen probably should take his wallet and check his pocket for keys at least. She knew she should.

But the act of actually doing it seemed so wrong...and it took another minute for her to muster up the courage. Well… maybe she was just trying to wait to be sure he was fully dead.

Ellen was getting a much better idea of why video games often had the bodies disappear and just the loot remain after combat.

Whether he was in too much pain, or had already slipped beyond the realms of sensibility and consciousness, he put up no resistance to the young woman as she rifled through his pockets. He did indeed have a wallet, containing about $7.50 in cash, along with a debit card reading “Mr Joseph Barrow”, and a couple of old, out of date McDonald’s coupons. He also had ID - full name Joseph Leslie Barrow, age 39 - and an organ donor card, plus a photo tucked behind the little plastic window he’d put the ID card behind.

It was him, though younger, with his arm around another young man that looked a great deal like him - so much like him, in fact, that they were more or less identical.

Like twins.

They were standing in front of some ratty old building that looked like a pub, holding dark brown glass bottles, grinning like absolute idiots - as though they knew they were doing something they weren’t meant to be, and were just daring the world to let them get caught.

On the reverse of the polaroid, written in stunningly neat biro pen, was a little message.

“I know things have been hard, but I want you to never forget that I love you, and that I believe in you. Growing up I knew you could do anything you put your mind to, and I know that still. Please come stay some time, please let me help you, please just let me be your brother, Joe.”

“ - love, Harry.”

As Ellen opened the wallet, her attention shifted to his license. More specifically, his name and his picture. She stared at them for a few moments before noticing the picture of the sibling behind the identification. Ellen could tell instantly that the men were likely twins. She felt a stab in her chest at the thought of tearing someone’s sibling away like hers had been taken from her. Ellen forced herself to read the entire note on the back, feeling like she knew these brothers more than she should. Perhaps it would have been better not to look in the wallet at all. It certainly would have been easier.

Ellen shoved the card and picture back in the wallet, closed it, and brought it with her as she walked away from Joe, towards where her friends were hopefully gathering what they needed from the campsite. She shoved the wallet in a pocket, and carried the gun at her side--finger outside of the trigger guard--unsure exactly who she would encounter there.
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When Ellen reached the campsite, she saw Hans and Mark looking around. She approached Hans, knowing him better of the two, and ‘checked in.’ “Do you have this… all handled, or do you need me to help with something?” Ellen might have been a bit pale in the face, and unenthusiastic about offering to help, and shaking from having shot a man just a few minutes prior, but she sure as hell wasn’t going to be a burden on someone else. Whether it was her appearance, or Hans’ own confidence in his handling, Ellen didn’t know--but in any case, Hans suggested she head back to the van and he would wrap up here.

“Okay. There’s another body over...there, just to let you know.” Ellen pointed back in the direction from whence she came. “I’ll head up to the bus.”

She walked the rest of the way to the van on her own, the gun still heavy in her hand. Between every breath, she vacillated between feeling numb and feeling overwrought with emotion. For some reason, one of the concerns at the forefront of her mind was what the others would think about what she had done. She didn’t even notice the body that was dead or still dying on the ground near the van, preoccupied with her own thoughts.

Ellen paused at the side door, one hand on the handle. The other was still on the gun. The gun with it’s safety off. Ellen took the time to turn the safety back on, and then opened the door and got in, placing it on the seat beside her. She looked at Abi and Angeline, noticing that they...seemed rattled.

“Hey...You guys okay?” She asked.

Angeline was sitting in the van, very pale and her head in her hands, she frankly looked like she was going to be sick and she was covered in dust from being kicked to the floor. “Um-...” How would one even describe what had happened without sounding hysterical. “Well I think we got attacked… But Brooks dealt with it.” she finished, bluntly. To even utter the idea of him being shot might cause her to be sick. “Just trying to forget about it to be honest…” She leaned back, bouncing against the back of the chair, trying to distract herself. Her eyes examined Ellen for a rather long time, a welcome distraction from thinking about the bleeding corpse just outside the van. She stared until a thought came to her mind.

“Is everyone alright? No one got hurt?” Angeline probed, cautiously.

“I understand.” Ellen replied to her initial statement of trying to forget about the whole event. “Everyone looked fine.” She confirmed, knowing that Angeline was asking only about their group, and not about the well-being of the people they had attacked. “Guess you’re off the hook for healing, for now.” Ellen said, grinning lightly.

It was a good thing no one had gotten hurt. Angeline did not look well enough to take care of anyone but herself.

“So….Very Important Question. Would you rather have an extra toe or an extra finger?” Ellen asked. It was a change in subject. Drastic and unimportant. And hopefully exactly what Angeline needed. And who knew, maybe she needed to be distracted, too.

Angeline smoothed down the stray hairs of her ponytail, although after the fiasco of today, most of her hair was stray and had slipped out of the neat style it was at the beginning. She sighed in relief hearing there were no difficulties with anything. “I hope there are still some good supplies in there…” ...Otherwise this would have all been in vain, although she didn’t want to say that part out-loud. Angeline looked up and blinked a couple times at Ellen, making sure she’d heard her correctly. “Um… Odd time to play would you rather but I guess I’d say extra toe? I don’t think I’d be allowed on stage with an extra finger.” The ballet world was cut-throat enough about appearances, an extra finger would have exiled her from all performances for sure.

“What about you? I mean... The benefit of the toe is it’s easier hidden…” Angie speculated.

“You said you were trying to forget about it all…” Ellen mentioned with a shrug. “I don’t know, I mean… Are you going to be able to get shoes to fit an extra toe?” She supposed she could cut it off, but Ellen felt like it was more important to embrace her weirdness, rather than trying to remove that part of her entirely. Hmm...

Ellen glanced over at Abi. That girl seemed like she would cut off an extra appendage. Remove herself from what made her outside of the norm so she could fit in better.

“I think I’d go with an extra finger. I never played piano, but it would be cool to get good at that and play songs that only sound that good because of an extra finger.” Ellen imagined there were ways to make songs like this, but couldn’t think of a cool way to make something special out of an extra toe. “I mean, getting gloves in the winter might be a pain, but at least you still have mittens!” Ellen said brightly.

“You sure you don’t wanna play, Abi?” Ellen asked, looking over at the kid again.

Abi didn’t want to play. No matter, it was just a tool to help them stay distracted, anyway. Ellen asked a few more before Brooks and the others made their way back to the billy bus. She asked if Angeline would rather explore space or the ocean, and then if Angeline would rather eat breakfast food for every meal or dinner food for every meal.

Of those questions, Ellen preferred the idea of exploring the depths of the ocean, and learning what kinds of creatures were there--over going off into space. She was also more comfortable with the ocean and knew of some of its dangers, compared to space. Ellen also answered that she was more of a dinner fan than breakfast, and didn’t usually eat much for breakfast, if she had any at all. She grew up with “breakfast” in Italy, which was perhaps a pastry...certainly not the multiple-platter filled ensemble she knew Americans ate at places like IHOP and Denny’s.

And by what was perhaps some minor miracle, Ellen managed to keep the entire conversation rated G.
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Abigail was fine - insofar as one could be after witnessing the death of a stranger six feet away from your face. She didn't say or do much until they returned to Goodnight. Then she was walking back from the toilets and stopped, turned to the nearest wall and crouched down. A few seconds of silence and she started lightly whacking her head with her fists, gently at first but with a fast increasing and feverish frequency.

“Hey!” Brooks bellowed. Trying to snap her out whatever reverie she was slipping into. A quiet, keening whine pushed past her clenched jaw as she grabbed fistfuls of her hair and held on for dear life. When Brooks approached, she was shaking. He squatted before her, grabbing her wrists and pulling them aside. "I said- hey! Snap out of it!”

Now getting a good look at Abigail's expression, Brooks could see that she wasn't breaking down - she was utterly consumed with anger. The muscles on her neck bulged with her clenched jaw and she was shaking with fury, not fear. Whatever had happened here had built up for a while. He sighed and sat down from his kneeling position. He clicked his tongue and looked around. Goodnight was always busy no matter where you went but little attention was paid to the girl sat in the corridor struggling with her own issues. Unfortunately, it was a common sight in the mouldering ruin of a mall.

Brooks stood up, dusting off his pants and planting his palms on his hips after. He waved a hand in an airy manner. “Come on then.” he said, exasperated. “Let’s take a hike.”

With herculean effort, Abigail pushed her anger back from whatever dark hole it had spilt out of. Her expression thunderous, her hands still shaking, she sloped after Brooks as he lead her further out of the mall. She didn't even look at the door guard nor register the brief exchange of words between him and the bootlegger. They crossed the cracking tarmac and into muddy woodland where clods of dirt and wet leaves stuck to her tattered trainers. The sharp chill in the air and the open sky had offset her temper for now - this was a rare luxury for the denizens of Goodnight, and not often handed out to strangers or new kids - but this was a temporary fix to a deep seated issue. She looked up at Brooks' back in silence after a good half hour of wandering.

“I can practically feel you staring.”

"I ain't tryna be subtle," Abigail retorted. "So what is this. You brought me out here to whoop me? That it?"

“The hell is wrong with you? No, I brought you out here because you looked like you were about to start screamin’ back in there. Can’t have that.”

"And why the hell not?" She skirted forward so they were walking side by side. "What's the worst that'll happen, I ruin the mood?"

“You’ll be seen as unstable. Crying and screamin’ about. You haven’t earned that yet.”

"So it's a privilege to get worked up now?" They went down a hill and within the bottom of the pit was an ancient fly tip, a junkyard of old furniture, broken vehicles and debris. "What is this?"

“A place for you to vent. Free of charge.”

Abigail looked down at the wreck, back up at Brooks and down at the wreck again.

It took her forty five minutes to get it all out of her system, which was an admittedly impressive time given the magic flung all over. By the time she was through the chassis of a car had been annealed and battered to within an inch of its life and the door of an old refrigerator had been torn off its hinges. Her screams had died down into hoarse little whimpers and she was soaked in sweat when Brooks carefully plodded into the junkyard to see her. She was shivering still but this time from the cold.

“All out?” he asked, standing besides her and looking over the wreck. Abigail croaked, nodded, then half turned and pressed her forehead against his stomach. A few wet sniffles escaped her nose, which she wiped with her grotty bandaged palm.

He knelt down beside her, gently placing a patting hand on her back. "Fuck mages," Abigail muttered thickly. "Terrorists n' foreigners. Threats to society. This…. insurgency shouldn't even fuckin' exist."

“Yeah.” he kept patting her back. “Well you’re one too now.”

"Gee, I sure didn't notice!" Abigail waved a hand at the scorch marks. "I just...I was meant to be better than this! I'm a goddamn American, I worked hard! I worked really, really fuckin' hard!" There were cracks in her voice. "It ain't easy out in the desert but that's okay, having to skip through like five schools on the road but I tried, didn't I? Ain't got no fuckin' friends or fancy smart phone or new sneakers but it ain't never about that, it's about, about trustin' the Lord and His judgement!" She looked up at Brooks with ruddy cheeks and fresh tears pooling in her eyes. "I skipped dinner on Fridays so Meemaw could have fun on Bingo night, I was the one who fixed the water filter 'stead of doing my homework. I was humble! I LOOKED AFTER MY OWN! So why did God do this to me?! Why does everyone hate me! Why is it so GOD DAMN HARD all the GOD DAMN TIME?!" Abigail shrieked with all the irrationality that her young mind could muster, face screwed up and smeared with tears and snot.

Brooks waited until she was tuckered out before holding down her hands and hugging her.

They stood there in the dirt and the chill, listening to the pops and groans as the metal on the car started to cool. It took a long time for Abigail to stop standing there and slump into the hug. She shut her eyes and exhaled. "I'm tired," she whispered.

There was another long moment of the wind whistling around them.

"I may be dumb but I ain't stupid," Abigail inhaled sharply. "What do those spell-flingin' maniacs wanna see from me. What do I... what've I gotta do to keep 'em from tossing me in a hut off in the middle of nowhere."

“Don’t start fights. Show you’re reliable. Show you’re trustworthy. You’re going to need a serious attitude adjustment. Most of you do.”

"Fine. Fine." Abigail rubbed her face clean on her jumper.

"Now I'm gonna take you back in. We're gonna head to that office, get our debrief and whatever trouble you're in for cussing someone out on the job you're gonna take without complaint. Understand?" Brooks let Abigail go long enough to watch her expression. The girl nodded but couldn't meet his gaze. "No, you look at me and say 'I understand'. This ain't middle school. You answer someone politely when you're asked a question, 'cause we ain't fucking around. Do you understand?" Brooks jabbed a finger into her shoulder, scowling.

Abigail squared her shoulders and stood up straight. "I understand," she responded.

Brooks stared at her for a long moment, nodded, and brought her back into the mall.
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The debrief was a blur for most of you - after you left the outback, supplies in tow, most of you were too exhausted in one way or another to have much more input in affairs. The important details were that in doing what you did, you’d saved about thirty people who were going to run out of insulin in the next few days, and that the other medical supplies were all things there were major shortages of too; about ten litres of sterile saline, a whole bunch of little glass ampoules of various different drugs, a few packs of disposable syringes and cannulas, and an assortment of other things on top of that. For a hospital, or even just a clinic, it was a poor show of stock - but for a refugee camp of universal unpersons, it was a miracle. Not much else was said during the debrief - apart from one thing;

“The guy you found in the kitchen, Peter Williams, is in a critical condition - but he’s stable for now. Doc said he would’ve been a goner if it wasn’t for whatever one of you did with your magic that slowed the bleeding. Called it a miracle, actually.”





Goodnight


7th February, 2020






"What the fuck, dude?” Came a furious shout, accompanied by the breaking of a plate and the spilling of food.

"Oh shit, I’m sorry-"

"We've all gotta eat you piece of shit!"

"I said I'm sorry, I don't know what else you-"

"No fuck you!" The other man lashed out, pushing the mage who’d knocked his food on the floor down into the very same mess he’d just made.

Food, the survivors noticed, was a sore spot in Goodnight's collective. Rationing was in place to make sure everyone got their share but it left everyone hungry - and hungry mages made for short tempered disasters. The violence happening in the cafeteria wasn’t a daily occurrence - but it wasn’t unusual either; arguments had suddenly become a guessing game of which destructive ability or unnatural powers might be unleashed if the wrong hair-trigger temper got pulled. People had gotten hurt before. Worse still, even though things had gotten better with the supplies recovered by your team, the medical department were still running on just barely more than fumes; every injury, every infection, every casualty, it was all a risk - more than ever before.

The violet underground were largely kept indoors unless explicitly allowed to go outside. This meant that various wings of the abandoned mall had naturally formed into haunts for particular people, with non-english cultures being the most common to sequester themselves away from everyone else. The mall was full. There wasn't a room that wasn't being lived in or used by the operatives for one reason or another. Illness was common, setting Goodnight to a backing track of coughing and weeping that was alleviated only by the occasional business of mealtimes and the odd class on magic by whichever operatives were around to do it.

One of these operatives was cutting through the crowd right now, flanked by one other figure. The aggressor raised his right hand at the man he’d pushed to the floor, and just as the tips of his fingers started to glow bright red, there was a low, dull, roar, and he recoiled.

"Enough," the newcomer, a tall, dark, military type barked. "No magic. No fighting." She continued, just as her comrade stopped focusing on the aggressive mage’s hand.

“What the- what did you do?”

“Shut you down. Like the lady said, no magic, no fighting.”

The Moroccan woman grabbed them both - the man who’d just been shoved down to the floor and the man who’d just tried and been denied casting a spell at him - and all but picked them up by their collars.

"But where the hell am I meant to get something to eat?!" Protested the stranger.

Not even the soldier had an answer. "Consider it your punishment for endangering the others. Now sit back down or go somewhere else. As for you…" she regarded the clutz with steely indifference. "... Don't let me catch you doing that again."

"This isn't fair! You keep us in here like animals and won't even feed us?!" The man was already being lifted to his feet and lead out of the room roughly. "At least make sure we have enough to go around, damnit!" His protests faded into the din of the crowd as she dragged him into the next room, presumably for a stern talking to. The other man tried to shy away from the sea of embittered, judgemental stares and back into the crowd.

Supper continued.

After a little while, Billy came up to the table where Ellen and Angie were sitting.

“Hey, uh, how you doin’ guys? Listen, I was just wonderin’ if y’all’d like to come to the chapel with me. It ain’t much of a chapel, actually, to tell the truth - but uh, a few of us are already there at just the moment, and we’re just plannin’ to talk about the last job we did. Y’know, just, get the words out. I was wonderin’ if you were interested?”

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