Hidden 1 yr ago 1 yr ago Post by Pascal
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The rest of the mission passed without much of consequence. The professionals or at least the folks who were more experienced, took care of acquiring the actual medical supplies, and anything else they felt was of value. Then they made their way back to the rendezvous point for their return to Goodnight. Everyone was pretty quiet during the debrief. They were thanked for getting the supplies, and Angie’s work with Peter was enough to keep him alive.

Ellen went to visit him a few days later. It wasn’t like a normal hospital visit, where she would have brought a card or balloons, or flowers that would die a short while later. But she brought her sense of humor and a granola bar she had won in a card game, which was better in her opinion.

Even in the rundown makeshift ‘hospital’ area they had set up, Peter looked a lot better here than he had the last time she saw him. “Hey, Peter..right?” There weren’t chairs next to each of the beds, but she grabbed a folding one on her way over and opened it up before sitting down.

“You are looking a lot less pale now. And I prefer the look with blood on the inside.” She grinned. “How are you holding up?”

She liked to think he was better with a little company, especially after losing people in the Outback. Hell, they had all lost people. “You gotta keep getting better, so you can tell me about that one weird night, like you promised.” She teased. “But for now, I think you’d probably traumatize some folks.” She said a bit more softly.

The pair conversed for a short while longer. Ellen confirmed that her group made it back without any casualties and were able to recover the coolbox. She didn’t have any answers for him about exactly why or how these guys had found out about the drop. Ellen asked him if he had plans to stick around. She knew some people without magic could go back to their lives as if none of this had ever happened, but she wasn’t sure how much Peter really had to go back to. Either way, she wished him luck and a speedy recovery.

It was a nice conversation. People in Goodnight were getting so… worked up and stressed out. It was like a powder keg, if the powder keg was in a building with fireworks and cartoon crates of nitro. Everyone was hungry. Everyone felt trapped. Everyone was missing their creature comforts from home. Ellen felt like she was coping better than most. On the boats, there were times when they didn’t pack enough food, or something spoiled, and everyone ended up rationing a bit more than they wanted. She was also used to people getting tense and explosive when they weren’t sleeping well and couldn’t get a moment of peace or tranquility. And Ellen didn’t really have a home to miss.

Like most others, Ellen missed before she awakened. When she knew it was coming but was still able to do whatever the fuck she wanted. She could go places, do things, meet people… she took those parts for granted.

Ellen caught up with Hans one afternoon, telling him she wanted lessons with a handgun. She knew ammo was sparse, but before he could protest, she was justifying to him why she thought it was a good idea. “These situations aren’t going to get less dangerous. I’ve already shown I’m willing to use one if it is needed. And there are others who aren’t. There is no point in pretending we live in a world where it won’t be necessary to use a weapon...and my magic isn’t great unless we are already like--right next to one another.”

Perhaps she shouldn't have been surprised when Hans didn't have any concerns about teaching her these skills. He suggested simply that they wait until things had cooled off a bit, which was fine by Ellen. She just didn't like the idea of sitting around until the next mission popped up, only to realize she was just as unprepared--albeit a bit more experienced.

A few evenings later, Ellen was sitting with Angie eating their rather meager portions. Ellen was just coming up with another ‘would you rather’ conversation starter for Angie when Billy came over and invited them to come to a sort of...group therapy session to talk about the last job they did. Ellen glanced over at Angie, wondering if Angeline was ready to actually talk. She hadn’t asked the former ballerina yet, and figured the girl would bring it up if she wanted when she was ready.

“I don’t mind.” Ellen said with a shrug, turning back to Billy. She didn’t have anything else going on, and she imagined that even if she wasn’t going to say much for herself, it might be nice and supportive of her friends if she went along, too. “Is Abi there?” That kid had a lot to unpack, and if anyone was hanging out at a makeshift hospital, it was probably her.
Hidden 1 yr ago Post by Jessikka
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Angeline could feel the tension crackling in the air as she sat opposite Ellen, she was still shaken from everything that happened to her, it seemed every new act of violence she could stack up on her plate of experiences would weigh on her, they weren’t easy to get used to, even with the small rations Angeline struggled to convince herself she was hungry. As she tried largely to ignore the commotion, though did watch with curiosity as it got broken up, she forced herself to eat, many people would dive on the opportunity to eat her portion but she was sure she would need it herself. The poor diet is having effects on her energy levels, she can’t work out as vigorously as before, she can practically feel her strength slowly slipping away from her, along with her focus.

She enjoyed talking with Ellen, she didn’t know her well enough to pour out her heart but Ellen would talk with her anyways, and never about the serious stuff. It was good because while Angeline found the hard stuff difficult to forget, the distraction was welcome. Plus it was nice to have a girl around her age around, though weird, she thought, that she was relying on someone who was younger. In the grand scheme of things, Angeline pondered if Ellen ended up with more life experience than even herself, despite the age gap. How much of her life did she simply spend dieting, exercising, practicing, stretching, or even later in life, recovering and studying? Now that life got difficult, Angeline cursed the fact she had chosen such a one-track life. It left her vastly unprepared for her current situation. Her mind slipped from the conversation to how much she missed performing, and training, and even drills, mindless, easy, repetitive work compared to today where nothing stays the same and it’s all difficult.

It was only when Billy spoke up beside her that she broke out of her train of thought. Immediately she was washed over by a heavy feeling of guilt that she’d partially zoned out, hopefully Ellen understood. “A chapel?” She wasn’t very religious but she supposed that isn’t likely to be what this was about. She hesitated until hearing Ellen’s answer, too nervous one would suppose to go alone. “Oh - Um yeah I can come along too.” she added. At Ellen’s comment about the child she mentally agreed. That child was… At best, difficult to talk to, at worst dealing with whatever it was whirling around in that head of hers. She couldn’t help but feel a sting of sadness that such a child has so many difficulties to concern herself with.
Hidden 1 yr ago Post by Bazmund
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Goodnight




The Chapel






The chapel at Goodnight was a frequently overlooked space, being a fairly obscure and out of the way room that you could only get to through the disused and often-overgrown employee corridors hidden behind the wall panels of the commercial space - and the depression that the new mages were sinking into wasn’t exactly helping their motivation with regards to any religious obligations they might’ve had; if it wasn’t something they could do without climbing three flights of stairs and nearly getting lost in the maze behind Goodnight’s broken facade, it wasn’t something they were easily gonna do.

Of course, there were exceptions - indeed, now you were one of them.

Whether it was your idea or just something you got roped into, you found yourselves headed up towards the old manager’s office, replete with rotten blinds and greyed, decaying wood flooring, a dozen or so plastic chairs that were normally arranged like makeshift church pews, now rearranged in a small circle, crowding up the space of the room. The far side of the room - which was surprisingly big for a simple middle manager - held a great oaken desk, brought low by the ravages of time and finally repurposed as an altar, candles and all. A few prayer mats, rolled up and tucked away in the corner, completed the image.

A place for everyone to pray, left empty to gather dust in the face of the ultimate crisis of the faith.

When you got there, though, there were a couple of people already there.

Immediately visible because he took the back seat closest to the door was Brooks, arms folded and staring ahead. The glint of his pistol in its holster was a jarring contrast to the place of worship. Sat next to him was the military-esque woman from earlier. She looked over her shoulder at your approach - to have made it to the chapel before you she must have made a beeline from dealing with the unruly mage straight to the chapel. On the far side of the room sat Billy, talking quietly to a tall, skinny, darkly tanned bearded man holding what looked like a pocket Bible resting on his knee.

As you entered, the man with the copper skin laid a gentle hand on Billy's shoulder to shush him, and stood up to greet you.

"Hey hey, come in, take a seat. My name is Dr Chris Cassar. Don't worry, I'm not a psychiatrist." He added, with a soft smile and a faint accent. Spanish or Italian, maybe.

As he stood up, Billy stood up alongside him, looking between the Doctor and the newcomers with clear admiration for the former.

"I may have met some of you before, please forgive me if I've forgotten your names," he continued, taking a step forward to start shaking people's hands as they came through the door, "I'm one of the doctors here, so I see quite a lot of faces every day. We were very grateful for your work a fortnight ago, and I just wanted to thank you again, in person this time."




Hidden 1 yr ago Post by duskshine749
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Zephyr had eaten his dinner quickly, hardly taking notice of the commotion, before heading off on his own. Ever since the mission he felt he needed to be alone with his thoughts. He had all these grand aspirations for how he was going to use his powers for good, but when it came down to it he didn't do anything. He was just another body taking up space. Did he even deserve to be here? These were the thoughts that had been plaguing him the past two weeks. He knew these were all just silly insecurities, but the thing about insecurities is they don't care if you know what they are. They still scratch at your mind and give you no peace. Zephyr had been finding solace in meditation though, and a lovely place to meditate was the chapel. He had found it shortly after he had returned from the mission while he was wandering aimlessly around Goodnight. Not many people seemed to know where it was, or they just didn't want to make the trek which was understandable as well.

Once again Zephyr had found himself at the chapel but today there were others there. First he saw Brooks, then a somewhat scary looking woman. Was she the one who broke up the fight earlier? Well, it didn't matter too much as Billy got his attention. "Oh, Zephyr, I'm glad your here, we're gathering everyone who was on the mission two weeks ago." And that moment is when Dr. Cassar introduced himself and explained why they were meeting. "Oh, well that's very flattering doctor, thank you. I'm just gonna sit while we wait for the others." As Zephyr took a seat he couldn't help but think how undeserving of this praise he was. He hadn't done anything special. He looked around a campsite after the others had taken out the threat. He was nothing but a fraud, and now this doctor was going to be thanking him for something he only did on technicality.
Hidden 1 yr ago Post by Pascal
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The chapel was… literally the worst attempt she had ever seen at a prayer space. Granted, Ellen hadn’t spent that much time looking for chapels over the last few years. She saw Brooks, Billy, and Zephyr there, as well as the woman who broke up the fight, another man that she recognized, but probably only from seeing him in passing.

The newcomer stood up, introducing himself with a name and an accent that sounded… Sicilian, perhaps?

Ellen introduced herself after Zephyr, which wasn’t at all a veiled attempt to take the currently open seat next to the most attractive man in the room. She reached out and shook Cassar’s hand. “I’m Ellen.” She introduced herself. “Nice to meet you. So what kind of doctor are you?” Ellen asked.

Dr. Cassar’s smile broadened at the question.

“I am an ophthalmologist. An eye doctor, that is. Not what you might expect, perhaps, but we all do the best we can with what we are given.”

“I’m just glad you aren’t a therapist.” Ellen grinned. She definitely got the vibe when coming in that this was some sort of intervention. “And besides, now I know who to bother when I need my brainy specks fixed.” Ellen wasn’t wearing her contacts today. She had been trying to save them for when she was on missions and the glasses were the most likely to get damaged/get in the way.

After the brief introduction, Ellen moved to the conveniently open seat next to Zephyr.
Hidden 1 yr ago Post by Jessikka
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Angie wandered through the corridor, she’d left lunch a little after Ellen, so she had fallen behind a little but she could still hear people walking somewhere in the hallways as their footsteps bounced around. She was following the vague directions that floated somewhere in her headspace though mostly she just let her legs do the walking and her brain do the real wandering.

When she came upon the ‘chapel’ it wasn’t exactly as she expected. She supposed it shouldn’t surprise her but calling it a chapel was a little misleading. At the most it was a quiet place of… She examined the room, a place of worship, she supposed. Since it was an old office there was no regalia of whatever deity this office was dedicated to but considering the diversity of those stuck in this same situation, they couldn’t afford to have separate rooms for each religion. Before Angeline could finish her train of thought she was brought about by the voice of, what only she could assume was the head of this session. She offered a demure nod in greeting and a quiet “Hello.”

Angie surveyed the room, she noticed the closest-to-the door seats were taken by that scary man and scary woman. She didn’t want to interrupt Ellen either so she just took any old seat. It didn’t matter anyway. Her eyes drew themselves to the door, she couldn’t help but be tempted to just leave. She didn’t know her own feelings on the matter, it was all just knotted up in there anyways. She didn’t feel either bad or good, just confused, although she supposed talking it out would help unknot it.
Hidden 1 yr ago Post by Stitches
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"Howdy folk. Special delivery fer doctor...Cassar."

Abigail managed to make it halfway into the chapel before she really registered where she was and that wasn't remotely surprising; she looked rough. Sickly. Her skin was pale and her eyes sunken with deep dark shadows underneath them, the irises glassy and unfocused as they rolled from face to face and her jaw slowly worked at the tongue she was biting. In her arms was a thick stack of papers. She wore the same outfit she had worn in the outback. With an unsteady and fluttering gait she stumbled to the altar and dumped the papers down, stopping briefly to regard the wooden tabletop and mutter "helluvasturdy desk" to herself in quiet contemplation. She did a sloppy one-eighty, shot some finger guns with a click of her tongue and hastily squeezed past Billy to make a beeline for the door; almost exactly how she scurried out of the briefing just before the mission, too.

Or at least she would have, if Brooks hadn't very loudly cleared his throat once she got a few feet from the exit.

The effect was immediate. He might as well have yanked the collar of her shirt with how promptly she arrested her movement. The woman sat next to him sighed through her nostrils but seemed unfazed by the girl's behaviour whilst Brooks turned his head a fraction of an inch to stare her down and Abigail jutted her chin out to stare back. The exchange lasted a few seconds but conveyed more than any meaningless conversation could have managed. With great reluctance and a healthy dose of stroppiness, the kid collapsed into one of the chairs in a disruptive clatter and slouched back to glower at her lap - a 'pew' forward and to the left of the two fighters, closest to the aisle. "Sylvia's waitin' fer me, y'know. I ain't supposed to dawdle."

Dr. Cassar watched the progress of the juvenile insomnia-fiend with a mixture of concern, genuine interest, and understanding.

“Oh, Sylvia? I know Sylvia quite well actually - don’t worry, I can let her know that you were doing something important. Actually, it’s good you’re here, I wanted to thank all of you for the work you did recently - and I also wanted to maybe talk about it a little bit. I thought it might be helpful if we all sat down and talk a bit about ourselves, so that we don’t sit on the stress of it so long that we explode, you know?” He looked around the little circle, speaking softly and slowly, using his arms to gesticulate gently with each point in that practiced but genuine way that the very sincere are sometimes good at.

“I can go first, if you would prefer.” He added after a moment.
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Goodnight


The Chapel with Dr. Cassar






With the general nods and murmurs of agreement, Dr. Cassar inclined his head in acknowledgement, and started to tell his story.

“I left my home in Malta to study in England when I was 17, and then I spent six years at medical school in London. I worked very hard here, and after I graduated and spent a couple more years doing my foundation training, I decided to follow my heart and in 1989 I joined Medecins Sans Fronteires - which you might know as Doctors without Borders - to do charitable work around the world. I had always believed that everybody in the world deserves to be healthy and happy, and I wanted to help with that.”

He cleared his throat for a moment, sitting back in his chair and reaching for a small water bottle he’d tucked underneath it. After a quick drink, he smiled and looked around the room again.

“Did you know that Doctors without Borders have an inflatable hospital? It’s a huge set of tents with inflatable structures in them, and it is always ready to be deployed anywhere in the world, all within twenty four hours of any disaster or crisis.”

The smile faded a bit.

“My first posting was not in this hospital, but I have seen it set up before - it even has a theatre for surgeries, it’s really very impressive. No, I actually went to work in Iraq, performing general medical duties, giving vaccines and helping with community health along with another group of volunteers. I was only a very junior doctor at the time, but performing eye care there was what made me want to become an eye doctor later. Eyes are very beautiful, especially under a slit lamp. Before I went out there, and while I was there, I was very nervous. I was worried that I would make mistakes, or that I would not be allowed to care for some people, because I was a man and Iraq was an increasingly conservative Muslim country at the time. I didn’t want to make people uncomfortable, but it’s also very important that pregnant women get medical care, and if my boss made me responsible for that sort of thing, I didn’t want to disappoint him.”

He took a deep breath in.

“I arrived in february. Five months into my duty there, I had gotten past most of these problems, and I was beginning to feel more at home. On the first day of August, we were having an clinic for expecting mothers, teaching them the benefits of breastfeeding, explaining what things to look out for if their babies became unwell, and telling them how they could expect labour to go - it was an evening class, so everybody was tired, a lot of the women there had been working hard during the day either at home, or at a job, but my colleague Joseph and I had worked a night shift just before and were expecting another one, so we had both woken up late and were feeling awake and alert. I…”

He paused for a moment, closing his mouth after a second when the words didn’t come.

“A small group of young men came in to the classroom, carrying AK-47s. They were furious with us, and believed that we were teaching their sisters and wives some sort of propaganda. Joseph saw them first, but I was closest to the door at the time, and I also had the best Arabic, so I turned and tried to tell them that they could not bring weapons into the hospital, and that they could not be here without permission. I knew that some of our students had very bad home lives, as well, so I was very scared that they might be hurt.”

He swallowed, keeping his composure with all the grace of a man who’d spoken about this before - probably in therapy.

“The leader of the group pointed his rifle at my head, and he told me that his country did not need our help, and that we were not welcome there. I told him that we weren’t doing anything wrong, and that medical care was very important for a baby, and then one of his friends shot me twice in the stomach, and I fell over.”

“I remember that there was a lot of noise, and that I kept praying that I wouldn’t die. ‘Please God, I don’t want to die, I don’t want to die, don’t let me die,’ I kept saying to myself in my head. We were only volunteers, there was no official MSF mission in Iraq at the time, so we had very limited resources, and I wasn’t sure if I would survive at all. Everybody was shouting and screaming, and I remember that the men who shot me kept looking down at me and yelling at my colleagues. Eventually, I fell unconscious, and I thought I had been killed. When I woke up it was in an Iraqi hospital, and on the news I saw that Saddam Hussein had invaded Kuwait. The first Gulf War had begun.”

He ran a hand through his hair, and relaxed at last, giving a heavy sigh as he looked at the assembled party.

“We left the country after that, and I spent more time in a hospital in London - the same one I had studied at, actually. I saw a therapist about what had happened to me, I eventually recovered from my injury, and I went into specialist training as an ophthalmology registrar after that.” He gave everyone a little smile. “Happily ever after.”




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Abigail was slouched resplendently in the uncomfortable plastic chair. She looked like she was listening; she seemed attentive, brows furrowed in consternation as she...stared at the desk. She only glanced at Dr Cassar in passing before going back to looking at the mouldering altar throughout his tale. She was also restless, constantly fidgeting and moving around whenever her head dipped to her chest. She was chewing her tongue, her jaw working and gnawing and sometimes her fingers raked at the scabs and shimmering burnt skin around her wrists and forearms.

Funnily enough, it was the kid who was the first to break the silence. She cleared her throat and spoke quietly, solemnly - trying to mimic the composure of the doctor in vain - as she steepled her fingers and made a passable attempt at looking professional. “That must’ve been very frightening,” she acknowledged with a surprising tinge of empathy. “You’re clearly a very skilled doctor. I can’t imagine tryin’ ta do shit like, uh, operations n’ all that in a bouncy castle.”

The soldier woman in the background pinched the bridge of her nose, smiled and shook her shoulders as she held back the creeping fit of giggles under Brooks’ stern gaze.

Dr. Cassar's gaze turned to Abi as she started speaking, nodding along as she acknowledged his ordeal, and then turning a little, his eyebrows raised and eyes widening slightly, at the mention of a bouncy castle.

Then he frowned for a moment, and just as quickly began to beam with a big smile, and a hearty chuckle.

"Oh, no, no I'm sorry, I didn't explain that very well, I don't think. I would love to treat my patients in a bouncy castle, but unfortunately, even now I am still only learning, and I'm just not good enough for that yet. Our hospital was inflatable, but the floor was solid - it was mostly the walls, and some support for the ceilings and roof, that had inflatable parts." He nodded again as he finished, leaning towards Abi a little across the space they had between them in the circle.

"And thank you. I know I must seem like a real wimp, but I do still think about it, and it was very frightening at the time, you're right." He added, as his gaze drifted towards her hands, peeling and scabbed from her burns.

"Oh, that looks quite painful. Does this… happen a lot?"

Abigail looked at him blankly. For a moment, it looked like she wasn't going to answer at all; then she looked down at her hands and realised what he was on about.

"Huh. These? Heh, nah, this ain't shit." She raised her hand, rolling the wrist around in the light. "Even before the Violet Dawn I used to get burns all the goddamn time." For once, she smiled. "Back when I was, uh. When I was a kid. And the engine broke down - we lived in an RV out in Arizona. Anyway - when the engine broke down, nine times outta ten, that's a coolant issue. Dust in the head gasket or a crack in the hose. And my pawpaw, he, heheh, he used to turn 'round to me doin' homework and yell 'ABI YA USELESS PIECE'A'SHIT GET'CHER ASS OUT THERE'N FIX THE DAMN HOUSE'!"

Abigail was rambling. Unlike the few other times she'd talked at length, this felt confused. She kept tumbling from one point to another at random and she sounded like she was only partially aware of what she was saying. "Ain't got no clue why he called it a house cause it was a leaky ol' truck in the desert but cause I got small arms an' little hands it was on me. An' holy fuckin' shit. I got burnt all the time. Pop open the hood? Steam all the way up your arms. Try doin' a coolant flush with an engine y'all can cook an egg on. An' all that in an Arizona summer!"

She smiled and laughed, shaking her head. "I got burnt, I am burnt, and chances are I'm gonna burn."

Something about that last sentence gave her pause and kicked in a little realisation. She suddenly leant back and went quiet, glowering at her knees with shame and confusion. Just as quickly as it started, Abigail stopped talking and shut off with a clenched jaw and a newfound fascination with the desk.
Hidden 1 yr ago Post by Pascal
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The room was silent after Abi finished speaking. There was… a lot going on in the ramblings the girl made, from a history of burns to their apparent source- being forced to abandon any potential studies she had in order to repair a leak in a hot engine. If nothing else, there was a very strong suggestion that the girl didn’t have a lot of experience with having injuries treated appropriately and promptly.

Ellen let the silence linger for… perhaps five seconds or so before the compulsion to fill the silence took precedence. “Abi,” Ellen said, pausing for a moment as she realized she hadn’t actually planned out anything else to say. “Just because something bad happens a lot...that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t hurt anymore.” She seriously doubted those burns didn’t hurt. The kid looked like a walking disaster. Hell, Ellen wouldn’t be surprised if this whole thing was staged as an intervention for the kid, bringing together the people who… sadly probably knew her the best to try to form some sort of support group. The way she was roped in at the end with an errand was quite a strong piece of evidence towards this current theory, at least.

“What. What?” Abigail looked up, blinking. Her gaze briefly flickered behind herself to the door. “Something bad? Lady, y’ain’t never touched a hot griddle or sommin’? Or uh, got a papercut. Smart ladies like you prob’ly get papercuts all the time, right?” Even with the burnt hand, she gesticulated a lot with her hands and fingers - the scaly skin stretching and wrinkling with each movement. “First time you had one probably scared the bejesus outta’ you, pain like nothing else. But now it’s…well, it’s just annoyin’. ‘Ah Jeez, I got another papercut’ kinda annoyin’. And it don’t affect my movement or nothin’ so I ain’t that worried about it.” She shrugged.

Papercuts… She thought these burns were like papercuts. Abi wasn’t exactly a master of a poker face, she legitimately didn’t see the problem with her mini-autobiography. Ellen would have snickered at the suggestion of being called a Smart Lady, if not for the fact that everything Abi said was so… absurd. “Abi, I…” Ellen paused, looking around the room. “I can understand that reaction to papercuts, or bruises on your shin from hitting a coffee table that you could have sworn was not in that spot yesterday. But I don’t think those...kinds of burns are anything like papercuts. And the fact that you are so nonchalant--” Ellen paused, substituting in a word she thought the youth would understand better. “so un-bothered-- Makes me worried for you.”

The concern threw her off. Abigail looked around the room as well, suddenly aware of all the people looking at her - watching her. Her fingers curled up tightly. "Ma'am," she collected herself and levelled her voice, "I ain't sure what kinda life you lived, but my family were salt-of-the-earth Americans. We were proud n' dignified folk but we didn't get much in the way of luxuries, an' hospital bills were out of the question. What you're lookin' at here is a run of the mill, standard procedure injury which - frankly - you can't let get in the way of day to day life." She grabbed the conversation, leaning in. "What concerns me more is why you're so worked up over a lil' burn. If this is how anxious you get over something I ain't able to avoid, what with my power n' all - then I dread to think about how you're gonna handle yourself when one of us gets shot."

"I know you are just trying to turn things around so the focus is off of you, I get it. And I'm happy to talk about myself. But nothing about you seems run of the mill. It isn't just the burns, you look like shit. I mean… come on--" Ellen paused and looked around the room for someone she felt was more 'typical' American. "What about you, Brooks, does her salt-licking/bootstrap-pulling or whatever it is story sound typical to you?" She asked, putting him on the spot whether he liked it or not.

Brooks' eyebrows raised. She leant back a little, stammering out a couple "uhhhs" before gesturing vaguely at Abigail and going "y-yeah. Good kid. Strong girl." The military-esque woman stared him down flatly. Brooks looked back then gestured to the room again with exasperation. She rolled her eyes and folded her arms, Continuing to observe the session.

Ellen looked between Brooks and Abi with shock and annoyance. Was he even listening to the discussion they were having? Ugh. So much for having That support. "Typical aside, I call bullshit on how this is just going to happen because of your powers and you can't get control of it. You didn't read about Jesus turning an entire river to wine and then complaining that he couldn't do anything about it because it was just unavoidable." Ellen retorted. It was a bit of a weird jab, but she hoped that bringing in the big J would help her make her point. Which was currently that Abi needed to get her own shit under control.

“Ok!” Interjected Dr. Cassar, just as soon as he found a gap to push into. “That maybe didn’t go in the direction I thought it would. Look, we all come from different parts of the world and different backgrounds, it’s normal for us to have disagreements about what is and is not normal - and that’s all fine, of course. Ellen, I think perhaps that was quite… accusatory. I don’t like it when people tell me I look like crap, you don’t, nobody does, you know?” He gave Ellen a slightly pointed look. “Abi, it can also be true that something that is very normal for us still isn’t good for us, you know what I mean? Like hospital bills, for example - where I come from, there is no such thing as a hospital bill. If you need to see a doctor, you just make an appointment, so that when you do get a nasty burn, you don’t have to risk it getting an infection or something nasty like that.” Cassar continued, weighing up each of the metaphorical options in each hand, and carefully trying to avoid sounding too critical.

He turned and frowned at Brooks.

“And you… don’t talk a lot.”

A moment passed in an awkward silence - an awkward silence that was, in fact, the direct descendant of the first one, a sort of newborn first-kid awkward silence of the original.

“What was your normal like? Obviously Abi has told us a bit about her life before all this stress happened, would you be willing to talk about yours too?” Cassar eventually asked, turning back towards Ellen.

Ellen wasn’t thrilled when Dr. Cassar suggested she was being a bit confrontational. It was true, but that didn’t mean she had to like it. Still, she let him finish, and was overall pleased with how Cassar described how different normal could look to different people. She probably should have gone with something more like that, but…. Being tactful often came with thinking about your words before you said them, and Ellen wasn’t terribly good at that.

After Cassar finished addressing Abi and Brooks, he turned back to Ellen, asking if she was willing to talk about her life before all of this. “Sure.” Ellen replied. “I was raised in Milano, Italy.” She added for the benefit of Abi. She nearly remarked that it was the boot-shaped one for the youth’s benefit, but managed to restrain herself. “We vacationed frequently, but never the whole family. My mother or father, one of them was always busy with work while the other took us out. Me and my twin sister, Chiara.

“I did a lot of sports, competitive skiing, fencing, rugby, whatever I could get into, really. In 2016, my sister and I were in university and she awakened. They never found her body. After that, it was really hard to stay home. People would see me do a double-take. And my parents… I couldn’t keep going through the motions and pretending it was all just going to be normal-feeling again one day. I eventually left home, traveled for a while, and picked up odd jobs here or there. I sort of… always had a feeling that I might be affected one day, so I think I was just biding my time until then. The last few years I spent working on an Alaskan King Crab Fishing vessel. It’s dangerous work, but I made good money and had a lot of free time in the off-season.” Ellen felt like it was pretty on-point. She didn’t go into much detail about anything in particular, and she certainly didn’t seem to be talking about the same “normal upbringing" that Abi discussed.

“So yea, that’s about it from the before, I guess.”
Hidden 1 yr ago Post by duskshine749
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This was not where Zephyr wanted to be right now, he wasn't very good at helping people through their issues, and boy did Abi have some issues. Given her story he didn't expect her to know any better, that was just how life was for her. Living in an RV probably meant she didn't have a lot of access to TV or the internet or book so she couldn't have used those to see what the media depicted as normal. Not that media did a great job of depicting normal anyways be it would show her that not everyone lives like she did.

Ellen spoke up and said a few of the things Zephyr was thinking, but this mostly seemed to put Abi on the defensive. It was worth a try but if Abi would need time to realize maybe her life was maybe not as great as she thinks it was. Ellen bringing up Jesus was a bold move, Zephyr was interested in how that would turn out but Dr. Cassar put an end to things before they got too heated, which was probably a good call.

He encouraged Ellen to talk about her life, and as she spoke Zephyr had to stop himself from making some kind of noise, or letting his jaw drop. Her life growing up, much like Abi's, was very far from normal, though for completely different reasons. She had definitely lived a higher class life than anyone he had ever met that was for sure. Frequent vacations? Tons of sports? She clearly wasn't hurting for money as a kid, Zephyr hadn't either but that was more because his parents were frugal rather than being loaded. Zephyr could relate to having a family member die, although her sister was under much worse circumstances.

Ellen had certainly led a much more exciting life than Zephyr ever had. "I can go next, I guess, if we're sharing life stories." Zephyr stood up and cleared his throat, because that's what you did before speaking to a group of people. "Um, hi. I'm Zephyr, and I'm a mage, it's been one day since I last used magic." He paused briefly to see if anyone would respond to his weak attempt at an AA joke. Ellen laughed which was good enough for him, he was glad one person enjoyed his bit. He gave her a little smile before continuing, "when I was younger I had some rage issues. I hurt a kid pretty bad, he had to go to the hospital." Zephyr hadn't thought about that specific memory in a long time, and he didn't want to dwell on it for too long so he continued.

"After that my parents enrolled me in martial arts to give me an outlet, between that and some meditation I'm much calmer now. Aside from that I've lived a pretty uneventful life. Grew up in a semi-detached house in Canada, went on a few vacations to Disney World in Florida, we'd go camping in the summer a lot." Zephyr paused for a second, no matter how many years had passed this part of his life was still hard to remember, "my dad got cancer. He fought it for a few years but then he died. He loved my martial arts training so I kept at it and became an instructor in his memory. That's about it until my Awakening, sooo yeah." He always sucked at ending presentations, he'd come up with a catch phrase but he didn't want to say it here. He let his story hang for a second then sat back down.

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Goodnight


The Chapel with Dr. Cassar






"Goodness." Cassar uttered as Ellen mentioned her sister. "I'm so sorry. I can understand why you moved, and especially when things weren't so good with your parents, there must not have been very much support. The travelling too - it can be very nerve-wracking to go to a new country where you don't speak the language natively, and then try to find work and new friends. I'm glad you made it through this eventful life of yours unharmed, and that you have some good memories with your sister to look back on when times are hard. My brother and I don't speak very much any more, and we haven't for a long time now, but I think about the time we spent together very often."

There was a moment after that, as Zephyr spoke, and Dr Cassar listened.

“Thank you, Zephyr.” Dr. Cassar nodded thoughtfully as the younger man finished telling his story.

“I’m sorry about your father. I’m very lucky that my father is still with us, although - understandably - I don’t get to speak with him very much right now. It’s very hard, dealing with the loss of a loved one - I think it’s good that you’ve found something both of you had a shared joy in, and that you’ve dedicated yourself to it in his memory.” Cassar paused for a moment. “It’s good to hear that meditating helped you with your anger. I’ve always found that anger can be a great obstacle to, well, to thinking straight, do you know what I mean? Of course, there are some things it is right to be angry about, but it’s also important to not let anger rule us.”

Dr. Cassar’s eyes lit up for a moment, his face lifted upwards with a great and momentous realisation.

“Oh! I think I’ve just remembered something.” He stood up, and went behind the desk-altar, opening one drawer and then the other, rifling through them until he eventually found what he was looking for.

“Aha!” he exclaimed, producing a burgundy tin of biscuits and cookies, holding it aloft like a trophy. “I knew there was something I was forgetting. Would anybody like a biscuit? There aren’t very many left, but they exist to be eaten, you know? I actually have been meaning to ask, as well, what is the ‘Awakening’ like?” He posited the question generally, as he headed back towards his seat and started passing biscuits out.





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Abigail sat and stared at Ellen as she spoke, her expression set somewhere between incredulity, exasperation and resentment. As she went on about her lavish lifestyle and then swapped to her dead twin the girl lost herself in her own thoughts once more, chewing on a fingernail with her brows furrowed in consternation. She looked like she had one foot in a completely different world, balancing between what was going on around her and whatever noisy rubbish was clattering around the excess of her skull. Her gaze was set on the speaker of the time (this time zephyr, eyes squinted and curious) but she often lost focus and swam back into the conversation at random intervals. She fidgeted - a lot.

Talk of dead and estranged family members made Abigail rummage around in the recesses of her mind to figure out why there was a distinct indifference towards her grandparents. She couldn't quite place her finger on it until Cassar brought out the biscuit tin and started asking about their Awakenings. Now she was struck with a dilemma; these biscuits were an incentive to get people to open up. Abigail hadn't had a biscuit for a long time. Abigail knew she wouldn't get a biscuit without judgement - unless, of course, she participated in the conversation. However... whenever Abigail blinked, shut her eyes even for a moment, she lapsed back into her corner of the RV - the shrieking, the smell of burnt plastic, the sharp pain on impact as a hardcover Bible slammed corner first into her temple and the subsequent recoil into the metal frame holding the window...that ungodly purple light and heat and the peeling of her bubbling flesh, and the hollow chill of the footsteps out back as Pops went for the hunting rifle.

But that wasn't what came out of Abigail's mouth. She shot Ellen a wary look. She didn't know how long she'd be stuck in this repurposed office, but she had a better idea of what people wanted to hear and acted accordingly to avoid another interrogation. "Mine was smooth sailing," Abigail responded, already closing the gap to swipe a biscuit before scuttling away to the back of the room. "Brooks did most of the legwork. Had candy and water bottles in the car for me, the whole thing was planned out. We had a little trouble with the police but I just sat in the trunk and let Billy and Brooks deal with it." She scarfed down the biscuit, content with her answer. It wasn't lying if she just omitted some parts out of her story, right?
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Ellen wasn’t sure if she should believe Abi’s tale. She said things were easy and she mostly hid in the back of a car the whole time. Then again, Ellen’s actual Awakening wasn’t bad, either--though that was mostly because she knew what was coming.

“I… was expecting it, so I made sure to be shore-side. I went out with…” She paused, looking around the group for a moment before continuing. “A gentleman friend of mine and he was asleep when I Awoke. I was in his shower, and when I dried off, I had a message saying the FOE would be coming. I gathered my things, grabbed a few bottles of water and poptarts, and a medical kit from one of the nearby ships, and met up with my ride.”

“We ran into trouble later, with one of the other pick-ups.” Ellen added. The whole night had really been...something. “The FOE appeared at the end of the street. Hans jumped out of the car to start drawing their fire. The kid was still on the street so I jumped out of the car and tried to lead her down the alleys a few blocks away. I didn’t know what the hell I was doing, but I wasn’t going to sit in the car and do nothing. Not when everyone was risking their lives for us.” Ellen wasn’t trying to land a jab on Abi this time, she was just trying to explain why she was so...impulsive, in this particular instance.

“We ended up in an alley blocked by a dumpster and a fence, and the girl couldn’t climb. Three guys in riot gear came at us. The girl I was with froze one, and another… I am not sure what she did to him, but he fell down in pain. I rushed at the woman and we grappled a bit. She dislocated my shoulder in the process, and then the agent took out her gun. I didn’t have a plan--beyond trying not to die, but Hans showed up a short while later.” Ellen closed her eyes, trying to remember exactly how the gun had ended up in her hands.Some of the moments were a bit blurry. She remembered the pain of Ciara putting her arm back in place, she remembered thinking ‘Fuck ‘em.’

Opening her eyes, she took a deep breath and finished her story. “I grabbed the gun the FOE agent had dropped and shot her. Hans was hurt, so I carried Ciara to the car and took over driving for the group for a while. They were doing medical attention in the back for the ones who were worse off. But all of us made it to Goodnight.” Ellen was still holding her biscuit, but she took a few small bite snow that she had finished her tale. It was… a bit long-winded, but Cassar hadn’t put a cap on how long their stories were supposed to be.
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Angeline just sat in her seat and laid her hands on her lap, although her pose appeared relaxed her muscles were tense, the whole environment in this room was very prickly and uncomfortable. Uncomfortable stories about those whose living situations were worse than hers, traumatic memories and tumultuous childhoods. Even the person running the session had his own traumas to lay on the table. None of which were things she could relate to. She aptly kept quiet during this conversation, worried her talking about her life would be rude, or as if she were flaunting her pedigree above the rest. Frankly throughout the conversation she mumbled quiet sympathies with the stories but otherwise tried to be as unassuming as possible. If this were a therapy session, like it seemed, she would have had no reason to bring up her upbringing anyways, it was soft and uneventful. She did take a little interest in Zephyr’s story. They’d not spoken much and it was a curious but opportune situation to learn more about another person in the group.

Eventually the stories shifted, the doctor suggested talking about the awakening and if she could have sat any stiffer than she was sitting, she probably would have. If anything the tension made her realise the dull ache in her abdomen from tensing for so long and she forced herself to relax, quietly taking in a deep breath as if she were just about to perform and had to unwork her nerves. Abigail’s story was very… Sparse. You don’t need to be a detective to figure out there was plenty missing from that story but she’d already seen how talking to Abigail was. Frustrating to say the least. Although listening to Ellen’s story had brought back her nerves. Ellen’s awakening sounded rough, she even had to take someone’s life. It chilled her to the bones and she didn’t really want to talk next but the silence was stretching out and she was one of the few present who hadn’t said anything yet.

“Erm…” She started to signal that she was going to speak next. “I don’t really remember a lot of it… I panicked, packed as much comforts as I could, ran out and just wandered for ages.” Her eyebrows furrowed, were the memories she were recalling really how the evening played. “I think someone got shot in front of me and then the rest of it I don’t really remember it was so hectic and I was just scared and confused. I think a lot of people died that night actually...” she shook her head. There were few details about the night she could remember so well, although the sights of the corpse, and being dragged around by dangerous strangers were a few details that stuck firm. “I don’t think I personally killed anyone, but it was still scary.” she mumbled, a bit embarrassed that she was so affected.

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Goodnight


The Chapel with Dr. Cassar






Dr. Cassar leaned forwards, resting his weight on his knees through his elbows, and gave his beard a pensive scratch as Angie spoke. As she grew closer to the conclusion, he nodded to himself, and gave a little look around the room as she finished.

After a moment, he held his hands out, palms up - as though he was physically holding out his reply.

"I really want to say this - there's nothing wrong with not being able to remember it. You know, when something bad happens to us there is a long list of things that our minds do to help us cope - sometimes, we forget the details, or the entire event, sometimes we analyse it and try to find the reasons behind everything, sometimes we just accept it, or even try to normalise it when it keeps happening to us. That doesn't say anything bad about you when you do it, because in the very same way that we all come from different worlds and had different normal lives before this, we all have different ways of dealing with the stress." He paused for a moment, letting the words disperse into the group, before continuing.

"The important thing is that we don't let the way we cope become harmful too - to us, or to the people we care about. There's no shame at all in needing people to talk to, there's also nothing wrong with not wanting to talk about it if you don't think it will help, and God knows there's nothing to criticise in just wanting to forget a bad thing and move on."

Another moment of pause, broken up by birdsong and the wind, as a breeze rose in crescendo through the bare branches of the woods outside.

"I think you're all really capable for having made it this far, you know. I really do think you've done well, all of you."

He sat back in the chair, regarding the group with deep thought and consideration as he took a biscuit from the tin and bit into it, chewing it over like it was something difficult he didn't know how to say.

"Which leads me on," he swallowed, "to what I really want to ask about. You guys did really well retrieving the medical supplies, but the fact that we also received a casualty from the mission makes me think that, ah, maybe some things didn't go so well." He gestured with the remaining half of his biscuit towards the military woman with the habitual frown, closely cropped hair, and ochre skin. "Audrey here has briefed me on the technical details, but I wanted to ask you how things went in person. What happened?"




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Ellen supposed it was nice that the doctor thought their reactions were all normal, and they had all done well, but it felt like a consolation trophy. Ellen missed the days when just the person who was the best got acknowledged and the rest took the loss as a sign they had something to work on. Losing made her work harder, and practice better than winning ever did, and felt quite...annoyed about being told they were all winners.

Dr. Cassar went on to ask about the most recent mission. He already knew about the technical details, but wanted to know more about it. Should she just repeat what she said in the debrief? Or was he looking for more...interpersonal sort of things. Ellen waited for a few moments, in case someone else wanted to jump in first. Looking around, it didn’t seem like anyone wanted to begin.

Ellen didn't mind taking the lead on that. She probably could have summarized everything that happened, but what came to her mind most was… well, the obvious. Besides, he already knew the technical details, so she didn't need to just repeat all of that.

"The house was all shot up when we got there." Ellen began. She didn't talk about the guy who was bleeding out inside, since it was really Angeline who had taken care of him. She had just helped. "And the supplies were gone. We followed the tracks and caught up to them a few hours later."

"We split up to try to get an idea of if there were more of them, their weapons, whatever. I used my magic to make another version of myself, to get closer and see where the supplies were, and if they had more weapons. Abigail came with me, and stayed close, watching over my actual body. I relayed what I saw to her and then she left to tell the others. I took a position behind the group with a spare gun. After the fog was cast, one of the guys who was already hurt ran out towards me. I shot him a few times. I didn’t mean to fire that many, but… I’m not used to firing a gun.” She felt the sudden urge to apologize for wasting ammunition, but she got the feeling that would come across heartless. She could be sad about the dead guy and also sad about being wasteful, right?

"He took a while to bleed out. I stayed… I don’t know if it was more out of concern that he might get up and try to get revenge, or if it was a guilt thing… but it took so much longer than I expected.” This part was hard to talk about. She knew this was getting into the feels of it all, and she had trouble navigating the desire to be matter-of-fact about it all with the fact that they’d likely label her a psychopath if she didn’t admit to at least some of the feelings she had.

“I went through his pockets and looked at his wallet. I probably didn't need to, but I wanted to know his name, and make sure he didn’t have the keys to their truck. It was different with him than it had been with the FOE agent. That had been… self-defense. I can't write this one off as the same. I know that and I’m not…” Ellen trailed off. “I don’t regret the choices I made, I just acknowledge that it was different.” That was enough of the touchy feely stuff, right?

"After that was done, I checked in with Hans, then returned to the van where Abigail and Angeline were waiting. That's about it on my end. We drove back and debriefed.”
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Angeline had almost entirely forgotten being elbow deep in someone’s guts and as she looked down at her lap at her hands it was as if she could still feel the pulsing veins and arteries beneath her fingertips as he slowly slipped away. At the time she wasn’t scared, she could tell she just had one thing to do which was do her best to save him. As she thought about how she felt it was difficult to understand. About the whole situation, she just felt… Weird? Uncomfortable? It was hard to comprehend what those emotions meant and for the most part, it just made her feel frustrated that she didn’t know how to decipher her own emotions. She shifted her focus to listen to Ellen as she spoke, she went through the mission rather factually but she didn’t know about the last bit. She wasn’t sure if she should pity Ellen, at this point, it was probably a decision that saved her life. It was certainly a complicated area to tread. Ellen didn’t seem overly affected although emotions and vulnerability are difficult in a room full of people who don’t know you very well.

It almost feels like being interviewed, like there’s a right and wrong thing to say. She spared a glance to Brooks and the stern-looking lady. They were the interviewers. If you were too weak in this session would you get backseated? They were certainly… Emotionally reserved shall we say? It made her rather uncomfortable, it was rather obvious they weren’t here to talk about their feelings.

After a brief silence, she decided it was her turn to speak up.

“In the mission… Well, I had to save that guy. And I don’t really know if I understand how I felt about it, to be honest. At the time I wasn’t scared I just kind of had a feeling like… Like I was the only one who could help this guy and if I couldn’t… Well, that wasn’t an option, I was the only hope and I had a job to do and I tried my best… I’m no doctor, I know stuff about biology but it’s nowhere near close to a medical degree or anything like that. But I guess it’s a good springboard for avoiding infection, applying pressure, and that kind of stuff.”

She glanced at her hands and furrowed her brows. “I’m not sure if it’s a signal of anything mental problems or whatever but I can still feel so vividly what it was like to feel his heart pumping right underneath my hands. It’s not scary or bad it’s just stuck there… In fact I was so focused on saving this guy I totally forgot there was someone else.” She laughed but tears had started to make her eyes shine, she was getting frustrated with her incapability to understand what she was feeling and that frustration just made her even more flustered. “Isn’t that just so awful... As soon as I knew they were dead they just got written off in my mind.” She took a deep, strained breath, her throat was tight and sore. She took a moment to gather herself “Sorry,” she mumbled, “This is a little embarrassing.” She nearly looked at the two gruff people by the door but stopped herself before she got caught, if this was an interview, she’d be failing.

Angeline took another breath and continued “Um… After everything, I just stayed in the van for the other part… But some guy came and attacked me… I think I nearly died but someone shot him first. Oh, I mean I wasn’t hurt he was just trying to hurt me first. But didn’t…” The words came out patchy and confused but that was pretty much how she’d felt about it.
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Goodnight


The Chapel with Dr. Cassar






Again, Dr. Cassar sat and listened, first to Ellen and then to Angie. As Ellen spoke, as detached as she could make herself, Dr. Cassar regarded her with - for the first time in the entire conversation - a slight degree of apprehension. He looked down at the ground, then back up at her, his expression fairly neutral, his brow furrowed a little.

"Can I ask, why is it that you felt the need to know his name? This is a part of the job that I'm... completely unfamiliar with, I'm afraid - but, you know, I do want to understand where you're coming from.



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"Why?" Ellen repeated, though she shouldn't have been surprised that the therapist wanted her to dig a little deeper into her actions rather than just stating the things that had happened.

She couldn't help but be slightly concerned that she had said the wrong thing. She didn't expect a medal for her actions or anything like that, but she had expected...at least some acknowedgement that she had contributed to the group's success. Okay, yea, she wanted credit. But what was so bad about that?

"I think because..." She didn't plan her words before she spoke, and just sort of started rambling a bit. "I didn't want to forget him. And... if it were me there instead, I wouldn't want to be discarded and forgotten. We are people, just like them, not faceless, nameless monsters. Yea we have to make tough choices, and maybe sometimes they are the wrong ones, but that doesn't make us any less...human." Ellen didn't make it clear which specific groups she was talking about--and perhaps she, herself, wasn't entirely sure.

Ellen shrugged and looked down. She definitely wasn't getting a 'Good job' today. Not even a damn sticker.
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