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3 mos ago


User has no bio, yet i consume the greedy. i rob the thieves. i kill the killers. nobody wants me. if you don't have me, nobody will want you. what's my name?

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The Tiger Who Changed His Stripes

“Prisoner number five-four-four-six-seven-one-eight-two-six, step forward.” The warden’s commanding voice boomed through the intercom even strained through a layer of static.

Thunk thunk. Two chained feet plodded forward, perfectly aligned with the weathered pair of footprints painted on the metal floor, though covering them by a few shoe sizes. Boone stood alone, save for the two guards flanking him, facing the warden. Not really facing him, of course. The warden was a voice in the intercom system, as far as any of the prisoners of the Urvasi Penal Colony knew, to be heard and not seen. The prisoners bandied whispers and rumors about their faceless warden like ghost stories, weaving a tapestry of tales wherein their unseen warden was some sort of nefarious robot or rogue AI experimenting on imprisoned test subjects, or at best, an amalgamation of recordings meant to outsource guard commands to automation.

It was a mystery none had solved, though a modest betting pool of cigarettes and canned fish seemed to favor the likelihood that he was a collection of recordings after an inmate facing a disciplinary hearing swore up and down that he had heard the warden cough. Throughout the years, which slowly stacked on top of one another like so many bricks, Boone managed to keep his senses and not fall prey to flights of fancy like whether or not the warden was some sort of shadowy tin man. Boone knew good and well that he was a man like any other – made in the image of Boone’s forgiving God. A man able to see the goodness that lay in Boone’s soul that perhaps his data file, or some kind of robot, couldn’t. Presently, the intercom housing the warden was above a pair of silvery steel double doors, which Boone craned his neck up to gaze at like a lifeguard or judge. He had never passed the doors that stood guard beneath the warden, and the very idea of being somewhere he had never been was starting to make Boone sweat.

“Prisoner number five-four-four-six-seven-one-eight-two-six, your sentenced imprisonment of fifty years – commutated to twenty-four years and six months in accordance with your continued display of exemplary compliance with Alliance institutional disciplinary rules and regulations – has expired, and you are set to be released today.”

The words rung out in his head like a bell. Sentence. Expired. Released. Feelings of warmth bubbled up from Boone’s gut, through his spine and into his brain. The warden’s speech, and the rest of the world, was sucked into a swirling vacuum, from which the only things to escape were a few scant words: Sentence. Expired. Released. His face was hot with excitement and fear, and a pressure rising in his ears made him so lightheaded that hearing most of the warden’s words became impossible. He flexed his abs as hard as he could – a trick he had learned in sim-flight school to resist passing out from G-forces – and forced blood throughout his body to keep himself upright.

He had known this day was coming for some time, having given away his personal affects and accrued snacks to the old, graying lifers well in advance, though there was little he could have done to prepare for the extremity of his feelings. He felt strangely thankful in that moment that the warden may or may not have been an unfeeling robot, as his sweating palms and weak knees seemed to warn that he might expel his breakfast onto the floor at any second.

“...In accordance with Alliance interstellar law, you are hereby registered as a felon subject to Alliance penal colony commutation protocol level five. You may not own or operate a firearm within Alliance space. You may not enter any area or event subject to Alliance Interstellar Security Level 2 or higher, such as an Allied Planets Diplomatic Embassy. You may not participate in current or future Alliance parliamentary elections. You may not decline any future Alliance communication attempts, be it through sanctioned Alliance officers in-person, audio-visual Wave transmissions through the Cortex, or through ship hailing frequencies. Failure to follow these constraints will constitute a possible breach of your release terms. Due to your previous opt-in for post-release work placement, your data has been submitted in advance to a worker’s contract auction house and is awaiting acquisition. Be advised that your identity card status as a felon subject to Alliance penal colony commutation protocol level five permanently prohibits you from seeking private sector employment by companies registered within the Union of Allied Planets outside of this and other sanctioned work contract purchase arrangements.”

There was a beat of silence.

“Do you understand?”

“Yes, sir.” Boone lied, snapping back to the waking world of responses and yes-sirs.

“You will collect the belongings you arrived with in the next room. As per Alliance penal colony commutation protocol, as overseeing warden for the expiration of your sentenced imprisonment, I will now discharge you in the form of disengaging your cuffs and addressing you by your full name during a mandatory handshake.”

The doors opened with a hiss. No warning, no fanfare. There he was. Bald, bespectacled, mustached, and several heads shorter than Boone had expected, decked out in a slightly more formal version of the gray uniform he had seen countless guards wear, with dark purple epaulets on the shoulders, a badge on the center of his hat, and a little headset connecting to a microphone. There were two rows of guards flanking him on either side, and behind him, another set of double doors. No wires, no faceless robots, and no AI. Boone stepped into the room slowly, now craning his neck down to get through the doorway. It took a moment, but Boone realized that he had been in this room before. It was, in fact, the first four walls of imprisonment he had known. Which meant, on the other side of the next set of doors…

The warden's thumb met a scanner nestled between Boone’s restraints, which then disengaged with a mechanical hiss and a reverberating clank as they met the floor, with his leg cuffs disengaging in unison. The warden extended one hand, looking Boone straight in the eye.

It felt like a little bird in Boone’s. Fragile and hollow-boned, whisking him off to freedom.

“Congratulations on your rehabilitation, Len Boone. You are hereby discharged.”

“Thank you, Mr. Warden. I’m glad to see your face.”

The warden squinted at Boone for a moment, gesturing with his free hand to the door and ending their handshake, giving Boone a perplexed look that belied an otherwise authoritative presence. A guard stepped towards Boone, handing him a clear plastic parcel containing what he must have been wearing when he was first arrested. He couldn’t remember the last time he wore something that wasn’t his gray prison uniform, let alone the colorful number he saw through the plastic.

He exited through the second set of doors without so much as a “Good Luck”. The air was still thin and cold, the sky still milky white, and everything as far as he could see was still gray. And yet, it had to have been the most beautiful thing Boone had seen in years.

He checked the parcel in his hands. On top of his old clothes, there was a sheet of yellow paper with his personal info, the current date, and the worker’s contract the warden had mentioned. Boone began to give it a read, with little else to do but stand in front of the prison and shiver. Cal Strand, China Doll caught his attention, along with Contract Purchased and Pickup: DOR (Date of Release). Before Boone had a chance to read further ahead, the low roar of what sounded to be a Class 3 Firefly engine caught his attention.
Failed. The Musician fails to escape into his dreams or any sort of happy place, and appears to be trying to mask quiet crying. He has lost 1 Sanity, and now has 9/10 Sanity.

Succeeded. The Laborer makes a beeline for the boltcutters, lifting them with a grunt and stopping by the medicine kit as if shopping at a familiar corner store. It takes him only a few seconds to locate an antibacterial, smear it on his forehead, and wrap a headband of protective gauze over his wound. Sheer survival is the familiarity, he realizes in the back of his mind as he silently makes his way back into their underground cell. Whatever I am, I'm a survivor.

With a tight squeeze of the boltcutters, he snaps the would-be tools of his own entrapment from the wall, and picks the Standard Cattle Chains off the floor to feel their heft. He gives them a mean swing, and they audibly cut through the still air of the cellar. He smiles for the first time since he has woken up, and makes his way back up the ladder, chains in tow, into the warm light of the bunker.

The Laborer's Health is now 8/10. The Standard Cattle Chains are now in his Inventory. He has 1 Inventory Slot remaining.

Succeeded. The Typist finds that the map is labeled "GORHAM ISLAND, MAINE, EST. 1901", and is scattered with tiny red dots. She doesn't remember where she's from, but she knows it's definitely not Maine. She feels a distinct revulsion, realizing how many miles she must have been moved as she slept, how long that period must have been, and how far she must be from wherever home is. On the north-westernmost tip of the island there is a large yellow dot, and on the south-easternmost corner, a bridge off the island. There were a great many dots and roads between her and her new goal, but it felt good to have a goal, nonetheless.

"Fuck this." The Musician says with a sigh, walking alongside the Laborer on his way to the boltcutters. Not quite so filled with resolve as his companion, the Musician sits down on the cot slowly, cracking his lower back with a twist and settling into a laying recline.

"I'm done. I'll stay here. I'm too old for this shit." He instinctively fishes a bottle-opener keychain from his right pocket and a small orange bottle of pills from his left. If the others were watching his face, they would see small tears welling up in his eyes. He sits up abruptly, unsatisfied with the comfort of the cot, and looks around the shelves, unscrewing his bottle and popping a pair of pills into his mouth before placing the little orange bottle back in his pocket. After a moment's search, he finds a sixpack of Logger's Lager and pulls one out, opening it with the bottle opener and washing down his pills before returning to lay on the cot, placing his beer on the floor. He turns over to face the wall, crossing his arms.

"I'll just die here, I think." He mutters, trying to nestle himself into a comfortable position.

He turns back around, reaching down and grabbing his Logger's Lager for another swig, when he is gripped by a sudden terror.

"Take a load off, get comfortable." A voice in his mind that is not his own says. He drops the bottle in his panic and it shatters against the hard floor. He lets out a yelp of terror, and attempts to push himself further back into the wall than his physical presence will allow.

"I'm freakin' out, man. I'm sorry." His tears are now more visible.

"Let's crack a couple open, baby."

"Jeez, I'm freakin' out. I don't think anybody should be drinking. Aw, Christ."

The Musician turns over in the cot again, trying to feebly wrap himself with the wool blanket and shut his eyes to the fear gripping him.

You can post character stats/inventories to the character sheets now!

Succeeded. The trio spends only a minute in a panicked search -- scrabbling to feel out a hidden exit on the walls, or unearth some secret cellar door from beneath the rotting rugs -- before slowing to a more concerted scan of the room. There is nothing beneath them, save for cold, wet earth and bits of buried detritus. Nothing to their sides but cold, hard brick. Nothing above them but the ceiling, which had no convenient cracks or hidden handles, and lastly, the hanging lightbulb. It is The Laborer, the first to give search and the first to calm down, to finally give the lightbulb further notice. Something is off about its cord, he realizes. It is far too thick for a simple wire. He reaches up and wraps a hand around the cord as a jolt of trepidation shoots through his veins. With a hesitant pull, the room is thrown into sudden darkness, the feeble bulb extinguishing with an almost inaudible electric hiss. In the inky void, the trio's breaths mingled in the silence.

As their eyes strained against the darkness, an unexpected transformation began. The cord, now taut in the laborer's grip, resisted his pull, its fibers groaning against his growing efforts. A slow, reverberating creak resonated through the room, like the reluctant stirring of gears and wood. With a shuddering release, a section of ceiling above them yawned open, releasing a gust of cold air into the stagnant warmth as a ladder slowly unfolded to the ground. The cord had been rigged to a pull-down ladder's rope, installed into the ceiling of whatever room they had inhabited, its seam hidden by a thin, crumbling layer of plaster. Somewhere in the back of his mind, the Laborer remembered a similar rope set-up once leading him to an attic.

With cautious steps, the trio climbed one by one.

As they entered, they exchanged awestruck looks, eyes widening as the realization dawned upon them – the trio had certainly been underground in the room they had been chained in, and were almost certainly underground still.

The room they enter is a bunker of some sort, perhaps three times the size of the quarters they had been chained up in, though cramped with survival tools -- walls lined with shelves bearing row after row of canned rations standing sentinel beside kegs of water and packages of medicine, each whispering the faint promise of safety. There is a large map on one wall, a pneumatic door on another, and a cot beneath an American flag on the third. The walls, ceiling, and floor appear to be made of metal, and there are no windows. There is a pair of boltcutters leaned on the cot, and a first-aid kit on the wall by the pneumatic door.
In his freedom, the Musician began to pace. He wore the sort of pointy heeled boots that a Beatle might have worn sixty years ago, which squelched into the rugs with each step.

"I'm freakin' out, man." The old man said to no one in particular.

There was no visible exit anywhere in the room, and claustrophobia quickly replaced the helplessness of being chained. There was no visible exit, and the room felt more and more like a tomb to the Musician as time passed. Four walls surrounded the group, the squelching rugs and small hole in the ground at their feet, and the hanging lightbulb above them. No doors anywhere, as evidenced by the Musician running his fingers along the wall, and as far as they could see, nothing but filth beneath them. He began to run his fingers on the edge of the ceiling, looking for anything, but to no avail. He began to feel like a rat trying to escape a trap, feebly jumping up and scrabbling at his surroundings, and sat down again, burying his head in his hands. If not the ceiling, then, perhaps, they hadn't checked the floor enough. He began to peel back rugs.


Succeeded. There is a heavy metal click from somewhere inside the Musician's cuff, and he is freed as well. The Typist takes a few frantic steps to the Laborer and frees him in the same fashion. For at least a full second, she is able to breathe a sigh of relief, and perhaps, if she was brave enough to even conceive of it, hope. She fishes her glasses from her purse and the world, though dark, becomes clearer to her.

The Typist has gained access to her Purse. Her two pockets allow her Two Inventory Slots to start with, her Purse grants her an additional Four Inventory Slots as long as she does not lose it.

Succeeded. "Thanks, those were killing my wrists" The Musician said to the Typist. This isn't the first time you've said that, the Musician thought to himself. 1988. Either Los Angeles, Vegas, or maybe even Miami. One of those palm tree cocaine cities. Gil sprung him from jail and tried to talk him into something on the drive back to the hotel. Maybe the bible, or AA meetings, or that green tea he was always raving about. He would have to think about it for longer to remember the fine details. But now wasn't the time to recollect on Gil. Gil is dead, he somehow recalled. I'm going to live.

Succeeded. The Laborer runs his fingers along the chains confining his wrists as The Typist begins to free herself. Something oddly familiar about the teardrop shape of the chain's links awakens a blurry recollection through his pain, like a memory projected onto a puddle of oil. Then it hit him. Cattle Chains. He had put chains like these around the neck of a big steer once. What's more, he had seen these types of chains being repaired at a forge. "They coat 'em in Zinc to keep 'em from rusting." George said to him, muffled by his ringing headache. "Only thing is, Zinc needs to get real, real hot before it'll give, so," he continued, "You gotta burn 'em good and long." The Laborer finished George's line aloud, realizing only as it left his mouth. The futility of the plan stung less with his cuffs being unlocked with a loud click, but the memory was of little comfort.

The Laborer has successfully recognized Standard Cattle Chains. If he breaks them off the wall, they will take up 1 Inventory Slot.
The Musician was sweating now, and no better off for it. He sighed, leaning back and trying to recall how he got into this mess in the first place. He remembered waking up, but what of the rest of his life? Judging by the wrinkles he felt in his skin, there must have been a lot of living. He cast his sad gaze at the floor, trying to reach back in his memory when the woman piped up about a key. Just my luck, the Musician thought to himself. It's a woman helping me out of this. He felt a twinge of disdain for her pity, and looked away trying to trace any mental steps back as she tested the key on his chains. It made him feel like a bum collecting change, or a little boy who couldn't bear to see a shot.

Failed. Try as he might, the Musician seems to lack the strength to properly attack his chains and has temporarily Tired himself. If he continues, he may succeed, but he may Exhaust himself. If he continues twice, he may succeed, but he will damage himself either way.

Succeeded. The Laborer's chains seem the loosest, allowing him to just barely reach the wall's base and peel through some of the edges of carpeting and grime. He quickly finds that the group is sitting on a layer of firm, wet soil, with no floor but carpeting underneath. He continues digging, gnashing against stones and soil with his fingernails like a rat. With a few minutes of idle fingering through the dirt, he unearths a Rotten Baseball, a Hunk of Knotted Roots, and a Scrap of Rotten Cardboard. His hands are now Raw. If he continues, he may succeed, but his hands may become Cut. If he continues twice, he may succeed, but he will damage himself either way. His four pockets provide him Four Inventory Slots to start with. The Rotten Baseball and Hunk of Knotted Roots will take up 1 Slot each if taken, the Scrap of Rotten Cardboard does not take up item slots.

Succeeded. The Typist takes some time to think, feeling around blindly. Where there's a lock, there's a key. More thinking, before it dawns on her. The problem is practically a bad riddle. Where do you hide your spare key? She is only able to wedge her foot underneath the topmost rug, but it is all she needs as she snakes her bare foot through the slimy dampness and to the rug's center. You hide it under a mat. She finds a Rusty Key for her efforts. It does not take up item slots.
Still room for one more of you lurkers to submit an application while we're all in the starting room. Lil' Bill sees ya.

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