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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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A Routine Takeoff

OOC: JP collaboration with @wanderingwolf and @sail3695

“You heard him; we’ve got the green light,” Cal traced Boone’s wide eyes out the viewport and produced his silver cigarette case, lighter already kindling the end. He breathed in his first pseudo-nicotine. The Captain raised his eyebrows at Yuri, exhaling a spout of smoke. He rapped his knuckles on the console, “Let’s see what you got.”

Boone nodded, checking the lights along control panel’s dashboard. “Yessir, Mr. Cal. Just a routine takeoff.” He checked off an internal list while scanning the ship’s dashboard, running his hands along the dials and buttons on the console, flicking and pressing a set of customizations into the system; All ports locked, thruster systems warming up, oxygen levels optimal, cryo tanks reading at full. “Just a routine… Takeoff.” Retrofire systems online, grav-field dampener at normal levels, power readouts in the green, pulse drive charging. “Yessir. Taking off.” Boone said, not taking off. Instead, he continued his long takeoff checklist, putting a few more seconds between himself and the moment of truth by punching more specifications into his board of lit-up buttons. Altimeter set for takeoff, radio systems online, stabilizer trim adjusted for flight, cockpit air conditioning on full blast.

Boone reached for the transceiver with his trembling free hand, holding it between his thumb and index finger like a pebble as he spoke into the intercom. “All crew and passengers, may I have your attention, please? This is your pilot speaking. Please be seated and secured for breaking atmo. Takeoff will be in T minus fifteen seconds. Thank you kindly.” Another unfamiliar wave of fear hit his gut, as he felt suddenly and entirely unqualified to be either the man flying the ship or the man in the intercom. SAM began the countdown.

Boone placed the communicator back on its holster, closing his eyes and marking a cross across his wide chest while softly muttering what Cal and Yuri could make out to be a prayer under his breath, with a “heavenly father” here, and a “safe passage” there. Boone opened his eyes and began to pull the yoke back as Sam’s countdown hit one.

Just a routine takeoff.” He said, this time in a firmer tone. The China Doll lifted off the ground with a slow, alien steadiness, with none of the bounce or imbalance the crew had come to associate with in-atmo flight. For all his flummoxing and jitters, the giant in the cockpit held the yoke in his hand with the unwavering steadiness of a bull-rider. For a few moments, the ship drifted straight up like a giant steely balloon, bringing more and more of Urvasi’s greenery into view. When they were high above the prison, Boone gave the yoke a slow twist, pulling it back and causing the ship to slowly pivot sideways and upwards by 45 degrees, until the ship’s alignment felt like the business end of a catapult. Boone input a few more specifications into the dashboard buttons, with the thrusters beginning to whir louder and louder. Boone input a final three button presses on the dashboard before giving the single button on the yoke a press.

The China Doll began accelerating much faster than before, though the tell-tale rattling and shakes of breaking atmo were far softer than usual. Even through layers of G-forces whipping against the rapidly accelerating ship, Boone was still inputting commands on the vibrating dashboard, adjusting the trim and thruster positions for the black and diverting all excess power to the gravity dampening field. The ship broke through the clouds, skimming along their topsides like a knife spreading butter, before steadily pushing past the clouds and into the pure blue mesosphere. Slowly, the soft rumbling eased into weightlessness as the China Doll broke through Urvasi’s remaining atmospheric layers and into the black. Boone switched off the thrusters, riding their centrifugal force away from the planet as steadily as a bird gliding on an updraft.

With a wholly smug expression, the Captain intoned loudly enough for all on the bridge to hear, “How ‘bout that. Just a routine takeoff.” To his first mate, he reserved a single nod of ‘I-told-you-so’ before standing. “I reckon we ought to parade you in front of the crew. Meet the folk you’ll be cartin’ around. Stow your gear in berth three and circle up in the galley.” Strand palmed the com attached to the bulkhead, “This is your Captain speaking. I’d ‘preciate our passengers stayin’ in their quarters for a spell as the crew convene in the galley. See you there in fifteen.” Cal released the transceiver, taking a long drag from his cigarette as he looked Boone over again. His expression was pleased; he knew he was a good judge of character. This hulking teddy bear at the yoke had silently passed his muster, even with all that prayer muttering and crossing himself. Without another word, the Captain nodded to his first mate, then to his pilot, before following the tread toward the galley.

The man could put China Doll into the black; that much was proven fact…and there stood Cal, all ready to serve Yuri a fine plate of crow. The first mate took his comeuppance with a subtlest of nods. Cap’n’ll be a righteous pain in the pi gu after this, he mused, the smile teasing the edges of his mouth as Cal ordered a crew meeting.

Boone nodded back with a smile and a salute. He had flown countless times, in countless hazardous conditions, through asteroid belts and along the edges of radioactive clouds, and yet this takeoff from standard terraformed atmo on a near-windless day had him sweating like a particularly tall and tattooed whore in church. And yet, he had made it out the other side. With great effort, Boone extricated himself from the pilot’s chair and turned to Yuri, giving his plastic parcel a nudge with his shoe.

“They gave me back everything I had on me when I went in, but I don’t think I want to open it. I don’t think anything in there fits me anymore. It was all pretty expensive if memory serves correct – it’s yours if you want it. Should fit you better than the captain, I looked more like you before all the weights if you can believe it.”

Once again, Yuri’s five-foot-ten-inch build placed him eye to throat with the giant pilot. “Had a growth spurt, did you?” he asked, before brushing away a response. “Not a problem. I’m sure we can find use for whatever you’re not wearin’ these days. Abigail’s a regular little scrounger,” he volunteered as the three men made for the cockpit hatch. “She might conjure up a need.” Mayhaps a camping tent Antonov observed the broadly muscled back of the man before him.
Free From the Zoo

OOC: JP collaboration with @wanderingwolf and @sail3695

The China Doll’s atmo engines roared as it idled into a hovering maneuver, settling into the broad dirt patch adjacent to the prison’s entrance. As strut legs extended from the belly, the nose angled skyward to set its cargo bay door precisely before the burly man who stood swallowed in the background of gray that was the prison complex. Making firm contact with the ground, the Firefly’s cargo bay door gave way almost immediately to reveal Captain Cal Strand, his duster whipping around him as the engines continued to cycle. By the way he remained on the ramp and the engines maintaining their pace, it was clear that the ship wasn’t staying put, and he better hop to if he was going to make it aboard.

Boone squinted for only a moment as the wind and dust settled, sizing up the man on the ramp as if the two were back in the prison yard – immediately, Boone could see he didn’t have the look about him to be the man who fetched the captain’s new recruits or hauled rigging. There was an air of confidence to his stance, like a guard or gang leader might have, and almost instantly, Boone realized there was only one person he could have been. Boone made his way up the ramp cautiously, stopping short of the man and extending his hand in greeting, holding his parcel under his spare arm.

“Mr. Cal Strand?”

“Len Boone?” Cal called over the rushing wind. As he approached, Strand got a good look at Boone. The man was a boulder, from the tattoos on his face to the solid tree-trunks extending from his shoulders he might call arms; this man embodied ex-con. When he opened his mouth, the shine of silver was cut by the absence of a single front tooth.

Cal met the man’s rough hand with his own, though a moment later it dawned on him that Len’s right pinky finger was a stump down to the second knuckle. Cal gave a firm shake of that mitt, eyes measuring Boone’s response, “Welcome aboard the China Doll.”

“Thank you, sir. Just Boone’ll do.”

The captain’s hand was far less light in Boone’s paw of a hand than the warden’s, with a roughness Boone felt oddly thankful for as he turned to meet the girl at the captain’s side. It wasn’t the first time he had seen a woman since he had been locked up – there had been doctors and nurses and even the rare, few female guards over the years – but certainly the first time he had seen a young woman. He couldn’t remember a frame of reference for how old she must have been – thirteen? Fourteen? She had an age to her eyes that complicated even the most basic estimation.

“Good morning, dear.” He turned back to the captain with a silvery smile, “Your daughter?”

The Captain cracked a smirk as Abby hit the button to retract the hydraulics of the Firefly Class three’s cargo bay doors. The young woman had a perplexed and incredulous look on her face, owing chiefly to her raised eyebrows and pursed lips. She gave a quick wag of her chin.

“This one’s a load of trouble, but I got no claim on her antics. Abigail! This here is Boone, the new pilot. Say hullo.”

Back ‘o’ her mind said somethin’ bout it bein’ impolite tah stare, but she reckoned if a body come face tah face with a tiger broke free from tha zoo, manners din’ always stand. Fer now, she gaped at this man, eyes wide an’ mouth open. “Howdy,” was tha only word come tah mind as tha barest whisper.

Strand nodded, “See, picture o’ proper.” With the doors hissing closed, the roar outside was reduced to a hum of the atmo engines. The cargo bay itself was largely bare, with a few crates strapped in the far corner, opposite the mule which Elias had been tinkering with to try and rectify the error in Cal’s impulse purchase. A shiny row of tools lay in a lashed down, magnetized toolbox. Ahead of Boone, a sitting area opened up to the empty medbay, whose lights were decidedly off in the wake of losing their last medic on Pelorum. Boone could spy a passage that led off to the right, which housed the China Doll’s passenger berths. As a general rule, the ship was tidy and everything was in working order – and spick and span – thanks to the very same young woman who had eloquently greeted Boone at the base of the cargo ramp.

Boone’s large frame seemed almost comical as they made their way through the quarters, causing him to bang into every doorway as he trailed the captain, catching on every beam he passed like some giant, lost schoolboy on the first day of class.

“Let’s get you situated. Follow me.” Cal made for the scaffold stairs that led the pair up to the second level of the bay and toward the galley. The commissary was host to a couple of crew seated at the shared table, both nursing cups of tea.

“Sister. Edina,” Cal said, nodding at the pair as he paraded through the galley with Boone in tow. Edina and Sister Lyen’s eyes widened as they spied the new pilot – from his hulking mass to the tattoos that covered nearly every visible inch of his body. Wordlessly, they both lifted their cups to their faces, interrogating their tea in earnest as the Captain and the pilot passed through to the bridge.

Edina’s cup, held in a death grip by both hands, still trembled enough to set het tea dancing and leaping over the rim. Teardrops her mind recoiled from the vision and the memories invoked. The simple porcelain clattered and rang as she touched down for a shaky landing into her saucer. Both hands now set to work, pressing a napkin into the puddles of spilt tea as if she were containing a flood. She knew, from a life lived around seagoing boats, that the Captain’s word was uncompromising law…but she’d also lived her life in the orbits of men who celebrated their crimes by decorating their skin. Still, it wasn’t her place to run off at the mouth. Captain had made a call. As his crew, she was bound to go along.

Sister Lyen was watching her. Edina realized her mocha skinned hands had gone pale from the way she pressed that napkin into the tabletop. After hastily withdrawing them to hide upon her lap, she offered up the only right sounding words she could muster.

“We’re gonna need a bigger pantry.”

The cockpit of the China Doll was a modest space, with a pilot and co-pilot chair, with twin consoles and an overhead control panel shared between them. Ahead, at the nose of the ship, a cargo space stepped down into secondary holding for equipment and supplies. Invisible from their current spot, a black box hummed from its integrated hookups in the bridge, below their feet. The viewport opened up to the wide, verdant land of Urvasi’s mills and recovering agricultural enterprises.

Boone gazed at the viewport in awe, brushing his hand over his bald head with an open-mouthed silvery smile. Urvasi was sprawling and bucolic from their elevated viewpoint, but certainly no Pelorum – huge, valley-sized craters dotted the landscape, cleaving chunks of hillside and forest into bare plains. Scatterings of mill-towns connected to one another by thin arteries of dirt roads, each with only a few sleepy carriages moving along. By the look on his face, you could have sworn it was the first time the man had seen trees.

Seated in the pilot’s chair on the right, Yuri, the first mate, locked the steering column and nodded to greet Boone, still marveling at the viewport, with a hint of that selfsame surprise present on Edina and Sister Lyen’s features. “This here is Yuri, my first mate. Anything he tells you to do, you do it like I was the one what said it. Have a seat.” Cal gestured to the pilot’s chair.

“Afternoon, Mr. Yuri.” Boone said with a smile, nodding to the co-pilot as he eyed the pilot chair up and down, giving the captain and co-pilot a glance as he put down his parcel and began making his way into the seat.

“Mr. Boone.” The mate rose from his perch at the console to make way, though considering the sheer bulk of this man, he had some misgivings about just where he might make way to. As he brushed past, one of the prisoner’s numerous tattoos, CUTTHROAT, screamed out from above the collar of a plain grey prison-issue shirt. A description? Yuri wondered, or maybe an instruction?

Having only been able to stand upright in the cockpit by either hunching his shoulders or bending his knees, If he had seemed almost comical when he walked, however, it was downright vaudevillian to see him squeeze into the pilot’s seat, an affair that took and ended with Boone’s knees halfway up to his chest, the steering yoke swallowed up in his mitt of a hand.

While the man situated himself, Cal crossed his arms in thought. “So, you ever flown a Firefly before?” The Captain’s eyes leveled with Boone’s. It was a task to take the measure of a man from just a few words and a handshake, but Cal liked to think he had knack for telling ripe from rotten. In his estimation, from the way Boone carried himself – knocking into near every causeway on the boat – and how he greeted Abigail – all “P’s” and “Q’s” like – the mystery of the man was only deepening. For all the posturing those tattoos and that face made, Cal reckoned that’s just what it was, because the crazy look in a man’s eyes what usually inked himself up like this fella, was strikingly absent from the man before him.

“Oh, yes sir, captain. Every make and model, from those barebones Series 1’s without the berths to those big, mean, mother-lovin’ double-wide Series 4’s.” Boone said excitedly, trying to shift the bulk of his frame in the chair to face the captain. “I’ve flown all sorts of starships, Arrowhead Light Runners to Zephyr Mega-Haulers. I’ve even flown the long haul.” He said, dropping his voice to near-above a whisper for his last mention. “Meteor showers, ion clouds, you name it. Every kinda simulation the machines can throw at you –”

“Hold on, did I hear that right? Every kinda simulation?” Cal ground his teeth as he considered the implications this news carried.

“Oh, of course, Mr. Cal. They don’t let the double-reds eat soup with a spoon, nevermind letting us jump into a starship.” He said with a giggle, raising his arms to show the captain his only two colored tattoos – two decidedly clearer, more cleanly-done red bars around his wrists.

“I think all the blues are allowed to drive mules for work, up to the double greens, or maybe the single yellows. They don’t really mix the reds up too much with the others.” Boone looked at Yuri, and then back to Cal, catching up with Cal’s slowly-dawning realizations.

“I promise you, Mr. Cal, Ol’ Boone’ll get you where you need to go. I don’t know what they told you about me, but there’s twenty years of flying in there too. I promise you, Mr. Cal, twenty years is a long time. A long, long time.” Boone’s face shifted into a stark solemnity for the first time since Cal had seen him.

And there was the catch. They’d flown halfway to Highwater for a pilot who’d been sittin’ in a box for twenty years. Even with a contract won, the Captain could cut his losses. He scratched his chin, considering. The engines still roared outside the China Doll as he muddled on the subject, but he didn’t have to muddle long before a feminine, Old-Earth-Bostonian voice filled the bridge.

“He’s right, Cal. Twenty years of completing simulations on the model K-3000 Meta-SIM–the ones housed in this Penal Colony–exceeds the criteria to pilot a Firefly class 3 ship by more than one-hundred and seventy-eight times. If anything, Mr. Len Boone is overqualified.”

Cal cleared his throat as the disembodied voice ceased. “Twenty years of flyin’ inside can’t prepare a body for everythin’--”

“Twenty years of flying outside won’t do that either.”

The Captain arched a brow at his first mate, “Aye, she’s got a point. Boone, meet S.A.M.N.T.H.A. We call her Sam. Seems like she’s taken a shine to you, already.”

“Pleased to meet you,” came the cool-toned greeting from the AI, emanating from the speaker in the bulkhead to his right.

”The pleasure’s all mine, dear. I’m much obliged for your input, I do believe it might have saved me my job.” Boone said, still looking at the captain, his face having returned to his regular, warm smile. This was not the first disembodied voice Boone had encountered, though he could already tell he would like this one a lot more. He gripped the familiar yoke in his hand, turning back to the viewport with a strange, wide-eyed expression. Boone had taken off tens of thousands of times in ships of all shapes and sizes, and here he was, readying himself for his first take-off, starting to sweat like a rookie.

Yuri tried not to stare at the cartoonish vision of the giant hunching himself into the pilot’s seat. Casting aside his musings over whether or not Boone’s twenty years’ simulation included flying like a man doubled over with Montezuma’s Revenge, the first mate shared a private I-hope-you-know-what-the-gorram-hell-you’re-doing glance with his captain. “The prison green lighted our departure corridor. Heading and vectors are all laid in. The boat’s ready when you are, Cap’n.”
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.

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