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Example of a "Character Flaw":
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Ash Holloway

Location: Wewahitchka, FL (C8 -> C8)
Skills: N/A

A lot seemed to occur all at once. The first thing that Ash noticed was a remarkable piece of survivor skill use flowing from Tatiana; the sudden change in demeanor and shift to meek, helpless tones from moments before when she was calm and borderline dangerous. He had to hand it to the woman, she was good at this. And scratch borderline, she was someone to watch out for. The barest element of pride flickered in the back of Ash's mind as he considered that she was on their side. Come to think of it, everyone he was with had proven themselves time and time again. As much as he wished that others were still alive and with him, kicking serious ass as only his people could, he knew that these people, his people, were a force of nature given intelligent purpose. He was genuinely proud of these fellow survivors.

The erstwhile Captain turned his head to address his fellow Newnanites (if such a term was even applicable anymore), stating flatly and with clear voice, "This was the objective. One year, four months - couple of days. Find each other, find Mexico Beach. I know it's pure faith right now and it goes against your instincts, but this is where we are. What they're asking of us isn't so different from what we asked other people to do." Ash took two steps forward and set down his pack. His rifle and machete followed. Though he felt a little exposed out in the world without the means to defend himself, Ash understood the necessity of leading by example in this instance. "If it doesn't work out here, we thank them and be on our merry way. There's plenty of Florida to go around. Right, Colonel?" He looked in the direction of the man, hoping for some sort of validation to his statement.

The second that the statement left his lips, Ash was greeted by a sight that was more surreal than anything else. It was a fuzzy orange tomcat, seemingly none the worse for wear, making a beeline for him from behind the chopper. Confusion hit him for a second before he recognized the markings on the animal. "Noooo..." he said in pure disbelief. Kneeling, he allowed the cat to run right up to him and jump into his arms, purring loudly enough to be noticed over the helicopter. Ash let out a genuine laugh, followed by, "Schrody? Holy shit, is that you, SchrΓΆdinger?" Obviously, he didn't expect the little guy to answer. He did give a sort of response in the form of an excited sounding, "Meow!", though the interpretation from Cat to English might be met with a barrier. The cat, having re-introduced himself, stepped away from Ash and walked over to Tatiana, perfectly satisfied to rub against her legs.

"I really hope they allow pets." remarked Ash, with the first signs of mirth he'd demonstrated in a long time.

Thalia Carmichael

Location: Wewahitchka, FL (C5 -> D7)
Skills: Dexterity

God damn duck. Yes, it was stuck to her foot, and yes, it was making noise that she found so personally irritating right then that she was giving consideration to voluntarily losing another limb just to rid herself of it. The comments didn't help too much, either. Sure, they meant nothing by it. But it just wasn't in their social dynamic to forgive and move along without some sort of clap back. "Oh, ha fucking ha guys. Real laugh riot. You do know I spit in your mouthes while you're asleep, right?" She raised her eyebrows and nodded twice to emphasize, "Right?" Holstering her weapon, Thalia reached down and ripped the tape-covered bath toy from her shoe. She stamped down on the ground hard, glad to note that it didn't quack. Not once. "And no, I don't need your help disarming a rubber duck, thanks." This last bit was to Bea.

As it turned out, so was the following subject change: "This looks like a pickup and we're close to Mexico Beach. I think this is Navy's people. If it's bad, I've got the best shot at leading some of them off and disappearing." On the one hand, Thalia thought enough of Beatrice as their de facto squad leader to let her know directly what she intended. On the other hand, getting a thumbs-up first would have been polite. Equal amounts of uncharacteristic impulsiveness and protective tactic were at play. Beatrice still had full use of all of her limbs, making her more valuable to the others, Alexander had to hobble about on a slab of wood for a leg, and Manny was a guy in the autumn years of his natural life. If the situation was good and shiny, then she'd need to make sure that their ride stuck around long enough for everyone in her group to get there. Thalia seemed the logical choice.

She took off at a run, at least at first. Covering ground was the priority, and maintaining a one way line of sight was another. Thalia kept the sharp end of her homemade prosthesis back behind her, knowing full well that in the event of a stumble, painful things could happen. t didn't occur to her that she still had the duck attached to her hand until she was halfway to her goal, all the while letting loose a torrent of ...mmkwack squeakee... ...mmkwack squeakee.... God Damn Duck, indeed. The concept of stealth pretty much pointless then, Thalia shuffled her shield strap over to her shoulder in case it was needed quickly, and strode forward openly. It bothered her that a piece of rubberized plastic covered with adhesive was the deciding factor in a life or death strategy. As she moved closer, Thalia began to see that there were more people than she could detect from further up the road. About double. Her pace slowed as she came up to the scene. There was no hiding now, running would be difficult. This was not the best idea she ever had.

A sharp voice sounded from one of the groups, in clear, authoritarian voice. "I know you." Thalia's head jerked in the direction of the voice. She saw who it belonged to, and while the guy looked passably familiar, she couldn't place the face. But if one thought about the number of living people still left in the world, that should be enough to promote fight, flight, or friendship. The man didn't seem to be going for any of those options, however. "I know who made that shield, too. She was a friend. How do you have it?" The man's voice sounded familiar, too. Slowly, her mind began to piece things together. A look of clarity hit Thalia, and for a moment, nothing else existed but her and this man's group of people. Not the helicopter, not the group of older men (and one woman), nothing.

"Wait! You'ah Ash Holloway - Navy's Ash?" she exclaimed, pointing with her one whole arm, despite the still present duck. "Those people, they'ah from Newnan? You got them out?" Her Boston was acting up again. It happened.

"You're part of the Eden team?" He sounded hopeful.

Thalia looked behind her and called up the road. "Hey, we're cool!" she exclaimed, waving them down to her. Turning back to Ash, "Yah, we got a lot to talk about." Realizing that they weren't the most influential people on the ground there, she flashed a forced smile in the direction of the helicopter crew and gave them a friendly little wave, duck and all.

Hank Wright

Location: Wewahitchka, FL (D8)
Skills: N/A

This situation was beginning to look very cozy for everyone but THEM. Yet another group was emerging from the surrounding area, and just lo and behold, they seemed to know each other. Or at least acquainted with each other well enough to start something close to civil conversation. And while Hank couldn't speak for anyone else, he didn't have a single clue who any of these people were. It looked like a safe bet that if there wasn't enough room on this magical truck ride, they would be the ones left behind. Well, not the first time. Probably not the last, either.

Hank walked to keep pace with Wayne. Sink or swim, it would be with this guy. And Wayne probably stood a better chance with someone running blocker for his social interactions. "The good news there, buddy," he began, nodding in the direction of the newly arriving girl with the rubber ducky stuck to her, " definitely heard a duck. I don't know if its good eating, though. You'd need to ask the girl with the knife for a hand. I swear, kids these days..."

The remainder of Hank's concern was awash in a blur of questions from his group mixed with hands on weapons that, considering the situation, didn't strike him as being overly cautious. "Hey, you know what guys? I could have sworn I heard something about 'medical evaluation' and 'walls'. Not to mention food, which I did have once and would like to try again. Now, if he wants me to fork over my shovel and mow a few lawns, I'm perfectly fine with that. Sooo... I'm going to listen to the nice man with the helicopter, handheld radio, and gunnery mount full-auto 50 cal, and politely put my stuff in a nice, neat pile for Mr. 20/20 here, which was the only reason my good friend Sportacus had his hand on his weapon, too. Right?"

Strangely, Hank's thoughts crept back to a time not too horribly far after the outbreak, when they were still slowly ambling their way down the various states, trying to get a handle on things. He wasn't sure who came up with the idea of doing what every other cop did at the end of their career and retiring to Florida, but it seemed like an okay enough thing to do. Before that, they pursued odder, albeit possibly viable alternatives that just didn't work out. "This reminds me, Wayne, of that Amish community that kicked us out, up in Pennsylvania. If these people want us to join a prayer circle and get rid of everything that has a zipper, it could be a deal breaker. Still, I kind of hope old Yedidiah Planksander and his cadre of barn raisers pulled through okay. His wife made a mean plate of mashed potatoes."

Vladimir Alexandrov
"The Great Bazhooli"

Location: La Canela Ship (Captain's Cabin)
Skills: Fal'shbort (Passive), Tretiy Glaz (Passive), English

Gingerly, Vladimir put a hand to his face. He winced slightly as his fingers probed his flesh and bones to determine the extent of this latest piece of damage he had inadvertently done to himself. It wasn't disfiguring. This was good. Irritating certainly, though vastly inferior in discomfort compared to his Fal'shbort training sessions. It was well within his capacity to endure. He waved away the offer to get Constantin in to tend to him. "No no, is nothing." he mumbled, still not fully himself quite yet. He cleared his throat and took in a sharp breath. Vlad rose form his position carefully and moved to take a seat on the other side of Captain Montoya's desk. He accepted the chalice and took a tentative sip, inhaling the vapors of the fine liquid so as to experience it fully. Such was his way. "But vine... is good. Spasibo." He seemed a little more sedate than normal, though the Captain would likely not understand the levels that were considered "normal" by his people.

"Vill locate hat and bottle later. Hat vas gift, bottle... heh, not vine. You should experience another time, da? Da." The glimmer was coming back into his eyes, and his speech less colored by forced sleep. "For starting, am thanking for hospitality of La Canela ship. I vish to repay, if you are in position for Circus to do so ever." Vladimir verbalized the first few thoughts as a means of flexing his voice and determining how much of the English language he and the Captain had in common. Satisfied that she probably knew more than he did, he regained his more rolling, emotionally nuanced method of speech. But first, another sip of wine.

"Giving of helps to vone another is reason I vish to talk alone. I vould entertain other reasons, but, ehhh..." he beamed a foolish smile at Regalia, lightly insinuating occasions of significantly less formality, before relenting with a flourish of his hands and bow of his head, "Is time of business-ing, for now. But business-ing vith vine? Also nice. To begin: For please, vhat are your thoughts on Graveolase?" Vladimir arched an eyebrow from over his chalice and cocked his head at a slight angle. There was much to discuss in that regard, and The Great Bazhooli could not simply let an opportunity like this pass, his own mysterious lapses in observation and dexterity notwithstanding.

Gilbert Summers, "The Hat"

Location: Ville au Camp (Kitchen House -> Carnival Setup)
Skills: N/A

Gilbert gave Andromeda a weary smile, nodding his head slightly as he spoke. "I am fine, thank you. I tried something foolish with my abilities and paid for it. We all have our limitations, and we all must attempt to move beyond them in our own ways. The lesson learned here is that one must be willing to accept the consequences that may accompany the attempt." It seemed that Emendators were not perfect, nor were they omnipotent, self-sufficient deities, regardless of what others may have thought of them throughout history.

Alexandra's observations were taken into consideration as well. It was an interesting concept at the every least, and not impossible. "Emendators feel a pull to one another. Eventually, we all made the choice to come together. I did feel a drawing, though it was different than that of the other Emendators. Yes Alexandra, it is possible that others like me may yet become aware of themselves. But I do not know what this is, exactly. This "Management" may very well have the ability to see into histories as I do, but it does not excuse the actions taken today."

As the discussion developed among the Paradoxes, concerning the uncertain state of these people who had dropped Evelina's name to gain entry, Gil was surprised to see a trio of women enter the Kitchen House fully uninvited and begin to see to the linens. It surprised him greatly as well when he didn't actually do anything to stop them, as if they were all suddenly powerless to raise discernible objection to strangers in their home. It was highly unlike him. Yet here he was, doing absolutely nothing while three sirens made away with the dirty laundry, traipsing through the building like they were fully comfortable doing so without so much as a "by your leave".

Enough was enough, at this point. The Paradoxes were supposed to be using this time to relax, take a break, and regroup themselves. Not stand by and allow the antagonizing actions of strangers to continue to disrupt them. And Gilbert himself had work he needed to do. The presence of this carnival and its people were cumbersome and seemingly designed to put them ill at ease. "If you would please," he started, looking back at the Paradoxes present, "continue with the plan for now. I will speak to someone in authority over there, politely if at all possible. Impolitely if it is not."

Gilbert turned and exited the Kitchen House. He walked silently and with increased stability of pace than he did earlier. Whatever affected him earlier was subsiding nicely, albeit with a reminder to not try that particular twisting of his power's intent for quite some time, by his reckoning. The Hat's face was neutral. Even friendly, as he generally seemed. He was a personable guy the vast majority of the time, if a bit toward the aloof side. He did not stop until he stood at the door to the trailer marked "Management", whereupon he gave an assertive knock. "Respectfully, we should speak about something." he stated clearly, eyeing the door with some scrutiny.

James Grady

Location: Ville au Camp (Kitchen House)
Skills: N/A

James was the kind of man who, when presented with something unexpected but not directly harmful, took a moment to sit back and observe. It was amazing what one might learn if one does just that; take in a scene as it unfolds and remain quiet. The fact that he had an expression of utter confusion helped, too. Three singing women approached the building they were in and whisked away their linens, presumably for the purpose of... washing? It was more than a little odd, and he didn't have the presence of mind to feel barged in upon until after they had left. The ordinarily boisterous man was silent for a moment or two after their departure. He looked like he wanted to say something twice, even going as far as to open his mouth wide and raise a finger into the air as if to make a point of some kind, but withdrew both times and remained quiet.

His eyes moved down to the other piece of raisin toast in his hand. James held it up and peered at its sweet and savory, lightly bronzed surface, even turning it over to make sure it looked roughly the same on both sides. Perhaps there was something on it that might have made him prone to hallucinations; mold of some kind, or maybe it secretly contained something illicit that tweaked with his perception with pharmaceutical assistance. He found nothing of the sort, obviously. Giving it a shrug, he tore another piece away with his teeth and started chewing. "Aight, so... Y'all saw that too, right? Askin' for a friend."

He couldn't refute the concerns and statements of those who had spoken up, either. Something was up, and the delicious (if potentially hallucinogenic) baked goods aside, hanging out in the Kitchen House was not doing them any more service. After Gilbert stepped out to assert himself, James looked around to everyone remaining. "Aw, hell. Let's us start up some conversations then." He stopped his train of thought for a second and looked to Andromeda. They had come back this way to avoid the carnival, owing to her understandable difficulty earlier. Quietly, he assured her, "We can get this, if'n you need a while, 'k? But think 'bout it - this might could be the first ever happenin' of a crossover comic, hmm?"

But they did otherwise have a job to do, even if that job was to talk to strangers they may or may not have superpowers. He began to exit the building. Addressing the other Paradoxes in general, he mused, "Imma go introduce myself to folks an' see what happens." The jovial wereboar slid his stetson back upon his head and nodded in the direction of the carnival. "C'mon then, let's get this over with."

Reginald Keystone

Location: The Ferry (Bridge)
Skills: N/A

There was a sense of urgency regarding the matter of, as the Lord Major had put it, Theft and Vandalism aboard his ship. However, upon careful consideration of the fact that there was indeed someone who, for whatever reason, could not stay upon the solid planking of the vessel's flooring despite an ongoing desire to do just that, his business was understandably more urgent. Between the crocodiles and hippopotami, ugly undercurrents in the shipping channels, and just plain drowning, whichever unlucky soul was whisked away into the watery arms of the Nile had more pressing business with the resources that the Captain could bring to bear.

Reginald had no desire to keep the Captain away from his appointed duties to the guests aboard his ship, or in this case the guest presently not aboard, and stepped back easily to one side as the man gave his understandably curt statement to postpone their conversation.

A new conversation might be struck with Vera and this latest addition to their group. "Ah! Lady Munn, Miss Benaszewski. I was just reporting our misfortune to the Captain. In addition to your quarters, as that fellow George had detailed to me earlier, our things in Cargo have been thoroughly searched. Nothing missing as of yet, mind you..."

His voice started to trail as the general alarm sounded and lights hit water. Despite his advancing years, the Lord Major's eyesight was still fairly sharp, at least reliable enough at distance. He was a pilot, after all. In a fiarly distanr voice, Reginald agreed with Gene concerning Vera's nearness to the side. "Yes, yes indeed Lady Munn, the railing is nobody's comarade today. I say, isn't that your assistant?"

Oddly, in that moment he thought he heard something familiar nearby.


Haring Reddish

Location: The Ferry (Elite Deck)
Skills: N/A

Haring was having a wonderful time so far that evening; being Off Duty was somwthing that he was a little rusty at, and he tended to ramble at times when protocol gave no clear stopping points to his sentences. Lacking in certain social experiences, it just seemed easier to assume that the person he was with should be treated as either a VIP outside of his chain, or as a superior. In that way, he could maintain a level of respect while not blithering on about whatever crossed his mind. The problem was, he kept rambling on anyway. As an item of mercy, Josephine seemed not to mind too much. He would have to find something nice to do for her later.

As ideas attempted to present themselves, he was pleased to note that Josephine had taken it upon herself to thread an arm through his. He accepted it with a slight blush and stepped out from the lounge the same direction they entered, hoping to check in with Reginald quickly at his stateroom and return to his now epic level Off Duty-ness.

General Alarm. The bastards.

Reddish had been through several General Alarms in his time with the army. This one sounded different than the ones to which he was accustomed, but it was unmistakable as anything else. His body stiffened, tense as a compressed spring might be, waiting to release energy at notice. The Corporal looked across the water at where the spotlights were pointed. "Oh, by Jane Austen's beflowered and bestarched knickers... is that Mr. Zalil?"

"Corporal?" called a voice nearby and above.

Reddish recognized it immediately, seeing as he had been saluting its owner for a good, long while now. Reflexively, the slender man straightened fully and took in a lungful of air, so as to better prepare for the vocal abruptness which was to follow. "Yes, (cover your ears, dear) Lord MAJOR!!!" Thankfully, he turned his head slightly away from Josephine. On the plus side, they had located Reginald mere steps from the lounge. On the minus side, drama was unfolding that very well might take precedence over his evening. Still, he was a man of obligation, one of which was to his group. And a member of that group was bobbing upon a flotation device in the middle of the Nile like a waterlogged hoagie. "Sir! The Corporal humbly requests a status update, and awaits orders, Sir!"

Reginald looked from Reddish to Josephine, and back again. He was due for an update, and seemed to be missing for everything that had unfolded so far. "In brief, Corporal, as the situation is fluid, you see: Our goods in Cargo have been searched by parties unknown, and the Lady Munn's stateroom has been burgled. I might recommend doubling rooms this evening, until it is sorted. Further, Mr. Zalil seems to be going on an impromptu moonlight swim, though the particulars of it are beyond me. Oh, and good evening, Miss Clarke. I apologize for disturbing your... ah, your walk, madame."

"Scandalous, Sir! Scandalous! Is anyone hurt? And how may the Corporal be of service, sir?"

"The Captain is in charge of this vessel, Corporal. If he has use for you in this emergency, you are allowed to lend him your service. Otherwise, I would check your rooms to see if any mischief was afoot and report. No one is damaged either, as of yet." He shifted attention to the shipmaster and asked politely, "Have you use for my Corporal, my good man? What might we do to assist our soggy compatriot back onto the boat?"

Reddish looked to the Captain expectantly. He was more than willing to assist in any way that he was able, but his knowledge of civilian shipboard protocol was limited at best. A big part of him wanted to launch a lifeboat and start paddling out to Mahendra immediately. Another part wanted to check his and Josephine's rooms to make sure they weren't gotten into. The briefest horror crossed his mind - what if these horrible ne'er-do-wells had pilfered his Aeroplane Cards? He hadn't even gotten a clear opportunity for The Lord Major to autograph his yet. It was a flattering picture, too.
Dr. Swamp
Location: Shadowell Manor: Courtyard -> Gaming Room
Skills: Intelligence
Hit Points: 4

The Chanteuse made a point that he has already given silent consideration, himself. Were they indeed under some manner of unseen scrutiny? Would their actions be catalogued for later blackmail, if in fact this group of less-than-sterling individuals found themselves getting into trouble? It was enough to invoke an indifferent shrug, and nothing more. The indiscretions of the others were of no concern to Swamp unless they chose to inclide him.

Parting company with Amaranthine was not a pleasant notion, either. He had to admire the woman; she was clearly uncomfortable with the whole setting, perhaps visibly more than anyone else. Yet a spark of determination could be glimpsed in her face and in her voice. There was nothing to be done but what had to be done, and in her case it was perform with those offputting musicians. "Very well. I shall locate you after my duties are concluded." The Doctor gave Amaramthine a curt bow, and after her departure walked in the other direction to re-emerge in the Gaming Room.

For whomever it was calling after him, Swamp allowed his presence to be known with a terse call of, "Doctor, here!" He may as well get this over with, even if there was not much he could do without his trade's supplies on hand.

Caesar Gonzalez

Location: Chicago (Grimaldi Books)
Skills: N/A

Though Caesar had every intention of getting into the company vehicle and getting the hell out of Chicago as quickly as was possible, considering the situation, it was simply not so. His feet seemed to move unbidden of his better judgement, performing a full U-turn and carrying him back in the direction of the building he had just exited. It surprised him about as much as anybody, especially after announcing his plans to write this detour off as a wasted hour of his life and move onto something that at least partly looked like it was attached to his daughter's death, but it was as if a force greater than his own sense of self-determination intervened, moving him with a will that was strong enough to gently push his actions to the contrary of his initial judgement; kismet perhaps, or fate, or merely the universe telling him that this event was a fixed point in time and could not be circumvented.

It was very possible that he was just bitter. Depressed at the remarkable turns of events that continually took from him, over and over and over without sense nor discernible reason whatsoever, of having his life's work penetrated at whim by parties unknown despite massive precautions put into place. Perhaps it was a sense of an overall lack of control of his own life, his own business, and the lack of security that was highly ironic, considering the business he was in. These facts may have contributed to him really, really wanting to ignore the mysteriously typed words that appeared in the Justice branch's Security Hub and later in his private plane. To hell with whomever decided to communicate with him in that manner.

But he couldn't just ignore the words altogether. It had to mean something, even if he had no clear idea of what he was even doing in this area of the country in the first place. This was all building to some purpose or event. Regardless of the continual insult and setbacks, he had to attempt to find out what that was. And so, Caesar found himself waving down Keystone as he passed, giving a quick message of, "Don't eat my food yet. Out in a minute." His voice was a low, gravelly sound that, while clear enough to understand, did sound preoccupied.

Once inside, Caesar pulled out his company sat phone and keyed up a corporate app for direct payment options. He authorized a quick, one time payment and punched in numbers appropriate to the last conversation he had with the proprietress, and then set it, screen down, in front of himself at the front counter. The idea of doing business in a place looked after by Wentworth made him definitely feel like this was a huge setup, start to finish; just another mistake culminating in yet another graphic and outstanding loss on his part, but what else was there to do? Like everything else, it felt like a trap. Well, one more to fall into, he supposed. All he needed was a number on the "receiving" end of the transaction, and they were in business.

God help them all.

J. Keystone

Chicago (Outside of Grimaldi Books)
Skills: N/A

Meanwhile, Keystone was left almost completely unsure as to what he was supposed to be doing. Was he going in as a bodyguard? Hanging back with the lady he thought might be his Chicago counterpart? Hopping back in the vehicle and giving it a solid wait until his boss (who he was beginning to think was on the verge of a breakdown with the way he kept changing his mind, complete with seesawing mood swings) decided to saunter back? Was he actually going to shell out the money after the decision he had just made? Whether or not the reputation of the business had taken a hit from the obviously setup murder at Queensguard's facility, flip-flopping like this definitely made them look weak. It was something that, strategically, he didn't want to portray. Blood in the water brought out the sharks.

Lacking a proper course of action, Keystone just stood near the car like a big, meaty goober, holding so much Chinese takeout that he couldn't even partake a little for himself. His gaze lingered on Caesar for an empty few seconds after he disappeared back into the doors of the establishment before giving Claire a response to her opinion of the old man thusfar in their acquaintance. "Aw yeah, tops sort of fella. Bloody prince, that'n. I'm just wishin' I knew what goes through 'is bloody head sometimes, is all." He shrugged, and started ambling in the direction of the car.

Vladimir Alexandrov
"The Great Bazhooli"

Location: La Canela Ship
Skills: Fal'shbort (Passive), Tretiy Glaz (Passive), English

Vladimir felt a sense of floating for a moment, a sort of lifting, swaying motion counter to that of the ship in deep water. Was he aboard a ship? He could not tell anymore, caught as he was fluctuating between the land of dreams and the waking world. Never too deep in either, yet still fuzzy enough to make it difficult to tell upon which side of the line he was at any moment. The uncertainty was both blissful and confusing, as were many of the images that visited his thoughts in that time. Every so often, a flash of discomfort took him, most likely from one of the fleeting moments that leaned toward elusive lucidity. Dreams the mental flights of fancy never seemed be accompanied by sensation in a physical sense; it was more like a vivid and potent imagining.

Unfortunately, he used several delirious moments to vocalize. "Mmm... da, u menya yest' chuvstva k tebe. No poka rano govorit' muzhu..."1 Though he had intentionally made a big showing of the Captain repeating back a single word in his native Russian, it was perhaps best if she did not actually understand the language. She did understand English, however, and though Vladimir did not generally dream in the language, he did understand it better than he chose to speak it and he had been using it almost exclusively since arriving in London. Sleepily, one might hear him continue, "Da, my saltvater flower. You have gluteus vith beauty of sky after summer rain. Come, let us embrace every flavor life can offer, vithin arms of each other. Our loins vill sing duet of impassioned burning..."

Vladimir's eyes snapped open. With haste but caution, they darted from one direction to the next, taking in as much detail as they possibly could in a scant couple of seconds. He was in a bed. Not his own, but around him were the colors of his people; red and black, gold shimmering in places. Throw in white moderately and he might have been convinced that he was back with the Circus, in a recently remodeled tent or particularly spacious vardo. But that still wouldn't have accounted for the rolling motion of the sea beneath him. As quickly as he dared, Vlad pushed himself to a sitting position and asked aloud, to no one in particular even if he was alone in the room, "Hat... and bottle. Meeting vith Captain Montoya. Am requiring very fine hat and very finer bottle I vas having before door sprang to attack. Anyvone, for please?" Let it never be said that Vladimir Alexandrov was not a man of priorities.

Ash Holloway

Location: Wewahitchka, FL (C8 -> C8)
Skills: Leadership, Perception

Approaching the scene was, for Ash, equal parts tactical and leap of faith. Reason had him considering the possibility that a lone chopper wouldn't just set down in the middle of an unknown area without good cause. It would have to be secured first. So, this was a secure area that they just wandered into absently, meaning that the helicopter was sent to investigate them specifically, or this was a matter of unique happenstance. With what he had witnessed over the last few years, it could very well swing either way. Of course, if this was a very recently secured area, that might mean that there were people hiding out in the periphery at that moment, and this chopper contained merely the token advance.

Small tactic experience reminded him that, with a showcard like a working helicopter in play, unknown persons might be drawn closer to it while their perimeter troops (if applicable) would tighten the noose around their position. It was a no-win scenario without shooting their way out, and anyone left behind might be captured or killed for it. Of course, he could have directed his people to make a quiet exit to the flank, possibly evading the perimeter. THAT is where tactic gave way to leap of faith. This close to Mexico Beach, anyone there would have time to get tipped off by a patrol and send the welcoming committee. Air support could be there in plenty of time. Ergo, there was an excellent chance that these people were from Mexico Beach.

Leap of Faith. They sucked sometimes.

It especially sucked when, upon scanning the area around them, he didn't see a damned thing that would be considered accompaniment for that Huey. They weren't there at all, or they were hiding really, really well, or Ash was having some sort of episode. Thoughts to the looming possibility of ambush were cut very short by the sudden shift of attention - that of the man who was apparently in charge of the helicopter squad - from the people in front of him around to Ash himself. Name, Rank, Number. The man was military, which further supported the Mexico Beach theory. Time for that leap. Ash straightened and raised his hand to issue a silent command of Halt to his people behind him. He then lowered his rifle to a "patrol ready" carry and cleared his throat, intent on response.

Before he could answer the cigar-chewing soldier, another voice sounded from their group. This one was softer, and aimed, he assumed, at Tatiana. Ash risked a glance back to the petite (but tough as nails) woman carrying her baby boy. With narrowing eyes, he turned his head back around to stare at the man who still required answer. Ash made unequivocally certain that his words came across with volume and clarity enough to be perfectly heard and understood by anyone in the area, particularly anyone who might or might not have a rifle trained on them at that moment. As it happened, his native Virginian accent chose that moment to add color.

"Holloway, Ashton J. - Captain - 231-84-6806. United States Army Corps of Engineers, Combat and Civil Works Divisions. We are en route to Mexico Beach by invitation of Lieutenant Commander Thana Martin. I need..." He stopped for a half second, trying hard not to add any unnecessary emotion to the introduction. This wasn't just about him. "I am to rendezvous with her on site. If she is not present, I am to ask for a Master Gunnery Sergeant FC Macsen Martin." There it was, for the good or bad of it all. "Same Zone?"1

Thalia Carmichael

Location: Wewahitchka, FL (C4 -> C6 C5)
Skills: Stealth, Dexterity, Perception

Oh the bitch was funny. Real funny, that Beatrice. While not a huge video game player back in the day, Thalia did have the odd occasion to vent a little tension kicking the crap out of digital people, mostly in strategy games. Maybe it lent itself to the occupation she took with her uncle's company. Of course, the fact that her uncle owned a company helped a lot, too. But getting back to her original thought, the idea of a "Secret Level of the Apocalypse" was funny as hell to her for some reason.

Perhaps this was why she chose to narrowly avoid a suspect puddle of something in her way, dashing as she was toward the relative cover of the buildings in front of her, and landed her foot directly onto something that couldn't have been better designed to screw over her plans of stealth or surprise if a team of engineers were paid handsomely to do so:

It was a duck. A yellow rubber duck, wrapped in duct tape, sticky side out. Now, Thalia had no idea how it got there, nor why the tape retained its supernatural adhesive properties. It just didn't make sense. But sense or not, the One Winged Angel now had it attached to the bottom of her shoe, and she couldn't just stop on a dime to remove the damned thing. To make matters horribly, horribly worse, the insufferable duck was very adept at making noise. Lots and lots of noise. Enough noise that could never actually occur in a natural setting as to draw attention from anything not utterly stone deaf in the immediate vicinity. Yes, the woman known to mere mortals as Thalia Angelica Carmichael, Familia Gonzalez, truly a monster of silence and dexterity, was just laid low by a childrens' toy that pressed out an awkward mmkwack-squeakee, mmkwack-squeakee sound every single time her foot hit the ground. In her effort to stop the godawful, position revealing noise (mmkwack-squeakee, mmkwack-squeakee, remember?), she slammed her shoe upon the blacktop some two times before giving up that tactic. It just grew louder.

Mmkwack-squeakee! Mmkwack-squeakee!

"Shiiiiiit!" she whispered with urgency, though the reason as to why she bothered whispering was beyond her. Even trying to remove the damned thing brought about more mmkwacks and squeakees, far more than to which the was comfortable. "God. Damn. Ducks." The moment they came into season, she was going to eat the fuck out of one, just for revenge. "I live through this and it's duck sushi, asshole..."

Hank Wright

Location: Wewahitchka, FL (E8 -> D8)
Skills: People Reading, Advanced Psychology

Hank wanted to feel out the situation with the trained eye of a legitimate professional. He was trained by the best law enforcement agency that New Hampshire had to offer to read subtle clues coming off of people. It made him better at his job. More than ever, knowing about people and drawing accurate conclusions about them quickly was important to survival. Even if Wayne sometimes made it difficult. Wayne was a good man anyway, just that sometimes his specific challenges were more challenging than at other times. It was why Hank was around. Wayne made his presence valuable in other ways.

Perhaps that was why the former Sheriff was shocked to hear what he blurted out as soon as he caught up to the man. As if in total unrelenting agreement with Wayne, Hank clasped his hand down on his friend's shoulder and announced, "Oh my dear and unshaven God, Maldonado, but I'm with you on this one! A guy my age gets one, maybe two boners a week he can do something constructive with, and I'll be damned if I'm going to waste good stiffage on anything but that glorious piece of flying machine. Holy hell, but I'm a-getting to that choppa!"

Luckily, he kept his shotgun to his side the entire time, but he just couldn't keep himself away from potential smartassery for some unknown reason. Some unknown, horrifying reason. "Yeah! The lady's right." As if to back up her introduction, he pointed at the various members of his party o' four, intoning, "Wayne, Erica, I'm Hank, and this highly intelligent and talented man over here goes by the code name of 'Sportacus'. Don't let him be modest, either. He's really earned it, from the first moment I met him. Salt of the earth, that Sportacus. Say it with me?" he paused with a faux expectant look on his face, as if waiting for others to ready themselves, "Sportacus!" Repetition was a key point in memorization and association, and from this first impression Hank hoped that the seed would grow into a happy Romanesque tree. He had zero opportunities to do this over the last few months, and Hank was a guy who took to the little joys when he could.

James Grady

Location: Ville au Camp (Kitchen House)
Skills: N/A

"Mmm hmm, mmm hmm..." sounded James in agreement. And he did agree with most of what his group was saying. Most. Still, unity was important and they were brainstorming at that moment, not getting together a hard and fast plan, if indeed a plan was called for. And thinking about it, he didn't really have to agree with the plan to be a part of it. Maybe it was the horrifically mind and body altering training that he had gone through over the past ...God, how long was it now? Well, it didn't matter. Maybe the stresses of training had refocused him into a loyal, team player, complete with the tribal affiliation of a Paradox.

Fine, he was one of the group. Go team, go. Everyone coming together in unison to address the potential threat of whatever the carnival really was when the grease paint and fried dough went away, exposing the stark weirdness of it all. And everyone was contributing to this little talk, even if all it amounted to was a group of kindergarteners plotting to spy on the adults in the next room, if indeed these carny folk were like the Emendators in age as well as ability.

Then Bart spoke. James's nodding and affirmative grunts were replaced with an eyebrow arch that began to tilt his head backwards, regarding the guy. "Umm, hey there, Mr. Bart, sir... If'n I might make a observation? Now, we ain't knowin' how these folks know so damn much, and if I'm even a little right 'bout them having access to that 'Voodoo Surveillance' like I'm thinkin' they might, then plannin' out loud on hidin' folks sounds like the plan what gets us dead. Well, dead-er, anyways. Ain't in that kinda hurry today." James shrugged in Bart's direction, assuming a look on his face that was probably apologetic. They were talking, it was a good thing. This kind of back and forth was necessary.

Aware that the situation might have been made a hair uncomfortable, James did his best impression of an innocent bystander and leaned against the countertop once again. A mechanical clack sounded next to him, causing him to stand up straight and whip his head around - it was the toaster. A commonplace kitchen appliance just made him flinch. "...damn toast..." he mumbled, embarrassed at being startled in the middle of a tense conversation by his own breakfast. Feeling quite foolish, he crammed a whole piece of raisin toast into his mouth, just in time to hear Andromeda make a statement that, to his ears, made a lot more sense than what he was spouting earlier.

With a mouth still full of lightly browned goodness, James could not speak with anything resembling manners. Instead, he opted for another, albeit lesser breach of conversational etiquette, snapping his fingers to get Andromeda's attention followed by a vigorous, affirming nod and shake of his finger toward the woman. As soon as he fought the raisin toast down his throat, he commented, "Yuh huh, yeah. Girl's right. Exactly what she said. We got too many unknown unknowns here, an' they got way too many unknown knowns on us. First one bein' how they know in the first 'bout that guy Peter. I don't think they, you know, evil or nothin', but this some creepy shit I ain't comfortable with." But what to do? Indeed, that was the question. The mere presence of these people was enough to bring about paranoia. If that was the goal, James might surmise that it was beginning to work.

Gilbert Summers, "The Hat"

Location: Ville au Camp (Main House, His Quarters: Room 203 -> Kitchen House)
Skills: N/A

One step. Then another. Then yet another. Yes, his brain was pounding inside of his skull, but it was beginning to relent. Each movement that the powerful Emendator made, each stride that he took toward the Paradoxes under his care, emboldened him and seemed to allow him to beat back the previously incapacitating pain that still tried to consume him. Having experienced a myriad of odd and wondrous things over the course of millennia, and over many different timelines containing things both hellish and miraculous, Gilbert wondered in that moment if what he was feeling now was akin to clawing your way back from the dead. The Paradoxes he had known throughout the eons had described their rebirth a little differently, each one, but usually it didn't involve wanting to claw their eyes out to get some relief. Again, luckily, it was subsiding.

Still, when he finally appeared in the doorway to the Kitchen House, he looked like crap. As much like crap as Gilbert could legitimately get, anyway. Let's face it, if he were run over by a garbage truck twice and came back as a drooling zombie, the man could still find a respectable last-minute date to a bull nutting.

Despite looking haggard, Gil spoke with clear, solid syllables. "I have caught much of your conversation. Those are all very good ideas." He stepped fully into the Kitchen House and looked at everyone gathered. "At least, it is good that everyone has their own ideas about this. It is even better that you are sharing them. And better still that you have decided to wait for me to confirm before doing something rash. It shows me that you have learned from us, and from each other, over the past year or so. I am proud of you."

He ambled over to the icebox and pulled out a plate of shaved ham. With it was a white, sliced cheese and a bottle of milk. "Sorry, the bread did not do it for me earlier." Foregoing bread, Gilbert rolled up a slice of one of each into a charcuterie cigar and bit it in half. "But first, James - I do not care if they can hear us. We are the ones trying to be hospitable. They are the ones here because they dropped Evelina's name, yet refuse to answer questions until nightfall. If they wish to wait until then, I have no problem with it. The complaint I have involves making unreciprocated inquiries and attempting to locate the body of one of my Paradoxes for their own agenda." Admittedly, that last part was rather news to him, gleaned from the tail end of the conversation just then. "Especially without coming to me first, nor explaining their reasons. It is very rude. So no, James. I do not care if they can hear us. There is an entitled lack of respect that must be addressed."

Gil finished off his snack and rolled together another one, much bigger this time. While eating, he continued, "More bad news. Giosue, The Watch? He left me a note. Handwritten note, telling me that he was going to be gone for the meantime. The way he phrased it made me believe that he will be gone for some time. His first piece of business involves going to visit Golgotha and Miss Babylon, meaning that - Andromeda - our trip is cancelled for now. So for the indeterminate future, I am the only Emendator on the grounds. This means some things will change. Understand that it is for your overall benefit."

Another bit of meat and cheese down, Gilbert cracked open the bottle of milk and poured himself a glass. "Oh, help yourself if you haven't eaten already. Just be quick." He pointed to the foodstuffs he had just taken out. Nothing fancy, but he didn't have the time for a huge cooking session. "Now, some good news, such as it is. I have looked into the history of this carnival. Much of it is darkened to me. What that means I could not say. But most of these people are just people, who have come to accept what the others can do and stand with them. I can see their histories in the carnival plainly. The ones who are fuzzy or shrouded to me are the ones I believe have abilities comparable to yours. Understand that I might be wrong, this is mostly educated guesswork."

Finishing off his glass, he rinsed it in the sink and stated flatly, "You should speak with some of these people. They might be as confused as we all are. I will let the entity pulling the strings know my feelings about Peter, if she does not already know. The rest of you, mingle. Talk. Do not threaten and keep your end of conversations in the present. Pair off or keep within sight of one another. Extend hospitality and show assertive courtesy. We will get solid answers by nightfall, if nothing else. If you have questions, ask them now. Otherwise, we begin."

Reginald Keystone

Location: The Ferry (Bridge)
Skills: N/A

Reginald remained the very image of a no-nonsense officer of the British Military during the walk up the decks, in tow of the boat steward (or whatever the man's job title was, he had only a moderate head for civilian titles of structured rank). Up and up, until the Bridge was in view. When allowed in, he did break with his stalwart attitude long enough to shake the man's hand and give him a hearty, "Oh, thank you so much, there's a good chap." He had palmed a bank note, transferred with the handshake in a manner that many used to tip with discretion, even if such things were cliched. "Indeed, thank you sir."

He immediately straightened back to his full height and addressed the Shipmaster in the manner one might an equal, when one was faced with a difficulty that occurred on their watch. "Thank you for taking my audience, Captain; I understand that you are a busy fellow. I am the Lord Major Reginald Keystone, commanding officer of the Qasr El Nil Barracks in Cairo. I shall be succinct, as befits the subject of my visit: There was been a breach of the security of your fine vessel, concerning at least one of the rooms used by my group, possibly more, and our belongings in Cargo. Thieves and vandals are aboard your ship, Captain. I believe that it may have happened while we were taking the evening meal, though I am no investigator. Captain, I require decisive action."

The tone and volume of Reginald's voice was kept respectful but direct. This was not a person who he could order about; indeed much of his influence evaporated as soon as he removed himself from the Barracks. He did still have a reputation in the area, and comported himself as a gentleman in any case. The Captain's cooperation was greatly desired. "I've a man checking against our group's manifest presently, though I cannot attest to personal effects in individual staterooms. I call upon your authority, Captain."

Haring Reddish

Location: The Ferry (Elite Deck, Lounge)
Skills: N/A

"Oh indeed, Miss Clarke!" agreed the Corporal with a smile. He had similar preferences as it came to hard liquor. "I am rather a devotee of the arts of Single Maltery, and/or barrel aged dark liquor, if you take my meaning. Not that I'd turn down an offered martini in proper circumstances, understand, but there is just something classy and powerful about a dram of good whisky, I've always felt."

Reddish looked down to his own glass, which held a moderate amount of pale wine. Almost sheepishly, he gave a little shrug and took a long sip. It was crisp and floral, dry as he had requested. "Only tonight... as I've already partaken a skosh earlier, you see, I should choose not to indulge too greatly." He let out a small chuckle, looking a little embarrassed as he attempted to phrase his thoughts appropriately. With a kind of lopsided smile, he leaned in and quieted his voice just a little, "I've the odd occasion to not have the best head for spirits, Miss Clarke. Makes me, ah... Impulsive. Yes, impulsive! Best word to describe, I suppose. Suggestible, almost. But only sometimes. You've probably a much better sense of self-determination than myself in that regard, I'd wager." Reddish nodded vigorously, seemingly agreeing with himself in hindsight.

Changing the subject away from his drinking preference, he mentioned, "Ah, but the 'States are such a big place, are they not? So many climates and natural wonders to take in. Never been, myself, though I do hear that New York is absolutely the place to be. I stand jealous, madame. Or sit, as the case might be."

As the conversation moved along, the glass in front of the Corporal emptied a little more by a little more, until there was but a small portion of its original contents. He hovered over it for a bit, seemingly unwilling to finish. But duty was a foremost thing, and he was, quite possibly, close to stretching his for personal reasons. Silently admonishing himself, he threw back the remaining wine and brought up the slightly uncomfortable eventuality of the conversation. "Apologies, quite... but I must check in with the Lord Major. If you still wish to accompany, I should be grateful for your presence. If you do not, I shall attempt to catch up afterward. Either way, I believe I should make for his assigned stateroom first, before I go bounding about the ship all willy-nilly."
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