MASTER GAME Chapter 0: Pioneer's Jubilee

Discussion in 'GOLDEN CITY' started by Nemopedia, Jan 25, 2018.

  1. Corbett Baines - Sky - Forest nr Ebernett Estate

    Any other time, Corbett may very well have scoffed - for of course the laboratory bore an entrance of some clandestine nature. The recent odd swell of emotion, however, had perhaps changed the atmosphere over much and even the watchdog - ever blunt though he was - felt loathe to behave in such a manner.

    “Courtesy,” Corbett began, gently kicking at stone and dirt alike, “says that I should be the one to clear the path.”

    Nonetheless, he gripped the hand-shovel by the blade, and gently placed the handle upon Aisling’s commanding palm, “I give this to you, however, in the hope that every strike of the shovel upon dirt and stone will cause you to give pause. The understanding that, digging your way out is a harder ask than digging your way in. Failing that, I should hope it strengthens your resolve in this matter, should you stay the course.”

    Tobin Heath - ???

    Lucius was fun.

    Granted, the Maggot was a smidgen of an obscurant, wasn’t he? So many facets, like a shattered mirror; the vengeful leper, the well-spoken malcontent, the revolutionary - hero of the lesser folk. At least one, more likely several, of which must have been a lie; anyone who spoke that fancily was bound to beget lies and deceit. Still, great fun, and so wondrously theatrical. The pockmarked man had the element of an artisan to him - and the Ostrich appreciated that.

    The Revolution? Either an inspired lie, or a hopeless truth.

    And in either case, Tobin lacked interest in conventional word of mouth. There were so many mouths here in the swelter with little more to do than speak and spittle and lick of their parched lips, and so many ears with nothing past listening for semblances of hopeful somethings. That was menial work, and not particularly enjoyable. The ants of the Underground would come in droves, and each individual held no real value. At least, no poetic value.

    But children, snatched from above? There was real possibility there, real value. The Maggot liked to wax poetical; could there be more poetry than the children of the vaunted, turned against them? The sacrificial lamb approach held merit as well, though perhaps a tad overdone - trite, even.

    Ah, well.

    Tobin Heath adjusted the brim of his top hat over his eyes, and ascended from the Underground.
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  2. Aisling Grey - Sky - Forest nr Ebernett Estate

    Aisling's ruffled feathers began to settle slowly as Corbett behaved in the quiet matter he'd learned over the years was most effective with her when her sporadic bouts of paranoia got the better of her. Thirteen months before they'd come to a point of crisis in their relationship when the amount of Medicine required to still her symptoms began to exceed the amount she could secure with her ready cash. Fortunately the longsuffering Baines had laboriously built enough trust with her that she'd actually listened when he asked her to submit to treatment, and he'd taken her somewhere she could be restrained as they fought to manage her condition. She wasn't well, but she was better than she was and simply being in the Sky was helping her one breath at a time.

    "Thank you," she replied at last, accepting the shovel and beginning to pry at the slippery stones. Some skitter away easily, others are more stubborn and the strain of emotionally taxed muscles does indeed serve to focus her. As her body laboured to shift stone and dirt, her mind opened up to aspects she previously hadn't considered.

    "Am I being horribly selfish Mr Baines? Whatever secrets have or haven't survived my family's erasure," her voice rose, "are going to be there tomorrow, or next year even." She paused to look him in the eye, her vision unusually clear-sighted.

    "Is there someone you would like to bring up here today, while we're free to do so?" She could grieve quietly and still repay him in part for his many kindnesses. Usually she felt her needs were more urgent and pressing than anything else she could be doing, however in the part of her mind that usually drove her there is instead an echoing sadness and a readiness to listen.
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  3. PRISS
    The Underground | | Chattering Choughs Lair

    Priss didn't get pissed off easy, not proper pissed off anyway, though she was plenty stern enough when she needed to be. Yet, come the 'happiest day of the year', she was livid. "I hope the damn rot claims his tongue soon," she muttered to herself as she stomped down the alleyway to the Chough's lair, kicking out at puddles of piss with her boots, sending sewage sprays across the walls. "Serve him bloody right for running his mouth like that."

    She'd never liked Maggot, but having caught his speech of the day from a distance, she really hated him at that moment. Did he not understand that he could sway people, change people, make them act against their own interests? Of course he understood; That was the problem. Smug bastard knew he could influence others, and didn't care if it ended up getting them killed.

    The children were the easiest to rally. Though the Underground might not afford the usual childhood innocence to them, someone who'd only seen twelve summers couldn't be expected to know that Maggot was by no means a savior, was not the first of his kind. He'd lure them in with talk of revolution and lead them like lambs to the slaughter. All that excitement- Hell, Spout would eat that kind of shit up.

    Speeding up, Priss prayed silently that little Spout hadn't heard about the grand revolt, and somehow never would. How many of the Choughs had seen that speech? How many would follow and-

    Pushing into the lair, Priss shook the thoughts from her head, physically and figuratively. She had to trust that Brulow would have some kind of plan. He wouldn't buy into Maggot's shit, she knew that much, so she just had to hope that he had a way of keeping the younger scraps from getting sucked in.

    There were few things she hated more than standing about and waiting though. Pacing back and forth, back and forth, she tried to busy herself with checking in on the rest of those in the lair, kids who'd been bedridden with smog sickness and the like. It proved little reprieve.

    Thank God Brulow was quick to show up. The minute he entered, a tight grimace setting his jaw, she went to him like a moth to a flame. Despite the supposedly joyous occasion, she didn't bother with the niceties. "You saw him speak, right?" She was letting herself get too wound up, she knew that, but this day was chaotic enough without some jumped-up asshole stirring the pot. To try and prove she was rational, reasonable, calm, she gave Bru a rueful smirk. His being here was enough for her to stop shifting her weight from foot to foot, to actually stay still. "I'd cheerfully thump him. Failing that though; What's the plan?"

    @Anguissette @Pahn @Nemopedia

    OOC: Pahn I 100% hijacked your code, I hope that's okay, was unsure what is and isn't mobile friendly so figured thievery was the wholesome solution :)

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  4. Mallory Devlin; The Sky - Pioneer’s Lodging
    The female rolled her eyes at the other, already glad that the stranger decided to cooperate. That didn’t happen too often. Especially with those Floaters who wanted to experience all of the conveniences and novelties of the normal citizen, but none of the hardships. Fortunately it was only the common folk that the city ever suspected anyway, the randomiser was just an excuse to cover up the discrimination. It rarely happened that a Floater was picked by the contraption, but today it conveniently so happened.

    “Safety,” was Mallory’s simple response before she pulled out another apparatus and traced it around the Fetus’s lines. Much else she didn’t say as the masses continued to flood in and out of the small room. That was all the place was. One single room, and anyone who expected more grandeur for the ancestor of the city was sorely disappointed. What the hype was all about went beyond the brunette, but Mallory rarely understood happiness and delight in overall.

    “Why are you even visiting today of all days, dollface?” the brunette quirked a brow at the oddity of the whole situation. Why the masses down below wanted to hurry above was clear, the elevator ride was free and anyone wanted to enjoy The Sky. However, she would have imagined the Floaters to be terrified and go into hiding today. Not try and mingle (and failing) within the crowd. They were hooligans and boors in the eyes of a Floater, contaminated and dirty. At least, that was what she always imagined her 'father' to think of her and her mother as, why else would he never come?

    The apparatus in hand started to bleep nearing the waist of the Fetus, Mallory's brow rose up again as she gave the female a look.

    “Mind taking off that belt?”

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  5. Underground - Aino Linna
    In the Underground, the passing of the days was easy enough to miss without marking where one bled into the next. There was little in the way of proper work to press the boundaries of hours and minutes, a kind of freedom that those on the Land took as a sort of personal failing and naïvely envied simultaneously. Though some on Land might drink a pint or two of swill and spill words flavoured with its bitterness, any of those scraping out an existence in the Underground knew that their time was anything but unoccupied.

    Having been curiously shadowing Maggot and the warlike cacophony that he bore with him like a coat of armour crafted from primal desire, Aino slipped off into a shadowed nook of the tunnel shortly before it ended. From here she was close enough to watch the gleam in Maggot's eyes as he spoke. It was a manic fire. She drew back unconsciously as his words emanated forth, a grotesque flame raising the temperature of the space in front of him.

    She could understand, even as she tried to hide herself still deeper in the hidden recess that she had tucked herself into, the appeal of his words. She could taste the desperation in the people whom he inspired. Maggot's words might be more than half madness but there was a glimmering core that attracted them. This life was hard and harder still when you knew that there were men and women sitting in the clouds eating more in a meal than saw her belly on a lucky day. Though the majority Underground became all manner of criminals, from thieving to selling themselves in one way or another, most of them hadn't started out at rock bottom like this. They had seen a better life and had, in some way or other, been knocked from whatever rung in the ladder they'd previously stood upon and fallen here.

    With the speech over and the crowd dispersing, either to return to whatever they did to survive or to spread the word of Maggot's revolution, Aino was afforded the opportunity to slip away from her hiding place. She'd weaved in between people and happened to find herself at one point within spitting distance of Maggot himself. Unlike Brulow, whose feelings toward Maggot she was fairly acquainted with, she didn't feel quite the same disdain. Willing though he may be to let the hungry children be cut down for his revolution, she couldn't shake the sense that he believed at least some of what he preached to them.

    She looked at his face for a long moment before she was shoved out of someone's way. She was certain that he was a madman, but the idea of everyone having access to a life with food where the air wasn't suffocating, it was a pretty dream and it made her wonder what he might have been like above ground.

    "Probably just a greedy, self-serving asslicker like the rest of them," she concluded to herself under her breath, turning away. She had seen Spout darting about earlier and it occurred to her that he might have gotten caught up in this bustle as well.

    "Have you seen Spout?" she asked one of the dirty youths who had been standing at the front for the speech, a stolen ember bright in his eyes. He shrugged at her but then pointed in the direction of where he'd last seen the other boy. So he'd been here after all? She wondered how many of the others had been listening.
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  6. Phineas Abbess; The Underground, on the way to the stairs
    “Some dandy gave it to me,” Phineas answered Brulow, wiping his fingers off onto his shirt with a long face. Smacking his lips together the boy wished that he had some clean water to wash away the awful taste.

    “Said he would reward me for a delivery well done,” the boy continued with squinting eyes. Some reward that was. Gargling the boy then spat out the remainder of the powder, making sure to aim it at one of the unsuspecting heads listening to the Maggot.

    “Tastes like old men-- here,” fed up with his treat Phineas immediately handed it over to Brulow as he took over the oxygen mask, delighting himself with fresh air instead. Now that was a real treat!

    Phineas was alike and unlike the rest of the ragtag group of youths that gathered together and called themselves the Choughs. Alike that he was just as much a rat as the rest of them. Though with questionable humour at times as he seemed to enjoy the misery downstairs more than the rest. However, unlike most in the Choughs as Phineas did have a parent. It just happened that she was always busy and he was unwanted, so off he had to go.

    It was way more fun with Brulow anyway, even if he was an old man. Now under the careful eye of the Choughs the boy was told to learn to behave and to play none of the ill jokes that he used to play. His wicked humour never disappeared, however. Phineas still longed for the thrill of watching the faces contort into discomfort and pain. Shame that both Priss and Brulow disapproved of inflicting such pains on the ‘innocents’. Especially Priss, as he always tried to impress her.

    “Hey Priss,” Phineas called, crawling up from his spot to follow Brulow. Crossing his arms at the back of his head the boy sauntered at the back casually, hoping to look cool despite his short stature and uneven legs. “If I get more bastards down than old man Brulow, do I get a reward?” he questioned, his eyes twinkling in mischievous delight. Of course he had a specific reward in mind, but the young teen wasn’t nearly bold enough to state it out loud. Not yet, at least.

    @Anguissette, @Pahn, @Madman in The Attic
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  7. Going Up in the World - The Underground - Spout

    The Maggot's verbal throwing knives had found their mark in Spout's heart and mind; although he still seethed with frustration from the Maggoteer's disregard, he felt the man himself understood some previously unspoken truths.

    The toffs upstairs were enriching themselves on the suffering of those beneath them.
    The Landfolk celebrated their oppressors, and yearned to join them in their castle in the clouds.
    And all too many of the Rats seemed to just accept this?

    Maybe it was just that Spout was young and hadn't had years of disillusionment to cloud his vision, but it all seemed so simple. The whole world was built against them, sure. Everyone in power was older than the Choughs, and bloated with their own self-satisfaction. To them, the little Rats were beneath their notice, out of sight and out of mind. Which meant they'd never see this coming.

    Afire with vicarious satisfaction, the dark-haired boy chuckled at Phineas's crack and drew his finger through the land candy. It tingled on his tongue, but it was just bland and salty and, and, bleh. Spout screwed up his face and spat. Landfolk ruined everything. That was when Brulow came to join them and he straightened up to take his turn on the breath mask. Three deep breaths in and out cleared the taste of sulphur from the back of his tongue, but nothing could clear the taste of that powder; even sticking out his tongue and wiping his hand down it a few times only added the taste of fried cat to the mix. Nothing fancy, though it kept your ribs from sticking together.

    He trailed after Brulow back to their hideout, moving from shadow to shadow. The Choughs weren't as worried about being hunted as they used to be, but part of their security was no one knowing precisely where they laired. He wasn't going to say a red place deep in his chest didn't sing at the thought of pampered Skyfolk children facing up the same risks their parents felt were acceptable for their less fortunate cousins below, but there were bigger concerns. Spout hated child snatchers, with passionate conviction.

    He entertained himself with mental images of snatchers receiving their comeuppance all the way into the hideout, then the sight of Priss's rueful smirk lifted him out of his dark mood. Spout was less concerned than some of the other Choughs about looking cool; he simply walked up with a smile and went to give the girl a hug. "Hi Priss, d'jya hear the talk? The Maggot wants ta break fings to fix 'em, and Brew reckons the snatchers'll take the chance ta prey on th' healthier Mice in Heaven."

    He turned around to give the young man a crooked grin. "Reg'lar knights in shiny armah, that's us. Tell me there's a side-pot, yeah? If we're goin' all the way Up, we have ta have somefin more for our work than a cool drink of good works done, Pioneer or no."

    Spout's gaze slid to Phineas and his eyes lit up with mischief. "O'course, Fin reckons the Pioneer wants somefin a bit less 'ighspirited from us on Juby-lee Day. Whyn't you tell Brew and Priss, mebbe that's been the secret to getting his blessin' all along?"

    @Pahn @Nemopedia @Madman in The Attic
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  8. Corbett - She's Still Digging

    Corbett contented himself in observing Aisling’s work, watching with a certain satisfaction as stray dirt and stone came loose from the mosaic. He had expected the tenets of chivalry and gentlemanly conduct to surface with some obnoxious verve, watching her exert herself, but they had remained dormant. Just as well; these were her memories to uncover, her truths.

    The question of whether her behavior constituted ‘selfishness’ may have startled him, Corbett considered, had his reaction to stimuli been of a more heightened nature. The thought, however, was appreciated. She had been consistently troublesome throughout the years, but through those troubles, she had always managed to remind - at least in small parts - Corbett that she was no caricature; not of some haughty damsel, not of some skittish tinker.

    “A year is a long time, Miss Grey, and what you seek lies before you. I’ll not fault you for this.” He paused, considering the latter part of her inquiry.

    What did he want, exactly? He had been bound to Aisling for so long, his every objective and concern a direct product of her whims, that he had almost lost that part of himself, or rather, lost sight of the minute details. He remembered wanting the Sky, for himself and-.

    “... My family, Miss Grey. I have not seen them in some time - it is something of an impossibility, given my particular mandate.”

    He was unaware, in truth, if it was courtesy or some sort of fearful anxiety that caused him to withhold his full request in earnest, merely dancing around the subject.
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  9. Thomas Baris; The Land - The Centre
    Pioneer’s Jubilee. No day could be more boring than that. While the people were happy and dancing, and the fanfare loudly blaring Thomas felt that there was too little going on. Or at least for her, who had been ordered to write about the newest inventions of Golden City’s tinkerers. Little tinkle tonkle boxes, along with intricate watches and a kinosceptic. Thomas felt all too bored about the science behind it, quite unable to wrap her head around it. However, after her last stint in the Sky she was told to stay away and stay low for a while.

    Stupid magistrates and pompous frivolous debaucheries. She just wrote and they screamed scandal! How dare they be so exposable in their sin for her to sniff out? They had asked for it…

    Alas, she was stuck in the Land and stuck with the tinkerers. She just hoped there was some scandal brewing amongst them, other than the cultist groups that was marching among the crowd. Though interesting, it was the best to stay out of their way. The uncanny way they could drag one in and made them seem part of the group was scary enough for Thomas to fear her due.

    Luckily the reporter saw someone of interest. A figure she hadn’t seen in quite a while; Minerva Gifford. The journalist went on to do better things, while Thomas just tripled around doing her own things and whatever came to mind. It showed with the papers they worked for.

    Deciding to surprise her long lost friend Thomas sneaked around the stand of Madam Keys, trying to eavesdrop in with what was said. Nonchalantly picking up instruments and examining them like a true customer would.

    “Earlier I was at a stand that sells tinkle tonkles. Music boxes, if you will,” Thomas started as she pressed down a key to hear what sound it made. The reporter kept on moving, shuffling around and touching items, seeming like a busy figure. “Not all too exceptional until you realise that the little thing puffed out dashes of perfume and with another tune does your powder,” she continued, acting as if she wasn’t all too impressed with what she saw. The female had very little understanding of music anyway, so appreciate she couldn’t.

    “It was a delight for the ladies, especially the Floaters,” was the end of her story, finally looking up with a smile.

    “Oh, hi Minerva!” she greeted, as if just noticing the other.

    @Pahn @Anguissette
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  10. Idina Jorane
    The Land | | Centre

    "And don't forget to let all your friends and family know about Madam Keys!" Idina managed to breathe out the sentence quickly before the couple left. The mister had purchase a simpler version of the mechanical flute. It still had gears and was rather odd in appearance, but it was a beautiful instrument. The missus had stood behind her husband silently, but the tinkerer knew she had been the one to hold the cords of the purse.

    She was about to dip back in the backstore to gather herself when the journalist she had spotted earlier appeared at her stand. Her smile spread wider and her hand pressed on the side of her thigh for a moment in hopes of clearing the sweat off it. The handshake was firm and managed to calm her nerves.

    "Yes, that is me. Idina Jorane is my name, but they call me Madam Keys." Once her hand was safely her own again, she adjusted the barrette in her hair slightly and listened intently to the journalist. Not only was this an incredible opportunity for an appearance in the Golden City Times. Just the simple mention of her name would certainly give her some publicity she dearly craved but couldn't quite afford to place. "The key to success for any tinkerer is not only their art, but their approach to the public! You see, so many entrepreneurs forget about the marketing and public face time, they don't put any special effort into it, and then their wonderful inventions never see life outside their shops." Idina recalled her parents and especially her father's inability to sell himself or his products.

    "These are all instruments I have designed myself. I'm sure you can recognize their original, ah, forms? Like this guitar for example," she took the guitar the mister had been eyeing earlier and turned a few pegs to tighten the strings, "Is one of my latest designs. The additional strings create a completely different sound, and mimics a secondary player. Now, my specialty is of course pianos. Hence the name! If you'll follow me to the other si--"

    Interrupted by a man, no - a woman, Idina's eyes moved towards the newcomer and she felt herself cringe. How rude, not only to interrupt her presentation but to do so by speaking of another tinkerer. Couldn't this woman see that she was in the middle of something? Her acknowledgment of the journalist confirmed that she wasn't here to buy anything, and that irritated her mildly. Idina gave Ms Gifford an apologetic smile and placed the guitar back in its rack.

    "Welcome to Madam Keys' shop of musical delights! How may I assist you? Interested in trying our my famous piano with brass keys?" Her voice was perhaps a tad more insistent than was polite, but the last thing she wanted today was a bickering in front of her stand.

    @Anguissette @Nemopedia

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  11. The Sky - Pioneer's Cottage - Lady Almyra Grace Overton

    The brief response left an immediate sour taste in Almyra's mouth. She had already grown accustomed to the language of bureaucracy, and most especially the words that were given heavy weight despite meaning little. 'Safety' and, worse still, 'security' were the two that she hated the most. They were the reasons given for all manner of foolishness that served only to maintain the wealth and power of the people of the Sky, and to hell with the people who were negatively affected. Almyra had half a mind to verbally tear this woman in half for giving her such a nonsense reason.

    Luckily the other half of her mind, the calm half, prevailed. In reality this woman was just doing a job; likely she'd been told the reason for that job existing was something to do with safety, thus that was her explanation given to whoever asked. Almyra waved her guards back, trying (and failing) to get them to stop hovering over her shoulders and staring daggers at the woman. "I see. I'm not sure how exactly my belt might pose a threat to safety while there are dozens of others wearing belts in the vicinity, but I suppose it's no trouble." Almyra started removing her belt, silently thankful that it was just there for the look rather than to perform a necessary function, and answered the other question as she did so.

    "Why not today of all days? This is the day meant specifically to pay homage to the Pioneer. Even a mem-" Almyra cut herself off with a cough and rephrased to avoid declaring her title. "Even those of us who live in the Sky can enjoy tradition. Some would say we're all about following traditions, really." There was an unmistakably wry twist to her voice, but she smoothed it out as she proceeded. Almyra held her belt up and offered it to the woman for inspection. "I would greatly appreciate it if you could be quick about ensuring that my belt is not dangerous. I've got somewhere to be after I'm done here."

    The Land - The Centre - Celia

    "Behold, ladies and gentlemen, my magnum opus!"

    The words rang out to a crowd that seemed more bored than interested. It was made up both of faces Celia recognized, those of the artisans and musicians that had been invited to see her in private, and a vast sea of faces she did not; all of them looked to be some degree of tired or exasperated. The creator, her creator, was given to rambling and grandstanding. Celia was not built to understand and interact with humans, but she basic observation was enough to determine that ten minutes of poorly skilled speech was not the way to hold their interest. However, he was finally finished, and that meant it was her time to make him proud. The creator came to her side and began winding the key set into the right side of her abdomen, placed there rather than on her back as with most automatons because the creator was aging and struggled to turn the key himself most days and often had her do it herself. Today he was quite energetic, so she stood still and let him do the honors.

    Once the intricate mechanisms inside Celia's body chimed a small bell to signal that her clockwork was fully wound up, the creator stepped back and gestured for her to move forward. She did as she was bid, stepping up to the delicate wooden stand to retrieve the violin the creator wanted her to play. It was her favorite instrument to play, but she was also skilled with the piano, the harp, and the cello. The creator had been disappointed that a woman by the name of Madam Keys refused to lend him a piano for free to showcase Celia's talents, but in the end he chose the violin for its ease of transportation. She would never dare to disagree with her creator, but had she been asked she would have chosen the violin in the first place. Pianos had been mastered by machines ages ago, to the point that self-playing pianos were controlled by mechanisms small enough to hide inside the normal casing of the instrument. Violins were a different matter altogether.

    Mere seconds after the horsehair bow touched the metal strings, Celia could hear the chattering of the crowd quickly trail off. The people who had lost interest, and many who hadn't been part of the group listening to the creator in the first place, were drawn to the sound. Or, more likely, the startling beauty of the music being played. One time the creator had brought Celia to hear the performance of an automaton orchestra, creations considered to be the finest in musical automatons in all the world. They had been passable enough to impress humans, but they were in fact mediocre at best (aside from the four-armed piano player and the percussionists, of course). Human children with half a decade of experience could match them in skill with stringed and brass instruments, and truly it was only the novelty of automatons playing music that drew interest in the show.

    Celia was their superior by far. She was not made to experience pride, but she could recognize it in her creator when he compared her skills to humans considered masters of the musical arts, most of whom she could emulate without much effort. For this display she was copying a work she had only heard in a recording, a piece played by a virtuoso considered by many to be the best who had ever lived. Her creator was fond of saying that he was superior to all the dead masters Celia could copy, for he had crafted something able to do everything they could and more. She was the culmination of his life's work, a life spent bent on a single goal. On his less coherent nights he liked to boast about having matched the work of the Puppetmaster, but Celia didn't have the heart (literally or figuratively) to tell him how very mistaken he was. She was a masterpiece, certainly, but the legendary Doll was beyond compare.

    As the song finished, the creator came up to her and whispered commands as the crowd, now much larger than it had been before the music started, clapped and cheered and whistled. "Performance bow." Celia bowed just as she had been trained, bending forward and sweeping her hand out in a little flourish with the violin's bow. As she stood upright, he gave another command. "Stand silently and smile at the crowd, look happy." That was a strange one, but easy enough to obey, and so she did. Not that she had any choice in the matter, of course.

    "Ladies and gentlemen!" The crowd quieted down, and the creator grinned out at them. "This automaton, Celia, is indeed my greatest creation. Many years of blood and sweat and tears have gone into her crafting, and I'm sure you can all agree it was worth every drop." The crowd cheered its agreement. The creator spread his hands out wide and gave them all an even wider grin. "But the true question is, how much is that worth exactly? I endeavor to find out. Celia is up for sale!"

    The crowd started shouting to offer various sums of money, and the creator shouted back to them the details of how bidding would be handled, but Celia stared on in horror. Not that anyone would see that emotion on her face, thanks to the order to look happy. The creator had not informed her of this. He had only told her that she was going to do her first public performance, nothing more than that. She had always wondered why he insisted that Celia call him 'creator' and nothing more, rather than calling him 'papa' like his little helper automatons did. Perhaps she'd always been intended for sale. His comments about being rich and living in the Sky some day started to make a new sort of sense. There were so many little things, phrases or actions that she had attributed to her creator being eccentric by human standards, that now seemed cold and logical in hindsight. Celia's whole world, everything that she thought she'd known, was shattered in an instant, leaving nothing but confusion and fear in the ruins. She had never before envied the human ability to cry in order to express sadness, but in that moment she certainly did.

    Yet all she could do was smile at the crowd and look happy. Celia was going to be sold, and her creator couldn't have her looking anything but eager for the prospect.

    The Underground - Lucius "The Maggot" King

    The spiteful and fearful looks that mixed among the zeal were quite amusing indeed. Lucius didn't mind them. They were merely blind to the truths of the world they found themselves in, and there was no point in despising the disabled. In the end he wanted to help them too, to help everyone in the Underground, and if they didn't like it then they would be free to remain in the sewers while others ascended. He had a feeling that some would eventually try to fight against him, whether directly or by trying to give him up to the Cloaks, but he would deal with such troubles as they arose.

    For now, it seemed things were working nicely. People were already starting to trickle into the cavern where the Maggot waited, and most of them had that same desperate fire in their eyes that the messengers had possessed. Some tried to approach, but a couple of the men who'd been informed of the plan days ago had remained behind to play guard. They told the people to wait, that all would be explained but not until the cavern was filled with more men and women who wished to fight for their futures. That was enough to stoke the flames of revolution in their hearts and keep them excited for the prospect, and they split off into various groups speculating on just what the Maggot was going to do to day. None of the snippets he heard were quite right, but a lot of them were thinking in the correct direction.

    He let the sibilant noise of whispers lull him into relaxation, just enough for his mind to wander to the past. Lucius always thought back on that same conversation, damn near every day since it had occurred.

    "I'd say five years if you're very lucky. Probably three or less."


    "Until you die, Mr. King. Have you not been listening? The disease has progressed past the point of treatment. You knew this was coming."

    "I hoped... is there nothing at all that can be done now?"

    "Not by any doctor. I suggest you take matters into your own hands if you don't want to suffer. I'm sure you can find someone to sell you hemlock or nightshade down in the Underground. Off you go now, I have actual patients to treat."

    "Oh. Thank you."

    A little over two years had passed since that talk with the doctor, but here Lucius was, still alive and not yet crippled by his disease. He was sure he wouldn't live to defy the prognosis, but he intended his death to be for a cause rather than by succumbing to the rot. Lucius still had those nightshade berries he'd purchased a couple days after the doctor brushed him away like filth on the bottom of his shoe. They were dried and shriveled little things in a glass jar, tucked away with a few other mementos from his previous life. Surely they would no longer work, but that wasn't the point. They served as a reminder that he had reached the bottom. Once a man had reached the point of seriously considering taking his own life, a point devoid of dreams and hope and happiness, there was nowhere else to go but up.

    And up he would go, in mere hours now. Up to the Sky to make his declaration of war on the floating tyrants. It was going to be fun at the very least, and if he lived to see it done then there would be plenty more fun to come.
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  12. Brulow Charldin
    The Underground | | Chattering Choughs Lair

    If there was one thing Brulow had never lost since he was forced to live in the filth of the Underground, it was his laugh. The boys and girls in the Choughs knew him to be serious and intelligent, and sometimes he had to act like a dumb adult and discipline one of them. He never hit any of them (unless they asked for it, and it was never out of rage or anger) and he didn't raise his voice. He truly believed the balance of their group could be maintained by simply caring for the younger ones like an older brother would. With Priss' help and influence, the boys and girls who wanted to have something more than just the dirt under their nails were always welcomed to stay with them.

    With Spout and Fin at his trail, he smiled to himself and listened to them talk with Priss once they were back at the lair. The girl was prettier than average, even with the grime in her hair and the ragged clothes. Brulow had a theory that people, especially children and those of a simple mind, instinctively trusted the handsome ones. This also applied to the sick - why would a sick person be untrustworthy? That was part of what scared him of the Maggot. The man was handsome under the infected flesh, and he wondered how many people he had seduced into his service with that. Brulow shuddered at the thought.

    "Yes, yes - there'll be a reward. Gotta learn to help others without always seeking a reward for yourself, boy." Inside the lair, a few kids were sleeping, huddled together in a corner, while others were playing quietly. The air in there wasn't as bad as outside, but it was a far cry from the air from the Land or even the Sky.

    One of his oldest friends, Jeong, sauntered from his seat, dropping his book and knocking over a metallic cup. He made a silly face, clearly meaning to look apologetic, but Brulow could see the laughter in his eyes.

    "Bru! I heard 'bout Rotface, sayin he got some big plan of destruction and shit? The lil'uns 'ave been listen' and it's not pretty." He grimaced and pointed with his thumb a couple of the younger kids. Pickle was sitting with them, his face as ghastly as ever, and arguing with a particularly upset boy. "Pickle calmed them, but... ya know how they is."

    Brulow nodded and smiled at his friend. Jeong smiled back, a toothy grin that made his slanted eyes even smaller. "Yes, I'mma talk to them. You wanna come with us upstairs? It's been a while." The hood of his tattered cloak was pulled down, and he noticed Jeong's eyes dip towards the scar on his cheek. They hadn't been out on a mission together since the accident, and had taken turns with staying in the lair with Pickle and the younger and sicker children. But today was important.

    "If ya want, 'course." He squeezed Jeong's shoulder and they smiled again, a mutual understanding zipping through the contact and expressions, like a silent conversation. Brulow turned towards Priss, who had greeted him expectantly.¸"Yeah we heard him alright. He already has his goons roaming around, recruitin' and shit. We ain't got no time to deal with him. Take a breath, girl - you look like you gonna pass out."

    "Oh, fuck you." Priss rolled her eyes playfully, turning back towards Fin to give his hair a ruffle. "A reward, huh? Wha'd'you want, a lil whack on the ass for a job well done, huh?" She stuck his tongue out at him and hugged Spout back. There was a clear fondness in her eyes, and it always intrigued Brulow what her relationship with Spout was all about. "We gonna fuck his shit up, Spout. I dun think this... snatcher is related to Rotface, though. D'you guys spot 'em together?"

    Brulow shook his head. It was a fucking depressing thought, that perhaps the girl-snatcher and the Maggot were working together. He sure as all hell hoped they weren't. "I ain't seen 'em together, no." Once his cloak was off, he took the small oxygen mask and went to the back of the room to share it with the others. They had only one oxygen tank left, and seeing everyone's bloodshot eyes gripped his heart. They needed more tanks. Maybe this day could score two birds a single stone.

    "If y'all are comin', we can grab a few oxygen tanks. Usual places; all the ugly fuckers who dun need 'em, and all the dirty hoarders who keep 'em stashed in their basements or garages. We know which places to hit. What d'y'all say?" Brulow had walked back towards the entrance of the room to where they kept their food. They were lucky to have scored an old refrigerator a couple years ago. The cooling system was spotty and sometimes didn't work for days, but it was the best they could have at the time and it kept some food out of reach from actual vermin. He took out a brown paper bag from the refrigerator and pulled out some dried pieces of meat. They were probably close to going bad and had that odd taste that came from the cooling system, but it was better than going out on an empty stomach. He passed the bag to Priss, who took a piece for herself before giving the bag to Fin and Spout.

    "By the way, Spout - who's that girl who been followin' you and askin' bout you? She's a pretty un, but she dun look like she's been eatin' much." The girl in question was thin and almost sick looking, the dark and thick tresses on her head seemingly weighing more than the rest of her body. Priss had noticed her a couple days ago, but hadn't gone out of her way to talk to her or mention her appearance to Brulow. Oops.

    @Nemopedia @Anguissette
    Mentioned: @Kitti @Jorick @Shizuochan

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  13. Tobin Heath - the Land

    Tobin had grown accustomed - or rather, as accustomed as one could possibly be - to the rigorous heat of the Underground. Others, he had known, became rather more attuned, their red-baked skin steadfast beneath the burning haze. A quirk of their creation, a trick of their upbringing, perhaps, like a brand new species spawned from the Ovens.

    He was not of their ilk, That was why he was ever so thankful that, on momentous occasions such as this, trips above ground were simple enough. Try as the Cloaks might to extend their vigilance across the swollen masses of festive folk, undesirables were always bound to slip through the cracks. And which overly-discerning Cloak could possibly think any suspicious thought of the Ostrich, dressed in his most charitable best? A burgundy coat, a peaked-hat of maroon, boots spit-shined to the last spot of leather - the regalia he had donned when he had been Tobin Heath, tinker-shop proprietor.

    From beneath the brim of his hat, he cast his eye towards a pudgy tinkerer, prancing and dancing about with his wares in the street, young-in-the-face and red from hollering all about. Surrounding his clumsy, pirouetting form were turtles and tortoises, peaks of their clockwork innards beneath a a shell of faux-gold. The dance, the prance, the gold. Style counted for much in the tinkerer’s world, he knew; the fat boy may just as well make it in this world one day.

    He could feel that thought painfully congealing like a clot in his veins.

    Tobin perished any uncharitable - or unsafe - thoughts on the boy-tinkerer from his mind. He had hours to work with before the fateful moment, as ordained by the Maggot. Lucius was, after all and in a very specific sense, as if his holy master. And what he intended to do next, the Maggot would doubtlessly disapprove.

    But the Ostrich served not a single ‘master’, per se. He navigated the whims of several, and from amongst them derived his own wishes. That, as he understood it, was the essence of freedom.

    He looked away from the adipose artificer, towards his true quarry amongst the spectators. Two sons and a daughter of hapless - or, Tobin allowed more charitably, deceased - parentage, with stars and unblinking joy in their eyes, gasps of wonder still gestating along the lining of their throats. So full of life, they seemed almost dead.

    He prepared his kindest smile, and there was nothing particularly kind about it.
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  14. Aisling Grey - DIY Data Recovery

    Aisling leaned on the tree and watched wordlessly as Corbett thought his way through his unexpected freedom of choice. She could breathe more easily up here, the vice releasing a few notches from around her skull to allow her to - in some ways - even empathise with his losses. Her family had been taken from her, and just thinking about that made her want to bring the world crashing down atop those responsible.

    His family yet lived, but had been kept from him in no small measure by her own needs and drives. She was not prepared to give either up over the long term, yet... she couldn't in good conscience keep them separated either, without some small effort being made to keep them in contact with one another. It would no doubt complicate matters for them both, and possibly even open up his blood to her enemies' retribution - but some risks had to be accepted or else what was the point of it all? You couldn't live for revenge.

    "Not impossible," she said, a ghost of a smile touching her lips. "I could tell you that I would remain safely at home until you come back from your visit-"

    She laughed outright at the expression he gave her then, then looked slightly startled at the sound.

    "Fine, yes, maybe my history is not the best in that area. I could offer to let you lock me in somewhere, but we both know how I am around locks." Her expression was bleaker now as she thought back to that violent incident from their shared history. "Which leaves... Mr Baines, might I have the privilege of an introduction to your family later today? Mayhaps we could visit the Pioneer's Cottage together?"

    Turning back to the rubble facing, she threw herself back into her excavation work. With no significant mass or leverage with the small hand-shovel, she relied mostly on crackling energy and by the time the last rocks dropped into a hollow behind the rock face her skinny body was slick with sweat that showed in places on her walking gown. She breathed deeply, gathered herself and then descended a staircase to the past. The light from the surface barely illuminated the landing at the bottom, and she ran her hand down the back of the door that led towards her old laboratory before giving it a hard shove. It didn't move, yet when she tried the handle it turned freely, Too freely.

    She stepped back. "It seems I need your assistance here after all, Mr Baines. There should be an eighty four yard corridor behind this door, although I cannot speak as to the condition. I usually had the bulbs changed and the hallway swept every month."

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  15. Mallory Devlin; The Sky - Pioneer’s Lodging
    “Not your belt, but whatever you could hide around your tiny waist, no need to grow sarcastic.”

    Mallory had the courtesy to respond in kind. At part she found the Fetus to be silly. Wouldn’t the lady know all about security seeing the guards ready to jump? At the other hand Mallory was quite sure the secluded and coddled Floater had no idea of the workings of the real world. It was only natural for the miss to be unable to understand the crazy things people hid.

    Wondering if she had been alike when she just started, Mallory had her device hover over the Floater’s hips. She didn’t have this job for very long —the brunette never managed to hold down a job for long— but she liked to think of herself as experienced after a a few observations and her first day alone. Mallory had seen some strange things, but of course that was once more no knowledge that she could expect the other to have, who seemed to decide that Mallory was a good partner for conversation.

    “You talk a lot, dollface,” Mallory chided the other as she went over each limb to make sure nothing was missed. “Your belt is fine, your mind maybe not,” she continued in one beat. A wave of pride, but at the same time anxiety rolled over. The words had left her lips before Mallory could help herself, and her face wasn’t cooperating as it had to pull a brow at the lady. Smooth as it was it was far from professional and to lose yet another job?

    Well, that wouldn’t be too unusual for Mallory Devlin.

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  16. Minerva Eliza Gifford, Reporter at Large - The Land - The Centre
    Minerva was trying to be excited. It wasn't easy when she was consigned to this kind of penny ante nonsense for the umpteenth time, but perhaps there were a few gold pieces among the dross. The tinker certainly seemed to think so and the journalist was too much a connoisseur of her field not to enjoy a good sales pitch with passionate delivery. This... yes, she could make a story from this. Her spectacles slid down her nose as she took brief notes in the queer device strapped to her arm, intent on Idina's words and delivery.

    That was when a familiar voice interceded - a familiar voice, though one she had not heard for almost a year and then only in passing. She turned and her eyes brightened as she beheld "Thomas Baris, why as I live and breathe!" She shone a dazzling smile at the interloper and waved her forward to join them. "Madam Keys, you must allow me to introduce my friend Thomas Baris, a talented reporter of the Golden City Post." She gave their host a moment to absorb the unlikely coincidence that had placed her at the fore of her own nascent press conference, then caught fire with an animated grin. "Despite being a music lover, I'm ashamed to admit I've never actually played the piano - even one with brass keys. Have you? Why don't you join me, and we can see how Madam's creation rises to the challenge of a duet?"

    The last time they'd collaborated professionally had been the hunt for the Falcon, and that had ended up giving them both a huge boost professionally. Maybe Minerva more than her wild-haired friend, but that was was partly due to knowing how to market herself better. Besides, Thomas seemed largely happy with the Post, or so she reassured herself.

    She sat at the seat before Idina's great brass-keyed creation and pushed her spectacles back up her nose, then patted the space beside her. Even if Thomas didn't join her - being unpredictable at best - she readied herself to learn, her eyes bright and interested in the lessons as well as the people beginning to drift across to the tinker's store at the promise of marketplace drama and a good show.

    @Pahn @Nemopedia
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  17. Phineas Abbess; The Underground, Choughs Lair
    Gaze sliding over to Spout the boy smiled his wicked smile again as he made a circle with one hand and put the finger of the other through it. “You mean this?” he challenged, having the greatest fun with his joke.

    “The Pioneer is a dirty lech, nothing new. My dad was one as well,” he shrugged entering the cottage that was the headquarters. It was a shabby looking place, put together with the trash that could be found surrounding them. Makeshift walls, and long pieces of fabric to serve as the door, it was home and to him a palace in itself. A gem of a place that was hard to come by in the pit of hell they lived in.

    He pretended to ignore Brulow’s lecture as he went deeper into the lair, quick to drop himself on the cool ground inside. He often did, for some reason finding it hard to bring himself to show respect. It wasn’t that Phineas lacked any, he just liked to challenge. Especially Brulow was a frequent victim as Phineas saw in him a rival. It was to see what the other was made of, a test. Though seeing how long he had survived with a group of kids it was obvious that their leader was sturdy.

    Now if only the old man had some humour…

    Flashing Priss another smile Phineas’s eyes lit up in delight at the mention of a reward. An idea brewing within his mind as she joked around. It was clear that he hadn't considered the situation fully, not nearly understanding the extend of the crime. However, they had promised fun and said that he would help and be good, and that was enough for Phineas to label the others as bad.

    “Actually, I think Brulow could use a smack on the ass if he lost,” he mused. “I’m just afraid he will like it too much and slack,” the boy continued, rolling over the ground to prevent himself from getting kicked by another one of the boys.

    “Hey, tha’s mean, Jeong!” but he laughed all the same, enjoying the silly banter he had with the pack.

    Crawling up to grab his share of meat Phineas’s attention was brought over to the newcomer. A girl, small and malnourished, reminding him more of a mouse than a rat. He felt that he had seen her before, somewhere around, but couldn’t recall where and when exactly. At least it wasn't from a gang or the brothel of his mom, which made her a whole lot better already.

    “Wanna ‘ave some?” he promptly offered. The bag with meat —a rare treat— extended towards the female. In the back he could hear Priss scoff at him, but the boy tried to ignore it. Brulow had told him to help people without looking for a reward, right? He was being helpful. Reaching for his pocket he also pulled out the reward from earlier, unfolding the package to show the powder.

    "There is candy if you rather?" he tried, extending his other arm for the girl to choose.

    Had The Underground always been this hot?

    @Pahn, @Anguissette & @Kitti
    #37 Nemopedia, Mar 22, 2018 at 4:03 PM
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  18. Corbett Baines

    He wondered what they would think, seeing his now-weathered visage cautiously emerging from the shadow of The Door. The Door: a structure worthy of such monumental import in the startling nature of its mundane and vague familiarity. It had been a terrible, terrible thing, and it had taunted him throughout its youth. His brothers and sister would never dare to close it so completely, for fear that the clicking of the rusted lock would wake father. Thus, The Door would remain in its aggressively undecided state, never fully-shut, never fully-open.

    There had been a catharsis, some time ago, when he had burst through the seam of The Door, and - for one solitary moment - closed it shut behind him.

    Years since his best-laid plans had unravelled, however, Corbett found that he had missed them, and - though he would be loathe to admit it - The Door.

    “I suppose that…”

    Again, what would they think? What would run across their cynical, seldom charitable minds when Miss Grey’s own visage followed his own? It occurred to Corbett that the customary opening of warm embrace and happy words would have to be foregone with a disclaimer: ‘I am not married to, or in the process of becoming bound in some form of matrimony (holy, happy or otherwise) with, this woman’. His baser siblings would perhaps utter comments that, while not unkind, may be constituted as untoward. His mother would be, doubtlessly, hopeful.

    His father, perhaps, would cast upon her the same glare he had cast upon him, when he made to walk through The Door. Such was his nature.

    “... it would be possible. We should discuss, as a matter of precaution and formality, certain rules for such an encounter. Furthermore-.”

    He stopped upon Aisling’s discoverance of the door, unyielding and its handle in some form of disrepair. Offering a repressed hmm, for he had truly expected some degree of relaxation during the occasion, he allowed himself a degree of space, before barrelling forward.

    To his great relief, his shoulder did not shatter, as Aisling’s words held true. The corridor presented itself before them, the gaping maw of the past.

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  19. Spout, Knight in Shiny Armah - The Underground - Chattering Choughs Lair
    "And so I do," the boy piped up indignantly, by no means cowed by Brulow's disapproval. He exchanged an uncertain glance with Fin, having been equally certain that the unofficial Papa of the group had been chastising his own leanings towards petty larceny. The Floaters had more than enough really. They could afford to lose one or two oxygen tanks. Or houses. Or children for that matter. Pioneer knew the snatchers were active enough in the Underground and the poorer quarters of the Land. It'd serve the Embryos right to lose a few of their own. Then just wait and see the same bloated aristocrats with their turkey-gobblings about how it was a regrettable issue with minimal impact and there were higher priorities and anyway it was all relative. Spout's face reddened as he imagined slapping the offending flabby git silly and making him see... the wet in his palm warned him and he looked down to see he'd smooshed the scrap of dried meat together with... actually, what even was that? Nothing ventured, he nibbled on what remained of the scrap and tried to avoid the more suspect bits.

    Snatchers. Right, focus on the snatchers, twisted fucks that they were. "Nah," he said abashedly, hoping Priss hadn't seen any of that. He was so angry sometimes, especially when his body ached like this. He tried to manage it and generally kept it out of sight from everyone else, not wanting them to think less of him. "Nah, I din' see any kindah link between Maggot-face an thuh snatchers." He shrugged in over-elaborate disinterest and took the oxygen mask to one of the smaller Choughs who might normally take her turn last. The way her breath had been rattling lately, she needed this worst than most. He coughed quietly behind his hand and went to the old biscuit box where he kept the only things he owned, producing a smart-looking dark brown cap that might have belonged to a paperboy in a previous life and a pair of shoes. Strictly too small for him, he crammed them onto his feet regardless and set about wiping the worst of the stains from his clothes. "Way I figger, the snatchers're old noos. There've always been filth uv their sort 'roun da place, eva sins I've been here. This Maggot," again the curious note in his voice, "ee's somefin noo. Mebbe ee's got tha snatchers fired to find some fat li'l Floaters who doan know no betta, but that doan stick their filth t' his noggin."

    Spout had been too far away to get a good look at the firebrand speaker, but really what did that matter? It was his message that carried, and his message that struck home on too many truths to be ignored. Could he really fix this, give the littles clean air to breathe and cut out the poison that seeped through the air?

    "I'm in Brew!" he said stoutly and flashed a cheeky smile around at the others, "Whattaya say? A little trip upshaft ta see the Pie-neer's pad an' mek a few snatchers bawl?" He pantomimed wiping big tears from his face and instead wiped small spots clean(ish) under each eye. "An' then home agin, trowserin' a few trinkits onna way? Hoover comes back wiv least gets Fin's smack," he caroled delightedly, then turned at Priss's question. "Wha'? Wha' girl?" he asked in surprise. He didn't know about any girl following him, at least not since that business of the silly young whore they'd saved from a mugging. She'd been taken by the young lad with the thick accent and had taken it upon herself to reward him with some lessons in pleasing a woman. It had taken some convincing and almost a week to convince her that he wasn't interested before she left in a huff, taking her business Upstairs.

    The sound of Fin's generosity snapped his head around; it wasn't a besetting sin the cynical youth was known for, and Spout's first thought was that he playing another of his little tricks on some little that didn't know better. What he saw instead was a skinny young girl who looked like she hadn't eaten properly in weeks. Not to mention, he'd never laid eyes on her in his life. Had he? No, surely not. He'd remember. He flashed an encouraging smile her way and moved to Fin's elbow, watching over them both while watching Fin make the first gentle moves towards getting to know her. Maybe they'd have a new Chough soon! He glanced over at Priss and mouthed, "Well?" where the girl couldn't see.

    She was the best judge of character Spout knew. Mostly.

    @Pahn @Nemopedia @Kitti
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