Koi Ross | Level 178 - Home It began as any normal morning would; sun leaked through the aisles of concrete and steel outside the bedroom window, awakening the sleeping couple beneath the rays. For several minutes the two remained in bed, eyes shut but minds active.Eventually Fanty Shark was the first to fully rise from the sheets with a flurry of movement. It didn't take much to get him mentally ready for the day. He dressed lightly and exited the bedroom, likely off to make some morning drink and eat. He had work to do within the hours, and moved with purpose and a well-traveled routine. Koi arose fifteen minutes later with a much less driven motion to herself. She wasn't preparing to go anywhere in particular. She met her fiance at the door, his routine nearly finished. Before he could leave, the two said a few words to one another and her fiance planted a light, quick kiss on her lips. The light in the room darkened at that moment, and the whole placed seemed to stretch into an infinite horizon. Fanty disappeared, as did her home, replaced by a slowly materializing scene within the city. She was on the streets, somewhere on the lower levels. It was night time, as far as she could tell so far below. The streets were busy and the smell terrible. Against her will, her gaze shifted to the left as a scream cried out amidst the sounds of engines and clacking shoes on concrete. Something approached her. A human, it seemed. They were dressed strangely, masked with a grim visage like white leather stretched thin. Blood coated the butchers apron that it wore. Koi could not move herself, and as the entity approached, she learned she could not dictate her speech either. It was not her voice, but Fanty's. The words were jumbled, obscure, muffled. She could make no sense of what came out of 'her' mouth. The figure came closer, and she backed away a few steps. More inaudible words. The figure was an arm's length away, approaching with clear intent. Its hand stretched out, and everything went black. She was in her home again, just pulling away from her Fiance's light kiss. ============================================================================== Nechronica & Armel Lienstrung | Occam East District, Policus Station Each chair was occupied, filled with either an eager officer leaning forward, or a disinterested badass slouched so far down the seat they could've passed off as dead. Nechronica and Armel attended the mandatory briefing in those morning hours, listening to the superior officer's recanting of a particular situation involving protesters and a bad lie. Days before, a bomb exploded on Level 134 in their district, killing two and inuring many more. Policus knew what had transpired, but they of course wouldn't disclose such things; there was money to be had, after all. Most officers themselves had no clue that it was a crime involving the Shark Families struggles, but some were keen enough to deduce as much. What was told publicly was that it was set up by some Painstaker looking for laughs. Clearly the protesters weren't gullible enough. "And so there you have it," the officer stated, lowering his hand from the holo-projection displayed at the head of the darkened room, "gonna have a dispatch settle down at the protesters zone and make sure they don't actually go through with the riot plan. If they get to big or rowdy, disperse them. Block off their way to the floor-bound ninety-nine ramp. We'll set up a blockade there. Any questions?" ============================================================================== Sparkle Bell Lovejoy | Central Babylon, Prime Hour Tower, NBBC A few powders to Lovejoy's cheeks were the final touch, and the stylists left her side, disappearing into the background of the backstage. Before her was a carpeted stage, a half circle complete with a set of living room furniture, couches and coffee tables, and one of the most famous talk show hosts around. A show manager stood at her side looking quite stressed and on edge, checking back between Lovejoy and the stage. She was hidden behind a wall at the right of the stage, obscuring her from the moderately-sized crowd just outside. At least two hundred people, she guessed from the noise level as the show started up. The host spoke up with one of the biggest smiles she'd ever seen. Clapping increased alongside excited yells. "Welcome back to Morning Hours! Man I am just... just laughing all the time about this whole Terrie Mald snafu. You're all familiar with this guy, right?" the host, a mister Pierce Bray, gestured to the audience, "This guy breaks down in the middle of a skyrail, gets out, he was found to be on some serious drugs, yea. This guy gets out of his car, hops across three rails and makes it to the other side. Seriously, claps for him. I can barely stare out my car window when I'm on the road," the audience laughed, "You think he'd be the luckiest man alive. He, he uh... He," Pierce laughed lightly to himself. "He makes it to the sidewalk, and what does he do? He realizes he did it and just freaks about it. In the ensuing celebration he nails a Policus, right in the shnoze'. He was so close!" The audience was laughing heartily. "Let's, let's get that on camera, please. Do we have that clip?" he looked back at the projector towering behind him. A video pulled up on screen, illustrating the events he just recounted. The actually viewing of the event elicited far more laughter. "Anyways," he began, calming down, "Today we've got some special guests, you've probably hear of them." Pierce picked up a disk lying on the table before him and raised it up. "Anyone here fans of pop? Yea? Oh yes, definitely. This is the new, well I really shouldn't say new. It's a CD album for pete's sake! How old am I gosh." More laughter. "This is the new group album coming out, Ice Breaker. It's got stuff by Amrose, Lovejoy, Party Cannon. Lots of fun. So today we've got two guests who put work into making this music, welcome Barenna and Belle Lovejoy!" The director gestured to Lovejoy and urged her on vigorously. ============================================================================== Seti Kleon | Neo Babylon city limits, entering Stret Col District It was novel, carrying a package from outside the city into its heart. Seti was used to endogenous missions, getting something unknown from X to Y within the metropolis alone. The package resting underneath his backseat cushion (modified for transport, of course), had been picked up from the neighboring country in a nondescript spot. There was no one around the package, and almost very little to indicate it was special. The cardboard box might as well have been junk dumped accidentally from the trunk of a truck. It wasn't heavy by any means, seeming like it contained paper more than anything else. Instructed not to peer into its contents, and being true to his word thus far, Seti had no clue what was within. Now the job was getting it across border security. A large drive-through station was just ahead, allowing cars to go by periodically before being checked. On occasion they'd be searched (albeit rather lazily), before being let through. Others would be directed down a different path, likely headed for the registration office. Seti continued forward, reaching the side of two Policus officers looking quite bored. He rolled down his window as they gestured to do so, an they approached close enough to speak normally. "Identification please," one of them said as the other circled around his car. In the backseat, he heard a low, droning hum. ============================================================================== Evenrue Seele | Morning Patrol, Occam East District Unbound by the limitations of civilian transportation, Evenrue and Kirthun enjoyed free flight between the massive towers of Occam East. Policus vehicles were purely flight-based, while citizens around them were tied to the rail tracks that operated their movement. It was safer for them, of course, and limited vehicular accidents to a mere one accident a week, caused entirely by unfortunate computational mistakes in the AI that controlled the entire traffic system. It was nearly perfect. Policus, on the other hand, could zip through the air using flying cars. It was much more expedient than a railway-bound car, allowing much faster response times. Well into Layer 2 of Neo Babylon, they carried on their patrol, awaiting orders or to catch some foolish citizen making a ruckus. Without any sort of traffic violations to pull off, a lot of their time had become mere waiting. Quiet as it was, Evenrue couldn't help but sense something ominous in the works. It was small, but reeked of power, like the tiny branches of an otherwise immense lightning bolt coursing through the air. The sensation did not fade, no matter where the car traveled. ============================================================================== Kheda | Martel's Bookstore, Occam West District Level 122 It was a warm morning in the shop, the owner being lucky enough to have secured such a location. Originally but another shop drowning in the sight that was other buildings reaching far higher into the sky, the tower across the street was recently remodeled to be shorter due to faulty architecture. That shortening had allowed the morning sun to peek into the window walls, offering the bookstore a wonderful glow. It was so perfect, the owner had vacated the bookshelves originally there in favor of a lounge. Perfect reading light. Kheda had been in the shop working for a few hours already, wavering between moving new shipments to operating the register. It was a small family-owned shop that received decent enough patronage, but possessed understandably few employees. For a time Kheda was the only one there in the morning besides her boss. In the downtime she'd read some books on her own, picking up on the 300 years of history that passed her by. The books, thus, were often non-fiction. Collections of information on subjects that arose in the time she'd missed; history, technology, magic. A small television hung from the ceiling opposite the room, recounting recent events in the next district over. A bomb had gone off, there were casualties, and people were complaining about Policus. Normal things. The news reel felt the need to replay the explosion caught on camera about 50 times before it cut to commercials again, almost certainly to begin the pattern again. ============================================================================== Katergi Renwald & Eden Pylar | Thremont Academy of Stret Col The office was impossibly filled with nick-knacks and trinkets that could, quite honestly, be of some significant use. One never really knew what was magic and what wasn't in that room. Behind a desk slathered in taped-down papers (and loose tape crumples) sat the Academies head, the Thremont Lord Cornell Rattim. He shifted a few papers with wide eyes before settling down and looking up to his underlings. Katergi Renwald and Eden Pylar stood before him, having been summoned by a paper familiar. Leaning forward and nearly slipping his elbows on the loose mess under his elbows, Cornell spoke up. "Eden, I'm left to assume you're a bit more surprised to be here than Mr. Renwald. No need to worry. I've been informed of some particularly interesting tidbits going on in the inner city. A certain defector from the Repenters has been found alive, or rather, they contacted us first, claiming they've got important information." Cornell looked to Eden directly. "Now of course we can't just be one-hundred percent trustful. We can't be so sure they're telling the truth. This is where you come in Eden. I've been informed you're quite the capable mage when it comes to making totems of others emotion?" With an outstretched arm, he handed Katergi a slip of paper. "That's the address of the defector. It's not in a good part of town, so be careful. I'm sending you two because I think your combined skills will be able to handle whatever transpires. If you can, try and convince the man to arrive here at the Academy, if you deem him safe, Eden." He leaned back. "Questions?" ============================================================================== Laina Horello | Layer 1, Toland's Orphanage A magic lantern highlighted the darkened streets of Neo Babylon's lowest levels. It was an eternal twilight state for much of Layer 1 in the inner city. So far from the equator of Nera, the sun never rose directly above the buildings, and so could not offer much in the way of sunlight. Even if it did, the countless sidewalks and railways above would undoubtedly block most of it. A train horned in the distance, and the rickety building built onto the side of a massive concrete monolith rattled. Laina approached up the steps, a plastic bag in hand filled with sweets and foods alike. The last time she'd visited Toland's was a few weeks ago, and the children residing there would undoubtedly become quite excited at her appearance. She rapped on the front door, and from outside she could hear steps approaching on the other side, stop for a moment, and then the door opened. The orphanage's matron, Miss Toland, stood in the doorway with a smile on her face, the warmness in her expression alone inviting Laina silently inside. ============================================================================== Volkov | Ground Level Sewers It took Volkov a moment to notice, despite the obtrusiveness it had caused, that his wrist was still entrapped by the shredded husk of a now well-demolished machine. How long had it been there? It was a near-perfect white were it not for the scorch marks crusting the sides. A black 'TH' was printed on the edge. Whatever it fully spelled out had been ripped away long ago. The sewers were quite, save for the occasional howl of some system shifting the pipeline flows an unknown distance into the depths. The muffled sounds of shoes and voices were above, and occasionally that of a Policus siren. At least every five minutes. It had been peaceful for Volkov for some time, but he could not count how long. There was only ever, 'short time', 'long time', and 'bored'. It would have persisted, but the distinct sound of a cry caught his ears. It was not above, but beyond. Down the sewer line. Then a rumble vibrated the cement, and the puddles of water at his feet rippled lightly. The cries subsided, but the struggle did not, whatever it was. Volkov had resided within the pipes for long enough to deduce the events were not caused by machinery. This was far too violent and persistent. The rumbles got closer. ============================================================================== Felicia Bell | Home The coffee machine bubbled soothingly in the background of Felicia's mind, though much of her thoughts were dedicated moreso to the wealth of lines swimming about.It would have been overwhelming were it not for her adeptness in the skill of acting. She switched between simply recalling them in her thoughts, to speaking them quietly to herself, to bursting into action and performing alongside them. Even outside of a movie studio, Felicia was practicing her lines. There was never a moment that she couldn't somehow fit in the task of ensuring her role would not be gone to waste. Even in the middle of breakfast, sipping coffee and munching on breakfast items, she let out some short lines and gestured with her arms to facilitate the acting portion of her career. It was normal a morning as any, quiet and lonely. It was shattered, literally. In the midst of eating her breakfast, Felicia caught the distinct sound of glass breaking in the front room. It was easy to find the source given the blast of wind that had then made its way into her house. So high up, opening the window meant letting in a gale of cold air. The strangest part, however, was the the shattered window did not face a sidewalk outside. There was only a sheer hundred-foot drop to the next platform below where it had been broken, and the building across the street was at least a few hundred yards. At the foot of the broken window, a brick sat in a field of glass. An envelope was taped underneath. Curious but wary, Felicia retrieved the envelope and withdrew the letter inside. Felicia Bell, My past letters have clearly failed to reach you. Undoubtedly your cronies did not give them to you. Do you not receive hate-mail? Are you so sheltered? This brick was my only option, it seemed, or rather I might have been so gripped by anger I wanted to do it. Anger of your appearance. I was reasonable when I first reached out, but falling unheard has left me only increasingly frustrated. I hate you. I hate your work. You glorify the appearance of dolls. Living dolls. It is terrible, and you cannot understand why. Stop. Stop this portrayal. It is not just for me. Please. Or else. It was written in pencil, but had the accuracy of an expensive electronic printer. There was no name attached. ============================================================================== Jhanuis Bedniv | Home Three business cards, all three potential, and all three seeming quite hopeful. Jhanuis had never been faced with such options in his life since awakening, nor ones that offered such stable positions. In the past, Jhanius had always been a part-time employee of some sort, always on the cusp between being let go due to a lack of need and retaining meager pay. A night guard at a local hospital. A studio set worker. A small crane operator. Three options. Three potential careers. They were small-time, but he wasn't going to complain. Not with this sort of luck. Each of the managers had given him the cards in the same day, somehow coming across the position openings within a single walk through his city district. It was like God had descended upon his luck and French-kissed it into an angel of fortune. Maybe that was a bit too far. Jhanuis was still a ways away from a higher-paying job, and while his decision would be able to pay the bills, it didn't make it any less tight. His decision counted here, and if he waited too long, he'd risk losing all three. ============================================================================== Youn | Layer 1, Abandoned Warehouse Cold concrete offered little respite for the young Error, though the pair of worn-out furniture pieces she managed to snag certainly made it better. Youn tinkered with a strange contraption made of wood and metal bindings, a puzzle of some sort, color-coded and clearly suited to the thinking type. Youn had difficulty, to no one's surprise. Faust solved the puzzle in a mere two minutes, handing it back to Youn with the pieces rearranged to its original state. She was going on ten minutes and had barely progressed. A few barks signaled that her hounds had returned, a variety of foodstuffs held haphazardly in their mouths. Vegetables were punctured in several places by massive canines, and nearly-dried-out fish and meats were the result of their "hunt". It was wasn't much. The hounds released their quarry upon the dusty floor and Faust spoke up with a worried hush. The hounds had relayed some unheard information to the Neverborn. "I sense something ominous in the air, Master. Magic, certainly, but of what nature I cannot deduce." He looked to Terror, as if to be sure the Neverborn was there and ready. Nothing seemed pressing for the moment, but it was clear through Faust's tone that there was something amiss in the area, and that it was not to be trifled with clumsily. ============================================================================== Elizia | Home The news was grim as always, distracting the otherwise pleasant visit Elizia had been faced with. Her TV was left on as she got up to answer the ring at her door, revealing the very people who had given her the home in the first place. Hugs were exchanged and quick catch-ups were voiced before they proceeded into the living room, where the mood of the Shark family visitors had dampened. Elizia knew what the issue was. Rumors and blaming abounded on the screen, with half the hosts and protestors pointing fingers at Painstaker activity and the other at Policus payoff corruption. The Shark family name was thrown around as easily as the word 'fault'. Eventually attentions were taken away from the screen and back to more pleasant things. Setting down a full family meal from a fast-food restaurant, the Sharks indicated they wished to sit down and eat breakfast with Elizia.