SIDE ARC trafix


the clairvoyant pterodactyl
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At five-forty-five am the intercoms wailed their morning songs, rousing the sleeping members of Macintosh’s squad. For ten minutes straight the song continued, ending only when everyone had gotten out of their bunks and began readying themselves for the day. Mac’s voice came out of the intercom shortly thereafter, warning them all not to be late for breakfast and their daily briefing at seven-fifteen. As members of the squad showered or shaved, stretched or slumped, dressed to the nines or simply decided their pajamas were enough, the chefs in the kitchen were whipping up a fine meal.

Though different scents wafted throughout the island estate, nothing was as strong or as mouthwatering than the smell of fried bacon. When the team arrived in the kitchen, the long bench-like table sported a hefty dip in the center, sagging under the weight of food. A variety of fresh fruit were sliced, quartered, and displayed at either end, as were platters of hotcakes, sausages, potatoes in three different styles (hash browns, homefries, and drowned in butter and herbs), eggs in every style imaginable, pastries, bagels with whatever toppings desired, as well as muffins, milkshakes, coffee, and tea. It was a normal fare for breakfast at Macintosh’s. The only difference between today and yesterday, was the lone balloon tied to a serving platter that held a certain someone’s favorite food.

Macintosh was sitting at his normal spot in the middle of the table, already eating handfuls of bacon and sipping his usual black coffee. He greeted everyone as they arrived with a somewhat sleepy grunt. Per usual, Macintosh said little as the team had their morning conversations and their fill of food. When everyone was finished, however, he stood, cup of coffee in his hand, and spoke to the group as a whole.

“Mornin’ all,” He said without hesitation, “And happy birthday, Vinno.”

He waited a moment, to ensure everyone had the opportunity to wish happy birthday, and then continued.

“We’ll be doing basic training runs today— short and to the point. Once you get through the obstacle course, you’re free to spend the rest of the day at your leisure. Nathan and his subteam will be going first. Riya’s team will go after.” He spared a moment to read all their faces, take another sip of coffee, and then, “Nathan and his team will take care of decorations after their run— meanwhile, team two should focus on finishing any schoolwork left undone for the week.”

Thirty minutes later Nathan and his team were dressed in their training uniforms and about to start the obstacle course. Each course was different in layout, but each tested and trained the same thing: there was running, jumping, scaling, and climbing, and even reactionary impulses. When the course was through, Macintosh asked each to perform something they’d been privately practicing in front of everyone— Nathan being the last to go.

All in all, it lasted about three and a half hours. They were given an hour to freshen up and change before receiving instructions on how to decorate before it was time for the next team to meet in the Sims Training Center. In similar fashion, Riya’s subteam were put through an obstacle course they’ve never been through before and then told to perform something power related in front of everyone.

By then, it was nearing four o’clock and team one was finishing the last of their decorating. Once team two was freshed, they were ushered back into the commons and the kitchen by an intercom message from Macintosh.
“It ain’t often we got somethin’ to celebrate, but today we do. Come on down to the commons and help us celebrate Vinno’s nineteenth birthday!”

The commons itself was bedecked with streamers and balloons and a small stack of birthday presents were piled on the coffee table, which was covered with a shiny red tablecloth. The kitchen was once again alive, the chefs, different from the morning shift, were already preparing a variety of different foods, though snacks lined the table. The head chef stood at Macintosh’s side, awaiting Vinno’s birthday dinner request, while Macintosh himself stood in front of a towering three tiered cake, lit with nineteen candles.

“Happy birthday, Vinno.” Mac said with a rare smile.

“Yeah!” River said from across the room, emptying her lungs into a party blower, her eyes lit with excitement and joy.


Red Thunder

A Warrior in a Garden
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The Calm Before the Storm


Kevin frowned up at the ceiling, ignoring the building anxiety that the musical routine brought him. Time to get up. Time to move. Things to get done. His limbs were difficult to move, however, and even raising his hand to wipe the sleep from his eyes was a chore. But he did, and with even greater effort, he sat up. His lungs seized in response, and he loosed a barrage of phlegm into his shirt sleeve. The fit over, he forced himself to stand, grumbling at the effort, and began the next stage in his daily, tedious routine: becoming presentable.

An hour and a half was more than a reasonable amount of time for anyone of reasonable health. Kevin had to tap some of his Investure to make it in time, though he stopped as soon as he felt River's subliminal boost. He had to pause, as he nearly did every time he can into her range, and just breathe. Just be. His limbs no longer ached so badly. His chest didn't hurt any more. And he could breathe. Times were, he'd think of her in angelic terms, for the relief her simple presence gave him. Far from romantic, but rather, like a weary farmer relaxing in a hot shower after a long day. He felt at ease around her, like a trusted friend, and her soft and honest manner just made him want to keep her safe all the more.

Even if that meant being closer to Macintosh.

Even after leaving the meeting, having received his team's assignments with everyone else, he still glowered into his coffee cup. Though he stared at the mathematics textbook, the numbers and formulas dancing on the page in a pattern he couldn't follow, his mind wandered, seeking as ever it did now for justification for his continued involvement. But an accidental spill of the as yet still hot coffee onto his hand brought him back, and muttering a curse to himself, he shook his head and tried to focus.

The obstacle course was a refreshing change of pace. While Kevin was slow academically, his 'enhancement' allowed him to excel in the field. A simple tap of Investure, and he gained the strength and agility of a collegiate athlete, leaping and spinning and climbing as naturally as any Olympian. Nor did he race ahead, always ensuring that the others of Riya's team got through just fine. But then came the demonstration. He focused his Investure, brow furrowed and sweat beading rapidly on his temples, as he channeled it into only the forefinger and thumb of his right hand. Picking up a small stone, he cupped it in his forefinger, aimed it, and launched it with his thumb. The pebble rocketed forward, splitting a wooden training dummy six inches down from the top. Demonstration over, he released his power and nearly dropped; it was the first time he'd been successful at it, and that much focus had wiped him temporarily. With help, he made it back to the dorms.

But Mac wasn't finished with them. Kevin shuffled back into the Commons, again feeling that relief from weakness. At the sight of the cake, his expression similarly rose, and he clapped Vinno on the back.

"For real, man. Happy birthday."

Smiling, he dropped a small box on the table beside the cake, carefully wrapped in brown paper, before falling back onto the nearby couch. It wasn't often they got to have a bit of levity.

Cresion Breezes Cresion Breezes
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@everyone (featuring a lil cameo by rissa rissa )

Raini had lost her grip on the distinction between early bird and night owl a long time ago.

In an isolated palace with an alarm that rang true at five forty five every day, her body knew the schedule whether or not she had slept the night before. Raini was sure that even in the deepest slumber that song would rouse her awake, her brain so accustomed to the tune, but this time it didn’t get the chance, since she wasn’t asleep to begin with.

Did three am constitute a very late night or extremely early morning? Either way, it was her favorite time. A stillness hung in the air that made her feel alone in a way that wasn’t lonely, just her and her thoughts and whatever music she played or whatever craft she busied her hands with. Nothing else existed at three am until suddenly it went right to five forty five and the day started.

By then she was on autopilot. Shower, brush teeth, change clothes. Trying to get used to the face in the mirror as the light of day crept in. Raini pulled her hair into its signature one-sided braid and then tugged at her cheeks, the dark circles ever present. Resisting the urge to pick at every minute bump on her forehead, she threw on a knit sweater of her own design over her athletic wear and focused on wrapping up Vinno’s present.

There was always a surprising amount of elegance to Raini’s gifts, in contrast to her crude mouth. Wrapping in brown craft paper was a crocheted cardigan, black and gray with a boxy fit to easily mesh with Vinno’s androgyny. It was packaged with a delicate bow of twine and no other marker that signified it was from her. Raini always packaged her presents like this, and it was obvious enough who’s it was once they opened it.

With the gift left on her desk to be brought out later on, Raini exited her room only to travel a short distance to River’s door. After three short raps on the wood, she entered.

“Good morning, sleepyhead.” Raini said, gently but firmly as she pulled River’s blanket off of her half asleep form.

River shivered, cold air waking her more than the wailing alarms ever could. She groaned slightly, though it sounded more like a soft squeal, and cracked a sleep filled eye. Raini. She smiled, a broad sleepy grin overcoming her face.

"G'mornin' Raini," River said in a sleep filled voice.

A snort escaped Raini. River was a literal kitten; every squeak, yawn and stretch sounded like a mewl, and it never failed to make the tenseness in her shoulders slip away with ease. "Up, up. You're gonna be late." She huffed, though a brightness still played on her lips as she drummed once more on the door as she slipped out.

“M’not gunna be late,” River cooed, quite literally dragging herself out of bed and towards her bathroom.

“Tch,” Raini retorted as she left the room, “We’ll see.”

Despite the extravagant breakfast that was always laid out for them, Raini generally kept to the same foods. Though it was easy to get lost in the indulgent array, she tried not to let herself be entirely swallowed by the spoils that Macintosh gave them to make up for whatever the hell was their life. A few pieces of bacon, scrambled eggs, some hash browns, and her ever present mug of coffee filled to the brim. It was strange, to sit at the breakfast table with their captor… their controller. But Raini had done it for many years even before Macintosh had swept them away, so it felt almost familiar to glower at her food as if it were her enemy just to avoid eye contact.

With breakfast finished announcements laid out, off to training they went. Raini performed every task coldly and calcutively - she trained intensely, as if the battle were there, and when it came her turn to display a new trick, her precision was clear. First, her familiar orange glow blinked into existence as she twisted her forcefield around her body, creating a skin-tight suit that allowed all attacks from the SIM to ricochet effortlessly. This move wasn’t new; she used this suit often on missions. It was what came next. Shards ripped themselves from her shield on her forearms, shoulders, and legs, all amassing in a deadly formation in front of her, ends razor sharp. With a menacing flick of the wrist, her teeth clenched with concentration, the hundred pieces of forcefield were flung to the other side of the room at an alarming speed, embedding themselves in the target. Even when the shards disappeared the puncture wounds remained.

And then just like that she was hanging up streamers for a party, as if their entire existence wasn’t centered around hunting to kill, or rather, sending their targets to worse fates. With the dawn of a new year Raini’s resentment resurfaced, jaw tight as she placed her gift on that shiny red table, fully prepared for it to be cast aside as most of her gifts usually were. She wasn’t sure why she put effort into anything anymore. The people surrounding her didn’t care to perfect anything like she did. But a deep part of her feared that if she ever stopped trying, she would find it impossibly hard to crawl out of bed in the morning. The only reason she kept going…

Raini’s gaze trailed to River, who’s eyes were alight with excitement and reflecting the flickering of the birthday candles. Her shoulders drooped.

“Happy birthday.” She murmured in no particular direction, desperately waiting for a moment to exit to present itself. She hated these stupid parties.