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Tuesday morning brought a new spring in Carson's step. His chat the previous evening had refreshed his resolve, and renewed his optimism. With this in mind, he poured just as much of his energy into his mundane job as he did into his "evening work".

With that in mind, he was currently wandering around the campus of Freedom City University, trying to determine where the building that housed his seminar was located. He still had some time before it started, but his Ma had taught him to arrive early whenever he could. It was only polite, after all.

"Blast it all. This bloody campus is like a maze! Not to mention my dean's handwriting is a step above chicken-scratch. There's at least three buildings this thing could be in. Why couldn't they have sent me an email?"

He continued walking down the path, comparing a sheet of paper with hand-written notes to a glossy paper map of the campus. Despite the grumblings coming from his mouth, his mood was still fairly upbeat. Though if this problem continued, it might take a nosedive soon enough...

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If there was one thing in the world that Vivian didn't like, it was mornings. They were traditionally not kind to her. As it happened, Tuesday was the one day that she didn't work the morning shift at the library. She had classes instead.

This Tuesday morning, she walked with her head down purposefully towards one of her class buildings on FCU campus. She had her ipod earbuds in, and a leather bag tucked under her arm that held her books and other possessions.

In true morning fashion, Vivian had failed to dress herself up for the day just yet. She wasn't her normal chipper self, and her outfit showed it. She'd struggled into a pair of jeans, and Puma sneakers. Thanks to the cool breeze from the ocean, some of the mornings in Freedom City got quite cold, even in August. Vivian had slipped on a baby blue t-shirt, and to combat the chill, a loose fitting dark gray hoodie overtop. Her hair was tied back in a ponytail, and ran all the way down her back. She stared at the pavement a few feet in front of her through her big bug-like sunglasses, hoping the sun and the morning would just go away.

Eyes squinted shut against exhaustion, and ears plugged up with music, she never saw the man looking at the map standing directly in front of her. Intent as he was on his map, he didn't see her either.


The two smacked into each other, and Vivian was knocked on her behind. "Ow!" She rubbed her backside from where she sat on the sidewalk, one of her earbuds having fallen out, she yanked on the other one and it too popped out. "I'm so sorry, are you okay?" She asked looking up at the man.

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Gabriel had looked up just in time to brace himself for the impact.


So while the girl falls, he is merely rocked back on his heels, dropping the papers in his hands. Which proceed to blow away almost instantly.

"Well now, I'm just fine. Are you hurt, miss?"

His eyes glance towards the retreating papers, but he offers the girl a hand to help her stand.

"Hope I didn't make a mess o' your stuff there, ma'am. Come on then, up you go."

His expression seemed open and friendly, not eve holding the irritation of losing his map for more than a second.

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Vivian accepted the hand, and allowed herself to but pulled back on to her feet. "Damn it, why does everyone insist on calling me that. I'm not that old, you know." After standing she held his hand long enough to give it a shake. "I'm Vivian. Sorry for bumping into you, and about your papers. Mornings and I don't really get along." She pulled an ipod out of her front pocket, and shut it off. She lifted the flap on her brown leather messenger bag. She rummaged around for a bit, before stowing her ipod, glancing at the clock on it's screen before she did so. "Doesn't look like anythings broken."

"Well, I've got a few minutes before class. You a grad student too?" She smiled, which brightened her face.

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Carson smiled at her comment about her age. If anything, his moderate Irish accent seemed to grow a bit thicker. Might just be her imagination though.

"Not a comment on your age, ma'am. Just how Ma and Da raised me. And I should have seen you sooner. The confounded map and directions had too much of my attention."

He held out a hand, this time for a handshake.

"Name's Carson. I'm actually here to attend, and speak at, a theater seminar. I typically work down at Freedom College, which is why I'm a bit lost on this wonderful campus."

He gestures with his hands at the expanse of FCU.

Taking a moment to look, Vivian will notice that Carson seems to be wearing rather casual clothes for a man attending a seminar. Jeans, sneakers, and a dark grey Polo shirt, topped off with a decent-sized backpack. Probably had his notes and books.

"Do ya think you could direct little old me to the building where one...oh, what was his name. Ah, where a Dr. Underhill of the Drama/Theater department is? My directions were such chicken-scratch that I couldn't tell which of 3 buildings it might have been."

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"Heh," Vivian chuckled, "Leave it to someone with doctor in their name to have clear writing." She turned and looked to one side, "Anyways, I don't think you were far off. The Liberal Arts building is that one there. There's a bunch of large rooms with stages, and lecture halls in there, so that's probably your best bet." Vivian pointed to the one she was talking about.

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Carson looks at the indicated building...and sighs.

"I'm a bloody idiot sometimes. That was the one building I thought was least likely to be my destination."

He glances at the simple watch on his left wrist.

"Lucky for me I was sent some help, hm? Looks like I've got about...15 more minutes."

He turned back to face Vivian.

"I'm guessing you're after being a grad student, then, Vivian? What field?"

Carson seems interested in a benign way, rather than openly flirty. That said, he does have a certain charm about him.

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"Sounds like your lecture starts at about the same time my class does. History class, that is." She explained, "Coffee in the meantime?" She offered, "There's a shop right around the corner there in the next building over. They make a pretty good cup'o'joe."

Vivian continued with her explanation, "But, yea, I'm getting my masters in history. My focus is Ancient Norse mythology, for obvious reasons." she gestured to her obviously Scandinavian features.

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"I suppose coffee would be good. Give a little pep in the step, you know?"

With a smile, Carson follows Vivian as they head to the coffee shop.

"As for "obvious", I suppose that's all relative, really. Plenty of pretty girls like you who aren't really from the old Nordic areas. Even a few on the Isle. Probably left over from way back when, you know. Or some such. But that's pretty interesting, nonetheless. Are ya looking to go into teaching Ancient Norse Mythology, or doin' more researching and writing?"

As they walk and talk, Vivian may find herself feeling extremely at ease with Carson. After all, he's just so nice.

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Vivian smiled in spite of herself, Hee. Back from when we invaded you mean? she thought, but said nothing aloud.

Carson was a nice guy. If only it wasn't morning, and she wasn't so grumpy... "Actually," She began, "I was hoping to do more field work. Like digging up artifacts and stuff. I guess I would consider teaching my fall back. After all, you know what they say, 'those who can't do teach'." It was obvious she was giving him a hard time. "Ooh, here we are." She said as they came up on the corner coffee joint.

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The coffee shop seemed to be a locally own business, one that hadn't been driven out of business by a chain.

The fact that it was on the edge of such a large and successful college, combined with decent prices and inventive drinks, all held in a nice homey atmosphere, helped as well.

Well, maybe "homey" wasn't the right word. "Eccentric" was a better fit. Carson's eyebrows nearly disappeared into his hairline as he took in the interior of the shop.

While the outside face had been a plain brown brick, with a couple of heavily tinted windows, the Wolfenbauch Coffee Store was anything but plain on the inside. The owners were apparently fans of Victorian styling, with a touch of the "steampunk" genre thrown in.

Paintings of Victorian England were scattered along the walls. Interspersed with the paintings was a small collection of sculpture, made of things like gears, brass, wood, and pewter. The coffee machines behind the counter were clearly modern devices given fanciful shells, making them appear to be much earlier models. A couple dozen chairs and tables were scattered around, and the lighting level (provided by electric "gas lamps" scattered about) was toned down just enough to be "homey". The serving staff apparently didn't have to wear full costumes, as they were dressed in jeans, tshirts, and the like. The only unique piece of "uniform" on all the staff was a pair of fancy-looking goggles they wore on their heads. Well, one gentleman on the staff had a Nice Hat.

At the moment, there was only one other person in line. A baker's dozen students, both undergrad and graduate, were scattered across the shop.

"Wow. I've never seen a shop like this before. I can see why it might be popular. Oh, good, the line's short. Means we won't worry about runing late."

He started to move towards the line, but stopped with a smile and a dramatic gesture for Vivian to go in front of him.

"Ladies first."

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"Thanks," Vivian smiled, and stepped up to the counter. "I'll take a cafe-mocha-vodka-marijuana-latte to go, please."

The girl behind the counter chuckled, "Hey, V." she greeted Vivian, "Hazelnut, cream, one sugar, and cinnamon?"

Vivian nodded, "The usual, you got it." Vivian affirmed. When the girl returned with her cup, she accepted it with a deep longing in her eyes. "Oh right. Amy, this is Carson." She gestured to her new friend, "Carson, Amy." another gesture. "Carson's actually lecturing on theater today. In what, fifteen minutes? ten?" she flipped open her cell phone to look at the time, "About ten, I think. You going?"

"Nice to meet you, Carson," greeted the petite brown haired barista. She gave a quick wave. "I guess I'll go. My shift is about up, anyway. It's not every day you meet someone that knows their way around the intricacies of drama. Especially with today's film industry." She rolled her eyes, "Pfft. Hollywood. What can I get you?"

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Carson cranked the smile and charm up another notch as he stepped up to order. His Irish accent is quite noticeable, but nowhere near thick enough to impede understanding.

"Aye, let's see. I'll take the Death by Chocolate Challenge. I think I'm up for it."

The indicated concoction apparently contains more chocolate than coffee, mixing 3 different kinds of chocolate with milk and a rich coffee blend.

"Could always use a bit more pep in my step. As for the theater, I tend to agree, to a point. I think we still see some good movies, but there's a definite drop in quality. And it's not because of actors; many bad movies have great actors. It's more the producers and writers."

Once his drink is completed, he takes it with a smile after handing over the appropriate payment.

"Of course, all my experience is on the stage, and stage performances still maintain higher standards. I'll always treasure the time I saw Sir Patrick Stewart performing The Tempest. Now there's a man all of us actors can aspire to be like."

A slightly wistful look passes through his eyes, before he re-focuses on the girls.

"Amy, I'm glad you'll be able to make the lecture. It won't be terribly exciting; it's as much about teaching theater as it is being in it. But still. It'll never hurt to have another attentive audience member. Just motivates me to keep things interesting."

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"Just as long as your not imagining me in my underwear for motivation," Amy winked at him, referring to the classic stage fright nullification technique as she collected his cash and Vivian's student card as way of payment.

"Amy!" Vivian scolded her friend.

"What?" she asked, indignantly, "I can't help it. Have you heard his accent?" She said, returning Carson's change and Vivian's card.

"Well, yea, but..." Vivian quickly shoved her coffee cup into her face to attempt to hide her rapidly reddening face. "I mean, you just met him!"

"And have already decided I like him." Amy concluded, "What's wrong with that?" Amy was clearly ignoring the fact that as an undergrad she was clearly many years younger than Carson.

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Carson struggled not to laugh as the two young women discussed him. Only his incredible acting skills let him hold the laughter in.

"Ahem. Thanks again for the drink, Amy. As for the accent..."

Suddenly, his voice changes to an English accent.

"That may have been my natural accent, but it is by no means my only accent."

And now he's doing General American.

"As an actor, one has to learn to have a flexible voice."

And then, as if he was releasing a muscle they hadn't seen Carson tense, he relaxed very slightly, and was back to his Irish accent.

"But anyways. Vivian's working on a Masters in history. What are you studying, Amy?"

Carson glances at his watch, noting he has about 7 minutes left.

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Carson struggled not to laugh as the two young women discussed him. Only his incredible acting skills let him hold the laughter in.

"Ahem. Thanks again for the drink, Amy. As for the accent..."

Suddenly, his voice changes to an English accent.

"That may have been my natural accent, but it is by no means my only accent."

And now he's doing General American.

"As an actor, one has to learn to have a flexible voice."

The two women briefly exchanged a look. Carson could only explain the expression on their faces as a mutual exchange of, "Are you calling dibs? Because if you're not calling dibs, I'm calling dibs."

And then, as if he was releasing a muscle they hadn't seen Carson tense, he relaxed very slightly, and was back to his Irish accent.

"But anyways. Vivian's working on a Masters in history. What are you studying, Amy?"

Carson glances at his watch, noting he has about 7 minutes left.

Amy forced herself back into the conversation. "Communications. But then, isn't everybody? Specifically, I'm TV, Radio, Film."

Vivian took another sip of her coffee, and gazed around the room. A couple was cleaning off a table near the window. "Hey, look," Vivian prodded Carson's arm, "Window seat just opened up. We should grab it real quick."

Amy shot her a pouting face when Carson wasn't looking.

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On the outside, Carson raised an eyebrow at the exchanged looks.

On the inside, he simultaneously felt like a side of meat being bargained over, and an instinct to run away. He suppressed both, writing it off as paranoia or some such. It was just a friendly cup of coffee and some conversation, after all!

He nodded as Amy talked.

"Sounds like fun. I think in a city like this, there might be more opportunities than you think."

Carson turned to look at the seat Vivian indicated, thus missing the looks exchanged.

"Okay. I suppose we have a couple more minutes. Amy, it was a pleasure meeting you. Maybe we can chat a bit more after the lecture and such is done?"

He offers his hand for a quick shake before walking over with Vivian.

"I take it you two have known each other for a bit now?"

He takes a sip of coffee, looking around at all the art and such.

"How long has this place been open and decorated like this?"

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"Yep. Good friends. This place has been here as long as I have, and she's always worked here. That makes it about three years now, I guess." Vivian briefly reflect on just how much of her life she had spent studying, or working up enough money to study. "I wouldn't worry too much about the time," She told him, looking out the window as they sat. "Nothing on campus here is more than a few minutes away, and we're really right around the corner from the building you need."

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Carson nods, relaxing a bit.

"Good to hear. It's the little things like friends and favorite coffee shops that make college so enjoyable, at least in my experience.

And you're right. It helps that I'm not first. I just don't want to squeak in at the last minute. Not how my folks raised me, you know."

Her he tossed her a friendly wink.

'Well, she's certainly a nice girl. Same with that Amy. Even with that odd bit earlier...I suppose I'll just chalk it up to not understanding women...'

Carson took another long sip of coffee. As late as he'd been up last night, it was helping a bit.

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Vivian definitely seemed to come alive once she'd gotten some caffeine in her system. She was liking Carson more and more by the minute. "You know what? Forget my class. I've already got the slide show power point for this lecture anyway." She smiled across the small coffee table at him. "You don't mind if I come for the lecture, do you?"

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Carson raised an eyebrow at the question.

"Hm. Officially, I would have to discourage that behavior. Teacher's reputation and all."

He leaned a bit closer, with a smirk on his face and a twinkle in his eyes.

"Unofficially, I'd say so long as you don't feel like you'll suffer for missing that one class, it's fine by me. It's a fairly open seminar. Maybe you and Amy can sit together? That will give you at least one person you know in the audience, I suppose. And I promise, no, ah, odd imaginings during my speech."

Here he had the grace to look a touch embarrassed. He then glanced at his watch.

"Hm. I do need to be there before things start. I'd better head out. Give yourself a couple more minutes, then be in Room 5 in the Liberal Arts building. I'm sure you and Amy can get some decent seats. I'm speaking fourth, unless they made an 11th hour change on me."

With that, Carson stood, draining the last of his coffee, and depositing the cup in the appropriate receptacle. He gave Vivian one last "charmer" smile, giving her a quick shake of the hand before starting to move away.

"Was a pleasure meeting you, Vivian. See you after the lecture!"

And with that, Carson was out the door.

...But he'd apparently forgotten his backpack.

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Vivian smiled back, and enthusiastically returned the handshake. She watched him through the window as he left, and enjoyed the rest of her coffee. As she went to get up from the table, she spotted his back pack beneath it. "Classic move, Carson." She said judiciously, before snatching it up. "Ready, Amy?" She tossed the pack over one shoulder.

"Yep!" Her friend responded as she tossed her apron in a bin, and the two were out the door.

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[Room 5, Liberal Arts Building]

Vivian and Amy made it to the lecture just in time. Many of the other students attending were those in the education and/or theater programs.

Carson was right about not being first. He was seated on the stage, apparently in a right to left order of presentation. The first speaker was just standing to begin his part of the seminar.

He was an older gentleman, introducing himself as the head of the FCU Theater Department. He gave the names and originating universities of each of the speakers. None of them were from FCU, and no two were from the same college; several notable Eastern USA schools were represented.

The first speaker briefly touched on the long history of the theater in society, before passing the podium on to the next person.

The next two speakers each talked about various methods they used to keep kids, typically high school or younger age, interested in drama classes. Nothing earth-shaking, but perhaps interesting as a change of pace for the girls.

Then Carson Finbar Keefe took the podium, a 100-watt smile beaming out at the crowd, eyes twinkling.

"Right then. Well, first things first. No, there's not quite the same, ah, generational difference between myself and you guys and gals out there. I suppose I'm just lucky; these folks have been great so far. I'm sure when we're eating lunch and swapping drama class horror stories, we'll bond even more."

A chuckle rippled through the crowd and collection of speakers. There was no judgment in Carson's note about age, just an amusing anecdote being shared with friends.

"Anyways. My time's split about evenly between teaching people like you and me, who either want to go into acting of some sort professionally, or want to teach it...And teaching the basic drama course to the various students who want an "Easy A Elective" class. Many of them come in with a huge bundle of pre-conceived notions, bias, and so on."

He begins to pace the stage a bit, getting into his speech.

"Maybe they'll make mention it's not a "real" class. Maybe they'll make fun of the people who enjoy acting. That sort of thing. Our first desire is to simply tell them to be quiet, or some variation of that."

He stops at the podium, pinning the crowd with his gaze.

"Doesn't work. Not really. No, we need to try different methods. Engage them with language they understand. I've found..."

And so he goes on, speaking passionately about something he truly, sincerely believes in and does with care and pride.

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One advantage of being an attractive young woman walking into a crowded room alongside another attractive young woman was that it was easy to grab people's attention. As Vivian and Amy strode casually down the center isle, about half of the male heads in the room turned to look at them. The speakers on the stage also had a full view of them. Conveniently enough, that allowed Vivian to wave at Carson, and dangle his backpack in the air so that he would know she had it.

The two took their seats quietly, not wanting to interrupt the proceedings anymore than they already had. Vivian was pleased to discover that the presentation was actually quite interesting. More-so than she had thought it would be. Especially Carson's speech. He had a certain way with words, after all.

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Carson just smiled and shook his head as the speaker to his right barely managed not to laugh out loud. When he spoke, it was only audible to the men on his right and left.

"Good think she remembered that. Had my PDA in it..."

And his costume, but no need to say anything about that.


Carson's speech was trailing down when the PA system crackled to life.

"Lockdown alert. Repeat, lockdown alert."

At that moment, 2 FCU security guards came into the room, one of them speaking into her radio. The PA system stopped the repetition after a moment, at least in this room. While she was on the radio, the male guard stepped to the foot of the stage and spoke up.

"Okay ladies and gentlemen. Please do not be alarmed. There's a bank robbery at the Fifth National Bank two blocks away. The robbers are busy there, so we're hoping there's no chance they'll come here. But on the off chance they try it, everyone's going to have to move to one of the safe rooms in this building. If you would all exit this room in an orderly fashion, and follow our directions to one of the safe rooms."

With that, the staff and students all stood. There didn't seem to be any real sense of panic in the crowd.

Carson was closer to panic, but mostly for the sake of getting to his bag, and then getting changed.

He began subtly weaving his way forward through the crowd, trying to reach Amy and Vivian, and working on what he'd say first to the girls, and then to the guards.

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