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Curtain Call(IC)


Ari

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GM

Freedom City, Theatre District, 454 52nd Ave., the Barbary Theatre, November 20th, Tuesday, 5.49 P.M.

Second Act.

The Ghost of Brandenbury Hill had been a surprising success for its producers. A harrowing tale of the two Brandenbury sisters and their struggle to reveal the misdeeds of a cruel judge who had sent their brother to the gallows to hide his own son's wrongdoing, aided by the brother's ghost, had been selling out for the last week every night.

Backstage with Katherine Shade, fussing with her raven wig, Joanna Jael grinned excitedly at her co-star. In her Elizabethan period costume the dumpy girl was almost unrecognizable, transformed into the dark and severe lady Rebecca. "You ready for this, Kat?" she asked, nodding at the curtain and darkened visible down the passage "I hope Fred does that thing with the ghost he did last week, that was just craaazy cool!" she laughed.

Jael's family had a long history in stage and show business, her great-grandmother having been a contemporary of the woman who had become the Silver Scream, breaking all ties with her when the she had entered her legendary diva stage of her life.

In the seats, the smell of refreshments hung in the air, most of the audience whispering to each other as the time approached for the curtain to raise once more...

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"Ready? You kidding?" Kat smiled wide, feeling the same giddy rush of terror she always did before a show. "We're gonna blow 'em away!" There was always that nervous tick, that slow dread in her gut that might have been stage fright if it didn't come with such a thrill! She imagined that a gambler must have felt the same way the moment before they set foot into the casino.

It was rare for her to be given any central role. There were always prettier girls that better fit the costumes and even now Kat knew she was at best second fiddle to Lady Rebecca's somber, cold distance; but it was a nice step up from playing the character every playwright thought they needed since they'd watched squirrels throw Veruca Salt down a chute. The costume itself was too bulky and too tight, but the designers always went a little crazy when they got to do a period piece. Kat tried to breath in evenly and not get overheated in her regalia, but she'd dealt with much worse.

"Fred'll pull through." Kat said, waving at the air as though to brush worries out of it. "He always does."

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Looking just as giddy, Jessica turned to back to the mirror and began to make the final adjustments to her wig, and turned white as a sheet. Staggering backwards and pointing at the mirror in silence for a few seconds, she slowly turned to Kat before whispering "D-did y-you see that? It was a...it looked like a woman's face. In the mirror I mean" she looked back at the sheet of glass, eyes wide before regaining her composure, muttering "I'm sorry, it was...it looked like there was someone there, like gh-ahem!" she quickly made the necessary fiddlings to her headpiece, grabbed her bundle of flowers, and weighed down by the preposterous dress scuttled over to the side of the stage where their entrance was about to be made, saying quickly "Nevermind! I'm sure it was just my imagination, ghosts don't haunt this place. I hope."

With a thunderous crash from the cymbals of the orchestra, the heavy red and gold curtain rose a few feet, and swung gracefully through the air, revealing the set of the churchyard cemetery, where the two sisters were bringing bouquets to the grave of their brother. With a solemn funeral march Jessica stepped delicately forward, declaring grimly to the air "I fear, my sister, that the Judge has buried his family evils in the same grave as poor Solomon here! Would that we could raise both..."

Meanwhile, above....

The Silver Scream hovered in the air, glowering down at the stage. 'Call that acting?! as poor a work as ever your grandmother did. Let me put it in a better light...'

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As the curtains rise, Samantha Vance sits in the crowd, taking everything in. She can feel a growing tension in her chest, even though the show hasn't earned it on its own yet. Next to her rests an empty seat. She'd foregone inviting Tona in favor of extending an olive branch to her guardian, billionaire Talia Vance. Theater is one of the few interests they share. Miss Vance said she'd try and make it. Of course, she didn't. Disappointing, but not unexpected.

Instead, the girl is left alone in her red dress and heels, with little more than memories. Her mentor would take her to plays quite often, half because she enjoyed them, and half as training; she expected her young ward to take in every detail, every nuance she could. There would be a test on it later. It helped form that keen eye for detail a thief needs to get through a security system, or case a mark, or find where the real prize was hidden. And it taught her to really, fully enjoy the arts at their best, and to mock them at their worst.

The thoughts weigh heavy on her mind, putting her on edge. But some part in the back of her mind knows, this is precisely the right mindset for such a spooky, macabre piece, and instantly, the graveyard scene has sucked in the girl and her dire mood.

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Kat—No, Alva, Lady Rebecca's sister—shook her head and grabbed hold of Rebecca's arm, letting her flowers spill to the ground in front of Solomen's grave. "Well we can't!" Sister Alva was the younger, the more emotional, the less in-control. Alva's voice rang with emotion; her sweet brother, dead, and her sister chasing conspiracies in the dark that had gotten their brother killed. "Can't you see? It's done. The judge has won, and there's nothing we can do." Her voice rose, went shrill.

"He's dead, God, dead," She spat the last word, shaking Rebecca by her shoulders. "We'll never know! The only hints died with him, and his soul is long fled from here!"

And there, a distant part of Kat thought, goes the cue.

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GM

With a rush of cold air from above, a sudden wail of horror from the orchestras' violins, and a clap of thunder from behind the curtain, a spectral figure appeared! His white face and paler clothes made still more pale by the wan light cast upon him by a lamp hidden in the ceiling. His were clothes ragged and to the eyes of the distant(and not-so distant) audience alive with maggots. His hair hung in lank and matted strands over his staring eyes and face disfigured by the gallows. Borne down by the unseen power of stagehands and a small pulley, the specter raised his left hand and began to say in a soft and mournful voice that barely registered as a shout to those in the back "Not so, sweet sisters! Though my neck lies broken and my tongue lies still, my soul is not so silenced!" drifting lower until he was only a yard above Jessica and Kat, Marty went on "The evil judge and his son, their crimes can yet be revealed ifGRAZUGH!" he gave a startled cry as the rope tethering him suddenly let him fall and topple to the ground, crashing off of the phony tombstone with a groan of pain, clutching his side as laughter rang down from above and Jessica cried out "Ohmygod, Marty!" and rushed to his side.

Not human laughter, no sound like it could come from a human throat. It was echoed by screams of surprise and horror, and the sounds of running up in the rafters.

With a shiver in the air the Silver Scream floated down into view, her cold white body and black dress blown by a deathly wind. In her chilling voice she spoke to the three young actors "A pleasure to meet you. But I fear this performance requires the addition of true talent. Of course, I will replace the star, whose performance has thus far been utterly dreadful. If you would be so kind, Ms. Jael," she said crisply to Jessica, her piercing blue eyes shining in her monochrome face as she pointed at the wigged girl staring up at the ghost frozen in horror "please remain where you are. Blood is abominably hard to get out." she began floating down to the stage, an eerie light building in her eyes.

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This can't be happening. Kat stared at Marty, fallen on top of cheap prop tombstone and groaning. This can't be happening! But it happened anyway; Kat heard the screams echoing up from all around her and frightened little girl in the back of her brain urged her to run, run fast to some dark place and warp to London for an hour and wait for real heroes to take care of it.

The part of her that wasn't up for that bull stepped toward the shimmering spectre, grabbing Joel by the shoulders and pushing her gently toward the nearest exit. Haul ass, Kat hoped Joel would understand.

"Your act was dry and dead before you keeled over." She called up at swirling terror, putting on a smirk that made Veruca Salt look sweet. Kat had no idea who this was, but she assumed that it was at one point dead. It seemed like a safe bet. "Blow away and rattle chandeliers where someone gives a damn!"

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Sam takes in every detail, dissecting the performance as a ghost falls from the ceiling, and stage equipment breaks, and- Okay, that's not supposed to happen.

And then, the panicking. Panicking mobs are always an interesting thing, if dangerous. Sam, for her part, scoots back in her seat, trying to stay out of the way as people rush out. Then, once her row clears slightly, she gets up and keeps to the fringes of the mob, trying to blend in. Whoever that is who just bust down from the ceiling, they're probably not nice, so she decides to try and throw the first blow without getting caught, reaching out to her mind, or at least to find out if there is one. Thing about most party-crashing monsters is, they have plenty they ought to feel bad about, so Sam starts reaching around and tries to force the self-loathing. It wouldn't be the first time she's averted a fight by reducing someone to a sobbing mound of self-pity.

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GM

The audience by now was in full retreat, dashing for the exits in a screaming panic.

Jessica didn't need to be told twice, awkwardly hoisting Marty over her shoulders and stumbling off towards one of the glowing "EXIT"-signed doors, calling back in terror "Get out of there Kat! Don't get yourself killed because of me!", barging open the door and running out into the night, straight for a payphone as she fumbled for her pockets...

The Silver Scream looked hatefully at Kat as the taunt rang through the echoing theatre, sneering in her bloodless and shrill voice "I was once one of the finest actresses of the century! I'll not suffer the jibes and stupid words of some neophyte! How about I rattle a chandelier onto your head, you little snip? Burn you with spectral fire? You will pay for that-augghhh!"

The ephemeral diva shuddered and placed a cold hand over her wailing face under a sudden deluge of bitter memories: her family shutting their door in her face, her last co-star quitting after a single scene with her, hearing the gas-station attendants mockingly quoting one of her movies that night...and shook it off with a dismissive wave of her hand. "A good try, insipid child." she snapped at Kat, her eyes suddenly flashing with a terrible light "But not enough to beat a spectre of my years!" she cried in a voice like a tomb slamming shut, a sudden wave of pain and chattering death blazing through Kat's mind!

Darting with a billow of her sheer black evening dress into the air, she looked down coldly at her new

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Kat looked up at Silver Scream, expression all puzzlement. Good try wha— And then she screamed; fingernails on chalkboard could not capture the horror of that damned voice. She gritted her teeth and kept her head together. "God," she breathed. "You are such a diva."

She glanced over her shoulder and saw everyone retreating. A little more, and the problem of witnesses wouldn't be a problem anymore, and she could get out of this stuffy outfit and fight! Wait . . .

Miss Hauntydress up there looked pretty ghostly to Kat. Could you even touch a ghost? Could she get her hands on drama queen at all? Kat needed time, as much time as she could manage to get. She braced herself to move. "Who are you even supposed to be? I've never heard of you." Kat rolled the eyes. "Some star."

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Sam furrows her brow, frustrated her trick didn't work, but at least this ghost is loud. Loud enough to give her useful information. This one is old, and has been living with a painful past long enough to endure it. But how well can she deal with the future? She reaches into the villain's head again, this time planting some ideas of her own.

Clearly, she's not a fan of this actress who's facing her down, so she checks the program for her name. 'Katharine Lilly Shade.' Got it.

She shows the passed-on prima dona a vision of Miss Shade's name in lights, with adoring fans throwing themselves at her feet, her performances lighting up the stages in plays made to suit her glory while the ghost's own name isn't simply forgotten. It is buried, reduced to nothing more than a footnote in the books of theatre scholars, regarded as some mediocre thing that existed, not worth praise or analysis or any more acknowledgement than some occasional reminder that she once was, and didn't really matter when she was around, either.

Meanwhile, the crowd's started filing out, so she resorts to hiding behind the seats instead. Thankfully, there is no shortage of cover, though if the ghost rises much farther, she may have to start slinking under the seats, which is sure to positively ruin her dress before long.

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GM

The vision of the future that Sam showed to the argent shade of Lauren Hammond didn't have quite the reaction hoped for. Her spectral eyes dimmed as the ghost saw the name of Katherine Shade reach a prominence far greater than hers ever had, while she did not even have the dignity of being reviled, merely...ignored. For an instant a crippling terror for what was to come seized the ghosts old and frozen heart, only to be brushed aside as reality reasserted itself: the slip of a girl below her was no great talent, she was a mere mediocrity who would shortly have her very soul torn asunder by her unearthly power!

"Your attempts to distract me are getting feebler, Katherine" she snarled with a flare of icy blue from her eyes and she began to waver, becoming even more ethereal than before "observe the difference between your repetitive tricks, and a truly classic act!" as she began to fly down towards her with unhurried movements, her black dress rustling in the air...

Meanwhile, the Silver Scream flowed elegantly above the very center aisle of the theatre, crossing her arms with a scornful toss of her hair as the illusory woman drew closer to the young mutant, glancing with a smirk at the last stragglers stumbling out the door, their panicked cries ringing out into the desolate hallways.

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A flicker of doubt on her face. How does it know my name? If Kat switched out to Warp now, after someone kicked this ghostly wannabee back to whatever underworld it'd crawled out of, who would it talk to? She couldn't change, not now, not while Dead Diva was floating and raving and trying to turn her head inside-out. And now the ghoul was getting closer. "Nah. Didn't you hear me? Your act is dead." Kat raised an eyebrow, turned and made a dash for the curtain. She slipped behind it and focused her will, and quick as thought she was standing alone in the dressing room where she had gotten ready with Jessica, on the other side of the theater.

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Sam continues watching as the actress runs. A good idea, even if it does leave her alone with a ghost who is she-knows-not-where. At least she knows where she isn't, but that's not enough. But for now, she can help the escape, and try and make a plan when the ghost starts chasing. It'll suck if she has to keep this thing distracted until dawn.

She shakes free of her shrug, tossing it under a seat before her brand gets hot enough to incinerate it then slides under another chair to hide from the possibly-airborne ghost. One of the benefits of being a tiny little thing. Then, she bends that claw she's been trying to dig into the ghost's thoughts, forming a simple mirage for when the ghost rounds the corner. An image of the actress standing deathly still behind the curtain, as if trying to hide, but not very well. It may only buy a couple seconds, but it should give her a head start at least.

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GM

The ghostly grandstander failed to see the tell-tale flash of red and black as Warp sped out of view and landed in the dressing room behind the curtain, her glaring eyes seeing instead that slim form and ridiculously ostentatious dress quivering in fright among the shadows just behind the heavy red cloth.

"You are not nearly as good at running as that Jael girl!" she exclaimed haughtily as a cold light flashed through the air, a wave of unearthly power that could turn strong bodies to agonized wrecks smashing into the illusory girl!

The Silver Scream smiled triumphantly...until she realized something odd. The girl wasn't reacting quite as she had expected her to after the last mental assault. Could she be toughening so quickly? With a snarl of frustrated vengeance the ghost of Lauren Hammond drifted up into the rafters, preparing for the next dart to her soul. This time, it would lay her low!

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Kat glanced wildly around, looking for someone who might have stayed after or hid. No one. Good. With a will an entropic flash she swapped out her clothes. She didn't dare go out as Warp, not when it might exposure her, but at least she could get something she actually felt comfortable moving in.

She crouched and warped back, in the rafters near the ceiling where Fred had been cut from. It was real tempting to just cut and run, but ghosty didn't seem like she'd just leave. She'd go after Jael; Kat needed to buy time until someone who could do something about a ghost got there.

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Sam watches, gauging the ghost, what she can do. That silver bolt... it was obviously supposed to do something, but there didn't appear to be any sort of fire or explosions or freezing or disintegrations. Perhaps the spirit was making a spiritual attack? But can she sense spirits? Probably not, or she would be certain the illusion was just that.

Time to keep studying. She doesn't know enough about what's backstage to convincingly have her mirage run out of her line of sight, so she makes a different move entirely. Miss Shade steps out of her hiding place and simply walks into the open, unimpressed and defiant before the spirit's wrath, but wordless.

And as she does so, a girl appears in the rafters, practically shouting her presence to the world. The sudden appearance makes her eyes go wide. She may as well have used the spotlight and blared her theme song. Yet... apparently the ghost hasn't noticed it yet. Maybe this ghost is oblivious enough for her to stall until dawn. If the girl doesn't interfere, especially with the scene Sam's making. Please don't let this be some first-time bumbling rookie, the highschooler thinks to herself.

In an effort to communicate without getting caught, a thin, wispy thing appears in front of the newcomer, hidden from below by the rafters. A gray smoke in vaguely human form, though with big, pointed ears and a puffy tail. The thing raises an exaggeratedly large hand and makes an obvious shushing gesture, hopefully convincing her to stay out of matters for now. Then, it moves both hands up to where its temples would presumably be in an exaggerated gesture of focus.

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The sudden explosion of Terminus energies in the rafters above went wholly unnoticed by the shimmering spectre, so intent was she on the sauntering girl on the stage. "Not even a cutting jibe at how one failure clearly signals my defeat?" she muttered to herself, peering down at the flood-lit boards before her blue eyes went wide with sudden realization. With a furious snarl of rage that passed with disquieting speed across her invisible face, she decided that she might as well play along. With a short and savage hiss that went unheard in the drafty theatre, she lifted one gowned arm and caused an exact copy of herself to appear directly in front of the cheat, silver and black hair waving in an otherworldly breeze and bearing a mocking grin.

With a voice like a tomb sliding into place, the apparition said "Are you feeling a rush of excitement, Katherine Shade? Are you thinking to yourself 'I can take this ghost! it can't even hurt me!'" it stepped closer, it's voice carrying throughout the auditorium "Splendid! Confidence is vtial in show business. But perhaps you should realize that so far nothing that you have done has hurt me." Lauren's projection grinned, the pallid skin stretching far beyond what anyone could manage without injury and revealing pearly teeth set in blackened gums "But by all means, I encourage you to try and try again. If you're lucky, you might actually damage somebody coming to try and help! I am sure the local mages would be quite happy to know that you have this situation so well in hand." it spread its arms "Take a free shot. Go on! You won't miss because of me."

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Not good, not good. Sam continues manipulating her puppet, watching the ghost intently, picking at scraps of information while her mind whirs, trying to put together a better plan. But until then, she holds her bluff without flinching.

"Why would I?" Miss Shade's shade asks, unimpressed. "You're a ghost. I can't touch you. And I'm betting you can't touch me, either. So, here we are. Perhaps we shall have a staring contest all night?" She opens her own arms in turn, inviting the ghost to unleash her own attack, if she can. After all, Sam needs to know if this spirit could reduce her to a smoldering pile of ash.

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Kat looked at the smoky little spectre with squinted eyes, hands on hips. She blinked at it. "Huh?" She heard her own voice and looked down to see some girl in a . . . her. A girl that was her double in voice and body was trying to pull ahead in a snark-off with the floating wraith-lady. "Huh?" She shook her head, this is ridiculous, but she went lower, trying to make herself as small as possible as hard to see. Maybe the cavalry had already arrived . . . ?

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GM

A look of suspicion crossed the image of Lauren's face, but it was quickly supplanted by anger. "What sort of a plan is this? Offering yourself as bait is one thing, I assume your recent invasions of my higher mind were meant to encourage me to take it," the word 'higher' was accompanied by a subtle shift in posture that somehow made the Silver Scream look even taller than her stately five feet and six inches "but now you sink to merely standing and daring me to strike you down? You have outdone yourself. Take my hand!" with a sudden movement, Lauren Hammond's illusory arm shot forward, a pale fist piercing straight through the heart of Katherine's shade! The air rippled around the pair of false images, as the ghost did her worst to try and wrest control of the cheat in front of her proxy, seeking to turn it from a spectre of her newest target's friend into a picture of the self-same girl collapsing dead onto the stage, blood flowing from a wholly imaginary wound.

"Try and deceive the Silver Scream with a talky picture?" she laughed thinly, her fake self turning from the stage to address the theatre at large "You are years away from such things, girl. Do not imagine you will be able to take one step out of this place. I will prove to you that your presumed 'talent'(faugh!) compared to my abilities is as Bianca next to Katharina!" the form on the wooden platform spoke like the crack of doom, with eyes burning blue like evil fire.

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Sam gives a start as the ghost takes control of the image from her, just for the spite of 'killing' it. Interesting. Clearly, this ghost's got more to its illusions than just that double image.

So, ghost. Hard to find in the first place, hard to hit, reinforcements (the teleporting girl included) probably won't be able to hurt her, Sam probably doesn't have the firepower to take her down while bearing the brunt of her attention, still hasn't affected the physical world, oblivious as Hell and insane. Most useful thing might be that last part. The most usable, the most controllable.

Whoever she was, this Silver Scream loved her job, or at least the attention. That's usable. So, Sam wracks her brain and has a plan. And comes up with one so ludicrous it might actually work. "You know where you are," a voice behind the ghost declares, familiar yet firmer, calmer. And behind her stands an older Ms. Shade, more assured in demeanor with the rough edges smoothed out, her hair up in a bun, wearing a business suit. "We are here to lie and to be lied to," the age-progressed image explains in a matter-of-fact tone, all but quoting the very explanation Sam's own mentor, the Phantom Fox, had given her when she was younger. "And not the lies we believe because they seem true, the lies where reason can convince us. We are here to tell the lies people believe because they want to, knowing them false, the lies we believe because we make them want to."

She opens her hand and a glowing golden butterfly drifts out, fluttering along, and with a beat of its wings, the world changes. The lights brighten, the room seems freshly painted and alive, every seat is filled with a fan at rapt attention, and the stage? The stage is a vision, grass grown over, and covering the unsightly body of the 'dead Ms. Shade.' Her elder version is still there, however changed; her hair is a vibrant orange, her skin like faintly luminous pearl; she bears butterfly wings that look to be made of many-colored jewels, drawn into a many-colored latticework and she is dressed (if you could call it that) in what could only be called conveniently placed starlight and fireflies. It's obvious she's grown.

With her are a dozen more men and women garbed in much the same, and the lot of them dance and leap about the glade, around the Silver Scream before they all stop and bend knee. "All hail Queen Titania!" Ms. Shade begins.

"All hail Queen Titania!" they shout in unison.

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GM

The false image of the Silver Scream stared at the vision, her teeth clenched almost as tightly as her bloodless hands, while the true spirit wafted up and above the gleaming field conjured up by Kit, surveying the glorious mirage with something akin to heartbreak. 'It is so like I wished...but it isn't real., even to me' she thought bitterly, commanding that her double speak. With a grim look at the wondrous sight, the illusion curtseyed with old-fashioned flair to the vision of the older Katherine, saying darkly "I thank you for your attempt to put me at ease, and at rest, but this sight" 'she' gestured to the grown Katherine with an a well-manicured hand "is only half of the story. The subtle art and the beautiful performance is but the cream of the drink. Behind all the successes you will find hides a legion of arduous work and endless tedium." placing a nearly invisible hand over the heart of the fairy-like Katherine for a few moments, Lauren's mouthpiece asked "Do you think such grace and wonder will outweigh a longer future of drudgery and condescension? You will age, become wrinkled as your limbs slow, and you will be replaced by other girls younger and prettier than yourself. Nothing in the world of the theatre lasts, not even it's greatest stories. Nothing except me, of course."

With a snap of spectral, the air shivered. Out of either of the two young heroine's sight the doorways became warped and twisted into themselves. Anyone trying to get in or out would be very effectively thwarted.

The illusion's head sank with her hand, which drooped to her black-clad side "We tell such lies in the theatre, it is true, and to be a great actress one must believe in some measure in the reality of their role. But why let such self-deception color a vision of the future?" she asked with a hollow voice, clearly by now thoroughly into the performance.

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Kat could only stare, witness to a duel she did not understand. Her doppleganger ranted and died where she stood, and rose again as the entire theater came to life with light and sound. Kat peered through the gaps in the scaffolding, the light shining through the bars onto her face as she stared down in awe . . . she got a closer look at what her dopple was . . . not wearing, and her face went a shade of red usually reserved for sunsets.

She wished she could just hit the damn ghost, and make it go away. But it wouldn't she couldn't . . . The only thing that it'd given any sign of caring about was this sham of glory. Though really, Titania might not have been the best of choices. The queen of fairies, sure; but most of the scenes Kat remembered from Midsummer Night's Dream were of her making a fool of herself after getting drugged by Oberon. But there was line that Kat remembered . . .

She poked her head out and trusted the acoustics of the theater to scatter her voice across the theater so their one-ghost audience couldn't find the source. There was no visible glory, no shining skin or glittering wings; only Kat's voice rang out as she spoke for the fairies, spoke of Titania's glory, and sought to prove Lauren wrong by cutting beauty and smiles and leaving only sound.

"Over hill, over dale, thorough bush, thorough brier, over park, over pale, thorough flood, thorough fire, we do wander everywhere, swifter than the moon's sphere; and we serve the fairy queen, to dew her orbs upon the green.

"The cowslips tall her pensioners be: in their gold coats spots you see; those be rubies, fairy favours, in those freckles live their savours: we must go seek some dewdrops here, and hang a pearl in every cowslip's ear."

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GM

Kat's recounting of the fairy's description of her duties to Puck had struck right into Lauren Hammond's heart, and the bitter undead actress was filled with both a feeling of hitherto unknown desolation and regret as she recalled happier days and a sudden burst of anger as she comprehended(only for a moment and imperfectly) how she had brought about their end. One way the words really got her interest, they convinced the long-dead woman that her current strategy was at the cusp of success. 'Perhaps I can make a bargain...'

As the recited words drifted through the mostly still air of the theatre, the image's face slowly changed from one of haughty melancholy to quiet sorrow, her eyes slowly dropping to the stage for a long moment. At last her much gentler voice said "I have no heard those words in...decades. I had forgotten their power, the beauty of the Bard's poetry and verse..." she looked back up with tears shining on her projection's ghostly face and she beckoned with a small and tentative gesture of her left hand at where she erroneously believed the juvenile actress lurked, calling out with a voice of one on the verge of tears "Dear heart, please come forward and speak with me. My cold heart is in a new spring, and I am sorry for my thoughtless words." it looked chagrined as it added, after a moment in which very wisely nobody said a word "I know it is hard to believe. My impetuous assault upon you, and the careless insults and threats I have flung at you would make anyone wary of such an abrupt claim, but I beseech you to trust me!" she cried, clasping both hands to her bosom in a positively hoary theatrical gesture.

Stepping backwards and allowing the cheerfully dancing sprites and small fairies to surround her once again, and making sure that her projection never obscured the figure of the full-grown Katherine, the puppet of the Silver Scream went on, still the very image of remorse and desperate sincerity "Young Katherine, I admit that I have made a terrible mistake. Your friend, Jessica, has the potential to be a good, and the potentiality to become even a great actress! I have lived so long in the shadows of a vanished glory that every bright and fresh young face is like a dagger in my heart, envy consumes my every waking moment!" she gripped her ghostly head in her pallid hands, and her illusion did the same "Please, I beg of you: have mercy! Come back into sight of my weary eyes, and stand with me upon the stage. I will make amends for what I have done here, before I return to my slumber I will provide to such a promising and gay young pair as you two a backdrop and scenery such as the world has never known!" she was quite transported, driven by a vision of what her powers could be used for should Kat be so unwise as to take the cinematic erratic up on her word "You have never been to England. Let me show the audience the rolling hills, the streamers of deep mist, the nodding and gnarled oaks, the busy towns teaming with man and beast, all of which will enhance the words and actions of the players, and never once threaten to overwhelm their efforts. Your young man, what was his name, Frederick? He will be made into such a ghost as never a gasping crowd has ever seen! All I ask," and she now sank to her knees, eyes ready with more ectoplasmic tears "all I ask is that you come back, and forgive me. Though Heaven knows I do not deserve it, and by rights I cannot ask such a thing of you, poor girl!"

She bowed her head as her white-skinned and black-clad form began to shake with only half-feigned sobs. Neither of the two heroines could see the cold and terrible look on her face, so sure was she that Kat would take the bait at last.

'When she lies dead, her body at last relieved of its burden, I will allow the hunters and magicians to enter, and they will know the penalty of angering the Silver Scream!'

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