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Madden's

West Freedom, Freedom City, NJ
Monday, September 12th, 2016

6:00 PM

 

Samantha Vance and Tona were enjoying a cozy dinner in one of the popular Madden franchise's.  The cozy atmosphere, did nothing to hide a notable peculiarity from the pair.  They were being watched.  Every other patron in the restaurant gave subtle nonverbal tics that revealed themselves to be law enforcement, or possibly even military.  The distinction was very thin.

 

None had made any overt signs of aggression.  In fact, up to this point the rest of the restaurant seemed content on letting the couple enjoy their meal.

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Tona shuffled around the greens on her plate, slowly stacking the radishes on one side, putting them well clear of the rest of her salad. "Anyway, you'll really like Emerald City," she said. She speared several leaves of lettuce and went hunting for something to top it off. "All the shops are south of the river, but DI's offices are on the north side. So I'm looking for something up there, something that backs out onto the forest. But no one wants to rent to a woman who should be in college." She sighed and speared some tomato, sighing.

 

While she talked, her other hand was busy. She touched the knife, unused, laying a very precise distance away from her plate. It was sitting at a natural place to be exactly where her free hand would fall, if she should just so happen to have a reason to pick it up quickly and throw it, say, across the restaurant at one of the pair sitting at the bartop. That would take out one, and then the plate would go over her shoulder and take out two, and then it would be a melee and no one could say what would happen.

 

But until then she was talking with her girlfriend.

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Sam enjoys a fluffy, delicious mouthful of chocolate chip pancakes.  Because why in the world would you go to Madden's and get anything but breakfast?  She washes it down with a gulp of chocolate milk, because why would you get chocolate chip pancakes and not get chocolate milk with it?

 

"Even with Miss Epstein's reference?" she asks, not terribly surprised.  How dare young 'uns be trying to get started in the world?  "I might know some people who know some people through Miss Vance who could vouch for you."  As much as she'd like to get on the lease and really make it their place, that's a topic she hadn't broached, what with her criminal record.  "Help you get a foot in the door, you know?"

 

The knife does not go unnoticed.  Necessary.  Practical.  But still a total mood killer.  Damn suits.  She flags the waitress as an excuse to get a look around without looking like she's trying to get a look around, and picks the agent who looks like they have the biggest stick up their bum.  Time to pay them a little visit.

 

She reaches out to that one agent's mind, planting a vision only they can see.  A figure she's used a few times before, of a masked, skeletally emaciated figure in purple pinstripes that phases through the roof until it's standing on the ceiling, gravity a handily ignored suggestion, until it's making eye contact.  Or rather, it would if it had anything but black, gaping voids where the eyes should be.  "Hasn't anyone told you it's rude to stare?" it asks, voice like fingers on a chalk board.

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GM

 

"AAAAAH"  The agent singled out screams.  Practically tearing himself away from his table.  Plates and glasses spilling all over the floor.  The men he was dining with attempting to restrain him as he kicked out.  Desperately trying to escape the demonic figure taunting him.

 

The waitress calmly walked to the order window to give the chefs their orders.  Not an ounce of concern for the commotion  in the table with the screaming man as she walked by.  Instead of heading towards another table, she then entered the kitchen.  It was less than a minute before the kitchen door swung open once more.  But, it was not a member of the kitchen staff that walked out.  Instead it was an Israeli woman in her late 20s, possibly early 30s, with an unholstered pistol in hand.

 

Walking towards Sam and Tona she made sure to take a shot at the screaming agent.  His muscles locked up in place and suddenly the man stopped moving.  "Dendrotoxin.  He's fine.  Temporary muscle paralysis, won't do much for the psych eval he'll need for whatever he's staring at."  The woman reassures after she pulls up a seat uninvited at the girl's table.  "Perhaps, we should try this again?  My name is Alyssa Wild, and I am an agent of AEGIS."

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Tona crunched down at the lettuce as she watched her girlfriend's illusion take effect. She didn't know exactly what sort of image Sam was sending, but given the agent's reaction it was hardly pleasant. Tona probably should have felt bad for him, but being stalked by government agents didn't put her in a very good mood.

 

She was just swallowing as Alyssa sat down at their table. "You know, when UNISON hired me they just sent an email," she said. "It took me a couple days to find it, but I'm getting a lot better at checking my emails. It's a lot cheaper than buying out an entire restaurant to fill it with your goon squad."

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No, no, no, no...

 

Fwpt.

 

No, no, no, no...

 

As the AEGIS woman sits down, Sam rubs her temples and dismisses her illusion.  There goes the evening.  "Charming," she deadpans, glaring daggers at this woman.

 

"You know, you have my phone number.  How about we make plan A calling, not some bumbling show of force.  So far, all you've managed to do is tick me off, so you have fifteen seconds to put down the gun and convince me we shouldn't leave right now.  And don't bother with some line about how you'd stop us.."

 

She looks to Tona, her message passed without need for words; be ready to kill the lights.  That's all she'll need to get them out of there.

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GM

 

"All this bluster is hardly necessary ladies."  Alyssa answered undeterred.  "This is not a show of force.  No on this night multiple squads of unarmed agents were simply inhabiting the same restaurant.  I suppose the record could show a special agent was assaulted during the course of the meal.  But, it won't for much the same reason as there won't be any record of this conversation.  No emails or phone calls."

 

Agent Wyld remained silent long enough to obviously give the pair time to digest the hidden meaning behind her words. That whatever AEGIS needed from the young heroines, it wasn't something they were looking to make official AEGIS business.  "Now, I appreciate your probity, miss Antoinette.  And I suspect you very well could escape our grasp, miss Vance.  But, not every action is a personal affront to either of you.  Tell me, have either of you heard of the old Gerber House?"

 

 

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Sam's hand grips tight around her orange juice and she sees red at the threats and the condescension, the urge to throw it in this woman's face rising.  Glass and all.  Instead, she starts muttering curses in some profane language that sounds like it shouldn't possibly come from a human mouth.

 

She's very nearly at her limit when Wyld mentions the Gerber house, and for just a moment, Sam's eyes go wide, more than long enough for Tona to see, but she tries to hide her reaction from the agent.  "It's where you experiment on whatever magical creatures you can get your hands on," she says through gritted teeth.

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Tona put her fork down and reached across the table, taking Sam's hand and squeezing her fingers. She was used to the magician being the level-headed, calming influence no matter how crazy the situation got. To see Sam react like that to just a name was unnerving. "I thought it was just the place that had a weird garden," she said dryly. "I still think you should rethink this whole not-actually-secret-recruitment thing. Filling up a whole diner with the goon squad attracts the other sort of attention."

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GM

 

"Experiment?  Special Director Demaurier is a bit eccentric, but...between you and I, where she emigrated from is far closer to where you came from than it is to New York."  Agent Wyld struggled to find her words.  Making it increasingly clear that for all her confidence.  The whole magic thing was out of her element.  "I've never been inside the Globe.  The facility in which preternatural criminals serve their time.  And you are correct that it is housed within the Gerber House.  I can't speak to if any experimentation occurs, but I believe Director Powers would put a stop to it if it were to occur.  Honestly, only Special Director Demaurier and Adrian Eldritch could give you details on the facility.  But, Eldritch is in some other plane repelling an army of magical moles.  And the Special Director has gone missing within that very same Gerber House."

 

Finally getting to the meat of the problem.  "Which is the reason for this conversation.  AEGIS would very much like the Special Director found.  Without incident that is."  Agent Wyld stopped short of finishing another thought.  Apparently, deciding some things were best left said for later.

 

"As for the diner."  Alyssa smiled for the first time since sitting down.  "It's rugby season.  AEGIS is just selecting the best of the best for the Blood and Guts Bowl against UNISON."

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Tona took a deep breath. So this was a Weird thing. "Someone got stuck in a house. Which is also a prison. So I guess that means it's... more than just a house with a weird garden. Okay."  She shook her head slightly. "You want us to go in there and find her, because we're awesome at finding people amidst weird stuff. Except that the house is also a magic prison, which means there's probably a lot of very nasty magic-types inside. That's pretty run of the mill of our mornings lately, if I'm being honest, so I guess my real question is... why didn't you just call us, again? We could be out there already."

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Sam rubs her temples, already getting a headache.  "Typical AEGIS.  Come in here all strong arm, interrupt our date, threaten to frame me, and oh yeah, ask for a favor.  A list like that in a matter of minutes and I'm sure your faith that you aren't doing anything unsavory in your secret haunted house prison lab is well founded."

 

She reaches into her purse and throws some cash on the table.  Way more than enough to cover their bill.  She's a moment away from just getting up and leaving, and seeing what they do about it when she stops.

 

Leaving now would mean abandoning someone in trouble over Wyld's disgusting manners.

 

Being the better person sucks.

 

"If I do this, and that is if I do this, I have a condition.  You have a prisoner I want transferred to UNISON custody.  I don't trust them- no offense, babe- but I trust you less."

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GM

 

Agent Wyld turned to Tona, "Is she really not self-aware?  Aside from the fact that she really did assault a federal agent.  Let's review. There is no frame job hanging over anyone's head, because aside from the fact that your first reaction was to do the act in question, this meeting never happened.  It never happened because otherwise we would have to maintain records of a Special Director disappearing.  A special director that heads a section of AEGIS that frankly among our employ only she truly understands."  Turning back to Sam, Alyssa attempted to maintain eye contact.

 

"Such an arrangement is above my pay grade.  The most I can do is file the paperwork for an official request.  Although, I can't imagine it would get approved.  A  transfer to Buckner Ridge seems more likely.  Of course, the Special Director could skip the bureaucracy, if you were to ask her yourself. I will leave it up to you to decide if you wish to help her, in her hour of need.  But, for now we will leave you to your meal."

 

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Sam's eyebrow twitches as she goes red.  "Seriously?  Seriously?!" she yells.  "I had a CARTOON CHARACTER ask him a question!  You're the one who shot him!  You come in here trying to intimidate us with your thugs and accuse me of assault because your guy was spooked by a Halloween decoration?!"

 

She clenches and unclenches her fist a few times, little wisps of blue flame momentarily appearing every time she opens her hand.  A wisp drifts into the edge of the table, eating a little gouge in a corner.

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Tona's eyes quickly flitted over the foxfire, the hole in the table, Sam's clenched jaw, and the goons in the background. She stuck out a leg, kicking the edge of Agent Wyld's chair sending it scraping back from the table. "We're done here," she said to the AEGIS agent. "When you want to actually hire us, when you're willing to come and talk to us as equals and deal straight rather than this backroom 'I am telling you something and what you do is your own business' bulls--t. Well then you know how to find us, I'm sure." She stood and placed herself between Wyld and Sam, helping her girlfriend to her feet and placing an arm around her protectively. "C'mon, Sam. I think my appetite's dead."

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When Tona takes the lead to leave, Sam lets her anger slips away and follows, looking drained.  Tired.  She rests her head on Tona's shoulder, glad for the touch, and simply goes where Tona takes her.

 

"I'm sorry."  This is all her fault, after all.  AEGIS is her problem, and she dragged Tona into it.

 

As they leave, she doesn't bother to look back.

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Tona kept her arm around Sam, forcing herself to stay loose and not clutch. Forcing her anger down, anger at AEGIS and Agent Wild and her entire goon squad. She forced herself to keep her touch casual and not cling to Sam and try to hide her away from all of this. Instead she just moved them through the door and out onto the street. "It's not your fault," she said softly. "You weren't the one who ruined the date." She sighed, keeping them both moving down the road; for now it was less important about where they were going, than what they were leaving behind. "They shouldn't have tried to back you into a corner like that. They deserve to be put in their place."

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As they walk, Sam realizes she forgot her sweater in the restaurant in her rush.  The evening air is biting, but it's better this way; she wraps her arm around Tona and pulls close, letting her be her warmth as she leans her head on her shoulder, barely paying attention to where they're going, just letting Tona lead.  "Y'know, we just dashed on the check," she points out, not making any move to slow down.

 

She tries to hold onto the moment, but she can't help but think of the folks in trouble right now.  People who did not just crash a perfectly good date night.  But she holds on just a little bit longer.  "I think we still have some wine back at your place.  Maybe we could go back, have some wine, curl up under a blanket, and make fun of a Julia Roberts movie?"

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Tona smiled gently into the night. "I'm pretty sure I don't have any wine," she said, "and I know I don't have any Julia Roberts movies. I do know that I have a hammock," she said, her tone calm and teasing. "A cot that might just be big enough for hammock." That much was certainly a tease; they had tested exactly how much that hammock could hold.

 

She let the quiet hang between them for a few blocks before speaking up again. "You never talk much about the people you knew back on Pandemonium. You never told me that one was here, in Freedom City." She glanced over at her girlfriend, trying to gauge her reaction without walking into traffic. "If you want to talk to him, now's probably the best time. And if we make AEGIS look like fools, hey, bonus."

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GM

 

It seemed the opportunity to make fun of Julia Roberts had to wait, as the pair settled on showing up AEGIS.  Finding themselves in front of a Victorian styled manor.  Looking around at nearby properties, it seemed the phrase the grass is greener on the other side only applied when you didn't live in the house with the greenest lawn on the block.  Despite the fact that Fall was in full swing, one could be forgiven for confusing it with spring.

 

Birds were chirping happily as Tona and Sam neared the house.  But, aside from the sounds of nature, the area was quiet.  If the home really housed some sort of magical prison with a mass breakout that wasn't clearly visible.  Well to the layperson.  To Samantha Vance there wasn't a single brick on the property that didn't read as magical to her senses.  From every blade of grass, to even the birds themselves, everything had a bit of arcane energies infused within.

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That cot is a tempting thought, but business first.  "It's... dangerous to think of Mouse as people," she warns, as much to herself as to Tona as they set out for the manor.

 

Sam's hair stands on end before they're even close to the house; that is some serious mojo.  "This place... has a ludicrous amount of power.  They have the resources, but not the control.  Be careful; any defenses they have probably rely on excessive amounts of brute force."

 

As they get closer, Sam's head starts to hurt.  Her magical senses have never exactly been crisp, and it all starts blurring together into this general stench that quickly starts giving her a headache that probably won't get any better on its own.  She reaches into her purse and pops a couple aspirin; she'll be glad of them before the night's over.

 

"So, wanna walk up to the front door and pretend we're selling cookies?" Sam jokes as she tries to sort through all the muck and figure out the defenses.

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"The front is probably a bad idea," Tona said dryly as the pair slowly approached the building. "This place is a prison, remember? In the middle of the city. That means there's got to be people watching it." She stopped in her tracks and turned around in a slow circle, still speaking as she did so. "If AEGIS catches us just walking up to the front door they're going to try and stop us. Or worse, tell Agent Wyld what we're doing and let her watch us while we do it, let her crow about it afterwards." She pointed at a particular copse of trees with its green, leafy, vision-obscuring boughs. "There. Those trees are too low. There's someone up there." She pointed at an artificial hillock. "That one, too. It's got a perfect view of anyone coming up on the rear of the building. Secondary observation."

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