The Contingent

The Contingent Files

PLEASE READ: Here is the repository of journal entries and cases files that have been written by members of The Contingent.

If a player enjoys writing reports or journals of games, they will earn a Re-Roll to be used any time during the current season. A player can any number of rerolls banked at a time, and use no more than 1 per game session. The Storyteller is the last word whether a re-rolls is appropriate to the situation

Entries may be subject to editing to adjust formatting for consistency.


The Following Tags are used for Adventure Logs:

Season #
Denotes what season this post falls within

A personal journal entry by that character

Case Files
An official report submitted by a member for the records kept by The Contingent. All Case Files are also Tagged with the session’s name.

Photos, postcards, telegrams, news clippings, etc. All sorts of things that add to the season’s experience, but perhaps not directly to a particular session or character

A Future for a Future, Ey Mr. Higgins?

Nervous, childlike excitement courses through Brad as he coasts down Palisades Interstate Parkway, heading North. It’s been years since he’s been behind the steering wheel of a car, but any feeling of apprehension he may have escapes him as the city traffic and looming buildings fade into splendid greenery and open roads. As trees rush by and the rhythm of highway traffic begins to resonate within him, his mind turns toward the events of the week prior.

He’d heard a little bit about the Hedge before from Dave when they did the mushroom-eating experiment, but nothing could’ve prepared him to actually go there. He still got a headache anytime he tried to remember the weird infinite forest they’d seen, and the sight of Katee and Tim tearing each other apart was a memory that’d never leave him. Then there was that vision of Arcadia burning. Whose perspective had that been from, and what had he been feeling? Was it self-satisfaction at being right, or was it despondency at not being able to stop it from happening? Whichever it was, Brad had almost felt possessed in that moment.

The stress of this most recent experience, combined with his earnest disappointment that the mission did not, in fact, entail him going to camp, had motivated Brad to take a weekend trip up to Harriman State Park for a bit of R&R. Given his own lack of a car, he’d smooth talked a friend from SEIU 32BJ into lending him theirs and had spent the afternoon prior pulling camping gear from storage and jamming it into the borrowed hooptie. He had briefly considered inviting Dave out on the trip, but given everything popping off at Contingent HQ, Brad decided it would be best to let him focus on his work. Besides, he could really use the alone time after all that had happened in the past few months.

Pulling into his spot at the Beaver Pond Campground, Brad jumps out and opens the trunk, causing a mountain of hiking gear and cooking equipment to cascade out onto the ground. As he pulls the tent out of its bag and begins building the frame, a sudden sadness overcomes him. Foggy memories of him and his father start to fill his head. They’d used to visit the park every summer and go fishing out on Lake Welch, play volleyball on the beach, reminisce by the fireside at night, all the good summer pastimes. For a moment, the nostalgia of it overwhelms him before he takes a deep breath and pushes it down. Whoever his dad had been before, he wasn’t worth wasting thoughts on now.

Brad can’t really recall why, but his dad had grown shitty and bitter over the years. It started with a few drinks here and there, an off-putting comment towards Brad now and then, but that quickly grew into full-blown abuse. Now the two didn’t even talk, and as far as Brad was concerned, that was for the best. Pushing those thoughts aside, though, he can swear that there was a third person that would come camping with them too. Brief ghosts of recollection echo in his head: someone singing by the campfire, a hand putting sunscreen on his back, a voice badgering him to put on bug repellent. However, as he tries to focus on the memories, Brad finds himself developing a headache and spacing out.

Unable to recall anything more, Brad focuses back on the tent, setting it up before organizing the rest of his gear and supplies. Finishing up, he decides to go for a hike, trading his flip-flops for boots and throwing on a backpack. As the surrounding nature envelops him, Brad lets out a small laugh. “Almost reminds me of being in that fantasy place with Dr. Cartwright and the others. What was it they called me? A skink? What a weird name for a lizard” he says aloud to himself as he continues down the trail. As he walks, he thinks, “Speaking of Dr. Cartwright, I should talk to her more often. She was the first one to show concern for me, plus she’s a shrink, so maybe she can help me process some of what’s been happenin’ lately.”

Brad continues his hike along the Suffern-Bear Mountain trail for a handful of miles. As he notices the sun beginning to set in the early autumn sky, he decides to make his way to the Cats Elbow overlook to watch the sunset. Producing a collapsable stool and a thermos, he settles in as the sun sets on the horizon, casting golden hues of light across the now cerulean sky as it ultimately gives way to an ocean of stars above. “I’d forgotten how stifling the city can be”, he mutters as he pours himself a cup of warm tea.

“Light pollution is a bitch, ain’t it?”, a voice behind him rings out. As Brad turns, there’s now another man also upon the Cats Elbow. It’s unclear what’s more worn and tattered, the camping chair or the man sitting on it, a wiry dude, long with a face that could easily be twenty-five or sixty. The only other notable feature is a rumpled flannel over a U.S Fishing and Wildlife Service t-shirt. “Name’s Indy”, the man says in an accent that’s Southern? Brad can’t really say.

Jumping at the sudden appearance of the enigma of a man before him, Brad instinctually reaches for the bear spray in his backpack before clocking the USFWS shirt. “Fuck, you really shouldn’t sneak up on a guy like that”, Brad says, relaxing a little before continuing, “You been here the whole time? I coulda’ sworn I was the only one out here.” After a moment, he hesitantly adds, “My name’s…Bradley. Would uh, you like some tea, I guess? I’ve got plenty to share.”

A knowing grin spreads across Indy’s long face, “It’s a free country, ain’t it?”, he asks before saying, “but nah, just came up the trail. And I would. I appreciate the hospitality.” The odd man rises before closing the distance, offering up a copper cup to be filled.

Leaning in to abide, Brad tenses as a stab of pain wracks through his torso, his stomach violently twisting itself into knots. The realization dawns on him that the man…no, not a man…the thing before him is something much, much older and desperately more powerful than anything he’s met during his short time in Contingent. Fighting through the sensation, he finishes pouring the drink before pulling back and meekly saying, “You’re uh, not from around here, are you? Is there something I can help you with?”

Indy tilts his head as if considering something. “For varying definitions of here, I do suppose I’m not from here”, he notes before moving back to his camping chair. “But, I don’t need help, haven’t needed help in a long time. Was just curious about the youngin’ who was looking through my eyes”, he says before calmly sipping from his cup.

Screwing up his face into a semi-pensive look, a few moments pass as Brad begins to connect the dots. “Oh…oh shit”, he says, his eyes widening, “You’re the one that tried to warn Arcadia it was gonna burn, aren’t you? Look, I…I promise I wasn’t meaning to intrude or anything, it just kinda happens from time to time…the visions, I mean.” Letting the words hang in the air for what feels like an eternity, he adds, “I don’t mean to offend, but…are you also the thing with the red eyes I’ve been seein’ so much lately?”

Indy’s grin becomes impossibly wide. “Oh come now, Bradley, I think you know who I am. The titles y’all gave me after my banishment are my favorite”, he says, sitting on the rickety chair like a throne. In the glint of his eyes is an impossible, terrifyingly perfect red.

His blood freezing in direct proportion to Indy’s grin, Brad clenches his jaw as his suspicions are confirmed. “So, if that’s the case”, a twinge of unease bleeding into his voice, “then why did you help me back in the hedge? You were the dog weren’t you, the one that led me through the fog?”

“No, no, that was all the pup. An impressive will on that one. No, you were following my trail back to Arcadia. It’s my flame, so to speak…the light that beckons me home”, he replies, looking over to the expansive sky before continuing, “I smell a need on you. Old habits, you see. I warn you that while I am old…I don’t have that same sway I once did. Not for nothin’, mind you. I’m not too out of practice”

Relaxing a little, Brad lets the words resonate with him before replying, “Yeah, I could definitely use a hand. I’m way in over my head. Have been for months now, if I’m bein’ honest; just been too stubborn to admit it.” Looking up at the sky, the light of the stars dance overhead, faintly reminding Brad of the first time he’d seen Indy’s true form. “From what little I understand, you can see the future, or at least bits of it. If I made a deal…offered to give up somethin’ of equal value…d’ya think you can help my friends out? I thought I was made of sterner stuff, but I don’t think I have what it takes to be on the ground helpin’ em’ myself” he says, giving Indy a melancholic smile.

Indy pauses a moment, returning Brad’s smile before nodding and saying, “To give them the future, I’ll need a future. You sure it’s worth it?”

Brad stands up, putting his back to Indy as he moves closer to the edge of the overlook. His eyes resting on the expanse of the dark forest before him, he replies, “I remember my 8th-grade teacher read a poem once, something about raging against the dyin’ of the light. Well, from what little I understand, the light’s dyin’ real quick, and I have to do whatever I can to stop it. So yeah, I’m sure it’s worth it, no matter what happens”, turning to look back at Indy as the words leave his mouth.

As Brad does so, he suddenly finds himself a voyeur in his own past, a distant observer watching a stupid teenage version of himself sneaking into the waterpark with his friends. Time skips forward and he sees something from the deep end of a pool grasping towards his friend, Jackson…except instead of watching in terror like last time, this younger…and suddenly braver…Brad charges in with a pool noodle, hurriedly smacking the thing as it swims toward the other boy. This gives Jackson just enough time to scramble back onto the concrete, both he and Brad booking it away from the pool, screaming.

Following the event, Brad and Jackson spend a few weeks trying to forget about the traumatic episode, but can’t shake it off. They start to tell anyone who’ll listen about it, but no one else believes the two, leaving them only with each other for comfort. Jackson always had his nose in a book, and after many interlibrary loan requests found out that what they had escaped from was a kelpie. With this knowledge in hand, the pair became increasingly skeptical. If kelpies are real, what else could be out there? Brad and Jackson continued on to spend the next 15 years answering this question, becoming monster hunters and helping those who couldn’t help themselves until they found themselves at the end of the world. It’s unlikely they’ll make it, but Jackson smiles at this braver and bolder Bradley. At least, at the end of everything, they’ll have each other.

And just like that, the vision is gone, consumed by an all-encompassing darkness, a true and perfect void. From this, a light comes forth, beautiful, perfect, terrifying, horrific, and…red. Bradley becomes unable to comprehend the full breadth of the eyes surrounding him now, staring him down as they coalesce and weave into a pair of giant wings. Connected to these is a being that looks nothing like the worn southern man that had sat before him moments prior, but who on a fundamental level Brad understands is Indy. There’s no longer a face capable of producing recognizably human expressions, yet Brad can feel a sense of sympathy permeating forth.

As if waking up from a dream, Brad finds himself back at his campsite, safe and sound in the confines of his tent. Unzipping the door, he steps outside and sits by a dwindling campfire he has no memory of building. Staring into the flames, a profound sense of loss overcomes him as he subconsciously mourns the loss of the future that could have been. Yet, at the same time, a small blossom of content forms in his chest from the knowledge that there’s a better chance than before that he’ll live to see this one.

Retrospection. Resolution. Reoccurrence. Regret. Relief. Release.
Going Home.

Must have been some-odd six years, now, since I’d last seen my mom. Wasn’t something that I planned on but that’s how it turned out. I’d planned on going right back home that night, but things don’t always turn out the way you plan them. Instead, we were on the run. Not knowing where exactly we were going to end up. See you when something like what happened that night happens you don’t really plan the next step. You mostly panic.

It was a long drive back up across the border but we knew the way. Never forgot the way, and it was actually a nice drive. Not too much traffic for most of the way. Thankfully no downed trees and it hadn’t started to snow yet.

I don’t know what I expected to feel when we turned off the main road and headed up in the laneway and over that hill. I do know that when I saw that house something warm swelled up inside of me. I hadn’t been able to tell Mom that I was coming back. Still didn’t want anybody to suspect anything and come looking. So there’s a bit of a surprise for her. I guess part of me wonders whether or not she really thought I was still alive and whether it was just a ghost calling all these years. But the look on her face when she walked out that front door saw me and Mikey standing there next to the car. It was the look of pure joy, unbridled love, and excitement. And I know I had the same look on my face.

Even when I was pulling up in front of the house I didn’t know exactly how long I planned to stay. I knew that I had to make up for something that I’d not done back then. I knew that I had to … knew that I had to see her at least one more time. All that Mikey and I have gotten wrapped up in and seeing these past months. It’s not what we expected and I can’t say whether it’s better or worse than we expected. But it was certainly different. I know sometimes you come through parts of your life with a whole new idea of what life really means. Now thinking about the end, and not knowing whether it’s just our end, or just New York’s end, or the end for everything, some priorities jump to the forefront. This was one. This was something that I had to do, right or wrong.

Ended up being about a week. Beautiful. Serene. Calm. That’s what home was. It’s not what the world is though. The world’s ugly and chaotic and angry. And I don’t know why it has to be that way but I know that that’s the way that it is. Maybe when the time comes and that last chit falls, maybe that’s when we’ll see something beautiful and serene and calm. Or maybe that’s just death not sure which.

I don’t think Mikey knew what to do on the way up there or even once we arrived. Wasn’t somebody he’d seen in twenty-odd years. He’d never really known Mom that well. But I think he felt that calm as well. And I think he knew what was coming just as much as I did. We took the time that was deserved plus a little bit more. We sat down and told her all about it. We watched her face just contort time after time thinking we had finally lost our minds but it had to happen. She had to know, whether she believed us or not, what’s really out there what’re truly the dangers of the world. And what me and Mikey were up against, well, she knew we hadn’t been safe. But I almost felt like I’d been lying to her not telling her just how unsafe we were. Most of the things we talked about, there’s at least some references in pop culture to what they are, and how they work, and what to expect when you see him but I know that she still didn’t really believe us but she knew that I wasn’t lying. And then, all of a sudden, the shock of what she’d been told passed and it just became a time for a mother and a son and a brother to make it clear to each other that there was still nothing but love between all of us.

I’d never actually lied to her. That’s why I didn’t go back to her that night. I knew that she knew what had been done in that place and that she thought of them as monsters just as much as I did. I was scared that she might see me as a monster, too. So I couldn’t walk through the door that night and lie, but I never did tell her the truth.

So when the time came, I said “Bye, Mom. I love you. We’ll stay safe and see you back here real soon.”

I’d made up for last time. I did, this time, what I didn’t do then, what I couldn’t do then. I lied to her.

Hobnotes #VerFinal.Final.V2.Last.Final
A PDF on a floppy disk that appeared on Derek's desk one day

Session: The Lift

We have been recovering from the last few missions. Get a text from Vinnie saying there is a mission that needs to be dealt with now. It is a Tuesday afternoon. Bradley is waking up and calling out of work. Nicholas is teaching/grading. Nathan is doing some training of new agents. Cartwright is doing some therapy (and needs to be called to notice the urgency of what is going on). When we get there, Vinnie tells us what is going on: There is something else we need to get at the zoo; that the Zookeeper is still there, TFV is still there, and there really no support for when we are underground. Mission is happening Friday night. Cartwright is not happy that they needed to cancel with a client to get this information in person. The thing is an egg (probably phoenix).

We have as much contingent resources as we could want because of how important it is. Bradley reaches out to see if he can find out people working at the zoo working odd hours as part of their janitorial job and finds someone. Bradley takes them out for drinks, and while talking, keeps nudging him for information and the person he is talking to gives off the impression of not being sure what he should or should not say, but eventually says there is a not insignificant amount of missing time, generally whenever he goes into the director’s office and resuming once leaving the bird exhibit; but there are some latent memories that have floated around, with animals in some of the rooms. Dr Cartwright goes to talk to Dr. Singer about trying to pierce the amnesia from last time raiding the zoo and how to avoid getting it again; Singer asks about trying something stupid and if Cartwright feels guilty about what they did, and they go to a back office. Dr. Singer says they need a damning secret to be able to get this to work and Cartwright admits to having a lot of opiates hidden that they have written scripts for no good reason beyond the temptation of being able to do so. Nicholas does some investigations on any interesting animal studies at the zoo, meeting up with a postdoc who is very excited to talk to another academic whose name is Perry; they do say that the seabirds have been acting off, showing migratory behavior (even those that do not migrate, and trained to not) lead to a back area. Nicholas blacks out and appears on the other side of the seabird exhibit. Tries to go back, Sees Perry, Perry asked where he went, Nicholas says he is not sure, Perry tries to get him to look as something with the birds and while Nicolas is distracted attacks him; Which causes Nicholas to run away. Nathan tries to organize some vehicles located in each cardinal direction to have something to help with a getaway plan/action and starts to organize an equipment list of things to grab. While going through the Equipment list with Chastain to get approval, Chastain asks Nathan about how they feel about the Phoenix. Bradley works with R&D to get some darts with broadband anti-supernatural serum. Cartwright get a baby/egg holder The group then make a plan with the following steps: infiltrate at seabird, sweep compound, secure egg, leave from office.

Bradley is able to bribe the closing cleaning staff into letting us in. Get to the seabird exhibit and Bradley picks the lock. There is a lot more of sounds of nature than we expect. Nathan looks around for the entrance to the underground. We find the entrance behind the penguin feeding prep area, as soon as we cross the threshold the animal sounds suddenly stop. Staircase is made of stone and very dark. Bradley makes a good navigation through the maze-structure of the underground complex, and the house of horrors (room of hive-minded (?) spiders). Cartwright hears the sound of an injured horse and decides to split, Bradley sees a shiny and follows it/cartwright; Nicholas goes to investigate/smoke grenade the spiders. Nathan follows orders and keeps pushes ahead and finds the egg and upon getting to the room sees the egg though the glass door and get s flashback of the inferno of their first meeting with the phoenix. The Egg is on a pedestal/nest behind a glass door with no apparent security around it. Bradley continues until his unseen sense for fae goes off, hear typewriters typing, thinks about contingent’s accounting and starts backing off. Cartwright messes with the door they are hearing the sound behind, tries to force the door open to figure out it is push open and comes upon a stable reminding them of the first stable they ever visited, and sees an anemic young version of the nightmare horse; with Bradley a bit behind. Bradley tries to motivate Cartwright that they need to go, and it does not matter what the horse is trying to communicate to them. Nicholas catches up to Nathan (Nicholas sees the energy of the birth of a star). Nathan does notice some security (door locked, pressure sensor below the egg). Bradley picks the lock. Bradley gets another vision of the birth of something big than a star, and the mechanistic nature of the Infrastructure of the universe; a new file/seed for a new universe and the computer running the universe going up in smoke and a universe gets born from within the current simulation; along with beauty of all of this happening. Bradley picks up the egg and it feels like it is both burning and that one is the fire. We put the egg in the baby/egg holder Cartwright brought. We turn around and notice the door was locked and Perry (the person Nicholas met) is there and says “you should have made like the birds and left”.

Bradley takes his shotgun and tries to shoot through the door. The round goes through and goes through the Perry like they were made of goo. Nathan goes at the Perry with his fire ax to clear the way by pushing Perry away from the door so everyone else can leave. Cartwright gives Bradley the egg and goes to free the horse. Bradley in front and Nicholas and Nathan are behind, when the Zookeeper suddenly appearing between them, Nathan takes a shot with the incendiary shotgun round, which starts a fire that harmonized with the egg and expands faster than normal. Bradley books it before the egg decides to hatch because of this.

Cartwright goes back to the horse, where she sees her first horse clinic (and remembers the first time she skimmed some opiates). Cartwright tries to break the last of the mental block to figure out if what is calling her is the Zookeeper or nightmare horse. Nicholas goes back to get Cartwright, and enters the typing room, looking over one of the shoulder writer, sees the source code of the universe and tries to pump him for information on what they are doing (working to get a ticket to the new universe ferry they are building). The zookeeper says that we are not going to get away with stealing from him a second time (as Bradley escapes with the egg), and upon realizes he has escaped that we have doomed us all. Nathan shoots the Zookeeper in the face. The zookeeper is hurting and Nathan says “it was not 2 times, it’s the third time Bitch” and starts to book it as Bradley returns and shoots the zookeeper with one of the special rounds he had prepared. It is at this time where Nicholas slams the God-machine keyboard and massive ball of divine lighting envelops the area, with Nicholas being the only one caught up in the vaporization, but some part of him is bonded/saved from his connection to his Wife (who is a demon). On our way back, Bradley tells a fanatic that it is the end times. We get back to HQ, and Chastain is at the front desk and says there is something she needs to show us something. Tells us that in accounting is a piece of infrastructure they are trying to reverse engineer to try to cause an apocalypse that we have a chance to survive instead of the inescapable one coming.

Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)
Time grabs you by the wrist, directs you where to go...

When Derek arrived at CubeSmart, a small, lumpy brown paper envelope sat in his Inbox. Opening it, a set of keys and an ID badge tumbled out. James Wright’s photo and name stared back up at him.

Thank you for everything. I’m proud of what I accomplished here with Contingent, but I need to handle something personal, and I don’t know how long that will take. Effective immediately, I resign from the Contingent. Never stop fighting for those who can’t.

- James Wright

Tucked into the alcove at the entrance to the Starr Barr sat a very particular potted plant. The colors, the shapes, it all seemed more than plants were meant to be. It was barely contained in the handmade ceramic pot that someone had inlaid with bits of glass. A note was tucked under its base. Written in a blocky script with a carpenter’s pencil read a message to Persephone.

Something has happened that I need to address. It will take me away from here for a while, maybe forever. But it’s important and I need to see this through.

Please look after them as well as you have the Ficus. I think they’ll be happy here.

- James

Hobnotes #Base2(11)
Contents of a manila folder that suddenly appears on Derek's desk one day

Session: Death’s Stranding

There has been less bustle over the last week as some of the previous weeks. We see someone rush into the breakroom, and then Chastain comes ins and points to the members of the party to go to the meeting room now, the lifeguard for Camp Dread (Isabelle) also comes into the room after Chastain and follows the group into the meeting room. Chastain tells us we need finish closing a fragment of the Avrenian gate that appeared at Camp Dread. We each get a container from R&D to contain what is keeping the gate open so we can remove it, and a sensor to find whatever it is. The gate is mixed in with the Lairs of the camp Staff. There is some hedge and other supernatural other worlds on the other side of the gate (not to underworld, it is but going somewhere. We take some time to get gear for the shitshow that is about to run into, namely some Thermite grenades, Kevlar vests reinforced to protect against ghosts and spirits, and a rifle with a magazine with ethereal rounds.

On the way up, we talk about what our unseen senses.

We get to the camp and see the portal as water flowing in and out of a random point. The lifeguard takes the beast form to stabilize the opening for us to get in, Chastain jumps in, and we follow. Feel a terrible cold when crossing the threshold. End up on beach with pitch black water. Try radios, connect to Chastain, says it has been about a day even though we were only a few seconds to a minute behind them. Non-hostile zombies are all around, but they all seem to be walking away from the shore. Chuck notices that the beach goes infinitely in both directions. Zombies seem to be from all periods of human history. Do notice there is a wall of force that is holding back a spirit of Malice/angry/violence. Maeve vibe checks the spirit to identify that it is murder spirit. Mauve resists the pull to touch/cross the walls of force from synchronizing with the spirit, and notice there are a lot more spirits that are also held back, many of which are equally unpleasant. Chuck figures out a way to navigate a way through the spirit threshold maze. Next area has a lot of hedge thorns that burn when James gets close to them. As we continue the spirits try to get to us but cannot cross the threshold. Chuck is noticing the tide is coming in. Zombies that cross the threshold get eviscerated by the spirits. Keep moving forward and eventually gets to a cityscape (platonic ideal of downtown Altanta/NYC, but has been abandoned; Angie identifies it as broken infrastructure) we noticed the black ichor from the water on the beach is also here, but it is thinker tar-like and stopping the Infarstructure. Nathan’s unseen sense goes off for the first time. James gets some of the tar off from one of the gears and feels the condensed death, eventually clearing up enough for the gears across the city to start moving; some of the figures in the city start to move to help clearing the tar. Chastain radios asking what we did, and that the more of infrastructure will start. James approaches the figures/automatons and figure out they are changelings that have been messed with by else. One of them tries to hit James because of the ichor sample he has. Some fingerlings spreading ichor start activating and self-defense spiderlings start moving to stop it. Angie notices some owls that are vampire-esque that are slowly hunting us. The crafted automatons start chasing James, and we make a beat to get out of the city with a light chase.

After leaving the city, we notice something glowing in a crater. There is a something chained up in the crater (5 mile diameter) and a boulder, both at the very center and bottom, along with a layer of ichor in all direction for a large distance. James realizes the crater is from something large pushing into the ground. James takes the car roof to make an impromptu boat, and when try to throw it in realize it is a non-Newtonian fluid. Everyone starts running across, trying to make our way to any of the islands that are out of the tar for breaks as needed. Chuck starts to be accosted by the ghosts of his father and the cult members that he killed. Mauve gets accosted by the memories she forgot last time she were in the underworld, she is eventually able to push through. Angie notices the vamp-owls, and gets feelings of giving up (so they can have a chance to feed) they are willing to help us get out if they can hitch a ride on the way back (They are stygian owls). She asks why they need a ride out, and they say that dead things want to be in the world of the living, despite being barring from there, and they chose Angie because she is friends with Dominic. We start getting tired and the accosting. Get closer and realize the boulder is a lot smaller than we initially though (now fist sized). There is someone (Allie) over the chained person (Allie says that the chained person is Thanatos). The sensor says the boulder is what we are here for, but also the man. Chain looks to be iron but does react to by starting to burn when James gets near. Allie asks James to keep melting the chains, but it will probably kill him trying to get all the way through. Chuck uses his device to grab the boulder (it feels heavy). James grabs the chain and it gives him a bad electric shot/arc flash. Gets a vision of Zeus punishing someone for cheating death (Sisyphus). Nathan does some first aid on James to get him okay. James mentions if the thermite grenade would work and Allie psychic powers to pull the pin and we run before it goes off, leaving the one chain. James makes a deal with Allie, taking some of the fae buring bullshit he has so they can break the last one.

We get out of the crater and get to the city, fingerlings are trying to block us getting through (amalgam of death and void, based on senses), Angie goes some tar on them up some and feels the weight of ages on her. Nathan helps Chuck to give it a push to get out of the city (-12 difficulty, Nathan gets 2 successes on 1 die). The city starts to get back to work (also the aspect of death is free to start working again). We briefly stop to move the boulder to another container as the one it currently in is about the break, and wrap one of the enhanced Kevlar vests around it to help resist the expansion forces on it. We get to the spirit/hedge maze, with Angie and James help to navigate through. We get halfway, where the trail has disappeared because the tide has come in. Nathan loads the ethereal rounds to shoot a spirit if someone makes a mistake and cross the threshold. Angie gets some chalk dust from Mauve to get through, we get to the exit and the threshold holding back spirits disappears and a spirit of murder tires to jump us. James has the idea to have the boulder roll down the beach and it works (warns Chastain and the lifeguard) Nathan tries to buy time while everyone gets out by shooting the murder spirit. A fair amount of cashing in family ties, with James throwing the last Thermite grenade into the murder spirit to stop it chasing. We get through and the portal see the realms start to separate.

As we start assessing what is going on Nathan and James see a spark from James to the pebble, and Nathan gets reminded of the spark of possibility related to the Phoenix, but not exactly the same. Also the lifeguard and Chastain ask what we did, Nathan says we freed death, and they ask “You did WHAT?”

Hob-notes #1+I
Summary corkboard covered in notes randomly found in one of the unused cubesmart cubes

Session: Playtime is Over
Everyone is called to the cubesmart from due to a package coming from Madame Alexander Doll factory and hospital, which was a museum for a bit before it closed.

Meet up in HR section, Derek is at his desk (Playing solitare and trying to not look at the vibrating box on his desk). Ask about it, it has been vibrating for the last 3 hours, think it is probably not a bomb. Addressed to cubesmart to an alias used by Contingent. James takes out pocket knife and opens the box and there is another box in it, with Echo inside. Says “They are trapped”, we ask if they want to let them out, respond “Us not them”. “It did not want us there. We wanted to set them free. They got rid of us.” Derek says we need to get the rest of the mission parameters from Vinny.

Ask who is trapped, Echo responds “Those who were forgotten”. Asks if those you are trapped are dangerous, Echo responses “They are dedicated to their purpose.” Ask what their purpose is, Response “They Watch and they Love”. The Jailor entity is not like the players. The Jailor has many limbs and is fast.

We head to R&D (Echo has disappeared off the table) to talk to Vinny. The Contingent thinks that a piece of the puzzle for the end times that is in the factory. Vinny does not believe that it is an actual hospital, just a doll hospital (for repairing dolls). We do some googling and phoning contacts to confirm this assumption. Bradley CSI contact says that there has been some tagging and break-ins, but in general it has been weirdly quiet. The building has been abandoned since has been closed. Find out a Fun Fact that in the 90s there was a program to repair any doll that was sent in. Vinny does give us a scanner to detect the item we are looking for. Grab some gear Including Salt, rope, and lockpicks. We ask Derek to call the Selling agent to see about getting us a tour. Pressures the receptionist to get us a tour ASAP but the keys are currently in the possession of some “nice boys using it for an art project”. We get a phone number for the people using it, we call it and get a voice mail for the Spirit Chasers. James remembers about the various members of the group, with Brad Ziggins being the one who runs headfirst into danger.

We make our way to the Doll Factory. We get there by Requisitioning a van. Tarriq is the one carrying the scanner. James comes into the shot as the Spirit Chasers start their opening shot. Brad is willing to work with us riding shotgun after they redo their opening shot. Entrance is the museum, there are old boxes but are well preserved. Nathan convinces Brad to keep the door unlocked so long as we salt the threshold to try to intimidate the “Ghost”. We look over the map as the spirit chasers plan shot compositions: Next section is the factory, 2nd floor is the hospital, and 3rd floor is offices. James and Tarriq go to the factory floor. Evening comes and for a moment everything is dark, but they notice a light in the offices. Bradley notices James and Tarriq leave and chases after them. James tries to look for the main breaker. Chuck tries to commit the likely shot positions of the Spirit chasers to memory to try to find them if we lose track of them and Nathan looks for the fire escapes and tries to follow the Spirit Chasers. Tarriq scans around in detects somethings in the hospital and/or offices. James then turns on the factory, and the lights and equipment turn on (all the machines are still here, which is strange). Brad Ziggins goes running off, and Bradley follows back. Chuck asks James to turn the equipment off, and James blows out the mains overhead lights, but the security lights are still on. Brad Ziggins freezes when the lights go off. Bradley runs into Brad, but Brad really does not move and Bradley falls into a box of pristine dolls, that then turn to him. The rest of the group starts moving through the factory with James lagging a bit behind because of being scared and Nathan in the back to make sure no one gets lost. Ziggins goes to help Brad up. Nathan tries to calm Brad down/have him try to convince the Spirit Chasers to not get too curious. The electric locks of the loading docks seem to have been messed with recently, but there are no fingerprints on the keypad. Ziggins tries to put the disrupted because it did not seem right to keep them that way, Chuck senses there is some compulsion driving him and notices something rotate/ticking iris in one of his eyes. Chuck remembers something about when normal people interact by Infrastructure can act a bit off.

Higgins goes into doll hospital, and notices a light in the office past a frosted glass door, and something at the end of the hospital hallway. Higgins calls out to the figure. James comes in and also notices the figure in the office, and the fact it has multiple arms in its back. James tries (and not very successfully) try to barricade the door. Tarriq opens the door, there is a male mannequin in a suit with additional mannequin arms coming from his back. James notices one of the dolls, and it had some gears in it, and when he reaches out it bites him. The scanner pings off the doll once it bites down. Tarriq grabs the doll and throws it in his backpack. James grabs something and throws it at the Mannequin. Nathan gives Mannequin a good old smack. The Mannequin heals itself up a bit and reaches out and tears something nebulous from Nathan. Chuck then beans in in the head and stuns it. Tarriq finishes bagging the McGuffin doll, and starts to book it. Higgins, Nathan, and Chuck smacks the Mannequin again while James makes a Molotov cocktail, and it eventually falls apart and stops moving. Chuck does keep on smacking it as if compelled. James lights the “Corpse” on fire with the Molotob, and chuck finds a fire extinguisher to snuff it out before it spreads. Nathan tries to get the Ghost Chasers out. Ziggins does look to be grabbing as many of the creepy dolls as possible; Bradley does try to tackle him but fails, but Nathan grabs him to fireman carry him out. Ziggins asks us to get the boxes out cause the boxes contain “them”. Chuck stays behind to try to find some information in the office, finds out someone was restarting the factory and using the doll in Tarriq’s backpack and using the doll. Chuck does get caught by the fire department.

Malice in Wonderland
Tarriq Editorialized Mission Notes

Malice in Wonderland

Investigators woke up in the forest and have turn into furries, except for the investigators that turn into scales.

Tarriq had a Breaking Point after their vision flashes, and he sees himself reading the mission packet. Investigators always remember to read the mission packet or spend stress for a flashback. (Sorry, wrong game… or is it.)

Met Damien who is convinced that we should be dead. We are clearly not dead. Damien is now vaguely disappointed by two of my characters. Damien is disappointed by most things that aren’t shiny.

R&D Dox people who knew about the Mouseguard fanfic. All the people who were doxxed are missing.

Saw smoke, so we headed towards it.

Maeve has a map and there are two nearby locations, 5-strip encampment and Allhaven. Allhaven is where the smoke came from.

Flash (maybe back). An unknown bookstore with all the investigators looking around and Dawn opened a book about Mouseguard and was pulled into the book. Dawn can be depended upon to touch/open/read/activate/wear the danger Maguffin.

Tarriq and Bradley pretend to have captured the others. The gate guards confuse Bradley for being a child weasel soldier. He does not look like a child weasel soldier.

Maeve attempts to summon a milkshake with her mind. Neither milkshake nor boys were brought to the yard. However, she did notice that mist, the color of Stygian blue, seems to cling to places out the corner of our eyes.

Stayed with the least incompetent of the danger long boys despite his incompetents and went to talk to Nox who is sitting on a pile of bones in his throne room.

Nox’s has a hat with tendrils coming off the hat. Also, He has a room full of elite weasel guards. A room full of giant elite weasel guards is less impressive than a room full of elite vampire guards. Point Dominic.

Humans are trapped in a pit in the throne room with a stone grate over them. The hat, while nice, seems to suck the life out of people. It is an Evil Hat.

While Bradley and Tarriq are being super good at chatting up Nox (Narrator: … eyeroll), Maeve sneaks down into the pit to motivate people to calm them down. Being punched by Lebron James did not break her concentration.

Bradley and Tarriq interrupted their brilliant bit of statecraft to help Nathan steal Nox’s hat with Tariq and Bradley’s Tarriq was bitten by Nox which was not ideal. Nox is venomnox not to be confused with poisonox.

Nathan gave the Evil Hat to Dawn. Dawn can be depended upon to touch/open/read/activate/wear danger Maguffins.

Dawn was uploaded to Ai Princess Celestia’s private Friendship Is Optimal server. A girl was uploaded to the server. Everyone else was uploaded to the server.

Did not get to spend the rest of eternity in AI Princess Celestia’s private Friendship is Optimal server. This is clearly non-optimal.

The book that was never a book that was never a hat is not an origami jellyfish now.

Dissecting Dolls & a Second Date
Shennanigans in R&D

Sidling his way through Contingent HQ, Brad makes his way down to the fifth floor with an air of nervous excitation about him. Things have been on the up and up for him, and following the general success of the previous operation, he’d finally been given the chance to formally join a division of the Contingent. After some not-so-careful consideration, he decided to join Human Resources, specifically as a facilitator. This was partly because it gave him an excuse to see more of Director Mayo, who had strangely captivated him since his first visit to HQ, but also because it gave him a better chance at finding the source of the red eyes that had been haunting him.

More important than any of this, however, is why he’s currently heading to R&D. A few days earlier, he and James had returned from their mission to Madame Alexander’s Doll Museum, Factory, and Hospital with a number of crates containing pristine dolls. Unsure of what to do with them, yet knowing that they were likely related to the omni-limbed monstrosity of a mannequin they had defeated, the two delivered the boxes to R&D for further investigation. Wanting to know more about the dolls themselves, and potentially with some ulterior motives in mind, Brad had decided to pay a visit to Dave as he’d been assigned to the project.

Stepping out of the elevator, Brad wanders past a series of examination rooms, each containing engineers and scientists conducting increasingly mystifying experiments. He eventually finds himself standing outside of a surgical suite, and peering through the window, he sees Dave adorned in a full surgical getup standing over a table with a doll on it. Giving a polite knock before poking his head through the door, Brad gives a hearty smile as he says, “Mind if I interrupt ya for a moment? I got a couple of questions about the uh…assets…that James and I retrieved, and about a few other things.”

Looking away from the tiny plastic figure, Dave turns to Brad, his face partially obscured by a pair of surgical loupes and a face shield. “Oh, Bradley! Yes, hello, um…give me just a minute to wrap this up, and I’ll be right with you. Feel free to have a seat while you wait, though try to avoid touching anything. Cross-contamination is an ever-present adversary!” Dave replies chipperly before refocusing his attention on the doll.

Brad watches with mild bemusement as Dave begins to surgically dismember it, fresh emesis basins resting nearby, ready to receive the bits and pieces. As Dave removes the first arm though, Brad’s bemusement quickly turns to mild horror. Glimpsing the doll’s shoulder socket, he sees an unnatural combination of gears, flesh, and nesting material writhing within before the arm swiftly snaps from Daves’s grasp. Tendons eerily stretch out from the body of the doll, embracing the arm as it begins to reconnect with a series of sickening sounds.

Sighing, Dave sets down his scalpel in exasperation. “That’s the third time it’s done that. Seems like I just can’t find a way to keep that thing separated.” Standing and doffing his surgical equipment, he says, “I could use a break and some coffee, though, so why don’t we take this conversation back to my office?”, before heading for the door.

The two make their way there, Brad taking a seat as Dave begins spooning grounds into a filter. “Dr. Sandoval has had me at this since the two of you dropped them off”, Dave says he fills the coffee maker with water and starts it. Taking a seat across from Brad, he continues, “Surprisingly, though, despite the occasional setback like what you just saw, I’ve managed to make some headway, so I’m happy to share what I can”, a smile replacing his previous exasperation.

Leaning forward in his chair, Brad returns the smile before saying “I guess the easiest question, well, at least to ask I suppose, is what the point of the dolls even is? They were the only pristine thing in that nightmare of a factory. When I fell into a crate of ‘em, they all snapped to look at me, almost like they were alive”, as goosebumps form on his skin as the memory flashes in his mind.

Dave twiddles his thumbs, listening intently before replying. “Well, based upon the notes Chuck gave me, as well as the dolls themselves, it seems they’re essentially supposed to be watchers, but on a smaller scale. They’re like cherubs if that’s an easier interpretation.” Resting a hand under his chin, he continues, “The thing is though, these are sort of a blank slate. They have no purpose beyond what they were built to be, a doll. Now, I’m not sure if I’d be passing these out to my niece or nephew, but they’re pretty harmless…well, unless you take them apart, as you’ve seen.”

“Okay, I think I kinda get it. So the weird little things are made just to watch people? I think that only makes me feel even more creeped out by ‘em. And here I thought cherubs were supposed to be cute little baby angels", Brad responds, a hint of discomfort on his face.

A loud beep sounds through the room as the coffee maker completes its task. Dave stands and produces two mugs from a nearby cabinet, one with a black silhouette of bigfoot and the other with a picture of a proton framed by the words “stay positive!”. He swiftly fills both before setting the bigfoot one in front of Brad along with a bottle of powdered creamer and a bowl of sugar cubes.

Brad pours a healthy portion of creamer into his mug alongside three cubes of sugar, stirring it while saying, “So the next question I’ve got is about another fella that was there with us, a uh, Brad Zaggins. While we were leavin’, he seemed like he was almost…transfixed by the dolls. Like, he was stackin’ ‘em back up and his eyes were doin’ this weird clockwork thing. Any idea what that could be?” Brad says, fidgeting with his mug as he awaits a response.

Placing two sugar cubes in his own mug, Dave stirs it, lost in thought as he mumbles, “So that’s how you like your coffee, good to know.” Realizing he’s said this aloud, he quickly fumbles out a response, remarking “Hmm, oh! I’ve heard of this. Obviously, I haven’t seen Mr. Zaggins, so don’t quote me on this, but he’s most likely Stigmatic. Essentially, when a person…interacts…with a piece of ‘infrastructure’ and lives to tell the tale, they can become more sensitive to it in the future.”

Raising an eyebrow at the coffee remark, Brad replies “Oh okay, so he’s not possessed or anything like that, just easily influenced, gotcha. I just wanted to make sure he wasn’t in any immediate danger, so thanks.” Taking on a more serious air, he continues, “Speakin’ of danger, though, I have one last thing, more on a personal note. I think I mentioned it when you were asking me questions after I ate that mushroom, but I’ve been seein’ these red eyes a lot recently. I don’t really know how best to describe ‘em, but they’re the reddest things I’ve ever seen, and I can’t look away from ‘em when they show up.”

Having recovered from his momentary embarrassment, Dave takes a long sip from his mug and presses forward, replying, “Red eyes? Hmm, there are quite a lot of phenomena with red eyes. Really red is a new data point, though. I can do some digging, but this may call for field research. If you can think of anything that happens in conjunction with the red eyes, or where you were when the first occurred, it might help me narrow it down.”

Thinking over the words, Brad responds, “Yeah, both times I’ve seen ‘em, whatever they’re attached to has been flyin’. Like the first time, the time in real life, I was catching a cab back from JFK with Nathan, and the thing they were a part of looked about the size of a drone or a helicopter. It was huge. During my vision, it was pretty similar, but that time it was keeping pace with a whole ass plane. I dunno if that’s ‘cause it was like a dream or somethin’, but it was really unnerving.”

At the mention of this, Dave’s eyes narrow slightly. He starts saying, “Huh…you know what it sort of reminds me of? Those stories of Mothman. You know, big flying thing with red eyes? But that’s in West Virginia I thought, why would that be in New York?”, before his words trail off into muttering. Catching himself, he turns back towards Brad and says “Sorry, that just sent my gears turning. That’s all I’ve got off the top of my head, though, but I’ll update you if anything else comes to mind.”

Their conversation seemingly concluded, Brad stands and starts heading for the door, saying, “I appreciate all the help, Dave. It means a lot.”

Standing and collecting the mugs in turn, Dave replies, “Yeah, of course, it’s what R&D is for after all. Well, one of the things it’s for, at least. But feel free to send along any other questions that come up, I’m always happy to help.”

Pausing at the threshold Brad turns around and gives Dave a sideways look before saying, “Actually, I do have one more question for ya. I figure I owe you a drink from the last time we did this, and I’m not sure what time you get off, but uh…why don’t we get dinner together? I know a good Greek place nearby; my treat for the string of questions”, with a half-grin.

Setting the mugs down and leaning back against his desk, Dave coolly looks Brad up and down. “I suppose Dr. Sandoval wouldn’t be too upset if I call out for the rest of the day. I have been working a lot of overtime after all.” Donning a facetiously contemplative expression, he continues, “And I suppose it would be rude to say no since you’re so graciously offering to pay. Hmm, I’ll tell you what. Give me 15 minutes and I’ll meet you in the call center. I’ll try not to keep you waiting”, returning Brad’s grin.

Doing his best to contain his excitement, Brad stutters out, “Great, yeah, awesome, 15 minutes then”, before eagerly making his way towards the elevator.

As it rises to the top floor, he reflects on how different his life has been over the past several months in between thoughts of his encroaching date. From Angie finding him on the night of the zombie attack to Nathan risking his life to save he and Dr. Cartwright to the showdown with the mannequin at the doll factory, everything has been more exciting. Not necessarily enjoyable, but definitely exciting. More important to Brad, though, is that it feels like he’s really contributing to something greater than himself. Having seen what the Contingent is capable of, the understanding that he can contribute to it, even if in a small way, stirs a sense of pride within him.

As the ding of the elevator arriving at its destination interrupts his thoughts, that pride evolves into a modicum of contentment as he enters the call center, the first he’s felt in longer than he can recall. Taking a seat in the waiting room of the call center, Brad starts to count the minutes as he awaits his tryst with Dave, giving himself a moment to appreciate the resurgence of this feeling.

Mushrooms, Madness, & Maybe More

Brad awakes with a start as his digital alarm clock blares rudely in his ear, the midday sun creeping through the drawn shades of the small window in his mess of an apartment. Fighting off the temptation to smack the snooze button as he’s done twice already, he hastily takes a sink shower and brushes his teeth before throwing on a pair of jeans and a button-up shirt. Though he usually takes a shower and grooms himself at the YMCA only a block or so up the street, he’s already running behind on his meeting in R&D. Heading towards the front door, he grabs his weathered, moss-green military jacket which he keeps his wallet and keys in and slides on a pair of worn boots.

The anticipation of the day ahead pulses through him as he makes his way through the deli below his apartment and out into the open air of New York. He briskly makes his way to the subway entrance off of Fresh Pond road, scanning his MetroCard at the kiosk as he hurries to catch the M train heading toward Manhattan. As the doors of the train start to close, he wraps a hand around a grab handle and begins to space out, recalling the events of his first mission with the Contingent and just how badly he’d fucked up.

“I mean, who in their right mind would think bringin’ a .38 to a zoo was a good idea?”, he thinks. “Not only was I caught and collared not even 30 minutes into the operation, I lost my damn gun in the process. I was such an asshole.” As the voice of the MTA announcer cries out in the background, Brad’s thoughts move towards the day ahead and what he considers to be a way to make up for the trouble he caused. “Dave’ll help me show that I’m not just a fuck up, though. I can be helpful to the Contingent, I know it.”

As the train comes to a squeaking stop below West 53rd Street, Brad releases the grab handle and moves to leave as the doors start to open. Exiting the train, he makes his way back out onto the hot streets of the city as his stomach gives a low grumble. “Shit I forgot to eat breakfast” he mumbles to himself. As he turns the corner onto 9th street, however, stands Amigo’s, almost as if summoned by his gripes and grumbles.

Wandering inside, he’s greeted with a nonchalant “mow” from the sleepy-looking cat by the register. Seeing that Amigo himself isn’t around, Brad grabs a wrapped ham and cheese croissant, thinking, “I guess I’ll have to get my card punched another time”, as he leaves a few bucks on the counter. Without lifting its head, the cat opens one eye and scrutinizes the bills before putting its paw over them, giving Brad a lukewarm chirp.

Though the CubeSmart on West 55th Street is only eight or so blocks away, by the time he reaches the entrance, a noticeable degree of sweat has begun to accumulate on his brow from the summer heat. Stepping inside, he gives a wave to Tarriq before heading to the secret entrance that leads to Contingent HQ below. Walking out of the elevator, Brad makes his way to R&D, finding Dave patiently waiting for him in the reception area.

Giving Brad a polite smile, Dave says, “I’ve booked us one of the labs for the afternoon as there’s really no telling what might happen during our little experiment. Let me show you the way”, as he begins to walk ahead.

Dave escorts Brad to what can best be described as a repurposed doctor’s office with a series of instruments and devices beyond Brad’s understanding scattered about. At the center of the room stands a patient bed, and sitting next to that is a metal stand with a small aluminum tray holding a simple-looking mushroom.

“As you know, the fey scanner we lent to Tarriq during the last operation has turned into, well, this”, Dave says, gesturing at the mushroom. “From all outward observances, it appears to be an Amanita, known for its numerous biologically active ingredients, including muscimol and ibotenic acid. The former of these is a hallucinogen and the latter is a neurotoxin, which is why I’ll be here to provide supportive care as needed.” Beginning to mess with some of the instruments, he adds, “Go ahead and take off your jacket and shirt and have a seat, if you would. Gotta get you all hooked up.”

Having been silent up until this point, and partially intimidated by all the equipment in the room, Brad gives a trepidatious, “Yeah, alright”, as he follows Dave’s request. “This thing isn’t gonna, like, kill me, is it?” he asks while undressing, giving Dave a sheepish smile.

As he lays down on the patient bed, Dave begins connecting a series of wires to Brad via suction cups that link back to the various instruments in the room, saying “Honestly, it’s hard to say. None of the normal scanners can make heads or tales of it, though, from my experience, it seems not too dissimilar from previous pieces of the Hedge we’ve studied. Even then, though, no two pieces are exactly alike.”

Giving Brad a reassuring squeeze on the shoulder, he adds “I’m sure you’ll be alright, big guy. You look like you’re in good shape, and if it helps at all, you have my sincerest appreciation for helping with this”, immediately following this by fastening a helmet to Brad not too dissimilar from Doc Brown’s mind-reading helmet from Back to the Future.

“To explain the Hedge a bit”, Dave continues as he begins setting the instruments to standby, “it’s basically a barrier between here and Arcadia, the home of, erm, how should I put it? Things you’ve likely heard about in…fairy tales. It’s a very strange place where the barrier between reality and symbolism breaks down. We’ve had field agents report finding goblin fruits made of dreams, trash made of memories, things of that sort. We’ve had a few samples to work with, but we usually keep them under lock and key as it’s hard to know what part of the hedge is and isn’t a door.”

Steeling himself, Brad takes a deep breath and exhales before asking, “So, assumin’ this thing isn’t poisonous, d’you think this’ll open that door you mentioned or somethin’?”

Contemplating it for a moment, Dave replies, “Honestly, it’s difficult to say. The fact that it looks like the Hedge to me might not mean anything. Fae stuff isn’t made of normal matter, it’s more like it’s made of the ethereal concept of what that matter could be. It’s…really hard to say how it’ll interact with a human body. And how it interacts with a human body in this lab is probably different than how it would interact at the zoo, or in the Hedge, or whatever." He gives Brad a sideways glance, “There really is only one way to find out. But, I mean, it’s risky, I get it if you don’t want to.”

“I’m gonna be honest, I didn’t really understand a lot of that and I don’t think you can boil it down enough to really make sense, but the whole experimenting thing is what you R&D folks do, yeah? So if that’s the case, you can’t know till you try, and I’m willin’ to risk it. Gotta make up for my fiasco at the zoo one way or another”, Brad replies, a half-cocked grin on his face

Returning Brad’s grin, Dave quickly produces a scalpel and cuts off a small piece of the mushroom, offering it to Brad. “Well then, bottoms up I suppose”, he says as Brad takes the chunk of mushroom from him and downs it.

Nothing of particular note happens for the first quarter of an hour or so. The two sit in silence, Brad staring at the ceiling and fidgeting as Dave alternates his focus between his test subject and the various computer screens displaying a myriad of data. In the blink of an eye, however, Brad no longer finds himself in the converted doctor’s office. Instead, he’s now sitting in a window seat on a large airliner. Raising his head above the sea of seats and looking around, he doesn’t recognize any of the other people aboard the aircraft. Hell, wracking his memory, he doesn’t even recall how he got here. Not wanting to make a fuss or draw attention to himself, though, he settles in and focuses his attention out the window, fixating on the navigation light on the tip of the wing.

The light itself is obscured by a dense cloud cover sprawling through the night sky, emitting a heavy red beam. As he stares at it though, he starts to notice something. Just a moment ago there was one light, but now there’re two. Closing his eyes and shaking his head, he opens them again, but the two red points remain, matching pace with the plane directly outside his window as if they’re meant for him alone to see. He begins to realize they aren’t just lights…they’re eyes. Deep, fathomless, crimson eyes, eyes that have seen far too much, and as this realization hits him, they both snap, focusing their maddening gaze upon him.

Brad freezes for a moment in terror, the blood in his veins chilling as his muscles seize up. He wants so desperately to undo his seatbelt and tear down the plane’s aisle, running anywhere he can to avoid whatever terrible thing is about to happen. But he can’t move.

Suddenly the entire plane shudders, a muffled boom coming from somewhere near its nose. The plane stalls and goes quiet, the hum of the engine suddenly gone. For a moment Brad feels weightless, almost calm, like the only things in the universe are him and those two points of light. Then the eyes wink out of existence, and the plane begins to free fall.

He continues to look out the window as the world outside begins to spiral, his screams vanishing into the flare and whine of alarms as the plane descends. Brad watches as the ground of the city below comes closer by the second, the buildings and cars and people growing rapidly to scale before him. His heart beats wildly, adrenaline flooding his system as he accepts the inevitability of what’s to come before closing his eyes and blacking out.

Brad awakes on the patient bed with a start, sweat profusely falling from his body as the remains of a scream dies on his lips. Dave rushes over, quickly removing the helmet and wires as he helps Brad into a sitting position. As Brad catches his breath, Dave begins running vitals on him and with polite urgency collects a few vials of blood before giving a relieved sigh.

“It looks like your vitals are all clear as far as I can tell, though I’ll need to have your labs run before I can be sure, but what the hell happened? You were perfectly fine one moment and then the next you looked, well, like you’d seen a ghost”, Dave asks with a hint of concern in his voice.

Brad conveys to him the events of his vision as Dave notes them down, his attention seeming to linger heavily on the eyes. Seeing Brad’s exhaustion after the retelling though, he decides to save the remainder of his questions for later.

“Listen, I know that must’ve been hard on you, so why don’t we call it for the day. If you give me a few minutes to wrap things up here and send off the samples and data I collected for analysis…I figured I could treat you to something? There’s a place I know nearby that serves a mean cosmopolitan, and I figure you could use a drink” Dave says, a half smile replacing his previous concern.

Standing and redressing, Brad considers the offer for a moment before saying, “I’ve always been more of an old-fashioned guy myself, but sure, I think I’d like that”, heading out to the R&D foyer afterward to await Dave, the image of crimson eyes burned into the back of his mind.