The Widening Gyre

<~Heiden> You'd already finished the battery of tests required of all hires.

<~Heiden> The indoctrination briefings, the mission of the organization, the need for absolute secrecy.

<~Heiden> Some of you had even been informed that you had handlers at Headquarters keeping a special eye on your case.

<~Heiden> You'd left Washington in small groups over the last week, shuttled by bus halfway across the United States to your new home - a nondescript facility on the outskirts of Chicago.

<~Heiden> A few days were given to you to settle in, before the call came: your first operational briefing was today.

<~Heiden> Report to Site 001 at 1000. Expect to be out of town for a day or two.

<Ragz> Trent exits his car, having parked already. He's got a candy bar in his right hand, which he's peeling open with his left.

<Ragz> He looks around and heads for the most likely looking place where an entrance might be.

<Doctopus> The crunch of gravel is barely audible over the intense squeak of rusty suspension. A battered, beat up Studebaker that saw it's best days more than 5 years ago gingerly wheels into a parking lot… most of the way. The engine stalls out halfway in, and the suspension squeaks for a moment as the passenger inside beats the dashboard for a moment. After a second, the window rolls down. A brunette pokes her head out, mouth taut with anger.

<Doctopus> "Hey! You! Lunchbreak!"

<Doctopus> Pointing at Trent.

<Ragz> Trent turns. His candy bar's wrapper crinkles as he unwraps it a bit more.

<Ragz> Munch.

<Doctopus> "Come over here and help a gal out- I need a push."

<Ragz> "Sure thing."

<Ragz> He trots over, and holds the candy bar in his mouth as he gets to pushing.

<Doctopus> "Thanks. Shoulda realized Agent Foberson was screwing me when he handed the keys over. Prick never did like me." She puts the stick in neutral, carefully steering it the last few feet.

<Ragz> "Can't imagine why anyone would dislike you, miss."

<Wogglebug> Bruno pulls up in front of the site, driving a 63' VW Kombi in brown and white. He parks and gets out of the car, looking around sheepishly. He's wearing a light shirt and dark slacks. His shoes are slightly scuffed on the tip.

<~Heiden> The entrance is easily accessible from the parking lot - a few steps leads to a featureless white door with a rusting doorknob.

<Doctopus> She puts it in park. "Thanks, buddy. Thing died twice on the way over." Getting out, patting her dress and vest down. "You'd think that people would be nicer to someone they were getting rid of." She shoves her hand out. "Allenby. Margot Allenby."

<gravityy> A newish, teal-green Chrysler stops a good distance away. A slight fellow in glasses with the Chinese equivalent of floppy Beatles hair bounces out of the driver's seat. This is Sidney Liang, and he's got a PhD.

<Wogglebug> Bruno spots the others and starts walking over, waving as he goes.

<Ragz> Trent's in black slacks and a white button up, no tie. He shakes Allerby's hand. "Trent Dyson. And I don't know, some people just can't miss an opportunity to be snippy, in my experience at least."

<Doctopus> "You said it. You get transferred here too?"

<Ragz> "Yup. Sure did." He flicks a wave to bruno.

<Doctopus> "Well, hopefully it's an easy gig. Though I doubt it." She frowns.

<gravityy> "Top of the morning!"

<Doctopus> "…and then there's /this/ asshole-" Mumbled under her breath. Trent might barely hear it.

<Wogglebug> Bruno reaches the others, smiling slightly. He's bald, and has a thick mustache.

<Ragz> Trent checks his wrist watch, a cheap thing with a leather band.

<Ragz> "Hey there fellas."

<Ragz> "I don't want to be late so what say we trade names while we walk?"

<Wogglebug> Bruno nods. "Sounds like a plan. Name's Bruno Bauer. I take it you're the other new hires?"

<gravityy> "Yes, I should think so."

<gravityy> "I'm Dr. Liang, and I've got a good reason for not shaking anyone's hand."

<Doctopus> "Margot Allenby. Got a cold or something, doc?"

<Ragz> "Trent Dyson."

<Wogglebug> Bruno extends a hand towards Margot and Trent, for shaking.

<Ragz> Trent shakes the hand, and starts for the shitty white door, motioning for the others to follow.

<gravityy> "Indeed I do." Liang checks over his shoulder, shielding his eyes from the sun with his hand, then follows Trent.

<Doctopus> Margot walks with them, glancing about.

<~Heiden> The door glides open when you tug on the handle. It may look like a wreck, but it appears to be that way intentionally.

<gravityy> "What a strange design philosophy."

<Ragz> "It makes sense kind of."

<Doctopus> "Spooks." Margot snorts.

<Ragz> "No one looks at a derelict building and goes 'I bet there's interesting stuff in there'. Well, maybe teenagers."

<~Heiden> "Secrecy through obscurity, gentlemen." The man waiting for you inside looks up as you step into the building onto a catwalk.

<Doctopus> Margot rolls her eyes a little.

<~Heiden> There are stairs down to the first floor of the building on your left, and an office straight ahead across the catwalk. The door's closed, though.

<Ragz> Trent steps forward so he isn't blocking the doorway.

<gravityy> These are stairs. Stairs are your hips' worst enemies.

<Wogglebug> Bruno follows Trent. He seems to have a basic understanding of what's going on.

<Doctopus> Margot shuffles in, glancing around.

<Ragz> "Morning sir."

<Ragz> Trent looks down the stairs, then straight ahead. Back to the man.

<~Heiden> He's down on the main floor, standing over a table.

<Ragz> Trent heads there!

<gravityy> Liang takes the stairs two at a time. He might be insufferable.

<~Heiden> "Credentials, everyone?" You recognize the man faintly from some of your indoctrination briefings back in D.C., but can't put a name to the face.

<Doctopus> Margot follows Lunchbreak.

<~Heiden> Everyone was issued some form of obscured identification - nothing SAYS Foundation, but they're uniquely marked forms of other, normal identification.

<Doctopus> Margot hands over her marked driver's ID.

<~Heiden> The man gives the ID a once-over without taking it, then nods. He repeats the process for everyone else as they fish their various badges/passports/etc. out.

<Ragz> Trent hands over his own marked ID card.

<Wogglebug> Bruno does the same.

<~Heiden> "Excellent. For your comfort…" The man reaches into his jacket and pulls out a green active duty US military identification card, showing it to each of you in turn. Lieutenant General William G. Bowe. The upper right corner has three arrows in a triangular configuration, pointing towards the center - so small as to almost be unidentifiable.

<gravityy> Liang lifts his glasses to peer at it. "Should I be saluting, or…?"

<Doctopus> Margot shrugs. GENERALS. PFAH.

<Ragz> Trent doesn't snap to attention but does stand a bit straighter.

<~Heiden> "You are currently - " the tone in LTG Bowe's voice indicates that this may be a matter of some contention, "-*civilian* members of a government agency. That may change in the future. For now, customs and courtesies expected of servicemembers are not to be observed."

<gravityy> "Dandy. I don't know how to salute."

<~Heiden> He shakes his head. "Regardless, we haven't got all day." On the table are a small stack of manila folders. He slides them across the table to you, gesturing for everyone to help themselves.

<Doctopus> Margot takes hers, opening it, eyes glazing as she tries to pay attention.

<Wogglebug> Bruno takes his and starts reading.

<~Heiden> "All information we've been able to gather is in those packets, regarding your first target."

<Ragz> Trent pops his folder open and peruses the contents.

<gravityy> Liang flips it open.

<~Heiden> The packets are fairly sparse - photocopied news articles about missing individuals from northern Indiana in the last seventy years or so, topographical reports of a small portion of the same region… and a sworn statement from a member of the ESSA Corps about being lost for six days in two square miles, again - from the same area.

<~Heiden> Amusingly, the ESSA Corps statement appears to be derived from disciplinary proceedings for failing to show up for work.

<Wogglebug> "Looks funky."

<Doctopus> "So… Some jerk skips work and has a two day bender. What's the point?"

<Ragz> "Not just one jerk."

<~Heiden> "Preliminary reports - combined with topographical survey - suggest that this shouldn't be possible. Something *unusual* may be happening, there."

<Wogglebug> "Is the amount of people who've gone missing more than normal?"

<Ragz> Trent skims the articles. Any of the others ever come back besides the ESSA guy?

<~Heiden> None that seem to be reported.

<gravityy> "Well." Liang shuts the folder. "I'm excited."

<~Heiden> Could just be that 'gets lost in the woods, comes back' doesn't make for a story.

<Doctopus> "And what are we supposed to be doing in the middle of nowhere, Indiana?"

<Ragz> "Any chance we can talk to this guy, sir?" He taps the ESSA guy's statement.

<~Heiden> "I'm afraid not. Too likely that the agency's mission would be tipped off."

<Ragz> Trent nods. Starts examining the topographical maps for distinct land features.

<~Heiden> Looks like a hilly region, mostly forested. There's a clearing near the center of your search area that would serve as a good starting point.

<Wogglebug> "So, we going out there, then?"

<~Heiden> "That is the intent, yes."

<Wogglebug> "Looks like a long walk."

<~Heiden> "We will provide transportation - there's a van that should be arriving shortly."

<Ragz> Trent looks around and begins to put the various papers back in the envelope.

<Ragz> He keeps the map out, though.

<~Heiden> "Please leave the reports here. Take *one* map - it would be best if it was not publicly known that the U.S. Government was taking an active interest in this area."

<Doctopus> Margot sighs. "I was hoping for something interesting."

<Doctopus> She puts the folder down, carelessly.

<gravityy> Provided transportation? In a van? These gents already have a higher budget than everywhere else Liang has worked. He's smiling internally. And externally.

<~Heiden> The van is waiting outside, idling. LTG Bowe gathers up the materials as you depart.

<Doctopus> Margot makes her way out, shaking her head. Another boring assignment.

<Ragz> Trent leaves, map folded up and placed in his pocket.

<Ragz> He grabs a dufflebag from his car before going to the van.

* Wogglebugout is now known as Wogglebug

<Wogglebug> Bruno boards as well, after retrieving a suitcase from his van.

<Doctopus> Margot has a suitcase, black with a lock on it.

<gravityy> Liang has a small black case with silver edges that looks like a musical instrument used to live in it before it was disemboweled.

<Ragz> Trent looks at the various cases.

<gravityy> Liang grins sunnishly at Trent.

<Ragz> He unzips his bag and pulls out a coat, as well as handgun in a holster with a belt clip. The latter is clipped in place and then he puts on the coat.

<Ragz> "So."

<Ragz> "Might be good to know a bit about each other's capabilities. I'm ex-military, army. What about you all?"

<Doctopus> "Just a civilian."

<Doctopus> Margot looks bored. "Can't imagine they'll want a bunch of paperwork filed out there. Must need warm bodies."

<gravityy> "Archaeologist from UC Davis."

<gravityy> "I'm almost certain we're not going to a dig."

<Ragz> "Seems unlikely."

<Wogglebug> "Actor. Stage and film. Other things too, but mostly that. I thought I was supposed to be doing PR, but this doesn't strike me as very public. Or relations."

<Ragz> Trent looks around. Rubs the top of his head.

<Ragz> "Well, ok then."

<gravityy> "Have you been in any movies I've seen?"

<Wogglebug> "Probably not. Mostly arthouse stuff. A few minor rolls in some bigger flicks."

<Doctopus> "Weren't you that guy who got hit with the plank in that Brando movie?"

<Wogglebug> "Oh yeah. That was a fun one. Half the cast was drunk when we filmed that scene. Ended up retaking it four or five times."

<Doctopus> "Looked like it hurt. How'd you get out without a broken nose?"

<Wogglebug> "They had this weird fake wood stuff. Same as how they do the thing where they break a bottle over someone's head. Normally that'd give you a concussion, at the least."

<Wogglebug> "It's pre-weakened or something. The props guys can do some crazy stuff."

<Wogglebug> "So if you're a civilian, what do you do?"

<Wogglebug> "Anything in particular?"

<Doctopus> "Paperwork. Ordering locks and alarms mostly."

<Doctopus> "Guess they thought you guys needed someone who knew about what brand of padlock you can get for cheap at bulk prices."

<Wogglebug> "Oh. Fun."

<Wogglebug> "Are there, uh, a lot of different kinds of padlocks?"

<Doctopus> "Dozens."

<Wogglebug> "Wow."

<Wogglebug> He turns to Liang. "Have you ever dug up any padlocks? Old ones?"

<Ragz> Trent takes his candy bar from his pocket. Starts breaking bits off and eating them.

<Ragz> He waves the bar around, offering it to the others.

<Wogglebug> Bruno accept a piece. "Thanks."

<Doctopus> "Sorry. Trying to stop eating chocolate. Thanks anyway."

<gravityy> Liang swallows a laugh. "No, never. What I dig up is…significantly older than padlocks."

<Ragz> "Welcome."

<gravityy> He takes some chocolate and scromfs it in one bite.

<Wogglebug> "Oh? What sort of things? Dinosaurs, maybe?"

<Doctopus> "Like what?"

<gravityy> "Not as old as dinosaurs, heavens. Ancient trash, mostly, though sometimes we get lucky and find religious artifacts or inscriptions."

<gravityy> "I specialized in the Middle East and the Bronze Age, but, ah, I like to think I'm flexible."

<Ragz> "So what, like, water pots from Greece or something?"

<gravityy> "Sure, if I'm in Greece."

<gravityy> "I'm not the best at reading it. I'm more literate in Hittite and Babylonian cuneiform."

<Doctopus> "Huh."

<gravityy> "Very useful in northern Indiana, of course."

<Wogglebug> "Do… do they have any history in Indiana?"

<Doctopus> "Sure.

<Ragz> "Probably not very interesting history."

<~Heiden> I'm just assuming that this conversation is taking place from side the van as it bumbles down the road.

<Doctopus> "You've got the early 'nothing happened' period, followed by the early-middle 'nothing happened' period, and then there's the really exciting late-middle 'nothing happened' period."

<Doctopus> "It's Indiana. This is where attention spans go to die."

<gravityy> "It's interesting if you like reading a lot about Robert de La Salle."

<Doctopus> "Who?"

<gravityy> Liang coughs into the crook of his elbow. "Never mind."

<~Heiden> You're crossing state lines into Indiana now. Can't be too much longer.

<Wogglebug> "So, how'd you guys wind up working for the government?"

<Ragz> "Military, guess they just thought I was a good fit after I got out."

<gravityy> "I had a couple papers published and received a phone call. It was all very quick."

<Doctopus> "Another job petered out and this seemed like the only good option."

<Ragz> "Well, we're all here now." He looks out a window and shrugs. "In Indiana."

<Ragz> "At least it'll be an easy start."

<Doctopus> "There could be worse things than a dull job and a steady paycheque." Her tone conveys doubt at this, however.

<~Heiden> The van pulls off of the desolate two-lane highway onto a dirt road. It's coming up on noon.

<gravityy> Liang springs out and inhales that humid Indiana air.

<gravityy> "What a lovely day."

<Ragz> Trent also exits.

<Doctopus> Margot gets out, glancing around, lugging her suitcase.

<~Heiden> The van driver rolls down the window. "You can leave your stuff here. We're packing up after sundown - got rooms at a motel nearby if we need to come back tomorrow. Authorized 3 days, including today."

<Doctopus> "Alright." Margot puts the suitcase back, carefully.

<gravityy> "Yessir!"

<Wogglebug> Bruno get sout, and stretches a great deal.

<Ragz> Trent nods. "We'll meet you back here then."

<~Heiden> "I ain't going anywhere." You can hear him tuning the radio - mostly static, can't pick up anything out here - as he rolls the window back up.

<~Heiden> Thankfully, it's actually a relatively cool day today. Temperature hasn't gone much since the morning.

<Doctopus> Margot sighs. "Now what? We just wander around?"

<Ragz> Trent looks around and rubs the back of his head.

<Ragz> Pulls out the map in his pocket.

<gravityy> "It sounded like we need to go into /the woods/."

<Wogglebug> "Could look and see if the map matches to what is actually here."

<gravityy> "Perhaps go missing for a few hours."

<Ragz> "Sounds like a good idea. Not the going missing thing."

<Wogglebug> "Any of you guys good with maps?"

<Ragz> He starts trying to figure out where they are on the map.

<Ragz> "Not terrible."

<~Heiden> Do you have a compass?

<Ragz> Yep.

<~Heiden> Intellect check, land navigation, to pinpoint your location. DC 1, it's a common infantry task.

<~Heiden> I'll roll it online. Just a sec.

<~Heiden> You hold up your compass and eyeball some figures - after a moment, you're pretty confident that you can stick to this map.

<~Heiden> You're about a kilometer and a half southwest of that clearing you noted earlier.

<Ragz> "We're not far off from that clearing. Could check it out."

<gravityy> "Lead the way, cap'n."

<Doctopus> "After you."

<Ragz> Trent leads the way.

<Ragz> "I hope you all wore comfortable shoes."

<Wogglebug> Bruno looks at his own shoes, and sighs.

<Doctopus> Margot looks at her heels and siiiiighs.

<gravityy> Liang looks at his penny loafers. Success!

<~Heiden> It looks like it's going to be a fun day!

<~Heiden> ---——

<~Heiden> It was not a fun day.

<gravityy> Liang is used to dicking around in wildernesses for hours and hours, but maybe that's not exactly 'fun'.

<Doctopus> Margot is made of hate.

<Doctopus> Heels in turf is not fun. She was expecting an indoor gig.

<Ragz> Trent is picking a splinter out of his eyebrow.

<Ragz> Or trying to.

<~Heiden> The van guy is asleep.

<Ragz> It's not going well."

<Ragz> *-"

<Doctopus> Margot knocks on the window.

<~Heiden> "Snxx-wuh?" He jerks out of his sleep and looks up.

<~Heiden> "Oh, shit, already sundown? Any luck?"

<~Heiden> He's rolling down the window as he says this.

<Doctopus> "If by luck you mean almost twisting my ankle four times… Yes."

<~Heiden> "Gotcha."

<gravityy> "As you can see, we are not missing."

<~Heiden> "That's always good."

<~Heiden> "Doors're unlocked."

<Ragz> "You also almost found a cowpie, don't forget that."

<gravityy> Liang's voice is crackly and rough from being in the last throes of a cold and also walking around a lot outdoors.

<gravityy> He hops into the car and hacks some more into his elbow.

<Ragz> Trent gets in as well.

<Doctopus> Margot climbs in and sits, staring hatred at the ceiling.

<Wogglebug> Bruno is there, crying slightly over his blistered feet.

<Ragz> "…you uh, you ok man?"

<Wogglebug> "Fine. Just hurts is all."

<Wogglebug> His eyes are a bit watery.

<~Heiden> And you're on the road.

<Ragz> "Did you twist it, or…?"

<Wogglebug> "No. Just, blisters."

<~Heiden> The van pulls up and parks at a decrepit old motel. "We've got a late arrival waiting for you here. He'll be joining us tomorrow."

<~Heiden> With that, the van driver NPC gets out and heads in.

<Doctopus> "Is he a podatrist?"

<Doctopus> "..prick."

<Doctopus> Mumbled.

<gravityy> "What a charming little place," he says about the filthy no-tell motel that probably charges by the hour or something else horrible.

<Wogglebug> "That's one word you could use to describe something, yes."

<Ragz> "Well, let's get in and get some shut eye."

<Doctopus> "Let's hope they have hot water."

<Doctopus> "And there's a delivery place nearby."

<pooryoric> Inside the room, a tall man is stretched full length on the couch. He has short cropped hair with a bit of a coif, and is wearing a suit with no tie and the sleeves rolled up.

<pooryoric> As you enter, he opens one eye and regards the group balefully.

<pooryoric> "I just got to sleep."

<gravityy> "Oh, hello."

<~Heiden> The van guy lugs a box of military rations in. Apparently delivery is out. A quick test will show that at least you've got hot water.

<pooryoric> he sits up, grinning. "Agent McClery. nice t'meetcha."

<Wogglebug> Bruno waves, from the back.

<Ragz> Trent nods to McClery and smiles. "Trent Dyson. When'd you get out here?"

<Doctopus> Margot waves. "Allenby. 'Scuze, I need a shower." Shouldering past the others to get to the bathroom, pulling her suitcase with.

<gravityy> "Dr. Liang. Forgive me for not shaking your hand. I'm getting over a cold."

<~Heiden> They really shorted you. Apparently you're supposed to fit the whole team into three rooms, between the couches and twin beds.

<pooryoric> "fine by me, I didn't offer." he shrugs. "no offense, I just wasn't up yet." he stands, tugging his shirt collar and glancing around for his coat. it's nowhere in sight.

<Doctopus> Margot uses up all the hot water. FUCK ALL YA'LL

<gravityy> Nobody sleep on Liang's couch. He kicks.

<pooryoric> "I was going to claim a bed, but if the, uh, lady…" he trails off, jerking a thumb over his shoulder in the direction of the bathroom and Margot.

<Ragz> Trent looks in that direction as well.

<Wogglebug> Bruno sets his suitcase on the couch, as subtly as he can, looking suspicious all the while.

<Ragz> "I'll take the floor, the lady can have a room to herself. Agreed?"

<gravityy> "Suit yourself."

<pooryoric> McClery shrugs. "s'okay with me. I won't snuggle if you don't. any of you mugs planning on tellin' me your names?"

<Ragz> Trent gave his already.

<Wogglebug> Bruno waves a hand and drops it, in a lazy wave. "Bruno Bauer. Good to meet ya."

<~Heiden> Everyone settles in for the night. The place smells kind of weird, and you definitely wouldn't stay here unless you had to, but … well, you've got to. The sun rises on a bright new day.

<pooryoric> "HWOARGHmmmph good mornin', fellas. This thing sleeps like a stack of cinderblocks, and I am ready to face the day."

<Doctopus> There's a knock on the door.

<gravityy> Sidney, ever the earlybird, is already up and dressed and slightly damp from a shower.

<gravityy> He flings open the door.

<gravityy> "G'morning."

<Ragz> Trent rubs his face and goes to the door.

<Ragz> Opens it.

<pooryoric> "Woah, WOAH! Let a guy get dressed first, why don'tcha?"

<pooryoric> Mcclery stumbles out of couch, wrapped in a sheet-toga

<Doctopus> Margot is standing between their two rooms. She's holding…oh goodness. COFFEE. Actual hot coffee, two pots of it. "Here you are, fellas. Least I could do for giving me a room to myself."

<pooryoric> "On the other hand, I've been woken up by worse sights. Anybody bring bagels?"

<Doctopus> "Sorry. Only one miracle per day."

<~Heiden> There are some incredibly dry pre-packaged biscuits in the rations you were provided!

<~Heiden> It's almost the same thing, if you hate yourself and food.

<Wogglebug> Bruno is in the hall, leaning against the wall, looking semiconscious. He's wearing boots now, at least.

<Ragz> Trent hands these out.

<Ragz> "Anyone have cups?"

<gravityy> Liang scarfs an incredibly dry pre-packaged biscuit.

<pooryoric> "Wouldn't catch me dead eating that khazeray."

<Doctopus> Margot dips hers in her coffee and chokes it down.

<Doctopus> "Cups are in my room. Just a moment."

<Doctopus> She comes back out with styrofoam.

<gravityy> "It's not bad, really."

<Ragz> Trent pours out coffee for those without it.

<~Heiden> Nameless Van Guy slouches by, grunting something incomprehensible as he walks outside.

<pooryoric> As soon as she's gone, McClery has dropped the sheet and pulled on some pants.

<gravityy> "Try fermented soybeans sometime. Nothing will taste bad after that. Nothing."

<pooryoric> "Why would you ever eat that?"

<pooryoric> he takes a cup of coffee, sips, and grimaces.

<Ragz> "That's the Japanese stuff right? Smells terrible from what I hear."

<Wogglebug> Bruno munches on his bagel quietly.

<Ragz> Trent suffers through his biscuit.

<gravityy> "I've seen it called 'stinky tofu' before. The name is apt."

<Ragz> "Anyway, who's ready for another great day of hiking?"

<gravityy> "I am!"

<pooryoric> "Hiking? I thought we were lookin' for somebody."

<Doctopus> "No, what we're doing is a whole lot of nothing."

<Ragz> "We're looking around for anything 'unusual'."

<Wogglebug> "I thought we were checking maps."

<pooryoric> "Sounds like /you're/ doing the kvetching. Good coffee, though."

<~Heiden> Van Guy is burning a cigarette, leaning on the driver's-side door.

<Ragz> Trent unfolds the map in his pocket.

<Ragz> "Let's see what we managed to cover yesterday…"

<pooryoric> McClery leans over to look at the map.

<~Heiden> A lot of the southwestern quadrant of your search area was covered. You can probably safely write that off.

<Doctopus> "We only got one more day after today. We're gonna have to pick one to ignore, or split up and try and get two done today.

<Doctopus> "Both options sound bad to me."

<pooryoric> "Okay. Let's do that."

<~Heiden> You can probably cover more terrain today and tomorrow, since you got to the site after noon yesterday.

<Ragz> "We can manage without splitting up. Let's do the southeast today, and some of the northeast if we have time."

<Wogglebug> "Do we have any idea where the people who went missing were heading, in the area?"

<gravityy> "Not that I saw."

<Ragz> Trent shakes his head.

<Ragz> "Anyone here have some spare shoes for Ms. Allenby?"

<gravityy> How tall is she?

<pooryoric> "Oh, sure, let me just pull a pair of size fives outta my, er." he glances at Margot. "No."

<Wogglebug> "You could stuff 'em, a larger shoe."

<Wogglebug> "Might slip off, but it's easier than heels."

<gravityy> Liang has tiny feet.

<Ragz> "Better than her twisting an ankle, is all I'm saying."

<Wogglebug> Bruno nods.

<Doctopus> "Thanks. But I packed flats."

<Doctopus> "I just didn't think to take them out yesterday."

<gravityy> Liang idly sticks a penny in the slot of his loafer. "Shall we head out?"

<Ragz> "May as well."

<gravityy> He goes downstairs and outside to the NPCmobile.

<pooryoric> McClery shrugs and follows.

<gravityy> The last of his dry MRE biscuits becomes pigeon food.

<Ragz> Trent heads over too.

<Wogglebug> Bruno follows along.

<~Heiden> Van Guy nods to everyone as they start packing into the van. It's a little more cramped with two newcomers, but it works.

<~Heiden> It's not long before the engine starts up and you're on your way back to the search area.

<pooryoric> "So, somebody clue me in on what I'm supposed to be doin'? Guy what hired me said you might need some muscle."

<gravityy> "We are trying to go missing in the forest."

<Ragz> "That's not really our goal."

<pooryoric> "We didn't have to come all the way to indiana for that."

<Ragz> "We're looking around to see if we can find out why people are going missing. You're probably just going to want to stay on your toes, eyes peeled for trouble. That sort of thing."

<Ragz> They're all walking along through the forested area at this point, right?

<Wogglebug> Yup.

<Wogglebug> Or not.

<~Heiden> You've just parked at the end of the dirt road.

<gravityy> Liang jumps out of the van.

<Ragz> Trent gets out as well. He's dressed the same as yesterday. Black pants, white button up, no tie, a coat.

<Wogglebug> Bruno gets out as well. He's wearing jeans and a shirt, with boots.

<Doctopus> Margot gets out, happier in her flats. "We've got water and rations in the van. Let's meet up here around midday, compare notes."

<Ragz> "Are we splitting up? We shouldn't need to, but we can I suppose."

<Soulless> Clarisse is wearing comfortable clothes for walking in the wilderness. She's quiet for now, watching everyone, looking around.

<Doctopus> "Let me have a lunchbreak."

<pooryoric> McClery steps out. Brown pants, brown shoes, brown belt, white shirt. Matching coat lazily tossed over one shoulder, sleeves up over tight muscles. He had a tie on when you left the hotel; what happened to it?

<Soulless> "Splitting up is a bad idea."

<Soulless> "It will be hard to track anyone if they go missing."

<Ragz> Trent blinks and looks at Clarisse.

<gravityy> "Pirate rules, then."

<pooryoric> "…when did you get here?"

<Soulless> Clarisse looks back to Trent, then to McClery. She offers a noncommittal shrug.

<Ragz> "I was just thinking that. Hello, miss."

<Ragz> "Trent Dyson. You are…?"

<Soulless> "Hello. Clarisse."

<gravityy> "Dr. Sidney Liang, archaeologist and team unnecessariat!"

<gravityy> He is 5'7" and dressed like a professor. His elbows have patches and everything.

<Soulless> "Hello."

<pooryoric> "Agent McClery. Just McClery if you're feeling bulvniky."

<Soulless> "Okay."

<Soulless> She goes back to going along.

<pooryoric> McClery is a muscular 6'3. He looks like he should be holding a bat and calling someone 'boss'.

<pooryoric> "Now me, I was digging the lunch break plan."

<Ragz> "Let's work up an appetite first."

<gravityy> "Cracking idea."

<Ragz> Trent motions in the direction they're headed, to the southeast, and starts that way.

<Ragz> He checks the map every so often while looking to and fro.

<gravityy> Liang commences walking. He doesn't spend a lot of time in forests, so he is not sure what would look out of place.

<pooryoric> McClery follows, mumbling something under his breath which you can overhear if you care

<Ragz> Trent cares!

<~Heiden> Trudging through the undergrowth, everything's looking like it's going to shape up like it did yesterday. Aside from the occasional chirp or chitter of wildlife, nothing really seems to be happening out here.

<Doctopus> Margot is so bored ;-;

<pooryoric> "Right. Pass me that stick."

<gravityy> "What for?"

<pooryoric> "Whaddaya mean what for? It's a stick, we're in the woods."

<Wogglebug> "So, for a fire, then?"

<gravityy> Liang is nonplussed, but hands him the indicated stick.

<Soulless> Clarrisse stops to watch.

<pooryoric> As he walks, McClery pokes idly at logs and such. It's a stick, man, not everything has a purpose.

<Ragz> Trent carries on, and skirts a bit of dung narrowly.

<Ragz> "Watch your step."

<~Heiden> The ground grows rockier in this area, and you begin to approach one of the hills on your map.

<pooryoric> "See, if /you/ hadda stick, you wouldn't have to do that little half step."

<Ragz> "Fair point."

<Ragz> Trent labors up the hill.

<Soulless> "We should be here." Clarisse indicates on her map.

<~Heiden> The sun's overhead as you get there, and it's beginning to get a bit warmer. The trees grow thicker, interspersed with boulders.

<gravityy> Liang follows Trent while cleaning his glasses on his jacket.

<Doctopus> Margot is thinking longingly of her apartment.

<~Heiden> Strangely, a gravel path seems to cut through this area, wending its way in southwest-northeast directions.

<~Heiden> Wasn't supposed to be anyone here, but it looks reasonably maintained.

<Doctopus> "Oh thank god, a road." Margot gets on it.

<Ragz> "That's…hmm."

<gravityy> "Is this on the map? Because if it isn't, I have some questions."

<Ragz> "Looking…"

<Ragz> Trent examines the map.

<pooryoric> "Yeah, like what chamoole gave us an out of date map."

<Wogglebug> "Maybe it's new."

<Doctopus> "Much better than dirt, that's for damn sure." Margot feels much better on a more solid surface.

<Ragz> "Let's just go along it, I suppose."

<pooryoric> "Didn't you say you guys were in that direction yesterday?" McClery points southwest.

<~Heiden> Which direction do you go?

<Ragz> Northeast.

<pooryoric> "For this I went to college? Why are we standing around?"

<Doctopus> "Yeah. Let's follow this towards that way. See why we didn't find it yesterday, when I could've used it."

<Ragz> Trent shrugs. Heads down the road.

<pooryoric> "Looks like you got overruled."

<pooryoric> McClery follows Trent.

<pooryoric> "Good coffee though." he tosses over his shoulder with a grin.

<Doctopus> "Ah well."

<Soulless> Clarisse follows down.

<Wogglebug> Bruno follows Trent, somewhat bored with the scenery. He whistles quietly.

<Doctopus> Margot follows the others.

<~Heiden> The trail to the northeast hangs a more easterly turn only a few dozen yards down the route, wending up and down hills.

<gravityy> "Are we missing yet?"

<Wogglebug> "Do you feel missing?"

<Ragz> Trent checks the compass every so often.

<Doctopus> "I feel hungry."

<~Heiden> You seem to be following a roughly semi-circular route so far, Trent.

<Ragz> "Anyone else want to eat?"

<Wogglebug> "Hmm. Not sure that counts."

<~Heiden> It's done an arc and you're facing southeast at this point.

<pooryoric> "Sure am. I'm missing bed, I'm missing breakfast, I'm missing a few good programs on the radio, I'm in epes ekvelt."

<Soulless> "If it keeps going in this arc, it'll be a circle."

<pooryoric> "You must be a mathematician."

<pooryoric> "No, don't tell me, you make maps."

<Wogglebug> "Don't be an asshole, man. Don't you think it's odd there'd be a circular path in the middle of the woods?"

<gravityy> "No. Yes. I have no idea, I don't get to the woods much."

<~Heiden> Snuffle. Snuffle snuffle.

<pooryoric> "Careful who you call an asshole."

<~Heiden> That… that is a bear, rooting through the undergrowth.

<gravityy> Liang quiets immediately.

<Wogglebug> Bruno shrugs.

<Doctopus> Margot stops, staring.

<Doctopus> aaaaa

<pooryoric> "Oy /gevalt/!"

<~Heiden> It doesn't appear to be paying you much mind, yet. You've got about a hundred yards distance on it.

<Soulless> She shrugs at Mcclery.

<Soulless> Is the bear in their way?

<Doctopus> Margot starts backing away. "Oh hell no."

<~Heiden> It's not *on* the route, but it's close enough.

<pooryoric> A bear is never in your way. You are in a bears way.

<Ragz> Trent begins slowly backing up.

<Ragz> He looks for the nearest tree and gets behind it.

<Soulless> Clarisse calmly backs up back the path. "Let's have that lunch a bit away. It will likely be gone by then."

<Wogglebug> "Might smell the food."

<Wogglebug> "Probably best to just wait till it moves on."

<pooryoric> "Or it will join us for lunch. Lissen, which one of you mooks is the slowest runner?"

<gravityy> "I have asthma," says Liang in a tiny voice.

<pooryoric> "Right. Noble of you to volunteer."

<Ragz> "Just be quiet and wait."

<~Heiden> It's totally getting into that rotten log.

<Doctopus> "I'm heading back to the van."

<Wogglebug> "Must've found a fox or something."

<Ragz> Its face is in the log?

<Doctopus> Margot turns and starts walking away.

<~Heiden> #fledgling2 if you're backtracking.

<pooryoric> "Heading back to the van sounds good. I am all for following the pretty lady to the nice safe bearless van."

<Wogglebug> "Hey, wait, we shouldn't split up."

<Ragz> "Hey, don't-someone go with her…"

<Wogglebug> "Bears are more likely to attack people who aren't in groups."

<pooryoric> "Then keep up, nubnik."

<gravityy> "We've already been that way. It probably won't attack us if we're in a group. We're obviously larger than it."

<gravityy> "Now, if that was a grizzly or something, that'd be different…"

<Wogglebug> "Or a polar bear. I hear they're just vicious."

<Ragz> Trent starts to try and skirt around the bear, keeping behind trees as much as possible while following the path.

<Soulless> Clarisse stops backing up. "We shouldn't separate."

<Wogglebug> Bruno follows Trent, because he doesn't know what else to do. He motions for Clarisse to follow as well.

<~Heiden> Half the group's already left.

<gravityy> Liang is throttled by indecision, then decides to go with Trent, whom he knows to have been a soldier at one point. Those guys can fight bears, right?

<Soulless> "Come on. Let's go."

<Ragz> Trent continues trying to sneak the half of his group past BEAR BROTHER.

<Soulless> She shrugs and follows Trent along, staying a bit away in case they get fucked by a bear.

<~Heiden> Subterfuge check, difficulty 0.

<Wogglebug> For everyone?

<~Heiden> Nah, best of the group, but the roll was a pass.

<~Heiden> Even with a 1.

<Ragz> Hah what a dumb bear

<~Heiden> You manage to make your way past the bear - it's really, really into whatever is in that log. Probably so long as you didn't touch him, he'd be fine.

<Ragz> Trent pauses and tries to get a look at what is in the log.

<~Heiden> It's bugs and stuff, man.

<~Heiden> I'm not even justifying that with a long explanation.

<gravityy> Liang moves ahead at a stride, completely uncurious about the bear's eating habits.

<Ragz> He shrugs and carries on.

<~Heiden> The path continues to gently roll up and down hills, continuing in what is appearing to be a complete circle.

<Ragz> Trent tries to track their location on their map.

<Wogglebug> "Seems you were right about it being a circle. Why would there be a circular path in the middle of the woods? Someone's bike trail maybe?"

<Ragz> "Well…we can break off the path and strike off back towards the van. Meet the others."

<~Heiden> Trent: it doesn't appear to directly correspond to anything on the map. Too much development unnoted for you to really trust it by now.

<Ragz> He marks where he believes the circular path is anyway.

<Wogglebug> "We could try and head of the center of the circle. It's got to be circling something, right?"

<~Heiden> In the distance, you think you see a few figures to your northwest along the route.

<Soulless> "…"

<gravityy> "Hikers, perhaps?"

<Wogglebug> "Maybe those missing guys."

<Ragz> Trent is looking that way too. "It could be the others, but…"

<Ragz> "That doesn't make sense exactly."

<~Heiden> "OY! ALL A YA!"

<~Heiden> … that's definitely McClery. (#fledgling2 ends here.)

<Ragz> "…yep, ok, it's them."

<pooryoric> in the distance, McClery waves a stick

<gravityy> "Wait…ah, I see. We're trapped in a loop for all eternity."

<Wogglebug> "Oh."

<Ragz> Trent heads that way.

<Soulless> "Are you sure we can't simply got off the path?"

<gravityy> "No. I'm not sure of anything, really."

<Wogglebug> "We don't know it's anything weird. Maybe they circled back through the woods."

<pooryoric> "it's a circle, uphill all the way."

<~Heiden> Everyone is at roughly the same point in the route, at this point.

<Wogglebug> "Huh."

<Doctopus> "…did you guys follow us or something?"

<pooryoric> "which I do not think is a thing that can be a thing that is."

<Ragz> "Definitely doesn't make sense."

<Wogglebug> "Maybe we should head for the middle."

<Wogglebug> "Or, like, out."

<Ragz> "Let's go off the path, yeah."

<Soulless> Clarisse begins going off the path, down the hill.

<pooryoric> "was it all uphill for you, too?"

<gravityy> "Uphill, downhill, sidewayshill…it's all relative, isn't it?"

<Wogglebug> "Is it?"

<Wogglebug> Bruno follows Clarisse.

<pooryoric> "no. it is not relative. my calves hurt."

<Doctopus> "Same."

<gravityy> Liang reeeeally doesn't want to run into any dead bodies today.

<Doctopus> Margot is weirded out.

<Doctopus> "Listen, let's just walk back to the road.

<Ragz> "Agreed."

<gravityy> "That's…that's what you tried, isn't it?"

<Doctopus> "I mean, direct route." Margot steps off the path.

<Ragz> Trent follows them.

<~Heiden> Heading back to the van, or…?

<Ragz> Depends where Margot is headed.

<pooryoric> McClery is still following Margot. she hasn't gotten him eaten by a bear yet!

<Doctopus> Margot is trying to head back to the van…roughly.

<Doctopus> She doesn't have a compass though.

<Ragz> Trent helps them back to the van.

<Ragz> He has a compass.

<Soulless> Clarisse sticks with the group, keeps a close eye. Can she figure out where they're headed and how?

<Soulless> She sticks with the group for now.

<gravityy> Liang has not been eaten by a bear either, therefore Trent is a bastion of safety.

<pooryoric> are we able to navigate from here to the van?

<~Heiden> Yes.

<Doctopus> Margot powerwalks back to the van. "Oh thank god."

<gravityy> "Okay, so…we can safely assume it's the road that will get you stuck in there, can't we?"

<~Heiden> The Van Guy looks over at you, putting down his book. "Y'all done?"

<gravityy> "…I'm not sure if we're done."

<gravityy> "We found a thing, if that's all that's necessary."

<Ragz> "We've found a…something. We'll put together a report."

<Doctopus> "Bear ate some people. End of story."

<gravityy> "That's not how that went."

<pooryoric> "…yes. that is what we found. a maneating bear."

<pooryoric> McClery steps on liang's foot.

<Soulless> "A report will likely be written about it."

<pooryoric> "the best thing to do is to keep people out of this area."

<Wogglebug> "Still don't get why people would get lost for days at a time. Would think they would give up eventually."

<~Heiden> "Yeah, sounds about right, at least 'til we can get Animal Control out there."

<gravityy> Liang makes a noise.

<pooryoric> "farmach, farmach, nudnik, he's just the driver, not the boss. he doesn't need to hear the grisly details."

<gravityy> "You can't make a pun like that! It was a black bear!"

<pooryoric> McClery tosses his stick away and opens the van door.

<pooryoric> "what kinda archaeologist can identify bears?"

<Doctopus> Margot sits in the back.

<Doctopus> Staring at her hands.

<gravityy> "Grizzly bears are brown. Black bears are black…"

<gravityy> He trails off and gets in the van.

<~Heiden> The van starts up.

<Soulless> "That's not true at all."

<Soulless> "One tells the difference through body shape, face profile, and claw prints."

<pooryoric> "I thought you said you were a mathematician."

<Soulless> "I did not say any such thing."

<gravityy> Liang makes no response, staring out the window.

<~Heiden> The drive back to Chicago is… considerably more subdued.

<Doctopus> Margot is very, very quiet.

<pooryoric> "fercockt. absolutely, staggeringly fercockt."

<~Heiden> The van pulls into Site-001's parking lot at roughly 4 pm.

<~Heiden> Place doesn't look too different from what you left.

<Ragz> Trent rubs his eyes.

<Ragz> "Well, so much for that."

<~Heiden> It's a nondescript old paper mill, with most of the entrances bricked over. A chain-link fence and gate surround the building, with a gravel parking lot by the one un-sealed door.

<Doctopus> Margot gets out, silent.

<Soulless> She gets out.

<pooryoric> "it's actually my first time here. I, uh, got sent to indiana right after the interview."

<gravityy> Liang climbs out and enters the building.

<Wogglebug> Bruno follows Liang.

<gravityy> He casts about for a superior.

* pooryoric follows liang. "Find me a boss to talk to. quickly."

<~Heiden> Nobody downstairs from what you can see, but there's a light on in the office across the catwalk.

<gravityy> Liang goes there and knocks on the door.

<gravityy> Politely.

<pooryoric> McClery follows.

<Ragz> Trent is also following.

<~Heiden> A grey-haired woman, her face lined with years, answers the door. "Yes? You must be the field team."

<~Heiden> "Credentials, please."

<gravityy> Liang fumbles and produces his card.

<pooryoric> "that's us." McClery blinks. "lissen, here's my card, but I really need something to write on right absolutely now."

<pooryoric> he hands her an illinois driver's liscense.

<Doctopus> Margot holds out hers. Her hand is shaking.

<pooryoric> anyone who cares seens the name "MOISHE R-CLERY", part of it being obscured by his thumb.

<~Heiden> "Of course." The woman exudes placidity as she shows her own identification - a Ms. Tara Winters, National Security Agency, Director(C).

<~Heiden> "Come in."

<Ragz> Trent also offers his when prompted.

<~Heiden> There are a few typewriters along with various office supplies in the office.

<pooryoric> McClery comes in.

<pooryoric> he immediately sits down at a typewriter. "I'm listening, but this needs writing down."

<gravityy> "Does it?" says Liang quietly.

<Soulless> Clarisse sticks around, watching, watching.

<~Heiden> "No, no, by all means. If you're in a hurry to prepare a report, I'm in a hurry to read it."

<Soulless> "It is certainly not normal."

<gravityy> "So."

<gravityy> He clears his throat. "Mr. Dyson could probably point out the precise location on the map."

<pooryoric> "we found a path that made a full circle, uphill all the way. I ain't no rabbi, but that ain't kosher."

<pooryoric> "both ways, even."

<pooryoric> "hell on the calves."

<~Heiden> "You're certain?"

<~Heiden> Ms. Winters looks around at the group.

<pooryoric> "unreasonably."

<pooryoric> "my ma never raised me to smoke no left handed cigarettes, you test me."

<gravityy> "That's what happened."

<gravityy> "We were able to return by leaving the gravel path."

<Doctopus> Margot looks away, finding a chair to sit in.

<Ragz> Trent nods.

<~Heiden> "Could you indicate it on a map? That would make securing the area much easier."

<pooryoric> "oh sure. we could take you there, even."

<~Heiden> "Excellent."

<pooryoric> "we walked the whole of it. must have been, what, half a mile?"

<pooryoric> "bears in the area, too."

<gravityy> "We did not find any dead bodies."

<pooryoric> "bears probably ate 'em."

<~Heiden> Ms. Winters is taking a few notes of her own.

<gravityy> "I have not been abusing substances."

<gravityy> "Just…just so that's clear."

<~Heiden> "Noted, Dr. Liang." The woman smiles faintly as she finishes with her notes.

<pooryoric> "hasn't been using any of them for their intended purpose what would make us see things, either."

<gravityy> "Anything else, ma'am?"

<pooryoric> "no matter how farshnickert we sound."

<~Heiden> "A written report of your experiences will suffice, doctor."

<~Heiden> "Debriefing personnel have not arrived, yet. It's become something of an administrative issue."

<gravityy> "Yes'm." Liang writes.

* pooryoric types!

<~Heiden> The reports are finished, they're turned in to Ms. Winters, and (presumably) filed.

<~Heiden> The team is released from duty, given a day off.

<~Heiden> They'll be expected to return after that- work is 9-5:30, five days a week. Some personnel will stay with the Site overnight on a rotating basis.

<~Heiden> More people will trickle in, assigned to Site-001 in the coming days.

<~Heiden> And in another time, another place - years (from now? ago?) a report is filed.

<~Heiden> Item #: SCP-001

<~Heiden> Object Class: Embla

<~Heiden> Containment Procedures: SCP-001 is contained on the grounds of Site 0, in upstate Indiana…

<~Heiden> Welcome to Fledgling.

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