Log:Know Your Role

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Know Your Role
Characters  •   The Addict  •  The Confidant  •  The Optimist  •  The Martyr  •
Location  •  Parlor
Date  •  2019-07-25
Summary  •  A discussion about who we are, what our purpose is, and what it all means.

Briar is in short shorts, revealing long, toned legs, and a crop top with an off-the-shoulder neckline. Their hair is held up in a clasp, and their nails are painted purple. They've got a serious glass of wine. Lie, the biggest wine glass one can get and have it not quite be ridiculous. From it, they're drinking a deep red Merlot. The bottle is on the side table beside them. On the TV is the Spring Break footage, and they're watching with interest.


"That's the 1990s." Hello Chance. He really snuck up on the parlor. Easy when one is barefoot, first of all. Otherwise, he is basically covered. Dark wash jeans and he's wearing a hoodie. With the hood UP. Is there a beanie under that too? As he sits down beside Briar, the answer is revealed to be, yes. He is dressed like a cold homeless person. Without shoes. There is a plaid shirt under the hood and if you look closely, a t-shirt under that! It's a wonder he isn't wearing gloves. He looks more than a little fraught and his fair skin does little to hide the redness around his eyes. "I kinda remember the 1990s. Chance was a kid. He lost his hearing in 1995. Smack in the middle. At least bassy music became a thing later on. He could feel bass." He looks at Briar and smiles a little. "That is a lot of fucking wine. Why wo--nevermind."


The Addict scoots over a little so that they can snuggle up to Chance's side. "Is the heat broken in your room?" they say. They then take a sip from their large glass. "The funny thing is all the physiological affects of addiction miss me. I don't even get a hangover. No shakes, no dizziness. No real physical craving." They watch the TV screen. "Danny would've loved this stuff," they say. "If he'd made it. This is before the little phones though, right? The ones that take pictures?" They look away from the screen to study Chance. "What's up, babe?"


The Confidant is glad to have Addict to hold, pulling them in close and planting a kiss on their head. He sniffs the hair because its right there and damn it, he must. "Uh...yeah. The phones didn't take decent pictures until the 2000s. Smartphones, man. Penny--uh, ex-Samantha. She's Penny. I'll circle back to that. Penny has her phone from the island. I don't know if it turns on but you could at least see it. Chance's phone was awesome. He could take calls through his hearing aid. The good ear, at least. Left." He takes a deep breath. "Briar..." He begins but seems at a loss for a moment.

"I've said that I know that we all have roles. We do the same shit, over and over but I could Penny gave the role a name and it was like...a wall fell and the sun came in and it could all be seen. She--it's her story to tell but it was me, her and Cass and the symbols and our patterns. They are something and it...is something I am having a hard time processing." He pulls at her clothes. "I'm not cold. I'm just not comfortable anymore..."


The Addict's shampoo smells like strawberries, and their conditioner leaves their hair so soft. It's uniquely Briar. They cuddle close, not seeming to mind that Chance is buried under layers. "Maybe you'll be more comfortable if you take some off," they say. They certainly don't try to stop Chance from messing with their clothes. "I'm not sure what you're saying," they say. "I mean, I've noticed every time around, I'm addicted to something. Sometimes lots of things. Martin was addicted to laudenum, Danny was a pothead, Dia and Braden were alcoholics. The symbol on my door shows someone bound by their substance use. I don't know what significance it has, to have someone like that in this group, but I've noticed the theme."


Chance takes a few breaths. "Holden named his weapons. Remember? His very favorites had concrete names but all of them had runes. Hand carved runes. Why did he name things? The Norse believed in the power of names and I have been researching..." He points at the bookcases. "It's everywhere in mythology and religion...wasn't Danny Jewish? After a string of lost infants, a family won't name the child for a while. No name means Death can't find them." He sits up a little.

"Some people's roles are obvious. Yours, for example. Mira's too. She's always searching and she has a compass and she is the Explorer. You are the Addict. Dare...his is a tricky one too. He and I have similarities but he'll step in front of a train for /anyone/. As if on principal. That's a Martyr. I've been staring at people's symbols and thinking so hard about it but to name it..." He pauses. He breaths. "I couldn't figure out who I was, Briar. I couldn't. And...something broke in me." His eyes begin to tear up.


"I was going to say bleeding heart," Briar says, "But yeah, Martyr works." They sip their wine. "Your symbol is the guy with everyone leaning on him," they say. "You're a, whatever it is, the guy everyone leans on. There's a name for that. Adviser? Confidant? Companion?"


"Confidant." Chance sniffs. "Cass helped me a lot with that but I came to it. She was so kind. Briar, I focus so hard on everyone else. Laser focus. I don't think much of myself. I don't know if I can even see myself. Cass was describing...me. The kind of person I tend to be and I knew it was true but it felt like a stranger and then it clicked and--and I kinda had a meltdown. And when I decided to come back out, I looked in the mirror and I wondered if I am like a venus fly trap. If I am designed to be attractive so people will open up to me. I was second guessing all six of my lives. Wondering if I'm some sick freak who needs people and their secrets like an emotional vampire."

"I went back. To all of them. One by one."


The Addict presses a kiss to Chance's cheek. "We all need people. I mean, as for the secrets, I guess it depends on what you do with them. Depending on your ethics. In a utilitarian code, what matters most is the amount of net good you put into the world through your actions. If you help people, and you make their lives better, than whatever your reasons, it's okay. The outcome is good." After a sip of wine, they add, "Deontological ethics dictates an adherence to moral duties and rules. If it's wrong to feed on someone's pain, then it's wrong no matter the outcome. Then there's virtue ethics, that says, regardless, you help people because it's benevolent." That's right, Danny was the philosopher.

"I guess I'm a utilitarian ethicist," they say. "If, at the end of the day, you're adding goodness to the world, you're doing the right thing. Doesn't really mattery why you're doing it."


"Yeah. Where were you when I decided to go back to Prosperity and beg Irene to be honest with me?" Chance sniffles and kisses Briar back. "I sat on the roof on my apartment with William, smoked a bowl and discussed our friendship. The Noc...that was tough to return to after being Henry's grandson. But my boyfriend Travis assured me he doesn't truck with assholes. Irene in Prosperity said I had a strong heart but a widow's backbone. Kaspar at Beaver Creek wrote down this long note about how kind I was when he was new and weird and German. I wish I could've brought it back. I skipped the dust bowl. Cultists, you know?" He snorts. "And now I'm here again. I think an hour passed here. I was gone for days. But, uh...I think I'm helping. I'm putting good. My desire is only to help others. That's it. That's what drives me."


The Addict smiles softly. "I was probably high as a kite with my nose in a book." They look Chance over, not without admiration. "I know your desire to help is what drives you. It's one of the things I love about you. You care about people. So don't worry about it too much. You're a good person. You do good things. You can torture yourself sometimes, but I think we all do that. No one does like Dare. That boy..." They shake their head, though fondly. "Does that help you figure it out?"


"I spent waaay too much time worrying about Angel. And then I transferred that worry and fretting to Dare." Chance leans back and chuckles. "It was a shockingly fast turnaround. Even for me." He sighs. "Mostly, the revelation makes me feel like...I'm not doing my duty well enough. Now that I have a name for it. I just wanna stare at the doors and figure everyone out. Give them all a name and...triage. Who needs me more? But then, then...some don't want my help. Penny doesn't. She placated me but...that one sticks." He points down the hall. "That fucking surfboard and tsunami. I can't figure that one out at all. The snake and Hark were weird as fuck but he's...different. Arcade...anyway, I'm writing this shit down now. I am going to save these people. From what? Fuck if I know. Angst?"

Poor Chance. Overdressed and leaning on Briar in front of Spring Breakers on MTV.


The Addict shrugs and says, "Not everyone is going to want to be helped. Or what you offer isn't the medicine they need. That's not a reflection on you, sweetheart. Everyone is different. Me, I bottle. You'd never know anything was wrong with me." They smile broadly and lift their wineglass to their lips. "Help the ones who want it, and don't forget to live, while you're at it."

They're in short shorts and a crop top with an off-the-shoulder neckline. Their hair is pinned up, and they're sipping merlot from a noticeably large wineglass. The bottle is on the side table beside them.


And speaking of Arcade, the man is stepping into the dining room with a large bag over his shoulder - coming from the Anywhere Rooms. He looks thoughtful, at least, not excited as he so often is. Instead, he puts the bag down on a nearby table and stretches, his back making the odd pop noise. With a groan, he collects himself coffee from the dining area, muttering under his breath.

When he realises the others are present, he wipes his hair back from his forehead and he says "Hello Chance, Briar. Is anything um, non-crazy on the television?"


"I think I'm cursed. Cursed with...care? My give-a-fucks are like, neck high, man. Derek's neck." Arcade's arrival is met with a flush of The Confidant's cheeks. "Speak of the surfer. And no. It's a hint. Sometimes, we get hints. I hate hints. I rather not worry every time I want to close my eyes that when I open them again here, I will have shared an experience of pure terror and trauma." He gestures at the television. "We're going to the nineties. I remember them because my first, Chance Reed, was a kid during them. I remember this trash on TV and being pissed because look at it. It took up valuable music video time." He pauses and sniffs. He's been crying. In addition to being overdressed. "And then I lost my hearing and thems the breaks. What's with the bag?"


"It's all the same stuff," Briar tells Optimist with a nod toward the television. "Spring break, beach parties, and people acting like idiots. Danny would've loved it." They glance at Chance. "We never really talk, do we?" they say. "Like I said, I bottle. One of these days I'll blow up, but until then..." They shrug and take another drink from their glass. "You're saving the world, and Dare's recovering from his own troubles. I barely see Arthur."


"You know, I can't surf," says Arcade "I mean, as far as I know. So that symbol is just ridiculous. I mean, I'm sure some good can come out of a tsunami, but I don't think I'd try to surf it. I would look ridiculous." He eyes the television, and he says "The nineties? I guess some of the cooler old music came from then. Er, oh dear - are you okay? Want my coffee?"

He glances at the bag "It's full of things from out here and my room - I was doing experiments in the Anywhere room. I summoned forges and beat everything and liquified the spoons. And I put acid on things. Things from out here, to see what effect would happen, but it all reverted - as if nothing in there had happened. But I _remember doing it_, so my next idea is to get some brain scanning equipment in there and learn how to use it. There must be some physical change or I couldn't remember it, right?" He sits down a little distance from them, his expression intent, inwards-turned, before he blinks "Arthur? Who is that?"


Chance just stares at Arcade while he speaks. You might think his eyes are glazing over. He doesn't care. He's not listening. Until. "So, you plan to continue beating your head against this problem with enthusiasm." He looks to Briar for a moment and then at the floor. "That's the kicker, I think. The...peace, happiness, whatever we get when we are within our role. I will listen to everyone's issues, problems, stories. I will be a peacemaker. I will be a matchmaker. I will do whatever you need so you know I can be trusted and you, general you, are loved. And it doesn't matter what I am, who I am, what happens to me." He looks back to Arcade. "Optimist? How does that feel? Are you an optimist? Was Ouro? Hark?"


The Addict smiles a little at Chance and glances down at their wineglass. The smile fades. They take a drink, then look to Arcade. "Arthur is a lover of mine, but he's often in his room painting or some other creative expression. He wasn't on the ship." They bow their head again and blinks quickly as tears well up. "I don't know if he's even here anymore." They take a moment to breathe, then lift their chin and smile. Right. Nothing wrong here.


"Well, it's not like I'm going to just give up," says Arcade thoughtfully "I mean, what's the point of that? There must be hundreds, _thousands_ of ideas I haven't explored. I'm not intelligent. I'm not like, oh, some of the other people here. But I know I can - _we can_ - do this." He gives Chance an odd look "...What happens to you really matters." He does wince, just a little, at 'matchmaker', for whatever reason.

"Well, yes. Aren't we all? It's important to be positive, if we can be - I know no one can be all the time, and I wouldn't, erm, dislike anyone who wasn't. But Ouro knew he could save everyone. Hark knew, erm, he could always find the best path, er, for himself. The thing is, everything _is_ going to work out okay - we're going to be all right. It _is_ going to be hard, and it is going to hurt, but in the end, we're all going to get there. It is all going to be okay in the end." As the Addict speaks, the Optimist says "Oh, no. I'm sorry. Er, do _you_ want some of my coffee? Do you want me to go knock on his door? We can work it out. I'll help!" A brief pause, and he says to Chance "Unless this is your territory. I really don't _get_ how everything works here. I'm still newish."

The Confidant looks at Briar, his eyes going wide at their upset. "Hey." His tone changes, posture too. He was leaning back, relaxed somewhat but now, he's in Briar's space. He wasn't quite this way when Dare was upset. He kept more of a distance. But Briar is one of /his/. He knows them well. "Art's door hasn't changed. It's the same and trust me, I have been looking at all the doors extra hard. Some people don't come out here." He looks to Optimist as he says this, pulling them back in and explaining more about the 'In-Between'. "Mira doesn't always. I didn't after The Noc." To Optimist, again. "I died that time. It was so quick that I didn't even remember it. It didn't hurt but when I got here, it wasn't full when I looked out of my door. Then there was more spiraling and I stayed in. I swear I have never seen..." He makes a few vague gestures at doors but comes back to Briar. "So, Art is still with us. And like gravity, you two will be drawn together again. Maybe it's just my turn for a bit here." He winks and smiles and pulls them them into a quick hug.

Then, he looks at Arcade. "So, you are the Optimist. I wonder if...this is where it confuses me. Doors, Faces, now Titles." He shifts a bit, adjusting his shoulders. As if preparing to bear more weight. "There is no territory here. At least with me. We can all work together to help one another. What's this about coffee? I'd like coffee. I think. I usually only drink water and uh, powdered sugary drinks. Generic cola too. Love that."


The Addict sniffles, and they set their wineglass down. Then they hug Chance tightly, hiding their face against his shoulder. They're tense. So very tense as they try not to cry. Gotta keep it bottled, damn it. They breathe raggedly for a little while, then manage to say, "I miss him. And I missed you so much, when you were Teller. I wasted our lives, and it was my fault. I was so stupid, always trying to get fixed because there was always something wrong." Sniffle.

After another shaky breath, Briar sits up again and dabs at their eyes with the heel of their hand. "I'm fine," they tell Arcade with a small, weak smile. "It's stupid to be upset about the things I get upset about."


The Martyr is in black skinny jeans and a purple and black silk shirt. Is he actually wearing eye liner and a subtle lip? He pauses in the doorway, but seeing Brir's tears takes several steps forward, hand reaching towards them. "Ben?" He glances at Chance and Arcade, then takes a few more steps.


The Optimist shifts to allow the Confidant to do his confidential thing. He tilts his head a little, and he listens, nodding along at all of the right points "Oh, they don't? Er, I see. Hmm. I spent a lot of time inside after Ouro, because. I was Ouro for so many years. That it felt wrong to not have his body. I still miss being him. But that's just me being selfish. I'm also Harkaway, so if you consider Penny's view, er, I'm made of monsters." Then he nods "I would say I am Optimistic! I'll make you coffee. I think I'm a monster every time because the situation is kinda bizarre to be optimistic in without being weird. I'll get coffee." He beams at Briar as they say things are fine - positive, Arcade might be. But they are not an empath like Confidant "Okay," they say "I'll make a big pot of turkish coffee with cinnamon." _That_, they can do. And picking up a big problem to smash it into small ones is something they can also do.


Chance has all the clothes on. Bare feet but jeans and two layers of shirts under a hoodie. Hood up. Over a dark beanie. You can't even see that hair. As Dare enters, he gives him a bit of a double take. "Makeup? What is it with you and makeup?" He says, pleasantly. "Briar, my dove, has regrets is all. Laments. But it's behind us. Or, like Art, possibly ahead." He strokes Briar's hair. "You are a wine mom and you don't even know it."


"Coffee would be very nice," Briar tells Arcade with a small smile. They dab at their eyes ago, and they tell Dare, "I don't know what a wine mom is. I hope it's nothing bad. I feel like..." Sniffle. "Like everyone has a purpose, a role, and we were chosen for some purpose, and what they picked me to be is the eternal fuckup." They look at the television, still playing its Spring Break party. "I keep thinking what's the monkey on my back going to be next time? How's it going to wreck me? How's it going to hurt everyone else?"


The Martyr flashes the Optimist a crooked smile. He upnods to Chance, "Finn could only be a weekend goth because of his job, but he licked the look, and after Angel, I feel a little naked without something on my face.... Wine Mom?" He pads over so he might be on Briar's other side for extra support. Gently he strokes their hair, careful to keep out of Chance's way, "You aren't a fuck up, you're the heart of us all."


"We do all have roles. And some roles fucking suck and I think it's okay if we acknowledge that, right now." The Confidant says, firmly. "Being an addict sucks. I've been addicted twice to substances. Only once actively. On Ick-One, I slipped the once but it wasn't like Jody. And it's not my role. I'm going to be an emotional baggage handler. That's what I do. I mean, I always get a sprinkle of something extra but it doesn't give me grief." He looks to Dare. "You are a Martyr. Which after I said it, made me double down on trying to convince you that Angel is a better name." Beat. "There was a conversation among a few old timers. Sixers? We--Penny figured it out. Our roles have names. Fuck! Names and fucking.." He just gets flustered all over again. "You are a Martyr, Dare. That is what you do and what you will keep doing. So. Get used to that."


The Addict takes Dare's hand in theirs. "That's not what I'm designed to be, though," they say. "If I am, it's because of the human being I am, not because that's my role. Whoever is in charge of this, whoever did this? They broke me because they wanted someone broken. I don't know what value that adds. If there's a benevolent reason for this, saving the world, whatever, it makes no sense to throw someone into the mix who's purpose is to be sick."


The Martyr stares at Chance wide eyed. He opens his mouth several times to say something, but each time he closes it. When he does speak he goes with, "Only an asshole names himself Angel." After some thought he says, "Only an asshole would play the Martyr." He looks away, "Fuck, poor Penny." He taks briar's hand and kisses it, "I think there's another side to it though. You problem solve creatively where I think in a straight line. It might be the... nature of you illness lets you see things from a different angle then most."


"I think it's sweet." Chance counters in regards to the name. "And I'm telling you from experience that you have no choice in the matter. You will Martyr yourself if given the chance. It's not playing the martyr like a dick. It's being one. It's in your bones. Down to your soul. You can't change it no more than I can change...being the Confidant." He grumbles. "Whatever the fuck that means in any given Encounter. I've been a paramedic, a psychologist, a detective, documentary filmmaker, and a god of redemption...then a psychologist-slash-detective. What do they have in common? They listen. No choice, man."


The Addict gives Dare a kiss on the cheek. "You say kind things," they say. "I've heard it said that addicts are more likley to take risks. I mean, I guess that makes sense. You're taking a risk every time you try to get high. Most people who OD aren't trying to die. They just bit off more than they could chew. Anyway, Chance is right. You're not playing the part for attention. Sacrifice is in your nature."


The Martyr studies the Confident carefully. After a pause he says, "I think we should make a deal for here. I mean, obviously we can't speak for out there. In here, I think you and I should agree to help each other. Last time... Look, you carry evveryone's emotional baggage. It's in your nature. I want to help. That's in mine. Let me help you carry yours. We help each other like we did back in Icarus, okay? None of this letting things pile up and never taking care of yourself thing you do. You've been through so many damned wars and you need a Confident's Confident. I'll even let you call me Angel." He smiles softly at the Addict, "I have the survival instincts of a Lemming, Love, and I'll be right there with you whatever happens."


Chance answers Dare right away. "You got it." And he offers his hand. "It's a deal. Let's take care of one another. I'm not one to refuse help here. I know that a time will come where...it'll be too much. I know I'm getting there. I'm more sensitive every time we come back. I'm raw, always. It's an emotional meatgrinder...and I thought...after the Dust Bowl, I'd break. But..." He shrugs. "Briar, you are in my gravity now. I'll always take care of you if you will have me."


The Addict says, "Of course I'll have you. You've both taken such good care of me. I know I couldn't do any of this alone. I get stressed out when I'm alone, and stress is such a trigger. Even though I'm not really physically addicted to anything while I'm here, I'm still more likely to do something impulsive and dumb when I'm stressed. You keep me from getting stressed out."

To Dare, they say, "That ship was the hardest by far. It was the first time I didn't have access to my drug of choice, because I had quit. And it was stressful, and I was so fucking scared of letting everyone down again." They take up their glass of wine and look into it. "I can't even begin to replicate what it was like here. I like wine, but it wasn't like that."


The Martyr gives Chance a firm handshake and a wry smile, "Radical empathy's down side." He takes a breath and forces himself to say, "The harder I push you away the more I need help. It's... incredibly hard for me to ask." A wry smile, "My nature I think. I... lose my shit periodically, but I generally... stabilize." He kisses Briar's cheek, "It was so fucking bleak there. There was... nothing at all to counter balance. It was a really bad one for Cheer too." he studies their face, "You never let me down, you know. Not once since I first laid eyes on you. I'm sorry last time... I can't imagine the hell either of you went through."


"Alright," comes a voice from the kitchen, and out comes the Optimist. He has a bandaid on one finger, and he looks very determined "...Turkish coffee." The coffee maker - of course he wanted to use a maker, and not the magical system - is in there. And it looks more beaten up than he is "Okay, okay. Here we go! Wow. You all look. Super serious. Uh." He pauses "...I'm trying to be serious."


"Radical empathy. You make it sound...kinda cool." Now The Confidant smiles and preens a little. "Like I'm punk rock therapist or something." Which makes him laugh, hopely breaking some tension as he look over to the Optimist. "You don't have to be super serious. I mean...I kinda am but that's...part of me. I take what I do seriously. Chance Reed was like that. And I wonder which one of us that part belonged to first. Me? Whoever I am. Or him and I stole it." He snorts. "See! I did it again! I can't help it--why are you wearing a bandaid?"


"Poor Cheer," Briar says. "They had to sedate me, do you remember? To get me in the pod after I found out my sister was staying." They rest their forehead against Dare's briefly. "I pray I never do let you down. It might be inevitable, though. But I'm not going to worry about it. I try to use my time here to just relax and feel good, because stress really kicks my ass." They smile then at Arcade. "Thank you. Goodness, it looks like it was quite an adventure." They set their wineglass aside in favor of coffee.


The Martyr eyes the Optimist, "Are you okay, Ace? And it's all right. You're you." Another wry smile, "That's us, Man. Empathy is how we resist and survive whatever they send up up against." He touches forehead to forehead, "Briar, Love, you always make me feel good." He kisses them gently.


"I'm sorry," says the Optimist as he starts pouring out the coffees "It's hard for me not to be, uh, cheerful. And everyone else is so often really upset, that I annoy them - I've been told. Not by you guys, but...I swear, I know I'm not really smart, but I'm not stupid either - I know I, er, lucked out. With everything." He says "It turns out those coffee pots are kinda hard to use, on the old fashioned oven ring things." He offers Turkish coffee with cinnamon to Chance, then Briar, then Dare "I'm not really very good with empathy," he admits "Oh, I'm fine. I'm pretty much always fine. And I'm, er, not really mad you got yourself killed - I mean, got Angel killed. I mean, Harkaway was mad. But I'm not." He mutters "I am _really_ aware I lucked out."


"Wait--Jazz /stayed/!?" It was chaos at the end there, the rush to the pods. Teller had stepped up to keep people moving. He was one of the last to get one. "I remember Nina saying 'Mira and Braden are accounted for.' as she was rushing me to our pods. That fucking brunette. She always, always takes care of me in the end." He sighs and there's coffee in his hands. "I'm sorry I wasn't right there with you, Bee. I...might have found her and dragged her fucking ass to stasis or...got caught in it myself. Who knows?" He smiles at Optimist. "Thank you. Coffee used to be an art."


The Addict takes the offered coffee. "You're not annoying." They inhale the scent of the coffee, then take a sip and sigh. "It's all right, Chance. I was loopy and not really aware of what was going on at the end. They told me you and Mira were going in the pods, then shut me in. I guess in the end it doesn't matter. We're all here again."


The Martyr takes the coffee with thanks, "Remember Nick's?" He shudders, "I really don't mind, Ace, you know that.... Poor Hark. I felt terrible about leaving him, but I couldn't not go. The stuff in my head... It wasn't as bad as poor Jazz, spending every second not blowing us up by force of sheer will power, but I wouldn't have been safe on a ship like that. And that other thing in me? The thing that always wants to jump in front of a charging frat boy or a bullet, it wouldn't let me leave. Not when others were staying. I did want to marry Hark, you know. I was... There just wasn't time at the end." He tries the coffee trustingly.

He nods, "She stayed. It was really bad for her in the end. It was help blow that thing right into the Anus, or it was..." a breath, "It was the right thing for her. Trust me. I think she may have been the sickest of us ad she was trying so damned hard not to... turn. So she stayed to do extra demolitions." He sips some more coffee, "I have to think it matters. That we save the world. I refuse to believe this is all torture or some sick experiment. There has to be purpose."


"Ugh, what would the point of marrying Harkaway be," says the Optimist, staring at his coffee "Either we stay there, and he _murders_ Angel at some point, or we come back here, and suddenly everything is gone again." He rubs the side of his head "That all sounds awful. I feel a bit guilty. Bad things just don't seem to happen to me." He shoots the Addict a worried look. Then he says "It's all pretty messed up, though, isn't it?" He pauses. He is trying so hard. His eyes widen, and his hands are around his cup. Silence. And after a moment he draws in a desperate breath "Still, you have to look on the bright side!"


The Confidant is drinking his coffee and you can almost hear the gears turning in his head. "I'm not smart. I know /people/ because I've known people six Gos now. I've been smart people but me? Not so much. I can't begin to figure out why we are here. How it all works. I think it's outside of our understanding, honestly. And we have to ride it out. Arc? Can I call you just Arc? Sounds like Hark." When he says it, sure. "In the moment, we don't know how pointless our actions may be. We are just people with lives and feelings or whatever, yeah? And all we have--me, you, Dare, Briar...all of us.--is here. So...when I woke up after being married to--I...I lamented. But Briar and I have carried on. Same with Mira, who I chase all the time...I hope that if you and I end up...snuggled up somewhere, that, all things considered, we can still be close. Friends is fine, trust me. I only want to express that sometimes things carry and you can't break it. Even if you want. Make sense? I feel like I'm not."


The Addict takes another sip of coffee, then says, "I'm going to go to my room for a little while. I've got a lot to think about." They get to their feet, and they tell Arcade, "Thank you for the coffee." They then tell Chance and Dare, "I'll be back out before bedtime. I've just got this mental loop going and I want to write it all out. I'm okay. I just don't want to forget any of it." On that note, they head for the hall of rooms.


The Martyr listens to Arcade, then Chance, mulling. He says quietly, "It mattered to Angel, so it mattered to me. I know it can't matter to tthe Arcade you and I've no idea if it would have meant anything to Hark. I can't explain it, ace. We really are just friends you and I and that is absolutely fine with that. I enjoy dancing and hanging out and talking and I don't need or want it to be more, but Angel... It was one of the last thoughts that went through his head and it's hard to let go, I think."

He flashes flashes Briar a smile, just let me know if i'm going to sleep with you r cheer when you know, okay?"


"Sure, you can call me that if you want," says the Optimist to the Confidant "I mean, he is kind of in me, still. Lives, feelings. And. We are here. Oh. I'm sorry you felt that way. I don't get a lot of what happens in there, I suppose because my orientation here is different, you know? But I would like to be friends. Yes, that would probably be alright no matter what. I mean, Harkaway still sort of wanted Teller and Mira to like him. He just couldn't really feel anything."

The Optimist says to the Addict "Hmm, it does seem to be a time for thinking. Okay, I'll read what you wrote - and Ange...er. Dare. I've been experimenting. But it's not quite going the way I'd hope. I mean, I'll keep trying, but - oh, wow, really?" He thinks about _that_, and he says "...I wonder what it's like being straight, too. Or maybe, in the end, none of this stuff _really_ matters?"


Chance stands up as Briar leaves. "I wanna follow but...I think--wait, it's odd, Arc how you kinda reset to here. When I come back here, I reset to Chance Reed. When I think of home and family, I think of his. His home. His sister. He is who I was first. And you showed up /here/ first. I think I'll note this. A handful of others dropped in in the In-Between and if I can catch them, I will ask. Hopefully, I will see you guys here, later. Just know it's a matter of time before we Go again so make the best of now." Pause. "Does anything matter if we die? But we don't die. So...something matters." And off Chance goes. But, his door is still open.


The Martyr rubs the back og his neck, Angel like, "It's fine. If you guys really want to call me Angel you can. Dare was... a thing I tried. I'm not tat attatched to it. naming myself feels like hubris and I feel... dirty still on the inside from being him, but I think..." He looks away, "I think it might not be worth fighting if Chance and the other Elders are right about me. Tarnished, fallen..." He eyes te Optimist, "Experimenting with what?" He calls after chance, "I think of this as home now, though I was Finn first!" But he's gone, so the Martyr sips the coffee, "Come sit with me and explain, Ace."


"Oh, wow, maybe that's why I'm a bit..." He shakes his head, and he says "I showed up here. And this is my me. I think of. Me, Arcade, as being the 'real' me. Even if it's not, that's what I feel." He sits down with his coffee, and he says "Huh? Tarnished? What do you mean by that? He didn't say that." And then he says "I made some forges in the Anywhere Rooms and industrial equipment and went in there with things from out here, to see what would happen if I used 'real' things in 'unreal' situations - how long the changes could last. But they don't - at all. They return to as they were. All I have is my memories. So I need to learn how to use a, urm. Brain scanning machine."


The Martyr nods, "I think this is the real me too, even though I believed I was finn for weeks before I came." A bitter smile, "I meant I'm not good or pure or... or clean enough to be an Angel." He sips his coffee, brows furrowed, "That is a really good experiment. Could the people in the Anywhere room do the brain scan for you? Or one of the people here with medical taining? What are you looking for?"


"But no one is, are they?" asks the Optimist curiously "I mean, gosh, seems like a pretty big thing to hold yourself up to. I don't think any of us would fit that. And if you hate people for not fitting it, you should hate me too." He brightens "I know! Er, I'm not sure. We could find out! I do feel kind of dumb next to Harkaway. I'm looking for changes - what makes a memory? If it's a chemical change, then..._even if nothing changes for those forks_...something has to change in _me_ or I wouldn't rmeember it!


The Martyr's gaze is steady, "Not hate, no, and it's just me I'm holding to that standard." He smiles sadly, "I'm not all that good at hating. Angry, even furious at people? That I can do. The closest I came was Addison, who you never met, and that was more he was a threat to D-Briar's safety and in the end he nearly destroyed me from the inside out. He died a hero in the end, saving the world, and they tore him apart. It was a terrible way to die. I wanted to apologise to him after, but he never made it here after."

He sips, "Finn was so much brighter than me, the brightest I've ever been here. I still was, I think, when I got first got here, but my edge has dulled some since." He mulls that, "They didn't know enough about the brain in Finn's time to do that really, though they were workig towards it. I bet in Harkaway's time they could easily."


"And if we find out that nothing has changed in _me_ then we know I'm not real - that none of this is real, and that it's like a computer game, or a simulation," says the Optimist to the Martyr "See, there's ways to think our way out of anything." He sips his coffee, and he says "Man. Everyone here. It's like wheels inside wheels inside wheels. What if I'm even worse next time? How bad can I _be_ before no one wants to see me any more?" He shakes his head, and then he says "So who's this Arthur guy? Does everyone just sort of end up...accepting that we may be sort of all pansexual by default?"


The Martyr says, “It's a really good idea. You want to get your baseline soon, since the MTV's already playing." His tone goes gentle, "Ace? We could make an agreement you and I, that whatever happens out there, whatever we do to each other, however monsterous we become, we forgive each other in here. We stay friends. Do you want to do that?" He smiles crookedly, "Remember that insanely sexy Kelpie you liked to flirt with when you were the World Snake? That's Arthur, Briar's first love from when he was Martin. I've never met him here, only briefly back when I was Osiris. I think not everyone ends up pan and poly, but that's how it shakes out for most people after a few go rounds. They adapt."”


"Because otherwise nothing would make sense any more, I guess," says the Optimist, and he then says "Sure! That sounds cool - I could do that!" This version of him is vastly less suspicious than Harkaway "Okay! That would be fun, I think. It's nice to have people I can be close to, you know, even if I'm not someone's lover. I do remember him. I rmeember being attracted to him." He adds "Everyone was, weren't they? I liked him. I also liked that Manticore. I liked so many people when I was Ouroboras. So you think we're going to be launched for another go soon?"


The Martyr beams back at him, that sunny, innocent smile, "Friends then. You really don't have to be alone. Friendships matter, and you have mine." He nods, more solemn, "The TV became a radio when it got close to the time to be Gods. It's usually a hint where we're going people think. I'm told it showed Westerns before prosperity, and it was late '80's MTV for Beaver Lake. It went dead when everyone came back, and one morning we woke to a radio playing the hits of the early '30's. You get the idea. It's a warning and a foreshadowing." He gestures at the TV, "This hs to be after Finn's time. There's all this weird crappy Spring break programming instead of it being mostly video blocks with VJ's and the occasional musician interview, but neither Angel nor Finn have enough references to pin it down." He sighs, "I think riding that Manticore is the most amazing thing I've seen in my shortish weird ass life." He blushes, "Seb. Every. Damned. Time."


"That's creepy," says the Optimist "I mean, I know the prevailing view is that this is, you know, _just what reality is_. But that still doesn't quite pass the sniff test for me, right? That's such a complex kind of view for this thing! Maybe this is some sort of weird-ass training. Or purgatory? We could be in hell?" He frowns, and then he says "Hmm. Did you like him last time? Sebastian, I mean? Harkaway _really_ hated him for some reason."


The Martyr says, “All of those things have been guessed. I'm holding out for some sort of multiverse Time Bandits senrio, but I'm likely just being an optimist in that." He laughs, "I just wanted to ride him hard and put him away wet last time. The two times before though? Crushing hard. He never wants me back though. Not once." He cocks his head, "It was kind of fascinating to watch, Harkaway hating him like that and yet fantasizing out loud to Angel about things angel might do to him. Angel could never tell how serious he was about either."”


"I don't know, because I don't feel those things," says the Optimist "You'd need someone who can...understand what that's like. I don't know." He runs his fingers through his short black hair, and he stares at his coffee, and then he says "Maybe people have relationships and sex here because...because they're stuck. I don't mean that those things are bad. I mean that people are relying on other people. They're trying to, you know. Just work out how to spend time when there's no solutions."


The Martyr says, “I don't see it like that. I think it is human nature to seek connection. Even as... stunted ass Harkaway was when it came to attatchmenth, he still attatched. You care if people like you. You want friends. Some of it is comaniionship, some healing, some is sexual or romantic, some is akin to sibling or parent/child, some is more like a mentor helping someone less experienced. We care about each other and help each other because it is the human thing to do. The relationships we choose to make or keep of whatever kind matter. So much is artificial both here and there, but the feelings are real."”


"Er, sorry. I wish I was different sometimes, you know? I like what I am - I mean, I remember liking what I am. But I also sometimes feel jealous." The Optimist frowns "I see what you mean. And some. And a lot of it is companionship. I am curious about the whole part of love - all of it, in all of its aspects. I guess I, like everyone, wonder what being human is sometimes. Maybe unlike the others, I always get cheerful again?"


The Martyr says, “You don't have to appologise for being who you are. We are who we are. You feel what you feel, and we can disagree without anger. If we go out enough times, I suspect you will feel it, out there at least." His lip ticks up, "Last time you weren't cheerful, you were... Not well."”


The Optimist says a little uncertainly "I was? I mean, I _knew_ things, as Harkaway, but I didn't really _feel_ them that often. How do you know?"


The Martyr says, “You've been some degree of sexual out there twice, despite being Ace in here. There's no reason the other thing couldn't happen too if you go out there enough times." he leans forward, "Last time you were here, you were drunk a lot and you tried to alchohol poison youself at least once. That wasn't cheerful. That was desperation. I really am gad you're handling it better this time.”


"I couldn't understand it. I still can't. It's so weird. But. I know that just...I know that there are other ways, I guess," says the man "Yes, you're right. And I could try all kinds of things. You know, I...hmm. I don't feel so bad because I have some friends now, I guess." He frowns, and then he says "I admit I don't like it when I'm told I'm not real by the others, but I should see that as their way of dealing with it."


The Martyr finishes his coffee while he searches for words. Setting down his cup, "It's like friendship, only sharper and more intense. You feel it in your ones like gravity. Sometimes it's like being drunk or high but better. Sometimes it's this hollow ache to your marrow." He flashes him a smile, "see? Human connection. You're still human despite everything." He sighs, "People handle it differently. I think as long as we can still feel something, that's real and we're real in the ways that matter. Or real enough for me, I guess."


"I overheard Briar wondering why they don't have a...why they're trapped the way they are, you know, feeling like, hmm. Feeling like they are a problem for everyone around them," says Arcade, rubbing his tired eyes "So I do get that people handle it all differently. And I think Chance is right - we're divided really sharply, personality-wise. But those feelings come through every encounter. Why, though? Really. Why?"


The Martyr says, “Except Briar is always a solution for me." His hand starts to move as if it's reaching to run fingers Finnlike through a forlock that hasn't existed for subjective years, but then swerves to rub his neck like Angel. His accent is mostly PNW USA again, though he still slips into Kemen or more often Angel's, "This is only a theory, but it's the one I incline towards. These places they send us? They need a mix of people to resist whatever terrible thing is about to happen. You need people who fight and people who lead and people who take care of the wounded and traumatized. They tell me the man who had my room before me was tacitern, shut down, but underneathwas kind and he gave his life to save others. The underlying thread, the will towards sacrifice... That sounds like me. So maybe we had similar underlying natures. Thing is though, he couldn't do what I did at Beaver Lake. Maybe they needed someone willing to make those kind of sacrifices, but they also needed that pperson to... talk, to connect people, to look after the caregivers, nd to organize and disseminate information. The one before me? He couldn't have done those extra things. I give of myself on... many levels all at once. So they replaced him with someone who had the same drive, the same underlying essential nature, but who could stretch to be... to see sacrifice in a bigger picture way. Maybe they need people like you and star who lways believe we'll find away to beat whatever horror we are fighting, that we'll make it, that we'll save the world, and keep working towards that goal no matter what happens or how bad it gets. Maybe they need people like Chance to patch people up emotionally and keep them going.'”