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98cf9 No.6834

Of Monsters and Men

It's a beautiful day. The sun is shining, the small town and its people are busy… well, as busy as these small towns get. You chose it precisely because it's relatively quiet. Serene and just beautiful. The old core of the town presents itself in an old European style. Somehow the town managed to survive the war completely intact. Either that or someone invested a lot to restore it to its old, almost medieval looks around this little plaza. You feel the cushy seat in your back and the autumn sun blessing your skin with its rare warmth. The warm coffee in your hand also helps to make it feels as if the warm season isn’t entirely over just yet.
You lift the coffee cup and take a… wait a minute. It says “Thomas”. Why does it say “Thomas”? You’re certain you didn’t give your name this time. How could the girl have known? With deliberately slow movements, you turn around and look back into the coffee shop. There, behind the counter the young blond services another customer. She sees you looking at her and… blushes!
“Damn it!” you can’t stop yourself from whispering. You just started to like this town and now this … this bimbo goes and ruins it all by falling for you! If she knows your face well enough to associate a name with it, she can identify you if They come and ask for you. Time to leave. You will need to get some cash before you can check-out of the hotel, a credit card would leave to many traces. Even the fake cards you use.
“Damn!” you think again, this time without moving a muscle. Your old habits are already taking over. You project an aura of complete calm to the world; every muscle looks relaxed to an outside observer. Just in case there are any. But in your head, you already plan your next steps: The car, the hotel, the bags in your room, your stash in the lake house. You would need to wait till nightfall until you could go to the lake. Without checking your watch, you know that it will be another hour and twenty minutes till sundown. Your training still hasn’t left you. Just enough time to check out of the hotel.
“Is this seat taken?” a melodic, feminine voice interrupts your thoughts. Without betraying your mask of calm even for a millisecond you answer with your friendliest smile.
“No, not at all. In fact, I was just about to leave.”
“I didn’t mean to drive you away.” she says with a beautiful smile of her own. “Why don’t we enjoy our coffee together, Thomas?”
You freeze in your tracks. Did she work for Them? You were getting comfortable for a while there, but now you’re instantly aware of the shape of your weapons concealed in your clothes. Your mind is already going into overdrive, mapping escape routes through the coffee shop and the streets behind it, planning acrobatic manoeuvres should she decide to fire on you, assessing the other customers for potential threads should you need to fire first.
“I have a job for you.” She interrupts your thoughts again.
“I’m retired.” You answer simply and stand up to leave. You’re a bit surprised that she lets you, but you have no problem getting out into the street. Nevertheless, you feel her presence behind you as you step outside. You walk faster, along another alley, then turn into a smaller, less busy street. You try to get as far away from other pedestrians as possible before this gets ugly.
Suddenly she’s right in front of you. She must have taken a shortcut. Bloody hell.
“Terrible pseudonym by the way, ‘Thomas’.” You can hear the air quotes. “Such a boring name.” How the hell does she know about that? Even They shouldn’t know that!
“What do you want?”
“I told you: I have a job for you.”
“And I told you: I’m retired. I don’t do any jobs. Not anymore.”
“You misunderstand, Thomas. This isn’t about your old line of work. This is something new.” She pauses. ‘Purely for dramatic effect’ the analytic part of your brain can’t help but think. Everything she says is precisely calculated for maximum effect.
“Something to redeem yourself, Thomas. I know it eats away at your soul. Munich. Riga. Dallas. I’m offering you a chance to do some good for once.”
While she was talking, you prepared yourself. Shifted your weight slightly, adjusted the position of your hands. You’re ready now. Just a split second and you’ll have knocked her unconscious, a split second more and you’ll have a bullet in her head.

Still, something is going on here. Something dangerous.

Time to make a decision.
> Dangerous means you need more information. Let her talk and find out more.
> Dangerous means you want to be as far away as possible. Get out of there now before They find you.

> A Kevlar vest, under your shirt.
> Two semiautomatic guns, under your shoulders. Fully loaded.
> Two additional magazines, tugged in the back of your pants.
> Another smaller gun, hidden in in ankle holster. Fully loaded.
> Two knives, hidden in your boots.
> A small metal key, on a chain around your neck.

> A lot of very special ones you’ve sworn never to use again. But if you had to… well, let’s just say, Jason Bourne himself would be green with envy.

0ebf3 No.6835

Dangerous means you need more information. Let her talk and find out more. I recognise a plot hook when i see one.

98cf9 No.6836

Well, yes, guilty as charged. ;-)
But I have a contingency. If a majority votes for option two, interesting things will happen too. :)

a6240 No.6838

Nice to see more CYOAs pop up. Option 1

3949b No.6840

option 1

d8fc1 No.6842

Option 1

24ce8 No.6844

Option 2.

ff64d No.6847

Option 1

607fc No.6850

Thank you all for participating :-)
Especially you, Sir, for not taking the bait.

Nevertheless, option 1 has won with a clear 5:1.

607fc No.6851

You hesitate. Every instinct in your body, trained over years and years tells you to get out of this situation. Eliminate the threat and get out of town as fast and stealthily as you can. And yet…
“Alright. Talk.”
“The job is simple. Be there” she hands you a little piece of paper with an address written on it “at 21:43 tonight.”
“That’s oddly specific. What happens at 21:43?”
“You’ll see.”
You’re starting to get angry. “Listen here, Lady. I don’t know who you are or what you’ve been told about me, but I don’t work that way. If you want me to do something for you, I need to know more than that.”
“But that’s just the thing. My… erm… ‘employers’ don’t want you to do something. Just be there. That’s all.”
“You got to give me something to work with here. What will I find there? What kind of equipment do I need?”
You look at the address. It’s close, but not in this town. You’d have to drive there. If you’re planning on being punctual you won’t be able to make it to the lake tonight. So, limited equipment at best.
“You won’t need any of the stuff you usually bring to your assignments. This really is different.”
“Another reason why you should tell me more about this, Miss ….”
“Call me Bridget.”
“Terrible pseudonym.” You quip.
She laughs. “Fair enough. But it’ll have to do for now. And no, I’m not allowed to tell you more. You see, this is a test of sorts.”
“Of sorts?”
“I told you: This is your chance to work for the forces of good this time. And I mean it. But you’ll have to prove yourself. This job isn’t about your skills and talents. It isn’t about your weapons and what you can do with them. It is only about you. Bring only yourself.”
You mull that over for a while. Your instincts still haven’t given up. They’re still screaming at you to get out while you can. And you get the feeling they might be right after all.
“And what if I decide that that’s not my style? That I don’t work for mysterious strangers? And that I don’t willingly walk into traps.”
“What?” she seems genuinely confused now. Did she really think you wouldn’t notice?
“This address” you hold up the piece of paper “is in the really bad part of town. The part of town I would definitely need my weapons that late at night.”
“Oh. I didn’t know that.”
“No, really. I’m not from around here. I was just send here to give you the instructions. I’m just the messenger.” Her confident façade seems to give a little. ‘She thought this mission would be way easier.’ a never-resting part of you diagnoses in the back of your mind.
“I’m really sorry, but without more information, I can’t take this job.”
“Please think about it. It’s important that you’ll be there tonight.”
“Why? Because of some ‘test’? Have a nice day!” You start walking away.

After a few meters, you hear footsteps. Bridget has decided to follow you.
“Please.” She repeats. “Please be there.”
“Lady, you’re getting on my nerves. I’m a professional. Maybe you or your employers work like that but I certainly don’t.”
She hesitates, once again following behind as you walk on, not slowing down your stride.
“There is a girl.” you hear her whisper. “Her name is Emma. She needs you.”
“Yeah, yeah, whatever.”

607fc No.6852

Later at the hotel.
You pack your belongings. Your clothes, your weapons, the money. You take the chocolate on the pillow with you as you leave your room and walk toward the lobby.
You check out, pay in cash as planned, and take the elevator down to the garage. You’re standing in front of your car. As you reach into your pocket to get your keys, a small piece of paper falls out.
You read the address again and Bridget’s voice echoes in your head. “Her name is Emma. She needs you.”
You glance at your wrist. There is just enough time to make it to the rendezvous, if you decide to drive there. If…

Time to make a decision:
> Drive to the lake house as planned. You will find out what’s going on and if you must beat it out of someone. But you’ll definitely need your stuff at the lake.
> Drive to the other town and to that address. Only one way to find out what’s going on and that is to find the people laying that trap for you. Your secret stash will have to wait.
> The only way to not fall into a trap is to do something unexpected. And you have just the right idea! Find the blonde girl from the coffee shop, seduce her and lay low at her place while you wait for an opportunity to strike.
> The only way to not fall into a trap is to do something completely unexpected… (write-in)

> A Kevlar vest, under your shirt.
> Two semiautomatic guns, under your shoulders. Fully loaded.
> Two additional magazines, tugged in the back of your pants.
> Another smaller gun, hidden in an ankle holster. Fully loaded.
> Two knives, hidden in your boots.
> A small metal key, on a chain around your neck.
> A car with your clothes in the trunk and several secret compartments stuffed with more weapons, lots of ammunition, and loads of cash.
> A piece of chocolate.

Talents and skills.
> A lot of very special ones you’ve sworn never to use again. But if you had to… well, let’s just say, Jason Bourne himself would be green with envy.

607fc No.6853

This may seem like another "forced" decision, but it isn't. This is the decision that will determine on what side Thomas will end up. Bridget's right, this is his chance to change his destiny.

Of course your problem now is that I won't tell you which choice means what ;-)
(And I will take interpretative liberties should the write-in win)

ff64d No.6854

What kind of stuff are we keeping "out at the lake"? This feels like it's going in a shooter kind of direction (where we get set up to take the fall for a crime committed "using" weapons that we own).

It feels like Emma is "bridget's" family/friend/lover and she's getting threatened into doing this.

3949b No.6855

option 2

2840b No.6856

Option 1.

7c488 No.6858

option 2. we have more than enough guns to deal with any muggers, and any heavier stuff will likely get us charged. besides, i'm a sucker for a damsel in distress ;)

d1e3a No.6859

Option 4: take the key and find out what's in your dad's basement.

e4954 No.6866

Again, thank you all for your participation.

Is that a vote or just pure curiosity? If the latter, you'll just have to wait for the story to develop a bit further.
If the former, I didn't get what you're voting for (which may be a fair punishment for throwing so many mysteries at once at you all ;-))

The vote is still open. Please continue to vote.

ff64d No.6868


It wasn't a vote, I was just wondering what Thomas is keeping out at the lake.

I am going to vote for option 2: spring the trap

f90b6 No.6873

I'm up for option 2. If they know who he is, the lake house is probably already compromised. Blondie is probably in on it already, so he really has two options. Run away abandoning the lake house or springing the "trap" with a few guns hidden away.

5998e No.6879

Nice, it seems you have made your own quest.

Option 2.

d8fc1 No.6880

Option 1

b5cdb No.6883

Yes, and at least 8 people seem to like it so far! *smiles brightly*

Anyway: The vote is again clear. By my count
1. got 2 votes,
2. got 5 votes,
4. got 1 vote.

b5cdb No.6884

The empty garage stares back at you as the seconds tick away and you ponder your decision. Given all that has happened today, you must consider your cover blown. There is no way right now to know how far They have come. Have They already compromised the lake house? For the sake of couple who owns it, you hope not. Damn it! How could They have found out in the first place? You were so careful this time, taken every precaution available to you. It was also still possible that this Bridget woman wasn’t who you suspect she is and They have nothing to do with today’s events. You have other enemies after all. But you couldn’t be sure. No matter how you turn it, you always end up at this conclusion. Her erratic, completely unprofessional behaviour may mean a lot of things, but you couldn’t be sure that any of the dozens hypothesis floating through your mind right now were true.
‘And that’s where the buck stops.’ You finally conclude. It doesn’t matter how strange that woman was behaving, it was no excuse for letting your guard down. And you cannot act based on absent information. The lake house is out of the question while you do not know who you are dealing with, cannot asses their capabilities, and do not have suitable attack plan in place. You need to find out who you are up against this time. There is simply no way around it.
“Once more unto the breach” you mutter as you put in the gear and drive out of the garage. Sometime in the future you will have to come back, but now you drive out of the city and mentally prepare yourself. Somewhat slowly, but always exactly the 7 km/h over the speed limit that the average driver in this country would drive, you navigate through the narrow streets out of the centre towards the city limits. You made the mistake of driving the legal speed once before and almost got yourself killed because of it. It is simply too suspicious if nobody else respects the speed limits.
A little over an hour later you park the car and leave the car a short walk away from the address Bridget gave you. The parking lot of the fast food “restaurant” was the only place in this whole area where your car would not look suspicious.
You were polite when you called this area “the bad part of town” earlier. This whole town is bad. One of those forgotten places. While other places in the area remade and rebuild themselves, recovered or sometimes faked their old-timey charm, invited coffee shops into their town centres and attracted bus-loads of paying tourists, this town had been forgotten. By the city planners, by the industry that once made it a home for working class men and women and finally by its citizens. In other countries one would expect burning trash cans illuminating the neighbourhoods and street gangs roaming the streets. But this part of the world was older, much too tired to have even that kind of energy. Here small towns like this simply get forgotten.
There were no semi-attractive, well-off guys in expensive clothes just driving around in nice cars in towns like this. The only reasonable place for your car was the parking lot just on the road out of town, towards greener pastures.
So, you leave it there. Before you get out of the car and walk toward the address, you program the onboard computer to call the emergency hotline with a prepared message later when you will have arrived at the target. Most of your former colleagues and rivals preferred to never be seen by local law enforcement, but you always found them a very helpful diversion. Especially because the others shied away from them.

You walking down the street was still somewhat suspicious, but what can you do? Your grey and black clothes will bring you some form of camouflage with most of the street lights out of order.
All your senses are on high alert. Footsteps behind or in front of you, cars following you or driving past more than once, dark corners that look like someone intentionally broke the street lights to hide themselves, you would notice all of it. If there had been any trace of those things. For some reason your enemies do not bother to intercept you on your way to the target. Whoever you are dealing with seemingly does not simply want to kill you, but prefers to “play” with you. Or at the very least, observe you very carefully.
‘Well, that at least narrows down the list of suspects a bit.’ the analytical part of your mind comments. “This is a test of sorts” another part cannot help but remind you. Bridget’s cryptic word put their own unwanted spin on the situation.

A block before you reach the address, you deviate from the straight line and take a more “scenic” route to the target. You are still looking for any sign of trouble and still come up empty. Whoever is waiting for you is either incredibly good at hiding or incredibly stupid to wait only at the target. Which means that your strategy is clear. ‘Time to lay a trap of my own.’
You enter one of the buildings opposite of the target, a former bar that had closed not long ago it seems. The front door was kicked in as were the ground floor windows, but the local hooligans have not had enough time to take down the neon sign above the entrance or the windows in the second floor. All stores in this street look like they were about to go out of business or already went. Given how easy it is for you to find uninhabited apartments here, that does not really surprise you.
You take out one of your guns and position yourself in front of a window in one of those empty apartments. You chose a window with a flickering street light in front of it. Most other people will have a hard time seeing you now even if you had not trained for years to sit still and wait for hours on end. Every movement that you do make could be easily mistaken for a shadow cast by the broken light. If you had access to your stash at the lake, you would have come with special lenses that block out the yellowish colour of old city street lights. Now you just have to rely on your own ability to focus and not be distracted by it.
As you wait, nothing seems to happen. Very few people are out on the streets and those who are do not walk suspicious, come back around or do anything else interesting for that matter. Nobody enters your building either.

The minutes go by. A quick glance at your wrist tells you that it is now 21:41. Only two more minutes according to Bridget’s schedule. You wait another minute. And another. It is 21:43 and still nothing seems to happen.
Or does it? The second-floor window across the street lights up ever so slightly. You almost did not notice, a disadvantage of the terrible lighting at your hiding spot. It is a weak, flickering, orange light. A candle maybe?
‘Who the hell brings a candle to a gun fight? The streak of incredible unprofessionalism continues…’

You sit back and wait what happens. At some point, someone will make a move, show themselves in the window or attack you. Either way, something is going to happen soon. And you are ready.

That’s when you hear the high-pitched scream. The window across the street explodes outwards and suddenly flames engulf the whole building. Another scream. Now you recognise it as female.
“Her name is Emma. She needs you.”
If this is a trap to kill you, it is the weirdest one you have ever heard of. The police and an ambulance will arrive in a few moments as your prepared distraction. It looks like they will actually be there to do their jobs. Hopefully one of the locals will inform the fire department too.

You probably should figure out what to do now.
> Whatever this is, it isn’t a shootout. Go in now, save the girl.
> Go in a few moments, disguised as a fireman and, more importantly, with the protective equipment of a fireman. See what’s up and if it’s save for you to do so, help the girl.

> A Kevlar vest, under your shirt.
> Two semiautomatic guns, under your shoulders. Fully loaded.
> Two additional magazines, tugged in the back of your pants.
> Another smaller gun, hidden in an ankle holster. Fully loaded.
> Two knives, hidden in your boots.
> A small metal key, on a chain around your neck.
> A piece of chocolate.

Talents and skills.
> A lot of very special ones you’ve sworn never to use again. But if you had to… well, let’s just say, Jason Bourne himself would be green with envy.

b5cdb No.6885

Oh, I forgot! Of course there is also the possibility of a write-in. Let's say for the future that unless otherwise specified, you are always encouraged to let your creativity flow freely and vote for a write-in.

3c34c No.6891

Option 2

3949b No.6894

option 1

e65e0 No.6895

Option 1.

fceb4 No.6896

option 1, if his conscious of needing to save the girl Emily, and is aware of this being a test, he probably should just go in and try to save the source of this feminine scream

fc6cd No.6899

As much as I want to say Option 2, If this is arson, there might not be enough time to wait even a few seconds. So, Option 1.

ff64d No.6900

Option 1 as well. I like the reasoning in >>6896, even if Thomas is really super paranoid. If we're lucky, we are stopping a murder, and if we're unlucky, this is being used as a demonstration of what could happen to any remaining people that we care about if we don't agree to help "the good guys".

Besides, Thomas has a guilty conscience and saving Emma might help with that.

a6240 No.6901

Option 1

2656e No.6908

6:1 for option one. Vote closed, next scene coming in.

2656e No.6909

Your tongue feels like it is packed in cotton. Your head feels similar, only the cotton in your head is made of jack-hammers. It is incredibly hard to form a coherent thought. And your eyelids feel like weighing two tons. Each.
“Shhh. Don’t speak. You have a high dose of pain medication in you. Rest now, talk later.”
You know that voice. Right? It feels like you do, but your memory does not want to cooperate.
“What happened?” you get out after a few more tries.
“We’ll talk about it later. You must rest now. Your injuries were severe.”
“… Girl…?”
“Emma’s fine. Well, she’ll be fine in while. You saved her. Go back to sleep.”
You want to ask more questions, but your drugged mind refuses to do your bidding and drifts off into unconsciousness again.

Sometime later you wake up again. The fog in your head has lifted somewhat. In exchange, it left sharp pain in both of your arms and along the outside your left leg behind. Right, the fire.
When you open your eyes, you find that it is night time. You are lying in a spacious room with high ceilings illuminated only by a thin streak of bright fluorescent light that stream in from the hallway outside through the door. A hospital. You are in a hospital.
“What the hell happened?” you manage to whisper. Across the room from a chair not lit by the hallway you hear a snort and someone twitches into an upright position. “You’re awake!” That voice. Now you remember. Bridget.
“Yeah, me.” She answers softly.
“What are you doing here?” Before she can answer, another question burns in your mind. “The blue-haired girl… Emma… Is she alright?”
Bridget stands up and walks over to your bed. As she crosses the streak of light from the hallway you can see that she is still wearing the same colourful summer dress she wore back in the coffee shop. Her long, red hair is dishevelled and she has deep rings under her eyes.
“You asked me that the last time you woke up too. Yes, she’s ok. She’s being treated for burn wounds as well, but much less severe than yours. You got her out just in time.”
You hold your tongue and process the information so far. Did this make any sense? Did she lay the trap? Did she cause the explosion? How did you miss her presence? Or if she was there to help the girl, why didn’t she save Emma herself? Was she there at all? If the fire was a trap for you, what was she doing here now? Killing you? She could have done so while you were out. No, it really did not make sense right now.
“Again, I ask: What are you doing here and what the hell happened last night?”
“Two nights ago, actually. You were unconscious all of yesterday and most of today.” Great. Just great. “How much do you remember?” she asks.

Good question. Your mind is not free of the drugs yet, but you can recall some details now. At least you think so…

2656e No.6910

As you near the entrance to the burning bar, the hot air is a like a wall in front of you.
‘What kind of booze were they serving in there?’ you muse. It is a not a completely moot point, though. Something in there exploded just seconds ago. Normal bars do not just explode. ‘Maybe gas? Something must have…’
Another scream! This time is different. You would recognise the sound anywhere. Not shock or panic. She’s crying out in intense pain. That settles it. You storm in. The heat singes your coat. You make your way up the concrete staircase.
You rush past dusted chairs and old tables in the first floor. The fire upstairs is already raining bits of ember down. ‘Soon they will all catch fire too.’ You hurry up the second staircase. When you arrive at the second floor, your head is spinning. For now, you can keep yourself upright and you are still able to think straight. ‘Either there is already too little oxygen here or there are toxic fumes in the air that cause my headache.’ But realistically speaking, both options do not make much sense. The fire started maybe one or two minutes ago. Even with the explosions, that was not enough time to pollute the air in a building whose windows are all blown out.
You steady yourself and then you see it: A room fully engulfed in flames. Hot and flammable gases rising upwards from the floor and fuelling the inferno. The ceiling looks as if it was an upside-down ocean made of hell fire. And a person cowering in the far corner of the room. Emma!
As you step nearer she screams again. It looks as if someone… or something is standing over her, reaching down from the ceiling for her. ‘What the hell is that?’ you manage to think before he, she or it notices you. A wall of flame whirls around and rushes towards you. You instinctively shield your face with your left arm and now it is your turn to scream out in pain. As the… whatever touches your arm, it burns clean through your coat down into your flesh. Two, no four spots of pure blackness within the flames stare at you. Somehow this thing has eyes.
A whimpering from the far corner of the room snap you out of your shock and your training kicks in. ‘Kevlar is a thermal insulator. I still have a fighting chance here.’ your brain reminds you. You try to ram through the flames in front of you, try to deflect their attempts to touch you. With somewhat mixed results as the pain in your leg informs you, but you are now directly beside the girl in the corner.
“Emma?” you ask when you reach her, your eyes still firmly in the other direction. Toward the flames reaching down from the ceiling and the door you just came through. You cannot risk losing your orientation within the smoke. “Are you injured?” you try to ask but a coughing fit mangles your question. ‘Smoke inhalation is deadlier than the fire itself.’ you remind yourself. Which means you need to get out of here fast. The girl seems to understand you despite the coughing. Out of the corner of your eye you can see her shaking her colourful head.
“Then let’s get out.” You cough out and grab her by the elbow. She winces in pain. ‘Right. The screaming. So, she’s injured after all.’ You take your eyes from the exit for a second to look. The blue sweater matched her hair at one time, now it is as burned as your own coat. Her skin underneath is red and black from burn wounds and ash. ‘Not nice, but not deadly itself. She’ll live.’ your inner medic diagnoses. You grab her arm again and drag her towards the exit. She winces again, but you do not relax your grip. “Sorry” you manage to say through the smoke.

As you near the exit, the tendrils of smoke and flames reach out for you again. This time you are able to deflect more of it and shield Emma with your Kevlar-protected torso. More, but not all of it. They get your other arm this time. Now it is your turn to scream in pain as your flesh sizzles away. ‘I’ll live too. I can’t let the pain distract me.’
‘And I do not have time for this’ your inner tactician adds to the mix. The searing hot and probably toxic smoke is getting lower every second and is slowly asphyxiating Emma and you. That leaves only one way. You grab Emma, throw what is left of your coat over her and before she has time to protest, you push her down onto the smouldering wreck that once was a carpet and give her a well-calculated kick forward. She stumbles, the carpet glides, she almost falls over but she makes it to the door while the four black spots within the wall of flame are still pointing only in your direction.
“Run!” you manage to get out while you along the walls toward the blown-out windows and hopefully towards some fresh air.
The flames follow you. They get ready to pounce. You hear her running and stumbling down the stairs, throw yourself down to the floor, breath in the last bit of clean air in the room, burning your lungs in the process.
Then you suddenly realise. ‘Motherfucker! I brought live ammunition into a burning building.’ If those flames get to your guns, they might set them off.
The heat gets more and more intense. You hear their angry roar. It sounds… well like a burning building, but somehow different. Angry. Hateful. The wall of flame and smoke lunges at you and…

2656e No.6911

“Thomas?” Bridget asks again after several seconds of silence have passed. “What do you remember from two nights ago?”

'Inhaling lots of toxic fumes…' you think.

What do you answer her?
> Tell her everything.
> Tell her most of it. Leave out the smoke-monsters until you know more.
> Tell her what you think you remember, but inform her of your hallucinations. Ask if she knows what really happened.
> Tell her nothing. Ask her your questions instead. (Suggest some)

> A hospital gown it seems. Where the rest of your stuff is, you have no idea.

Talents and skills.
> A lot of very special ones, but right now, you are in no shape to use any of them.

c0dae No.6912

Option 2.

01a36 No.6913

Considering how it seems that Thomas doesn't want to believe in these creatures being supernatural, I'm going to assume that he's skeptical of it. He's also been getting the short end of the stick a lot so I think it's his turn to try to get information.

I would like him to ask what Bridget is asking him to confirm. Why Emma was attacked, and then he'll share what he saw.

a6240 No.6914

Option 3

57a41 No.6920

Not sure if fully invested yet, but anyone that takes the time to properly tell a story in a non-linear fashion has my curiosity.

Option 3. Bridget is the closest thing we have to answers, and the price is what we know.

7b5f8 No.6921

> Not sure if fully invested yet
I choose to read that as "I am already partially invested" and in my book that counts in the plus column ;-)

I haven't written fiction in a looong time, so I'm very happy to see that I've been able to get to your curiosity.

And if you, or anyone for that matter, have any suggestions for improvement, please let me now. I need feedback so that I can tell be most enjoyable story.

Was that a vote? If so, for which option? It reads a like 3 or 4. Or is that a write-in?
Please be clear in your voting.

The vote is still wide open. Please continue to vote, everyone!

01a36 No.6922

it's option 4

I don't think Thomas would share his information quite yet since he is holding the cards now. although I guess i'm assuming that he's thinking clear enough on the pain meds.

ff64d No.6925

Option 3

6aaac No.6937

Option 2

3949b No.6939

option 3

0902d No.6953

By my count option 3 has won by 4 votes.
Options 2 and 4 got two and one vote respectively.

The new scene is almost finished. I think I'll have it ready for you tomorrow.

1be50 No.6956

“Honestly, I’m not sure, what I remember.” you tell her. “I saw weird shapes and impossible things. In fact, I remember that my head was already spinning when I reached the top of the stairs. It felt like oxygen deprivation, but the things I saw… It must have been something else, maybe some of the burning inventory released gases. Maybe the bar used chlorine based cleaning agents or…”
‘Bridget’ stops you before your toxicological analysis gets anywhere.
“Wait, wait. Tell me first what you saw. Then we’ll talk about what was and what wasn’t in the air that night, okay?”
That sounds reasonable to you. Data first, interpretations second. Very well, you might as well tell her. You take a deep breath and start your tale, beginning with your experience of the explosion. ‘Bridget’ asks for more details when you reach the first “attack” of the fire beings.
“It ‘touched’ you? How?”
“That’s where I’m a bit fuzzy. I remember it like a horrible acid trip, I can’t be sure what really happened.”
“Just tell me what you do remember, please.”
“Okay. The flames were… it’s hard to describe… they were moving as if they had substance, like a person or an animal would move. There were appendages that moved like arms with hands on them would move. And those ‘hands’ touched my left arm at first. I tried to shield myself from the flames, but they ‘touched’ me regardless and burned right through my coat.”
“What else did you notice?”
“Again, I’m not sure. Even though sometimes it looked like a torso, like arms and hands and feet, the next second it was just flames. At one point I even think I saw eyes.”
Her gaze turns inward for a moment. Instead of asking another question or telling you to continue your story where you left off, she quickly moves around your bed, switches on the lamp on the night stand beside you and closes the door to the hallway.
“Eyes? How many?” she asks, now more quietly than before.
“Why does that matter?”
“Just tell me. How many eyes did you see?”
“Four, I think.”
Another moment of contemplative silence. “So that’s the left arm. What was next? The leg or the other arm?”
You think back. The arm was last, you think.
“The leg. I broke through the flames to get to Emma and they burned me.”
“Was it by ‘touch’ as before?”
“I don’t know, I didn’t look down, only towards Emma.”
“But how did it feel? Did you meet any resistance when you walked through the flames?”
“Resistance? No, there were just flames, nothing solid.”
“You’re sure?”
“As sure as I can be given that I’m imagining flame monsters.”
You continue your story. How you found Emma still alive, pushed her toward the door, robbed over to the windows to get more air but lost consciousness instead.
“Not so fast please. Your arm. When did your right arm get burned?”
“When I tried to get Emma out. First, we walked. Then I saw the ‘eyes’ again and the ‘hands’ touched and burned me. That’s when I pushed Emma onto the floor to get her away from the hot gases below the ceiling and pushed her out of the door.”
“The living flames tried to stop you from getting Emma out?”
“What? I don’t know. I mean I was imagining all of that… It’s a minor miracle in my book that Emma was real.”
Again, she pauses and thinks for a moment. Just when you were about to ask some questions of your own, she speaks up again.
“Thomas, there is something you need to see.”
She folds the blanket covering your leg back and presses a button at the bed to slowly bring you in an upright position. You cannot say it is unnecessary. Even just talking is tiring you at the moment. You are not quite sure if you could sit upright on your own. With the bed now up, you can now see your own leg. She pulls a pair of gloves out of her pocket and proceeds to take off the bandages.
“Hey, what are you doing!?” you protest.
“Don’t worry, I’ll be quick and I’ll put the bandages back when we’re done.”
“Take your hands off me!”
You would like to protest more actively, but in your current condition there is not much you can do about it. ‘At least she knows what she’s doing.’ You think as you observe her carefully handling the bandages. ‘She must have some medical training herself.’
She catches you staring and explains “Don’t worry about it, okay? I may be off-duty right now, but I am still a nurse and know how to treat my patients.”
“You’re a nurse?”
“Yes. Why do you think they let me stay in your room in the middle of the night? Visiting hours are over.”
Good point. Although not quite…
“Why they let you stay in my room at all? Or does every patient get his personal nurse around here? And what about you being ‘off-duty’?” you ask sarcastically.
“I’ll explain in a bit, okay? Now have a look at your leg.”
She is done unwrapping your wounds. Or what felt like your wounds just a minute ago when you were telling her about their acquisition by means of magical smoke monsters. It certainly does not look like the severe burns you remember. It is a healing wound, that is without question, but a very strange one. New skin has grown all over it, but without any apparent scar tissue. And it looks as if it has done so within the last hours. The skin presents in various shades of pink and is almost translucent as if it is only millimetres thick. Maybe it is.
“The doctors don’t know about this yet. They haven’t taken off the bandage until now. But tomorrow morning would be the first scheduled change. I have no idea what they’ll say when they see this.”
“I have no idea what to say myself.” You are somewhat at a loss for words. Of course, there is an obvious explanation. “None of what I remember actually happened, did it? These are completely different wounds, aren’t they?”
“You misunderstand, Thomas. I think your story makes more sense than anything I can come up with. You really had severe burn wounds. Just three hours ago, your leg wound was still open and slightly bleeding. Yesterday you were still bleeding heavily from all three wounds. But now… now you’re better somehow. Your progress in the last two days would take normal burn victims weeks. And they’d retain extensive scarring. But if you continue like this, you’ll be completely healed by tomorrow afternoon.”
That made absolutely no sense, but before you can voice your doubts, she continues.
“In fact, the paramedics said something like this when they brought you in. They said your wounds weren’t as bad as they initially thought. When the firemen pulled you out of the building, they thought you were so severely burned that it would lead to lasting deep-tissue damages in your arms and that your leg would have to be removed completely. When they arrived at the hospital, the ER doctor on duty diagnosed only third degree burns. Deep and dangerous burn wounds, for sure, but nothing as dramatic as losing your whole leg. At first we thought, the paramedics had simply misjudged the situation, but now I think the regeneration must have started in the ambulance or even while you were still in the burning bar. That may be why were alive long enough for the firemen to get to you.”
She is already starting to wrap you up once more. Still, none of it made any sense to you yet. And then she drops the bomb on you.
“I think the only explanation here is that you are healing through magical intervention.”
“Oh bullshit.” Seems the only appropriate response to a statement like this.
“I know, you’re sceptical. Maybe I’d be too in your situation, but I’m afraid it’s true. And I’m afraid you didn’t hallucinate back in the bar. I think you had the unfortunate pleasure of meeting some demons. Given your description I think they might have been Living Flames.”
“Don’t you mean I had the unbelievably bad luck of meeting someone who send me into an ambush by fire demons? Because I for one distinctly remember you telling me how important it was for me to be there!” you start to get angry. What kind of games was she playing with you?
“Thomas, please be quiet before anyone hears you.”
“I don’t think I want to be quiet about this!”
She looks at you with a guilty expression on her face.
“I’m sorry, okay? I really am. None of this was supposed to happen. But please, calm down.”
“I’m sick of your lies, ‘Bridget’. I may not be in shape right now, to kick your ass, but at least leave me alone and let me sleep until you’re ready to tell me the truth, alright!?” you fume at her.
“Christina.” She whispers.
“That’s my name. My real name. You were right that Bridget’s only a pseudonym. My real name is Christina.”
You look at the redhead, study her face. The weak light coming from your nightstand does not do you any favours, but you can conclude that Bridget, Christina or whoever she really is, either is telling the truth or at least gives you the curtesy of lying like a professional.
“So, what? Your name doesn’t really matter, does it? You still sent me into an ambush and incidentally almost killed a helpless girl.”
“I promise you, I didn’t.” she pleads. “I sent you for very different reasons.”
“No supernatural encounters then?”
“Well…” she hesitates. “There would have been something supernatural…”
“Oh, you’ve got to be kiddin’ me!”
“Listen, Thomas, I’m really telling you the truth. It was supernatural, but nothing dangerous. You weren’t supposed to have any problems with it. That was the whole point! Your mission was simply to wait for Emma’s spell to go wrong, shoot the Zombie and then comfort the frightened girl. That’s all. Shooting a zombie would have been right up your alley. There weren’t supposed to be any demons. And Emma… she wasn’t supposed to get hurt by all this.” Alright, maybe she is telling the truth after all. At least her tears are very convincing. The woman in front of you clearly cares for the girl. No matter what other secrets she is willing to tell you or not.
“A zombie? So still an ambush!”
“No, you don’t understand. There was no ambush.”
“Then how did you know there was going to be a zombie? And why did you send me and the girl in its way? Did you send the zombie or the demons after us?”
“You don’t understand. That’s not what happened. Not what was supposed to happen. I swear to you. I would never harm Emma, you have to believe me!”
You take a deep breath and let Christina calm herself for a moment.
“Alright then. Then tell me, what exactly was your plan? What happened two days ago before and after we met?”
She looks at you and you can see the question written on her face. She is deciding whether she can trust you. And if she did whether you would believe her or hand her over to the nice men with the straight-jackets. “Christina, tell me! I’m just trying to understand what’s happening to me. What happened to Emma.” That seems to have worked.

1be50 No.6957

“Alright. There is something you need to know about me. Something only very few people know.” She takes a deep breath and overcomes her final doubts. “Every day, when I wake up, I know things. All sorts of things, sometimes trivial things, sometimes important things. But always things which I didn’t know the night before and normally couldn’t know at all. Someone or something is downloading knowledge into my memory when I’m asleep.
When I was nine years old, I woke up one morning and knew my parents decided to get divorced on our last vacation and were only pretending to be together for my sake. I still didn’t truly believe that my gift was real at that time. That changed when my parents couldn’t pretend any longer. The divorce was finalised a year later.”
She wasn’t lying. Not this time. You could see all the feelings on her face, even decades after her family broke apart. You are about to ask her something, but she continues without pause.
“When I was fourteen, I woke up and knew exactly which boy in my class liked which girl and like any insecure teenager used my knowledge to sabotage my best friend’s relationship and get the boy I wanted most of all. On some days, I knew the answers to all my homework problems. Those days were the main reason I managed to get through high school at all.
And then, after school, when I was still deciding what to do with my life, I woke up one morning and for the first time ever knew something that hadn’t happened yet. I knew my grandfather would die by the end of the week. I was in shocked at first, tried to go on pretending I didn’t know what I did. When Friday came, I couldn’t ignore it anymore. I spent as much time as I possible could with him, before the heart attack on Sunday.”
She stops for a moment.
“That day, everything changed for me. Knowing my grandfather would die and not being able to do something about it, pissed me off like nothing ever had. I spend days trashing my room in my father’s house, screaming at him, throwing things at walls. I called him every name in the book until I couldn’t do it anymore, until I had screamed out all the pain and there was nothing left. I fell into a depression. When I got my shit together again, my father, brilliant man that he was, had anticipated my next step and had secretly enrolled me for nursing school. He never knew about my gift, at least I think I didn’t, but he understood that not being able to help was the most painful experience for me. That’s why I became a nurse.”
Another pause.
“And were you able to prevent your patients dying with your gift?” you already know the answer, but you have to ask anyway.
“Sadly, no. Knowing the future is a rare occurrence for me. Most of the time I know only about the past or present and only about little things. Like the patient in the room across the hall; he hates peas, but eats them anyway without making a fuss because he doesn’t want to leave a bad impression on his grandkids. He thinks they care, but they only see how little he eats at all and what that means for his health.
Sometimes it is more useful knowledge. Sometimes I know that patient A secretly hid his pills instead of taking them or that a surgeon forgot something in patient B. That helps. I can do something about that. I can make sure patient A takes his pills the next time and get patient B an extra exam where the mistake will hopefully be noticed. I managed to save a few lives over the years.
It was that insight kept me sane when I had the next premonition some months after I finished nursing school. That time I learned that changing the future is hard. When I wake up and know that a patient is dying, he is dying. One time a woman made it eight days instead of just five days, but she died nonetheless. And nothing I could do changed it. Ever. It is no longer about changing the future for me, it is about making the best out of it.
I think some of my colleagues know or at least suspect that I’m different somehow. Or maybe they think that I have a special psychic connection to my patients or something. I don’t know. And I don’t ask them. But that’s the reason they allow me to stay after I get off-duty and cover for me when I do. They trust me. If I want to give extra care to a patient, they know that I have a good reason for it which they can’t see yet.”
“I thought my magic leg wound meant that I’m not in immediate danger of dying. Are you telling me that I’m doomed regardless?” you ask somewhere between joking and honestly concerned.
She chuckles.
“No, I’m telling you that I have good reason to keep an eye on you. You weren’t even supposed to get injured.” She gets serious again. “And I’m scared as hell because you and Emma were.”
“So, what went wrong? Where did the demons come from?” you finally ask the question that burns in your mind (and your leg and arms).
She lets out a deep sigh.
“If only I knew… Your mission was supposed to be completely different. I know about Emma for… I think a year now. At first, she was just one of those random bits of knowledge that I get most days. ‘In the neighbouring town, there’s a girl with blue hair. She lives with her mother. She’s a good kid for a teenager, has good grades, doesn’t get much in trouble, helps elderly women cross the street.’ Stuff like that, you know? That was all at first. I didn’t think much of it, I have tons of useless knowledge like that. But a few months ago, I learned that she wasn’t just any girl; she had started to experiment with witchcraft. Every two or three weeks I would get an update on her progress. She was very careful. Read the books she could find, always double and triple checked before she tried any new spell. And it worked for while! Soon she had mastered the basics without any injuries, even though she didn’t have someone to guide her. She had to sneak out of the house to perform the spells, but she was always careful. I got to know all her hiding places over time. I learned about the abandoned bar the morning directly after Emma broke in for the first time.”
“Wait a minute. Are you telling me that you never even met Emma before now and only knew about her through your visions or whatever?”
“Yes, that’s what I’m telling you. I didn’t make an effort to meet her, because I didn’t understand why I had to know about her at all. But I trust my gift. I may not fully understand why, but it was important for me to know about Emma and her progress. Normally almost all my knowledge is either trivial or related to my patients. That I get information about a complete stranger isn’t unusual, but the kind of knowledge, the sheer amount of it and that it was so much about that one girl… I think that meant that something important was happening. Maybe I should have tried to contact her. Get my information first-hand or something… I don’t know.”
She contemplates where she went wrong for a while until another question finds its way into your consciousness. You interrupt her thoughts.
“Didn’t it shock you to learn that witchcraft is real?” You cannot believe the words that are leaving your mouth.
“Honestly? No. Anyone who has worked the night shift in the ER, every police officer, every paramedic can tell you certain stories. Maybe you only hear them from colleagues at first, but sooner or later everyone you will live through one of these stories themselves. Locked rooms getting burgled without any traces, hikers calling the emergency hotline claiming to see big, unknown beasts in the wilderness, some poor guy found dead in the streets with suspicious neck wounds and major blood loss. Those kinds of things happen all the time. Normally people just rationalise what they can and ignore what they can’t. I don’t have that luxury. I have known about the supernatural since I was nine.”
“So, you learned about Emma. When did you first know about me?”
“Three weeks ago, I started to know stuff about you. About your past, some of your previous missions and that you now were here in my town.” You really don’t like the sound of that. People knowing about you is always dangerous.
“And then” she looked at the date on the clock “six days ago, I woke up with a premonition. I knew that Emma would sneak out again and try something bigger this time. She did all her preparations, read all she could, triple checked everything as always. She really is a good girl and very careful, you must believe that.”
It is strange hearing her speak about a girl she never met like a concerned mother. ‘It is not only pure information she gets from her gift’ you realize now. ‘She is attached to the those people. That’s her special connection to the patients. She gets feelings downloaded into her as well, not just knowledge.’
“I knew that Emma’s preparations were not good enough this time. She would make a mistake. A small one really, but big enough that the salamander she tried to turn into bunny would turn into a zombie reptile instead.”
“What? Now you’re pulling my leg.”
“Just a small one. Maybe cat-sized. Just enough to scare her, sadly. She wouldn’t able to stop the thing before it took off! That’s when I knew why I was given that information about you and Emma. Here was a chance to help people. Prevent the zombie from getting away and hurting anyone. Calming the scared young witch before she makes another mistake.”
She points at you. “That was supposed to be your part! The morning after that, I woke up and knew what I had to say to you, when and how I should approach you. You were supposed to go on the mission, stake out the bar and shoot the zombie, then go in, find the girl and bring her home safely. That was your mission: Have a mostly harmless first encounter with the supernatural world and help the girl. That’s all.”
“So, what went wrong? Why were we attacked?”
“I really don’t know. But it happened early on. I didn’t realise it at first, but convincing you to go at all was harder than it should have been. What ever happened, had already changed the future.”
“I thought the future can’t be changed?”
“I didn’t say that it can’t, I said it is hard. Very hard.”
“Still. That doesn’t explain what happened. The fire demons must have come from somewhere! If Emma’s spell was supposed to turn a salamander into a zombie, what happened?”
“That’s why it was so important to talk to you. Nobody knows what really happened in that bar expect you and Emma.”
“What’s Emma’s take?”
“That’s the thing: She won’t say. If a zombie salamander would have scared her that much, imagine what actual demons have done to her. Until now magic was just a fun little exercise for her. A better kind of chemistry homework. But now… she didn’t say a single word since she arrived at the hospital, not even to her mother.”
“So, you really weren’t there? Watching us?”
“No. I’m telling you. Please believe me.” She sounds equal parts exasperated and desperate. “I only sent you on your way and went home to get ready for my shift. That’s what was supposed to happen. And then you turn up in my ER just hours later. You should have never seen me again. You would have met Emma. She was supposed to be your link to the supernatural world, not me!”
“Hence the fake name.”
“Well… yes… I thought why bother telling you my real name if we wouldn’t see each other ever again?”

You still aren’t sure what to believe. Christina really believes what she is telling you. You are sure about that now. On the other hand, for all you know, you just wasted an hour talking to an escapee from the mental ward. And then there are your wounds, healing in a way no normal wound could…
Whatever is going on, tonight is not the right time. Even if there really is magic working on your arms and your leg, it nevertheless took a lot of energy out of you. You feel drained and tell Christina that you are tired and want to continue talking later.
“I’ll stay here. When you wake up before my shift starts and feel like it, I’ll be here and answer your questions.”

She lowers the bed again, switches off the light and before she has returned to sit in her chair in the corner, you are already asleep.

1be50 No.6958

When you wake up again, the sun is already shining… barely.
“Good morning! You’re awake! That’s a good sign. Do you know where you are? What year this is? Who’s president?”
The voice of the blabbering, blonde nurse is like a sharp needle in your ears at this hour. You let out a dissatisfied groan.
“Oh no, he can’t speak.”
“Alright, calm down, pumpkin. He’s probably just miffed that you woke him up.” Another, older and male voice chimes in. You let out another groan somewhere between Affirmation and ‘Go away’. To no avail.
“I’m sorry we woke you up, Sir. But Julia here is right, it is a good sign that you are awake.”
“Right! And do you remember what year it is?”
“Julia, stop it right now! He’s a burn victim, not a coma patient. Maybe I should let your professor know how much you’re paying attention to him. Now measure his blood pressure like I showed you.”
Alright, so not a nurse. Sounds more like a student. Julia’s attempts are incompetent enough that it gives you a few moments to wake up and let your brain catch up to what is happening.
“There was someone here last night…”
“Oh, you mean Christina? Yes, she was keeping an eye on your vital signs, I hope she didn’t disturb you.”
You shake your head slightly. At least you have a verification on the name, if not on the rest of her story. “How long have I been out?”
“A little over two days, Sir.” Again, nice to have confirmation on that. “Don’t worry, I’ll send a doctor in soon to talk to you. I will come back later to check your bandages too.”
Julia jots down some numbers you are positive she simply made up to cover her inaptitude with the sphygmomanometer. The male nurse does not seem to notice. He takes your temperature, writes it down as well and starts to lecture Julia about something about medical thermometers.
You take a mental inventory of yourself. ‘I’m feeling much better than last night. I bet if I wanted to, I could leave the bed.’
The nurse and his student turn to leave the room.

What next?
> Ask them to send Christina back in here.
> Tell them to wait and about Christina’s story. Maybe there is still a sane explanation for all of this and she’s just crazy.
> Let them leave. Wait for the doctor instead. Maybe that will shed some light on your inexplicable healing.
> Wait for them to leave, then get up and look for Emma. She’s the only other person who knows what happened that night.
> Something else. (Write-in)

> A hospital gown it seems. Where the rest of your stuff is, you have no idea.

Talents and skills.
> A lot of very special ones you’ve sworn never to use again. But if you had to… well, let’s just say, Jason Bourne himself would be green with envy.
> Magical healing powers??? You’re still unsure what is going on, but something definitely is.

05eb9 No.6959

Option 1.

It would be in our best interest to maintain a low profile, which would be hard if we let them on to anything unusual, such as rescuing Emma or the miraculous healing.

01a36 No.6960

option 1 makes the most sense to me

ff64d No.6961

I vote for option 1. It gives us more options on what to do next in the hospital with someone who already knows about our healing ability.

fc6cd No.6966

Option one seems the best choice.

3949b No.6977

option 1

2205d No.6981

Okay, five unanimous votes are good enough for me. Vote closed, option one has won.

Update coming soon.

2205d No.6982

“Hey, erm…” you try to remember the name on his tag “… Tony?”
“Could you… I don’t mean to be that guy, but could you…” you shoot a meaningful look at the young student “…send in the nurse from tonight? Christina?”
He follows your eyes and seems to get the message. And moreover, blondie gets it too. You can see the emotions flashing on her face one after the other. Momentary confusion, shame for having been caught messing up followed immediately by the righteous anger of misunderstood teenagers. ‘Oh well, let her think I’m an asshole. I’ve got bigger problems.’
“Sure. I’ll tell her you check on you. She’ll be here shortly.” You can tell he is much more in control of himself, but feels just as Julia. He has simply seen too many asshole patients over the years to be fazed by it.

The duo leaves the room and you wait for Christina. One minute passes, then another and another. Finally, the door opens again and she walks in. Her colourful attire from before is gone, now she is dressed in a plain white nurse’s uniform. A uniform from the fifties it seems. At least it looks like it was designed by a chain smoking man who thought a nurse’s looks are much more important to a well-run hospital than actual functionality. Well, you are not complaining. Christina has the body to pull that look off. A body that curves in all the right places.
“What is so urgent that it can’t wait?”
“Good morning to you too.”
“Look, Thomas, I am on duty and mornings are always the busiest time of the day, so if we could just make this quick…”
You are confused. What happened to the woman who told you her whole tragic life’s story just a few hours ago?
“I just thought we could talk some more. You know… like you promised last night?”
“Yeah… I thought that you would wake up again during the night. But then… Well, you certainly needed the rest so I let you sleep. And now my shift has started and I’m very busy.”
“Alright, I get it. Just the most important questions then, ok?”
She sighs. ‘Not a good sign.’
“Fine. What do you want to know?” She walks over to your bed and fumbles with your pillows just to keep her hands busy. You think for a moment. What did you want to know? What was most important now?

“When can I leave?”
“Honestly, I have no idea. You’re not completely healed. You still need some recovery time.”
“But you said, that by afternoon I could be alright again.”
“Yeah, probably. I’m still not sure if it’s good idea to leave. The doctors will want to keep you here and keep you under observation when they find out how fast you heal.”
“Even more reason to get out as fast as possible.” She just “hmm”s uncommittedly and busies herself with the other, currently empty bed in the room. What’s next? What else do you need to know? Oh, of course!
“Do you know what happened to my stuff?”
“Stuff? Oh, you mean your clothes and such?”
“Yes. And my guns.”
“Oh, right. You’d have been armed, wouldn’t you?”
She thinks for a moment.
“Honestly, I don’t know what happened to your guns, maybe the police took them.” Terribly annoying, but understandable given the circumstances. The explosion and quickly spreading fire must simply scream arson to the police. And an armed and armoured man at the crime scene would of course be at least a person of interest and his guns pieces of evidence.
“Your clothes are most likely gone. Either burned or cut open by the paramedics to access your wounds.”
“Great, so even if I get out today, I’ll only have a hospital gown? Just great.”
“Well usually we’d inform your family or friends. You know, next of kin and such. So that they could come by and bring you some of your clothes.”
“What about the patients who don’t have anyone?”
“The hospital has a courier service who could drive to your place and pick some stuff up. And they’d probably drive you back home as well.”
“Problem is, I don’t have a place. I lived in a hotel the last few weeks and checked out the night of the fire. All my stuff’s in my car.”
“So? Give them the keys and let them drive it here. Problem solved and you can be on your way.”
“It’s not so easy. My car cannot be opened with the key alone. It has a finger print sensor as well.”
“Right… I forgot. You’re Mr. action hero, aren’t you? Well, though luck.”
What the hell was that supposed to mean?
“Christina, is everything alright?”
“Look, I really got to get back to work. Saving people’s lives, you know? Is there anything else you want to know?”
“Christina, did something happen while I was asleep?”
“Nothing.” She answers unconvincingly without looking at you. Something must have happened. Or someone. You think it over for second and almost let her be, but then it comes to you. ‘Of course!’
“Christina…” you sit up, reach over and take her hand. She finally turns around looks at you again. “What did you learn?”
“I don’t know what you mean.”
“Don’t give me that! When you woke up this morning, you learned something, right? Something important?”
She gives you a desperate look. She really does not want to talk about it. But you cannot ignore that now. It is obviously something upsetting to her.
“Christina, just tell me.”
She jerks her hand away from you. “What if I don’t want to, hm? Have you thought about that? Maybe I don’t want to have anything to do with your shit.”
“What shit? What are you talking about? Please, tell me. It must be important or you wouldn’t be that upset. Just tell me what’s going on!”
“Go fuck you, Thomas! You and all demons and all that shit! I’m not your fucking newspaper.”
That takes you aback. You did not expect that.
“I didn’t want anything to do with this shit, you know!? I was supposed to bring Emma and you together and then get back to my life. She was supposed to be your connection, not me! I don’t care for all that shit. Not one bit! I don’t want anything to do with it! Go drive your bat mobile, fight your demons, but leave me the fuck alone!”
Okay, now it becomes clearer. ‘She must have seen another supernatural emergency. Another mission.’
“Christina.” You say softly. “It’s going to be alright, okay? There is no harm in telling me. Just tell me what you know and that’ll be it. You won’t have anything to do after that.” You are obviously lying out of ass. You have no idea what is coming and certainly cannot promise her anything, but if you want to survive this mess, you will need as many information as you possibly can. And you do neither have time nor the nerve for drama queens right now.
“Fuck you, Thomas!” she starts sobbing. “You don’t know anything. Why would the Powers That Be stop sending me your mission briefings once I’ve started down that road?”
“The powers th…?” you try to ask.
“I didn’t ask for this! I want no part in this, you hear me? I’m getting out as long as I still can!”
She turns around and starts towards the door.
“Christina, please!” Time for one last effort. “It must be bad if it shakes you this much. Please let me know. I will help if I can.” Again, you had no clue if you can keep your promises. But you had to know. “I will help. That’s why you have your gift, right? To help? To do something good with the information? Let me help.”

She takes a long look at you. The redhead’s gorgeous blue eyes try to ascertain your intentions. The seconds tick away but finally she seems to be satisfied with what she sees. She wipes away her tears and opens her mouth to answer when…

“Christina, Doctor Mbadinuju wants to speak to you.” Tony the male nurse interrupts her thoughts. “Something about Mrs. Miller’s test results.”
“I’ll be right there.” She answers automatically and turns toward the door. You want to stop her, but before she walks out she turns around once more. “I’ll see that you get the morning paper, Sir.”

You are left alone in your room. After half an hour, the blonde student comes back in and hands you a tray with breakfast. She is obviously still not over your previous meeting. She treats you with the cold over-the-top professionalism that only comes from people way down the ladder who know they could be fired on the sport for a single wrong word. She puts down the breakfast, glares at you and leaves without a saying a single word.
‘Well, at least spitting in it can’t make hospital food any worse.’

On the tray, next to the tasteless white bread there is a newspaper.

What now?
> Eat your breakfast, read the paper. Wait until Christina has another chance to talk to you. You think, you got through to her.
> Search the room for the chain with the key. If your car keys are here, hopefully the chain did not get thrown away too.
> Sneak out and find Emma. Christina is right: Emma is the one you should be talking to.
> Get out of the hospital before the doctors find out about your wounds.
> Something else. (Write-in)

> A hospital gown it seems.

Talents and skills.
> A lot of very special ones you’ve sworn never to use again. But if you had to… well, let’s just say, Jason Bourne himself would be green with envy.
> Magical healing powers??? You’re still unsure what is going on, but something definitely is.

3949b No.6983

Option 1 mixed with Option 2,
um, btw not really a critique, but is this a pregnancy related cyoa?

5b5eb No.6984

It is. In principle all female characters you've met so far and all (let's say almost all to be on the safe side) female characters that you'll meet further down the line can be seduced and impregnated. Even the demons if you choose to do so.
For example: Had you chosen not to go to the burning bar, but hide out with the blond girl from the coffee shop for instead, she would have willingly spread her legs for Thomas. (And just so nobody thinks you chose poorly: There would also have been a monster to fight, just a different one. ;-))
And obviously I describe Christina's good looks from time to time to set up a future choice in that direction. I haven't had the opportunity in-story to tell you yet, but rest assured: Thomas has a healthy libido and shares our favourite fetish when he isn't paranoid about being discovered, attacked by demons or mortally wounded.

I didn't explain this - or any other ground rules of the adventure for that matter - in order to give you the feeling of being thrown into the deep end just like Thomas is. You can discover the rules of the game together with Thomas as you go along. (I haven't decided yet if I'm just going to explain everything you missed at a certain point)

But of course this is all dependent on the current situation. For one, not every woman is in the mood and you would have to work harder than usual for it (not the best example, but Julia is not Thomas' biggest fan at the moment). And of course there is a time and place for everything. At the moment Thomas is not in his best shape, so hour long hardcore fuck sessions with all the nurses simultaneously are out of the question. In the middle of a demonic fight would also be very bad timing.

You can use the power of the write-in at any time of course if you feel that there is a dry spell going on that needs to be rectified and I'll try to respect your wishes. I trust that you won't try completely suicidal stuff like raping the praying mantis demon.

And the last point: We're still in the pilot episode. We are still setting up the adventure and you and Thomas are still in the process of finding out what exactly is going on and what your place all of it is.
There will be slower and faster paced episodes. Some will focus more on your personal relationships, some will be demon bashing.

I hope that answers that. And just to be clear: If you do have any criticism, I'm very happy to hear it and will try my best to write a story we can all enjoy.

ff64d No.6985

Option 3: sneak out and find Emma.

Well, that didn't go nearly as well as I was hoping or expected. I had hoped to be able to get Christina to help us move around the hospital without too much suspicion, but I guess we'll have to do it on our own.

b6914 No.6990

Option 4.

01a36 No.7005

a modified write in of option 3. The newspaper was hinted at by Christina, and having inserts in papers isn't super uncommon. So Our hero should check the paper then look for Emma

05eb9 No.7006


fc6cd No.7007


04d73 No.7020

Alright, a modified option 3 has won. The new scene will be ready soon; maybe not tomorrow, but fairly certain I can finish it until Monday.

01eaa No.7025

A closer look at the breakfast tray diminishes your appetite significantly. You went two days without food, but if that is your alternative, you happily wait a few more hours. You have better things to do anyway. Questions that need answers.
You swing your legs out of the bed and carefully take out the IV in your arms. As you get up to leave and put the tray away, you knock the newspaper off. Letting out an annoyed grunt you bend down to pick it up again. That is when you see the frontpage. It stops you in your tracks. ‘That’s what Christina saw this morning!’ you realise. It must be.
“WAREHOUSE FIRE RAGES ON – TWO DEAD” the headline reads. You skim the article. A warehouse complex in an industrial area some kilometres south off the bar caught fire two days ago and is still burning. Fire departments from all over the area are being called in, but struggle to contain the fire. Two warehouse workers who were surprised by the fire early Monday morning died from their injuries.
You suddenly realise how lucky you have been to get out of the bar alive. And not only that but you almost completely healed by now. Another thought occurs to you, one which freezes the blood in your veins. ‘Those two women in the warehouse are only the beginning. The moment the demons get to more populated areas, hell will break loose.’ The fire department probably has no idea what they are dealing with. And they certainly have no idea how to stop it or they would have done it by now. Which means that dozens, maybe hundreds of civilians could lose their lives in the next days.

‘That settles it!’ You put the paper away and walk out into the hallway. You have no time to lose now. You need to speak with Emma to find everything you can about her spell, what went wrong, what exactly those demons are, where they came from and how one would go about neutralising them.
The hallway is busy with medical personnel just as Christina said. Perfect cover. A black-haired girl and a suspiciously young looking male student hand out the last few breakfast trays to the patients, the older nurses make their rounds measuring vitals, some of them like Tony accompanied by other students. Some patients walk the hallway too, presumably towards the restrooms.

‘Come to think of it…’ Two minutes later and your bladder a lot emptier, you look around the hallway again and walk towards what you presume is the nurses’ break room. You quickly scan the room. The table contains the last remnants of their breakfast, but that is not what you are here for. The break room is almost at the other end of the hallway from where the head nurse just went. Or what you assume to be the head nurse given the way she gave orders to the other people in white including some of the younger looking doctors. Your training as a medic does not actually include the inner workings of a hospital, but you can piece together what you need right now. The most experienced, most senior nurses are tasked with the most important tasks like taking care of the medication and they are also tasked with the most paperwork. Which means that the other end of the hallway is where the office and the medicine cabinet is and also where patient files are kept.
‘And given how far away that is from the break room somewhere in here must be… Yes!’ You have found it. Pinned to the back of the door is a list of all current patients with the most important information written in each row, duplicated from a master list in the office so that the shift change can happen here in the break room while everyone eats. You scan the list, find Emma’s name and the number of the room she’s in.
You let out a sigh of relief. ‘Seems like I caught a break for once.’ Her room is at the end of the hallway and she is alone in her room. At least for now. There is someone scheduled to come in for some sort of follow-up examination later today who is to be put into Emma’s room for the night according to this plan. That leaves you with enough time to find an opportunity to speak with the young witch. You leave the break room as quickly as you came in. A glance down both ends of the hallway tells you that no one has spotted your behaviour yet.

The morning routine of the hospital is still uninterrupted. You think you catch a glimpse of Christina hurrying from one room to another, but what you are most interested now is the general pattern. Who goes where and in what order? The students have finished handing out breakfast. They return to the break room, presumably to clean up, brew more coffee or do some other menial task. One group of nurses goes from door to door giving patients their medication. Another group heads into the office. Nobody escapes paperwork in times like these. Two, no three other nurses dash out the door towards other parts of the hospital. ‘Unpredictable what they’re doing and when they’ll return. Maybe fetching test results from the lab or making appointments with some specialists.’ You conclude. Well, nothing you can do about that. ‘Let’s see, what else?’ There is something missing from the picture. ‘Right, the doctors! Where are they?’

You wait another few minutes in the hallway, trying to look as if you had a purpose being there. Then you see them. Two nurses and two doctors gather at Emma’s end of the hallway. ‘They’re doing rounds.’ And as if on cue, the students come out of the break room and join the group. ‘Probably the highlight of their day amidst all the grunt work.’

Alright, you have your opening. You head back into your room for a few minutes in the hopes of not arousing any suspicion and come back again out ten minutes later. As you had hoped, the group has not spent that much time on Emma and has already progressed to the next room. There is not much they can do for her anyway besides keeping her well-hydrated and well-fed and her wounds clean. She just need time to heal, that is all.

You sneak along the hallway, quickly recalling what you have learned about the other patients when you read the list in the break room. You don’t have much time until rounds reach your room and your absence will be noticed, but it should be enough for some answers from Emma. You open the door without knocking and quickly close it behind you.

Emma is lying in her bed next to the window, the morning sun on her face, playing with her vibrantly blue hair. She slowly lifts her jam-sandwich and takes a bit. Obviously, her arms were burned just as yours were. Well, maybe not just as badly, but enough to cause her discomfort. She looks up from the breakfast tray when she hears the door close. You see surprise on her face that a scantily dressed stranger entered her room. Surprise, but then recognition.

“It’s you! You saved me!”
Although true, it is nevertheless strange to hear that said out loud. Even more so now that you see that whatever magical healing is going around in this hospital, it does not extend to Emma. It seems decidedly unfair.
“Hi Emma” is all you manage in response. You pick up one of the two chairs in the room and place it next to her bed. You are unsure on how to start your conversation. Finally, you decide on the obvious.
“How are you? Are your wounds healing well?”
“I don’t know; I guess so.” The prototypical teenager answer. You suppress a sigh.
“Have they told you how long you need to stay here?”
“Nothing definitive. Could be weeks.” She replies tersely.

An awkward pause later you decide that small talk is not the way to go. You came for information, you will have to befriend the little witch later.
“So, about your spell…” “How did you…” both of you begin asking.
“You first.” You offer.
“How did you know my name? You know… back in the bar?”
The question takes you aback. She is clever, you must admit that. Clever enough to remember that detail after the danger has passed. You think about it for a second and settle on the short but truthful answer.
“I was sent to save you.”
No need to mention that the woman who sent you was just a stone’s throw away right this moment. You do not know how much Christina has told Emma yet and maybe it is better not to dump too much on her. Who knows how she will react to finding out that her life in the past few months has been an open book to Christina. You need her cooperation right now more than anything.
“Sent? By whom? And who are you?”
“My name is Thomas.” You extend your hand, but the witch does not shake it. “As to the other questions… it is hard to explain. I don’t understand it very well myself. I’m much newer to this than you are. Suffices it to say that a supernatural force did not want you to get hurt.”
She looks at you with some understanding in her eyes. Maybe she expected that answer.
“Which brings me back to my question. Can you tell me what went wrong with the spell you were trying that night, Emma?”
“Nothing went wrong.”
“Well it certainly did not go right either. Unless you wanted to burn down a building with yourself in it.” You quip.
“I didn’t do that!”
“I know. I was there, remember? My guess is the fire demons are the ones who burned down the building. But I need to understand what you did to create them, Emma.”
“Nothing!” she protests louder.
“Emma, I just want to know…” you begin again.
“No really. I didn’t do that! My spell hadn’t even started when they appeared!”
Now, that is unexpected. Until now you fully expected that the botched spell was the cause of all this mayhem. If it wasn’t her spell… Well, you had no idea what that means, but it cannot be good.
“I need you to tell me everything you remember from that night, Emma. What exactly happened?”

She takes a deep breath and begins.

01eaa No.7026

Emma squeezes through the gap between two old buildings into the small space behind them. When one of those buildings was still a bar, it was used as a simple outdoor storage area. Now it is her way in. She opens the back entrance carefully. She knows that the door creaks if it is opened to fast. Some old man in one of the neighbouring buildings once called to police when he heard her during one of her first nights here.
She enters the bar through the old kitchen area, now defunct and mostly empty. Sometimes a cute black kitten is hiding here and Emma had some condensed milk and a few treats for cats stashed away here for it. It seems tonight she was to be alone.

Slowly, careful not to make any noises neighbours could hear, Emma makes her way upstairs. When she enters the room on the second floor, everything is as she left it. The ground floor sometimes gets vandalised by a group of would-be-gangsters. She saw them once and although it was dark, she is fairly certain that the vandals are really a group of eighth graders from her school. They never went upstairs as far as she can tell. The room she uses to practise is precisely as she left it a few nights ago. Maybe the old carpet is now even dirtier, but nothing else.

She sits down at the wall furthest from the windows and the door. The only way anyone could see what she is doing in here, is to be in the building directly opposite the street. But that building is just as abandoned as anything else around here. She is certain that no one will see her.
Although the flickering street lights outside are a distraction, she takes out the ingredients for her spell out of her blue backpack one by one and carefully lays several zip-lock bags full of roots, herbs and powders side by side on the floor before her. Again, her hand reaches into the backpack and this time she sets a cardboard box with small holes in it down. She counts what is in front of her and is satisfied with the number she comes up with. Nothing is missing. Then she takes out a black ceramic bowl, two small steel knives and a piece of paper with the same careful movements and also puts them in front of her.
The young woman tries to read the instructions on the paper one final time before she starts, but the flickering lights make that impossible. Of course, that does not stop a witch like her. A proud smile appears on her face. She reaches inside her, where her magic lies and remembers what she learned weeks ago during nights just like this. In front of her face a small blue flame appears out of thin air, burning steadily, giving off a cool, but comforting light.
The mind of the dedicated student cannot help but recite the facts and the mouth follows. “Witch’s zippo” the girl whispers the colloquial name of the spell. Satisfied with the flame hovering in mid-air, she begins reading the recipe for tonight’s main event. Of course, she knows the spell and its ingredients by heart, but she reads the instructions anyway. And another time just to be sure. When she is midway through her second read, the flame suddenly flickers and changes its colour.
Instinctively she tries to stabilise the magic flame she has conjured up on numerous nights before. For some reason, it does not work this time. The flame suddenly grows and shifts into orange, the girl lets out a surprised scream and is just barely able to jump backwards quickly enough so that her hair does not catch on fire. Her shock further destabilised the flame. That is when she shuts off her magic completely in a last-ditch effort to end what was happening. But to no avail. The flame grows with another sudden burst, turns completely red, shrinks again as if to breathe in and then a wave of heat and pressure forces her against the wall. She hears the windows shattering and her own scream.

When she opens her eyes again, the room is already ablaze. Flames are now everywhere. The concrete walls themselves seem to be burning brightly. Black smoke drifts through the air and collects below the ceiling. Within moments the heat rises to unbearable levels. She puts her arms in front of her face and tries breath through the fabric of her thick blue sweater.
Suddenly the flames move. Toward her! Intense dark eyes are staring at her and tendrils made of out flame reach out to touch her. A single light touch is enough to burn through her sweater and touch her arms. Emma screams again, this time in pain.

01eaa No.7027

“… and that’s when you came in.” she finished her recollecting of that night.
You try to understand what you have just heard.
“So, it was your spell that went wrong. Not just the one you intended to practise two days ago. The culprit was the other one.”
“No, the ‘Witch’s zippo’ didn’t go wrong. It worked just as it was supposed to be. Whatever happened did not come from me.”
“Emma, there was nobody else!” you remind her. You are unsure if you just do not understand magic or if she was being stubborn.
“I didn’t do that!” she insists. “I simply don’t have enough energy for something like that. Do you realise how much power is necessary to conjure up a demon out of thin air!? I only started magic half a year ago, I really can’t have done that. Not on purpose, not by accident, not with one demon and certainly not with a whole bunch of them!”
That was a convenient explanation, but it also made a sort of sense. Magic maybe does not follow the rules you know about the universe, but it must follow some set of rules. And as far as rules go, “effect size is constrained by the energy invested” isn’t that far-fetched or completely unbelievable.
“Alright, I believe you. Still, the demons are connected to that zippo-spell somehow. Maybe it was some form of magical bomb and your flame lit the fuse.” She looks at you with the clear expression of someone who just heard an amateur talk complete gibberish to an expert. “Or not… But your flame set things in motion somehow. That’s the most plausible conclusion from what you told me.”
“I guess.”
“Can you explain to me, how this ‘zippo’ works?”
A delighted smile flashes across her face and she switches into student-mode without blinking.

“’Sekhmet’s candle’, also called ‘Amaterasu’s lantern’ and the ‘Witch’s zippo’ is one of the simplest and oldest known spells. It has been known to mankind since at least 5000 BCE. Its use is well-documented in almost all the early civilisations, although the originating civilisation is unknown. Some historians claim that the cave paintings of Lascaux provide evidence of its usage as long ago as 17 thousand years and speculate that even Neanderthal magicians could have used it.
Sekhmet’s candle is created by concentrating of small amount of magical energy to a very small point. Students of wizardry and witchcraft are often taught to use the tip of a needle as a point of focus. In eastern cultures, the tip of a freshly sharpened writing quill traditionally performs the same role of focal point. Once the magic is focused on a sufficiently small point, a flame of varying colour appears in the focal point. Ancient magicians interpreted the flame in various mythological ways, its colour often as an expression of the will of the local fire deity.”

Her words seem to have no end, but when she finally has to breath, you put up your hand.
“Could you skip ahead in the Wikipedia article and just tell me what the spell actually does?”
She seems a bit disappointed. She clearly has not had anybody to talk about magic.
“Oh… okay. As I said, the energy is focused onto a microscopically small point. If enough magic is concentrated on a small enough volume, it will open a microscopic portal to a close dimension. The closest dimension to ours happens to manifest itself in the form of flames when it comes into contact with our dimension. That’s the flame the spell produces.”
“Where have you learned all this stuff? I imagine not from Wikipedia?”
She laughs.
“No, I’m afraid the magical world is still pretty much stuck in the age of paper books. About half a year ago I found a magic book in a book store which the owner had left lying around. I convinced him that I was truly interested and not some hippie looking for pyramid energy bullshit and he let me read his other books. He knows I cannot afford to buy them, but he lets me read all the books I want in the shop.”
In your mind you have two competing versions of this shopkeeper. An old, grandfatherly type who found in Emma the granddaughter he never had and an equally old, creepy cunt who undresses the young woman with his eyes every time the blue-haired beauty enters his shop. You shudder.

Suddenly Emma realises the time.
“My mum is coming any moment. You should go.”
Come to think of it, the doctors are probably looking for you by now. You really should not stay any longer.
“We’ll talk again later, ok?”
She flashes you a toothy smile. “Ok. Later. Just not too late, yeah?”
You smile back.

You like her.

What next?
> Wait outside Emma’s room. You want to talk to her mother.
> Go back to your room. You want to talk to the doctor about getting out of the hospital.
> Go back to your room, take what’s left of your stuff and just leave on your own. Anything is better than staying here while the demons are loose.
> Look for Christina and tell her what you learned.
> Sneak back into the break room and look for other patients with severe burns. Maybe other victims of the demons are still alive and can tell you something useful.
> Something else.

> A hospital gown it seems.

Talents and skills.
> A lot of very special ones you’ve sworn never to use again. But if you had to… well, let’s just say, Jason Bourne himself would be green with envy.
> Magical healing powers??? You’re still unsure what is going on, but something definitely is.

3949b No.7029

option 5, then maybe later ask Emma where that book store is, might be another lead.

ff64d No.7033

I vote for Option 5 as well.

We're still operating on too little information to figure out how to kill the fire demons and finding more victims might just give us what we need to actually kill one.

90f90 No.7037

Option 3.

2b074 No.7072

Anybody else? I'd like to have at least five votes to have a clear(ish) result.

93971 No.7073

option 5

e5ca2 No.7074

Option 5

c122e No.7085

Alright. Option five has won. The update is almost finished. It will by up by tomorrow.

7401a No.7086

You step out of Emma’s room and consider what you have learned. Not much, you must admit. There is no way to truly verify Emma’s claim for now, but it made sense that a girl who by Christina’s account is not able to turn a salamander into a rabbit cannot be responsible for the demons. You decide that you will take that as a fact for now.
What else could you do now? There had to be a way to find out more about the demons and how to neutralise them. Where did they come from? Emma said something about other dimensions, but if the portal was “microscopically small”, that does not seem to be the answer. Or maybe it was. Maybe demons could squeeze through that. You had no way of knowing. You let out a sigh and try not to get your frustration get in the way.
‘I have to concentrate on what I know. I can only act on the facts I have.’ you remind yourself. So, what do you know? The demons attacked you and Emma in the bar. Right now, they are in a warehouse some kilometres south of the bar probably happily burning through all its contents. While they were there, they managed to kill two warehouse workers. That is not much to go on. Did you miss something?
‘Hold on. How did they get to the warehouse in the first place?’
That was it! Another possible lead. Given their affinity for destruction, it seems unlikely that they went several kilometres without causing additional damage. Maybe they were other fires and nobody has made the connection yet. Maybe there are other victims you could talk to!

You go back to the break room to have another look at the patient list. You sneak back in and close to door to look at the list on its back. Scanning down the list you try to interpret the bad handwriting and the abbreviations for symptoms and diagnosis. Suddenly the door opens and you have to step back.
“Thomas! What are you doing here? Everyone’s looking for you!”
“Hey, Christina. I am looking for other burn victims like Emma and me.” You answer unfazed.
“What? You can’t do that. That’s private information.” She says indignantly and steps in front of the list.
“Well, now that you are here I can simply ask you: Is there anybody else in this hospital that could have encountered the demons? Was there an ambulance called to somewhere between the bar and the warehouse? Or the fire department?”
She blinks. Then she understands why you are asking and her demeanour changes.
“I don’t know that. We don’t keep track where patients were picked up, we only treat them. But there is no one with burn wounds or smoke inhalation injuries here, although I don’t know about the rest of the hospital. I guess they could be in the ICU, but then they’d be in no condition to talk to you.”
“Thomas, there is something else.”
“Not only the doctors are looking for you. A few minutes ago, a police officer came in and wanted to talk to you. When he saw that you weren’t in your room, he …”
As if on cue, a man in uniform enters the break room.
“We have looked in every roo… Oh, you have found him! Great.”

Your instincts kick in. Time to utilise your talents.
“Good morning, officer. Please come in and close the door.” You immediately take charge of the conversation. The man is surprised and that gives you the opening you need.
“I would like to have my equipment handed back to me. I assume that my guns and the Kevlar vest were taken by the police department when I was brought here?”
After a second of stunned silence from both Christina and the officer, he finds something to say himself.
“I don’t think we can do that, Mister…” he consults his notepad. “… King. I would like you to answer a few questions first.”
You give him your fake smile #18. Polite, professional, but clearly expressing that you are the superior in this conversation. “I will happily answer as many as I can. Of course, I have a few questions of my own, Detective. What is the current status of the investigation into the arson incidents at the bar and at the warehouse district south of it?”
“What? Listen, you seem to misunderstand. I ask the questions here.”
You knock it up a notch to fake smile #19.
“And I told you, I will answer as many of them as I am allowed. But in the spirit of cooperation, I would like you exchange some information.”
“Exchange? That’s not what this is. You are a suspect here, Mister. You don’t get to exchange information. Now follow me back to your room, so we can talk in private.” He tries to get some control over the situation back. He shoots a meaningful look toward Christina as if he expects her assistance in restraining you. Of course, Christina is not doing anything of the sorts. If a true criminal were resisting arrest, any clear-headed nurses would have the good sense to get away from such a situation. (And maybe patch everyone back together after it is over)
You wipe the fake smile of your face and look directly into his eyes.
“I am no suspect. In fact, I am nowhere to be found in your files. Or I will be soon.” He takes a step towards you, clearly fed up with your attitude and prepares to arrest you by force if necessary.
“Now we can do this the hard way, but let me tell you what will happen if you do that. You will question me at the station, but I won’t answer a single question. When you cannot postpone it any longer, you will give me my phone call. Soon after that your superior’s phone will ring and shortly thereafter yours. Someone way up the food chain will order you in no uncertain terms to let me go, strike my name from your case file and forget that I ever even existed. Then I will walk out of your station, all my equipment back in my possession. And at the end of the day, you will have wasted valuable time for both of us and gotten no useful information in return.”
The look on the police man’s face is priceless. It has been years since you had to bluff your way out of a situation this way, but now you almost miss it. It is simply fun. ‘Time for the kill.’
“Or we can do this the easy way. You answer my questions, I answer yours, we work together to get whoever’s responsible for the fires and the deaths of two warehouse workers and I make sure that those superiors of yours get a phone call from my superiors expressing their deepest gratitude for your cooperation in this matter.”

Stunned silence all around the room. It may be not have been your best performance, but it certainly worked.
“… Who are you??” he finally asks. Luckily, he does not see the enormous grin on Christina’s face behind him. ‘She said that she knows about some of my past missions. Maybe she has seen this act before…’ you think. But you cannot let that distract you.
“I’m sorry, I can’t answer that. But rest assured that we have a common goal in this case. Which is why I will give you as much information as I can. But you need to work with me here, not against me.”
He is still not sold. But you have got him on your hook. If you play this right, he will give you your stuff, all the information you need and maybe even a ride back to your car if you ask nicely. If you were not the professional you are, you would have the same enormous grin on your face as Christina.
“I assume by now you have cleared the girl of any suspicious, which is why you are now suspecting me?”
“The girl? What?”
“There was a girl in the bar with me when it burned down. Surely you won’t tell me you didn’t know that.”
“No, of course I know that. But why should we have cleared her? She is still a suspect.”
“Really? I would have thought being in the hospital under ever-vigilant eyes…“ you point to Christina “…would be a perfect alibi for the warehouse fire. So, why would she – or I for that matter – still be a suspect in this case?”
“You think the fires are related? Why? And what about the break-in?”
“You haven’t spoken to her yet? I assumed you had done that already while I was unconscious. The girl was the one who broke into the bar that night. And on several occasions before that as well.” There. You have given him new information for his case that he could verify within minutes. Useless information, but he does not know that yet. That ought to win him over. “But she didn’t cause the fire. If you want, you can harass her for entering an abandoned building nobody cares about, but I am much more interested in the fires. Have the insurance investigators found anything yet?”
“Insurance investigators?? Why do you think there would be an investigation from the insurance? I don’t even know if the bar even had an insurance.”
“Ah, but the warehouse certainly has. Do you know what exactly is stored there?”
“Uhm… I don’t know. That is not part of our investigation. You haven’t answered my question yet. Why do you think the fires are related at all?”
“Tell me, how many fires have there been in the night from Sunday till Monday? Seeing that you are investigating a case of arson, I assume you keep track of all fires in the area.” It was a shot in the dark, but if it worked, he would tell you what you want to know.
“Not counting the bar and the warehouse?”
“Yes, of course.”
He hesitates for a bit. “Three.”
“And where were they?”
“I don’t know exactly. I could ask my colleagues.”
“Please do. If my guess is correct, they will have been on a straight line between the bar and the warehouse. The timing will line up as well.”
“You think that someone caused all of them?”
“I am certain of it. For one thing, a town this small doesn’t simply have five unrelated fires in one night and in close proximity to one another. They must be connected.”
“And the other thing…?”
You give him smile #11.
“I said I would answer what I am allowed to answer. But believe me, there is more.”
“Not very convincing.”
Smile #12.
“I’m sorry, you are going to have to live with that. If the warehouse isn’t part of your investigation yet, what have you learned about the bar so far?”
Not that it would interest you that much, but you must play your charade to the end. He rattles off some unimportant information about the previous owner of the bar, a failed deal to sell it and the bad blood between him and the potential buyer that ensued. There rumours about bribes being paid and connections to organised criminals, but none of it sounds solid to you. All of it reasonably common, all of it completely irrelevant to you. But you nod and smile #15 anyway.

When he has finished he has not told you all that much. Nothing useful at least. But he has confirmed your suspicions that the demons caused more mayhem and that was something. But probably more important for you, he told you details of the investigation, which means that he now has an incentive to keep believing that you really are some super secret agent or else he has just compromised his own investigation by sheer stupidity. Consequently, he will play along and cooperate with you in your “common investigation” as long as he possibly can. You now had an inside man in the police force. A fireman would probably be even more useful given the circumstances, but you had to play the cards in your hand.

“Detective, thank you very much for the information. How about you talk to the girl now? You wanted to interview her anyway, didn’t you? In the meantime, I will try to convince the doctors to let me go. Knowing doctors, they will do anything to keep me here. When I’m discharged, I suggest we meet up again and see what clues we can get from the other crime scenes.”
You are not explicitly phrasing it as an order, but your intent is clear from your body language. It is a precisely calculated manoeuvre to make him do what you want, while everything he does is still technically his own decision. If any of his colleagues should ever ask about you, he will have any reason to cover his own ass and continue playing his part in your charade.

And the best part is: It works! He nods, walks out of the breakroom and you can even see him deliberating if he should close the door behind him just as he would when exiting his superior’s office. When he does, Christina cannot hold it together any longer and slowly claps. You bow ever so slightly.
“I can’t believe he fell for that.”
“Oh, you would believe it if you had tried that as often as I did. People are surprisingly willing to go along with anything someone with just the slightest hint of authority suggests. Sometimes simply speaking louder is enough. And of course, everybody thinks that it won’t work, even if they see it with their own eyes. ‘Only other people fall for that.’ They tell themselves. And that’s what makes it so useful a tactic.”
“What if he remembers his rulebook and asks you for verification later.”
“That’s just it: Even if he remembers it, he won’t ask, because that would mean he may have been duped. And only other people get duped! He has already cooperated. Now every bias in his psyche tells him that that must have been the right thing to do from the start.”
“If you explain it like that, it sounds really creepy. Like brainwashing.”
You sigh. “It sort of is. It is also basic craftmanship for someone like me.”
“Someone like you? I thought you were ‘retired’?” she teases and you grin in response.
“That doesn’t mean I’m anything less than the best there ever was.”

“So, about those doctors that so desperately want to keep you here…”
“I only said that because he is the kind of person that believes it.”
“Nevertheless, they really do want to speak to you.”
“Well, there is no way around it, is there?”

So, the two of you head back to your room. The doctors, of course, are already gone having delegated the search for their missing patients to lesser people. But shortly after you lay down on your bed again, Christina escorts them back in.

“Mister King, you have surprised us.” The black doctor starts the conversation. His skin is so dark, that you cannot precisely tell his age. He might be anything between 35 and 65. “Most people wouldn’t just get up and walk away after with your kind of injuries.”
“I’m not most people. In fact, I feel much better. Almost good as new.”
Both doctors smile politely. Patients tell them that every day.
“Still, we would like to be sure, okay? You need new bandages anyway. We’ll just have a look how you’re doing right now while we change them if that’s alright with you. Nurse?”
Christina and you both know what to expect when she slowly unwraps your arms and your leg.

And yet, your progress since last night is still surprising enough that both your reactions must look genuine. Either that or in the doctor’s own surprise they do not notice it. The hair has not regrown yet, the new skin is pale like you have never been in your entire live, because it literally has never been exposed to sunlight before.
From there the situation progresses like you already expected. Stunned silence, some stammering, mutual assurance between the two doctors that you will be closed examined at the next opportunity while completely ignoring your insistence that you want to leave the hospital as soon as possible. When you finally manage to get their attention, you have to talk for another half hour before they relent and agree to discharge you this afternoon in exchange for a token promise to come back and get examined again. A promise you have no intention of keeping anytime soon.

But until then you will have to stay a few hours longer, they tell you. Once the experts leave your room, you get up and out into the hallway again. Your new detective friend has just finished interviewing Emma and if you read his expression correctly, she has given him the confirmation you wanted him to have. You tell him that you will be stuck here for a few more hours and “suggest” to him that he should get back, get an overview of the other incidents and returning later for you. You leave out that you expect your equipment back as well, but you are certain he understands that anyway. He would probably drive you back to your own car later if you ask him nicely. You look forward to wearing real clothes again.

The question now is, what you should do in the mean time?

> Try to talk to Christina again. The warehouse workers were probably treated here in the hospital before they died. Maybe she can find out more about the victims.

> Try to talk to Emma again. Ask her for the address of the book store she spoke of.
> Talk to Emma’s mother.
> Talk to the staff. Apologise to Julia for your behaviour earlier if you can.
> You cannot wait, not for the doctors and not for the detective. Sneak out of the hospital right now.
> Something else.

ff64d No.7087

Option 2, find the bookstore.

If our main goal is to stop the demons, finding out more information about the is probably the best thing that we can do at the moment. Speaking to Emma's mom is an interesting choice (I didn't know that she was here yet), I don't think that she can tell us anything useful for stopping the demons (unless she is secretly a witch).

4cb0a No.7090

I think it's about time to get some action.

so Write in: "talk" to Christine, Try to get information like in option 1. If things don't work for our favor for that or ill timed, "apologize" to Julia and see if she will get you more information once they're done "apologizing"

d72de No.7094

I'm sorry. I should have made that clearer. Emma's statement that her mother could be there any moment was meant to be literal. Emma's mom is a very punctual person. Now, more than half an hour later she is probably already here.

Just to be clear, do you want to focus only on Christina and Julia or did you just name them as examples and the write-in is really meant for every willing woman?

4cb0a No.7095


I guess they're just examples because I doubt Christina is exactly willing during her shift, and really any willing woman would do in the hospital assuming that he can get information such as a key card, password or the patient info he's looking for.

90f90 No.7100

Option 5.

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