RP [York] - When Beneath Domes

Discussion in 'Side Stories' started by Luca, May 25, 2021.

  1. Luca

    Luca Administrator Staff Member

    "When beneath domes, do as the Yorkies do."
    Apocryphal York proverb

    ♫ Drakkhen (SNES) - Air Area (Night) ♫

    The remaining hero and heroine of the unfolding story had been sprinting through the forest, somehow avoiding each gnarled root, low branch and patch of troublesome under-brush to both catch their breath among the gore-splattered ruins of the camp-site they'd been evicted from at the start of the movie to herald in the bloody second act in.

    Looking over their shoulder, the hero could see the glowing red eyes of the monster in the dark - the branches and leaves being pushed apart as the horned beast's low, haggard breathing got ever closer to the audience's range of perception while their vision was caught by the camera to continue the pursuit with a vengeance.

    Those watching this spectacle unfold on-screen were located beneath a hemispherical dome, approximately a hundred metres in radius and built to protect against the dark and bitter nights of York, the Grey Sector of Albion. Beneath this controlled habitat was a two-storey villa that had the pleasure of watching the snow drifts melt against the transparent helenium just outside the windows, and keeping its grass green all year-round. This was the property of professional wrestler and cultural export of York: Geoffrey Magnussen, funded by his proceeds and fame in the ring.

    The villa was an L-shaped building with a sun-shade stretching across a concealed swimming pool, the exterior walls decorated in an un-York stucco that looked more at home somewhere warm like Pendragon or Iwerddon. Stepping inside, the interior walls were painted with a darker shade of eggshell, broken up by ribbed sandstone columns and equal portions of terracotta tiles and plush carpeting on the floors while the ceilings were a stark white - separated by fluted skirting boards. All lit with warm coloured light that banished any of York's winter bitterness once you were through the threshold.

    The lounge room in particular was Geoff's favourite place to be on such a cold night, kicking back with this monster movie. This time, the film on was by a local director muscling into the same market as the great creature-featurers like Gerald Ewings from sunny Sargasso or Dame Magda Penberthy of far-off Acala. And York was a city steeped in interacting with the creatures of the Weald, and with it a plethora of stories that ran the gamut of triumphant, enlightening, cautionary, and gruesome.

    Tonight, Geoff laid out on the couch in a light t-shirt and tracksuit with fuzzy slippers and thick socks, sprawled lazily in a rare moment of genuine downtime away from the ring or its trouble. And rarer still, with a guest unconnected to the business draped across them named Cass. They met at the bar just down the road - and Cass never pushed for an autograph, leading to the two kicking off a round of casual conversation - eventually leading to an offer to return to the villa.

    The cold outside and the fact that Cass lived in a capsule out by the space-port had brought out Geoff's protective side - the eight feet of length and four feet of headroom a bottom-of-the-barrel capsule offered was dreadful conditions he endured once in his developmental stages, and didn't wish such conditions on even his worst enemies. With a disposable income and an open mind, Geoffrey saw no harm in offering Cass a warmer place for an evening - having someone to interact with outside the context of the business (of wrestling) was a bonus.

    Geoff had seen this particular film ("The Burgeonwood Wendigo" by Gutwrench Productions, PA 263) a few times already, but something about its rough-hewn production and gutsiness against the well-connected Ewings and the supernaturally-empowered Penberthy productions kept him coming back. "Oh-oh," Geoff pointed at the screen and sat up as the final two heroes had no choice but to confront the monster, "I love this bit." He indicated, voice husky with a with a naturally high register that betrayed their physique a little - big men usually sported equally large voices.
     
  2. Ennis

    Ennis New Member

    It was hard, for Cass. The flashing lights were juxtaposed by character moments. Entire concepts for tropes had flown over the android's head. For many, this horror movie would simply be a good example of the b-movie genre, something entertaining in a very campy way. As those baby-blues traced against the screen however, it would be obvious that Cass was experiencing something entirely different.

    The first death elicited a yelp from Cass. Ongoing tension made the android squirm as though expecting something bad to happen. Eyes constantly flit over towards Geoffrey, as though trying to understand just what should be felt in the moment. So free was Cass from genre expectations and the ability to guess what was coming, that the movie genuinely lapsed back into being honestly scary.

    Geoffrey could practically feel the reactions before they fully happened. Cass' back tensed before going frozen when tension was visible on the screen. Soon after, it would relax once downtime and action dominated the 'suspense'. Squirms and shifting soon followed as the tingling shudders passed down the spine, something that was doomed to repeat the cycle of tension and release. It wasn't anything truly harmful. But it was much akin to taking a date to the movies who wasn't used to the genre. The reactions weren't out of genuine terror, as no sweat beaded up to the surface, and no screams were actually made. Cass was merely enjoying the movie in an odd way-- Such enjoyment bubbled to the surface once the natural reactions were dulled down through one means or another.

    It was easy to forget Cass was an android. The artificial beating of the heart, the warmth of the skin. It was as though a particularly soft, warm human had pressed against Geoffrey. Body nestled into the crook of his sprawled out form. His frame taking up far more space than the evening-companion he had brought home, who truly edged on the side of petite.

    Cass still wore the same thing that was worn in the bar. An oversized, pastel blue t-shirt with a pair of white jean-shorts. The thigh-highs and shoes had been left at the door. In truth, Cass didn't even expect to be noticed at the bar. The bartender was probably the only one that the android had whitelisted in the use of PSI-charm, many of the patrons unaware that the android was even present. It was an ability that was taxing on the energy reserves, but made life easier for Cass. Sometimes, being seen was not a good option. Especially in a bar, late at night, in a place that you haven't been before.

    The android tightened up as Geoffrey felt something strange.

    A small hand gripped one of his paws. Cass' eyes were wide, and practically glued to the screen. That small hand all but wrapped around just one or two of his fingers, as the android swallowed hard.

    "L-love this part? Uh... What's gonna happen?" Cass asked-- Woefully ignorant of the concept of 'spoilers'.
     
  3. Luca

    Luca Administrator Staff Member

    Throughout the film, the glimpses of the beast were just that: A shadow against the wall, a flicker of two red eyes in the bushes, dripping of saliva, hoarse breath, a claw slashing through the tent and dragging the first victim of the movie to a grisly death.

    Despite the low production values, the film had gone out of its way to keep the beast concealed, out of direct view for as long as possible - sprinkling split seconds that foreshadowed the uglier whole. The conceit of the film started innocently enough with a film crew going out in the woods to document a local urban myth - interspersing the the cinematic shots with fuzzy footage being taken by the crew, the host and hostess merrily boasting with the technician about what they'd find as they entered the woods.

    Then, little signs of things being amiss in the forest begun to spring up, each little event had trickled in to sour the mood of the crew into a discontent that slowly simmered and reduced into fear. Sure, the naturalist among them tried to write off a grisly pile of bones as another facet of nature - animals had to eat, and they'd seen plenty of carcasses in the past, right? The camera guy reported seeing things through the viewfinder that didn't exist on tape - a hypochondriac by nature it grated on the rest as they tried to convince the hosts and the rich weirdo bankrolling the excursion that something was out there.

    Cass could feel Geoffrey's heartbeat slowly increasing when the burly man anticipated an upcoming moment, and the whole plot's tension had been steadily ratcheting up, spiking in the end of the first act with the death of the cameraman and the initial scattering of the group into the evening-lit woods - making Geoff's heartbeat spike, and one by one they watched each character's attempts to run from, confront, bargain with, or outsmart the beast.

    The technician was the next to go, with a foolhardy attempt at bravery immediately after the cameraman's death doing them in. The financier tried to escape via the car the group parked at the edge of the woods - only to find the vehicle's tyres had been slashed, and they only had time to make a call to the outside world and get word out about the group's whereabouts before being killed mid-sentence. Each got a rise out of the familiar viewer, a sympathetic wince.

    The host and hostess re-convened with the naturalist deep in the woods - who had the best ideas on how to survive and escape - laying down what they knew about the Burgeonwood Wendigo - not the urban legend that'd sparked the excursion. Alas, the naturalist got the most sudden of the deaths - which was still enough to make Geoff jolt upright earlier. Now in the climax of the third act, the heroine reached for a wood axe that belonged to the naturalist. The monster about to be revealed in full as the hero lit a flare - bathing the campsite in harsh white and red.

    This was the payoff Geoffrey had been talking up: The first good look at the monster. Tricks of composition and lighting were still in play to service the mood of the picture in motion - harsh red and white light from the flare casting shadows against all of the creature's features - the deer-skulled face set with glowing red eyes that flared on the lens, the gore soaked claws and mottled fur with patches of deathly taut skin - ribs and armbones visible.

    "Best scene in the movie." Geoff said as the final act's crescendo unfolded on screen in earnest. The burly man shifted a little - and the way they inadvertently moved Cass with them seemed to be immaterial. "They should've used shots from it for the theatrical posters, but it would've given away the monster too early."

    As the action unfolded, being with Geoff, inside and against an evening in York, felt nothing short of close and warm - if a bit cheesy with the choice of film on offer. "Oh, you never mentioned where you were from." Geoff realised. There was no doubt as to where he was from, but it wasn't uncommon to have people go through York for something.
     
  4. Ennis

    Ennis New Member

    The myriad of emotions that flowed through Cass was confusing. No amount of readouts and displays could quantify the non-standard reactions the android experience. Not for lack of being able to understand-- But merely due to the nature of them. The code flowed through Cass' consciousness. It embedded into corrupted blocks of code, associations formed with memories. The accidental emulation of the human mind to achieve sentience was founded on a foundation of bloated, indecipherable code. It would take years to parse the cause and effect of the addition, removal, and alteration of a single error block.

    A movie could be recorded easily through Cass' eyes. But this was no mere recording. Errors that elicited feelings intermixed with the images. Excitement. Fear. Relief. Shock. There were associations that almost seemed synonymous, even. Yet, despite how closely related they were, there was a distinct difference. A difference that was contextual. In both the application, and the nonsense instincts that came with it. What was the difference between fear and shock? Of suspense and dread? These things were understood in the strictest of mechanical senses, but feeling them? It was different. There were shades upon shades upon shades that went unspoken.

    Fear had flavors, too. Cass was scared of the monster on the screen. And yet, the android was also scared when the bodies of the crew were found. Cass was also scared when reprimanded on the first day at work. Flavors. Shades. Contextual.

    Cass couldn't help but wrap both arms around the man's forearm. There was a comfort in his warmth, that brought a slow half-lid to the android's eyes. It was soothing. As gore splattered on the screen, the need for soothing spiked. Cass' smooth face pressed in against the larger man's arm, all but nuzzled in against it. Body slightly rigid from the sheer cinematic feast before the two.

    It was only at the question, did Cass even consider talking.

    A few blinks. Eyes glanced from side to side. A loaded question. Cass bit their bottom lip as they settled on looking slightly left to the screen. No point in lying about it. That little thought danced around Cass' head. Indeed, there was no point lying about it. Nothing was illegal. The deaths were ruled as accidental due to a carbon monoxide leak in the cabin. The on-shift personnel did not have the training to keep things running after several atmospherics emergencies, and eventually starved to death. That wasn't even an exciting story. It was just sad. And then what of Cass? Endlessly alone with no stimulation, and back in a galaxy that made no sense?

    "I didn't have a home." Came the soft sigh from Cass' lips, "And never really found one to settle into."

    Home. People spoke of where they lived with pride, usually. It was where they slept. Entertained guests. Raised families. Created magnum opus in the dead of night. Home was only a place to shut down, for Cass. There was never anyone waiting for the android. No future that promised anything. Home was a place that served a utilitarian purpose. And yet, as that thought lingered, there was a twinge of... Guilt? A phantom chest pain. Remorse, perhaps. The emotion was hard to grasp, but one thing was clear: it was bad. It hurt. And Cass wanted it to stop.
     
  5. Luca

    Luca Administrator Staff Member

    The climax of the film kicked off, the heroes had to do or die as the possibility of rescue diminished more and more - the backup the Naturalist called for while she was alone in the second act would be answered amid the din of the fight taking shape. The host was fencing with the sparking light of the flare while the heroine brandished the naturalist's wood-axe - seeing dishevelled and furious red.
    The wendigo had bloody claws and supernatural strength. The host's core idea was to light it on fire - but he had to be quick with it because it was bearing down on him - and there were only so many the prop department could order. The monster lunged for the show host - who retaliated by stuffing the flare in its eyes and trying to blind it and light their fur on fire - their forearm getting chewed on as he tried punching it in the side, undeterred.

    The next shot came from behind as the hostess brought the axe down in the wendigo's back - but there was a minimal spray of oozing black blood through the shaggy fur wound, and it didn't seem to slow down its assault - it only made her the target. The next scenes cut in between the prolonged and messy stand-up and drag-down fight between the two remaining characters and the wendigo was interspersed with shots of two sets of boots running through the dark forest, rifle in the hands of one, stave and mace in the other. This cavalry couldn't come sooner.

    At this point, Geoff knew the rest of how the show was going to unfold now that the climax had run its course, and found some words for Cass' situation. "That's tragic. The worst I've had to endure is long periods away from York-" his home, not necessarily a single place in it, but a whole area he felt welcome in even before he became famous "-for the wrestling promotions and tours. Weeks in transit to matches across Aleph Null and through the veil to Acala, Alpha, Gamma, and Delta."

    Getting in and out of Aleph Null was only easily possible via the gateway of Acala and Orbital Object: Null's gateways to the other Aleph systems: Alpha, Gamma, and Delta. Aleph Null was once designated as Beta by the tyrants prior to the Old War, but the human-lead rebellion and subsequent galaxy spanning war had blanked that moniker. Those were old memories, old scars, fully healed over and stabilised now - all taking place long before Geoff was a twinkle in his grandfather's eye.

    "Whenever I came back to York I felt complete again within a week, and..." As his end of the conversation trailed off into reminiscing about the sights of York, Geoff begun to notice something about Cass - whenever he had guests over and they felt like huddling up or sprawling on the long L-shaped couch with the wrestler, Geoff had learned to figure out how much people weighed by touch. Cass grabbing on and hugging his burly forearm was a welcome gesture which elicited a small chuckle, but also gave Geoff more surface to work with whether he knew it or not.

    There was a high-flying wrestler Geoff from around here traded throws with a few times billed a tiny sixty eight kilograms, five-foot-five, with a heavier musculature than the dainty and long-haired Cass. Geoffrey lifted his arm up and down to weigh the android against themselves - not saying anything as they gently lifted, then lowered gingerly as they laid down. "Do you eat much...?" Geoffrey asked with an ounce of concern, as someone this size wasn't meant to be this light. There were some snacks of a high caloric intake on the coffee table and he'd noticed Cass hadn't taken much. "C'mon, live a little, eat - I've got plenty."
     
  6. Ennis

    Ennis New Member

    Cass tried to imagine it.

    Emotional connection, made real with reciprocation. Masses of interlinked social webbing with lines both known and unknown. A place in which stability was the norm. Names and faces that weren't attached to work orders and responsibility. Places in which inspired the most comforting of states: effortless belonging. Yet, as Cass imagined this fantasy place, there were no faces that came to mind. Vague outlines of bodies, perhaps, muddled as though viewed through several layers of oil. The locations did not fare better. Home had become the coffin suites. Though the android had experienced the comradery and affection of life, there was no singular place that came to mind that inspired all these things. Home had become the same coffin suites used by transients to get through another night. Home had become the silent hours of the night, staring up at the ceiling that was a mere half-meter away. Home was currently a tin box that could be easily smuggled into the deep abyss of space, unwritten from history, and easily replaced with a few nights' rent.

    What then, of fantasy?

    A distant yearning called Cass back to the vessel which had held the android captive for lifetimes. Skeleton-faced crew sat upon the ever-familiar mess hall table, encircled it with their positioning. Between them, a cake. Cass' name painted upon it with antifreeze and lit by a single signal flare. Cass could, in some level, see it as though it were a layer beneath sight itself. Cass tried to conjure something else. Something closer. Databanks were accessed quickly, in some mentally fervent task. Familial data was pulled from cultural archives, bashed time and time again against the intrusive thought. Faces changed: bland and humanoid; exotic and alien. The scene remained the same. The mess hall merely became a dining room. The dead crew merely became something else. Machines like Cass, the more common species, and even hypothetical species that existed only in framework guesses. Bodies and identities shifted, yet it remained the same in structure. A single source of light upon cake. Surrounded by people. A room in which people ate. An endless expanse of darkness as the periphery, revealing the all-consuming inkblot of space.

    The bouncing was enough to rouse Cass. What appeared to be seconds for the human, was far longer for the android. Geoff could feel that it was quite unnatural, compared to his other partners. The weight indeed did not match the height. The weight did not even match the frame. It was as though he was lifting bones, yet his eyes told him that the android was at a healthy weight. Facts intersected with one another, bleeding in and gradating with subjectivity. All that was certain was that the action elicited a slight smile from Cass' lips.

    And indeed, a deep breath was taken. A smile widened as they pressed the side of their face against Geoff's arm. The texture was strange. Slick, almost. In the most vague sense. Hair dappled the arm, which disturbed the skin beneath. When was the last time that Cass had felt someone, this close before? The obvious memories came in the shape of examinations. Work. How many years had been passed, with absolutely no contact? The android's eyes closed for a moment, as they listened to the man's voice, the touch of concern that spiced his tone.

    It took Cass an almost embarrassing amount of time to realize that food had been offered.

    Their gaze shifted, down to the table before the two. It was like a movie theater had dumped its stock in front of them. Of course, it was a reasonable quantity, but what was on offer was more than just popcorn. Candy of both hard and soft lay in half-open boxes. Chocolate against sour. Hard against soft. Things that Cass would caution their patients against. The sweeter things in life, scattered around a bag of popcorn with a faint sheen to the popped kernels. Cass considered telling Geoff that they had no use for eating. And yet, as their brows furrowed, Cass decided against saying it.

    A hand reached out, and plucked a single piece of popcorn from the top of the bag. Cass placed it within their mouth, and chewed softly, eyes shifted back up to Geoff.

    "I... Eat when I have to." Cass said with a brief moment of hesitation, "Is it... Easy to lift me?"
     
  7. Luca

    Luca Administrator Staff Member

    The prospect of not eating regularly seemed alien to the terribly human Geoffrey - his living style and profession required a substantial amount of meat and carbs, plus medical supervision to keep his health on an even keel, but only because he needed all of it for the demands of wrestling. Not eating at all and when demonstrably necessary narrowed the possibilities down.
    "It is easier to lift you than it seems." Geoff answered, drawing Cass a touch closer by pulling their arm forward and landing their head down between their chest and bicep, now that they had a feel for handling them with care. Geoff kept Cass' face sideways at the teleview screen, as her hair spilled beside them both.

    "There's a guy I work with regularly who's a similar build to you, so I was expecting a similar feeling weight," As Geoff continued recalling a story about his coworker, Cass could hear his healthy vital signs, breathing, warmth, and the lowest bass in his voice from the middle of his throat - low without the oversold mush-mouth gravel commonly associated with the typical wrestler, "he can run days, and eats like a horse whenever we're touring; don't know where he puts it. Great guy off screen."

    Geoff led on with this and on a tangent: "One other ... person I worked with..." He sounded like the genotype of this individual escaped casual examination, "didn't eat at all and refused half of his monetary payment, claimed to be from the Weald and have no need of it." He then shrugged, heaving a grunt and putting his other hand out. "Or maybe they were an ordinary guy really deep into the gimmick, I dunno - point is when I had to work with him he felt like any other human-shaped joe, but he sandbagged-" more inscrutable insider talk for being uncooperative "-and got pretty sloppy unless he was getting what he wanted."

    He felt like he was talking on and on about something that seemed to lack resonance with Cass, their non-reactions to the jargon, about strange and unexpected people of dubious repute. He instead decided to put his arm up behind Cass and tipped them fully onto his chest - without a fixed address or the regular need to eat, Geoff figured the least they could do was offer their warmth to the stranger.
     
  8. Ennis

    Ennis New Member

    A soft breath escaped Cass' lips as the android's brought close to Geoff's body. Warmth intermixed with warmth. Pleasant sensations rang, though the body Cass pressed against was warmer than most. Such things were expected from athletes. It was almost uncomfortable, with the exchange in temperature. And yet, brought so close to the threshold of what could be considered comfortable... It was not the heat that brought about the pleasant feeling. It was touch. Skin against skin. The feeling of slightly oily yet slightly hairy textured skin pressed against synth-nerve rich faux-skin.

    Skeletons preserved in negative-pressure. They wore jumpsuits, form only held together by their clothes and helmets. The crew curled around Cass, like twigs in a nest. Their bodies long since stilled. No memories of the crew survived ego death, only their remains. Bone hands and arms pressed against Cass' then-unfeeling body. The android confused, wrapped in a ball in the center of the hydroponics cabinet, unable to understand why it hurt when they left the circle. The pain, floating and deep, like a cavernous maw that opened up within the android's chest. A phantom sensation with seemingly no cause.

    "Can... You keep talking? And hold me close?" Cass softly murmured, as their eyes rested for a moment, eyelashes fluttered close, "I like your voice."

    The hand which once pressed upon Geoff's bicep was now moving in a slow, circular fashion. Cass' fingers traced over a bruise, and a few other nicks. Slowly, it began to knead in against his musculature. The thumb slid down the connective sinew, tightly pressed against the skin. As Cass kneaded into Geoff's various bumps, the man could feel those sore spots slowly begin to wick away. It was gradual, and left previously tensed, pained areas surprisingly relaxed.
     
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