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.
     
  9. Luca

    Luca Administrator Staff Member

    In the movie it seemed like the worst had come to pass despite the hard-fought and strikingly lit tangle of combat that'd unfolded, but the cavalry had arrived in the nick of time - bursting through the bushes before the creature could slice the heroine and hero into ribbons. Gunshots rang out from bushes followed by whipping vines leaping from the forest canopy to restrain the beast and hold them aloft with a sucking chest wound that was regenerating before their eyes.

    The park ranger and mage took control of the situation and the viewpoint from the protagonists faded to black - The movie's climax was where the budget ran out, but it meant the plot was able to do away with expensive things like night-time shooting permits, the lighting and wiring for it all, the cumbersome costume, hiring a mage-double, and flares.

    The movie time-skipped to the ranger's cabin on the edge of the woods, with the hero unconscious and breathing with assistance while the heroine was wrapped in a blanket she was staining with blood, an ambulance's lights flashing before the car came into view up the gravelly road. The park ranger was taking a statement, but the conversation was hushed to the audience. The camera (obviously mounted on a drone that wasn't having a good time fighting the wind that day) dollied upwards and gently panned over the canopy of the Burgeonwood mountain. Slowly, the credits begun scrolling upwards.

    One of the strangest aspects of Geoffrey's profession was the 'ukemi' training. For most of a working week, he'd be thrown and throwing himself against the mats of the gym the promotions had been renting out to condition himself to the impact - no matter how it was dressed, people were falling stylishly. This left subtle, but felt bruising throughout his body throughout any given week that his daily mind had become accustomed to, integrated with how he moved and thought in such a way that didn't impact his performance.

    Feeling that habituated pain slowly lift away from his bicep with how Cass was projecting their machine thoughts through their fingertips, he felt the way his muscles had been crushed and twisted with a botched throw earlier in the week that'd been irritating him dissipate. A smile broke across his face as Cass asked for something so straightforward.

    "Just talk, hm...?" Subjects crossed his mind. "I don't know what you're doing but that feels good. Ah-" All signs indicated a positive reception. "Last week I leapt from the ring and into the barrier - didn't get caught properly and - an--" The last of the bruised muscles had been soothed, "ohhhhh, that feels better than before..."

    Pain was part of the business, baked into the model. No amount of forward advances in entertainment media, medical technology, or marketing and slick camera work could avoid the fact that his job boiled down to presenting a story of a sports competition parallel to reality. "I live with a lot of dull pain from being hurled around - nature of the beast, but I'm used to most of it... but I'm conscious of my neck on account of my father injuring his recklessly when he was my age."

    He pointed to a framed picture on the wall beside the teleview screen. It was two feet wide from diagonal edge to edge, depicting a casually clothed and smiling Geoffrey standing beside a giant, and older man, and their regularly proportioned wife. The family resemblance between the points of data in the older man and wife's faces added up in the face Cass saw. "He was born with acromegaly and grew nine feet tall, but medical technology saved him from its worst-"

    Cass could feel Geoff shiver a little as the bad memories resurfaced for a moment, psionic signals seeing a blurred image of that old man bound to a hospital bed, post-operation and intubated as Geoff sat opposite, listening anxiously to the rhythmic beeps of the heart monitor, memory fading as Geoff had nodded off after monitoring them for so long. "-It didn't pass onto me, I think..."

    At the very end of the scrolling credits of the movie, a featurette begun to play, showing the 'monster' walking around the set and sitting in a director's chair, thanking the audience for sticking around before cackling and fading to black.
     
  10. IncuBoye

    IncuBoye New Member

    The distant sound of crackling. A fireplace, as though heard from the speakers of a long-obsolete television. It was a vague kind of sound, one that Geoff could begin to perceive. Implacable in origin. A sound familiar to many humans of the bygone information age, a translation of the ancestral attraction to controlled flame. It was the kind of noise one would sometimes hear through radio signals in deep space of long-gone musicians and reporters. Distant memories, nostalgia of an age never personally experience. Phantom sensations of an age in which was not lived. It did not bear the instinctual warning of an uncontrolled inferno; it was the primordial imprint of domesticated flame given noise.

    Cass' eyes slowly flit up to the man. A streak of curiosity clearly painted that face as their lips slowly tugged into a wry little smirk. Fingers tightly pressed against the man's zones, letting those noises get extended for as long as possible. It was as though those slim, surprisingly deft fingers could slide between the man's musculature and provide relief in ways previously not considered. And yet, to the naked eye, there didn't seem to be anything distinctly strange at play. Slowly, Cass' fingers danced along the man's torso, as they sliced through tension with uncanny precision. Each surface, instinctual reaction and sensation projected by Geoff was acted upon. Baby-blue eyes stared up at Geoff as he spoke-- Attention paid not only to his body, but to his sounds and words.

    "Well... You can't change the past." A warm breath spilled against Geoff's chest as their eyes slowly shifted to the rolling credits, before following the man's finger towards the picture, "Can just do good by yourself in the now, and in the future."

    That twinge of emotion did not go unnoticed. Cass' eyes slowly slid back to the large man they laid with. A curious glance returned to their expression. Cass never made a habit out of commenting over thoughts. The moment someone knew thoughts could be read in the situation, they would often assume some form of intentional espionage. It was best to simply let the times roll, and not comment on anything peculiar. So, instead, Cass' attention slowly slid across Geoff's form. The android was puzzled, for a mere moment. The aches and pains associated with hard work was something of a tough quandary. Cascades had to begin somewhere, and the moment that relief started, there would be endless directions to provide more. Thankfully for Cass, it wasn't like their body was going to get tired.

    Cass slowly slid their fingertips down across the man's bicep, and onto his shoulders. What should've been awkward, was instead treated to something... Strange. Unusual. As Cass' fingers pressed in against the edges of the shoulders, it wasn't some back-room awkward second date massage. While the fingers touched what should've been a somewhat sturdy prominence, the senses didn't quite match up. Geoff's shoulders were slowly, carefully rubbed, but he could feel it as though it were traced along his back, soothing the tension against his scapulae. Thin fingers pressed in, for a moment seeming to go almost impossibly deep--

    But soon, a tension that Geoff's body had simply recognized as 'normal', was now being relieved. Attentive fingerwork slid across his shoulders, tracing the branching paths of newly-aware aches. Once piano-wire-tight ligaments and tendons began to ease, like the top of a pressure cooker being slowly released.

    "Tell me about something you're proud of." Cass' words came out evenly, soft in tone, yet bearing the flavor of nigh-limitless acceptance, "I'm sure you've made a great deal of people proud. Surely you can tell me some things that make you proud of being who you are?"

    As Cass spoke, the strange sensations merely continued: it became obvious that this was not a mundane massage. Slowly, bumps began to manifest against Geoff's body. His calves, feet, either end of his lower back, and his opposing bicep. It took some time, yet those bumps began to take shape. Familiar, feminine, delicate fingertips began to slide against his skin with ease. As they became more solid, so too did the pressure against his corded musculature. The hands began to work against him, as though he had a team of personal masseuses, dedicated to him in his entirely rather than anything else. One could feel forgiven for feeling like the focal point of existence:

    The android's attention slowly split, hands manipulated to deliciously seek out more zones of tension, controlled by a mind adapting to the feedback of Geoff's body as a whole. The PSI-matter, once finding those areas, would soon add to the building cascade. Their sole goal to make the body alight with the extreme end of comfort.

    "Your taste in movies, for one." Cass suggested, as those his mere preferences were something to be proud of-- A thought that Cass believed, as their mind wandered ever so slightly to the moments shared during the movie, "Your gregarious bearing. Your keen mind."

    Not a single mention of his wrestling career.

    The lower back was the first to experience it. It felt as though no less than four hands pressed against either side of it. Hands traced along the man's spine, and his sides. Soon, the pressure elevated, as fingertips slid between the corded, bunched up musculature, slowly building the sensation of relief. A sensory cacophony soon followed. Sharp sensations of light twitches from his own musculature, and of fingers applying more than a little bit of pressure-- But once the initial shock passed... He could practically feel each ridge of his back, melting away and kneaded into the man's strong back. There was no hesitation. Only the attentive, careful, slow, unyielding offer of the slowly-budding comfort.
     
  11. Luca

    Luca Administrator Staff Member

    The shade of the evening outside had transitioned into an overcast night. The gentle sound of a crackling fire wasn't totally unfamiliar to Geoff, with annual bonfires to mark equinox or solstice around the orbit of Aleph Null. Painting the night sky behind the overcast clouds was the kaleidoscope of Orbital Object: Null's nuclear halo, a side effect of its operation which cast a regular aurora over the planet's magnetosphere as a result.

    The Yorker imagined he was staring up into spiderwebbed clouds on an overcast day as the sound of a raging fire was beside him, the shapeless stratus absorbing the colours of Albion's daily phenomena - and Cass was able to play spectator to this happy place with him. Being here was awash with a warm breeze far out of expectation for the grey York.

    You can't change the past. Can just do good by yourself in the now, and in the future.

    A warm feeling that sunk into Geoff's muscles begun to seep in from other directions he hadn't anticipated, but he had a hankering about what was being done to him - it felt like when the medicos backstage gave Geoff attention after he'd gigged himself to increase the drama of a given match. He'd become accustomed to clinical and disinterested magic that washed pain away, sure - but never the tension; Sensations he felt melt away differently with how close and intimate Cass was. All that pressure was being released from such a light touch and a little intimacy.

    Was this how it felt to be free of earthly obligations, without any lingering or accustomed dolour in his body? Here there was no job, no bookie yelling in Geoff's ear that he better recover in a timely fashion for the sake of the show, rather than showing concern for his condition. Indeed, he'd seen dozens of people crash out of the business with unscheduled injuries - but those terrible afterimages too, in the moment, meant nil as his mind was airlifted away from physical boundaries.

    Tell me about something you're proud of. I'm sure you've made a great deal of people proud...

    "Nnnaaaaaaaaaahh..." he heaved a blissful sigh, eyes shut as his mind's eye peered up into the colourful skies he envisaged from the comfort of the couch he was laid upon, with the android kneading at his shoulders and somehow pushing at every other tension-point in his body.

    Surely you can tell me some things that make you proud of being who you are?

    In Geoff's mind, he figured that other people, like his father, had projected their pride and joy into them by giving them the best shot possible, so that he too could be someone to be proud of when they took into their own. Typically a "winner"'s mentality with a leg up on everyone else by birthright imbued people with casual malice or indifference to grit and struggle.
    But when Geoff was offered cushy positions from his father's connections, he turned them down; that was one thing he could be proud of - that he wanted to start from the bottom and earn his crust, like his dad did. Was it smart to choose to struggle, and did a generous safety net afforded by recognition invalidate Geoff's rise?

    Nah, a sheltered journey was mere advantage, but it allowed Geoff to live the joy of being an entertainer and a showman, a patron and cultural export of his home town. "People around here build dreams based on my success, on the idea that someone from a cold, grey industrial city up in the tundra can become an interstellar sensation." Geoffrey admitted, a truth that came less from the mind and more from his heart. "I reckon that's worth being proud of..."

    "Your taste in movies, for one..."

    A chuckle rose from Geoff, as he'd always find the best horror films on those long trips across stars. "Want me to put on another...?" He drawled. The library beneath the viewscreen had dozens of Blackbox Media Disks with colourful dust covers, but he'd taken the time to upload their contents to a whirring array of drives adjacent to the screen for convenience's sake. "Most of them were filmed around here."
     
  12. Ennis

    Ennis New Member

    Those cerulean blues flit up to Geoff, only slightly backlit. As Cass' hands-- 'hands' pressed in against Geoff, there was a surprising attention to detail. Unheard processors whirred. Warmth spiked, ebbing away the slight chill of their body. Electromagnetic currents bloomed into unthinkable patterns. A spiderweb of personal static upon the air. Almost as though there were free-floating neurons, connecting body to body in some strange, extra-sensory sense. For a moment, Cass' electromapping looked much like a human spine and brain, scattered through a body in inhuman ways. Error blocks formed into interlocking switches, processing strange code made only in chance.

    In that moment of silence, directly after the offer of a movie and the offer of a fact, Cass' gaze merely remained upon the larger man. Slowly, their hands began to press in. What was once something more equivalent to hands, seemed to melt against Geoff. His spine felt like it was being directly cradled, perhaps more akin to a mold being formed against each crevice. Whereas once the ligaments were being treated to the luxurious sensations, the tendons-- The connection between bone and muscle, were being actively sought. Enough pressure to find those zones, yet not enough to disturb it. There was no hiding it at this point, and the clearly other-natural status of this massage was on display.

    "Can you show me more like this?" Cass' words seemed almost... Different: imperfect. Softly spoken words were no longer said with an almost unnatural degree of forethought, "I'm enjoying this feeling."

    Cass' hands pressed deeply against Geoff's chest. It felt as though their hands-- The physical ones, had sank beneath the skin painlessly. A tracing of neural pathways. Fingertips that slowly found their way across the map of Geoff's chest, deciphering just where on the man's upper body he bore the most strain. The sensations on offer weren't a grope. Instead, it was as though he were experiencing a bath, without the water. The things that pressed against him seemed to trace his own sensations, only further amplifying them. Support, where needed. An easing, elsewhere. Sheer curiosity alone pushed Cass' mind forward, as though the reactions alone were enough to justify it all.

    As the dark rolled in, Cass' backlit eyes seemed more obvious, yet still easily missed by the untrained eye.
     
  13. Luca

    Luca Administrator Staff Member

    Geoff wasn't a stranger to being theatrically held down by someone a fraction of their size, but they were being pressed from all directions this time. Locked against the couch by small, soft hands and the waves of pleasant sensations washed over him, starting from the small of his back and flowing upwards through his core and extremities, nervous system and surrounding musculature gently effervescent. Looking up through mental haze and into Cass' face he swore her eyes always seemed to pierce through the swirl in his mind, leaving subtle trails in the sky, like the lights he saw in the sky of passing aerospace craft in the night.

    "Can you show me more like this?" Cass asked, her words coalescing in the dreamscape of Geoff's mind, up as the clouds while the eyeshine gazed down into his face. "I'm enjoying this feeling."
    "What feeling...?" Geoff queried, voice slight as relaxation had taken centre stage. The first ideas of feelings that came to mind in relation to the movie collection was horror and its excitement, those pre-packaged visceral thrills designed to tickle the anxious portion of the lizard brain.

    Was that the feeling Cass was referring to, the most recent one? Yeah? No: Something broader still that Geoff took for granted - feeling alive with all of its ups, downs, swerves, corners, and sharing it with people - based on what he'd heard of Cass' experiences, Geoff felt no shame in giving them a respite. "Being close? Being scared?" Geoff hazarded guesses figuring the contents of the last film were on the mind. A good movie took the audience for a lively experience, irrespective of genre. "Is it because of the movie... or because you've worked that knot out of my lats?" Referring to the recurring ache in the middle of his back.

    But to feel those experiences with the movie involved having to feel some of it in real space - to have that anchor. He couldn't get up from his position and didn't want to disturb the intimate moment that was upon him. Cass had a selection at their disposal to rifle through. A few titles stood out, each promising admission to a different window into composed life:
    • Forest Trails of York, a laid-back documentary about hiking that covers a generous area of the city-state.
    • Temperature, a drama about a foundry worker who moonlights as a dancer under a false alias.
    • Madd's House, a comedy about a husband and wife who execute a will and discover the strange estate of an eccentric relative.
    • Lowering The Boom, a war film based on a key fight in The Old War in Aleph Alpha.
    • Coven of Deception, a thriller involving three mages working against each other in private at Horrigan University.
    The next movie was at Cass' command, but Geoff didn't seem to be paying much attention, with a dumb, blissful smile on his face as they shared their gaze for a moment that lingered a little longer than either would like to state aloud.
     
  14. Ennis

    Ennis New Member

    The pastel blue light which poured down onto Geoff seemed oddly warm in its color. A curious look crossed Cass' features, just for a moment. Experimentation was something that most living beings experienced; it was a shared awkwardness, anticipation of the unknown, trial and error in which the worst outcome was the formation of understanding. Cass processed this moment. For Geoff, it was a few heartbeats of silence, but for Cass, it was a moment to gather thoughts. The android was aware of the many exotic and strange behaviors surrounding exploration of this degree in many species. And yet, there was very little understanding of Cass' own preferences and dislikes. There was no single matrix of experiences that could possibly be applied to reach a single outcome. It was something that would have to be experienced, rather than learned about secondhand.

    "My feeling," Came Cass' answer, through half-lid eyes; gaze turned ever-so-slightly warmer, "I wouldn't know how to explain without sharing it. That would mean letting you in, or being invited in."

    Geoff could feel the endless mass of hands beneath him work diligently. There was a pattern to their chaos: his reactions. Up until now, they behaved on the fallible logic that the body would communicate its desires honestly. Trembles, groans, and lax joints were the language being spoken between the two. His senses toyed with, body's outermost neural pathways touched and connected. However, there was one more language that was not yet broached. No information was being whispered to or from either mind. Not yet. The stream of consciousness of chaotic whisper-thoughts and high-order voices remained planted within either respective mind. An ethereal chaperone stood between the two. That was how Cass felt the moment. Something that divided the two bodies, something that not even the corrupt code within his frameworks could find an errant desire for.



    "Though feeling it would be something... I would understand if you would rather not," A breathy murmur, as the android's physical left hand moved to the side, fingers pressed against the sleeve of 'Temperature', "It's something I've only heard of in writing. Feeling things from one another in a room of mirrors, ever-refracting and focused. Lines between minds blur, mixing until all is on display."

    There was a point being made, but not one solely being done by voice alone. Instead, the hands moved, shifted. They began acting slightly more independently of Geoff's outward reactions. More seemed to erupt from the couch, and slide against the side of his chest. Endless points of contact against endless receivers. And yet, they were limited by the physicality of the man's body. There was only so much space that could be acted upon. Though his frame was impressive, and the hands practically had to lavish him with the opulence rarely experienced by all other life aside from Greek gods themselves, there were limits. Physical itches being scratched, literally and metaphorically. But just as Geoff had aches he had simply become accustomed to, there were things to the mind that had similar, strange, long-numbed wants. Cass was simply unsure if he shared the desire-- or even the wish to explore such a vast desire.

    Soft, blonde hair pooled against Geoff's chest. The smaller frame slid up the man's body, fingertips dragging the sleeve containing the movie alongside. Cass was a creature different from Geoff. Different from humanity. This was a virginal exploration, and implied unspeakable intimacy. Someone who didn't even know how to swim, who wanted to learn how to dive and tread water rather than dogpaddle. Static slowly filled the air, Geoff could feel his hairs stand on edge. Colors sharpened within his eyes as light bent strangely within this bubble. Cass slowly began to encourage the man to lay flat on his back. If willing, Geoff would find himself with the strange partner nestled against him, far closer than before. It was as though the air itself had become the long, slender tendrils of dendrites pressed against organic matter. The movie's case was soon brought to him: the time didn't make sense.

    Something that undoubtedly took mere seconds felt like minutes.

    "This one." The voice hardly sounded human-- Ethereal, siren-like in its alien intonation: an accent which had no origin, a lilt which no organic throat could create, spoken with the anticipation and serenity of a long-forgotten opera, "It reads close to how I feel."
     
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