[ISS] Drama-Free Speedball (Mar 2.8)

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Mark,

After swiping your idents at the Pod Eight sensor to enter the section, you headed back down the narrow corridors you just recently left after the scrimmage. It's late, technically after curfew, but things are lax here in Pod Eight. Corporal Eff runs things looser for this pod. As long as you grease her palms, at least. Plus, you're corporal now, so that changes the game. There is no curfew of corporals, right? Isn't that somewhere in that huge handbook?

image You can hear the low hum of the grav plates as you push open the door to the gym. As you enter, you spot Gen Yu, in the middle of the court. She has her Navi out, a display up of the court controls. Her outfit isn't an actual speedball uniform, but it looks like it wouldn't restrict motion, at least. How are you dressed, Mark?

She looks up as you walk across the court, from grav plate to grav plate. Everything's suspended a few millimeters, just enough to make balance a bit precarious. "Hoi, Mark," she says, adding an uncharacteristic smile. "Did you want to run drills or work through basic plays... or have a one-on-one match?"

Gen Yu collapses her Navi to a phone and flicks it across the court. It skips across a couple grav plates, then settles near the edge of the court, hovering on a plate. She doesn't seem the least bit concerned about it. "You know," she adds as you come closer and she eyes you closely, "I'm hoping for some one-on-one. I think I can seriously trash you. Even if you're twice as big as me."

What do you do?

Comments

  • edited June 2016
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    Yeah, there's no curfew exactly for corps, but you're supposed to use your time for "improving" activities. Sports count, though.

    I'm not wearing my team kit. Even if you're actually on the team, wearing match kit outside a match is super dorky. I'm wearing a long-sleeved T-shirt, green with white sleeves, and knee-length black shorts. Nothing fancy.
    image

    Too much thinking, focusing doesn't appeal right now, so I'm glad of Gen Yu's suggestion.
    "Yeah, I could go for some one-on-one. I just wanna... cut loose a little. It's been a tough day."
  • image

    Mark,

    image "Navi," Gen Yu says in a clipped tone. Her Navi beeps softly in response. She commands, "Huva tracks." This starts playing over the Navi, then over a few speakers on the court as well. Gen Yu heads over to the speedball dispenser and taps a button. The silver orb pops up and she snatches it from the air, holds it under her left arm and walks over to you.
    "I'll take Red Goal. You get Blue." she says as she gets closer. "Ready?"

    What do you do?
  • edited June 2016
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    I roll my neck side to side and shake my arms and legs loose.

    "Pretty much." I smile a little. As if to say this is just for fun. Nothing serious.

    I jog backward to give myself a little distance from Gen Yu, screening my goal.
  • image

    Mark,

    Gen Yu charges straight at you, then tilts a grav pad to start a tumble to your right. She's pushing hard, like she often does. What do you do?
  • image
    She wants me to try and cut her off, to commit too early. But I don't need to tackle her just yet. Maybe not at all.

    I keep pace on a parallel course, moving back and to the right, closing off the angles.

  • image

    Mark,

    When you don't tackle her, she rolls wider and tries to get completely around you. She's quick, so let's hope you've given enough ground here to be able to move with her.

    Sounds like you're trying to Control the Play, so roll it! Don't forget, she's Hot for Mark, so that's something you can work in.
  • image
    I keep showing Gen Yu to her left, to the corner. She shoots from her right foot, so she'll have to cut inside or take a weak shot.

    I hold, and keep covering until the moment comes to apply pressure. Then I move in.

    There's a moment where Gen Yu turns to shield the ball and try to roll me, where my hands are on her hips and we're pressed together like tango partners. I can feel her breathing. She lets that moment last a little too long before pivoting onto her left foot to turn and shoot.

    Control Play
    +2 Cold, +1 from condition

    (Rolled: 2d6+3. Rolls: 1, 5. Total: 9)

  • image

    Mark,

    Her shot goes wide, but just barely. It clanks off the side of the goal marker and bounces off towards the corner. Gen Yu decides to run ahead, try to speed past you and snatch it up. Now, if you time it right, Mark, you can tackle her in the corner, take her down, and easily score before she can recover.

    She thinks she can beat you. She runs with long strides, arms pumping, body moving.

    What do you do?
  • image
    I think I can get there first. Block Gen Yu off, retrieve the ball.

    One on one I could even score a point on the square from this range. Just turn and shoot.

    Aiming to Lead the Line
  • image

    Mark,

    Let's see it! You've got a +1 Forward, don't forget.


  • Lead the Line (+1 Hot, +1 forward)

    (Rolled: 2d6+2. Rolls: 2, 2. Total: 6)

    (+1xp, to 3)
  • image

    Mark,

    Gen Yu's faster than you expected. She gets ahead of you, and bends over to scoop up the speedball. You decide to turn it into a tackle, and as you come up to her, she boosts a little off a grav pad, and arches her back, gets just enough lift to turn it into a backwards flip over you. You barrel forward, hitting the wall, and she lands, turns, and runs to the goal, dumping in a score.

    For a moment Gen Yu pauses, looks to you, and gives a cocky little victory grin, which turns into a funny little shuffle dance.

    What do you do?
  • image
    I can't help but smile at that.

    "OK," I say, "I see how this is gonna be. I didn't know this was going to be a dancing game, but OK."

    I stretch and loosen up with theatrical exaggeration.

    I'm warmed up now, and the next couple of plays are more even, back and forth, a couple of points each from the squares. But Gen Yu still has her nose in front. I need to do something impressive to reel her in with a goal.

  • Lead the Line
    +1 Hot

    (Rolled: 2d6+1. Rolls: 1, 2. Total: 4)

  • image "Wow, Mark, you're off your game tonight." Gen Yu says after her second score. She doesn't even dance this time, instead walking over to tap off her music, which means she bends at the waist, giving you a nice look at her lithe body. She rises, then turns, "I'm done for the night. Two matches is enough." She walks over to you, coming close.
    You've both worked up a sweat, this match has been over half an hour of frenetic activity. She looks up at you, still breathing heavy. "I need a shower. Come on, let's go wash up." Then she mouths the words no cams in there.

    What do you do?
  • image
    I am off my game, it's true.

    I let Gen Yu lead the way, keping a little distance. I feel a need to be wary. Not like totally paranoid or whatever, but cautious. I wonder for a moment if Gen Yu might be connected to Pax.

    "Sorry, I think my head's not right. I'll give you a better game next time... It's been a strange day. A girl tried to kill herself, in the recycling bay."

  • image That bomb drop gets Gen Yu's attention. She stops in the narrow corridor leading from the gym to the locker rooms, looks up at you, "Really? Who tried to kill themselves? Someone from your pod?" She steps a bit closer, dropping her voice as she asks the question.


    What do you do?
  • image
    I slow down but don't quite stop.
    "Yeah. I don't think you'd know her... I probably shouldn't talk too much about it."

    I make as if to keep heading to the locker room. I don't want to start gossip about Bea, though maybe I already have.

    Feels good to talk to someone about it, though. Even just to say it out loud to someone.
  • image "The resyke bay? Wait, isn't that where that other Pod Eight girl died, what was her name, Jennifer?" Gen Yu takes a step closer, you can feel the heat from her body in the cool air of the corridor. The hum of the grav plates continue. "Did you help this girl? Save her?"

    "Was it that frizzy-haired girl Nadja?" she asks, suddenly curious. "Is she your girlfriend, Mark?"
  • image
    "It's not frizzy, it's curly, I say. I laugh a little breathy ha. "And thanks for the suggestion that being my girlfriend would drive someone over the edge."

    I reach up and push my hair back with my right hand, as if it had been in my eyes. I kind of leave my hand there for a second, holding the back of my neck. I look away and then back to Gen Yu.

    "Her name was Gwen, the girl who died. And yeah, it was in resyke. I guess that was why... but nothing happened in the end, today. I just kind of kept her talking until Eff could grab her."
  • image "Girl wants to die, can't even be original?" Gen Yu muses aloud. She reaches up to tuck some of her hair behind her left ear, then hovers there, looking at you for a long moment. "I guess... you're a drokking hero." She licks her lips, more of a nervous thing than some attempt to be sexy, then turns on the ball of her right foot, heading for the locker rooms, "I like the edge, Mark. Why don't you come get a hero's reward?" She walks with this slightly exaggerated swagger towards the showers.

    What do you do?
  • image
    A hero's reward, I don't even know what that's supposed to mean.
    I follow Gen Yu along. It's not until I'm at the locker room door that I realise, oh, she means... oh.

    Nadja would kill me. And our rooms are right next door to each other, so she could definitely sneak in during the night and stiletto me in my bunk. Maybe she wouldn't find out? She would totally find out.

    I step forward with what I hope is a pleasantly neutral expression on my face. You know, playing it cool.
  • image Gen Yu, the Striker for Pod Eight, struts in front of you as she heads for the lockers. As soon as she passes into the lockers, she peels off her dress, letting it fall to the tiled floor. She loosens her hair from its tight knot and lets it fall, then flips it over a shoulder while glancing back at you.
    Watching you while she walks to the showers, she deliberately peels off her underwear and steps into the shower room stark naked.

    Nadja will find out. You're right. She just has that knack.

    What do you do?
  • image
    OK, so I could just get out of here and walk all the way back to Eight without showering. That will look kinda weird and maybe a little presumptuous about Gen Yu's intentions. Although I don't think it is.

    No, there's only one way through this. Play it cool and, if necessary, play it dumb. Incredibly dumb.

    I take my time finding the towel machine and getting my clothes off and being a little envious of the cool stuff they have here - there's a wall screen showing the heat map from our training session. Pod Eight doesn't get heat maps.

    Then I take a deep breath and walk on into the shower room like it's no big deal.
  • image

    Mark,

    After piddling around for a bit while the steamy shower runs, you head into the shower room itself. Sure enough, there's Gen Yu, completely naked, water running over her in a way that makes her seem shiny. She has her back to you, and her body is trim, athletic, and mostly flawless. What's the one flaw you see on her from here, Mark?

    She looks over at you, smiles, then turns to apply some more soap to her body, and yes, it's as showy as you'd expect.

    There are six shower-heads in this room. One on either side of Gen Yu, and three opposite where she's standing. Which one do you take?
  • image
    Yeah, Gen Yu in the shower is quite the picture. Shame about the soundtrack. She starts absentmindedly singing to herself and it's not great. In fact, it's bad. Incredibly, unattractively bad singing.

    Mercifully, after a few seconds she catches herself and goes quiet.

    I stand under the shower head opposite her and turn the water on. While I'm adjusting the temperature pad, I ask without looking round, "So did you want to, y'know, talk about something? Without cameras."

    Real smooth. Reeeaal dumb.
  • image
    She turns around, facing you as the spray hits her back. "Well, actually..." she says after a moment of watching you. "I was wondering if you'd come over and wash my back? There are some spots that are hard to reach, you know?" She waits there, staring at you intently.

    What do you do?
  • image
    I look at Gen Yu for a moment, tilting my head to one side a little.

    "What did you think was going to--" No. I know the answer to that question. "Why did you invite me to train with you, instead of just saying what you wanted?"
    I think I know the answer to that already too - because I would've said no, and we wouldn't be here like this now.
  • image
    Gen Yu's mouth opens for a moment as she looks at you, Mark, surprised at the question. "I... I did want to train," she protests weakly. She turns around to face the water again, " I want both."
  • image
    Now I'm just looking at her back, which is awkward. So I turn round to face the wall myself.

    "Look, Gen Yu, I guess... your timing is bad, that's all. If I weren't-- I mean, I would totally want to... uh. I'm kind of with someone, so. I think you're great. I do. But."

    I look over my shoulder.
  • image Her bravado gone, Gen Yu turns off the water, stands there dripping wet as you look at her back, at the dragon tattoo that dances and winds its way down her lovely body. Her head's hung down for a moment, but she nods. "Yes. I understand."
    She didn't bring a towel into the shower room, so she turns profile to walk out to get one, leaving you alone.

    What do you do?
  • image
    I wash my hair, give Gen Yu a little time before I emerge. Maybe she'll be in the locker room when I get there. I wouldn't blame her if she wasn't.

    I sigh a sad little sigh to myself. Some of the stuff Nadja does, like how she treats Ashlee. It's come into focus for me more, lately. She has a mean streak that I didn't see before. I don't know how deep it runs. Maybe it's a dealbreaker. Maybe I don't know her well enough to judge.

    And then, like, here's Gen Yu. If you asked anybody in the pod, hers or mine, they'd probably say we were a better fit together than me and Nadja.

    I turn off the shower. Drokk it. I've said what I've said. It's done. I head for the lockers, starting to dry myself off as I go.
  • image

    Mark,

    Gen Yu isn't in the locker room, there's a wet spot on the bench where she dried herself, a locker that wasn't completely closed, just hurried opened, contents taken and then she left, dressing as quickly as she could.

    It's late, past curfew, but that doesn't exactly apply to you, now. Where do you go?
  • image
    I head straight back to Eight. I don't want to be seen as abusing my corp privileges after precisely zero days on the job.

    I slow down as I walk past Pris's door. I don't think they cleared out her stuff yet. Maybe Ourania was telling the truth. Unlikely.

    But there's a way to find out.

    In the distance, across the junction, at the end of the corridor, I can see the green glow of the sign that points the way to the medbay. So I go there.
  • image

    Mark,

    When you come into the Med Bay, the automated lights slowly pop on. The place was in "sleep mode" during curfew. The doc-monitor displays a "Waiting" icon for a minute, then Doc Arissa appears, asking you to state the nature of your medical emergency.
  • image
    Hunh. I forgot about the doctor. I guess I thought she'd be off duty or something.
    She can be on call 24 hours, but surely not on duty all the time. You would think.

    "Oh, uh, no emergency. I'm... just visiting?" I indicate the tube that Pris supposedly is in. My manner is deferential, polite. A manner mastered in years of being the friend other kids' parents liked best. "Is that OK?"

    She looks young enough to be in here with us. But she's on the other side of the screen, so I guess not.
  • image

    Mark,

    Doc Arissa checks a monitor off screen, then nods. You head over to the helmet and put it on. Seconds later, the interface hums and you're pulled into the VR interface with the comatose Priscilla.

    The driving bass of some fast-paced club song vibrates the dimly lit room where you arrive. There are impressions of other people here, dancing to the music. Multi-colored lights flash in perfect rhythm and you can't quite see them, not exactly. They're shadows, things present to hide the emptiness of the simulation.

    There, on the floor, in a nice canary yellow dress, dancing by herself, is Priscilla. She knows you're here, you think. Surely, she does. But she's dancing, eyes closed, losing herself in the music. Maybe she's waiting for you to say something or approach?

    What do you do?
  • image
    Oh God, it's true. They're keeping her alive. I wonder how time passes for her. Or for me, now, I suppose. How much time has passed outside since I put the headset on?

    Will she have lived a lifetime, when they decide to turn her off? Perhaps just a few moments, stretched taut across a few weeks.

    I move closer to her. "Pris. It's me."
  • edited June 2016
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    Mark,

    image When you move closer, she's raised her arms above her head, and you get a chance to look on her lovely form, even more perfect here in the dreamy world of this simulated environment. You call her name, and she opens her eyes, looking at you and offering a friendly smile. "Hey Mark." She lowers her hands, reaches them out to you, "Come. Dance with me."

    And you do, your bodies fall into a simple cadence of movement, following the beat of the music, responding to each other like you used to, in that silent body language you've always had. She seems happy here, enjoying her body, being alive, able to breathe without coughing.

    The shadowdancers around you shift and move away when you come closer. The lights focus on the two of you, you're truly the stars of the scene. Somewhere, deeper in this place between spaces, Mark, you feel someone else here.
  • image
    Now I don't want to go home. I could stay here forever dancing with Pris. Couldn't I?
    They can leave the headset on and put me on a drip.

    But I have to ask something. I have to know.

    "Pris," I say, close to her ear to be heard over the music. "Did you see what had happened? When I was in the medical unit. Is that why..."

    Why everything had changed, when I came back.

    And then I want to tell her about how it felt when, suddenly, she was gone. Like all the air had been sucked out of my lungs. How I missed her so much it made my teeth ache. How it made me want to break things.

    But she seems so happy right now. And there's someone else here. I close my eyes so that I can see them better.
  • image

    Mark,

    image She places a hand on your side, slides closer to move with you. "We haven't danced like this in so long." She's looking at your when you close your eyes, and answers finally, "I saw you die, Mark. You... didn't come back the same." Her tone is a twinge sad, but there's a level of acceptance and understanding.

    When you close your eyes, you feel the other presence more strongly. It seems familiar, somehow. There's a tingle at the back of your neck that runs down your spine, spreads across to your tummy, like butterflies.

    "Mark?" Priscilla's voice rouses you from that searching. "Are you even here?"
  • image
    "I'm here. I'm as here as I can be."

    I put my arms around Pris. I'm afraid that if I don't, when I open my eyes she'll be gone.

    "I didn't mean to change. It just happened."

    I open my eyes.
  • image

    Mark,

    image "I know, Mark. I know." Priscilla answers with as much compassion as a voice can project in a dance club. She reaches a hand up to cup your cheek. "It happened to both of us. But it's okay." She smiles a little, "Are you happy with Nadja? She's very pretty. Smart, too."

    That shadow, that thing in the crowd, it's moving around, circling. Like a predator.
  • edited June 2016
    image
    "I don't really feel happy any more, Pris. Just... less hungry, sometimes."

    I raise my head slowly, to see past Pris, trying to catch a glimpse of the thing in the crowd.

    "Is it always like this in here? With the music?"

    I can feel Pris's breath close to my collar bone. It's not real. I know that.
    It's hard to tell the difference. Impossible, really. And I don't want to tell the difference, in any case.
  • edited June 2016
    image

    Mark,

    image Priscilla's face shows concern when you talk about hunger, "Mark, what do you mean hunger?"
    Then you ask about the music, and she glances around, "What? No, I have never been here. I thought you made it for me... somehow. It's probably a subconscious thing, or maybe how we connect. When Ourania came, I was naked in a hospital bed. Weird, right?"

    The voice, the one you hear through your subvocal comm, it comes through the shadows, "Priscilla Pendleton. Turn her in, Mark Larsen. Turn her in to me." You feel a pull, a stoking of your hunger, like it's inside you, gnawing a little.

    What do you do?
  • image
    I push the voice away, shaking my head. Not now. Not now.

    "Ourania saw you as vulnerable, nothing weird about that. She's the one who put you in here." She's the one who's killed you.

    I step back from Pris. "Ever since I woke up, sometimes I just have this need. For... disorder. To do precisely the wrong thing. It's like... if you're holding your Navi - or someone else's, maybe more so then - somewhere high up, like that place on the garden deck, or in resyke. And you get this urge to just throw it over the edge. It's like that."
  • image

    Mark,

    image The revelation about Ourania, that strikes Priscilla. She's not completely surprised, you notice, but she shakes her head, "No. She didn't put me in here, Mark. She wouldn't. We're friends. She came to visit me first." Priscilla gently needles you about that, in her very gentle way.

    You talk about the desire for chaos, and Pris smiles a crooked smile of amusement, "Mark, are you saying you're acting up? After years of being everybody's perfect little boy, now you want to mess things up a little? That's not so bad. I feel like breaking things sometimes, too. I mean, we thought everything was going to be so easy, and now... now it's all drokked. Who wouldn't want to break stuff?" She meets your eyes, and you see that flicker of courage she calls on when she's been in pain or scared during the many years you've known her. "You are stronger than that, Mark. Our friends, they need someone to be strong. I'm not... I'm not able to help them. Not even sure if I'm going to wake up. It has to be you." She takes hold of your hands, gripping them tightly as she stops dancing. The music ebbs.

    The voice whispers close again, "Priscilla Pendleton. Turn her in. I promise she won't die if you do." How does a subvocal comm even work in here?
  • image
    I push the voice away again. What does it even mean turn her in - she's done nothing wrong.

    I nod at Pris's words, about acting up. Maybe she's right.

    She' wrong about one thing, though. "She did it, Pris. Ourania did something to you. She practically admitted it, I just can't prove it yet. I was only fishing when I said it to her, but the way she reacted..."

    I hold Pris's hands. "I'm going to find proof. But that's not as important as finding a way to cure you." Which I have no idea how to do.
  • image

    Mark,

    image "If there's a cure for me, that's great. I don't want to die." Pris admits. "But that's like saying you'll find a cure for the whole plague, Mark. Maybe... maybe that's why they gave it to me. Maybe they're making a vaccine? Nothing else makes sense. Ourania's mother is hard, but she isn't cruel."
    She closes her eyes for a moment, like she's centering herself.

    "She's got it, Mark. She's going to die for their cure." The voice whispers. "I'll save her. Turn her over to me."
  • image
    I turn away from Pris, to address the shadows at the edges of this place.
    As if that's where I'll see the face of the voice.

    "What does that mean? Turn her over, how?" I say to it, my arms spread.
  • image

    Mark,

    You feel Priscilla's eyes on you as you turn to face the shadow. She's worried about you, you feel it through the interface somehow.

    The voice, shifting from one dancer to another, all in shadow, replies, "Take her right now, bring her into the shadows. I will fix her, Mark. She'll wake up. She'll never be yours again, but I promise the plague won't kill her."

    (Mark, if you refuse this offer, the "voice" will spend a string on you, meaning you'll need to tell me what the worst thing that could happen right now, and roll to Hold Steady)
  • image
    I start to get the shakes. I can't handle this.
    "That's not my decision to make!" I shout into the dark.
    I turn to face Pris again.

    "Pris, there's this..." There's this voice in my head that tells me stuff. No, that is not the right thing to say. "I've been in contact with someone on the upper decks for a while now. I don't know who but they know stuff. Like maybe how to fix you. But I don't trust them. I can't risk... I need to find out more."

    I try to swallow but my mouth is too dry. "I'm going to go now, but I'll come back. I promise."

    I put my hands on Pris' shoulders and look into her eyes.
    "Priscilla, I love you."

    And I take the headset off.
  • Hold Steady:
    +2 Cold
    The worst thing that could happen is that Nadja is right there when I take the headset off.

    (Rolled: 2d6+2. Rolls: 4, 3. Total: 9)
  • Question: What is the voice concealing about its bargain?
  • image

    Mark,

    Priscilla's eyes shift between concerned and surprised when you suddenly leave her. Alone. Again. You're gone before she gets out a reply.

    The Med Bay is in sleep mode again when you pull off your visor. Lights start popping on and humming to life. Doc Arissa appears moments later, to see you off.

    Priscilla would become another one of the voice's agents.
  • image
    I thank the doctor and make my way to the door.
    I need to get some sleep.

    At the door I stop and look back at Doc Arissa on the screen.

    "Doctor, can I ask you something? You don’t have to answer if it's none of my business, of course. Were you ever in quarantine, like us?"
  • image

    Mark,

    image Doc Arissa looks at you for a moment, considering. "Sure, Mr. Larsen," she replies politely. "Yes, I was in Pod Two. Graduated, went through advanced med training. And this is my first assignment. If you're worried about your care, I aced all my exams, set a new record on the laser surgery aptitude." She seems ready to defend herself, like she expected some pushback.

    What do you do?
  • image
    I nod. This is reassuring, a little.

    "I just never met anyone who's graduated before, that's all." A little shrug, a little smile. "Thanks. Goodnight."

    I'd better get back to my room. Maybe I'll use some of my monthly message quota, send a note to my parents.
  • image

    Mark,

    Doc Arissa nods, wishes you a good night, and you leave. When you get back to your room, Aiden's out already, and doesn't stir. You send your message, and get one back before you fall asleep.

    To: Mark Larsen

    Congratulations on your acceptance to the Corps!
    Your mother and I are very proud of you.

    We look forward to seeing you again. Soon.

    - Father
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    End Scene

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