Song of the Earth

Sunday, December 20, 1992

Evening. The sun cannot have been lost over the horizon for more than an hour or so now. Things have been quiet, or as quiet as they can be when there are nine people sharing what is essentially a split level house.

At least Mopey McMoperson has stopped playing his damned violin for a little while, right?

Instead he has taken over the kitchen, the smell of fried potatoes and pastries starting to waft through the air in it’s heavenly splendor. It was expected, though. He had knocked on each individual door or hunted down everyone to let them know he was making dinner and that he would love it if they joined him.

There is a lot of food to be had, too. Salmon, which isn’t even the centerpiece, is sliced up on a large serving platter. There is bread, braided and baked to a shiny dark perfection. Little jelly-filled donuts covered in powdered sugar take up another two serving platters and all sorts of other treats or condiments cover part of the counter. Hovered over the stove is the Ecstatic himself, dressed in jeans and a button-down shirt, feet bare and flipping potato pancakes—latkes—in a generously oiled frying pan.

While the invitation by knocking was initially received as an annoyance from within the Etherite Sanctum, the later invitation by way of sweet and heavy scents is received with the grumble of a tummy. America Anders finishes up with what she is doing, takes a moment to change out of one tank top and pair of sweat pants and into another, and within a few moments she joins the chef in the kitchen.

“Oh darling what are you doing to me?” she says with a purr and a stretch. They don’t have many nights of family dinners. That’s what they are, the young woman supposes. A family. Thankfully in this case the evidence is by way of food rather than argument. Well, at least for now.

“What’s gotten into you, ”/characters/daniel-amar" class=“wiki-content-link”>Dan?" she asks, genuinely ignorant of the relevance.

Daniel turns his head at the sound of a voice, his blue eyes shining merrily. “Cooking dinner. I may have gone overboard.” He chuckles. “Come in, come in. Sit, eat, enjoy.” He flips the latkes onto the serving platter and puts a few more in. Family dinners indeed. Sometimes you need to surround yourself with the warmth of your friends to get over a little speed-bump.

“Hmm?” He turns his head back toward America, still smiling. “It’s the first night of Hanukkah and I wanted to share this with all of you.”

“Hannukah?” Dylan walks barefoot into the dining room, divided from the kitchen only by the bar. Long experience in the chantry tells him you can only add so many people in the kitchen before it starts getting too crowded, even back in the 70s when everyone seemed a lot more comfortable in each other’s space than these kids are. “With everything going on I forgot about that. I’m kind of a fan of latkes. You know, I dated a Jewish girl once…” Dylan begins. If Will were here, he could tell them this sentence can only end in disaster.

“Oh ya Mister Harrison?” America offers with an amused look, popping one of the pastries in her mouth and raising her brow.

The teenaged girl smiles brightly when Dylan is around. Not only is he the only reasonable adult in the home, he’s also shown kindness to the orphan where his son has sometimes lacked any.

“Do share your manly exploits!” she teases.

“Well then, Mr Harrison, you are in luck,” The young Ecstatic offers brightly. “They’re still my favourite thing about this holiday.” He smirks and continues frying.

“Oh?” Will isn’t here to lead them from disaster. Let the disaster begin, Daniel wants to hear what the man has to say next. One eyebrow is cocked up on his forehead.

Like taking her in when she she was in need even though she used to bully his son? No wait, that was Will. Dylan flicks a glance over at America, then back to Daniel. “Well, maybe some details later. There are children present.” As though Daniel wants to hear about his sexploits. “Let’s say Hannah wasn’t the best cook but she was still plenty skilled with her hands. They say the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, but I think she would have disagreed—”

“Wait. That’s your kid-friendly version?” Jianyu asks, a little incredulously. The teen walks into the dining room, preceded by the tabby cat, Dante. He proceeds to jump onto the bar, which is about all the warning Daniel will get before he goes for the salmon.

“Meow.” A small, cute thing brushes America’s calf. Sunshine is smaller than Will’s three kittens. She is not currently going for the salmon, though she can clearly smell it. But she is a ghouled kitten with super-strength and the ability to create illusions. This might be a problem.

America lifts her leg at the knee and brushes her calf against sunshine affectionately. “Mew too,” she replies in kitten.

“Well you’ve certainly got the kitten cabal’s attention with all this cooking, Dan,” she teases, popping a piece of salmon into her mouth before the cats spoil the tray.

“Also” she says between chewing, pointing at Dylan, “I’m not a child. I’ve exchanged pleasant letters with potential suitors and even held hands under the cherry tree, I’ll have you know good sir!”

The Ecstatic doesn’t seem to mind much, he just cocks a grin before flipping the last of his hard work out of the frying pan and onto the serving platter. “Mmm, I may have agreed with her disagreement,” He trails off.

“Ah, kitty, no,” Daniel is quick, trying to get Dante around the middle and place him back on the floor. “That salmon is not for you. Maybe you can have some later.”

“Oh dear. Are we treading into delicate territory, now?” Daniel laughs, not at all perturbed. “Perhaps we should steer clear of sexual encounter conversation topics, in case we make anyone uncomfortable.” Once the cat is deposited, he starts grabbing out plates and utensils. “Help yourselves, everyone. I’m just about done here. I’d get the fish before the cats can, if I were you.”

Daniel easily scoops Dante onto the floor. However, as soon as he turns around, Dante is back up on the counter, already at the salmon. From her vantage point, America sees two Dantes, one behind Daniel’s back, and Sunshine pushes past her leg with enough force to slightly stagger her, like a baby tiger.

“Daniel, behind you,” Dylan says reasonably. Jianyu just watches this exchange, intrigued by what this cat can do. He leans over the sink, body over the faucet.

The young woman wobbles a little and diverts her attention from the gathering and the food towards Sunshine. “Wow, come on now!” she says in surprise, bending down to scoop up the baby tiger and give it a snuggle and a scritch of fingers at the neck.

“Thanks for putting all this out,” she says, addressing the time mage once more. “I didn’t really know it was Hanukkah. I sort of lost track of time. Been working on projects!” she says with glee.

“Woah…you are fast.” Daniel stares at the tabby on the counter, scooping him up once more to place on the floor. “Wanna teach me that speedy trick?” He give the cat a small scritch as he turns, looking to see what Dylan is warning him about.

“Most people don’t, it’s all good. I’m not the best at following holidays, myself. We were never that religious, growing up. It’s more of a cultural pride thing…” He could ramble on for days, really. He smirks softly at the comment about losing track of time. “Oh? What sort of projects?”

While Daniel is preoccupied with the illusory Dante, the real one crouches and jumps back on the counter, albeit not as close as he was before. “Meow! Meow ow ow meow!”

Sunshine isn’t extraordinarily fast, but she is a cat. Combined with her strength, she jumps past the loop of America’s hands, so that the jock is holding onto the back of her legs. She quickly extricates herself, making a run for the salmon.

Jianyu, the sink attachment in hand, sprays her with cold water. Sunshine bolts in the other direction of the stream. The illusory Dante wavers. Wincing, he aims at Dante, but doesn’t fire. “Daaaaniel, the salmon.” Wet salmon isn’t exactly a victory either. The Dreamspeaker aims the sprayer back threateningly at the ghoul. “Is Hannukah always this dramatic?”

“I think that depends on your relationship with someone’s parents,” Dylan offers sagely.

America does nothing to prevent the cats from their meal. After Sunshine scrambled free of her grasp, she stepped back to lean against the fridge and watch Jianyu protect the bounty.

“Well we fixed that little Princely problem Alex was having,” she says altogether casually with a cross of her arms. “That’s for starters.”

“Everyone just wants to try my patience this weekend, don’t they?” Daniel’s lilting words are laced with strain, but he seems to laugh it off. He decides to go right for the problem, extraditing the plate of salmon. He smirks as he does it, laughing at some private joke.

“Herding cats is dramatic?” He chuckles. “Everyone, eat. Please. Before it goes cold, gets wet or is covered in cat fur.”

“Oh, you did?” Daniel’s voice picks up in excitement. “That’s great news. One less issue to deal with, right? What else?”

“Melodramatic,” Dylan replies. He heads into the kitchen, fixing two plates of food—one for himself, and one for his son.

Jianyu weaves in-between the Sleeper. making his own food—and his own extra. He sets out a small offering of salmon for the cats, taking pains to separate both cats’ meals so Sunshine can’t just bowl Dante over. Ada and Kibo must be asleep on Will’s bed or something to be missing this. “I passed a Seeking,” Jianyu shares, feeling a little guilty in front of the Sleeper and the failed-Seeker. But only a little.

“Congratulations Jianyu,” Dylan says warmly. “And good job America. How did you do that?” He asks with a little smirk. Ether magick has never failed to amuse him, even though—or maybe because—unlike Ecstatic magick, he doesn’t understand it.

“I electrocuted him,” she states flatly. A grin spreads across her face after a pause. “Well, there’s more to it than that, but let’s be honest that was the best part.”

America turns, opens the fridge, takes out a carton of milk, and proceeds to pour a saucer for the cats. “I’m on a vampire kick and decided to solve the Tremere blood magick issue after I figured out how to turn light into sunlight and weaponize it,” she says, following it up with little cat noises to draw the attention of the felines.

Dan lets out a loud, bright laugh. “I bet it was.” He waits for the cats to be taken care of before even daring to place th salmon back on the counter. “Taking care of the Tremere blood magick is a brilliant idea.” He’s keeping the strain out of his voice, see? See?! “Weaponizing sunlight?! Woah…”

He glances at Jainyu, a warm, proud smile for the boy briefly appearing as he announces his passed Seeking.

Once everyone else has fixed food for themselves, he will dive in.

Jianyu grins. He liked Alex when he met him—he didn’t hang knowledge over his head, so it maybe isn’t quite as funny to him as Dylan, who chortles as he walks off. “I’m going to take this food to Will,” He says, heading up the split level staircase. “Happy Hannukah. Thanks Dan.”

Jacob walks out of his room, stretching. “No food for me?” He says sadly. “It’s my holiday too.” The appeal of latkes and FLAMING MENORAHS has waned for him over the past year or two.

America gives a smile to Jacob. “Happy Hannukah, Jacob,” she says, surprised that it is the vampire’s holiday. Then again, she doesn’t know much about Hannukah at all, except for the recent revelation that it involves much food.

“Did you finish the food we gave you already?” she asks, not overly surprised but they did only just finish their experiments and provide payment a day ago. The young woman doesn’t have much concept for how much vampires need to survive, nor how often they need to feed.

“Happy Hannnukah, Mr Harrison. Thank you,” Daniel waves to the man disappearing up the staircase. He leans back against a countertop with a lakte half-eaten in hand.

“You’re Jewish, Jacob?” He asks. “I had no idea.” One more thing to bond over. He looks momentarily guilty, this fleeting but incredibly strong desire to make the vampire happy crossing his mind. “Well…I’m sure we can find something for you to eat…”

Jacob just gives America a look. “Vampires need food every day, just like people. Vampires need blood just to wake up in the morning, yet alone cast dashing illusions.” An iron flower appears freer hand—whichever one is angled to hold a rose in—unfolding into something beautiful and delicate and entirely made of metal. “Vampires have more blood in their bodies than people. I contains gallons of blood!”

“Gallons?” Jianyu asks, trying to parse that with his rudimentary knowledge of biology.

“Gallons. Even more in case of emergencies!” That last part… probably isn’t true. But all three of them believe it now! They can add it to their repertoire of hard-earned vampire facts.

“I thought it was obvious,” Jacob emotes. “I knew you were.” He picks up Sunshine, finished with her meal, if a little on the greedy side. Dante is still free for the taking.

The Daughter of Ether isn’t sure what to believe. Her knowledge of vampires has advanced greatly in recent days. Most notably the effects of electricity and sunlight on blood. Blood has been a topic of discussion often. “So- you’re like a walking sack of blood?” she asks with a tease.

America steps up to Jacob and runs fingers along Sunshine’s head. “We’ll get you another sample in a bit, downstairs,” she speaks softly and gives a nod.

“Yeah we can all thank Jacob for his scientific contributions of blood. Without him, we wouldn’t have helped rid ”/characters/alex" class=“wiki-content-link”>Alex of the Tremere magick," she states more loudly, insisting that the cabal recognize the contribution of a West Coast Avenger.

She glances down at the flower and gives Jacob a look. “Oh you like the flowers? I’ve been working on these. Might as well share it now since you’re all in the room,” America says, taking the metal flower from Jacob and placing it on the counter where no food shall rest.

“I’ve built these to collect and store Quintessence. Think of them like a solar battery, I guess,” she explains and unfurls the petals for all to see. Before them is a lotus of metal. “See, it’s going to be raining Quintessence tomorrow. We’re having a Juncture,” she goes on, confident in the fact that she knows something useful.

There’s a light footstep on the short flight of stairs leading to the upstairs bedrooms, preceding Will’s belated appearance. He has a half-finished plate of salmon and latkes in one hand and his handheld in the other, his pale blue eyes on the screen. Stopping short at the sound of voices, he spares a curious look for the metal flower on the counter, then carefully maneuvers his way through his gathered cabalmates while America is explaining.

Finding a clear spot on the counter to set down his leftovers, he waits for a lull in the conversation before piping in, “Alex managed to send me a message from the Umbra. He and ”/characters/sonia-farooqi" class=“wiki-content-link”>Sonia are going to be back tomorrow while the Juncture lowers the Gauntlet. They’re both okay." Flicking a glance at America, he adds, “I can tell him you managed to get rid of whatever the ”/characters/john-taylor" class=“wiki-content-link”>Prince did to him if you want. Thanks for handling that."

Daniel, too, looks as if he’s trying to wrap his mind around the idea of a body containing gallons of blood. “That’s a lot of blood…” He murmurs.

“Ah well…I guess I’m not as perceptive as you are.” He tells Jacob, a sheepish smile gracing his features. “Not that I’m even that Jewish. It was more of a cultural thing in my family, holding onto something for the sake of pride and community rather than the religious aspects. Toronto, at least the part we lived in, was a very Liberal Jewish community.”

He cards his fingers through his hair and turns once more to America. “A Juncture? That’s awesome. That’s also a creative use of storing it…” The Ecstatic mage looks astounded at the creativity of the Etherite. The things she’s come up with…

“Oh, evening Will. Welcome to the festivities.” Quickly turning to shop talk… But hey, mostly everyone came to his party! Daniel is quietly pleased with himself. “Ah, perfect. Then we’ll be whole again.”

“Huh, what a coincidence.” Jacob says, at making something in the same shape she’s been working on. “But, I am psychic.”

As America gives her explanation, Davey, too, walks up the staircase, but the opposite one from Will (and Dylan), a sweater around his arms. Last America saw him he was choosing to spend his break on the Digital Web—he might be a little more of an addict than he will admit to. “It’s all over the Web now. But who knew far enough out to prepare for it? The Sons and Daughters of Ether, that’s who.” He grins at America.

“Wait. What is a Juncture?” Jianyu asks. Dylan takes the opportunity to give him a short explanation.

America waits while Dylan explains the Juncture to Jianyu. As a new mage herself, she’s happy for another perspective on the event anyways.

Afterwards, she thanks Dylan and smiles. “I’ll place the flowers I’ve made so far around the city. I’ve only made two, but they will store a bunch of Quintessence. I’ll take Davey along with me,” she says, gesturing towards her compatriot.

“This’ll be my first Juncture. Do they even happen often? Should we expect Mardi Gras for mages filling the streets?” she asks to the room.

“This is only my second and I’ve been doing it for years,” Davey opines. “But these are both major. Sometimes there are little ones. They’re sort of like eclipses, the whole planet doesn’t usually get them and they’re not always equally cool.”

Will apparently lacks the energy to spar over which Tradition on the Web is the bestest. He just edges more into the kitchen space, looking for a container into which to dump his leftovers. Once they’re in the fridge he finds a less crowded spot on the other side of the breakfast bar to tap out a message to Alex, if he’s even still receiving them: ‘America made sure you’d be less thirsty for vampire blood when you wake up. Idiot.’

Actually, Daniel, they won’t all be together again, because one of them is a Marauder now for keeps. Which reminds him. “”/characters/jahan-meshadi" class=“wiki-content-link”>Jahan and Joshua are going to be able to gather up all kinds of Quintessence too. That might kind of be a problem."

Shh Will. Ssssh. Daniel listens quietly as the others talk, quietly mulling over what everyone else has to contribute. “Well, I guess we need to be on Marauder watch as well. If the Gauntlet will be thin enough for Sonia and Alex to cross back here, perhaps we should consider some sort of plan to push the Marauders to the Umbra?”

“That’s less violent than killing them,” Davey muses. Joshua he couldn’t care about, but Jahan… “How, though? Our Dreamspeaker kind of sucks—no offense. ”/characters/linda-mcnally" class=“wiki-content-link”>Linda?" He shoots an inquisitive glance at Will.

“That’s a good idea.” Dylan weighs in. “Ambitious. We could try it.”

“We do need to plan for the larger issue of the Marauders though.” Davey drops into a bar seat. “Whether or not we can pull off a plan like that, they’ll be active. A Juncture is of limited use to somebody without an understanding of Prime, which is me and America here.” He waves his thumb between them. “We could store a lot of power tomorrow. I’d guess so can they. Who knows what it might encourage them to do?”

“Whether or not I suck,” Jianyu says plainly, piping up, “We can ask for help. There are spirits who care about this sort of thing. The spirit of ”/wikis/cincinnati" class=“wiki-page-link”> Cincinnati. The ideal of the Shaman."

“I’m on board with sweeping the Marauders under the rug,” America states. She doesn’t relish the idea of another encounter with either Jahan or Joshua, both of whom have tried to kill her and have succeeded in killing others. Her thoughts drift to the way the house came alive, the tongue that was once a rug, the way it just gobbled down that werewolf woman. America swallows.

“So uh- how do people get into the umbra? I mean, we’ve got a perfectly good hot tub downstairs, but I’m not letting super-charged Juncture level Marauders near the chantry,” she says, then pauses. “Or any Marauders on any day period.”

The Daughter of Ether looks about the party for brainstorm. “Alex got in there somehow, right? Sonia too, it sounds like. How are they doing this? Let’s list off every way we can think of to access the umbra,” she suggests.

The umbra couldn’t be farther from Will’s area of expertise, but he isn’t completely ignorant about it. He’s been there. “Well in Alex’s case, it probably has to do with the fact that he almost died,” the Virtual Adept pipes up blandly. “Mages with a good grasp of Spirit can just step into it, but it’s easier near a Node. Trista was maintaining one in Eden Park – that’s where Jacob and I walked right in last summer. But the Technocrats will be Sanitizing it by now.” He shoots an sympathetic glance over at Jianyu, lacking the capacity at this point to even imagine what it would be like if he suddenly didn’t have Kate. “The Digital Web is also kind of like an Umbral realm, or some people think so. Davey and I know how to get in there. Uhh. Werewolves can go there. I mean,” here he looks at Jianyu again, prepared to defer to someone in the room with actual direct experience with the Spirit sphere, “I guess my understanding is that you straight up need to weaken the Gauntlet somehow to get through it, however it is you go about it.”

Daniel chews on his lip in thought. He, too, has no real knowledge or experience with the umbra. “Alright. So lets try the spirit of Cincinnati, then. How do we go about contacting them, Jianyu? I can’t imagine they would be too happy with the…madness Joshua has caused throughout their city. Would the spirit be able to weaken the Gauntlet for us?”

“Yeah,” Jianyu says, backing up Will’s explanation with some more details. “So the Gauntlet is the barrier separating the physical world from the rest of the Tellurian, the Universe. Most of it is actually Spirit.” He lays his arm down to demonstrate. “But it’s not the same thickness everywhere. It’s a lot harder to cross in a science lab than it is in a grove, or a city than it is in the woods or an empty beach. It’s a little easier at night too. Usually you need to be a Disciple of Spirit to make that crossing,” He explains.

“Like Linda,” Davey chimes in. “Will’s friend.”

“Sure,” Jianyu says, his tone indicating he doesn’t know who Linda is. “But an Initiate, like Trista or Alex I guess, can get there under certain circumstances. Someone like that can strengthen or weaken the Gauntlet to keep a spirit from interfering or help someone or something along. If the Gauntlet is already really low, like at a Node, or during a Juncture I’m thinking, they can zero it out. There’s also places called Shallowings where the Gauntlet is already non-existent, or doesn’t exist for certain people under certain circumstances.” He stands up. “Like imagine if I could enter the Gauntlet—or Dylan could,” He says, picking out the Sleeper, “By walking around a walk three times, or during a thunderstorm, or walking around a rock three times during a thunderstorm. There are stories of humans discovering these accidentally, but usually you know about them or you set them up to visit an Umbral realm without having to rely on a Spirit mage.”

“Like being able to access ”/characters/kite" class=“wiki-content-link”>Kite’s circus," Dylan says, understanding slowly.

“OK, not sure who Kite is.” Jianyu says. “I don’t think a Shallowing will help, unless Kite is going to. Anyway, Technocracy Nodes don’t work the same way. They have REALLY high Gauntlets. I wasn’t sure why—I guess they change them somehow. It would make sense. There are Werewolves but I don’t know any myself. They tend to like Dreamspeakers better but it probably helps if you have some sort of introduction. As for Cincinnati, I could try to meet him, but I would just be doing a ritual and hoping for the best. I have no idea how any of this would actually work out.”

America takes in all of what everyone says. “Look at us – behaving like a legitimate team,” she remarks with a chuckle. Then, the young woman taps her lips with her fingertips as she thinks. She places her hands on her hips and looks about the group.

“I guess this comes down to two things: how do we get the Marauders in the umbra,” she says, counting one with her finger. “What are they going to do on the Juncture?” she concludes with a second finger raised. “Is there any chance we could get a gauntlet plan together and run the play before the Juncture? How are we gonna protect ourselves during the Juncture if the Marauders decide to come knocking, on us, or worse still, in the middle of a mall or something?” America asks.

“Don’t look at me to find out what they’re going to do. I won’t touch scrying on a Time Master marauder with a ten-foot pole. Not without someone with more experience.” That sounds very out of the blue and also more defensive than he means. Not that anyone was even suggesting it.

“Well…Jianyu said the Gauntlet would be weaker in a more green space, so what if we plan this in a park or a quieter part of the city. If the Technocracy knows this is happening, we’re going to have to be on the lookout for them, anyway. We can try luring them to us, somehow. The marauders, not the Technocrats.” Daniel sucks on his lip. “As much as I don’t like suggesting it, perhaps someone within the Technocracy wouldn’t be against trying to help us shunt the marauders across the Gauntlet…”

“Well you could always scry on Jahan,” Davey baits.

“Does the chantry really have to be bait?” Dylan asks. “Can’t it be tucked away safely somewhere?” He’s not really concerned about himself, but all his memories of his entire life are here, his old life with Gabrielle, and even the one he’s trying to build with Will now.

A curtain, dark blue velvet and covered in white pinpricks like stars, drops from the ceiling, landing on Daniel’s head. On one end, Will, Jianyu, and Dylan. On the other, America, (most of) Daniel, and Davey, separated from seeing the others. Jacob stands in-between, where each curtain meets. “I have a question,” He says, facing America and Daniel if he pulls his head out of the curtain. “If the Gauntlet is really weak,” He walks over toward their side, “And then you push me into the Umbra,” He stumbles back onto Will, Jianyu, and Dylan’s side, “How come I can’t just walk back over?” He pushes his way back through the curtain to the Ecstatic and Etherite side.

“Hmm.” Davey murmurs. “Good point.” He rubs his hand on his chin and non-existent beard. “It might work on Jahan?”

With a giggle, America shrugs the curtain off herself and holds it to Jacob. “We’re gonna lock the door,” she states with confidence. “Anybody know how to do that? Like, uh, strengthen the gauntlet once the marauders are through?”

The Daughter of Ether doesn’t know much about the umbra or the gauntlet but she gets the basic principle of locking the door behind the unwelcome house guest.

“Any Initiate could do that,” Jianyu repeats. “That means Alex or Linda,” Jianyu pushes aside the Gauntlet so the others can see him pointing at Will. “But only by a little. The reason Alex could lower the Gauntlet to zero at a Node is because it’s so low to begin with. That means he could only raise it to be about middling strength, maybe, which is less than the normal Gauntlet right outside this car. And the whole country is going to be like that tomorrow morning. So maybe if we wait for it to end—”

“Or do it say, downtown,” Davey offers. Jianyu looks at him. “That’s about as high as it gets short of going to a Technocratic construct. So we push them in, Gauntlet low, Juncture ends, suddenly it’s really high. Still have the problem of keeping them in. though.”

America looks around for a moment to think. Then a big smile spreads across her face. A mischievous grin. "Let’s take them out to the ball game, " she says.

After another moment for it to sink in, she goes on. “It’ll be completely empty,” she expands. "No one will be there to get hurt and it’s right downtown. What do you think? "

“Oh, I had no plans of using the Chantry as bait. We can just use ourselves, sans chantry.” Daniel replies softly. “I don’t want to put this sanctum in any sort of danger.”

Daniel lets the conversation happen around him, eyes squinting shut when the curtain falling on his head. “Alright. End of junction. Try to draw them to us. In the baseball stadium. That’s a good idea. It’s contained and empty.” He chews on his lip. “Get them through the Gauntlet and then just hope for the best in Joshua’s case? Or does anyone have a more permanent solution for keeping them both there for good?”

“They won’t stay on the other side for good.” That’s not Will – it’s Cadence, who only Daniel and Jacob (and maybe Jianyu) can see or hear. “It’s not just a matter of kicking them through the Gauntlet. It’s getting them into Deep Space. Horizon. That’s gonna take a master of Dimensional Science.” The ghostly Void Engineer is leaning casually up against the dining room table, eyeing the food jealously.

Oblivious to what she’s saying, Will just twitches away from the curtain thing, largely silent during this back and forth. His knowledge and his spheres of expertise don’t particularly lend themselves to this exercise, nor is it easy for him to think too hard about sealing his best friend somewhere where he’ll never be able to speak to him again, but nothing he’s heard has lead him to object.

“Cadence says we need to put them on the other side of the big spaghetti barrier inside the Gauntlet. Like the inner membrane part of the Umbra place.” Jacob translates her Technocratic babble helpfully. He and Will have actually seen it, if not past the Horizon.

“Cadence?” Jianyu murmurs. There’s no reason he can’t see this spirit too. He reaches out for the curtain, and stops himself from the motion of physically sweeping it aside. Can he tell a story with this? He picks it up, letting it fall. Inhaling slowly, he lets the others fall away, the smells of salmon and potatoes and the din of the others falling from his mind at the same time. There are only the stars of the curtain, this barrier that Jacob has already played out as representing the Umbra. He closes his eyes, and sweeps it aside.

When he opens his eyes, his pupils are just noticeably larger than they were before, and he looks right at Cadence. He was not consistently good enough to do that the first time she tried to reach him, not without being walked through it. “Hello,” He says, his voice carrying into the near Umbra.

Daniel would share his food if he could, Cadence. “Where would we find a master of Dimensional Space?” He asks, head turning toward the woman for the first time. Excuse him a moment while he forgets not everyone can see the ghost in the room. He has a bad habit of doing this.

Daniel clears his throat once and focuses back on the group at large. “And by big spaghetti barrier, Jacob means over the Horizon into Deep Space. Which means what exactly, I don’t know. Probably that we really should think about contacting the Technocrats to help or that maybe we should just do our best to keep the Marauders occupied so they cannot wreak havoc on the city as a whole.”

(FADE TO BLACK)

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