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Two things traveled faster than light among the Sable Krewe: rumors and fear. The first because they were fun and second because the Tesla Cabal was terrifying and omnipresent outside of the bounds of the city. So when a full Circle of Technicians showed up on the outskirts of New Orleans, it took less than an hour for word to spread even to those currently out and about in the Upper. Calls were being made to come to the Under for safety and to try and figure out who did what that had the Cabal sniffing around. 

As Nym zipped her way around the Upper to gather people up, several members of the Krewe received "special invitation". Jack LaMontagine was 26 minutes into an hour long massage with Ruby Staddler, a regular client that swore by his "magic hands" for her relief from rheumatoid arthritis. Even if nobody got just how true that was, it was still nice to be appreciated. From behind him he heard Madelaine's voice call out, "Jack, please come here." 

Sheer shock at hearing the mage's voice in the Upper propelled him away from Ruby with a murmured, "Just a moment, Ms. Staddler," and through the doorway of his office. On the other side wasn't the small waiting area that should have been there. Instead, he found himself standing in center of the Under's amphitheater and greeted by the triumvirate that effectively ran the Under: Madelaine, the resident mage of note; Puck, who's superpower seemed to be seducing anyone with a sex drive, and Captain Nola, the spirit of New Orleans. 

Hundreds of members of the Krewe were already inside the amphitheater, with more streaming in to add to the chorus of whispers. The air was thick with fear and confusion; notable members of the community were directing people to sit quietly, make room for others, and wait for the meeting to start. He could hear the word "Technician" repeated over and over in the whispers. 



Elsewhere, Belle Fontenot was spending a lazy early-summer day in her shop. Which is to say it was annoyingly hot, the fan was only so much help, and air conditioning was for the rich and weak. Of which Belle was neither. Little Nym bounced into the shop looking sweaty and hyper. "Close up, you gotsa meeting to go to! You know where! Gotta run!" 

The short forever-preteen had turned on heel to bounce out as quickly as she'd come in when a young white man - almost stereotypically light-haired and blue-eyed - burst in just in front of her. He stumbled to the side, clutching a hand that looked withered and burned at the same time. Blood smeared down his face and smudged his tattered button-down shirt and jeans. He leaned against the wall next to the door, breathing heavily and clearly in a great deal of pain. "Help, please help me. I need sanctuary!" 

Belle's mind reeled the moment he'd stepped in: chaotic images flashed across her second sight of faces, intricate spellwork, and strange mechanical cogs. She could smell steam and thick, acrid smoke along with the harsh copper tang of blood that wasn't quite right. Low whispered chanting, metalic squeals, the hiss of steam through pipes, and winding through the entire cacophony the screams of souls - something she'd never actually heard before but knew exactly what it was the moment the "sound" hit her and knew with that same iron certainty that it would fuel nightmares for the rest of her life - assailed her. And stamped over the whole ghastly mess was the eldritch stamp of the Tesla Cabal. Standing in front of her, begging for help, was a Tesla Technician.

 

Spoiler

And we're off! For those characters not specifically called out here, feel free to put them where you want. Little Nym's been bouncing all over town at supernatural speeds to get the message out for those currently in the Upper. For those who are in the Under right now, word has gone out through all sorts of channels to gather in the Night Flower district at the amphitheater there (used for when everyone needs to be present). Jack got special attention on making sure he got there. He knows what he did. 😛 

For everyone else not Belle, you can be there in the crowd, even up with the group on the stage if it makes sense. If Jekca's cool with it, you can also be at her shop. If you've got another idea, run with it. I'll try to post here at least once a week to keep things going (hopefully more often than that), and I'll take as much of what people have put into place as I can when I update. If you have questions or want to work with me on posts, just tag me in Discord. Have fun! 

 

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Posted (edited)

Jack looked down at his oil-slick hands and sighed. “You know, you guys could have let me wash my hands,” he complained to Puck, the only one of the three who would listen. Even as he was speaking, Steven used Puck as a stepping stone to leap up on Jack’s shoulder. Fifteen years of partnership and terse reminders meant that neither man got scratched. 

 

“You can wash them now,” Madeline said coolly, glancing up at him with a smirk.

 

Jack looked around and sighed. “I don’t suppose you have a sink up your sleeve?”

 

“I could easily make one,” Madeline said, only to be stopped by Puck’s hand on her arm. 

 

“Just take the oil off his hands,” Puck advised, his blue eyes flicking to Jack in a quiet warning. 

 

“Very well,” Madeline said with a nod, even as the oil disappeared from his skin. 

 

Clearing his throat, Jack nodded appreciatively and said, “Thank you, Magi.”

 

Puck snorted at the title, recognizing it as a gentle jest, but Madeline accepted it as truthful and merely said, “You are welcome, Jonathan.”

 

“Jack,” he corrected automatically before looking to Puck and asking, “Have you seen my parents?”

 

“Not yet,” Puck said, “but I made sure word was sent to Under the Cover so your mom knows.”

 

“Thanks.” Jack straightened to his full height and started to scan the growing crowd. His assessment was cut off by Captain Nola.

 

“We brought you here before us for a reason, Jack,” she said, her voice full of her authority and power. Jack turned back to her with a swallow.

 

“Yes, Captain,” he said.

 

“There is Circle of Tesla Technicians outside the city,” Madeline said without preamble. “Have you done something to draw their attention?”

 

Fear hit him like a kick in the gut. “No, nothing.” His quick, fervent denial made his emotional unease apparent to all. 

 

Puck nodded and Madeliane told him, “Then go find your Mother and Father.” 

 

Being cleared didn’t reduce the hammering of his heart, and Jack gave them a respectful nod before he turned away from the trio. He didn’t see his parents, but he quickly spotted Luci sitting on someone’s shoulders. She was hard to miss with her bright pink hair and the small goat’s horns growing from her skull. His foster sister saw him at the same time and started to wave wildly. Jack waved back and turned to the three leaders. Giving them a nod, he started to work his way toward her. As he drew near, he saw she sat on his step-mom’s shoulders, while his other siblings clustered around Dahlia.

 

“Jack-jack!” Luci squealed as soon as he was close. She abandoned her perch on Dahlia’s shoulders to throw herself into Jack’s arms, drawing a quiet wince when she accidentally pulled Dahlia’s long, black hair. “Can I ride on your shoulders?”

 

Steven growled and Jack shook his head. “Ocupado, kid. Here.” He lifted her to his free shoulder, balancing her with her arm wrapped around his head and her feet braced on his chest. “Ooph,” he told the seven-year-old as she wiggled into place, “you’re getting too big for this.”

 

“Never!” she declared, leaning over to grin at the cat. “Hi, Steven.” The gray tabby’s tail thumped against Jack’s back but he otherwise ignored the child. 

 

“Hey, Mom,” Jack said to Dahlia. “Dad here?”

 

“He’s coming.” She sighed. “He was running a delivery for me when we got word, so I left a note and sent him a text.”

 

Jack studied his step-mom’s face, noticing the worry-lines marring her narrow Slavic features. “Are you worried for him?” he asked bluntly. On his shoulders, Luci started waving again.

 

Dahlia looked up at him. “No.” She didn’t say more but Jack understood what she was covertly asking. “It’s not me, I swear it,” he assured her, feeling Steven shift uneasily on his shoulder. “Though, this may cost me a client if it drags on long enough.”

 

“I’ll hire you,” Dahlia told him with a smile.

 

“Right,” Jack said. “You can sell your ladders and let me stock your top shelf.”

 

“Hey.” Ted stepped out of the crowd. At six foot, he was tall, but his son loomed another five inches over him. “Everything okay?”

 

“With us, yes,” Jack assured him. With a glance at Under leadership, he added, “But something’s definitely up.”

 

Edited by Dawn OOC

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Posted (edited)

Ember and Miyah looked at each other as they stood outside of a tea shop. They both had heard of the woman who ran the tea shop. It was clear that the person with blood on them had just stepped into the shop. But they weren't sure if they should follow.

 

Ember grumbled as she stared at the shop's door as if her staring at it would somehow make the decision for her. "He clearly went inside, right?"

 

Miyah almost danced around, almost unable to stand still. Quite the opposite of Ember in that aspect. "Of course he did. But do we follow?"

 

"We probably should? Though I've heard rumors about the woman who runs the shop."

 

"Of course you've heard rumors Ember. You're always hearing rumors and there's rumors about everyone. The question we need to answer is, is this person effectively our prey with which we follow so we can find out what is going on?"

 

"You saw the shape he was in right? Someone with injuries like that doesn't go to a tea shop for no reason. I don't think we have a choice."

 

"We always have a choice sister. We can play the game of follow the rabbit down the hole and see if we find the warren, or we can simply go on our way and hope we catch the next rabbit before they slip down a hole somewhere. I honestly don't care either way because I'll find some other game to play but if you want to actually play this game, then we go inside."

Ember grumbles again. "I hate when you use your coyote logic on me."

Miyah grins as her movements take her closer to the door of the shop as if to tantalize Ember. "Will you just decide already. I'm getting bored standing here."

 

Ember heaves an exasperated sigh. "I was trying to think but you know what, we're doing this and if this gives us nothing but headaches, I'm blaming you Miyah." Ember trudges up to the door of the tea shop and pulls it open, stepping inside. Miyah stands behind Ember peering over her shoulder at the situation before them.

Edited by elynrae

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Belle shook her head hard, annoying talent, hitting like that, now of all times. She sighed, heavily enough that the two strangers who followed the.... man... inside could have heard her if they had been deaf. Which she completely doubted, true deaf were rare, when things could be healed, or tech could be added to compensate, or overcompensate as the case may be. Opening her mouth, she blinked, and then pointed to a doorway with a sign over it that stated ‘employee’s only’.
 

“Holy hell dude, you look like shit. Go on back and clean up, and I’ll come see about your requested service once I’m done with the other customers in here. You need time to wash up and get your breath. I’d ask what happened, but I’m assuming the other guy looks much worse.”
 

She turned to the two, hoping the man just followed her request, and smiled, “Welcome to ‘Just an Old Cup’, are you looking for tea, something old but new to you for your homes,” she gestured at the beautifully restored antiques scattered about the store, including at the mismatched tables that were available for seating for customers, “or was it a reading? I have a standing reading scheduled soon, but I could do a short question and answer session for you if either of you would like.”

She reached over and patted a deck sitting on the shelf behind the counter. Picking up the first card she glanced at it, and then set it back down somehow managing to knock over a vase with flowers in it. The thing was battered and chipped, but fortunately didn’t chip more as it clashed to the surface of the counter top. With a quiet muttering in Cajun, she reached for some towels and began to clean up her mess.
 

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The Tower, flames dancing in the windows and a lighting bolt from a cloudy sky, stared back at her. Not the most auspicious of cards but not always bad? Just most of the time.

The man had started moving as soon as she gave him directions, doing his best to skirt away from the others in the shop. He didn't so much as walk as sort of fall forward and manage to get his feet mostly under himself each step to keep from completely wiping out on the floor. The smell of fear and burnt flesh trailed unpleasantly after him. 

Nym watched the whole thing with the wide-eyed look of a preteen getting to watch an R-rated movie for the first time. Belle had heard her cuss enough to know that it was all artifice - automatic artifice at this point. She glanced over at the pair of 'shifters and seemed to remember she had orders from down low to complete. "Hey, twinsies! You should head Under. Big meetin' gonin' on soon! Gotta go!" With that, she dashed out of the store and presumably on to her next stop as the currier of Under news. 

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Miyah and Ember looked at each other for a moment as they both watched Nym leave out of the corner of their eyes.

"We're not twins." Ember grumbled after the now gone Nym. "Why does everyone say that?"

Miyah shrugs as she moves languidly over to Belle. "I don't know, maybe because we call each other sister and are often around one another? What I find interesting is that she mentioned heading Under plain as day in front of..."

"Belle, Miyah. Her name is Belle."

 

"Belle" Miyah finished, sticking her tongue out at Ember. "And no, we weren't looking for tea or furniture. We followed that guy into here because we were curious as to why someone in that condition would come into a tea shop."

 

Ember trundled over. "Must your tongue always go in such a way?" Her comment just made Miyah stick her tongue out again.

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Art woke to her phone buzzing angrily. Grumbling, she reached for it but her questing fingers couldn’t find it. Pray For Me belted out into the shitty bedroom, made worse by too little furniture and clothing heaped in piles. I am going to murder whoever this is, she thought, feeling the less-than-four hours of sleep she’d had.  Dragging one eye open, she glared at the milk crate that held the phone last night.

 

Empty, save for her water bottle.

 

“If I’m gonna kill for you,” Someone who definitely wasn’t Kendrick Lamar sang, and Art sat up in her bed, halfway to a shift. Nim sat in Art’s only chair, a phone in each hand. “I love this song,” she told Art before the ringtone died. She pouted for the second, then held up her own phone and called Art’s again. As the song started over, Nim grinned and danced to the music..

 

“What the motherfuckin’ fuck!” Art roared, rolling to her feet. Fabric bound her legs until she took a step; she felt it shred around her legs as she loomed over her unwelcome guest. Only the knowledge of who Nim was and what she represented stayed her from propelling the slight creature out her front door.

 

“Big meeting down Under!” Nim said cheerfully in the face of Art’s rage. “Everyone has to be there.”

 

Art snatched her phone away from the apparent pre-teen and disconnected the call. “Get. Out.” 

 

Nim gave Art a full-toothed smile that made it clear she wasn’t intimidated by the big woman. “Okay!” she chirped. “You were my last stop, but I can’t stay and chat, despite your polite invitation.” In a flash she was gone, back out the door and into the seedy hallway.

 

Art took a few minutes to calm herself, breathing in and out until the urge to murder had fallen to reasonable levels. With a growl, she turned to dig through her clothing, trying to find one that was clean, or at least didn’t smell dirty. She stopped when she saw half of her top sheet lying on the nearest clothing pile. A vague recollection of tearing something when she rolled out of bed told her the story, and she balled it up and threw it in the trash. 

 

“Fuckin’ way to start my day off,” she grumbled, and started to dig.

 

 * ~  * ~  *

 

Twenty minutes later, Art entered the amphitheater with a cooler on her broad shoulder and lawn chair under her arm. The shower had improved her mood, at least as far as it could be improved today, and she pushed forward into the crowd. She didn’t know a lot of people in the Under, so she didn’t try to talk to anyone. She just set up her chair near the trio of leadership, pulled a protein shake out of her cooler, and popped it open. As much as she wanted a beer, that was going to have to wait until after breakfast. She had to have some principles.

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    [Back at the tea shop...]

     Belle sighed, in her head, and turned to the 'not twins', then spoke, "I am going to assume Nym mentioned heading Under because well, we are all in the 'know', at least where as that is concerned. What she, and they holding the meeting seem to forget is that I run a business. With hours, hours that I need to BE HERE FOR," those words were grouched out, though not in anyway at the two in front of her. Taking another long breath and holding it she looked them over.
    "Though I do see why you get called twins, you act in unison, and you look similar. That is enough to get classified as twins. And irrelevant to the matters at hand, yes, I am Belle Fontenot, owner of 'Just an Old Cup'. Yes, I know about the Under, but right now we aren't there. We are at my shop...so...." She then repeated her previous greeting, "are you looking for tea, something old but new to you for your homes,” she gestured at the beautifully restored antiques scattered about the store, including at the mismatched tables that were available for seating for customers, “or was it a reading? I have a standing reading scheduled soon, but I could do a short question and answer session for you if either of you would like. And you have apparently a meeting to get too."
    The last was added like an afterthought, as if she had only remembered it at the end there.

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[Tea Shop]
Miyah paused and looked at Ember and then back to Belle. "We're not even technically sisters. It's just language we picked up from humans. We're more what I think humans would call, uhm, partners?"

 

Ember nods. "I think that's the appropriate term. But no we're not here for any of that. Just following that guy who was injured and trying to figure out why he came into your shop and didn't go to a place of healing, but if you're in the know, then that's probably as good of an answer as we're going to get." She turns and starts for the door before turning around. "Miyah, we should make it to that meeting. We can continue our hunt later."

 

Miyah, who had started messing with something on the counter, set it back down carefully. "Fine, fine. You always ruin my fun."

 

Ember left, followed closely by Miyah who was grumbling.
 

 

[Amphitheater]

A bit later, Miyah and Ember enter the amphitheater and find a place to sit at the edge, trying to avoid being crowded by others.

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     [Tea shop]

     Bella watched them leave, faintly bemused.  Following weird smells? Not twins, but partners? Nameless too, they never bothered to introduce themselves. As for flavor, it was daylight, that ruled out some of the Under dwellers, plus they walked the streets, could look normal, and that comment about their sense of smell. Something animalistic then, maybe another shifter type. There were so blasted many of them, and it seemed like more got crammed into their communities as they slipped south for safer... assumedly safer pastures anyways, considering her current... injured company in the back room.

     Shaking her head, she went up and flipped the sign to 'with a client, back soon', and locked the door. She wasn't making it to the urgent meeting, hopefully one of the other not so Under, under weirdos would be buy for tea and gossip later and fill her in. She took a minute or two to shove the store phone in her pocket, and grab some basic healing components, including a blanket poppet. Not that she thought he'd freely give over hair or anything useful for this....or even that he would accept a blessing from one such as her. Still he was here, and she was a firm believer in listening to the warnings that had been given to her.
  "Now just what am I supposed to do with you cherie?" she asked, as she stepped into the back, tossing things on the worktable, and glancing around looking for the injured man.

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