Monday, September 11, 2017
Victrola Coffee – Capitol Hill, Seattle
It’s a few minutes before their scheduled meetup time, almost a week after the incident at Seattle Center. The week has gone by without any incident, allowing the mages to relax after the possible urgency of their exposure to the Technocracy.
Victrola Coffee is a popular location in a city full of coffee shops (really—Seattle has 23 coffee shops for every 100,000 residents, the most of any city in the country) mostly because it has a private backroom available for reservations. The room is separated from the shop by a glass wall, and features a conference table surrounded by cozier chairs.
At the moment it’s occupied, they’re not sure by who. Geeks? Pagans? Communists? In this city it’s hard to tell. Chev and Bones are already here, and Chev is apologetic when the others arrive. “Sorry,” He explains. “There was a miscommunication when we were bouncing around about a time and a place. I thought y’all decided on 8, and by the time I realized it it was too late. But we can sit somewhere else, and it’ll be free up in half an hour.” The front half of the store has the counter all along the left, a narrow strip down the middle with garbage, recycling, and compost stations on the right, and compact seating running all along the right, front and back. The private area is off to the left, and straight down the walkway are the restrooms.
By this point they’ve figured out everyone lives south of the cut, and except for Nova, they all live relatively central. Capitol Hill is easy enough for everyone to get to—as is the Seattle Center, not that they likely want to show up there again so soon.
Chev is content to take a seat in the back and see how well the conversation flows. He’s got a cup of black coffee in his hand—he likes strong substances.
With another week or so until classes are in full swing at UW, Mikayla has still been free to do what she wishes on her weekdays. To a degree, anyway. A musician always needs to practice, after all. That’s how she’s entered the cafe today: in a pastel-coloured sundress with a knit cardigan pulled over it and her violin case in tow. She’s probably just returning from the university practice rooms. Capitol Hill is on her route home, which makes this the perfect meeting place for her.
She’s ordered a tea for herself, something herbal with just a touch of honey for sweetness. She seats herself near the end of their little grouping, back to the cafe so she doesn’t get distracted by people watching. “It’s alright, miscommunication happens. It just means we have to be a little more subtle for the next half an hour.” She smiles. “Has anyone noticed anything out of the ordinary over the past week? I feel like it’s been unbelievably quiet, considering.” She settles the violin case down by her feet.
Bones nods in recognition of Mika as she sits down. “Nope, haven’t noticed anything out of the ordinary. But not familiar with how hectic is normal. This isn’t a ‘a little TOO quiet’ scenario is it?”
Nova enters the coffee shop wearing a long blue coat and fingerless gloves. Their hair is a bit shorter in the back and sides (see photo on character profile). The color is now solid black that shines green or blue depending on how it catches the light, reminiscent of a peacock feather. They order an iced cold brew and go outside to vape until the final member of the group arrives.
Esteban catches sight of Nova as he walks up to the coffee shop and nods. The nights have gotten a little chillier lately and there’s been rain after a very dry summer. He’s wearing a windbreaker over his t-shirt. Esteban slips into the coffee shop, and orders a double espresso. He turns to Mila, Bones, and Chevalier and says, “I found a new place, but I’m starting to wonder if we’ve overreacted. It’s been over a week, and nada. ¡El cero! As if our little dance with that…person at the Center never happened.”
It might be chilly to people from Mexico but to people used to more northern climates it’s just been hot and not-so-hot.
“Technically it didn’t,” Chev observes with a half-smile and a glance in Mikayla’s direction. He waits for Nova to get back in and for them all to be situated.
Mika smiles brightly when Chev clarifies. She’s still a little proud of herself for that trick. “All depends on your prespective, but yes.” She replies.
Then she shrugs her shoulders at Bones. “To be honest, I’m not sure what normal level of fearing the Technocrats is around here. I’ve managed to stay well out of their way for the past year. Nova might have a better idea…” She glances toward where they are outside while taking a sip of her tea.
“You play?” Bones asks, gesturing to Mika’s violin case.
Nova follows Esteban in, picks up their coffee, takes a seat at the table. “Hey, how’s everyone’s weeks been?”
“It’s been quiet,” Chevalier repeats. His voice trails a little bit as he notices Nova preoccupied with their phone. “So, we just keep our heads down and stay away from men in black coats?”
Nova looks up from their phone, looks back down, looks back up again. “Yeah, someone saw us. And for all I know they might be watching—” looks around “—one way or another.” Turns phone off. “They’re good with data.” Looks around at the corners of the coffee shop for security cameras. “We might want to move.”
“Maybe somewhere a little more, how do you say…off the grid? Or at least somewhere a little less out in the open. I’m open to suggestions.”
He does a quick scan of the coffee shop and talked out a pair of dice. Maybe he can get a sense if anything has changed in the Patterns since the group’s arrival.
Before the group can see themselves out, a figure two tables over puts his phone down and stands up, facing the group. He’s a tall white man in his mid-to-late twenties. His features are very chiseled—blue eyes, short-cropped dark hair, a hint of a beard. His hands are up by his shoulders as he approaches them, but his thumb is on his phone nervously. As if realizing how that looks, he drops it into his shirt pocket.
“Hey. I thought you might prefer an in-person greeting. I’m ”/characters/alex" class=“wiki-content-link”>Alex."
Mika nods in reply to Bones’ question. She doesn’t really get a chance to elaborate further, though, as all Hell gently breaks loose. She tries not to look paranoid, but the Time mage does turn her head slightly to glance around the cafe when Nova mentions they’ve been spotted. Goosebumbs start to form on the back of her neck. “Yes, let’s move.”
She’s in the process of picking up her violin when Alex approaches the table. “Alright…” She says warily. “What would you like?” No introductions, straight to the point.
Nova sits back, looks Alex up and down. “Hello Alex. Introducing yourself is a step in the right direction if you want us to trust you. Parity and all that. I assume you already know their names.” Nova indicates the rest of the group.
Esteban shares Mika’s apprehension. Especially because the dice just told him that the group’s luck has run out. He begins scanning the room before focusing in on the stranger.
“Why are you here?”
Bones looks up at the newcomer confused and slightly annoyed, “Who the hell are you??”
Alex looks around, and then pulls out his phone, keying something in. “For a little privacy,” he says, showing the screen, not that it makes any sense to them. “I’m a ”/wikis/virtual-adepts" class=“wiki-page-link”> Virtual Adept. I took the liberty of deleting some of the security footage from you last week—" He cuts off, wrinkling his nose. There’s a bad smell, like sewage, coming from somewhere. “Christ, what is that?”
Bones sniffs at the air, trying to smell what the stranger is referring to.
Mika has the violin case tightly in her grasp at this point, even as the newcomer goes about keying something into his phone. “Oh. Well…” she trails off, her nose wrinkling. “Whatever it is, we probably don’t want to stick around for it.” She glances at the rest of her companions, in particular Nova since they’re the Solificati matter expert, while starting to get out of her chair. “How about we continue this conversation somewhere else?”
Nova stands, scanning the room for anyone or anything that seems out of place. Perhaps Alex isn’t the only wildcard in play. Everyone is uneasy, and Nova isn’t about to ignore the intuition of half a dozen Awakened. “Yes, let’s take this somewhere else.” They hadn’t even had time to take off their jacket, so they pick up their coffee and backpack, wracking their brain for a safe place to resume the discussion.
Nova only makes it three steps. There’s a crash in the back, followed by an intensification of the smell. Then someone screams in the bathroom.
Chevalier drops his coffee, opening a flask and downing the contents quickly. He glances at Bones to see if the latter is feeling what he’s feeling.
With a roar, something slithers out of the bathroom. It’s a shit monster. There’s really no other way to describe it. It’s head brushes the ceiling. It’s broad, almost as broad as it is tall, easily enough to block a hallway. And it’s entire form is like a golem made it out of excrement.
It moves first to the glass, where the geeks in the private conference room are trapped. They scream. The people outside it scream—the barista, the line, the tables around the mages. Those people can flee, and start to stampede to the door. The people in the meeting room are trapped, as it pushes its mass against the glass and lets it run down like a mudslide.
“I need a few minutes,” Chevalier tells his companions. He’s not going to leave those people to… that, but he can’t use magick as fast as Bones.
“Gods damn it!” Bones exclaims as a look of surprise and revulsion crosses his bone white face. He reaches into his backpack and pulls out a length of iron chain and begins to swing it around like a cowboy’s lasso. “I invoke Hecate, Goddess of the Crossroads, Keeper of the Way Between Worlds..” he chants quietly to himself before swinging the chain at the filth spirit, pouring his will and his magick into the chain.
Mikayla lets out a little yelp of surprise herself. There is a being made of crap in the cafe. There is a being made of crap in the cafe, what the hell! She jumps out of her chair and backs up a few feet as the two Spirit mages start doing their thing. “Oooooh my gosh. If you all can keep it distracted, I can get those people out of here!” She indicates the nerds trapped in the glass room. The violin case is slid across the floor so it ends up in a corner, under a table, and out of the way.
Instead, she puts in headphones, cues up a playlist and starts to lose herself to that. Anyone else might think she is frozen in place, too scared to act. In truth, she’s looking for the right moment to move, to end up in the correct spot to avoid said shit monster and try to get to the door to the conference room.
“Anyone know what happens if you transmute the materials in an elemental?” Nova fishes a grease pen from their backpack and starts drawing glyphs and arcs on the floor and walls around the shit monster.
“I’m not sure, but I have an idea. If that thing is made of mierda let’s just wash it away.” It is a public building so it has to have some sort of fire suppression system. Esteban tosses the his dice in an attempt to corrode the pipes of the sprinkler system. The mages might get a little wet but the water will have more of an effect on the walking turd, than it will on them.
The dice say it’s not going to happen yet. He needs a little more time to corrode the pipes, like Nova and Chevalier, who haven’t even started yet.
Alex looks at first horrified and then incredulous as the other mages rush off to battle the shit monster. “Look, as public as this is, the Technocracy will be here to clean up.” Heh. Hehehe. “You don’t have to—fuck it.” Pulling out his phone, Alex is briefly haloed by blue light. There’s an audible click and then he’s gone to wherever his hyperlink led him.
Of all the mages, only Bones directly attacks it this round. The chain lands into its… matter and sticks. It pauses, turning and tugging on it, but just like a clogged toilet nothing will give. It makes a roar like a score of industrial-strength flushes and looks around.
Mika and Nova are the closest. It seems to blame Nova for this inconvenience, firing off a shit blast like a massive wall of fecal matter headed for the alchemist. Then it turns back around, placing its attention on the meeting room again. It doesn’t seem to have figured out the doorknob, but part of it begins sliding under the door, seeping into the room and slowly beginning to fill it. The people inside crowd toward the back, fearfully.
Chevalier finishes invoking Papa Legba, eyes dilated. It looks at the monster, looks at the chain, and shudders. Producing a string from inside his pocket, he lays it on a nearby chunk of matter, and pulls back.
It’s like Bones just yanked back on his chain with far more force than he could muster by himself. The creature jerks back from the door—just a few inches but enough to separate it from the door. Alarmed, it fires two shitblasts at the ceiling, unable to understand what just happened to it. Because it’s a dumb piece of shit.
Bones continues his invocation of Hecate, “…bind and banish this spirit of filth…”, while casting an apologetic look in Nova’s direction.
“Wow, thanks for sticking around, dick!!” Mika shouts at the space that was once occupied by Alex. Yeah, cuz they should just abandon these poor people and wait until the Technocrats show up. Mika tries to inch out of the way and around toward the door to the conference room. She’s still looking for that opportune moment to circle around and get people out of there. Also, she really doesn’t want to be in the splatter radius of that shitstorm.
“Oh shit!” Nova dives out of the way of the projectile excrement, and anyone watching would notice that for someone as tall as they are, Nova is surprisingly quick. Spirit battles are outside of Nova’s expertise, and none of the spirit mages have offered guidance. Nova noticed that Bones’s incantation has hooked in the substance of the monster, so changing it now may negatively affect his casting. Meanwhile Esteban may have the right idea, though he’s going about it the hard way. Nova ducks around the corner, grabs their lighter and a napkin dispenser, and lights the napkins right under a fire sprinkler.
“Where’s the little shit running off to?” He catches site of Nova, they’ve taken up his idea. If the water works, there’s likely to be…splatter. He’s closest to Bones and Chef. Esteban thinks he should be able to spare them a great deal of crap. He won’t be able to protect all of his new friends or the bystanders but practically speaking the the water from the sprinklers should help clean the others off.
He slips his hand into his pocket and begins dealing out cards trying to warp the pattern that the fecal splatter takes away from the spirit mages to try and prevent them from being covered in filth
The sprinklers activate, and the shit monster… gurgles. It’s not a yell or a scream, but just a little burbling sound that goes on.
It turns around, its attention now off the bystanders in the meeting room—now the only humans left besides our heroes—arms still raised like a decrepit bellydancer. The shit on the ceiling starts whirling around, bouncing across the ceiling like it has a life of its own, mixing with the water and becoming a… slurry. Then it starts pelting down across the cafe, the literal shitstorm of their mutual creation raining down towards everyone (though so little gets to Chevalier and Bones they’re easily able to sidestep the few glops that come their way).
“Nova!” Chevalier calls out. “This thing is made of Matter and Spirit. Until we pull it in, can you confine it? Turn some of it into… not shit? I don’t know, gold? Whatever it is you people are good at, I’m not picky!” Now that they have its attention, he tries to focus on the binding, on echoing what Bones is doing until the action feeds onto itself, becoming easier and easier for the Hollow One to perform.
It’s still not… quite the right time for Mika to try to get those people out, the creature still partially in her way. Is it her imagination or is it a little shorter than it was a minute ago, though?
Bones continues his spell.
Mika is definitely glad she tucked the priceless family heriloom under a table, holy shit. “Auuuggggh it’s getting everywhere!!!!” She whines as poop splatters over her dress and across her legs as it hits the ground. The urge to retch is rising. She tries to get further out of the splatter radius while the creature focuses its attention on the rest of her companions. “I think it’s working! It looks like it’s getting smaller!”
“Aw crap!” Things are getting very messy and gross indeed! Nova whips out the grease pen and makes a few mad strokes on the floor. Then they pull a small shamisen from their backpack. They say, “Excrement into salt!” and strum a loud chord on their instrument. It is not a musical sound. It is not a pleasant sound. It is a reverberating sound of grabbing onto molecules and violently wrenching, folding, bending, and transforming. It is the sound of the very fabric of space-time warping and stretching to the point of tearing. It is the sound of combat alchemy.
That sounds like a great idea, turning shit to salt, especially with all this water running, Esteban muses silently.
“¡Oye shit stain! Over here,” Esteban yells loudly tryong to draw the creature’s attention away from the spell casters and Mika, trying to give them all a little breathing room. It might just let Mika save the nerds, while the other 3 deal with this monstrosity.
The creature glitters as salt crystals begin to appear in its hide. The salt is quickly covered by running sewage, but the effect is not negligible. Bones at least is aware the creature’s grip on the physical world is becoming more tenuous. As the water and salt diminish it, it will become easier to yank back and bind.
The creature, hearing Esteban, shitshimmies away from the door with surprising grace, though remaining inside the huge semicircle Nova laid out for it. This is Mika’s moment—she can get the Sleepers out of the room without them having to do anything more awful than step over six inches of poo at the front of the room—though all things considered it’s better than suffocating and drowning in it before the Technocrats or consensual reality takes this creature out of the Tellurian. It fires another shitblast at Esteban.
Chev continues what he was doing to support Bones as the chain sinks deeper in and around.
Bones can feel the spirit fading, “Keep it up! Like halfway there!” he yells to the rest of the group as he continues the banishment.
As soon as the monster moves away from the door for real, Mika surges forward. “Ew ew ew…” There is poop everywhere. It’s on the floor, it’s on the glass, it’s probably going to get in her hair before this whole incident is over. She grabs the handle of the door and pulls it open. She’s deliberately putting herself in the path between the door and the shit monster now. Gotta save the Sleepers! “C’mon, everyone! Let’s go, you need to get out of here now!” She gestures toward the front of the cafe and safety.
Nova continues their casting: “Shape of cylinder!” Another violent strum on the shamisen.
Esteban sees Mika moving towards the Sleepers, good. The salt/shit hybrid being is moving towards him, bad. He chucks a pair of dice and leaps away from the creature, hoping for a lucky break in getting away
The dice just aren’t with him today. Esteban gets winged in the side and arm.
The cafe-goers don’t need to be told twice. The braver among them run for it, and then everyone else is behind them, wading through shit and all. With the last of them through the doors, Nova in particular feels a tangible weight off their working—with the windows gunked up, they are now removed from Sleeper eyes.
About the same time, Bones’ chain tightens sharply around the creature, constricting it. Then it explodes, the spirit animating it banished. The fecal matter collapses and moves outward, and a veritable wave overwhelms Mika in a…
Glittering cascade of salt. It pools around her upper thighs, nearly to her hips, pristine, white, perfect—for one moment of time even from the sprinklers. There’s nothing even left from the first splatters on her body, or Esteban or Nova for that matter. Now that the spirit isn’t spontaneously generating it, it’s either disappeared or is being converted into salt by the combat alchemist. It pulls back, rippling away from Mika’s body, the water running off it in rivulets, into a now-solid column where the shit monster once stood. The sprinklers die down, and when Nova is finished there’s not a trace of feces left in the cafe, just damage from the sprinklers and panic.
Chevalier watches, astounded for a moment at the display of Matter magick. Then he moves to action. “They cut the sprinklers. We need to go,” He says. They might be able to play dumb with the Technocrats as one of dozens of humans covered in excrement, but not a shit demon that was just purified and alchemized into salt. “They’re going to mindwipe everyone here.”
Mika gasps as the salt surrounds her, trapped momentarily. “Oh wow,” she breathes. There is definitely something mesmerizing about the way the salt sparkles, untouched. Even when it pulls away and forms the crystallized pillar. “That’s so cool, Nova.”
She snaps out of it when Chev mentions they need to get out. “Ah shit…” She slides across the floor to snag her violin case from where its hiding under a table. “Yeah, lets go. Risk the front or back?” She’ll follow whomever decides. They all have more experience escaping dire situations than she does.
“You’re definitely not wrong Chev, that guy Alex was right when he said this place will be crawling with MiBs before long.” Bones replies before heading towards the back door, only stopping for a quick second to look over the private room the shit-demon was trying to bust into.
“At least cleanup will be a lot simpler for whatever minimun wage-slave gets stuck doing it.”
Nova tucks their shamisen into their backpack. “Yeah, let’s book it before the MiB get here. Help me smudge these marks – I don’t want them traced back to me.” Nova drags their boot over the markings on the floor, and takes a wad of wet napkins to the sigils and glyphs on the wall.
“Well, thanks for helping is stay clean. I can give you a hand Nova.” He assists them in getting rid of any of the glyphs. “The Tehcnocrats are gonna try to spin this as something else. Even if the bystanders got video. Just remember when you see it what really happened,” he tells his companions a little saltily, as he begins to follow them out the back.
Working together, the quintet quickly erase Nova’s trace. The salt’s beauty is in its ephemera—it dissolves readily. (Also, the salt is not shit, which they surely all appreciate). That done, they escape past the crowd of confused Sleepers. “It will be interesting to see how they explain that away,” Chevalier says.
They do. Oh, the Technocracy can’t get everyone who was at the scene, not immediately. But when the story goes out in the local news it merely reports backed up plumbing all along 15th, and Victrola—as well as neighboring Superb Cleaners and Rainbow Natural Remedies—closed temporarily. In the end it was still easier to tell a lie about poop than it was to say Victrola is filled with a massive amount of salty slush (and a possible Umbral breach).
The story goes out on social media even before then, and each time laced with a mental imperative, that this new story is the real one. Neither Nova, Mika, Chevalier or Bones have any particular mental defenses and reading the shares shakes them a little, like being gaslit. They all remember what really happened but won’t if they keep reading the official story (Esteban benefits from explicit mental defenses at need). There might be a few people who’ve slipped through the cracks, but no one is going to believe or even corroborate that now.