Portal Breach: The Collision of Worlds :: v.4.0


    Regression

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    Barney Calhoun
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    Regression

    Post by Barney Calhoun on Sun Aug 19, 2012 7:23 pm

    Date: August 7th

    It'd been, what, a week? Only a week? Somewhere along the way, time had gotten away from Barney Calhoun. It had been at least three days since he'd been back to his room at the Inn, and somewhere in the back of his head, he knew he should have been checking in with BLACKCAT more than he had been. But, if he was being honest with himself, Barney would have to admit that lately he'd been reacting rather than stopping to think. He was running on fumes, and it was hard to remember that, technically, he could just step away. He could come up to breathe, to rest and regroup.

    But, if he did, then he'd be leaving them all behind.

    >

    Date: August 1st
    Location: Portal City Park

    On the morning that Ridley barged into the Portal News Station and made his grand and boasting speech, Barney was blissfully oblivious---on two counts. First, he was (to all intents and purposes) dead to the world. He'd been having bouts of insomnia, on and off since Alpha had been sent packing. Mostly, he dealt with it by aiming for exhaustion, either through exertion, or just simply staying up until he couldn't anymore. As a last resort, he came out here.

    Which brings us to reason number two: Barney was nowhere near a television set. He was not asleep in bed, like a sensible person. (Ms. Branford, wherever you are, he can feel you frowning at him.) No, Barney was stretched out on a park bench, dozing in the sun. For whatever reason, he could always get some sleep out here.

    He tried not to, honestly. He quiet enjoyed having a warm bed and clean sheets. But in clean sheets, he tossed and turned. On his worn, wooden park bench, he slept like a log. This was where he was that morning, stretched out on his back with one arm draped over his eyes, dozing in the sun. A couple of pigeons had come to investigate the rifle he'd left close at hand. More were loitering nearby, aimlessly picking at invisible specks of dirt or lounging in tree branches. They'd started associating Barney's appearance with being fed, and it was all the fault of one particular older woman, another regular to the park. Most of the usual park goers left him alone, but not Mrs. Koenig. She'd scolded him, once, when she first saw him napping out here, and he'd largely ignored her, until one day she'd come up with a bag of bird seed, sat down on the bench beside him, and asked him what was troubling him. They'd had a nice chat, even if what was troubling him didn't actually come up. Barney hadn't really been aware that anything was, beyond just general insomnia. Still, she'd started turning up and sitting nearby while he was sleeping, and feeding the pigeons. Who, in turn, had begun to realize that whenever Barney turned up, so did the lady who fed them.

    Today, though, the pigeons would be disappointed.

    The peace and quiet was shattered, rudely and abruptly, by a series of explosions going off over the whole of Portal City. With bits of feather and dust swirling around him, as the startled birds took off en masse, Barney was on his feet and reaching for his gun before his brain had actually woken up. Blearily, it caught up with its body, trying to drag its senses back to reality, while all his nerves were convinced the Combine was shelling them again. His surroundings began to sink in, the past six months trickling back in through the fog, though he felt far more disoriented than simple grogginess should excuse. There were shouts coming from nearby, screams, and that explosion had sounded...

    The faint whistling sound over his head was the only warning they got. Barney had time to swear and, even as he was ducking himself, turned to shout at his squad, "INCOMING!" For a brief second or two, the world was nothing but noise and force beating down on him...

    ...well, sounded familiar. It couldn't be---no, it couldn't be the Combine. Something was going on, and he needed to figure out what. He wasn't on the streets of City 17 anymore. This was different, this was the present, time to focus.

    People were streaming out of the Park, and Barney found himself following them. Nervous and afraid, mostly people just wanted to know what was going on, and the former rebel leader was in complete agreement with them. Once they reached the streets, though, it was obvious that no one really knew what was going on. There was worried talk about blue goo on the television, some uncertain rumblings from the people who'd come out of buildings nearby to see what was going on. But, for those first few moments, everyone just looked alarmed, bewildered by the sudden sound but uncertain what was going on or if they were in immediate danger. And then the first runners, the first pebbles in the avalanche, appeared, people who had been closer to one of the canisters when it went off, close enough to see what had happened and were running for their lives. That was when the stampede started. Most people didn't even know what they were running from, just that they needed to run. What was worse, some people didn't run---or tried not to, and got shoved out of the way, and crushed underfoot.

    Then, as if that wasn't bad enough, the stampede in front of the Park ran headlong into a flood of people fleeing from the site of another explosion. It was, simply put, a mob scene.

    Barney was trying to keep out of it, flattening himself in an empty doorway and just trying to keep his head. He knew well enough that there wasn't anything he could do to try and stop the stampede, and as much as he would have liked to rescue every single person getting swept up, there just wasn't any way-

    Oh, no, wait, there he goes.

    Perhaps he could be excused for plunging headlong into the throng. A mere moment before he'd done so, Barney had spotted a familiar face go down in the crush of people, struggling vainly against the tide. He nearly got knocked off his feet a time or two, but the former freedom fighter wasn't some 90 pound weakling---he had some weight to throw around, and a couple of surprisingly pointy elbows to get some good leverage. In just a few frenzied seconds, he found himself near as he could reason to where she'd gone down, and spotted a prone form between peoples' legs. Shoving panicking bodies out of his way, Barney made it to Mrs Koenig's side and, with some difficulty, scooped her up and bullied his way into the temporary bubble of safe space between two parked cars.

    Then, his brain caught up with him, and informed him, with some exasperation, that that had been seriously stupid, you moron, what the hell did you think you were doing?

    It wasn't until he tried to talk that he realized he was out of breath. "Hey..." He managed, trying to bully his breath into something more normal. "Sorry... 'bout that. You okay?"

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    Re: Regression

    Post by Universal NPC on Tue Aug 28, 2012 10:52 pm

    Mrs. Margarethe Köenig would just like to say that she was surprised the residents of the city weren't used to such tomfoolery by this point.

    . . .Wait, we should probably introduce her first.

    Ahem.

    For the most part, people who fell into Gamma-X from worlds beyond didn't bother with the "common folk" all that often. There was always the disparity, distinguishing between a flicker of A. I. generated for the purposes of some miscellaneous system function and the real, flesh and blood people who were born and raised here. Mrs. Köenig herself figured, at some point a great-grandfather from historical earth might have fallen here, and then here she was how many generations later. Or, she might have been generated, and given memories to substantiate the role of a citizen. Honestly, she didn't rightly know nor care. She was fairly certain that she had, in her youth, married and now here she was a widow who asked for very little in her life aside from a nice cup of tea and that he regular trips to the park to the feed the pigeons be relatively uneventful.

    Mr. Calhoun was a surprise. He was a nice young man who seemed real. it was nice to have a real conversation, everyonce in a great while. Except now it was becoming routine she'd been looking forward to. And honestly, she would have been at the park twenty minutes ago if not for the next big calamity to hit Portal Breach in all its ill-timed cruelty.

    She heard it first, and then saw it when she whipped her head around. Everyone in the streets saw it. A burst of radiant blue, blowing sky high and then cascading down the side of skyscrapers. Bursts of blue, blowing through windows and pouring across the walkways and barreling into people, cars. Some of the initial screams were abruptly silenced under the avalanche, before the cacophony of all screams rose up in place.

    Her jaw dropped. Oh, no, not again, were the words that came to mind. She didn't understand it; terrorist attacks, they were becoming so common here. For the most part, people, original residents and "foreigners" alike, fell into one of two categories in reaction to these events. You were either numb to it, or you panicked, were up in arms, ready to yell and fight and struggle, ready to run, and ready to point fingers at those responsible.

    Mrs. Köenig, being just a middle aged woman, getting on in years, having lived through the apparent God of Gods himself nearly deleting her and the rest of the Gamma from existence, fell into the category of the former. Though she was aware that if she died she died, no second chances for her, by this point death hardly fazed the kindly old lady. And, really, she just wished others like her would Keep Calm and Not Trample Her To Death. Thus, bringing us full circle; in a moment of clarity, she wondered why the residents of the city weren't used to such tomfoolery by this point.

    Also, if she was going to die, she'd just prefer to not be trampled is all.

    She had no time, nor no need, to scream herself. She opened her mouth, meaning to...to...she didn't know. Chastise someone, ask for help. She was pushed into the flow outpouring into the streets, carrying her away from the park, past the park. She grunted in pain, and reached out her hand, and meant to call, "Help!" but she couldn't hear her own voice. She couldn't tell if she'd spoken at all.

    Lucky for her, someone did grab her hand.

    Elbows. Knees. Jabbing in her sides, her stomach. They parted, were forced away from her, and in the opening she rushed towards the space of reprieve and an arm wrapped around her and hauled her out. It was a sea of limbs and blurred faces, and she wondered how her savior could have possibly picked her out from the crowd above everyone else. How.

    Well, okay. If it was that young Calhoun boy, then that made sense. But still. What were the odds? What were the odds she could die at any time?

    When they were free, when they were huddled away, removed from the screaming, the pushing, the stampeding, and she realize that her own heart was hammering wildly in her own chest, and she'd the time to look up and look her rescuer in the eye, the only thing she could think so say was, "My boy, what in Sam Hill do you have to be sorry for? You just saved my life! I think that means I'm perfectly fine!"

    Hey, she wasn't one to mince words. She patted his shoulder, letting him know that he could let go now.
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    Barney Calhoun
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    Re: Regression

    Post by Barney Calhoun on Thu Aug 30, 2012 1:36 pm

    Good point. There had been some vague idea that manhandling a [s]fragile old lady[/s] sorry, a seasoned older woman (Please don't hit him, it'll only encourage him) was something that needed apologizing for. In context, though, yeah. Why the hell was he apologizing? "Mrs. Koenig," Barney drawled, loosening his grip and correcting himself, "On behalf of the panicked mob, I would like to apologize for nearly trampling you."

    Sarcasm may be the lowest form of wit, but dry, deadpan humor was probably down there, too. But Barney had never claimed he was smart. And humor was a coping mechanism. he sobered up pretty quickly though. "What the he-" briefly considered his audience, then censored himself, "-ck is going on?"

    That was a rhetorical question, by the way. Barney didn't really expect Mrs. Koenig to know any more than he did. "Sounded like a bomb goin' off, from the park." Well, they couldn't just stay huddled here, in the tentative shelter of the parked car, for the next however long. He craned his neck to scan the street over the crowd. The main crush had moved further past them, but the street was still plenty crowded, and noisy. Still, he thought he saw an opening.

    His next question was not rhetorical. "Think we can make it to that side street over there?"
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    Re: Regression

    Post by Universal NPC on Tue Sep 25, 2012 12:17 am

    She didn't quite see, or catch, what he was referring to at first. He talked of a bomb, and of side streets. Really, Mrs. Köenig hadn't really a clear idea at all where to go to be safe. No one around seemed to have any good idea at all, really, or what to do. That included herself, at least at that present moment. She was still winded over the idea of coming this close to death, even though her words and expression didn't quite show it (she was too proud to let something as piddly as that show).

    She stepped away from him, but only far enough to crane her head to try and get a gander at what he was talking about. "...That side street? Maybe?" That was a very unsure maybe, but in the next moment she looked at him and seemed to steel herself for what they were about to do. "At the very least we need to make it across the street. I can take you back to my home and we can perhaps catch a tune on the radio or a broadcast on the telly, and get some sense of what's going on. Just..."

    And then she stepped back to him again, and hooked her arm around his elbow. The fierce look of determination coloring her expression...on an old woman it looked out of place, almost cute. That or scary, it depended entirely on if she was wielding a rolling pin at the time or not. "Just keep me paced with you, I should be fine. I may be seasoned, but I still have a lotta' spring in my step."
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    Barney Calhoun
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    Re: Regression

    Post by Barney Calhoun on Tue Sep 25, 2012 10:20 am

    Yeah, Barney was a little worryingly... level-headed about this whole panicked mob thing, wasn't he? It had been a couple months at least since the last time he'd been bombed, or stranded on the streets of a dystopian city that was under attack and in imminent danger of destruction---not that Portal City was dystopian, or any of the rest of that as far as he knew---it was alarmingly easy to slip back into the old mindset.

    Hmm. Ah well. There would be time for self-analysis later, when they weren't about to be trampled by a panicking mob.

    He set his shoulders, taking another calculating look at their path. The former freedom fighter wasn't a small guy, but neither was he Schwarzenegger or anything. The first mad dash through the crowd had been fueled by adrenaline and stupidity. This time around might be trickier. Or, maybe not. The crowd had thinned somewhat, and he was fairly confident he could muscle his way through if he had to. Probably. With Koenig on his arm, and Barney angling himself to take the brunt of the tide, he gave her a brief nod. "I don't doubt it. Let's give it a try..."

    ---

    Flipping two coins:

    1st for Barney
    2nd for Koenig

    (Big, dumb) Human shield: If Barney hits but Koenig misses, then Barney takes the blow for her and they don't make any progress.
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    Re: Regression

    Post by System on Tue Sep 25, 2012 10:20 am

    The member 'Barney Calhoun' has done the following action : Dice Rolls

    'Coin Flip' :
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    Re: Regression

    Post by Universal NPC on Thu Sep 27, 2012 10:13 pm

    And then they were off! They started off at a quick pace, and Mrs. Köenig felt in her chest the urge to hurry as the crowd around them was hurrying. Except, and she wasn't sure about everyone else, Mr. Calhoun and her had a clear goal in mind. Get across the street. Get to her apartment. Figure what exactly was going on.

    He maneuvered around her to, to shield her (big, dumb, stupid boy) and though they started out strong the tide of people overtook them again, thickened and shoved into the only pair struggling against the current of street traffic. Someone barreled right into Barney, and he nearly lost his balance trying to ensure his escort was untouched.

    Hmph! Margarethe Köenig was not made of paper mâché! She pulled on Barney's arm, trying valiantly to hoist him right side up and back on his feet. "C'mon! I'm twenty years older than you, half your size, and I'm pulling more than half my weight here!" It was mostly a lighthearted mocking, to motivate the man between the two of them into a show of manly bravado. You know, something macho and foolish. Ahhh, men.

    She forced her way through, dragging Barney with her as Mrs. Köenig fought to take them the rest of the way to the sidewalk.


    ---
    Flipping one coin to get them the rest of the way across. If MISS then Mrs. Koenig is knocked off her feet by the crowd and briefly separated from Barney again.


    Last edited by Universal NPC on Thu Sep 27, 2012 10:14 pm; edited 1 time in total
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    Re: Regression

    Post by System on Thu Sep 27, 2012 10:13 pm

    The member 'Universal NPC' has done the following action : Dice Rolls

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    Barney Calhoun
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    Re: Regression

    Post by Barney Calhoun on Thu Sep 27, 2012 10:33 pm

    Augh, he was going to feel this in the morning. The freaking lug head who cannoned into him managed to jam their shoulder right into Barney's spine---a most unpleasant feeling, though, y'know, what'd he expect, wading into a stampede? Butterfly kisses? He flailed out an arm, as the blow nearly knocked him over, half to catch his balance, half to keep shielding Köenig. Call it macho chauvinism if you'd like, but he really wasn't even thinking about it. And, to be honest, if it had been any of his friends, even the immortal cannibal who would have laughed at mob scene, he'd probably have done just the same.

    The big, dumb lug.

    Still, it was a good thing he was, too! At least this way, Köenig'd stayed on her feet, and kept her head on straight. With her help, they made it to the other side of the street, and just a bit of peace. Somewhere along the way, Barney managed to regain his balance---which, one would imagine, Margarethe appreciated. Mister Calhoun wasn't a musclebound giant, but he was no 90 lb weakling, either.

    Once they were in the mouth of the side street, out of the way of the "current" once more, Barney stopped them a moment to catch his breath and get his bearings again. "Okay. Not too bad." Grinning crookedly at his companion, he added, "Guess that makes us even?"
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    Re: Regression

    Post by Universal NPC on Thu Sep 27, 2012 11:05 pm

    She scoffed. "Even schemven! We're just bein' decent folk to each other."

    And, it should be noted, that was entirely Mrs. Koenig's way of adjusting to the idea that she had maybe, possibly, nearly died twice over within the span of the last minute or so. She was just about out of breath, but she couldn't even begin to think of stopping now. She disentangled herself from her "hero" and stepped back, and turned.

    She had to get home, to her house. Once they were at the house, they would be safe, at least for a little while. Then Barney could figure out what he wanted to do, once they knew what was going on. Unless... "Son, do you know what's going on? Do you?"

    She was talking as she walked, not even bothering to glance over her shoulder at him. Because she fully expected him to follow her. Because she was still hurried and her heart still beat in her chest, and she could admit to being a little startled. Easier to hide it with gruffness, though. Get directly to the point, figure out what to do, keep moving, keep focused.

    And above all, make sure Mr. Calhoun didn't go and do more stupid heroic things. Which he was bound to do.
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    Barney Calhoun
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    Re: Regression

    Post by Barney Calhoun on Thu Sep 27, 2012 11:23 pm

    "Not a clue." So, honestly, you'd think he'd be a little more concerned. For the moment, however, adrenaline was still jangling in his nerves, and his mind was fixed solely on the present, and their first goal. Beyond the idea of a bomb, Barney hadn't the slightest hypothesis about what might have happened, and hadn't stopped to try and form one. It was better not to jump to conclusions, right? All he knew was there'd been an explosion. Obviously, something had gone wrong, but they weren't going to find out anything here.

    Get Köenig to safety. Get in touch with Steele. Plan accordingly from there.

    Step one, follow Mrs. Köenig. After all, it wasn't like he knew where she lived. The side street was, fortunately, relatively empty. Barney didn't have any trouble keeping up with her, even though his muscles still twinged from the brief abuse he'd put them through. "Once we get where we're going, I might have a way to find out, though."

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