Lonely Divide

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Chapter 6

Chapter 2.1

Coming Together

You are Jake, sitting at a government office, about to have your character sheet examined.

You are sitting in a government building with your back to a grey wall, painted neither well nor badly. The seat underneath you is made similarly, not too comfortable, but not too uncomfortable either. Average, in other words, like so many other things around you. You are sitting at the left end of the bench, and to your right sit several of your classmates who have also waited until the very last day to be examined. All your life you have tried to be just like everyone else- average. There was only one problem; no two problems with that plan. The first was that you could run longer then anyone else in school before getting tired, and both your drawings and writings seemed to turn out slightly better then anyone else's. Many people suspected both your INSight and your ENDurance were higher then average, but only your parents knew how willful you were, revealing your RESolve to be higher then average as well. It wasn't that people with higher stats were teased, exactly, but would you want to play with someone you knew was demonstrably better then you? After it was found out you were an ESPer, it was doubly hard to keep it quiet, your talent for ESPer skills give it away quite plainly. You don't exactly recall when you discovered your powers, but you know your brother had something to do with it. If only you could remember!

You can't see or hear or even sense with ESP that The Observer is around, but you are pretty sure they are. It's sort of a silly superstition, really, that each group of PCs that get together are assigned someone to watch their adventure by The Narrator. The argument is, if someone from the outside doesn't observe the adventure, does it really happen? When you're alone you think maybe it's the case, but when someone actually talks to you about it, the whole idea seems silly. Odd how that happens. Observers? Rubbish!

A man in uniform is striding now towards your group, and while he does not specifically look at you any more then the others, you somehow know you are going to the next called. You stand.

The man looks a little surprised, and asks "Jake Beachamp?"

You nod, and he motions you to follow him. You do, and pass through a sort of office space with green cubicles set uniformly through the entire floor. Many other young men and women are sitting at chairs in front of desks, while trained military personnel study their character sheets. You expect to hear some noise from their talking, but oddly enough the entire place seems silent. Possibly some kind of privacy spell on the whole place, you think. He turns into his own cube, and motions for you to sit down.

"Sargent Baggesen," he says, introducing himself and giving you a crisp handshake across the desk before he sits down. "Is there anything you'd like to tell me before we begin?"

"You'll see it plainly enough," you say, handing your character sheet out to him. He takes it and begins to look it over.

"I see," he says, nodding. "An ESPer, that's how you knew I would call you next. Yes, this all looks fine."

"So there's no mistake?" you ask.

"With two sevens and an eight stat? I don't think so. You're a PC all right, welcome to NPC-PS!"

They "graciously" allow you a day to pack some things, and then you are shipped off to a military base to receive your first assignment. Unlike the normal branches of the military, PCs didn't have ranks or boot camp or anything like that, as it would be pointless. They are drafted for the good of the world, and most people looked up to them, being able to do things they couldn't, and keep them safe. Which would you rather have on your side during a bank robbery: An average policeman with a 5 both in Weapon: Pistol and Ranged Combat or someone from NPC-PS with a 10 in both, and an 8 MANipulation rather then a 5? It was also commonly known that, given proper training both an ESPer and a magic user could leave at any time via teleportation, so they gave us plenty of leeway between missions. We were, after all, probably risking our lives with every mission to keep others safe, so we were well rewarded.

You do have to wear a special uniform, and stay at the barracks, mainly so if something comes up you can be brought to the field rapidly. The "barracks" is really a small apartment building, fully furnished and really quite comfortable. Also the food isn't too bad, and there's an extensive library of mission records that can be browsed through. Even if you don't have any XP to spend at the moment, you can still read things and see how other's missions went. If you ever run into something like that yourself you can be better informed this way, so while the average NPC isn't going to be allowed in to read the records, you are given the clearance to do so. There is also a classroom, where teachers can help you spend double your REAson per week rather then just your REAson on a skill you want to increase. You can also sign up to teach a course if you have a high rating and the teaching skill. All in all, you think, it's not too bad a deal, being a PC. Your basic needs are met, and you get to go have adventures, really what could be better?

After you arrive and check in with your Commanding Officer, Sargent Draughon, you get a quick tour of the facility from an NPC and get introduced to the various people you'll need to know to do your job. You can requisition weapons, fake IDs, clothing, gear, whatever your current mission requires from the magical to the mundane. Of course there's a lot of paperwork to be signed to do any of that, and everything has to be accounted for when the mission is over, so it's sometimes more of a hassle then it's worth. It's almost better to save up for your own gear, so that you can learn any quirks it has before it falls apart on you in the field. After the tour you are told you're the last to arrive, would you like to meet the rest of your team?

Obviously, you do.

You are brought to a conference room by the NPC and see five other people there; scratch that, four other people and one fairy. This ought to be good, you think to yourself. One person is your CO, who you met earlier. The person sitting at the head of the table must be his superior. To his left sits a guy about your age with cyber arms, and to his right sits an asian girl who looks rather nervous. A fairy on her shoulder was yawning as you came in, but she perks up and looks you over.

"Ah, you're here," says the man at the end of the table. "The team is finally complete, so we can get into your first mission. Have a seat. Jake right?"

"Yes Sir," you answer quickly, sitting down.

"Good, good, I'm Master Sargent Zucconi. If things go smoothly for you this will probably be our only meeting. If not, I'll be chewing you out later. Otherwise Sargent Draughon here, whom you've all met, will be giving out your assignments." He pulls a folder from a briefcase hidden behind the edge of the table. "Now let's see, says here you need to kill ten rats and bring back their tails... this can't be right!"

Sargent Draughon looks over and they talk in a hushed tone.

"Looks like my secretary gave me the wrong file, this isn't even in the same genre as you guys. I'll be right back, you might as well introduce yourselves, you'll be working together from now on, after all."

He gets up, puts the file back in his case and walks out.

Everyone rolls their PERsonality check to see who will speak up first, and Jaden wins it with a 15. Even taking her insecurity into account, a minus one, she still beats everyone by 4. Oddly, Rose Petal who has the highest PER rolls minimum, a 7, and is now pouting and doesn't want to talk to anyone.

"Hi, I'm Jaden Shan," she says hesitantly, her eyes down. "I hope we can all work together."

"Clayton Garlington," says the cyborg, surprised to be going second.

You and Rose introduce yourselves, the Narrator blurs this part a little because as the observer you already know everything about them, and he doesn't want to bore you. The Master Sargent comes back in the room.

"Now I have the right file," he says, sitting down again. "Sorry for the mix up. She must have rolled minimum on her Bureaucracy check, and I missed my Perception check to notice. Not a good start, I suppose. Anyway, this group seems to have a wide range of skills, so something big is coming. We need to get you some XP right away, but as starting characters your missions still need to be something you can handle. I think we've got just the thing for you."

He hands out some sheets of paper from the folder, and you look it over.

"As you can see, there's a new drug, though I hate to call it that, that's being distributed in New Mexico. You can read the reports, but in short, some wizard or group of wizards is imbuing spells into every day foods and leaving it around for people to find. It probably started out as just a prank, but it's been getting worse, with better spells being used all the time. It goes like this- someone steals a condiment packet like ketchup or even pepper and does an imbuing into it. Then they put it back. Someone takes it, uses it on their food unknowingly, and suddenly find themselves under a magical effect. Harmless enough in most cases, but apparently it doesn't matter to whoever is doing this if they actually succeed or not, as we've seen some cursed food packets circulating too. This has to be stopped. Travel to New Mexico, find out who's been making these things, and bring them in. If it's a group, shut them down or call for backup. Good luck."

The packet contained more details of course, where the most food packets had been seen, a list of all the spells that had been observed, that kind of thing. We weren't operating totally in the dark, after all. You feel something odd as the Master Sargent leaves the room, and you check your character sheet. You have cards, three of them!

Looking at them, you sigh dejectedly.

"What's wrong?" asks Rose, fluttering over to you.

"It's these cards! Why did I have to get card 21 right off the bat?"

"You better not use it!"

"Don't I know it!"

By then everyone had their character sheets out and was looking them over.

"How do these card things actually work, anyway?" asks Clayton.

"Basically they're given out at random by the Narrator," explains Sargent Draughon. "Just remember you have them, and if you want to use one, just declare it, and the Narrator makes it happen."

"Just like that? Because I want to use card 35 right now."

There's a flash, and a large cardlike object floats out of him, disappearing in a flash of light and sparkles. You catch a glimpse of it, and it seemed to have a black and white drawing of a girl with pompoms on it. You feel something again, and you've gotten another card.

"Oh, thanks," says Jaden sarcastically. "16? Not as bad as 21 but come on!"

"Well I got card 33, so I thank you, I need all the help I can get!" says Rose.

"Sure thing. As it turns out, I'm using that card I just got, number 14, which had the same exchange value as my Rally, so it works out nicely for everyone."

Again, a cardlike object appears before Clayton and shimmers to dust, and you catch a glimpse of a bespectacled kid with a +2 over his head. You guess he just got two XP. Wait a second...

"I'm playing a card too!" you announce. I play card 38, gimme that card 35, which I play myself!"

There's a larger flash of light this time, as the two cards shimmer in and out of existence, and again, everyone is dealt another card.

"Wow, you're pretty well prepared for your first mission," says Sargent Draughon. A lesser man then him might think the deck was somehow stacked for these guys, but the Narrator would hasten to assure him it was as random as it could be. Speaking of the Narrator-

"Just keep in mind guys, the Narrator gets cards to use against you, and you don't know what he just spent to make your adventure harder. He spends for the NPCs you'll be fighting against, so be aware. Oh, and be sure to turn any in for XP before you leave this room, that's the point of no return for you."

You suddenly realize each card as an XP value, and you can give up the use of the card in order to gain that much XP. You look your cards over, as does everyone else.

"I'm turning in 30 and 37," says Jaden, and the cards appear and are then slashed apart.

"I'll turn in number 5," says Clayton, and it gets slashed apart.

"Do we have any other cards to negate damage?" asks Rose.

"I do," you answer.

"Okay, then I'll turn in card 11." It gets slashed up and disappears. "Anything that hits me will kill me, so reducing it by half isn't going to help me any. I'd rather have the 2XP."

"You can trade cards you know," says Draughon. "Or just give them to someone else."

"Shoot, I forgot about that!"

"We should be fine, with all the extras we got," says Clayton.

"I'm sure our first adventure won't be too hard, right?" asks Jaden. "I'm not sure I'm ready for it. What if I mess it up for everyone?"

"Don't worry," you reassure her. "We're here for you."

"I'll... I'll do my best!"

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