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The Calm before the Storm
Garrett stuck to his plan and allowed Bella to lead the way, stopping for a brief photo op in the living room before wishing her parents well and heading out the door. If he had any worries left lurking in the corners of his mind, they were dead in the water once she slipped her arm around his as they walked outside together. He glanced down at her as she rested her head on his shoulder, taken by how the soft moonlight played across her face. He leaned back against her until they drew closer to the pearl blue Viper, and he broke away briefly to hold open her door.

"To prom, mademoiselle!"

((Garrett Wilde continued in La Reine Du Bal))

Will Alone
Garrett nodded at his observation. "You're on the right train of thought, normally. Gladiators are exactly what they want us to be. I think they've overestimated their mark on this one, though. See, they assume that no one is going to find them. After all, we feel pretty important, but in the grand scheme of things a hundred odd High School students being abducted isn't a huge security concern. It'd get token service at best. We've got an edge right now, though. Remember what President McAllister said four years ago? Survival of the Fittest is supposed to be over. It's not. Everyone relaxed because of his declaration, and that makes this his fault. What's more, he's up for re-election in the fall. He'll get crucified for this if he just lets it pass. If there's any intelligence in his cabinet, this just became his number one PR concern. That means we've got everything from drones to satellites looking for us right now."

That last statement was a bit of a bluff. He had no idea whether anyone was actually blaming President McAllister for the attack yet, but they might, and if the footage of this conversation ever made it off the island, he'd just given them a soundbite. It was a long-shot, but he was screening every angle. They needed help, and they needed it fast.

His grin grew as he caught Tyler's reference. "You make a good point about us being gladiators, though. That's an important comparison. The point of the gladiators was to fight to the death for the amusement of the Romans to keep them happy, right? We're like that, but the opposite. We're supposed to kill each other to make the rest of the world afraid. We have to kill each other to do it though, which means that this," he stated, tapping his collar, "is a bluff. At least, the idea that they'll blow us all up if we don't kill for a day is. They can't just kill us. If they were going to, they would have done it by now. They need us to kill each other, and they're doing everything they can to make it happen. That means they won't kill us until they have no options left. They're more likely to try and send a team out flush people out and get the action going."

His eyes narrowed as he found the question he'd been waiting for, the hook that might just draw Tyler into his plan. "Which option do you like better: Hunt each other until we're all dead or dying, or waiting it out until we've got a shot at the bastards that dragged us out here and tried to make us into a side-show?"

The Calm before the Storm
Garrett heard movement inside and tried to maintain his composure. It was just now catching up to him how out of depth he was. He didn't have much of a plan, aside from "Follow her lead." His anxiety became more pronounced with each passing second as his mind raced through all the ways this could possibly go wrong.

Then she opened the door.

She looked beautiful, even moreso than usual. It was obvious that she and her mother had put a great deal of work into her outfit, and it had paid off. Everything from diamond earrings, to the intricate orange lace woven through her bodice, to her charitably short-heeled lilac slippers worked in harmony to accent her natural beauty.

He wasn't elaborate on any of this out loud, though. His ample vocabulary abandoned him along with the rest of his thoughts, and the best he could muster was a quiet "Wow..." as he peered at her through the doorway.

It took a beat for the rest of his mind to catch-up and realize that his statement could be taken ambiguously. "Bella, you look absolutely stunning,", he added, grinning from ear to ear.

Will Alone
Garrett could have asked for a better first meeting. He didn't know Tyler very well, but he recognized him as a member of the football team. There were 50/50 odds as to whether he was playing, and he probably had a pretty good chance of winning. Convincing him to not play, especially with a plan that could end in everyone dead, might be difficult. He needed to hedge his bets. Still, he couldn't let Tyler see him sweat.

"Because I'd like to live, and I'd imagine you would as well. Tyler, right? There are two ways I see this going down that end well for both of us. We could go our separate ways and pretend we didn't see each other. I have someone I want to look for, and I'm hoping you don't have any particular reason to stop me." He gestured to the left with his head. "I walk out that way, no questions asked, and nobody has to get hurt. Or..." His eyes narrowed as his characteristic smile returned to his face. "We can stay here for a little while and chat about what I've found. These people aren't giving us the whole story. Short version? If I'm right, we're not players. We're hostages."

He stared up at the large man in front of him, careful to look him directly in the eye. "If you're interested, I've got a plan that should force a stalemate and buy us some time until help gets here. It's your choice though: I can leave, or we can talk. I'm not looking for trouble."

Will Alone
Garrett found his fingertips grazing against the collar around his neck. He didn't have any intention of toying with it, but it was the key to their imprisonment. If he was thinking things through correctly, it might also be the key to their escape.

He thought back to the enforcement mechanism of the game. If no one dies for a whole day, everyone dies, no questions asked. It was an effective ploy. It kept people concerned with the action to preserve their own survival. They could die just as easily hiding in a cave as they could in gunfight, and even if you managed to survive without killing anyone, they'd just throw you into the next game. They made it painfully obvious that the only way to survive was to kill.

They tried to, at least. It was a lie though, just like the idea that you could really leave the island and go back to your life was a lie. While the latter was more smoke and mirrors trickery than anything else, however, this was a blatant, bald-faced lie.He was certain that they would never go through with their threat to kill all the students. They couldn't afford to. They might kill one or two for being disobedient, but that number had to have a ceiling. 30%? 40%? No matter what, it couldn't go higher than 49%. The point would be completely lost by then. They did all of this to prove to the world that these "civilized" children were just as monstrous as any terrorist or insurgent could ever be. They did it to force the world to watch as its future caretakers tore each other apart, and to make everyone who witnessed the horror watch their fellows a little more warily. If, however, the terrorists had to do the killing themselves...well, we already know they're monsters, don't we?

There was a noise outside. Someone was in the hallways of the office. He made no move for his bag, or to leave his meditative position. The only way out of this was to avoid conflict. He spoke, just loud enough to be heard outside the doorway, in the mildest tone he could manage, his voice straining slightly as he gathered himself.

"I hear you. I mean you no harm, and right now I'm hoping you feel the same way. No point in playing the game this early, right? You can come in and see that I'm unarmed, or I can come out there if that'd make you more comfortable, but I'd like to talk to you if you have a moment."

Will Alone
It is by will alone I set my mind in motion. It is by the juice of sapho that thoughts acquire speed, the lips acquire stains, the stains become a warning. It is by will alone I set my mind in motion.

((B062: Garrett Wilde Start))

Repeat the mantra. Find a center. You're no good until you find a center. Stay clear, stay alive.

On the outside, Garrett was calm. He'd been calm from the start. He spent a brief moment examining his surroundings when he awoke to their grim orientation, but he had barely moved since. When he awoke here in this abandoned office, cleared a space away from the door and assumed a cross-legged meditation position, never letting the measured line of his lips so much as quiver. An observer might say that he was coping well.

They'd be wrong, though. Despite his outer facade, Garrett was cracking inside. He was being pulled in a thousand directions, a thousand distractions really, as he tried to concentrate. He wanted to run. He wanted to die. He wanted to live. He wanted to look for people. He wanted to hide from them. He wanted to do everything at once, feeling every animal instinct vying for his attention.

So he silenced them. He repeated the strange mantra until it was deafening. He would respond to them all in time, but right now he needed to be able to select them at leisure. Acceptance measured by control. This was his tool for survival, far more important than anything they had included in the duffel bag at his side.

Mostly because it would allow him to break their game, rather than play it.

Garrett's knowledge of game theory was incredibly limited, but it was enough to form a rough idea of how they were operating. The best example he knew that fit was Exit, Voice, Loyalty. If it weren't so sickening, he'd have to appreciate how well these terrorists had set this up from a tactical perspective. The students have no Voice to exercise because the Terrorists don't rely on them for support and there's no way to get assistance from a third party. We have no credible Exit threat because we can't leave. If we refuse to express Loyalty, we die. If we exercise Loyalty, we die anyway, but one of us won't, and everyone has a slight chance of being that lone survivor. It was a game without options. Even if both paths, Loyalty or Disloyalty, were equal for 99% of the student populace, nearly everyone would choose Loyalty. It allowed for survival. Even he was tempted to take it, despite how much he hated violence.

That assumes the terrorists have absolute authority, though. He couldn't lose sight of how false that was. Garrett didn't know a lot about Survival of the Fittest, but he knew he'd never heard of a winner getting a happy ending. You couldn't just go home. Even if you won, your life was over. Most of your friends would be dead, and your family...how could they ever look someone like that in the eye again? No. Loyalty was a false option. The idea that you could survive this was a lie. What else are they lying about, I wonder?

Garrett thought back to the Exit portion of the game. Perhaps things weren't as air-tight as they had been lead to believe. Perhaps there was a way to escape without even leaving the island. There was a glimmer of hope forming in his mind.

Other concerns were gnawing at his mind now. One in particular: Bella. Is she alive? Alone? Should I be looking for her? Would she even want me to? As much as it pained him, he forced that train of thought from his mind. Until he had a plan, he was useless to her. His calm shell eased open, and he let out a long, shaky sigh. He would find her. Not until he could save her, though.

Repeat the mantra. Find a center. You're no good until you find a center. Stay clear, stay alive.

It is by will alone I set my mind in motion. It is by the juice of sapho that thoughts acquire speed, the lips acquire stains, the stains become a warning. It is by will alone I set my mind in motion.

I Put On My Robe and Wizard Hat
Divination. That seemed familiar. Garrett looked back through his notes and saw that it was the other school he'd been looking into. "Oh, Divination, I had a question about that as well. You can't give it up, which seems to imply that it's kind of essential, but you also only have to give up one other school to specialize in it, like you said. Is it weaker than the other schools, or just constructed differently?"

He paused to examine his notes as the girl from the dice bin walked by. The fact that he couldn't place her was really starting to eat at him, but there was no helping it. He could ask her, but how would he even begin that conversation? 'Hey, I've been watching you for a few minutes because I think I might have seen you somewhere before, but I have no idea where and no reason why it'd be important but my own curiosity?' That wouldn't be creepy at all, no sir.

The skills aspect was something he'd only vaguely considered. He could be on the wrong track with this familiar business, but he still felt strongly bent towards the raven. "Well, here's my thought process: All familiars can talk with their wizard and vice versa, correct? But it didn't look like any of the other familiars could talk to other people. So, if I were to observe something in a bar or an alley way away from whoever I was traveling with and I wanted to alert them discreetly, my only option with most familiars would be to have them wander away and Lassie the rest of the party to me. With the raven though, it could fly off and say something like 'Master thinks he's being followed by a man in a red scarf," or "Master saw the little girl we're looking for being dragged into a tent, he's there watching it now,' and there's no chance for miscommunication."

He shrugged and tapped out another message. "Perhaps I'm over-thinking it. I'd just feel like a silly commander going out without a reliable scout at my command. Plus, I think it'd be fun to have a sort of Iago-Jafar dynamic going with it that the rest of the party could see and play into if they wanted. I might just be crazy though, does that seem stupid?

The Calm before the Storm
Before Garrett had a moment to consider just how badly he'd just violated his usual boundaries, Bella was hugging him, and he realized he didn't care anymore. What was it Franklin said about trading freedom for security? He couldn't recall, and he didn't care about that either. He returned Bella's embrace warmly, holding her close and grinning until his face hurt.


Garrett was uncharacteristically caught up in the present moment. He had no idea what any of this meant in the long run, and in a more balanced state of mind he might have been at least cautiously worried. He wasn't in the mood for tactical considerations, though. At some point he'd have to give in to his instincts, analyze everything about the situation, and vent a not insignificant amount of panic, but for now he was going to be truly happy, and nothing could stop that.

MurderWeasel's Brutally Hardcore Realism Litmus Test
High School!Doc is sitting somewhere in the 90s, I lost track at one point and it's too depressing to go back and do the math again.

The Calm before the Storm
Garrett wasn't embarrassed often, and even when he was he could usually contain it. Between Bella grasping his hand and her kind words towards who he'd become, he found himself blushing. He returned her gesture, squeezing gently on her hand as he smiled back at her.

"That sounds incredible. You're really building worlds instead of just stories. It's very similar to how J.R.R Tolkien built Middle Earth. Have you ever read his thoughts on the difference between world-building or mythology and storytelling? I think you'd enjoy it, it's just like what you're talking about. I gave up on trying to print out everything related to Alexander's work," he said with a chuckle, "at this point his old computer and I are practically joined at the hip whenever I'm at home."

He grimaced and nodded. "Complex is the right word. I know I wouldn't want just anyone knowing everything about me." A slight smile returned to his face as he squeezed her hand again. "There's only a few people I trust that much. I can hardly help but be complimentary, you know, it's easy enough when talking about someone like you."

He froze up slightly, unsure if he'd heard her correctly. His mind raced to try and keep up with the implications, to work out some sort of strategy. This could be dangerous in so many ways. He was so unguarded with her already, and if he misread the situation it could be---

No. He was done thinking that way. He trusted her, and it was about time he decided to act like it. He stared into her eyes and moved closer.

"I...I'd love to, Bella."


Introduction Thread
A handler whose name is a Jimmy Neutron reference and whose picture is a Homestuck reference?

You have already earned my favor.

The Calm before the Storm
It might have been his imagination, but she seemed to move closer to him after he sat down. Perhaps I'd just like to believe that. He tried to shake the thought from his mind, but it was stuck. He was too uncertain to return the movement, but he slid his hand closer, gently brushing against hers.

He grinned as she commented on his efforts. "I'll try to do him justice. I'll have to show you some of his less confounding musings sometime. I think you would have liked him, Bella. I know he would have liked you."

He could almost see the reams of character work and world-building as she described her larger projects. Garrett had a great deal of respect for her ability to work out fine details. He couldn't help but chuckle as she noted her unusual personality. "Oh, I'm certain any world you design will have no stone un-turned. Your attention to detail is admirable, you know. Short stories are an excellent medium though, some of the finest writers chose them as their passion." His eyes dimmed as he thought back to his conversation with Hansel. "Getting into other people's heads can be...unpleasant. Besides, your characters could do far worse by way of a template. The world needs more people like you."

He hesitated as she mentioned Prom. He was having difficulty confronting why he didn't want to talk about it, but it was a subject he'd much rather avoid. He probably wouldn't go anyway, he wasn't terribly keen on watching her with someone else. He was about to respond when he noticed that she was silent as well, lost deep in thought. Could she be thinking the same thing that I am? Running the scenarios, desperately searching for a positive outcome? He was stunned. It was a complete longshot. Objectively, he'd never advise pursuing the strategy forming in his mind. The tactical risk was too high. Bella was a dear friend, and this was the sort of high-tension situation that he might not be able to handle. Still, it wasn't like he could back out now. What would he say? "Oh, I'm sorry, I can't talk about that, I'm afraid the various social tensions might shatter the pathetic facade of control I manufacture and cause me to curl up weeping in a corner?"

No. That wouldn't do at all. He was letting his emotions run away with him to even think that sort of over-dramatic tripe. He had to tamp this down, and the only way to do that was to face it head on.

"It does...I mean, as far as dances go. I've been thinking about it, but I'd probably end up going alone if I did, and who wants some odd philosopher watching everyone from an empty table and ruining their night?"

He paused again and asked the inevitable question. "Are you going?"

The Calm before the Storm
Garrett nodded as he accepted her invitation to sit. He turned to her and smiled. It really was a magnificent day, with blue skies and a friendly but not overbearing amount of sunshine. This was much better than being squirreled away in his study.

"Happy to be here, Bella! Perish the thought, no dusty tome could be more important than enjoying this whether, especially with such pleasant company. Oh, well enough. I know exactly what you mean, I've been trying to collect a concept of Alexander's that he never really finished, and fleshing out the missing pieces is really maddening. Writer's block is a dreadful thing."

He shifted slightly in his seat and sighed. "But, that's the burden of writing, isn't it? What sort of piece have you been working on lately?"

The Calm before the Storm
***

A familiar buzzing had broken Garrett's meditation. He recognized the number immediately and smiled before firing back a quick reply. He wasn't accomplishing anything particularly useful with today's meditation. His thoughts kept straying to...well, their destination was unimportant. Spending some time with Bella would be a welcome distraction, and the park was as peaceful a spot as you could ask for. "Sure, I'd enjoy break from my work. I'll be there in five."

As he walked, his thoughts idly drifted towards the upcoming prom. Does she have a date, I wonder? He shook his head and chuckled at the preposterous question. Of course she did. He'd probably notice it at some point if he decided to attend. It'd be difficult to miss her, he was sure that between her and her mother she'd come up with a stunning outfit. She'd be somewhere at the center of the mix, dancing away...with someone else. That image made him vaguely uncomfortable.

Perhaps he'd skip prom to work on Alexander's fractured musings towards the nature of poverty. They didn't need another wallflower, after all.

He spotted her standing by a bench and waved as he approached. She looked to be a bit lost in thought. "Hello, Bella! It's gorgeous out here today, isn't it?"

The Calm before the Storm
Adjust tie, smile into the mirror, repeat until satisfied. Every few minutes he fell into this pattern. It was a good way to keep his nerves under control.

Garrett usually wasn't that into dances. He went as an excuse to wear one of the suits he and Matthew spent so many Saturday afternoons picking out, but he attended alone and observed out of social interest. Tonight would be very different, though.

Adjust, smile, repeat.

Bella had asked him to go with her. To say that he was surprised would be a charitable understatement. He had been toying with the idea of just skipping prom all together and working on his amateur theory-crafting using Alexander's notes. That was out of the question now, though.

Adjust, smile, repeat.

He was glad to be going with her. In many ways, he expected that it would be a great night. He enjoyed spending time with her and his father had given him a competent enough crash course in dancing over the years that he shouldn't do anything too embarrassing. Still, he was nervous. He had to be. The nerves kept him sharp. As long as he recognized them and compensated for his fears rather than allowing them to grow, everything would be fine.

Adjust, smile, repeat.

As his hand moved back to the wheel, he thought fondly of how proud Alexander might have been. He was following the methods they'd spent years refining. More than that, he was testing them against previously terrifying situations. Prolonged one on one contact would have terrified the old Garrett, and the idea of taking a date to a dance would have sent him running. Yet here he was, driving his 1995 Viper to meet her.

Adjust, smile, repeat.

It was appropriate that he was driving Alexander's old car tonight. He rarely took the Viper out, even though it was technically his car now, because he was afraid to damage it. This was a special night, though. He wanted it to be memorable. Besides, he intended to leave his driving gloves in the glove compartment once he got to Bella's. He wanted some reminder of Alexander to carry him through the night. He wouldn't be here without him.

Adjust, smile, repeat.

He took a deep breath as he pulled up at Bella's house. After storing the gloves, he checked his white tuxedo in the mirror one last time. Matthew had spent hours with him going over their collection before finally settling on this particular outfit and grooming it to perfection. That small memory helped ease his nerves. Everything was going his way, for once.

Adjust, smile, repeat.

He knocked on the door sharply and waited.

Mitadake High/Pryce High
I may be on here in a little while, things have kind of gone to hell in a handbasket with my computer but we're putting in the parts as we speak, so if I can get a clean install running by the end of the night I'll be on.

Mitadake High/Pryce High
Reptar Desperado
May 24 2013, 07:50 AM
I would like to add a "No Stupid Names" addendum to the house rules. Yes, it was funny the first time someone picked "Ron Burgundy" as their character name but it just gets in the way of RPing.

Fully aware of the hypocrisy.
As the handler of Ron Burgundy and Yeezus Christ, I want my dissent against this proposal noted. Also, Ron Burgundy is a real name.

MurderWeasel's Brutally Hardcore Realism Litmus Test
Garrett clocks in between 12 and 22 points. I'm struggling on "relative death" issue as well. 10 points for having lost a close relative? By High School it seems unrealistic to have either not cared for your dead relatives or have not lost any. I know very few people who haven't lost a grandparent or an uncle, or even a parent or a sibling.

Mitadake High/Pryce High
As noted, I'll be down as soon as A). I get my new rig set up, or B). I confirm that my netbook can logistically handle PH. I should have one or the other sorted out by Friday night, and as of now I've got no consistent scheduling conflicts until I find a job or 5.

The Realism Litmus Test Revived
Garrett is somewhere between 7 and 13. I place him at 7 myself, as I don't see anything particularly tragic or sorrowful about his demeanor but having his outlook altered by a significant series of events may qualify. There's also a lot of subtle differences between our political and religious views, but they're similar enough that you could throw in the extra two points there as well.