Bloody Pulps and Vines
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rating: +89+x

October 22nd

Dr. Katherine Sinclair blinked awake through a haze of medication to see a nurse disconnecting her IV drips. She muttered and sat up, rubbing her head. "Mmph. Am I free to go?"

"Just about. We just need to go through checkout procedures."

"Town still evacuated?" She asked.

The nurse — Katherine thought her name was Liao — nodded. "Sloth's Pit is staying vacant until November 2nd, at least. Yesterday was a bit of a mess; archivist went missing in the sublevels."

"Pickman?" Katherine bolted upright. "Shit, what happened?"

"Don't know. Dr. Mattings said he had information for you, but… there was blood found on his folder, and the archives are a mess—"

"Son of a bitch." Katherine rubbed her face. "Son of a fucking bitch. Did Mattings see what got him?"

"We're not sure. He's pretty shaken, just keeps talking about a photograph." Liao looked up. "He checked himself into the psych ward."

"And Montgomery?" Katherine frowned. "How is he?"

"He is right next to you." A deep voice came from Katherine's left.

She turned, and saw Montgomery Reynold's somewhat portly form laying on the bed with his arm in a sling. She shook her head. "You honestly thought it was a good idea to shoot hot plasma at a thoughtform?"

"I… panicked," he admitted, clearing his throat. "You need to get back to work. The rise in anomalous activity is dangerous, and this… Black Autumn that the Goatman described…"

"Well, I can't see what Pickman got, not yet." She tilted herself upward, and sat to turn herself out of bed. "I'm going to head down to forensics. See if I can persuade Guillard to surrender some of the data."

"When we meet again, I'll be bearing mead and paperwork," Montgomery chuckled.

"You aren't having mead until you're off your antibiotics, Mr. Reynolds," Liao chided.

Katherine shook her head, and made her way to the front desk of the trauma center to collect her effects.

"Dr. Sinclair!"

The red-headed thaumaturgist looked up from the coffee machine at the woman walking past her. Green eyes, blonde hair, and a face that looked like it had done far too much frowning, no mistaking it, this was Cassandra Pike. "You're out of the hospital!" the parazoologist beamed.

"Thankfully, my injuries were mostly superficial." She punched in the code for a hot chocolate. "How are you doing?"

"Just got back from seeing Claude," she said, holding out a scrap of paper. "He wanted me to give you this. It's something he managed to save from Pickman's folder."

Sinclair took the paper and looked it over, her other hand retrieving her cocoa. "Have they… found him yet?"

"No," she admitted. "He wasn't a bad person. I hope he's all right."

Sinclair read the paper closely.

1969 Douglas County Fair sets State Record for Largest Pumpkin

Weighing in at a ton and a half, the pumpkin, dubbed "Gourdon" by its owner Jeffery Hubble, was hauled into the fairgrounds on October 29th, vine and all. Gourdon literally broke the scale it was put on, and a new one had to be ordered from nearby Duluth for the purposes of measurement. Mr. Hubble (pictured above with his son Jeffery Jr. and daughter Eliza) says: "This is a magnificent day for my family. We've worked for years to grow Gourdon, and our hard work's finally paid off."

"Jeff Hubble?" Sinclair looked up at Cassandra. "Isn't he still alive? Runs the produce farm near Lover's Lane with his family?"

"Yeah, Claude and I bought pumpkins from him to make some Jack-O-Lanterns! He's a sweetie, and his daughter-in-law makes great pies." She chewed her lip. "They'll be out of town with the rest of the population, though. I'll see about making a call?"

"No need," Sinclair shook her head and started down the hall. "I'm grabbing Hastings, Partridge, and some of Squad Seven. I'll stop by Weiss's office and get her approval—"

"Director Weiss stepped down yesterday evening, Dr. Sinclair."

She stopped in her tracks and snapped around. "What?"

"She collapsed after hearing about Pickman, and was taken to the hospital in Duluth. As of right now, Dr. Hennessy is acting director. Claire Hennessy, from Multi-U?"

"Shit." Sinclair ran her fingers through her hair. "What's she saying?"

Dr. Pike walked a little further down the hall, to a touch-screen display. On it was various bulletins from around the site; on a typical day, it would have details about containment breaches, maintenance checks, and events such as seminars and disease screenings, as well as employee bulletins such as game nights and instrument practice. Now, it displayed a single, large bulletin, which Katherine read aloud.

"'As of the morning of October 22nd, Code Vandal has been declared. All Site-87 personnel have free reign on studies and projects dedicated to the protection of Nx-18 and its inhabitants, and the prevention of any further dangerous anomalous manifestations.' Shit."

"Ever see a Code Vandal before?" Dr. Pike swallowed. "I've heard about them a few times, but that's in places like Harkness or Eventide. Nowhere like Sloth's Pit."

"Once. 2008, around Christmas. Even then, it didn't spread this far outside the site." She strode towards the elevators. "Well, Code Vandal means open season. Time to assemble the cavalry."

Twenty minutes later, the Cavalry— Composed of Dr. Sinclair, Dr. Keith Partridge, Researcher Christopher Hastings, and agents Carl Ashe and Alexander Carracos stood outside the Hubble estate. It was a twelve-acre produce farm, normally tended to by the Hubbles and some hired farmhands. Sitting in the driveway was a maroon Ford pickup. In the fall, the zuchinni and pumpkins could grow to the size of small children, and they did it without any chemicals.

The size was, admittedly, helped by the fact that the soil here still had some of whatever bizarre magic John Chapman had left behind when he passed through here; most produce on the north end of town was comically large, from apples the size of one's foot to acorns that were dense enough to cause concussions when they fell.

The sky above was colored in the same omnidirectional twilight it had been when Sinclair and Montgomery had fought the Goatman. "Has the lighting been a persistent phenomenon?" She asked.

"It starts at noon and ends at dusk," Chris confirmed. "Only visible within the town's borders, of course."

"So, we're just here to look through Hubble's stuff? Is that legal?" Carracos asked, taking a bite from a jerky ration. He adjusted the sleeve of his uniform, hiding the cross tattoo beneath it. "Like, I get that the town's abandoned, but…"

Everyone looked at Carracos, eyes wide and faces bewildered. "You do realize that we wrote a good quarter of the bylaws in this town?" Partridge asked.

"Stupid question," Carracos realized. "My bad."

"We don't have time for this," Partridge griped, starting down the road to the property. "Mattings gave his girlfriend—"

"Fiance," Sinclair corrected.

"—a newspaper clipping about a giant pumpkin, and the sample that Mattings threw at us on his way to the psych ward was a clipping from a pumpkin vine. Hastings, you need to sample the produce."

"Right." Chris produced a pair of gloves and a respirator from his bag, as well as a set of secateurs, before heading towards the distant pumpkin patch.

"He ain't goin' alone," Ashe frowned, drawing his weapon and hustling after him. "Hey, Plant-talker! Wait up!"

Sinclair looked at Partridge oddly. "Plant-talker?"

"He likes to talk to specimens in the greenhouse," Partridge explained. "He actually ran a study to see if plants respond better when talked to. It's… inconclusive."

"I imagine— wait." She looked at the Ford in the driveway. "Is that Hubble's truck?"

"He shoulda evacuated with everyone else." Carracos quirked his brow, and spoke into his radio. "This is 7-6 calling S10 command, do you copy?"

«Sigma 10 Command reading you, 7-6.»

"Did we confirm the departure of the Hubble family? Up at Hubble Farms by Lover's Lane?"

«Gimme a moment.»

The two researchers walked towards the house. Sinclair rubbed his chin. "…maybe he took another car?"

Partridge peered into the truck from the passenger's-side window and shook his head. "Keys are in the ignition. And there's some clothes folded on the seat. Someone was going to leave in this car."

«7-6, this is Sigma 10 Command. We have confirmation that Jeffery Hubble Jr, his wife, and his children are in the Duluth safe zone.»

Carracos grabbed his radio. "…and Hubble Senior?"

«Not confirmed. Junior says he went back for the dog, and hasn't been heard from since.»

"Shit," Carracos ran up to meet them. "We may still have civilians on the property."

"Hold on," Sinclair knelt on the ground and drew a Celtic knot into the dirt of the driveway, reaching into her bag and removing a tube filled with ash, sprinkling it on the sign and speaking soft words. Arcs of light flew out from the sign, three flying towards her, two flying at the field where they could see Ashe and Hastings. "That's five," she stood. "No living things here, at least, other than us."

"Right, forgot we had a witch with us," Carracos snorted. He waved a hand through the arc of light going towards him. "This is kinda neat, though. Is it like that D&D spell?"

"It's not inherently Vancian, but this spell is meant to detect biological signatures. Sadly, it won't detect anything less complex than a fish." She looked at the bright red farmhouse that was the Hubble estate. "Guess we're going in. Carracos, call Ashe and tell them we're infiltrating?"

"Kay." He grabbed his radio and spoke, "Carl, Doc says we're goin' in. Get around to the back, okay?"

«There's something freaky out here, Al, it's—»

Carracos held up his hand to instruct the doctors to stop. "I did not copy that."

«It's dartin' through the patch like a goddamn gremlin. Don't know what the hell it— oh shit, run!»

Sinclair had never heard the same gun fire from two sources at once, and she doubted Partridge had either. They heard Ashe's assault rifle discharge in the direction of the pumpkin patch, as well as from the radio.

«GET OUT! FUCKING GET OUT! WE HAVE CODE S—» There was a loud, crackling crunch sound from the radio.

Sinclair looked up in time to see Ashe's life line go out. "Oh my god."

Hastings came running around the house, screaming, covered in blood. None of it seemed to be his own. "HOLY FUCKING SHIT! WE NEED TO GET OUT!"

The four remaining skippers ran towards the transport, the three researchers piling into the back and sealing the door behind them.

Carracos fumbled for his keys, only to drop them in the dirt. "Shit!"

Hastings reached into his pocket and handed him a set through the window in the back of the cab. "Take mine!" Chris was immensely thankful that even in the bureaucratic machine that was the Foundation, they had contingencies. On a field mission, every member of personnel on that mission was given the key to the transport, as too many missions had been wiped out due to the person with the keys dying.

The van roared to life. In the mirror, Carracos could see the farming patches being torn apart, dirt being kicked up by something he couldn't see. The agent swerved the van around, only to come face-to-face with the thing that had torn through the crops; a human form, on its hands and feet, pale, lanky, its arms and fingers too long to be human, its tongue looking like it belonged on Gene Simmons as viewed through a hellish LSD trip.

Carracos floored it. He should have made that thing into skid marks and burned rubber all the way back to the site. Instead, he watched it shoulder-barge into a grill, followed by the engine block imploding. Carracos's head banged against the steering wheel, and the world went black.



"Who invented the seatbelt?" Hastings gasped, trying to undo his. "I want to marry them."

"Someone at Volvo invented the three-point," She grunted, clicking the latch and standing. "Citizens United says corporations count as people, so you might be able to marry the corporation."

"Fuck," Partridge whimpered. He couldn't unlatch his. "I think I cracked a rib."

"Carracos, call for some backup!" Hastings banged, looking through the divider. "Carraco— oh shit. He's out cold."

"Dammit," Sinclair started for Partridge. "Get out and try to rouse him. Failing that, get his radio."

"O-okay," he swallowed, drawing his knife. It was meant for cutting samples of plant life, but in a pinch, he supposed it could rupture a jugular.

Then again, he doubted it would help against the thing crawling up to the driver's side window. The pale creature opened its mouth, revealing long, needle-like fangs. It climbed into the cab, onto Carracos— before it hissed and dropped out onto the ground. It held its smouldering hand before retreating back towards the property.

Hastings made his way over to Carracos, and checked his pulse. He groaned with relief. He was alive, at least, but the cut on his head was deep. He saw that his sleeve had been burned, and turned it up, revealing a highly stylized tattoo of a Crucifix beneath. "Son of a bitch. Sinclair!"

"I'm here," she panted, exiting the transport with Dr. Partridge. "He's fine, it's just bruised. What is it?"

"Some weird pale thing just tried to get Carracos. I think it got… burned by his cross tattoo."

"That's why I couldn't see it by detecting life," Sinclair groaned. "Homo sapiens hemophagis. Vampire. Son of a bitch."

"Wait—" Hastings stared. "Do you think that's Hubble?"

"If that's Hubble, I don't want to think about what happened to his dog." Sinclair forced some bile down. "All in favor that we kill it with fire?"

Partridge groaned an 'aye', and asked, "Hastings, you manage to collect the sample?"

"Yeah." He held up a baggie of clippings of pumpkin vine, only to discover that the bag contained a bloody pulp. "Wait, what the fuck?"

"Where did you get that from?" Partridge frowned.

"I-I just cut into a pumpkin vine near the house. I… shit, I don't have proper bio-hazard containment on me."

"Put it on the ground and back away." Sinclair looked at the van. "Goddammit. It's totaled, and we're alone with a vampire. We need an exit strategy."

They all turned to look at the truck that was in the driveway, and saw the vampire leaping out of it and into the open doorway of the house.

"What do you want to bet it took the key?" Hastings looked between the two of them.

"I c'n hotwire it," Carracos groaned awake. "Basic urban combat training."

"We've got a vampire," Sinclair explained.

"Natural or mutant?" Carracos reached under his seat and took out a first-aid kit, beginning to bandage his head in the mirror.

"Mutant, definitely. Natural ones aren't affected by Holy Anathema like crosses."

"…something infected him, then," He groaned, trying the handle of the cab's door. His vision swam with color. "Take back the hotwirin' thing. Can't bounce back from gettin' knocked out. I ain't Arnie."

"You'll be bahk," Hastings joked, trying to comfort him. He looked at Sinclair, "Will he be okay by himself? Just in the transport?"

"He's probably the safest of us all. Short of that arm getting ripped off—" The two other researchers coughed. "Sorry. He's got a Holy Anathema on his skin. And even if it did get ripped off, it might get even stronger."

"So, just don't lose m'arm?" Carracos laughed. "I can do that—" he opened the door and nearly fell out of the cab. "Shit!"

Hastings caught him and nearly fell himself. "Come on," he hefted the agent to the back of the transport. "Can you two get the truck started? I know a bit of first aid. I can probably keep him stable."

"What the hell," Partridge said, taking Carracos's assault rifle. "I have firearm training."

"Since when?" Sinclair asked, making her way down to the house.

Partridge followed, and began, "Well, when I was in Guatemala back in the 1990s…"

"And that's how we almost drove triffids extinct," Partridge finished as they entered the farmhouse. The keys were, indeed, missing from the truck. "My time in South America was… eventful."

"Why the hell do you never tell us about this shit?" Sinclair wondered, looking at the carpet. There was a very large blood stain soaked into the rug, most likely what was left of the family dog. "Bailey's been looking for inspirations for his next D&D campaign at game night. I think you could write a whole sourcebook."

"Keep in mind the last time I interacted with anyone outside of botany for an extended period," He sniffed, "I became a pear tree."

"Can't argue with that," Katherine agreed. She looked into the living room, and upon seeing a lack of dead dog, entered. The farm life had been modernized, and a flat-screen TV hung above a fireplace, to each side of which were pictures of tractors and produce.

"Wow," Partridge whistled. "That's unnatural."

"Hmm?" Katherine looked over to where Partridge was; he was standing before an old color photograph of a giant pumpkin, big enough to crush the truck it was on. Even in stills, she could imagine the bright red Chevy collapsing under its weight. "Holy shit. That's Gourdon, I take it?"

"Yup," Partridge indicated the placard beneath. "Largest Pumpkin in Wisconsin, 1969."

"Y'know, I've never really gotten the appeal of farm life," Katherine circled around a chair, "But this is kinda cozy. Pity that there's a vampire living here and we'll probably have to burn this place down."

"I wanted to be a farmer," Partridge nodded, walking along the wall. "Got a degree in agronomy, decided to go to grad school for botany, eventually ended up getting a doctorate— hello," he frowned, inspecting a black and white photograph. It depicted Jeffery Hubble and alongside another person, who Partridge couldn't quite place. He opened the frame and looked on the back. "Jeff, we're gonna do great things. Clive C."

"Clive C?" Sinclair went over to him. "Let me see that." She looked at the front, and scowled. "Clive Carter."

"You know him?"

"By reputation. He's a former mayor of Sloth's Pit. His family nearly ran the town into the ground financially. Three mayoral terms under him, one under his kid. Hell, probably half the reason the town has an economy is because of us coming in in '76."

"What happened to Carter himself?"

"Vanished some time in… the late 60's." Sinclair frowned. "Huh. Either that's a hell of a coincidence, or a lead."

They started out of the living room, before Partridge spotted another picture on the wall. He tilted his head, and beckoned her over. "Isn't that Director Weiss?"

Sinclair came back over, and raised an eyebrow. The photograph depicted Hubble, now a fair bit older, with the red-haired Director Weiss, a fair bit younger, holding a pumpkin and laughing. "It is, yeah. Not surprised a lot of S & C Plastics went here for the pies. West volunteered at the corn maze a couple of times." She looked at the date on the photograph, printed in orange on the lower right-hand corner. "1981. She seems chummy with him."

"Weiss doesn't strike me as the type to get to know townies," Partridge scratched his head, before he headed out of the living room. "So, vampires… they have the standard suite of weaknesses?"

Sinclair followed. "There are a few different kinds, but generally this kind — retroviral mutant, in case you're wondering — have the standard Stoker set. Garlic, stake through the heart, rice around the grave."

"Rice around what?" Partridge asked.

"It's mainly a Chinese vampire thing, but they work elsewhere. Basically, if a vampire sees a large collection of small objects, they'll be compelled to count them. Coins, rice, marbles… there was once a vampire at a nerd convention that got distracted by counting Magic cards."

Partridge stopped. "Are you saying that the Count from Sesame Street—"

"Is probably one of the more accurate vampires in children's media. I'm as surprised as you are." She looked down the hall, and saw the kitchen ahead, pots and pans hanging over the stove. "You think they have rice in there?"

"Can't hurt to look." Partridge took point, aiming his rifle forward.

On the kitchen counter were a series of pumpkins that were in the process of being scraped and canned. They had started to rot since the evacuation, and sitting on the counter by them was an equally-rotting pie. The pie had an odd, red color to it, and a slice was cut from it. Uneaten crust lay on a plate by it on the counter.

"Who eats pumpkin pie but doesn't like the crust?" Partridge asked. "That's the best part."

Sinclair inspected the pumpkins, finding a series of twin puncture marks on them. "Teeth marks. It tried sucking pumpkin meat before blood. Probably didn't want to give in to the hunger."

Partridge looked into the pantry. "Got some rice in here!" He called, bringing out a bag of white rice. "So, I just throw this, and…

"It goes all Sesame Street on us, yeah." Sinclair looked at the pie. "The hell is with that color?"

"You do know that Galvin is going to kill us if we don't bring this in alive?" Partridge sifted his hand through the bag of rice. "She's wanted to study a vampire for years."

"I'd rather Galvin kill us than a vampire, and we can deliver the corpse to Bering." She saw something move out of the corner of her eye. She turned, and found her self face-to-face with a large, red, pulsating pumpkin. "Holy shit. Keith?"

"What?" He asked, before he spotted the pumpkin. "Oh wow."

She took out a knife and made her way over to the the pumpkin, preparing to make an incision. "Are there any varieties of pumpkin that grow red?"

"Yes, there's the Rouge D'Etant, but…" he stepped closer. "That looks more like the fruit of some carnivorous plants I've seen." He stepped up next to Sinclair, peering in at its skin. "My god. It looks borderline Sarkic."

Sinclair produced a sample vial from her bag, and placed the lip over the skin of the pumpkin, before stabbing it into the gourd. A torrent of red liquid filled the vial. Sinclair pulled away, capping the sample and holding it before the perpetual twilight out the window. "I'm no M.D., but that looks like blood to me."

"Blood from a plant?" He turned to look over the kitchen, spotting another fruit in the sink. "It's not unheard of, but again, it's usually only from carnivorous specimens, not pumpkins." He looked over the sink. "Same variety, here. Looks like it's been cleaned out."

Sinclair turned towards him. "I think we know how Hubble became a vampire."

"A pumpkin gave him vampyrism?" He frowned. "Nobody eats pumpkins whole—" His attention turned to the pie on the counter, sans slice, and the crust next to it. Sinclair's gaze followed him, and Partridge pulled out a sample baggie, sweeping the pie crust into it. "Glad he didn't eat the crust now, heh."

"…Pike did say that the Hubbles made really good pies," Sinclair swallowed.

"Looks like he snuck a slice when he came home for the dog." Partridge groaned. "Oh god dammit."

"What?" Sinclair asked.

"A vampire from a pie. A vamp-pie-er."

Sinclair's eyebrows met her hairline, and she groaned. "God, yeah, I see why you got an agronomy degree. That was a fucking corny pun—" Sinclair stopped talking suddenly, her eyes wide. "'What did Linus used to wait for?'."

"Pardon?" Partridge asked.

"Something the Goatman said the other day. I just got it: it's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown." She tapped her lips. "Big pumpkin motif coming up lately."

Partridge nodded, looking at the fruit that Sinclair had punctured. It seemed to be deflating. "I… would stay back from that."

Katherine stepped back, and turned, looking over Partridge's shoulder. "Out the window, behind you."

Partridge whipped himself around. Out the window, a good hundred meters away in the pumpkin patch, the vampire stared into the house. Partridge aimed his rifle, finger on the trigger, and it seemed to take an impossibly long step towards the window and leaped through. Partridge emptied half a clip into it, as it scrambled through. The bullets barely fazed the vampire.

Sinclair and Partridge both ducked, and watched, in horror, as the vampire began to suck the blood from the pumpkin. The fruit shriveled and rotted. Sinclair shivered. "That is fascinating, but also disgusting."

"Yeah, Galvin's really going to let us have it now; observing feeding behavior and not documenting it. Anthropology won't be sending us Christmas cards, that's for sure." He spotted a glint of silver in its hand. "It has the keys."

"Of course it does," Sinclair sighed, going to the opposite side of the counter, crouching to avoid splashback.

Partridge followed her, Steadying the assault rifle on the countertop, Partridge unloaded the other half of the clip into the thing. It did a grim, twitching dance as it was filled with lead, before falling to the floor. "Is it dead?"

"No." Sinclair took up a kitchen knife, and made her way around the counter, intent on plunging the dagger in its back and going straight through the heart. She brought the knife down—

It sprung up and caught her hand, her knife dropping to the tiled floor and cracking the linoleum. It dug its finger deep under her skin, and she felt her blood start to flow from her body. "SHIT! SHIT SHIT SHIT! PARTRIDGE!"

"I got it!" Partridge threw the rice all over the sink, and the vampire. Its fingers pulled from Sinclair's skin, leaving no marks, and it began to pick at each grain of rice individually.

Sinclair stood, woozy, looking at herself. She was pale; barely two seconds of contact had drained her of about half a pint of blood. Survivable, but it still hurt. "We gotta kill it— no, I do." She swallowed, stepping forward.

"What do you have in mind?" Partridge kept his rifle trained on it. The vampire kept counting.

"It's got some of my blood in it already. It's got part of me inside of it, and that means I have power over it." She clenched her hand into a fist, and it started glowing a dark, ominous shade of red. "Blood magic is tricky. Only three people in the Foundation know how to do it without going batshit crazy over it. I'm one of them."

"How do you not give in?"

"Let's just say I have a Roundabout way of doing it." She took a deep breath, and as the vampire was counting, pulled her fist back, and let out a cry of "Blood Red… Hamon… Overdrive!"

It was stupid, but it worked. She felt her fist contact, and she felt her blood, not yet fully mixed with the vampire's, in its body. The punch forced all of the blood into one place, through its heart, and then the magic decided to give it back to Katherine Sinclair, untainted by vampyrism. She felt the blood flow into her body, and sighed as the vampire went lifeless.

Partridge stared at her. "I'm going to assume that that was some form of incantation, and that you are not, in the common parlance, a complete and utter nerd."

"You can't work at the biggest scientific research organization on the planet without being a bit of a nerd, Partridge," She rolled her shoulders and sighed, feeling blood return to her system. "Damn that's refreshing—" she blinked. "Shit, where are his keys?"

They heard a rattling sound from the sink, and looked just in time to see a set of car keys, thrown from the vampire's hands in death, slip past the pumpkin in the plant-gut-soaked sink and vanish down the garbage disposal.

"Your time in Guatemala," Sinclair hoped, "Wouldn't happen to have taught you how to plumb, would it?"

Even a botanist, it seemed, could work their way around a pipe wrench. It was a long, painful job, but the pipe was eventually undone, and the keys recovered. Sinclair and Hastings took the bed of the truck, while Partridge drove and Carracos slept off a concussion.

"This town's gone crazy," Partridge muttered to himself from the front of the truck. "Hastings?"

"I'm here, doc," He said.

"I think that my theory was correct."

"Wait, what theory?" Sinclair frowned. "You've been doing theories?"

"Long story short," Partridge informed her, "There's a documented anomaly in town, one that Site-87's not cleared to know about. Something beyond E-Class weirdness."

"Holy shit. Well, Hennessy's reasonable. She'll probably have files on the location."

"Let's talk to her tomorrow," Hastings panted. "I need a drink."

"I concur." He paused, turning onto main street. "Sinclair?"


"After this has blown over… would you mind seeing if you could invite me to a game night? I've always wanted to learn Dungeons and Dragons."

"Sure thing, sir." She smiled, and looked east, as S & C Plastics showed itself over the hill.

The omnipresent twilight, eventually, faded into night. The stars declined to show themselves, hiding behind dark autumn clouds.

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