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Six-Thirty Sharp

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Cover art by: jediseagull

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Cast:
kalakirya as the Narrator and Allura
UstolemyNAME as Grog
bienenalster as Keyleth and Gilmore
blackglass as Percy
Jediseagull as Pike
Argentumlupine as Tary and Scanlan
Analise010 as Vax
Jadesfire as Vex
KDHeart as Kima
sabinelagrande as Dupont Dupont

It's hot in the rehearsal space. It is usually hot in the rehearsal space, but it's the dead of summer, so it's only gotten worse. Allura is fanning Kima with last week's script pages, while Vax finishes re-braiding Vex's hair so that it's off her neck. Keyleth and Grog are sitting with their heads sticking out of the door to the outside, hoping for a breeze. Only Tary seems relatively unaffected, but that's probably just a matter of keeping up appearances.

"It's one-oh-three," Kima says, looking at her watch. "In five, four, three, two-"

"I'm here," Percy says, rushing in with an armful of scripts. "This is yours, and yours, and- wait, that one's not yours-"

"Can we do this now?" Grog asks. He looks around. "Where's Pike?"

"She won't be joining us for rehearsal, I'm afraid," Allura says. "Keyleth, if you wouldn't mind filling in?"

"What?" Keyleth yelps.

"Relax, you can stick to your sound effects during the broadcast," Kima says, as Percy drops a script into Keyleth's hands.

"I mean, I guess I can try?" Keyleth says uncertainly.

"That's all we can ask for," Allura says. "Everyone, if we could please take it from the top. We'll take Shaun's part as read."

There is a long pause.

"Keyleth?" Allura prompts.

"Right!" Keyleth says. She clears her throat. "'That was a long train ride up from the city, but I'm so relieved to be here!'"

Her performance leaves something to be desired.

"Thank you, Keyleth," Allura says.

Tary cracks his neck before speaking. "'Yes, and isn't it something to be out in the crisp, clean air.'"

"'I don't know about you, Gerald, but I'm looking forward to a little relaxation, without any crime-related interruptions,'" Keyleth reads.

"'Yes, Mary, I'm glad we came here to the mountains to get away from it all for a while.'"

"'It hardly seems like any evil could take root here.'"

"'Evil is pernicious. If it finds any soil, it will take root.'"

"Stop," Kima says. "We had a talk about ten dollar words, de Rolo."

"Pernicious is not a ten dollar word," Percy says, affronted.

"Whatever it is, it's over budget for this show," Kima replies.

"Everyone, raise your hands if you know what pernicious means," Percy says.

Vex and Vax's hands go up, as do Keyleth and Tary's. Grog looks around at all of them like he's frustrated that they're not getting on with it. Kima looks up at Allura, and with a sigh, Allura puts her hand up as well.

"Fine," Kima says. "Keep going. Keyleth, you're up."

"'Let's not be so dour, Gerald,'" Keyleth reads. "'Look, up ahead! What a charming-'" she pauses for a moment- "chalet." She peers at the paper. "Chalet? I don't think I've ever seen that word written down before. Ooh, there are some sound effects here! I have just the thing. If I take some corn starch-"

"Perhaps we should take a moment and run through our lines separately," Allura says diplomatically.

Vax, who's already openly been doing so, reaches the end of his script. "I think I'm more one dimensional than usual, Freddie."

"Everyone gets ever so confused when I use two," Percy says.

"You have a dim view of our listenership," Vax says.

"I have an extraordinarily dim view of the ones who feel motivated to write or call and complain, and the squeaky wheel gets the grease as far as the network is concerned," Percy says. "The rest of the audience is probably fine."

"I personally think it's a lovely script," Vex says.

"Because you get all the good lines," Vax says.

"Come on, Vax," she says. "You love a good villain speech, and Percy gives you plenty."

After a few minutes, Allura reins them all back in, and they get back to the script. Keyleth valiantly continues her performance, and things proceed with only occasional breaks for color commentary.

"'Look into my eyes, Gerald,'" Vax reads, before lowering his script. "Didn't we do hypnosis already?"

"We have done literally everything," Percy says.

Vax shrugs and goes back to the script. "'You find them soothing, don't you? You know I would never harm you.'"

"'Gerald, look away!'" Keyleth recites. "'It's a trick! He'll hypnotize you!'"

"'I must… resist…'" Tary pants.

"'There is no need to resist me," Vax says. "'We're friends, aren't we? And you understand what I want from you.'"

"'I understand,'" Tary intones.

"'Then do it. Do what must be done, Gerald.'"

"'It is my obligation to help you in any way I can.'"

"'Gerald, snap out of it!'"

"'All my wealth, my resources, every bit of it is yours. Even my standing as-'"

"'Gerald!'"

"'The Violet Vengeance!'"

"And then there's a tension sting, and everyone is very shocked, and we pick it up on Thursday," Percy says.

"I don't think there's anything particularly tricky, unless there's something specific anyone would like to run through again?" Allura says. No one speaks up. "Alright, then. See you for the broadcast, everyone."

The group breaks up upon being dismissed, and Vex puts her hand on Percy's arm. "Come and have a bite to eat, darling. There's hours before the show and I know you haven't eaten."

"I would love to, but I can't," he said, kissing her on the cheek before pulling away. "I'm making you something lovely."

As he scurries off, a single slip of paper falls out of his script, drifting the floor unnoticed.

Vex looks at his retreating back, heaving a sigh. Keyleth puts an arm around her shoulders. "Lunch is on me," she says.

"I'm famished," Vex says, and the two of them leave together.

Everyone but Vax and Grog has left when Pike comes in, flushed and panting.

"Did I miss rehearsal?" Pike says. "I rushed over here."

"Just finished up," Vax says. He gives Pike an affectionate pat on the shoulder as he passes. "See you for the broadcast, Pickle."

Pike lets out a sigh. "Someday I'm going to make it."

"You're there when we need you the most," Grog says. "That's what counts."

"Oh, okay," Pike says bashfully, looking down. "What's stuck to your shoe?"

"Huh?" Grog says. He lifts his foot, and a piece of paper is indeed stuck to the bottom of his shoe. Pike grabs it by the edge and pulls it off, looking at it.

"It's Percy's handwriting," Pike says, and she and Grog bend their heads over it.

"Most of it is scribbled out," Grog says. "Can you make any of it out?"

Pike holds it up to the light. "I think this part says 'I know now that my loyalty belongs to somebody else.'" She lowers the paper, sharing a worried look with Grog.

"That's gotta be for a script, right?" Grog says uneasily, taking the paper and examining it himself. "Something in the future we don't know about yet."

"I wish it was more specific," she says. "You don't- you don't think Percy wants to leave, do you?"

"It'd be just like Percy to be this flowery about it," Grog says.

"Do you think I should talk to him?" Pike asks. "I'm gonna go talk to him."

"Better you than me, if you think it's a good idea," he says.

"Is it a bad idea?" she asks.

"He's slippery," Grog says. "But I think you can get at least a little out of him."

"I'm going to find him right now," Pike says, leaving the rehearsal room.

Grog stares down at the note in his hand, then deliberately folds it and puts it in the pocket of his jacket. It'll be more safe there than anywhere else.

Percy has not made it back to his office before Pike hunts him down; he's in the process of pouring himself a cup of coffee when she catches him.

"Hello there," Percy says. "We missed you at rehearsal, I think Keyleth more so than anyone."

"Can I talk to you for a minute?" Pike says.

Percy frowns at her tone. "Of course."

"Grog and I found a note," she says. "Something about you changing loyalties?"

"Oh," he says, looking startled.

"Oh?" she repeats.

"Actually, I was going to come to you for help," Percy says. "I suppose this just steps up my timetable a bit."

"Percy, whatever it is, I'm sure everyone needs to know," Pike says.

"They most certainly do," he says. "But not just yet."

"When?" she presses.

"Very soon," he says. "And you're just the woman who can help me with the whole thing, as long as you promise not to tell anyone."

Pike looks torn. "Not even Grog?"

"Especially not Grog," Percy says.

Pike sighs. "I guess I'm in anyway."

"Perfect," he says. "I just need one thing from you."

The better part of an hour passes before Pike and Grog reunite.

"What happened with Percy?" Grog asks Pike, as quietly as he's capable of, which is not very quiet.

"I can't tell you," Pike says.

"You can't even tell me a little bit?" Grog says, sounding hurt.

"How can you know that I'll keep your secrets if I can't be trusted to keep other people's?" she says.

"Yeah but-" he starts. He pauses. "That's a good point."

She puts a hand on his arm. "It's all gonna be okay. You'll find out soon."

"I trust you," he says, though he sounds like he doesn't want to.

"You'll see," Pike says. "This is the start of something better."

--

The diner is not full, given that it's well past the regular lunch hour; Vex and Keyleth have a seat, and shortly thereafter, two steaming mugs of coffee. Vex wraps her hands around her coffee cup, taking comfort in the warmth even though it's hot out.

"You did well at rehearsal," Vex says.

"Do you really think so?" Keyleth asks. "Acting is so hard. I don't know how any of you can do it."

"Acting is the easy part, darling," Vex says. "I don't know how you can do what you do with foley. You make everything seem so smooth, like it's just something that happens naturally."

"I guess we just have to play to our strengths," Keyleth says.

"If it makes you feel any better, Percy can't read two lines without chewing up the scenery," Vex says. The mention of Percy seems to make her deflate, even though she brought it up herself.

"If something's wrong, you can tell me," Keyleth says gently.

"Everything was going so well, but he's been acting so shifty lately," Vex says, fiddling with her coffee spoon.

"Do you think something's wrong?" Keyleth asks.

Vex deliberately puts down the spoon. "It's probably nothing."

"If it's bothering you, it's not nothing," Keyleth says.

"He's just so secretive," Vex says. "It's not like I think there's another woman or something, but I guess I'm just worried."

"I'm sure he's got a good reason," Keyleth says. "Do you want me to talk to him? Or send Tary after him?"

Vex gasps. "We'll send Tary after him. Percy will never suspect it." Just as she finishes speaking, a waitress puts down a full plate in front of each of them.

"After lunch," Keyleth says.

"Lunch first," Vex says. "I am nearly as hungry as I am nervous."

It's well into the afternoon before Vex can take Tary aside and tell him her concerns, but Tary wastes little time in acting on them.

"Percy, there you are," Tary says amiably. "Hard at work, I see. Just thought I'd come check on you."

Percy's brow furrows, and he gives Tary a keen look. "Someone sent you after me."

"That was very quick," Tary says, though he doesn't sound as bothered by being caught as the situation would seem to warrant.

"You're very bad at acting casual when it's not in a script," Percy says. "You get this sort of put-on inflection that's strikingly obvious."

"It was Vex," Tary says.

Percy winces. "She would, wouldn't she?"

"I can't say I hadn't noticed the way you ran out earlier, like you didn't want to see her," Tary says.

Percy leans forward. "If you'll agree to the strictest secrecy, I have something for you. You can tell Vex whatever you want, as long as it's not the truth."

"Alright then," Tary says, excited. "I'll keep your secrets."

Percy stands up, going to the doorway and looking out into the hall before reaching for the doorknob. "Things are going to be very different after today," he says, as he closes the door.

--

The afternoon's musical entertainment is winding down when the cast filters into the studio, scripts in hand and ready to broadcast. Keyleth is setting up her worktable, her weapons at the ready, while Allura gives Vax a note on one of his lines.

"You didn't come back," Vex says quietly to Tary.

"What?" Tary says, looking puzzled.

"I sent you after Percy and you didn't come back," she says. "Did you find anything out?"

"Everything is just fine," he says with a smile. "We'll talk after the broadcast."

"If that's how you want to do it," she says, though she doesn't like the idea at all.

"Has anyone heard from our elusive announcer today?" Vax asks, to the room in general.

"I hope you weren't counting on my being late, because I wouldn't dream of it," a voice from the doorway says.

"Shaun!" Keyleth and Vex both say.

Gilmore opens his arms wide. "Everyone, how fantastic to see you."

"We can't start the party without you," Vax says, putting a hand on the man's back.

Gilmore smiles his dazzling smile. "Well, you'd be lost without me."

"And how," Vax says.

Gilmore pulls his script from the inside pocket of his jacket, unfolding it and setting it on its stand. "Not long now," he says. "And I know each and every one of you will be just marvelous."

"And you'll be glorious," Percy says.

"It is my signature," Gilmore says.

Everyone takes up their places: Keyleth with her props, the actors with their microphones, Allura and Kima waiting by the soundboards. Only Percy is out of place, still in the studio despite having nothing to do there.

"For you, and for you," Percy says, slipping something to Tary and Pike.

"Understood," Tary says, and Pike gives him an okay sign. Percy exits the studio, going to stand with Allura and Kima.

The on air light flicks on, and the music begins.

When crime is at its worst, when evil has the upper hand, when the light of justice must shine on the world, the task falls to one man and one man only: the Violet Vengeance!

Before we begin tonight's broadcast, my dearest listeners, there's still time to enjoy a sweet treat. And for the sweetest treat of all, there's nothing quite like a fine selection from the Slayer's Cake. It has delights to suit every palate and a novel taste for even the most discerning customer. If you're not convinced, simply listen to bandleader Scanlan Shorthalt:

"Yes, friends, listen to your pal Scanlan and come to the Slayer's Cake. They've got pastries, they've got blondies, they've got rye bread, who could ask for anything more?"

And now we take you to the city of Deastok, where, as always, dashing socialite Gerald Hunter lives a double life, at once the wealthy scion of the Hunter family and the hero known as the Violet Vengeance, devoted to righting wrongs and fighting back the forces that endanger his beloved city. No one knows his secret but Mary Cranston, his dedicated companion, always at his side to aid in his efforts. Today's story: The Woman in Green.

"That was a long train ride up from the city, but I'm so relieved to be here!"

"Yes, and isn't it something to be out in the crisp, clean air."

"I don't know about you, Gerald, but I'm looking forward to a little relaxation, without any crime-related interruptions."

"Yes, Mary, I'm glad we came here to the mountains to get away from it all for a while."

"It hardly seems like any evil could take root here."

"Evil is pernicious. If it finds any soil, it will take root."

"Let's not be so dour, Gerald. Look, up ahead! What a charming chalet."

"We really should have taken out that word," Kima grumbles.

"Maybe we'll teach someone something," Allura says.

"For once," Percy says.

"If there's one thing better than a place to come in from the snow, it's one with a well-stocked bar."

"I'll say!"

"What'll you have, folks?"

"A martini a piece."

"Coming right up!"

"That woman at the other end of the bar, there's something so familiar about her."

"Where?"

"Don't you see her, Gerald? In that sparkling green dress."

"Yes, I see what you mean. What a compelling woman."

"Get bored writing right around here?" Kima needles.

"It was four AM," Percy says. "I'm not apologizing. My worst is better than Columbia's best."

"Give me an old fashioned, darling."

"Make it two, please. I don't know your name, but I'm certain we must have met."

"Perhaps we have, in another time."

"In another time?"

"There are so many, are there not? Times at parties, times at dinners, times that slip away in moments."

"Call me Gerald."

"Then you must call me Julia. Julia Larkin."

"Somehow I know I must have heard your name before."

"I have that effect on people, darling."

"I really can't tell if you do give her the best lines, or if you just write down how she talks," Kima says.

"I could say something about the muses, but I'd really rather not," Percy says.

"Looks like your sweetheart left you for another broad, huh?"

"He's not my sweetheart, and I won't have you talk to me like that just because you're so strong and muscular, you, you oaf!"

"He's not coming back, but I know somebody with a use for you."

"Unhand me! Gerald, help! Gerald, where have you gone?"

"Your Gerald cannot help you. This is business for the Violet Vengeance!"

"Another step and she dies."

"You aren't the first person to say that to me, but it will be the last thing you say."

"Look, Gerald! You put him down with that right cross, but there are more coming."

"Let them come. The Violet Vengeance was born ready."

Soon, we will begin act two of the Violet Vengeance and Mary's exciting adventure, but first, let's talk about how you can provide delicious, wholesome food for your family. There is so little time in our modern world-

"I want you all to know this was easier when we were advertising tires," Percy says.

"They have three weeks of ads, so you better get really excited about pastries," Kima says.

"Absolutely everyone is going to be sick of hearing about pastries by then," Percy says.

After the break, the show resumes. In due course, Gerald and Mary are kidnapped, Gerald unable to use his abilities in time, and the two of them are dragged before the great evil, as expected.

"Look into my eyes, Gerald. You find them soothing, don't you? You know I would never harm you."

"Gerald, look away! It's a trick! He'll hypnotize you!"

"I must… resist…"

"There is no need to resist me. We're friends, aren't we? And you understand what I want from you."

"I understand."

"Then do it. Do what must be done, Gerald."

"Mary, you have been my staunchest ally, my truest friend, the most stalwart companion a man could ever hope to have, but it has taken me till this moment to realize that my loyalties lie elsewhere."

Kima's eyes go wide. "Fuck me, he's off book."

"No, he's not," Percy says with a smirk.

"Percival," Allura says warningly.

Percy waves a hand. "Give it a moment."

"Gerald, why are you kneeling in front of that woman? Snap out of it! You don't know what you're saying!"

"Julia, darling, will you do the greatest honor I can receive, and be my wife?"

"Gerald!"

You have been listening to The Violet Vengeance, available every Tuesday and Thursday at six-thirty PM. All names and locations in this broadcast are fictitious, and any similarity to persons living or dead is strictly coincidental.

The station's identification chimes sound.

The time is now seven o'clock, loyal listeners, here on the Emon Broadcast Network. I'm Dupont Dupont, and this is Your Eye on the World.

Vex throws her script over her shoulder and rushes out, launching herself into Percy's arms. "You ridiculous man," she says, kissing him all over his face. "The answer is yes."

"I hope you don't mind living in poverty, because I'm five seconds from being fired," Percy says.

Allura arches an eyebrow at him. "And I hope you're aware that the explanation for this will have to be one for the ages."

"I promise we're not turning into a romance," Percy says, not separating himself from Vex. "Mary has a grand moment in the next episode where she breaks the mind control, and everything goes back to fighting and intrigue."

Allura sighs heavily. "Please inform me before you make any more declarations of love on my program."

Kima nudges her. "C'mon, Allie. As long as he hasn't written himself into a corner, what can it hurt?"

"Says the closet romantic," Allura says.

"You love it," Kima says.

"I will be checking scripts personally before the next broadcast," Allura says. She breaks out into a smile. "And I will also be the first to congratulate the both of you."

"The first of many," Tary says, as he and the rest of the cast join him, and Percy and Vex finally separate, for a round of hugs and back patting.

Vax lifts his sister off the ground, swinging her around. "I promise I had nothing to do with this, Stubby, but I'm very happy with the results."

"Vax," Vex sighs, hugging her to him tightly. She glances over to where Pike and Tary are standing. "How long have you known?"

"Since maybe twenty minutes after I spoke to you," Tary says.

"A few hours," Pike adds.

"You knew and didn't tell me?" Grog says.

"Well," Pike says. "I knew you'd be so excited that you wouldn't want to keep it a secret. You'd say you could keep it a secret, but it would be bursting out of you."

"Sounds painful," Grog says.

"And we do it all over on Thursday," Vax says.

"Not quite all of it," Percy says with a sigh. "I don't know if I can do that again."

"Agreed," Allura says.

"I have no intentions of a repeat performance," Vex says, putting her hand in Percy's.

"I'm glad to hear it," Percy says.

"Hey, why are we not at the bar right now?" Grog asks.

"That's a good question," Keyleth says.

"I suggest we retire there at once," Vex says, walking out and pulling Percy along with her.

Everyone files out, laughing and talking, leaving just Allura and Kima. Kima shakes her head and looks up at Allura. "Okay, you can do it now."

Allura doubles over, putting her hands on the back of her neck. "Oh god," she pants. "Oh god, when they went off book I thought I was going to die where I stood."

"I thought you were going to strangle Percy," Kima says.

"He would have deserved it in every way," Allura says. She straightens, rubbing her temples. "I'd like to think that many hundreds of thousands of people propose very successfully each year without hijacking a radio program."

"Worked for us, didn't it?" Kima says. She stands, putting her arm around Allura's waist. "C'mon, Allie. Let's go home. I'll get you a big glass of wine and rub your back."

"As usual, you know exactly what I need," Allura says, kissing the top of Kima's head as Kima leads her out.