EB: te s tin g?
TT: It's okay, ke e p go ing.
TT: I wa nt to see ho w it looks li ke on the sc reen.
EB: whoa my text looks wo nk y.
TT: There's s ti ll ple n t y of t wea kin g to be done.
TT: But otherwise, we're off to a good start.
EB: i think it already loo ks co ol!
EB: m a n i m iss c ha tti ng wi t h e very one.
EB: there's pr o bably jus t the f o u r of us now.
TT: We can let Loki and the others join in if they are interested.
TT: Although there's no need to use a chat client if we see each other face to face on a daily basis.
EB: yeah that would just be silly!
EB: oh, the glitchiness is gone.
TT: I fixed it.
TT: Thank you for indulging me, John.
EB: no problem :B
There is currently an entire evil base floating in the outer skirts of the solar system. If John had to guess, he’d bet this place in space was what passed off as the furthest ring in this universe.
Loki isn’t in the Safehouse at the moment; probably making sure there are no loose ends.
They’d spent a few days in one of Loki’s bunkers in India while Rose and Loki did their magic on the guy with the metal arm. Kinda reminded John of Vriska, and he had to stop himself from laughing.
The Palmers had won the Red String bet – ah, yes, Wikipedia, such a trusty place to get information – and Rose and Loki had both been sulky about it; when pressed, they would not admit it. The twins had also been smug about being right about Loki having bunkers, and everyone had been ready to begrudgingly hand over their money when Loki said that building bunkers wasn’t the only thing he did while he was away. Cecil and Kevin had then proceeded to fiercely whisper to each other: “I thought you said that was what your visions revealed!” “It was. What about yours?”
All in all, it had been a wild two weeks.
Rose currently isn’t in the Safehouse as well, as she’s volunteered to look after the guy they’d rescued and she’d said that Steve Rogers regularly stopping by the house to walk Jade home was something she and her charge needed to avoid with James’ mind still in pieces. He's functional, but his memories are still shot.
Jade had nodded sympathetically. John had fidgeted and didn’t notice he was floating, too busy remembering the hours spent disintegrating into air so that his mind-controlled sister wouldn’t catch him.
James had gone through the same thing Jade and Jane did, they’d said.
At least progress had been good enough that Rose had time to be bored and try and make a chat client. She’d made a rough guide to SBURB and sent it into the cosmos before, so John’s not surprised that with a little reading and a few videos here and there, she’d be able to make a working chat client.
John wonders if James helped. Maybe he should stop by or something.
“John, we got more radios,” Mr. G says when he walks into the kitchen, carrying a cooler filled with fish. He gives the oven John is crouching in front of a dubious look. “Is it cake?”
John wrinkles his nose. “No.”
“Thought a miracle wasn’t too much of a long shot. Cookies, then?”
“Yeah,” he says, “I was bored.”
“Mm. You won’t be for a few hours. We got more radios and we need you to distribute them,” Mr. G says.
“Can I do them tomorrow night?”
“Yeah, better under the cover of darkness and all that.” Mr. G opens the cooler and starts taking out the fish. It’ll be a great dinner tonight.
Moxie is behaved enough to simply lie down on John’s lap as he eats, leaning back on the couch with his eyes on the television.
They hadn’t had too bad a villain in a few days, only a few failures that were stopped before they could dish out the machines, which is good.
Afterwards, once the dishes are cleaned and the dogs are fed (and put to bed), everyone stays up to watch the newest episode of a medical drama John forgets the name of. He hasn’t really been paying attention, and every now and then, he forgets where the plot is.
When his eyes droop for the fourth time, he excuses himself and flies up to his room. Moxie isn’t staying with him tonight, instead joining the rest of her doggy friends in Mr. G’s room. John collapses onto his bed and sighs. He closes his eyes and waits for his breathing to even out.
It doesn’t. Thirty minutes later, he wakes up and groans, unable to sleep. He moves over to his window to look out the city instead. There aren’t a lot of cars passing by their street.
He presses his fingers to the glass. His heart skips a beat, and for a moment, he thinks of storms brewing.
TG: this is actually impressive
TG: whatd you do
TT: I read a few guides.
TG: a few guides
TG: and you built a working chat client because you were bored outta your mind
TG: babysitting duties too easy or what
EB: i think it’s pretty good!
EB: how’s james?
TT: He’s doing well.
TT: He’s sleeping right now, actually.
TT: I was thinking of asking him if he knew anything about encrypting chat clients, but that’s not advisable right now.
TT: I don’t think it’s healthy to remind him of his previous line of work at this stage.
TT: We’ll have it encrypted by other means.
TT: I’m sorry, Jade.
GG: its okay! :)
GG: steves concerned about shield snooping into our conversations but he has two phones for now
GG: besides i think hes still just getting used to technology
TT: How is he?
GG: hes doing so well actually!!! :D
TG: wait youre givin him pop culture ed right
GG: this earth has a few things different from our earth
EB: i can help!
GG: no ghostbusters!!! >:(
“So like, how far is the radio signal supposed to reach? We don’t have a satellite dish and everything,” John says, watching Cecil tinker with the soundboard while the pool master – it’s kind of weird how plenty of them never got past that title for Cecil’s friend – is underneath the desk, connecting wires and taping their lengths together so they didn’t make a huge mess in the room. Pool master’s best friend is dragging in the fiberglass to corral what is going to be the Palmers’ makeshift studio.
“Loki’s got the entire thing set up,” Dave says, assembling the microphone together, “Not a satellite dish, obviously, but all of these things have runes on them. Look.” He holds up the condenser mic and tilts it so that its body glints under the light overhead. Glowing, green, marks shine on its body as he moves it. “It’s like insta-amplification.”
Outside, two more panels of fiberglass appear in a flash of green light, Jade holding onto them. “Ruben, I got more.”
It’s something short of a miracle that the makeshift radio studio fits in pool master Saph’s already-filled bedroom. Actually, it’s magic. Expansion runes can do a lot, as can redecorating. They just had to move all the instruments and their corresponding soundboards to the side.
John doesn’t know a thing about setting up equipment, so he’s on snack duty, which unfortunately means delivering snacks and not eating them. He’s already delivered the last tray of cookies into the room, freshly baked by Mrs. H.
Jade lets Ruben drag the fiberglass to position them accordingly, and then she bounds over to her brother to get two cookies. Her dog ears flick up happily as she bites into both of them at the same time.
John snorts. “Barbarian.”
Moxie bounds in, barking and looking like she’s running too fast to stop, but she skids to a halt just in front of the fiberglass Ruben has set up, before turning tail and running outside again. And then she returns a few seconds later, still at the same speed, stopping in front of the glass, and then running back out.
Jade laughs. “I love it when dogs do that. They’re so cute.”
“I’m actually worried she’s going to smash into the glass. Is she playing with Buster?”
“Yeah, she is,” Jade says.
John takes three cookies and stuffs them into his mouth. When he says, “I’m going to make sure she doesn’t trip down the stairs,” it doesn’t sound anything like it.
Jade rolls her eyes at him. “Now who’s the barbarian?”
Downstairs, Moxie and Buster are chasing each other, ducking under tables and leaping onto couches, nearly knocking a few things over. John watches them for a while, making sure to catch whatever they’ve tipped over so that it doesn’t smash itself on the floor, but he doesn’t interfere. It’s a few more minutes before both of the dogs calm down enough to lie on the floor.
John smiles. Dogs are so simple. So easily happy.
Moxie trots over to the kitchen to her water bowl and Buster follows after her. When they return, they’ve got Rover with them, and they all lie down on the carpet, tired. John floats over and Moxie wags her tail stump at him. Buster gives him a small yip. Rover stands to give his face a lick. He makes a disgusted noise that breaks off into a laugh as he wipes the drool off.
Dog therapy. It works. It’s totally something he needs to bring up with Rose regarding James.
Yeah, John should definitely visit.
cannibalAmygdala [CA] responded to memo.
CA: its called pesterchum.
CA: whats with the colors?
EB: it’s so that everyone can tell everyone apart!
EB: it’s easier that way.
CA: it’s like my eyes are seeing strobelights.
TG: aww yes
TG: party all up in the house mr g
CA: please stop
TG: did you seriously just say that
CA: youre right beside me on the couch right now strider
CA: i actually do know when my speech pattern changes
CA: bitch to shake off
CA: clings like leeches
CA: or sweat
CA: sweaty leeches
TG: dear god
EB: what’s that sound?
TG: i think its jade
EB: is she suffocating or something?
EB: she’s laughing. don’t worry.
EB: false alarm.
James is staring at the dogs like they’re going to eat him. John can already tell this is a stellar idea.
Rose is on her laptop, sitting on the couch, not at all worried that her charge is having a staredown with the four-legged friends John has convinced Jade to teleport. He would have done it himself, but he’s not sure his juju-acquired abilities are supposed to be used like that, not to mention he might have made an accident. God only knew how much he’d blame himself if anything happened to Moxie.
Jade is sitting right across James, trying to convince him the dogs aren’t going to hurt him. Rover licks his metal arm. James’ face scrunches up.
John barely holds in his snickers.
The man’s looking healthy. Not fresh-from-the-cryosleep-chamber healthy, but actually healthy-healthy. Rose says he’s been up and doing jogs with her ever since he’d decided she wasn’t going to try and take apart his head and brainwash him again.
They’d gone through his files together with him once he was awake and Loki and Rose had done whatever they could to help with his dissociation. Also once he’d calmed down and stopped trying to kill them out of self-preservation instinct. Aside from what's in his files, history books and his name, everything else is a blank for the poor guy.
Maybe they’ll try to visit the Smithsonian. When Steve’s not around, preferably. James getting his memory back is good, but James getting his memories shoved into his head and getting nabbed by S.H.I.E.L.D for questioning is not going to help. Or, that’s just everyone’s paranoia regarding S.H.I.E.L.D talking.
“This little guy is Buster. He’s Kevin’s dog. Kevin is a friend back home,” Jade explains from where she’s sitting, giving Buster a rub on the head. Buster barks happily, tongue lolling and tail wagging.
John watches as James’ eyes soften.
“He’s an excitable one,” the man croaks, voice sounding so hoarse from what is possibly years of disuse. John doesn’t think his old brainwashers let him talk back much.
Jade smiles. “Yeah, he is. He has a habit of jumping on people.”
Moxie stands and runs over to where John is sitting and bumps her leg against his head softly. He chuckles and picks her up. She licks his face once she’s close enough to him.
James and Jade turn to look at him. If John focuses right, he thinks the corners of James’ lips are turned up.
“That’s Moxie,” Jade says, “John takes care of her sometimes.”
“What happened to her tail?” James asks.
Jade takes a while to answer. “Someone cut it off.”
James nods, slow. John tries not to look at the man’s metal arm.
Eventually, Moxie tries to wriggle out of John’s grasp and he puts her down. She flattens herself on the floor and starts crawling towards James, looking like a lot like a soldier crawling across enemy territory. The appropriateness makes John laugh. Even Rose looks up from where she’s tweaking the chat client to observe Moxie.
When the tiny dog finally makes her way to where James is sitting, she nudges his leg with a wet snout and then looks up at him.
James stares at her for a moment before raising his metal arm slowly and then gently placing it on her head. He moves it, hesitant, as he gives her rub.
Moxie looks up at him again, eyes bright, when he lifts his hand back. James moves so that his other hand, the human one, can touch Moxie’s fur, and John doesn’t think he’s imagining it when James’ eyes widen slightly in surprise.
How long has it been since James touched anything that wasn’t a potential weapon, or wasn’t blood leaking out of someone?
Moxie raises her head and licks his fingers.
“She likes you,” Jade says.
John gives Rose a glance. She is fixated on James, who is looking at Moxie like she’s something he’s never seen before.
“Yeah,” James whispers, “I like her too.”
gardenGnostic [GG] responded to memo.
GG: rose!!! :D
GG: i got good news :)
GG: you remember our pool masters bestfriend?
GG: what was his name…
TT: I remember him.
TT: I remember his name started with an R?
GG: yeah it was a nice name!
GG: like a stone or something?
GG: not rock!!! >:(
GG: i always seem to forget when im not talking to him or the pool master
GG: yeah! :D
TT: What about him?
GG: he can code
GG: hes an i.t. student :)
GG: maybe he can help secure the chat
TT: It’ll be a start.
GG: yeah im gonna go talk to him, okay?
GG: hopefully i dont forget his name again
TT: It’s Rock.
GG: rose!!! D:<
“So how was James?” Mr. G asks when they’ve gotten the dogs back and they all flock towards him. He pets them all on the head and evades every single one of their licks. John doesn’t know how he does it.
“He likes them,” John says. Mr. G nods, approving.
“Can we maybe bring them back again sometime?” Jade asks as Rover makes his way back to her and she pets his head.
Then the dogs around Mr. G turn towards the staircase and start barking. Rover follows suit. John turns towards the staircase to see a small black shape looking down at the dogs condescendingly. With the light reflecting, Cecil’s cat looks like its eyes are glowing.
Mr. G sighs and whistles sharply. All the dogs stop barking and turn towards him, apologetic.
“Yeah, you can definitely bring them back to visit,” he says, “Dogs really are good for therapy.” He turns to John at that one. John cracks a grin.
“Maybe you can come too. We told James about everyone else here, although nothing about the whole Safehouse deal. Rose thinks we should reintroduce him to society slowly. He’s having a hard time catching up to modern stuff as it is.” Jade fidgets with the hem of her sleeve.
“As soon as Loki gives the go signal,” Mr. G says, exasperated, “I trust the guy, but his paranoia reeks.”
“So does yours,” John says, still grinning.
“Touché. And for that, you’re not eating anything I cook for two weeks, Egbert.”
aubergineTwilight [AT] responded to memo.
abendrotTriptych [AT] responded to memo.
EB: that was cool!
TG: theyre doing it on purpose
AT: Doing what on purpose?
AT: Doing what on purpose?
TG: i seriously hope thats not going to be annoying in the long run
TG: but my crossed fingers are not going to do much
TG: no im not i dont listen to those guys
EB: …okay i hear kevin and that’s definitely laughter and not suffocation.
GG: i dont get it :(
EB: me neither.
EB: but you learn to live with the obscurity when you’re around the great dave strider and the ever-mysterious palmer siblings.
EB: …kevin’s laughter got louder.
EB: okay now i’m genuinely worried.
It’s 4:13 in the afternoon and everyone in the building is kind of panicking.
This is college, of course, so it’s not really that uncommon for a few students here and there to start screaming, maybe have a mental breakdown, or attempt to sacrifice a kidney to the founder’s statue in exchange for a passing grade.
But this is a different kind of panic. This is the sort that includes stampeding down stairs and screaming at the top of your lungs, and hearing someone yell because they lost their glasses, and getting pulled aside by your brother before you can get crushed by the rushing mob. This is the sort of panic that leaves you stranded on the fifth floor of your building, because the stairs are too tight with people from the upper floors for you and your friends to move. This is the sort of panic that has you looking out the window.
Maybe not the sort of panic that inspires bone-deep, artery-clogging worry, because psychic visions and all that spoil the excitement, but definitely the sort of panic that includes biting your lower lip because you’re thinking, what if.
It’s 4:13 in the afternoon. Cecil stares out the window at the missile approaching the college building. Kevin pulls out his phone, hits the third speed dial and says:
“Hey, Jade? There’s a missile headed towards our school.”