Welcome To Sburb, Alpha Edition! (Started, Closed)

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>Daria: A fishy challenger appears

As you step back inside your house, your SHADES alert you to a new pestering occurring. Oh dear. Not THIS one.

So. Apparently, they're a magical space wizard or something. Why the fuck not.

>Daria: Go check computer for the Alpha

>Assume a PIRATEY ATTACK STANCE

You take a strand of HAIR in your hand and hold it in front of yourself. You and your UNCLE begin dancing around each other, judging each other's OPENINGS.

>AGGRIEVE

You LASH out with your HAIR, turning it into a WHIP and the displacement of AIR can be heard around the room. Luckily for you, your UNCLE blocks it with the flat of his RUSTY CUTLASS, and you somehow tear through it, and send it spinning into your wall of POST-IT NOTE JOKES. However, instead of breaking away from STRIFE, you again WHIP your HAIR BACK and FORTH, slapping your UNCLE twice before the two of you break away from STRIFE and both recover your footing and ready yourselves for another CLASH.

>COUNTER-ATTACK UNCLE

00:10:00. Because some stuff still needs to be resolved, dammit.


>David: As you wipe the shoot and shrapnel off your face, you note that your usually immaculate HEALTH VIAL has plummeted to a meager 95% full! Why, already you feel SLIGHTLY UNDER THE WEATHER, as though you've been struck by a slight case of the sniffles!

But anyway. Magical aliens from space. That glub. Apparently they're a thing now. Not that they're ever going to have any effect on you or your friends whatsoever; a concept as silly as ALIEN FISH WIZARDS is far too silly to possibly have anything to do with you and your comrades. You're all far too serious and businesslike to allow yourselves to fall under the influence of something that ridiculous.

So yeah, let's go track down your GRANDFATHER, shall we? After all, the Alpha's absence has to be him messing with you again; knowing the geezer's typical antics he's probably trying to teach you another lesson about being a SALESMAN or something like that. As if you hadn't already attained the epitome of WARE-HOCKING.

Exiting the MAIL ROOM "post"-haste, you quickly try and track down the old man's trail. But, after all that time you spent futilely searching for the Alpha, he's had quite a while to totter off with his cargo. And considering the size of the MANSION, he could be anywhere! Why, it'd take nothing short of a miracle for you to track him down among the labyrinth of hallways and passages that make up your... Oh wait, there he is, heading towards the CONFERENCE ROOM.

Though you SALESSCURRY as fast as your legs can carry you, you are unable to catch up with your GRANDFATHER before the doors slam shut behind him.


>Daria: Uneasily, you trek back inside your house. Just because ANIKI hasn't ambushed you yet doesn't mean that he's not lurking right around the corner, KATANA drawn and ready to deliver some grade-A smackdown on your sorry ass. And knowing him, he'd probably try to pass it off as some kind of sibling "bonding" or "training" or something. Though you're pretty sure that the courts would just view it as child-endangerment, probably of the reckless variety.

Anyway, you start heading back upstairs, ready to start scouring your computer for the Alpha, when suddenly...

Nothing. You actually make it back upstairs and up to your room without being attacked by ANIKI or anything. No hidden traps, no sparring robots, no shadows sneaking up behind you. No nothing.

...Clearly he's up to something. But what?


>Gina: You got ONE (1) COPY OF ...something you can't really read. It's obviously a book, but thanks to its lack of a title page, not to mention that the entire thing is written in French or Welsh or something, you've got no idea what it says. Y... Mar... Something. Even the packaging is useless, just your run of the mill brown paper with a bit of twine! No return address or postmark or anything. Man, talk about boring.

Well, at least you managed to discover that there is not, in fact, a copy of the Alpha lurking in your MAIL BOX. It would seem that, once again, Alder has mislead you. Grrr. Alder.


>Thomas: Though you've managed to disarm your UNCLE for now, he's clearly not out of tricks yet. Roaring out boisterously, he manages to pull a BRACE OF PISTOLS out from somewhere and proceeds to fire both of them. Though neither of the shots come anywhere close to striking your body, their heat manages to set a few strands of your MAGNIFICENT LOCKS aflame; if you don't tend to that soon, your HAIR might very well burn away!

While you're dealing with that emergency, your Guardian manages to leap across the room, yank his RUSTY CUTLASS from the wall, and lunges forward with a flurry of ferocious slashes. You would probably feel slightly more threatened, if it wasn't for the fact that this is just his way of telling you to get a haircut. Because boy, you really do need one. Like, seriously. Come on man.

Anyway, your UNCLE's furious assault throws you off-balance, and he manages to slice off a bit of your HAIR. Luckily for you, all he really did was cut off the burning bits.


>Nina: You manage to make it down the stairs safely, without any sign of interference from your DAD, at least for the moment. Now would probably be an ideal time to go hunt around for the MAIL, which, knowing your Guardian's habits, would have probably been collected already. Something manages to catch your eye, however, and you excitedly note that another one of your chums has logged back in! Time to chat it up!

Well, you certainly hope Mark feels better soon! Poor guy, he can't really play Sburb if he's feeling all sick, now can he?

Shaking your head, you realize that you've got more to worry about than your friends' health; you still need to try and track down your copy of the Alpha! How can you possibly play if you don't have that?

Moving right along, you scamper into the LIVING ROOM, navigating between the precariously balanced TOWERS OF BOXES AND MISCELLANEOUS JUNK like a champ. You just hope that today isn't the day that everything decides to suddenly collapse and you get buried in an avalanche of AS-SEEN-ON-TV CRAP. Because you're actually fairly certain that's the way you're gonna go.

Musings on your eventual death aside, you spot the MAIL lying on the COFFEE TABLE, and proceed to make your way over there. Let's see what bountiful harvest awaits you!

David: Perspire.

From a safe distance away you gaze at the solidly-shut doors of the CONFERENCE ROOM. Normally you would formulate a plan to BUSINESS your way in there, but your mind is miles away.

The voices. They whisper again. The tattoos on your palms feel like they're burning into your skin. You can hear the screams. Sweatdrops gently drip down from your forehead like a musky rain. They are agitated. Your mind begins to form an image from all the chaos. It's....it's...a chainsaw? And various other gardening implements? And is that Nina-

The burning stops. The whispers too.

You feel a little uncomfortable.

>David: Try to find your way in.

No, no amount of BUSINESS will bullshit your way into the CONFERENCE ROOM, and you're not gonna risk burning your way in. You've lost this round. Sigh.

You may be down, but you're not out. You begin the trek back to your PERSONAL QUARTERS, which will hopefully be an UNEVENTFUL ONE. Wouldn't it be crazy if you got hung up on something for ten minutes before you got back to your desk? Unthinkable.

Boss time.

You swallow your fear, and think about confronting your GRANDMOTHER. Though you don't know if its the best, because you didn't wipe you BOOTS again. You think about the last time you did it, and try to dive behind the couch before she see's you. You sit there behind the couch, like a escaped convict, and wait to see if your GRANDMOTHER will notice your act of bravery.

Excuse's excuse's.

Your heart pounds, and you count every second, until your GRANDMOTHER either walks away, or until she sniffs out your fear. You think about a couple of excuse's, if she catches you, Such as: You seen a bear and went to go slay it, or maby something like... you seen a OWL and wanted to take a picture. You also think about how, your future of life will turn out, will you look back at this moment at laugh... or will you die in a few second if she notices you. Either way you know this thought isn't important, so you wait to see if are going to live past these few seconds of fear.

>Gina:Be stumped

Well that was a bust.Either the ALPHA is in one of the envelopes or Alder didn't send you one and just said he did to annoy you.You are totally going to punch him if you ever see him in real life.Ok you were totally going to punch him if you ever meet face to face anyway,but now you have more of a reason to.

One last think to check before going back inside and writing this whole thing off as a waste.

>Gina:Open envelopes and check for Alpha

>Chuck: Rage
BELGI- Nah, you're good. Its no big deal really; OLD BEAR didn't see you walk past and must've locked the door. You hold no grunges against that loveable geriatric. You just worry that BETHE must be going crazy without his daily food. Moreover, you worry where the heck he is, its becoming progressively alarming.

>Chuck: Pester someone

>Chuck: Head to the front door

>Myra: STRIFE!

You focus your SPIRIT OF JUSTICE into a daring SPIN-KICK!

You fall flat on your face because you have never learned any MARTIAL ARTS whatsoever.

>Myra: Abort. Detonate.

No! You can't blow up the bombs you planted in the drywall throughout your house! You're saving those for something important! You'll just have to fight your UNCLE the old-fashioned way!

>Myra: Make use of environs.

You waste no time in using your GRAPPLING HOOK on the LIGHT FIXTURE. With a yank, it comes crashing down towards your UNCLE. He dodges like a CHAMP. -ION OF FITNESS. Luckily, you were prepared for that, having already used the window of opportunity created by the crashing light to direct a TACKLE to where you expected your UNCLE to be. The LIGHT RUSE was a DISTACTION.

Unfortunately, your UNCLE (whether intentionally or by chance) dodged in a different direction! You go crashing head-first into a REFRIGERATOR. Which really, really hurts!

>Myra: Plan B.

You draw your MP3 PLAYER and find the one thing that can vanquish your UNCLE. You hate it almost as much as he does, but sometimes it's the only solution.

>Myra: Disgrace the word "music".

00:... Eh, screw it.


>David: Yeeeeeees. Feel the fear; let it flow through your puny, mortal mind.

Anyway, as you begin your trek back to your room, you realize that you spent about seven minutes standing in the middle of the hall and drowning in that overwhelming sense of terror. You're quite sweaty.

It takes you another three minutes to walk from the CONFERENCE ROOM to your bedroom.

No more shenanigans for you mister.


>Mark: Had you been facing anybody else, they likely would have been so off put by your sudden descent into terror that they'd just back off and leave you alone. Sadly, this is your GRANDMOTHER; it's going to take more than that to keep her from teaching you a lesson. With her ARSENAL OF BAKED GOODS.

The couch is quickly splattered with various PIES, CAKES, and MUFFINS, but it remains standing and provides you with some ample cover; you escape the assault unscathed. For now.

It would probably be a good idea to AGGRIEVE her while she's busy reloading. Or you could try to run away again.


>Gina: You got ONE (1) CREDIT CARD STATEMENT!

You got ONE (1) JUNK MAIL!

You got ONE (1) LIST OF LIBRARY FINES!

You got ONE (1) LETTER FROM ALDERCORP!

Wait, that last one's actually interesting. Why's your DAD getting mail from ALDERCORP? Without further ado, you begin to scan the letter:

Mr. Markos,

As requested, we were able to find the exact volume you were looking for, though I'm still not clear on why it had to be this particular copy. Again, I can assure you that the others we were able to acquire were virtually identical, not to mention much easier to come across.

In any case, we certainly hope that you enjoy the first copy of Y MAR... SOMETHING... (Dammit, you really wish you could read this language) Mr. Alder is always willing to assist a business partner, and hopes that you will remain in touch in the immediate future.

Have a delightful day,
Manuel

Well, that was disappointingly vague. Here's hoping your DAD isn't annoyed that you're reading his mail.


>Chuck: Well wouldn't you know it, the front door is locked too! Dammit, your GRANDPA had to pick today of all days to be security conscious... Well, at this rate you're not gonna get inside for a while, miss the whole Sburb Alpha playtest, and Bethe's not going to get his

>Chuck: Get warped up to your bedroom by a hungry lagomorph. ...food. Right, you always forget he has mastery over time and space like that. Anyway, there Bethe is, sitting on your table and somehow managing to look hungry even without a face. You should probably feed him before he decides to swipe the RABBIT FEED from your SYLLADEX again; the last time that happened it took your hours to clean up your inventory.


>Myra: [Insert various STRIFE related words here. Puns on AUTO-PARRY or DODGE or stuff like that. You know the drill.]

After that rousing battle, you find yourself quite exhausted, though your HEALTH VIAL remains steady at 100%. Your UNCLE, satisfied with his warm-up, pats you on the head before POWER-WALKING to the KITCHEN, grabbing a bottle of SPORTS DRINK, and POWER-WALKING back out of the house.

Um... you win?

You've never understood your UNCLE'S reason's for wanting you to CUT your MAGNIFICENT HAIR. It's from his side of the FAMILY, if the PHOTOGRAPHS of your PARENTS are any indication. HE was obviously JEALOUS of YOU because his HAIR has been steadily RECEDING for over TEN YEARS, all that is left of his once amazing HAIR now HEARKENS back to the DAYS of STATLER and WALDORF.

>REMINISCE over the LOST days of those OLD MUPPETS, the TRUE HEROES of THE MUPPET SHOW.

STOP THAT. You can't go back to the DAYS of the MUPPET SHOW, you're in the middle of a STRIFE SCENARIO.

Go into a RAGE at what your UNCLE has CUT OFF.

You turn into a RAGING MAELSTROM of HAIR and ANGSTY TEENAGER. Your PRECIOUS UNCLE is unable to cut any more of your hair, and is DRIVEN back to your WINDOW and CANNON. As he BUMPS into it, a simple PUSH, and the multiple hundreds of POUNDS of METAL and ANTIQUINESS is SLAMMED against the wall, the entire BARREL of the CANNON now completely VISIBLE TO THE ENTIRE WORLD. Of course, your UNCLE is CACKLING throughout the STRIFE MATCH, as USUAL. He JUMPS UP...and VANISHES into THIN AIR, before you feel a SHOVE from BEHIND, and off you go, TUMBLING out the WINDOW, hanging by a COMBINATION of YOUR AMAZING HAIR and your HANDS.

>STARE downwards and CONTEMPLATE the CHANCES of SURVIVING the FALL.

Why would you ask yourself that? You know you would, with your PIRATEY SKILLS. Speaking of PIRATEY, your HAT apparently hasn't MOVED since you put it on this morning, now HOW the HELL did that happen? Instead, you begin PULLING yourself BACK into your ROOM, UNCLE fallen down on the floor, holding his SIDES as he LAUGHS his LIFE AWAY. Why does he do that?

>Gina:Have no idea what this means

You had an idea that your FATHER and the head of ALDERCORP did business,but enough for the HEAD of said company find a BOOK with a that seems to have no meaning to you for your FATHER,that just makes you wonder what this whole thing is about.Not like you will get any answers out of your FATHER or this book.He would rather you find the answer yourself then be told,unless you earned the answer somehow through other means.He is confusing sometimes.

Now what are you to do with this BOOK?Probably just leave it on the KITCHEN TABLE.You just hope he doesn't catch you with it.He will either be sad that he didn't get to open it first and enjoy that new BOOK SMELL.Or worse,he might think you're taking an INTEREST in his strange BOOKS and,you shudder inward,make you study it with him.The HORROR.

And as for the rest of the MAIL,well,nothing you haven't seen before,You will just have to sneak back and dispose of them before you're caught.You don't think you could handle another STUDY SESSION so soon.

Oh and lets not forget you need to still speak with Myra and give Alder a verbal BEATING.A busy day indeed.

>Gina:Attempt to sneak back inside,into the kitchen and dump the mail onto the table before your Father catches you.

>Myra: Celebrate victory.

There's no time for that! Your GRAPPLING HOOK is tangled up in the LIGHT FIXTURE! You need to cut the line and get a new one, AND FAST!

>Myra: Celebrate victory...by doing those things.

You begrudgingly add a slight celebratory jig into your step as you cut the line, return to your ROOM and retrieve a new HOOK for your PISTOL.

Your computer beeps, alerting you to the accostings of your compatriots. You go ahead and have a conversation with the HIPPIE that was posted a while ago.

>Myra: Dispose of explosive ordinance.

Taking your LAPTOP with you, you head outside. You fire your GRAPPLING HOOK at the MAILBOX, then, from a safe distance, yank it open.

>David: Settle back into chair.

You brush off your suit and lock the door to your room, then sit back down at your DESK. You sink your head into your palms, desperately needing a moment to think. Your GRANDFATHER clearly has the ALPHA copy, and is taunting you with it. You will need to find a way to BREAK INTO THE CONFERENCE ROOM, but how? And what would the consequences be? What if those two MYSTERIOUS MEN are with him and also combat trained and flame-retardant? Hm...

Well, there's the simple way. Mix up some THERMITE using the old family recipe, and melt your way through the door. But that leaves you vulnerable for some time before you can make the TACTICAL ENTRANCE, and you'd really rather not risk burning off some of your HAIR. No, here's the plan. Apply THERMITE to the door, begin the burning process, and then while they're distracted, bust open a window outside - surely they'll think it's another CORPORATE RAID, but this time they lack the strong, protective arms of MIGUEL! While they're distracted, waiting for the thermite to burn through the door, you blow up the ROOF and tactically extract the ALPHA.

Brilliant. The plan's got it all. Direct and concise violence, only a 33% casualty rate, and a businesslike elegance to it. Now to dig up some aluminium...no, wait. You need illustrations. Maybe a CHART. You've got to polish this before you put it into execution. It would be an amateur mistake to EXECUTE A PLAN before CHECKING YOUR DATA. A mistake that some low-level IT dud would make, maybe. But not you. You've been in the business too long to make mistakes. You've seen shit that would make Accounting roll over in their graves.

>David: Turn on computer.

Your MEGACOMPUTER comes on with a gentle hum.

It really couldn't hurt to check the company stocks while you're at it. It's been almost 30 minutes since last time.

>Chuck: Don't question this
You never do really. Your life is filled with instances like this where becomes commonplace that you have no idea what in the hell just happened. You're cool with it. You've accepted the fact that you're the plaything of (a) higher being(s) when the dream started rolling in. You just this...DEITY CREATURE or whatever is just and kind.

>Chuck: Feed Bethe already
You eject the RABBIT FEED from your KATAMARI MODUS and pour it into his BOWL on the floor. Bon appetit, Mousier Lapin! While you have it out, you carefully eject the CACTUS and place on the table for FENG SHUI POINT, those are always important! You also accidentally captchalogue a REISEN UDONGEIN FIGURINE, an ALARM CLOCK, and ONE PIECE MANGA because your room is so damned messy. No wonder you lose stuff so often.

>Chuck: Download
Oh right, Addy's stupid little game. You completely forgot! You eject your LAPTOP and browse the web, specifically the ALDERCORP FORUMS, for any mention of a leak of the ALPHA. You try not to get distracted. You try very hard. Its taking most of your strength not to look at a certain video.

You get distracted. Goddammit.

>Thomas: You manage to hang from that WINDOW like a boss. Or at least some PIRATE WANNABE who doesn't want to plummet to his untimely death. Because seriously, your WINDOW is freaking high; a fall from up here might bruise your ankle or something! You clearly can't risk taking that kind of damage.

Anyways, it looks like the danger has passed for now. Your UNCLE seems to have once more vanished into midair, which is either very good, or very, very bad, depending on what he plans to do next. In any case, you're able to use the temporary break to clamber back into your room.

Besides the few new cuts in the walls and on the floor, as well as the fact that your CANNON has been shoved halfway out of your WINDOW, your room is mostly undamaged.


>Gina: Although VELMA seems to be following you around with a suspicious look in her eyes, you do manage to make it back inside the house unimpeded, your loot tucked safely under one arm. It would seem that luck's on your side; your DAD must still be up in his STUDY, doing... whatever he does. Reading probably, knowing him.

With the black bundle of fur walking after you, you head into the KITCHEN, place the MAIL on the table, and prepare to LASS-SCAMPER your way out of there. Just because your DAD hasn't come downstairs yet doesn't mean that he won't; for all you know it could be mere moments before he comes tromping down the steps.


>Myra: The MAILBOX opens without the slightest hint of explosive destruction. There's no C4, no unpinned GRENADES, no LANDMINES, no RPGS, no nothing! Just a bunch of ENVELOPES and a PACKAGE or two.

Man. Talk about boring.

While you contemplate this unforeseen oddity, the MICROWAVE explodes.


>David: As you start up OL' BETSY, you notice that you've got an UNREAD EMAIL sitting in your INBOX. Let's see here... From the ALDERCORP R&D DEPARTMENT, something about a Sburb Alpha DOWNLOAD LINK.

Huh.

Well. Shoot.

Also, it's gonna be another 30 minutes before your next batch of THERMITE is ready. That stuff might be awesome at breaking through doors, windows, walls, floors, and ceilings, but it does take a while to prepare the mixture. Good thing MANUEL taught you how to use the ALDERCORP labs to make your own.


>Chuck: You're so distracted that you don't even notice Bethe reacting in disgust when he notices that you forgot to add his FAVORITE INGREDIENT. Again. Now it looks like he's going to have to go get his own batch of IRRADIATED PLUTONIUM to munch on. Way to go Chuck; CARETAKER of the year right there.

Your CARETAKER OF THE YEAR gauge decreases by 4 AFFECTION UNITS.

On the plus side, your FENG SHUI meter increases by 1 POINT! Good call on that CACTUS man; you've almost earned enough for a SMALL PRIZE!

Anyway, as Bethe goes off to do his thing, you find yourself getting super distracted by the magical pull of the INTERWEBS. You're so distracted, in fact, that you almost miss the UNREAD EMAIL sitting in your INBOX. The one that, according to the subject line, contains the Sburb Alpha DOWNLOAD LINK.

>Myra: Be satisfied that you have escaped the clutches of your would-be assailants.

NEVER! Those CORPORATE BASTARDS will stop at nothing to TAKE YOU DOWN! They know you're VICIOUSLY PARANOID, which means the MICROWAVE's detonation was intended to lull you into a false sense of security, believing your HOUSE to be cleared of TRAPS!

The MICROWAVE ruse was a DISTACTION.

Of course, they know that you know that. You are locked into a never-ending game of roulette, never reaching checkmate because both players can see each others' cards.

>Myra: Scour home for additional traps.

You gambit a small portion of your BATMAN'S GAMBIT to DEDUCE that the most likely place for the next trap is your COMPUTER, since circumstances are conspiring to bring you there.

>Myra: Check computer for traps.

You fire your GRAPPLING HOOK into the MONITOR. Wait shit this is a stupid idea, dammit too late.

Be brave

You see your GRANDMOTHER totter out of the kitchen. You look down to see you haven't cleaned your boots off from the SNOW. You look at the couch to see if you can jump behind it, and pray she doesn't notice, but you know she will. You swallow a gulp, and confront her, face to face... even though she will probably kill you, you take your chances and man up.

Smart choices first!

You take off your BOOTS, before you confront her. Thinking that if you do, you might be on better ground, than what your currently standing on. You walk up to her, with your fingers crossed behind your back, to pray she doesn't really kill you.

God help your soul

>Daria: Get a move on

Oh. Huh? You were busy checking your iPhone. Just some boring distracting music stuff. Nothing important. Definitely nothing interesting enough to be viewed by anyone else. You warn the reader not to touch your FUCKING PHONE, then stuff it back in your SYLLADEX.

What the fuck does a COP, and any ACTION they are involved in have to do with this situation? You question the reader's sanity.

You don't believe it for a moment, but you'd like to believe that your ANIKI is leaving you alone so you get this game going. You keep a tight grip on your STRIFE SPECIBI in case anything does happen, but right now you're more focused on getting back to your room as quickly as possible.

>Be devastated over the loss of your joke wall

You stumble over to it and prostrate yourself on hands and knees, gathering up the POST-IT notes scattered around the room from the UNCLE STRIFE. After managing to stick some of the best ones back up, you SYLLADEX the rest, resulting in them being given a BOONDOLLARS RATING of....only 3 BOONDOLLARS? That little? Sure, they're ripped apart, and most of them don't make as much SENSE as they used to, but only 3? No, now it's 2, this saddens you.

>Remember what you came in here to do to begin with.

After taking the SYLLADEX CARD of JOKES and BURYING it, by throwing it under the rug and hoping for something better, you secure your door and get back on your computer, determined to find the ALPHA copy somewhere, anywhere. It must be in your EMAIL, why else would it not be anywhere else? Or maybe it's in one of the ALDERCORP dedicated PIRATEY ZONES! Yes, that could be it.

>Gina:Get ready to move

Now that you have placed the MAIL somewhere that isn't in your HANDS it time to get back to your ROOM.Your FATHER could show up at any time and make you STUDY.And you don't have time for that.Who else is going to give Alder a much needed VERBAL BEATING?

You position yourself to where you can see the STAIRS and as many objects to hide behind as possible,and once you are sure that the coast is clear you make your move.Time to execute a LASS-SCAMPER back to your ROOM!

>Gina:Attempt to scamper back to your room

>Chuck: Stop being distracted by the interwebs
Why would you do that? Its not like you're forgetting something yet aga-THE GAME! SHIT! Why do you keep forgetting!?

...Oh right. You don't care; that's why. Nonetheless, you search for any possible leaks and come up fruitless. You then check your emails and find an email with the subject "[whatever Pappy specifies]". That's obviously Addy.

>Chuck: Read email

>Chuck: Download
This seems all too easy...Way too easy, in fact. OLD BEAR hasn't even broken into your for filled with VIM AND VIGOR from DRAWING. Nor have you been transported somewhere stupid by the FORCES OF DEITY CREATURES. Something's up...

>Myra: Well. Shit. This sucks.

Yeah, it would seem that your computer has come down with a bad case of GRAPPLING HOOK TO THE FACE, a rare yet potent infection. It's symptoms include emitting smoke, spitting sparks, being generally broken, and having a GRAPPLING HOOK sticking out of the monitor.

Well, on the bright side, whatever BOOBY TRAPS had been set up inside your computer have likely been disarmed. Because seriously, there's no way they could have possibly foreseen you shooting a GRAPPLING HOOK into your computer. I mean, who even does that?!

Sigh... Well, unless you've got a spare BAT-MONITOR tucked away somewhere in your room, looks like you won't be getting too much use out of this hunk of junk. And something tells you that if you want to play a computer game, you're gonna need a computer.

Luckily, there is another computer in the house.

Unluckily, it's in your UNCLE's WORKOUT ROOM.


>Mark Your brilliant tactic has failed! You are assaulted by all manner of BAKED GOODS and COOKERY, and take significant damage from your GRANDMOTHER's unrelenting attack!

As you are tossed back onto the couch, covered in ICING and BATTER, your HEALTH VIAL falls to 73% full. Time to get out of there man!


>Daria: Suddenly BATARANGS.


>Thomas: INBOX. EMAIL. DOWNLOAD LINK.

Dear God it's like I'm working with a bunch of five year olds or something.


>Gina: Ah yes, the LASS SCAMPER. A technique used only by the most carefree and adventurous of girls. It is a move that has been passed down through the ages, a truly infallible mode of transportation. Unless, of course, your DAD happens to be standing in your way.

By the way your DAD is totally standing in your way.

As you begin to charge up the stairs, you find yourself colliding with your Guardian and falling back down to the ground floor, taking a bit of damage along the way. You really should have been more careful; stairs are notoriously dangerous places after all.

Your DAD chuckles as he finishes descending the staircase, watching as you hop back to your feet. Oh God. It looks like he's coming in for an AFFECTIONATE HEAD PAT.


>Something in Chuck's house: Totally be up. Nah, that sounds like too much trouble.

But man, this is like the weirdest email ever. Why would the subject line and body be composed of the same cryptic phrase? And what does "[whatever Pappy specifies]" mean anyway? Clearly this is some kind of puzzle meant to mess with your head; you must get to the bottom of it!

Well, at least the DOWNLOAD LINK seems to be working. After a few minutes of progress bars progressing and whatnot, you see that you've managed to download a couple of files:

SAClient.exe
SAServer.exe

Wow, that was pretty easy. Your PIRATEY POWERS have pulled you through once again. Sure it was in your EMAIL, but you're still DOWLOADING an illegal copy of the SBURB ALPHA. What the hell was it anyways? would you even find out, or not?

>Wait while the LINK DOWNLOADS.

Of all the things your UNCLE buys, he couldn't get a good DOWNLOAD speed, he always has been a bit STINGY when it came to technology developed within the last century. You're actually pretty certain he still has candles in his part of the MANSION. Where he gets them, you have no idea, but considering that you've never seen him come back with a box of CANDLES, or anything else for that matter, you can surmise that he makes them himself. That could also explain the SMOKE you see occasionally whilst scurrying from place to place.

[b]>Contemplate the meaning of life from the perspective of FOZZIE BEAR, KERMIT THE FROG, and WALDORF AND STATLER.

You find this to be an INTRIGUING SUBJECT OF CONTEMPLATION. You stare off into space, feet propped up on the CANNON, when did you put on those boots? Ah well, it's probably nothing important anyways, not like this NEW HOBBY OF YOURS.

>Myra: Retrieve Bat-Monitor from utility closet.

You do so. You know the likelihood of your PRIMARY MONITOR being booby trapped or otherwise sabotaged, and have thus kept a BAT-MONITOR in the UTILITY CLOSET for years. All of a sudden you notice the Bat-Monitor is ticking.

>Myra: Throw Bat-Monitor out window.

You do so. And just in time, too! The BAT-MONITOR explodes moments after crashing through the glass. You can't believe you forgot that you booby-trapped the BAT-MONITOR, in case anyone else tried to booby-trap it! On the plus side, you know that nobody tried to booby-trap it. Probably.

Your rambling monologue is interrupted by a wailing klaxon. In your haste to dispose of the BAT-MONITOR, it completely slipped your mind that there's an ALARM SYSTEM on every window in your house! All around your house and the PALACE OF FITNESS, a network of SENTRY GUNS emerges from the ground, set to fire on anything without proper authorization. You'll be fine around your house; the turrets there recognize you as a friendly. But the guns around the PALACE OF FITNESS only grant authorization to PAYING CUSTOMERS and PALACE OF FITNESS EMPLOYEES, an elite caste to which you do not belong! Looks like you'd best keep your distance from the PALACE.

>Myra: Disregard Chekov's Guns. Proceed with monitor acquisition.

You forgo the LASS SCAMPER; this is no time for childish shenanigans! You're heading into the depths of hell itself, the foul realm of madness and terror that is your UNCLE'S WORKOUT ROOM. It probably contains all manner of wretched secrets, dark truths and horrific answers to questions better left unsaid!

It probably contains a few sweaty TOWELS and some WORKOUT EQUIPMENT. But a girl can dream.

In any case, you SLEUTH SLINK your way over to the WORKOUT ROOM entrance. You carefully place your ear to the door, hoping to determine whether your UNCLE lurks behind it.

Time to leave now!

You run outside, hoping that she doesn't follow you. You jump of the little WOODEN PORCH, CHUCK NORRIS style, and do a tumble roll in the very cold SNOW. You cover your head, with the JACKET you have, making sure to cover all of your head and leave not even a piece of HAIR sticking out, as you wait to see if your GRANDMOTHER is still on your trail.

Climb.

Streaks of black and purple whoosh by you as you ascend. Specks of red. The deafening sounds of the end of an empire.

Climb to the top of the world.

Space. Endless space above you. A universe that would soon make way for the next. A universe that was damned from the start. Damned since the moment it was created. Created for its destroyers. For a gang of sociopaths, plus one murderer.

It's a hell of a thing, killing a man. You take away all he's got.
All he's ever gonna have.

Below a battle rages. A society has collapsed in on its own filth.

Climb.

You are not alone. You are pursued.

Climb to the top of the world.

Pursued not just by these carapaced men and their monstrous queen, but by an entirely different league of demon. Your past, grasping at you like an endless arm. Pulling you down. You will not escape. You were destined to end this way. This is the price you have to pay for forgiveness.

CLIMB.

This is your atonement, your last step on the road that Skaia set for you. This is what Fate had in store all this time. It was all predetermined, and you were always the key pawn. So conveniently you left Beth alone and uninformed. Left her for dead. You struck down Connor in cold blood.

You are no hero.

CLIMB TO THE TOP OF THE WORLD.

You were the villain all along.

AND WHEN YOU STAND TALL, YOU WILL SEE

You whirl around, crackling with eldritch energies. Most of your pursuers disintegrate with one unholy glance.

More will come.

THAT WHEN YOU FALL

More are coming.

The army will not be stopped.

YOU WILL FALL FROM A HEIGHT

Blood trickles down from the stainless steel of your spork. The hat of a fallen comrade flutters thousands of feet down to perch upon the tallest spire on Derse.

MOST MEN WILL NEVER REACH

Here comes the arm.



>David: Wake up.

Jesus, it feels like you've been out for a month.

You must have dozed off when you sat down to wait for your groupmates. How unprofessional of you.

>Myra: Execute stealth maneuvers.

You break down the door. It was unlocked, but it could've easily been booby-trapped.

>Myra: Survey scene.

You are about to, but all of a sudden something else happens instead!

>ASSUME DIRECT CONTROL

It sounds so brutish when you put it that way!

>BEGIN INTERMISSION

Much better.

The city streets are shrouded in darkness, pierced only by half-dead streetlamps and the occasional pair of headlights. With each car that passes by, the sequins of a solitary woman's white dress fade in from the black, growing ever brighter before being suddenly extinguished. The woman's features are difficult to discern in the darkness. The one exception, her dark hair, is clearly framed by the white background of her dress; it hangs well below her shoulders, tapering to a point as it descends. Her skin lights up with each set of headlights, but not as much as might be expected - she is well-tanned. Or perhaps not Caucasian at all? It's difficult to say, and all things considered, she might not object to that.

Her most striking feature, however, is one largely hidden by the shadows. In better light, it could be discerned that, excepting her skin, there is not the slightest bit of color on her person. Her hair is dark, her dress is a brilliant white, and even her irises are pitch black.

She spies her destination, the entire building illuminated by a brilliant neon sign, and increases her pace slightly, eager to be out of the cold. The man outside the door is wearing only black pants, a collared white shirt, and a red bow tie. He bears the cold with dignity as he opens the door; he doesn't say a word, lest his shivering be given away by his voice.

Inside, the servants' uniforms seem far more appropriate. One of them stops the woman to check her name. He scans the guest list for a moment. It takes him a bit - "Myra Salvador" is towards the bottom of the list, between a pet food baron and some British cryptographer working on newfangled "computers". The servant puts on a forced smile, hastily directs the woman towards the correct door, and leaves as quickly as possible to eagerly greet the next guest, a star straight from Hollywood.

Yet another servant unenthusiastically welcomes Myra into the Grand Ballroom. Once inside, she surveys her surroundings. In the middle of the room, a number of couples are dancing to classical waltzes being played by a few deft violinists in the corner. Surrounding the dance floor, a number of men in tuxedos and women in dresses are engaged in polite conversation, presumably over the quality of the wine, the skill of the violinists, and other such mundane matters.

A few of the better-dressed men glance with looks of thinly-veiled scorn at the banner hanging from the ceiling - it reads "ALDERCORP FIRST ANNUAL CHICAGOFEST". The massive event is being hosted by the young CEO of that company, with all the socialites and business elites of the nation invited. The woman is not oblivious to the dual purpose of the event - it doubles as a publicity stunt and a warning to all competitors in the city, boldly announcing Aldercorp's long-awaited (and for some, feared) arrival to Chicago.

>[I] Be the woman in white.

You are now the PRE-SCRATCH incarnation of MYRA SALVADOR. The year is 1951. You are at the ALDERCORP FIRST ANNUAL CHICAGOFEST to investigate rumors of DISSENT in the upper echelons of American industry. Not that anyone knows that. Officially, you're here as a representative of a large TEXAN RESTAURANT CHAIN. You bought it out earlier this year to investigate rumors of DISSENT in the upper echelons of American industry, using money you got from assassinating JOSEPH STALIN (the Russians replaced him with a robotic copy before anyone could notice). The rumors were incorrect - the old CEO was guilty only of murder, arson, and tax evasion - leaving you with nothing but nearly-unlimited income and the skills of a master assassin. You have found overlapping uses for both of these things.

>[I] Myra: Scan for dissent.

You begin casually wandering the room, seeking out your target.

>GM: Begrudgingly allow these INTERMISSION SHENANIGANS to continue.

Nope. No, we're not doing this. Not up for discussion. No, no, no, no, no. That's it. Final answer.

12 years dungeon. 7 years no trial. Come on, let's go.


>Thomas: You sit in your room, musing over that Ultimate Question for the next few minutes. Insert lame Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy reference, mixed with a bit of the Muppets for flavor, here.

In response, your SCOURGE OF THE SUBURBS gauge takes a dive. After all, what kind of self-respecting pirate sits around philosophizing in his spare time? You have shamed those great and legendary SEAMEN who came before you, your thoughts staining their once pure and irreproachable legacy.

On the plus side, your TEEN-PONDERER gauge increases by three points! So, you know, that's cool.

You download a couple of files:

SAClient.exe
SAServer.exe


>Myra: Find your target.

Sorry, it seems that we've stumbled across a confusing patch here. The simple fact of the matter is that I, your illustrious, magnanimous, and damn sexy GM, have no idea what type of strange and probably illegal plans you're getting up to with this crazy INTERMISSION stuff. As such, I wouldn't touch that crap with a thirty nine and a half-foot pole, and I'll just let you play pretend that your choices and characters actually matter here. How does that sound?

>Present-Myra: Find your target.

(For reference, Present-Myra is the young girl seeking nothing more than to play a COMPUTER GAME with her friends. Also for reference, her target is the interior of her UNCLE'S WORKOUT ROOM.)

Having successfully broken down the door, you eagerly scan the room before you. There's a pile of sweaty TOWELS, some WORKOUT EQUIPMENT, a copy of the NOC LIST, several lifetime supplies of PROTEIN POWDER, and a somewhat aged PERSONAL COMPUTER. Complete with a crappy CRT MONITOR.

You are somewhat underwhelmed by the fact that the room contains everything you expected it to. You mean, it's not like there's going to be some kind of secret loot or booby traps hidden under the floorboards or in the walls or in some even more inconceivable hiding place, right?


>Mark:...

After a lengthy bit of SHENANIGANS too exciting and intricate to fully explain or describe, you finally make it back up to your room.

Your GRANDMOTHER has been placated, your BOOTS are finally clean, and there is an EMAIL containing the SBURB ALPHA DOWNLOAD LINKS on your COMPUTER.


>Chas:

You are the dead. It's you.


>David:

You are the boring. It's you.


>Nina:

Rather unsurprisingly, it turns out that today's MAIL did not include a copy of the SBURB ALPHA. Despite the fact that you kind of suspected such a development, you're still sorely disappointed. Looks like you're not going to be able to play the ALPHA just yet.

Sitting down the sole chair that isn't already occupied by a CARDBOARD BOX full of PACKING PEANUTS, you turn on your CELL PHONE and open up the PESTERCHUM app. Maybe one of your pals will know what to do.

>Daria: Suddenly Dice

In a desperate GAMBIT, you grab every one of your FIGHTING DICE from your SYLLADEX and eject them simultaneously. Considering you're the most avid PATHFINDER player in the tri-state area, this is less of a cluster and more of a cloud.

The BATARANGS clang with your SOLID STEEL D20s, clanging off of each other mid-air and falling to the ground uselessly.

Well, shit. There go your GOOD weapons. You doubt you'll have time to equip them again, so you switch to your HAND-AND-A-HALF SWORD.

What. Did you think it was a KATANA or something? There's nothing superior about a sword that happens to come from Japan. You always preferred the knightly type of class to the samurai. Thus, a three-year period where you played nothing but Cavaliers, to the teeth-grinding frustration of your friends. But all that's in the past, right now you presume you have a COMBAT-DESIRING ANIKI to fend off.

>Daria: Flail Sword about like an idiot

>David: Check thermite.

Your CHEM-O-MAT 3000 (the most expensive and luxurious chemical mixer on the market, available in chrome, synth-gabardine, and mauve - you have the chrome model, having dulled its shine for that extra mile of drab authenticity) chirps politely, informing its unquestionable master that it has prepared a batch of your homegrown THERMITE. You've always taken a liking to that machine. It knows how to complete assigned work on time, is consistently well-mannered, and always smells of lilac.

You captchalogue the THERMITE KIT, helpfully placed into a self-deploying mechanism, where it settles into the FIRST CARD. Oddly enough, this is a consistent trend. There's always some weird demand for it, so much so that not even your family's famous ALDERBALLER (inspired by an odd, SALVADOR-promoted cornball maker that's only legal in Mexico) can out-sell it. In fact, you don't think anything could take its place in your SYLLADEX.

Time to get to what you do best: BUSINESS.

to defeat the huns

===>

You stand before the ominous double doors of your FATHER's meeting room. Your plan is perfect: run around the back way, and using the maintenance ladder placed there by MANUEL in order to make your childhood meditation sessions easier to access, set a TOWEL over the SKYLIGHT. Already done, cleanly and professionally - in fact, you didn't even look back to adjust it. The towel is kept so neatly folded that it drapes perfectly over the window without any need to double-check (needless to say, you've done this trick before). While this disorients your FATHER and his guests, it also provides you with a cushion for your fall. Towels are really a necessity in this day and age.

Of course, now for the double-whammy. Your diversion with the TOWEL is diverted by another diversion - you'll just deploy your fancy AUTO-THERMITE KIT, let it burn through the door, and when the smoke clears...nothing. BAM. You burst through the skylight, and FATHER'S ASSOCIATES are forced at flamethrower point to give you your just dues. And also maybe you'll fit some corporate extortion in there - whether or not you're in a position to kill him, you still want to make FATHER proud. And he will certainly be proud of you for this one. Absolutely nothing can go wrong. You've pulled out all the stops.

>David: Deploy thermite.

You eject CAPTCHALOGUE CARD ONE.

Your towel flutters for a few seconds and neatly drapes itself over the door handles.

...

Huh. Guess towels are in high demand lately.

>David: Contemplate course of action.

shiiiiit

>David: The roof. Now.

The smell of burning mahogany permeates in the air. You would cry, if you hadn't surgically removed your tear ducts in order to maintain a more efficient working environment.

>David: You've trained all your life for this. Execute corporate fallback plan 4801 dash M.

You pull your suit jacket over your hair and leap through the BURNING HOLE IN THE ROOF you just made.

>Myra: Retrieve CRT MONITOR. Attack pattern Delta.

You pull a DETONATOR out of your pocket and click the button, wait shit you grabbed the wrong detonator when you woke up this morning. This isn't the detonator for your neighbor's conveniently-placed DISTRACTION you mean HOUSE! It's the MYSTERIOUS DETONATOR you found in your Uncle's bedroom years ago, while you were checking his CLOSET for CORPORATIONS. You still don't know exactly what explosive it triggers. You hope you didn't just blow up anything important.

Somewhere in the void between universes, four balls push another ball off a cliff.

On another Earth, in the year 1951, a hidden firebomb in the Palace of Versailles detonates.

So nothing important.

>Myra: Stop killing people in other dimensions. Just grab the monitor.

You grab the monitor, GRAPPLING HOOK PISTOL at the ready. You already engaged your Uncle in STRIFE once today, but that might not deter him from the promise of exercise.

[I] =>

In another universe, in a dark room, a pale-skinned, well-dressed man wipes a final bead of sweat off his brow, adjusting his tie with no mirror. A nervous aide opens the door to the private room, letting in light and sound.

"You're on, sir," he said, leaving as quickly as he entered. This nervousness was not a foreign sight to the man in the crisp black suit. He wore an American tie, an American coat, American shoes. The hat that he turned over in his left hand was custom made in Chicago. But there was something foreign about the way he moved. He walked stiff and upright, never relaxing. He preferred the quiet, and spoke in fragments. To some he was imposing, and to others threatening, though neither of these were his intent.

Many years ago, this man boarded a train from Minsk and kept riding until he reached Stockholm, back in the days when the men of his country did not live their lives in fear, when the afterglow of the second great war had left the Union in the hero's spotlight. That glow was dimming now. He rode that train across Russia, through the cold of Scandinavia, enveloped by a wool overcoat. He'd spend his time translating poetry from his native Russian to English, and this would be how he learned to speak the language of the Americans. Soon after, he would leave Europe for the first time.

The man emerges from the side rooms as the orchestra winds down, greeted by a lavish ballroom and a cacophony of applause. It ranged from the adoring socialites and sycophants, eager to ride the coattails of this new business mogul, to the narrowed eyes and hushed tones of his competitors, masking their scorn with plastered smiles and polite claps.

He takes his place at the podium, waving, smiling. He unfolds a small piece of paper from his coat pocket, looks down, and begins to speak.

"I came to this country to follow your legendary American dream. I came to this country to..."

He read off the card that he had carefully written, having practiced the speech many, many times. But there was no masking his still-thick accent, and though it would still be years before his people would be viewed as subhuman in this country, the man's voice attracted surprised looks. These people had read the headlines of a promising young new business mogul, one who built his fortune from the ground up. They pictured their quintessential all-American man, with ferocious business tactics and an air of constant elegance. The elegance was still there, but it was not as these people knew it.

The soft pattering of rain turned into a storm outside, lighting up the Chicago skyline every few seconds in a brilliant flash of light. His speech came to a close. More applause. He would have to go to the floor now to shake hands and make introductions. The crowd began to mingle again, and the orchestra picked up where they had left off.

>[I] Be the rising business mogul.

You are now DAVID ALDER, in a world before the Scratch. You are a classic American success story (except for the part where you're Russian, and possibly a COMMUNIST SYMPATHIZER), and this gala is in honor of ALDERCORP's expansion into the famous city of Chicago. You've spared no expense for this, and indeed, within years your company will dominate Illinois. Eventually you will sell the Texan branch of the company where you humbly began, and you will retire to own a small family-style furniture store. But that is many years from now. As it stands, you're expected to make your rounds and enjoy yourself with this deafeningly large crowd. This is a matter much easier said than done, particularly when it's difficult to pass another man without getting a dirty look and presumably becoming the topic of a less-than-favorable discussion about the Reds or how you're just another undeserving immigrant. Because of this, you tend to try to play the role of a charmingly foreign gentleman, hiding yourself in the crowds of extravagantly-dressed women.

Needless to say, this has not helped your reputation with the Americans.

>[I] David: Engage rounds.

You cautiously traverse the crowd, making casually friendly responses to the passing 'pleasure to meet you's. Many try to strike up a business proposition, but you simply pass them a card and ask them to enjoy themselves. This is not a night of business.

That's a lie, of course. Every night is a night of BUSINESS for you.

A woman catches your eye, wandering alone through the crowd. It strikes you that she seems to have an ethereal way about her, almost reminding you of your own situation; dressed for the part, but somehow out-of-place. Her gleaming white dress adumbrates her long black hair.

The opportunity is too great to pass up; you step in tune to the soft strings of the orchestra, and move in to say hello.

>Engage in philosophization

NO, you can't do that now, your computer just beeped three bells, the amount you programmed into it to remind you of when dowloads were completed.

Before you were two icons now on your desktop, a lovingly detailed recreation of the Muppet Treasure Island movie poster, done completely in MS Paint, as all things should do if you truly care about it. It's surprisingly good too, making it even more impressive.

Before you are the two icons, one placed strategically over Miss Piggy's face, the other simply beside it. SERVER.EXE and CLIENT.EXE, both looked equally appealing, but you felt yourself leaning more towards the SERVER.EXE, simply because you were tired of being the Servee in life. Your Uncle did often complain about his Clients, though you are unsure of what "clients" he spoke of. You've never seen him work or do...well, much of anything beyond scaring the living Pirateites out of you.

You adjust your hat, making sure it is well held by your hair. Finishing that, you open Pesterchum and await the Pestering you will no doubt receive from the other rich corp guy you mark as your acquaintance. He will no doubt want to hear of your glorious tale, the trouble you went through to get this SERVER.EXE you have your mouse button held over.

>Nitemare:Stop being lazy and post something!

Fine!No need to shout!

>Gina:Deal with Father

As your FATHER'S HAND descends toward your hairy unprotected scalp you start to go through different solutions.On one hand you could try to LASS-SCAMPER your way out of this but there is no guarantee that that will work.He could always just follow you to your ROOM afterword.

Another idea is to just let him give you a pat on the head then alert him to the MAIL that lays largely untouched upon the KITCHEN TABLE.That should buy you some time.But what if he finds out that the BOX you opened is,well,opened?He might think that you have finally taken an interest in his studies and take it as a sign to get you more useless BOOKS!You shudder at the outright horror of it all.

Or you could tell FLIP THE FUCK OUT and stop him from touching you.Not an ideal solution to be had.Ever.What kind of a person would FLIP THE FUCK OUT anyway?Not someone of your familial genes thats for sure.

You decide to go with the idea of just GETTING IT OVER WITH.

>Gina:Look annoyed with your Father while he pats you on the head then alert him to the mail that lays untouched upon the kitchen table

>Daria: Presume WRONG.

What, you think that your ANIKI would do something so simple as ambush you out of the blue? Ha, you wish his tactics were so trite and easy to predict!

Honestly, you're not sure why you thought that. I mean, you already know about your guardian's small army of ROBOTIC ANIME CHARACTERS, which he enjoys sparring with and siccing on you on a daily basis. You've had to battle these things pretty much everyday since, well, ever; you're getting to know some of them better than yourself!

Alright, so let's see which one you're going up against today. You've already managed to put a good number of them in the REPAIR SHOP this week, so the selection's got to be getting low...

Oh joy. It's ANIME BATMAN.

Anyway, the robot manages to deflect your wild swings with ease. Yeah, it's going to take a lot more than some lame attack like that to damage him.


>David: Earn bonus points for referencing one of the best TV shows of our age.

Your taste in television has proven to be quite the effective defense; jumping through a BURNING HOLE IN THE ROOF deals pathetically little damage to your fine person. Your clothes and hair are only lightly singed, and your phenomenal amounts of BUSINESS SWAG ensure that your appearance is still perfectly presentable. Boo-motherfucking-yah.

With all the poise and grace expected of someone in your position, you descend through the raging inferno that was once your GRANDFATHER's SKYLIGHT and touch down in the center of his ROSEWOOD CONFERENCE TABLE, only the slightest hints of smoke wafting off of your hair and suit. (In other words, you trip and fall through the burning hole in the ceiling, scream like a little girl as you tumble uncontrollably through the air, and faceplant, quite painfully, onto the CONFERENCE TABLE, smearing the priceless slab of wood with your wood and forever marring its once stainless surface. Also your hair and clothes are on fire.)

As you hop to your feet, again with all the poise and grace expected of someone in your position, you manage a pretty decent look around the CONFERENCE ROOM. Unsurprisingly, you spot your GRANDFATHER in his typical position at the head of the table, staring back at you with a gaze of cold indifference. Will you ever be able to get the drop on that man? You doubt it; he is just far too businesslike. You also note the small bag of CANDY CORN on the table before your guardian. Surprising; you didn't think he had much of a sweet tooth.

The rest of the room seems to have remained mostly the same since the last time you were in here. Well, with the exception of the BOXES AND BOXES STUFFED FULL OF CANDY CORN. Seriously, there's no way your GRANDFATHER eats that much of the stuff. No way at all. But otherwise, pretty familiar set up. There's a lot of photos of your GRANDFATHER in various businessman poses, like signing his name to an important contract, donating a small fortune to a needy orphanage, walking away from a burning building and ignoring the shouted pleas of his perishing competitors. There's all the ECLECTIC ARTWORK that he's managed to collect on his many business trips around the world. You don't particularly care for most of it, but he insists on using them as decorations regardless. The wall behind you is, as usual, being used as a display for the overhead projector, displaying some kind of bar graph or other...

Wait, no. There's something different about it today. Why on Earth would your GRANDFATHER need a picture of the USA displayed on the wall? And what's up with all of those circles, ranging in color from a light green to a slightly darker green? And why are most of them centered in Texas? And why is there some color-coded scale labeled "TIME UNTIL IMPACT"?

Seriously. Weird stuff.

However, before you can interrogate your guardian about the bizarre display, you spot THEM. You can't see them clearly, only their vague silhouettes and only just out of the corner of your eye, but you know, without a doubt, that it's THEM. The MYSTERIOUS VISITORS that your GRANDFATHER has been hosting for the past couple of weeks.

Until now, you've never been able to get a clear look at them. They've done well, either isolating themselves here in the CONFERENCE ROOM or skulking about in the shadows where you can't follow them. But now, there's nothing to hide behind, nowhere to run to. All you have to do is turn around, and you can see them.

But you can't shake this weird feeling in the back of your head. While there's no question that you COULD turn around and see them, there is the question of whether you actually SHOULD. There are some mysteries better left unsolved, some things that are better left unseen. If you turn around now, there's no going back, no forgetting whatever knowledge you might be cursed with.

This could be the most important choice of your entire life...


>Myra:

Thankfully, it looks like your UNCLE has already vacated the house. You get the impression that you won't be bothered by him until a later time, during which it would be far more bothersome to you. For example, if you were trying to keep a friend from being crushed to death by a GIANT METEOR. Or if you were trying to escape a similar fate yourself by solving some silly and quite complex puzzles.

You're really not sure where that feeling is coming from. I mean, what are the odds of something like that ever actually happening? One to a few billion?

But yeah. You're able to make it back upstairs without too much trouble.


>Thomas: Continue to await the pestering from that one business guy you know.

You do so. You get kind of bored.


>Gina:

Your STRONG, INDEPENDENT TEENAGE NINJA GAUGE takes a hit as your FATHER places his hand on your head, affectionately patting your cranium with oodles of PATERNAL LOVE. Oh God, he's actually ruffling your hair. Who even does that these days? Seriously, the only way he could make this worse would be to actually give you a NOOGIE!

Hmm... Better not say that out loud. Who knows, he might actually do it.

Once he is done with his AFFECTIONATE HEAD PAT, your guardian offers you a proud smile before moving on, heading towards the KITCHEN TABLE and leaving your path upstairs totally unobstructed. VELMA, after eyeing you for a minute, trails after your FATHER, finally leaving you by yourself.

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