Without realising it, you [[drift off|drift]] to sleep, slumped against the standing rail.
The [[briefcase|opening]] has to be opened.
Certainly, you're getting jugsoaked more often, and it's getting harder to block out the static, but you're hardly a public disturbance. You know how to [[behave|bout]].
Sensing your fear, Checkers takes your hand in his, squeezing it tight. \n\n"It's all going to be alright," he assures you, gentle. "This is how it has to be done. It's the only way you can protect yourself, and [[avenge us|avenge]]."
Those words were sweet when they were just mannerisms. Now they mean too much, carrying a world of [[responsibility|mt2]] that you've yet to fully grasp.
You sit with the bomb withdrawn, resting upon your lap.\n\nTwo trapeze artists curl through the air. Back and forth, back and forth, catching one another. You remember [[dropping|dropping2]] her; the Lithe Trapezist.
You [[smile|smile3]].
The crippled farm hand is sprawled beside you. You take his water, drink heavily, though there's not a [[train|dreamend]] in sight.
You hover around the storage closet door, pretending to be occupied studying this and that. When you think everyone else is distracted, a particularly gruesome story about the Ciph being told, you open the door and [[slip in|slip]].
The bed is neatly made, the pillow unused, no depressions visible.\n\nYou remember when you stayed over. Foot-bumping. Laughter. [[More|more]].\n\nYou rest your hand on the pillow and press down. When you remove it, you leave behind a small hollow. It's easy enough to pretend [[someone's|someones]] been sleeping there.
You think you recognise them. They used to play near you at the Big Top. They stopped showing up for work recently though. Or was that you? It's difficult to [[tell|watch2]].
They have a stack of lined sheets positioned before you today. You start to draw circles. They take the pen away. \n\n"Always knew... risk... danger to... [[stopped|stopped]]."
"Go back to [[sleep|sleep2]]."
Cold fingers. Gentle. Familiar.\n\n[[.|room]]
So you tell them.\n\nYou tell them about Checkers. You tell them all about mutual smiles and mutual friendships. Conversations held in hushed voices in the back of rooms. Nights stayed over. Stories of Checkers telling stories of his father. \n\nThen you tell them about the briefcase. You tell them about Checkers giving you the answer. You pull out the checkers piece he gave you and set it on the counter. A couple of the players stand, stepping back. \n\nBefore you can tell them what was in the briefcase, however, an [[explosion|explosion]] eclispses you.
They pick you up. Sling your arm around their shoulder. \n\n"Look at you... leave you alone... give up."\n\n\nYou want to say something. You had some words prepared. You wrote them down and put them with your truths. \n\nToo jugsoaked. Too [[tired|tired]].
Checkers gives you a nod. \n\nYou [[open|lid]] the case.
Back at your unit, you sit on a wooden chair, facing your bed. The briefcase is lying across the bedsheets. Locked. \n\nThe three digit code is currently set to '999'. \n\nYou can try to unlock it. You see no consequences of doing so. \n\n<<textinput $code [[Try Code|trycode]]>>
Plucking up your courage, you board the train, finding it devoid of passangers. You take a seat in the middle of the carriage and hold your water to you. \n\nTry to [[relax|relax]].
You wake up in bed, [[sweating|sweat]].
Pushing the crates back into place to obscure the bomb, you check you have left no signs of ever having been there behind, and then slip back out. No one seems to have noted your absence.\n\nThe [[story|story]] about the Ciph comes to a close, players jeering as they listen.
Checkers said he'd been [[telling you|tellingyou]] the answer all along.
[[The Woolshed|4]].
You place the briefcase down beside him, thumbing the dials. The pie from some days ago still remains untouched, though it's cold now and starting to smell. Every available surface in your unit is [[covered|covered]] with pieces of paper, all filled with endless circles. \n\nYou pull out your [[checkers piece|checkerspiece]].
You [[stutter|stutter]]. Dry throat makes your voice hoarse. It went better in your head.
That seems as good a confirmation as any that this is the right [[train|pray]].
The Woolshed. You remember how it used to be friendlier. You were welcome without quite being [[accepted|accepted]]. A curiosity, always equipped with tales of the ciph. People used to like them better too; The novelty had yet to wear off.\n\nYou grab a jug. It's become a ritual for you now. [[Drink|drink2]] until you dream. A chance to see Checkers. \n\n
Sat on Checker's bed at the Slammer, you balance the briefcase on your knees and stare at it. \n\n"I don't know what's taking you so long," Checkers says, leaning against the doorframe, [[watching you|watchu]]. "We've been telling you the [[answer|answer]] this whole time." \n\nYou think about him being hauled away by the Suits down the corridor. Smile to yourself. Not sure if it's because you're annoyed at him being cryptic or because you know that can't have been him. The answer's probably somewhere in your bag of [[truths|truths]].
Untitled Story
Checkers pieces [[filling|recover]] every space of every line.
A [[bomb|bomb]].
"[[My turn|marbles]]."
You arrive to find the Slammer no longer empty.\n\nPlayers and Suits and Skirts alike mill around, examining the facilities. Plaques have been nailed to the Bull Shed, the rooms, outside against the cell. You try to read them, but the words don't make sense. You hear those gathered here chatting amongst themselves. They're talking about the ciph. You can't understand why they're using past tense, but you dare not correct them.\n\nSomething [[bad's|bads]] happening here.
You [[wake up|wake up]].
You catch the next train to Freefall. A chance to drink, at least, though perhaps not worth the strain. Things around you are starting to seem more and more [[dangerous|dangerous]]. Eyes everywhere. Your heart racing. Sweat beading on your forehead. Skirts tapping their pens against their clipboards, [[watching|watching]] you.
A limb squashed here, a tangle of feet there, a couple of accidental bumps elliciting [[laughter|accepts]].
Fire. Noise. Endless ringing. Everything's black and white and you don't realise for a moment what's going on. [[Voices|voices]]. Voices shouting.
Outside of the train, the Slammer looms before you. \n\nIt's changed. Some parts are missing. [[New|new]] parts have been constructed. There are no bulls that you can see. No [[Ciph|ciph2]] are in sight.
You're over all of it. Freefall can do their [[worst|worst]].\n\nYou go back to sleep, dreaming of candles and circles and Ciph. \n
No. \n\nYou've still got things to [[say|say]]. \n\nCan't keep your eyes open...
As you think about it, your click the bomb on. The trapezesists switch again. A hand slips. Fingers brush fingers. \n\nOne of them drops, hurtling to the ground. Before anyone can so much as scream, you are eclipsed in an [[explosion|explosion]].
You wake up on the train.\n\n[[.|haha]]\n\n
The train grinds to a stop. \n\n"This is you. Your turn."\n\nYou still can't find the right words. You're off the train before you can think of any. \n\nThe Big Top [[awaits|await]] you.
The White Suits inspect you every so often, prodding you with this and that, opening your mouth and swabbing it with a stick. It feels dry and [[sore|wkup]], and you gag when they push too far.
You feel sick to your stomach.\n\nAsk if you can leave to go to the toilet. You find yourself unable to move from your chair. There's a skirt stood beside you, tapping your pen on your desk. Your head pounds with [[static|static]].
The Big Top. The joint you've been enslaved to for so long. You're sure you have talent, but you never got the chance to show it. Strange things happened there. The lithe trapesist was only the beginning. Players and those who have ruled over your life alike will be gathered there. Others, too, those who have come to see the show. Innocents, perhaps.\n\nAre you sure this is where you want to plant the bomb?\n\n[[Yes|bombbt]]\n[[No|stationb]]
Burns litter your skin. Most of you is wrapped up in antisceptic strips, bandaging. You can't tell if there were any other victims; you are in an [[isolated|isolated]] room.
"What are you [[doing|doing]]?"
A Suit hands you a pen. \n\nYou're supposed to write down everything that happened. Every word the ciph said to you, everything you saw. They want to know who the ringleaders were. Why you were seen so often with a pale ciph. \n\nThey want to know who [[Checkers|checkers2]] was.
Taking the bomb out, you activate it.\n\nNo timer comes on. There's no ticking. You have no way of knowing if it's even working.\n\nYou hope [[Checkers|cvid]] knows what he's doing.
You fall asleep to [[words|words]] about the ocean, vast bodies of water and downpours of rain.
It wasn't for lack of trying. You told them your stories. Some truths. Some possible truths, with a little suspension of disbelief. The ciph liked them better, though. \n\n[[.|jugsoaked]]
It's cold, no matter how long it remains wrapped in your [[sweaty palm|train2]].
Checkers is in the kitchen making [[pancakes|pancakes]].
He is [[staring|stare2]] straight ahead, and does not seem to notice you studying him. Like every other Suit, he is well dressed, clean-shaven, [[neat|neat]].
Surrounded by [[Suits and Skirts|sas2]], you walk down the halls of Freefall, briefcase [[clutched|clutched]] to your side.
In the distance you hear someone notice you, ask you what you're doing, why you're hear, their voice mounting with panic. They grab your shoulder, but before they can do anything else, you're eclipsed by an [[explosion|explosion]].
Checkers gives you a [[smile|smile2]]. There's sunlight on his skin, and he looks healthy for once, so you can almost forget that he's going soon. His turn is nearly over.
Barrels are arranged in neat rows, along with jugs and some crates containing unknown somethings. You manouvere towards a corner, pushing aside some crates, and then place the bomb down in the cleared space. \n\nYou throw a glance [[back|backover]] over your shoulder, and then activate the bomb. No timer appears, no ticking, nothing. No indication that it's actually working. \n\nYou just hope Checkers knew what he was doing.
Keeping an eye on the players, you hover around the barrels, glancing about. Someone tells a particularly gruesome ciph story, distracting the others momentarily. You stash the bomb down between the barrels, hastily activating it. \n\nNo timer comes on. There's no ticking. You have no way of knowing if it's even working.\n\nYou hope Checkers knows what he's doing. \n\nAt the bar, the [[story|story]] comes to a close, the Players jeering in approval.
Checkers crosses the room to you, pushes the briefcase from your lap, and sits close next to you, holding your hands in your lap.\n\n"They know you took it. You need to hurry up. They're watching everything." He glances at the door. "They know you're [[here|here]] now."\n\n
You open the briefcase.\n\nThere is nothing inside. \n\n"You're not ready for this yet," Checkers says, sat beside you and the briefcase. "You don't yet understand what's going on."\n\nDisgruntled, you toss the briefcase away, crawling onto your bed next to him, half shoving him off. You close your eyes, wondering what there is to understand, and go to [[sleep|sleep4]].
You stare at the train, waiting for it to do something. It seems like the kind of thing that needs to do something. It can't just sit there all day.\n\n"Just [[get on|geton]] the train."
Briefcase in hand, you travel to the Woolshed come evening, keeping a wary eye out for any Suits or Skirts [[watching you|wy]]. \n
The slammer. Filled with cells, punishment equipment, and retraining programs. Whatever ciph reside there must surely crave release. You could give them that, if nothing else. \n\nPerhaps doing this will prove a point. Clear your name. Freefall may even thank you for it.\n\nAre you sure this is where you want to plant the bomb?\n\n[[Yes|bombs]]\n[[No|stationb]]
They let you go, for now. However, they escort you home, and when you check outside, there they wait, watching you.\n\nYou know it has to be done [[now|now]].
It's a shame that truths stopped making sense to you. \n\n[[.|bigtop]]
Laughter...\n\nYou didn't exactly invite him over, but you're beyond that by now. You ask him to stay over, if he wants. You used to spend [[nights|nights]] at the Slammer after all, before he got too [[sick|pale]]. \n\nHe [[accepts|accepts]].
They're forceful, muttering something, but they do not [[hurt|hurt]] you.
You have many choices, and only one bomb. \n\nWould you like to ask Checkers for help?\n\n[[Yes|askc]]\n[[No|stationb]]
You feel terrible afterwards. Dirty. You have to go back to bed just to [[recover|recover]] from what you did.
She wears grey tights, with polished black heels on her feet. She uncrosses her ankles every other minute, and then recrosses them the other way. [[Repeat|bout]].
Lying on his bed next to you, Checkers looks up at the ceiling. Every so often he bumps his foot against yours, thinking over your question. You watch him, looking him over, commiting his image to memory for when this is all over. \n\n"It's not my turn to choose. Only you can do that. My advice is... do this for yourself. Whatever happens, whatever you choose, I'll still be here. [[Your turn|stationb]]."
The Suits drag the ciph along, unaffected by the ciph's protest, the words of which you cannot make out through the muffling of the wall, but the angry tone still rings loud and clear. The [[Skirts and Suits|static]] attending you do not seem to notice.
Placing the checkers piece into your bag of truths, you try to forget about what just happened and head to [[work|work]].
The players. \n\nHaven't been able to talk to them in a while. Too much gossip of Ciph [[hunts|hunts]].
"[[My turn|mt]]."
You lie there for hours. The sun clouds over and, as you and Checkers talk idly of sunsoaked hours, the heavens open and rain starts to fall. You both lie in the downpour, falling silent, listening to the [[drumming|drumming]] of the raindrops.
He [[smiles|dead]].\n\n"It's good to see you [[again|again]]. Not jugsoaked, this time."
Like you never watched him [[die|thebae]].
This is becoming too much. When you get back to your unit, you have to fill three sheets of paper with circles just to [[calm down|calm]].\n\nOn the counter, you find someone has left you a [[pie|pie]]. It's still warm and rose properly and it tastes like home.
It seems heavier today, although that could just be due to nerves. \n\nYou go to the desk. The Skirt there gives you an exasperated look over. Shakes her head. She directs you through to the performance [[assessment centre|ac]].
You hurry to catch the first train since the uprising. \n\nUnfortunately, you're running late, the faucet having stuck when you tried to get your daily supply of water this morning. It doesn't really matter; you still have all your water from the previous week. Your muscles [[ache|ache]] from the dehydration. \n\nYou're going to have to [[run|run]].
Words exchanged between the Suits and Skirts.\n\n"Mind... in pieces... sweating like... torture."\n\nOut a window, you think you see two Suits leading a ciph down the corridor, their grip rigid and [[forceful|force]]. You catch a glimpse of the ciph's face; pale, afraid. You'd mistake them for Checkers, if that wasn't [[impossible|impossible]].
They're shining a light in your eye. It's blurred, fuzzy. Your throat aches. You just want to leave, get on a train, stay awake long enough to have [[a drink|adrink]].
It just lies there, unresponsive. It seems to be giving you the cold shoulder. \n\nIt's not [[raining|dropping]] right now.
You're not ready for this. You still need to work out how to open the briefcase. Like Checkers said, you can feel them [[watching|watch2]] you. They know what you're up to, even if you don't.
The opposite platform is not yet in use again since the uprising. An advert for The Thirst Frontier is peeling away from the wall, curling over on itself so that the word 'Frontier' is largely obscured. Looking at it for too long makes you [[uncomfortable|glance2]].
He's paler still, but seems [[healthier|lose]], more prone to smiling.
"Decomissioned... months ago... too much... remember?"\n\nYou don't remember. At least, you tell yourself you don't.\n\nYou're not sure any more. What about the bomb? Was that real? Did you...[[?|quest]]
You enter.\n\nNo ciph [[inside|inside]] either. \n\n
Feverishly, you search your apartment, but no luck. They're gone. \n\nThe [[umbrella|umbrella]] leans against the wall in the corner. The [[fancy wallscreen|fw]] has been left on, muted. Your instrument box is empty. No [[lights|lights]] blink. The man who knew what you did stopped contacting you; you don't know what happened to him. \n\nWork's over. The players will be expecting you to go get [[jugsoaked|jugsoaked]] again. [[Freefall|freefall]] will be wanting to see you about your performance. Your [[bed's|bed]] dry now.
At the station, waiting for the train to Freefall, a Suit stands next to you. Normally this would not be so unusual, but the platform is relatively quiet, and he is standing awfully close. \n\nYou risk sneaking a [[glance|glance2]] at him.
Your stomach [[drops|drops]].
A [[checkers|piece]] piece.
It's been showing the same programme for a week. It teaches you how to approach ciph. Eyes down. No speaking. Give them no information. Watch for suspicious behaviour. Do not, under any circumstances, give them water. \n\nFreefall will know if you turn it [[off|turnoff]]. It's supposed to be left [[on|dropping]] until they are satisfied.
You still can't crack the code. Haven't heard from Checkers in a while; at least, you don't think you have. Most of the time it's just been dreams. You're sleeping poorly. Have to stay up drawing circles until you fall asleep on the [[paper|paper]].
You [[wake up|wu]].
You stumble off of the train, putting as much distance between yourself and those Skirts as possible. \n\nStanding outside the elevator are [[two Suits|twos]].
Your mother hasn't called since the uprising. You told her what happened. She didn't say anything, though you could hear her crying. A man's voice sounded in the background. \n\nShe [[hung up|dropping]].
Also stranded is the briefcase, placed directly beside [[you|you]].
Avenge them? But nothing has happened - yet. Checkers is still alive. Marbles. You don't know where the other Ciph are, but if they're [[alive|alive]], surely the others must be too.
Terrible, terrible constructions. \n\nCells. \n\nFreefall's new punishment systems. You don't know what they do, but just looking at them makes you cold, your throat prickling in response.\n\nThe cells are [[empty|empty]], however.
The [[thirst|ciph]] is still there, but it's bearable now.
How did you manage to light it jugsoaked? \n\nMaybe you really can keep up this [[habit|habit]].
Meaningless [[static|work]] that you can't make sense of.
Sprinting, you push through the Skirts and Suits, ignoring those that call for you to stop for a survey. The platform is [[deserted|deserted]] of Players. \n\nYou watch as your train for work leaves.
You try your luck. Tell a tall tale. The first lie you've been able to tell since you dropped your truths and let Marbles see them. \n\n"Nice try..."\n\nFreefall will have noticed this. \n\nYou remain alone at the [[platform|deserted]].\n\n<<set $performance +=1>>
Grabbing the briefcase from where you hid it under your bed, you run back to the kitchen. Checkers is there, leaning on the [[counter|counter]] and fiddling with the faucet.
The smell of burning accompanies a haze of smoke.\n\nSorry... laughter... tried to... can't cook... shut up... more laughter. \n\nYou go to [[inspect|inspect]] the result of the cooking attempts.
There's nothing in the pan save boiling [[water|bwater]]. Checkers is gone. Your mother's sat at the table, crying into her hands. You find you cannot move, hand frozen on the handle of the pan. Something smashes. A broken water container lies shattered beside you. There's [[blood|blood]] staining your palm.
Getting jugsoaked makes it easier, just a little. \n\nYou're over Freefall. Grab another [[jug|jug]].
This is a [[fan-made game|Start]] based on Storynexus' game 'The Thirst Frontier'. All credit for setting, characters, and concept goes to them.
You're on a train.\n\nIt is deserted, save for yourself, and the lone [[Ciph|marb]] sitting next to you.
Like everyone else, you've heard the stories. The Players won't stop telling them. \n\nThey're the kind that make you [[jugsoaked|m2]], however indirectly.
One of the White Suits replaces her in her chair. They look at you, their face mournful, grave. \n\n"Been a year... don't remember? You were questioned... experimental methods... may have... side effects..." \n\nYou can't listen to this. You don't want to know about you. You want to know about the [[Ciph|ciph3]].
You don't believe him, but you go to [[check|check2]] anyway.
"Yes," Checkers says, resting your foreheads together. "Your turn's [[over|over]] now."
You recall some statistic from somewhere that you should be dead by now. Somehow, you've kept [[going|go]].
You're getting good at this. Probably.\n\nSkilled at blocking out the others and their gossiping whispers. Soon they and everything else are spinning. You stumble around. Find a barrel. [[Pass out|usleep]].
Patiently - or as patiently as you can manage when your throat is ripped with thirst and you know Freefall will get you for this - you await the next train.\n\nThe one currently drawn into the station does not [[leave|leave]]. Silence sets across the station, broken occasionally by the Patronising Waterbooth reading out some condescending [[advertisement|advert]]. \n\n
[[Close your eyes|cye]].
You're glad you get to see this day. [[Freefall|Freefall]] nearly didn't decide to turn them back on. \n\nMost [[people|people]] wanted them all burned.\n\nMost people never visited The Slammer. Never saw the Ciph gathered there around a picture of their mother. Never watched one [[die|die]].
This game is written as a sort-of-sequel to the game 'The Thirst Frontier', and is essentially just fanfiction, resulting from my broken bleeding heart (credit for that also goes to the original game). It is based on the play through where you choose to befriend [[Checkers|Start]], and later help him with his wish.
Making them write lines and watch educational shows just isn't good enough for some people.\n\nSay they have to make them [[pay|pay]].
Out back in the alley, the freezing night air making you shiver, you easily find a spot for the bomb behind some discarded barrels. You crouch down, listening to the yowling of the strays, and activate the bomb.\n\nNo timer comes on. There's no ticking. You have no way of knowing if it's even working.\n\nYou hope Checkers knows what he's doing. \n\nAs you slip back in, the Players come to the end of a particularly gruesome Ciph [[story|story]], jeering in approval.
You're awoken by the train jolting to a [[halt|halt]].
"Killed... such a waste... horrific... can't be allowed... someone should call... [[mother|isolated]]."
You're lying somewhere soft, dry, though you yourself are drenched in sweat. There are [[Suits and Skirts|sas]] gathered around you and standing far off, some wearing clean [[white suits|wsuits]] that clasp at the side. \n\nThe Happiness Companion is there. She comes over and takes a seat beside [[you|you2]]. Crosses her ankles. You stare at her perfectly shined shoes.
You're done, over the joint, over the players, over Freefall. \n\nYou [[believe|believe]] him.
He's gone and you're on the farm, lying back on the grass. The sun shines down upon you, beating out inescapable heat. You're so thirsty, but you cannot bring yourself to [[move|move]].
You don't mind the silence, but it's nice to hear [[them|dream]] speak.
The bomb won't be very well hidden, but it's easy to access and sure to detonate with some effect. Planting the bomb there without being seen will be a little tricky, but managable.\n\nAre you sure this is where you want to plant the bomb?\n\n[[Yes|cobb]]\n[[No|wy]]
You never answer their questions correctly. \n\nMaybe you stopped [[caring|caring]]. Over the players. Over the joint.\n\nMaybe you're not the [[storyteller|storyteller]] you once were. \n\nMaybe you [[miss|miss]] the Ciph.
There's a [[pale ciph|motherfucker]] stood in the doorway.
Stories about his father, the platypi. He used to chase the little ones, tried to convince his father to let him bring one home. Rainy days where they were all supposed to hide undercover, and he'd sneak out into the rain, soaked to the bone and freezing by the time he came home. His father used to [[despair|accepts]] over him.
You [[wake up|wkup]].
The grounds are deserted. On your way back to the train, however, you think you spot a Skirt sitting on a bench with a clipboard. When you glance back to check, however, she's [[gone|gone3]].
Your performance levels are [[worrying|on]].\n\n<<set $performance +=1>>
Freefall.\n\nPerformance assessment. \n\n[[Different|diff]] this time.
His things - what few there were - are [[gone|gone]].
Thinking about it makes the [[thirst|pub]] worse.
"[[Your turn|yt2]]."
It doesn't matter to them what you have written down in you bag of truths. [[No one|noone]] believes you anymore. Not even Freefall.
And you do. You know you do. They gave you something even Freefall can't take away. The rain. Knowledge. Truth. A mutual smile.\n\nYou look at [[Checkers|forhim]].
<<if $code is 314>>\nThe briefcase clicks [[open|openbc]].\n<<else>>\nYou try the lock. The briefcase remains sealed. \n\nThe strain is too much. You push the briefcase off of the bed, your head pounding. You cannot go to work today. Too much bad noise. \n\nClutching your bag of truths to your chest, you fall into a fevered [[sleep|sleep4]].\n<<endif>>
You try your best. You tell her it's about a week or so since the uprising. That you lost track of time. You consider saying that you're sorry. \n\nShe nods, slowly. Glances up at one of the [[White Suits|ws]].
[[Room|room]] starts swimming.
[[The Thirst Frontier: Your Turn|pagetwo]].\n\n- \n\n[[Credits|credits]]\n[[About|about]]\n[[Original game|http://checkers.storynexus.com/]]
You know that laugh.\n\n[[.|speak]]
A Skirt sighs. She takes the sheet of paper away from you, then your pen. She says [[something|words2]] to the suit, something you miss as you [[watch|watch]] the ciph be taken out of sight.
You know by now what they think of you.\n\nThat you're in with the Ciph.\n\nThat you knew what was [[coming|coming]].\n\nThat you're [[dangerous|danger]].
Someone's touching your shoulder. [[A player|aplayer]].\n\nYou realise you're on the floor, clasping your head. It's all too much. They're looking at you, big eyes, big open mouth, speaking [[big words|bigwords]] that you're too strained to make sense of.\n\nOthers gather too. Others with big eyes and words, [[whispering|whisper]] too loudly amongst themselves.\n\nThe static builds. To the sensation of someone dragging you up off of the floor, you [[black out|bout]].
The Ciph are kept away from the public now. There's no way to reach them, to watch their awakening, even if you were willing to risk [[punishment|punishment]].
Turning the faucet, you drink [[straight|straight]] from the tap, missing most of the water in your haste.
Back at your unit, you pull out your bag of truths. The checker is gone. So are your words for Checkers. You don't remember [[dropping|dropping]] them.
You... get out of here... [[laughter|laugh]]... come [[on|comeon]].
Not sure there's a [[point|on]] anymore.\n\nNot sure there was one to begin with.
You have a story of your [[own|owns]].
A train pulls up. No one boards. The lights on the side are out.\n\nClutching your water, you [[get on|train2]].
Their skin is too dark for this to be the dream. You realise you [[recognise|recog]] them.
Checkers nods, bowing his head. \n\n"My turn is over. It's [[your turn|help]] now." \n\nHe reaches into a pocket and pulls out the checker piece. Taking your hand, he presses it firmly back into your palm and closes your fingers across it, giving your hand a tight squeeze. \n\n"Try not to [[lose|lose]] this again."
Freefall won't care for now, if you keep your head down, do your share. \n\nMight just be able to get to [[work|go]] in time. Trains are back up this morning. Could even have a drink. \n\nReally though, what are lines and terrible, terrible films to you now? Didn't [[sleep|sleep3]] much last night.
You read through your truths every other hour now. Remembering what happened - what really happened - is tricky.\n\nDidn't know whilst it was happening. Trying to work it out [[now|on]].
...you get it.\n\nYou enter the code.\n\n<<textinput $code [[Try Code|try2]]>>
Another train pulls up to the station, draws to a halt, and waits. No one else arrives to catch it. \n\nYou do not remember a train coming at this sort of time in the past, but perhaps they changed the schedule. No destination is listed where normally the LEDs on the side of the train would [[inform|inform]] you.
"You're thirsty... We know you need a [[drink|wait]]... Available to those who are eligible... probably not you then."
You fall into a nervous cycle of sleeping and waking, never where you think you are. \n\nThe briefcase continues to [[ellude|ellude]] you.
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As the platform passes you by beyond the windows, you spot someone on the platform. A [[Suit|suit]], holding a briefcase to his side.
You [[dissolve|answer2]] into the endless repition, the reminder of Checkers.
"I'm supposed to give you this." He takes your hand and places something cool and hard and round into your palm. He smiles again, though it's forced this time. His voice shakes a little. "Everything's going be [[alright|stop]]."
"You look well." He [[smiles|smiles]]. "Sorry to surprise you like this."\n\nYou don't know what to [[say|m3]]. How did he get on this train? You'd been told all Ciph were being imprisoned in the Slammer until further notice. They were supposed to be undergoing [[retraining|retraining]].
The sign announcing the specials is hung over the bar, scribed in chalk. You're not one to pass up on a free drink, but you have more important things to do right now.\n\nYou survey the Woolshed for potential plant locations. There's the [[storage closet|sc]] over in one corner, and a [[cluster of barrels|cob]] in another. Or you could always go [[out back|ob]] and plant it there; you don't know how powerful this thing is, but you're about to find out.
Instead, you focus on the checker. On Marbles. \n\nThere's a possibility that you imagined it, that it was all part of a dehydration induced hallucination. You run your thumb over the checkers piece, tucked within the confines of your bag. \n\nTonight, you're going to the [[Slammer|slammer]].
With an active bomb on your desk, you watch the video. It shows a clip of Ciph all smiling and waving at the camera, busy with work. You think you see Checkers.\n\nBefore you can make sure, however, you are eclipsed by an [[explosion|explosion]].
Everything is eerily [[quiet|halt]].
A private sort of relationship. Always finding more to say. Started by a [[mutual smile|db]].
Closing your eyes, you hug it close and [[turn it on|turnio]].
When they've finally left, Checkers comes and sits at your bedside, taking you hand and massaging your burnt fingers.\n\n"Everything's going to be [[alright|alright3]]."
You click the remote.\n\nThe screen goes black.\n\nAs you turn your back, you hear the static [[return|dropping]]. The program continues to play. \n\nFreefall will have noticed this.\n\n<<set $performance +=1>>
That word again. \n\n"[[Your turn|yt3]]," Checkers says, his wry smile telling you that he knows you have questions.
[[Down|down]] it.
You bring the water (second grade) to your lips. Finally, you [[drink|drink]].
He smiles. Touches your cheek, studying your face. \n\n"Yes. [[You|you3]] did it."
Without having to ask, he clambers into bed next to you. You lie on your sides facing each other. Like a couple of kids, you pull the covers up over your heads to block out the sound of Suits and Skirts shouting, laughing. \n\nYou ask him if it's over now. If you [[did it|didit]].
He doesn't move. \n\nYou don't know if he [[saw|train2]] you. \n\nYou may never know.
You messed up. At least you got to say your truths.\n\nCheckers smiles. You notice he's done that a lot since [[dying|dying]].
Soon, the muttering [[stops|stops]].
Checkers is on the farm with you, sat beside you on rolling hills of grass, bathing in the sun. He nudges your knee with his. "Everything's so peaceful here," he says, thumbing his water. He hands it to you. Watches as you drink, making it [[easier|easy]].
You're stood at the station. The black briefcase is gripped so forcefully in your hands that your whole arm shakes, your knuckles paper white. The lock is on 315. \n\nSuits and Skirts mill around, a train for [[Freefall|bfreefall]] due soon. A couple Players sit on a bench with their feet up, a few others chatting to the [[Patronising Waterbooth|bpat]], waiting for a ride to the [[Big Top|bbigtop]]. Almost everyone has work today. [[The Woolshed|bwoolshed]] has a specials evening tonight; a free drink with every good story about the Ciph. Lastly, there is an overhead sign announcing the reopening of [[the Slammer|bslammer]]. It is now open to the public.\n\nThe briefcase bumps against the side of your leg as someone walks into you. \n\nYou must choose. \n\n[[Where|where]] shall you plant the bomb?
Standing amongst the swarms of Players and Suits and Skirts milling around, you open the briefcase and clutch the [[bomb|bmb]]to your chest.
The noise builds, the sky rumbling with thunder. The clouds spark with lightning, and a far off hill is [[struck|struck]].
Another day. Work again. A blinking yellow light calls out to you.\n\n[[Freefall|freefall2]].
At the Slammer, you find the other Ciph gathered around a picture of their mother. You dare not approach them, knowing you are not welcome to this private moment, but watch from the door.\n\n"You know it as well as I do," Checkers says from beside you. "You're more than connected to us, this place - me. Tight. Entrenched. However you want to put it. You [[owe|owe]] us this."
And to stories of Checkers and the rain, you go to [[sleep|endgame]].
You're over all of them, all of this. That or you just can't cope anymore.\n\nYou hurry back home, not drinking a drop of water, before hiding under your bedsheets and clamouring for [[sleep|usleep]].
You can [[fix|fix]] it though.
You can't back out now. Freefall is closing in. They're outside your door. Your only chance of saving the Ciph and yourself is now.\n\n<<textinput $code [[Try Code|try2]]>>
Everything's [[fading out|fade]].
You smile back, a warm, soft feeling in your stomach. \n\n"So... is my...?" You [[ask|ask]].
Freefall. Suits. Skirts. Tests.\n\nThey know about your breakdown. The Happiness Companion is sat in a corner, her [[ankles|ankles]] crossed. Her mouth is pressed into a thin smile. \n\nThey are assessing you again; this time without your instrument. They tell you lies as to what this about. Say you've become a [[public disturbance|pd]]. That you're making a spectacle of yourself.\n\nYou know what this is really about.\n\n[[The briefcase|brief]]. \n
Flinching, you [[stand|stand]].
Does this mean you're getting [[better|wake]]?
No idea where you are. Outside, maybe. It's cold. \n\nSomeone's [[touching|touch]] your face.\n\nIt takes a moment before you realise they're [[speaking|speak]] to you.
"Okay...jugsoaked...Woolshed...Remember?"\n\nThey want to know about the Ciph. They saw you at the Slammer, you're sure of it[[...|watch2]]
You wish he wouldn't. You feel like a sweaty, thirsty mess. Worse, the noise in your head is getting louder, the strain mounting with every day you fail to open this [[briefcase|wake up]]. You don't even know what day it is anymore.
These are people who want to do terrible, terrible things to your friends. Considering the ciph your friends could get you into a lot of [[trouble|freefall]].
For old times sake, sentimental value, or maybe just out of habit, you find yourself heading over to [[Checkers' old room|COR]].
You play poorly. Too much [[noise|noise]] in your head. You throw the timings of those around you. It's obvious from the glares and mumbling that you have upset the players. The attending Suit makes a note with pursed lips. \n\nWhen it's over, no one waits for you. The other players seem eager to group and whisper amongst themselves. They [[glance back|glance]] at you every so often.
[[For him|stationb]].
Exhausted you fall into bed, dropping into an [[uneasy sleep|usleep]].
You feel someone [[grab|grab]] you, but for some reason, you cannot wake up.
In his left hand he is clutching a [[briefcase|briefcase]].
Pulling up a stool at the bar, you offer a trade; a drink for a story. The players fall quiet, and the barkeep eyes you. Finally, after a long pause, he [[agrees|agrees]].
.\n\nThis is supposed to mean something to you.\n\nGive you a [[truth|truth]].
"Sorry... closed... alarming performance... tomorrow... ciph."\n\nNo lines or shows for you today.\n\nYou can still feel everyone's eyes latched onto you, their words audible even when you try to block them out. Stories of the ciph are making you [[sick|sick]].\n\n"I heard... tragedy... torture... poor soul...locked up."
Pinned to the walls, glued to the ceiling, littering the floor, and stuck over the Fancy Wallscreen, which still won't stop playing the infomational video about the [[Ciph|counter]].
Like he knows what you're thinking, his smile softens. He doesn't say anything, but he rests his hand on the bull next to yours, giving it a good scratch. \n\nSunlight... laughter... sorry... more laughter... [[oh|oh]].
With nothing else to do save wonder when Freefall will find you and punish you suitably, you walk over and sit down on Checkers' now [[disused bed|db]].
Sat at the table, you're left alone to watch the show. It's the informational video on Ciph again. Now it refers to them in past tense. This makes you uncomfortable. \n\nYou pull the briefcase up onto your [[desk|desk]].
The woolshed. You throw back so many jugfuls that people are starting to [[stare|stare3]] at you. Or maybe they were doing that anyway.
A Skirt and a Suit. One of them you saw hanging around your unit a few days ago, you [[think|later]].
The trains haven't been working for a week. \n\nCan't [[remember|remember]] the last time you had a drink.
Checkers is sitting on the end of your bed, his legs crossed, watching you absently. When he notices you are awake, he gives you a brief smile, before pulling the briefcase up onto his lap. \n\n"I'm afraid this is how it must be done. Things are difficult now, I know, but everything's going to be [[alright|alright2]]."
You dare not eat it. Instead you just stare at it. The [[perfect circle|pc]].
He climbs in next to you, placing the briefcase back on the floor. Bed isn't really designed for two, but you [[manage|manage]]. Now you know what to tell him, how to say it. You don't even stutter. He talks back, telling you all about the ciph, their mother, where he [[grew up|grewup]]. Quiet, you listen. This is all you ever [[dreamt|dreamt]] about when he died.
There's an alleyway round back, inhabited only by stray cats, and you when you're jugsoaked. It is secluded, but may limit the damage this bomb does. \n\nAre you sure this is where you want to plant the bomb?\n\n[[Yes|obb]]\n[[No|wy]]
"Disorientated... adjust... careful."\n\n[[...|impossible]]
There are a lot of questions that need answering. Some more difficult to ask than others.\n\nYou notice that he's stopped saying '[[My turn|mt2]]'.
"Derranged... delusions... mutterring... [[dangerous|wkup]]."
Start to speak, but the words never come out. \n\nSunlight. You're back in your bed. Jugs on your bedside, and beside it on the floor. [[Brandy|brandy]] on your pillow. \n\nWork starts back up today. Got to [[go|go]] prove you can still play. Some of those who stayed can't be players anymore; hands shake too much. \n\nThere's a candle burned down to the base beside you. Maybe you could stay and [[stare|stare]] at that instead.
You can feel them watching you. Some are careful to avoid stepping too close to you. Others seem to be [[following you|bombf]].
You've been [[thirsty|thirsty]] for a while now.
This time, you can speak.\n\nYou don't need your truths; you know the words by heart.\n\nYou [[speak|yt]].
The Patronising Waterbooth may be an ass, but that's not what this bomb was intended for. Maybe you'll come [[back|stationb]] and destory it on the way, if Freefall doesn't get you first.
Back at your performance assessment, the Suits and Skirts have left you alone. \n\nYou cannot think of what to write. Instead, on your lined sheet of paper you draw [[circle after circle|circle]]. They're shaky, ugly things, but you're working on learning to draw one perfectly. You just need to [[practice|practice]] enough.
You [[open|open]] your hand.
"Do you... happened...?"\n\nYou don't want to listen to her. Doesn't matter, she keeps talking anyway. \n\n"What day is it?" She asks you. Why can you never [[answer|answer3]] this one?
Startled, you turn. A Ciph takes a seat beside you, their skin too dark for you to be dreaming. You recognise them. \n\n[[Marbles|m2]]
You look [[inside|inside2]].
Freefall's not what it was before the uprising. Too many people fled. Suits and Skirts are everywhere now. There's a [[survey|survey]] waiting every time you step out the door.
You miss your train back to the Units on purpose. Soon, you're standing on a deserted platform again. The Patronising Waterbooth is [[silent|silent]].
Freefall almost definitely noted your absence, but at the time it didn't seem like a big deal. Now though, you've noticed a Skirt hanging around outside your unit. Sometimes a Suit. \n\nThey've even [[given up|lose]] being subtle now.
Gripping the briefcase tight, you slip into the audience, taking a [[seat|seatc]] on one of the back benches.
About that.\n\nYou ask. He shakes his head. Smiles again. Sits you down on the bed, taking a seat next to you. \n\nYou sit facing one another. The quiet is strange, but not uncomfortable. \n\nFinally, Checkers tells you his [[truth|train3]].\n
The players. Their incessent gossip has plagued you ever since the uprising. They're the ones that want the ciph dead. The ignorants whose venomous words brought about the construction of those sick cells and retraining programs at the Slammer. They never did accept you, really. It would make for a personal revenge, and perhaps could save the ciph. Or it could just fuel the remaining Players to fight harder; they'd say that it proved their point. It's hard to tell.\n\nAre you sure this is where you want to plant the bomb?\n\n[[Yes|bombw]]\n[[No|stationb]]
You've listened in on them. \n\nThe players don't know anything about the [[Ciph|on]], though they have plenty of stories to tell about them.
They're not looking at you, but you can feel their gaze nonetheless, raising hairs on your skin. You [[find|find]] yourself unable to drink under such close scrutiny.
The White Suit straightens. \n\n"...know... you did...? Do... understand?"\n\nYou shake your head. Tell them you'd like to sleep now. One of the Suits protests, but after some heavy [[debate|debate]], they all leave, discussing you as [[they|they2]] walk out.
It's murky, brown. Subterranian. The bubbles are thick, rising, waiting, and then bursting. You don't think even boiling it will make it [[safe|inspect]] to drink.
[[The Slammer|6]].
No Ciph comes to sit with you this time, but once you have taken your seat, the train pulls out of the [[station|station]]. \n\nYou run your fingers across the rim of your water, almost unable to drink. You manage a couple of drops at first, and then, holding the [[checkers piece|cpiece]] in your hand, you finish it off in heady gulps.\n\nYour throat still stings, but you [[relax|sleept]], just a little bit.
"I'm [[glad|glad]] you came."
If that's [[true|wake up]], why don't you know the code then?
You glance around. \n\nOnce again, you are alone, save for the Patronising Waterbooth and [[the forgotten briefcase|tfb]].
And finally[[...|finally]]
Your body glistens with moisture, and everything feels damp, sticky. \n\nHeavy breaths. You half fall out of bed. [[Stumble|stumble]] to the faucet.
The shape seems fitting. They're soothing, pressed deep against your muscles. Haven't felt this [[warm|dream]] in years, not since you left mother, her pies, the sun, the farm.
The expression is wistful, slightly sad, but glad to see [[you|m2]]. Not the kind of face you'd see on a Suit or Skirt.
You look around to see who has spoken. \n\n"At least then you can have a drink," The Patronising Waterbooth drawls, slowly, so that you're not sure if it's trying to trick you or mock you. "Freefall will note your [[absence|absence]]."
Circles have eclipsed your music. Now, instead of picking up an instrument, you draw a circle. In your bag of truths - careful, so an entering suit won't see - you turn the checkers piece between your fingers, trying to feel what a [[real|real]] circle feels like.
It is jet black, with a three digit code lock on the top, the three dials worked from dulled silver.\n\nYou look back up at his face, but then, he is [[gone|gone2]].
"Kept mumbling in your sleep... hilarious... told me..." He laughs. Looks right at you.\n\n"[[Your turn|yourturn]]."
Your hands are shaking again. Your face is damp. Sweat, maybe. \n\nThe train shudders to a stop and you [[get off|unit]], the platform swarming with Suits and Skirts and Players, but none of them give you and your exclusive train a second glance.
There's still [[something|check]] in your hand, held tight beneath your curled fingers.
A bull inspects your hand. Considers for a moment. Cautiously, it lets you touch it, snorting in approval when you give it a scratch. \n\n"It [[likes|like]] you." \n\n
It was supposed to give you some kind of [[truth|truth3]].
The storage closet is secluded, only visited every so often, but difficult to sneak into without being seen. \n\nAre you sure this is where you want to plant the bomb?\n\n[[Yes|scb]]\n[[No|wy]]
[[Dries|say]] you out but at least it feels like you're drinking something for once.
A concert is [[in session|insess]]. Your fellow players are arranged in a semi circle, playing loudly as the performers jump and loop and swing up above.
Beside you, Checkers takes your hand, [[blood-stained|bloods]] and all.
That you knew about the devastation. The deaths. [[All|glance]] of it.
Before anyone else can arrive, you grab the handle of the briefcase, and [[run|run2]].
Not sure this is even real. You've had this [[dream|dream]] before.
Freefall. Populated by the hordes of Suits and Skirts, all of whom have been hunting you down for weeks, waiting for you to slip up. They run this joint. They'll be the ones in charge of punishing the Ciph. But they may also be the only people capable of stopping the players from enforcing their own vigilante justice. \n\nAre you sure this is where you want to detonate the bomb?\n\n[[Yes|bombf]]\n[[No|stationb]]
[[The Slammer|3]]
A week since the Ciph were switched off.\n\nToday's a big day. Today, the Ciph are being switched back [[on|on]].
A week since the Ciph were switched [[off|off]].
"Out of it... Ciph... doesn't know... no don't... tell..."\n\n[[...|watch2]]
<<if $code is 314>>\nThe briefcase clicks [[open|openbc2]].\n<<else>>\nThe briefcase remains sealed.\n\nCheckers sighs beside you. "Your turn, again," he says, taking the checkers piece from you and rolling it around in his palm. "Marbles would have [[worked|worked]] too, though not as well." \n<<endif>>
You try not to [[care|care]].
You're called back for a performance assessment again.\n\nThis time, [[they're|they]] making you take a test. They ask you what pictures of things are. They want to know what you've been doing. They ask you what day it is.\n\nYou do not know the [[answer|answer2]].
The Suits and Skirts all clamber onto the [[next|next]] train. That train leaves too, and soon, you are alone.\n\nAt least you still have [[The Patronising Waterbooth|wb]] for company.
The next train heading for work comes in an hour, by which time your tardiness will have been noted. Trains are only scheduled to leave for Freefall and the Big Top today.\n\nYou could [[wait|wait]] for the next train, or try this one, and [[pray|pray]] it's going where you want it to.
The train for Freefall departs, taking him with it, and leaving you [[behind|behind]].
Back at your unit, there are now 2 Suits waiting outside your unit. One is stood right next to your door. He doesn't say anything when you enter, and you can't tell if he's watching you. When you check outside a few minutes [[later|later]], they both are gone.
Nightime. Light provided by a lonesome candle, but it's warm and gentle and enough. Hand resting on your shoulder. Thumb rubbing [[circles|circles]] on your neck. Words, meaningless and nonsensical, mumbled to fill the [[quiet|quiet]]. Water on your lips. You don't want to drink, but they force it down you. It's bitter, dirty, but water all the same. "Sorry. Couldn't get anything better." They dry the spillage. \n\n"[[Your turn|sleep]]."
They want to see you about your [[performance|station2]].