|Tina||Dawn has barely passed, but Tina is busily tending the candles in the church auditorium, relighting the ones that have gone out and occasionally replacing one that has burned down too low to produce light. The light is necessary this morning, due to a heavy overcast and a misty rain outside, accompanied by a thick fog that all but blots out the sunlight.|
|Jacqueline||There's a knock on the door, but it's pushed open before anyone could even take a step to answer it. Jackie Wayne steps hurriedly inside, pausing to shut the door behind her. She's wearing a hooded rain cape in addition to her usual gecko-leather attire, and under her arm is a long, canvas-wrapped bundle whose shape suggests a large rifle. "Sorry to disturb you... so early, Sister..." she says, a little out of breath.|
|Tina||Tina looks up at the sound of the door, dipping a graceful curtsey and using the skirts of her robe in place of a full skirt. "Welcome to the church," she says, politely but warmly. "How may I help you today?"
Then she sees who it is, and the bundle. "Good morning, Miss Jacqueline... you seem unduly burdened today. What brings you around so early?" she asks. "Give me just a moment to see to the last of these candles and I'll be right with you." Working to be as good as her word, she finishes lighting the last few candles before blowing out the wick on her ancient brass lighting staff and setting it carefully to one side.
|Jacqueline||"Thank you, Sister." Despite not moving, Jackie's breathing doesn't seem to be easing. Her eyes keep darting in the direction of the bundle. "I'm not... I don't know how to describe it... in a logical way. Used to, I didn't think there was... such a thing as a curse... but now I'm convinced that there is. Nothing else would explain this weapon... and how I feel about it."
She sets the bundle down in front of the altar, hovering protectively over it, yet her expression is one of loathing as she looks at it. "How I hate it... and yet I feel it's precious to me. And I know how wrong that sounds... but it's true!"
|Tina||Tina watches Jackie set down the long, heavy bundle, giving the girl a confused look at her explanation. "You're right, it /does/ sound terribly wrong... but there must be /some/ truth to it, else you would not stand so protectively over it, with an expression of such intense loathing. Further, I have seen something much like this before... except that the owner did not want to part with the item so desperately."
She steps closer to the girl and her unearthly burden, her hands loosely clasped before her. "What is it?" she asks, reaching toward the bindings that keep the canvas wrappings in place.
The word bursts from Jackie's lips, and she lashes out to shove the nun's reaching hands away. She stares at Tina for a long moment, the anger on her face slowly dissolving into shock.
She lowers her gaze, hugging her elbows and shivering. "I'm sorry... that's how strong it still is, the hold it has. I only... I only mustered the strength to approach you today," she whispers, squeezing her eyes shut. "Nothing else has worked."
She undoes the bindings herself, unrolling the waxed canvas. Beneath is a long gun, a cumbersome weapon of advanced design, beautifully customized with a bright red finish. Flames decorate its largest panels. It practically shouts its deadliness to the world, and the long barrel speaks as to its purpose: Long-distance shooting.
|Tina||Tina squeaks and backpedals a step as Jackie swipes at her outstretched hands, hastily drawing those hands back as if she'd touched a hot potato. She stares at the girl in shock for a long moment, only nodding slowly and relaxing marginally when she apologizes. "I begin to understand. No wonder you seemed so tense when you came in."
She stares at Jackie unwraps the weapon, recoiling a few inches with a little gasp as the last wrappings fall away. "I... I don't know why, but... it frightens me to the core. Still... those lines are somewhat familiar. It's some manner of rail gun, isn't it?" she asks. "Where did you find it? I've seen very similar weapons once or twice before now, but never one like this."
|Jacqueline||"Yes. A 2mm railgun, made for piercing heavy armor at long range," Jackie says softly, trying not to look at it. "It's disgustingly heavy and hard to use, and yet I can't use anything else, if danger appears. It's like it /wants/ to be used, and when I do..." She shivers. "I suppose I'd better tell you how I got it. It might explain a lot."
She doesn't look at Tina as she begins the tale. "I was out in Dunwich. I suppose that name says plenty already. I was inside a house that seemed less... /oppressive/ than the other places in town. This was hidden behind a sofa, out of sight but easy to hand, as if someone... like it was left there for home defense, silly as that sounds." She grimaces. "Maybe that should've told me something... but I pulled it out for a better look. That's when I heard moaning down the street..."
She looks up at Tina, eyes haunted, face reflecting some of the fear of that day. "I pulled aside the window curtain, and there were zombies in the street. Zombies! Just like in some old pre-war film! And they were blocking the way out of town!"
|Tina||"Dunwich... yes, that /does/ explain a lot," Tina murmurs thoughtfully, looking between the gleaming custom railgun and the nervous girl as Jackie tells her story. "The last person I saw carrying an item from Dunwich seemed nearly mad to wear it... it was a suit of armor, you see. And he didn't want to take it off, even though he had superior armor available to him. Perhaps he /couldn't/ take it off..." she muses, staring at the weapon and shivering. "Much like how this thing seems so precious to you, as much as you detest it."
Her eyes get wider and wider as the story unfolds. "How did you escape? I've heard of ghouls gone feral, but actual /zombies/? I thought they only existed in old pre-war cinema..."
|Jacqueline||"Apparently they exist in Dunwich, too," is Jackie's reply, accompanied by a humorless, almost sad, smile. "They weren't ghouls. I know those by sight. No radiation was keeping these monsters moving. It was something... /else/."
She shakes her head. "They looked like they were just roaming, shambling along, but they were still between me and the road out of town. They had to go. So I opened the door as quietly as I could, and I stepped out onto the porch."
She looks down at the weapon again. "I didn't even remember picking it up, but this anvil of a gun was in my hands when I got outside! I figured I'd use it and leave it lying; it was plainly made for distance, and those creatures were over sixty feet away. I braced it on the porch railing, took a bead, and the first time I pulled the trigger..."
She squeezes her eyes shut, shivering hard. "It was a perfect shot... right through the head! The thing dropped, but I barely noticed. I was feeling a feeling of bliss, like nothing I'd ever felt... but something burned, too, and it was so agonizing..!" Her breath comes fast, short and shallow, at the memory. "It felt like I was burning up inside, but it felt so /good/..."
She swallows, gritting her teeth and trying to control herself. "I kept shooting. Every time another round hit, I felt that same burn of ecstasy. But I felt weaker and weaker with each shot, like it was burning me up inside. At last they were all down. I almost dropped the gun, I was so weak, and yet I wanted to fire it again... and again..."
"I was so exhausted, but I knew something could've heard those shots. I wasn't up to a long walk... It was all I could to to stagger into the house and wedge a chair under the door. I fell onto the couch and spent the night there. But when I woke up, my hand was on the gun on the floor... and my palms and fingers were blistered. I'd never even felt the pain before then. I knew then that something was wrong. But even knowing that, I couldn't leave the gun behind. I packed it with me out of town."
|Tina||Tina listens attentively, nodding every once in a while, her eyes wide. Finally she nods once more, emphatically, stepping closer to hug the shivering girl. "You /have/ been through an ordeal, haven't you?" she asks softly. "Clearly something is very wrong with that weapon. I've never done anything like this before, but I remember some entries in an old book, and another, even older book has some rites in it that might sever this... connection. I think the word the books used was 'possession', and this sounds much like what they discussed."
She gently releases Jackie. "Courage, Miss Jackie," she says softly, looking into the girl's eyes with an intensity that belies her youth and her doll-like build. "I will need your help. First, I need you to extinguish the candelabras... the books spoke of potential violent disturbances when this was attempted, and falling candles might start a fire. There are some ancient battery lamps in the back. We'll use them for light. And then I'll need to get some more things once we have the lights. Will you be all right by yourself, working on the candles?"
|Jacqueline||Jackie returns Tina's hug, trying to stop shaking. "Very wrong," she agrees emphatically. "I haven't been able to get more than five feet from it, even to sleep. My family probably thinks I'm crazy, having that thing leaned against my chair at the dinner table," she adds, with a wry but humorless smile. "It's been an awkward three months. If what's in those books will help... I'm willing to try just about anything at this point."
She moves to start putting out the candles. "I'm on it... I think I can have them out by the time you get everything. Don't... don't worry about me."
|Tina||Tina gently releases Jackie from the hug. "Use the chandler's staff... it's over there. The bell-shaped attachment is made for snuffing candles," she says, indicating the brass staff she's been using to light the candles earlier. "I'll be back as quickly as I can." With that, she disappears into the back hallway through one of the two doorways flanking the pulpit.
It's several minutes before she returns, lugging several ancient battery-powered lamps that look about as out of place in the church as a cheerleader in a graveyard. Placing them in a more or less cross-shaped positioning around the railgun and its coverings, she switches them on, one at a time. Two glow yellowishly, hinting at nearly exhausted batteries. "I hope these last long enough. I can't remember ever seeing a spare battery pack for one of them," she observes softly.
|Lucky||With a creak and a thud, the doors to the church open and close quickly.
Hands tucked in the outer pockets of the duster, his boot footfall against the ground is heard echoing through the room as Lucky heads down the center between the pews; eyes quietly taking in the place.
|Jacqueline||"Right." Jackie hurries to grab the staff. The last few steps are a stumble, teeth gritted: It's more than five feet away from the gauss rifle. Just one... more... step..!
There! The staff is in her hands, and she hurries to douse those candles. The task gives her a short sense of purpose, helping her forget the blasted gun for a few minutes as she gets the hang of the chandler's staff and puts out those hazardous open flames.
She's just getting the last one when Tina reappears, lanterns in hand. "Good... I was just finishing," she says, a little shakily. "I can take a look at those if you want... after we finish, I mean." Priorities, after all. "Is there any way I can help?"
She blinks and looks up as someone else comes in out of the rain. Lucky? She manages a faint smile and a wave, in front of a massive garish gun surrounded by a cross formation of lanterns and a busy nun.
|Tina||Tina looks up at the sound of the door, blinking in faint surprise as she sees the young man walking down the main aisle. Recovering her composure, she dips a graceful curtsey, using the skirts of her habit in place of a full skirt. "Welcome to the church, sir. How may I help you?" she asks, politely and yet warmly. "If it is important, you may want to return at a later time. I regret that I am rather busy at the moment and may be for a little while yet. A little matter regarding artifacts taken from Dunwich... one seems to have taken an unhealthy liking to Miss Jackie."|
|Lucky||"I'm Jesus coming back to save his people; starting with El Dorado. Have any advice?" Lucky replies to Tina when asked how he can be helped. A smile softly creases his lips as his eyes follow between Jackie and Tina before falling on the odd formation before them.
"So." He says with a raise of a brow. "This is either a weird, awkward sacrifice to the God of War or your attempting to perform some kind of exorcism on a gun; still awkward and weird though."
"Dunwich?" He repeats with an ahh. "That explains a lot." A beat "How can I help?"
|Jacqueline||"Well... it's only unhealthy if you fire it," Jackie mentions, grimacing. "The rest of the time it's just... /weird/. And awkward. And very heavy." Still, she manages a smile for the Ranger who broke the tension. "Hey, Lucky."|
|Tina||"Yes... don't make religious jokes in front of a nun?" Tina replies, with a wry smile. "And actually, you may need to restrain Miss Jackie once I begin. The weapon's influence on her may cause her to act out or try to attack me," she adds. "The books mentioned this could happen. As did that movie. I would prefer not to be distracted any more than absolutely necessary when the ritual begins."|
|Lucky||"Well.. your no fun." Lucky pouts playfully to the nun, hands slipping out of the duster. He comes to a halt before the two woman, listening quietly and intently to what Tina says.
Looking to Jackie, a wry smile creases his lips; saying "Kinky." at the mentioning of restraining Jackie. "Rope, cuffs or hands?" He asks more seriously, glancing between the two women. He makes his way to be closer to Jackie, preparing to do as tasked.
|Jacqueline||"I might? Oh, wow..." As if Jackie needed any more reasons to worry. Now she has to worry about Tina as well as herself, and maybe Lucky in the bargain. "I'll /try/ not to, promise! I'll be good!"
She looks between Lucky and Tina. "Um, should I sit someplace? Maybe kneel? That might make it harder to attack folks."
|Tina||"Hands. But don't restrain her unless she tries to disrupt the ritual or attack me," Tina clarifies softly. "And that might be best, Miss Jackie... but both of you may want to try to stay outside the circle of lamps if at all possible. Now I need to get the books and the other supplies. I'll be right back." She turns and walks briskly through the doorway she'd used before, disappearing into the depths of the building.
She returns several minutes later, carrying two ancient-looking leather-bound books and a satchel slung over her shoulder. "This should be everything, if I recall the ritual correctly. It should only take a few minutes... fifteen at the most. We should know instantly if I'm doing it right or not. Demons don't like being bothered by religious rites that aren't their own." She takes two glass vials from her satchel, and then a large wooden cross on a tarnished chain, which she hangs around her neck; the chain falls nearly to her waist. "Best get settled in."
Lucky moves up behind Jackie, hands at his side but ready at a moment's notice to grab her. He is a bit nervous, having never done anything like this before, but also happy to assist and help.
"So, sister, have you ever done something like this before?" He inquires, looking up to Tina.
|Jacqueline||"Outside the circle... okay," Jackie replies, moving to kneel about two feet away from the lamp closest to the outside door. It's about as far away from the weapon as she can stand to get, and even that has beads of sweat forming on her forehead within seconds. She gives Lucky a nervous glance, but lowers her head and nods. "I'm ready."
She begins breathing deeply, closing her eyes. It's a little easier if she can't see the gun. A little.
|Tina||"I'm afraid not. But there really isn't anyone else to do it. Anyway, the ritual doesn't seem hard," Tina replies ruefully, uncorking the first vial. "I'm starting. Be ready..."
She begins to pray in a soft murmur, walking a slow circle around the weapon. Occasionally she shakes a few drops of the clear liquid in the vial out onto the railgun. Although the weapon seems quite cool, the droplets hiss and evaporate instantly as they touch the gun, no matter where they hit, as if it were red-hot. The lamps flicker as the holy water hisses and boils away, quieting afterward, and a sense of tension fills the air...
|Lucky||"Ah" Lucky responds to Tina.
Seeing the nervous glance, Lucky smiles to her "I am right here." He whispers reassuringly to her "I will not to let anything bad happen to you or anyone." He adds as a hand is placed on her shoulder rather gently. "Promise." He adds.
The young ranger has seen and dealt with many things in his twenty years of life - Deathclaws, Raiders, mutants, wolves and all sort of other odd creatures. this however was a first; demonic possession, ghosts and supernatural weirdness. He has always chalked it to science or something just not rationally explained.
There was no rational explaination to what he saw as water boiled away from a gun whose surface temperature was barely eighty-degrees. Or the fact that every dam window and door was closed and yet lamps were flickering; or that odd tension.
Yep, Lucky has stepped into the unknown here.
|Jacqueline||"I know... thanks," Jackie says over her shoulder, trying for a brave and grateful smile that comes out wan and scared. Really, it's her first time dealing with this kind of freakiness, too. It might help that she's been dealing with it for about three months, but it's been wearing on her, too. Clasped on her knees, her hands clench and unclench, then clutch at her knees and hold on hard, as if she could anchor herself to the floor.
And then Tina begins, and the lights flicker in time with the boiling droplets of water. What's with the water, anyway?
And then something rattles...
Maybe it was just the rain.
|Tina||Tina halts next to the weapon's aft end, pouring the last drops from the vial over the gun. They hiss and boil away just like the others, leaving little clouds of steam to float away. Tucking the empty vial and cork into her satchel, she takes up the cross and holds it high above her head, shivering faintly at that rattle, but focusing her attention on her work and trying not to let it distract her. She begins to pass the cross over the railgun in a cross-shaped pattern, holding it high each time the pattern is finished. The lamps flicker faintly in time with the movements of the cross, and the shadow of the gun ripples faintly, like heat waves off of hot metal.|
|Lucky||Sooo... this was getting awkwardly weird and freaky; the gun was rattling and it's shadow was rippling. The lamps were diming and well, the creepy factor felt like it was dialed up to eleven.
Lucky holds steadfast though, right behind Jackie, his finger tips of the right hand on her shoulder. He would not abandon his post; having promised to be there for her.
|Jacqueline||Jackie's trying to breathe deeply, to keep her mind off the gun, but her breath catches in her throat as the lamps continue to dim in reaction to Tina's passes of the cross. She shivers, the movement clearly sensed by Lucky through his hand on her shoulder.
Another rattle. And another.
Whatever it is, it's NOT the rain...
|Tina||Tina glances sidelong at the gun as she works, but doesn't stop. Raising the cross over her head, she begins to walk a slow circle around the railgun and wrappings, the cross held high over her head with both hands, pausing at each apparent point of the compass to lower the cross to arms' length over the weapon, then raise it again and continue. Three times she walks around it in this fashion, and each lamp she passes flickers, then glows steadily again.
At last she pauses in front of Jackie. Still praying, she gently touches the cross to the girl's forehead, then lifts it away. And begins to walk that same circle around Jackie and Lucky, with the same dips of the cross at the compass points, and the same murmuring prayer that never seems to stop.
And then the light closest to Jackie, the one with the weakest glow, goes out completely. After a few seconds, it still hasn't come back on.
|Lucky||The ranger continues to watch quietly, eyes on Tina as she moves; fingers at the ready should Jackie suddenly become violent. He ignores Tina as she begins to circle around the pair, eyes focusing forward. Ears listening to the god awful rattling coming from the rifle.
Then the light closest to them flickers out. "Uhm.." He mutters, eyes intently focused on the lamp, waiting for it to come back on.r
|Jacqueline||Jackie continues to breathe, each deep breath hissing in her nervousness, her shoulders rising and falling with the effort. The shaking coming through Lucky's hand is growing stronger, more constant.
Then that light goes out. /At exactly the same time/, Jackie straightens and gasps, her eyes wide open and staring at the gun. "No..."
This time the rattling isn't subtle at all. It's loud enough that the source is unmistakeable: /The gun is SHAKING on the floor, and turning incrementally towards Tina/!
|Tina||Tina finishes her third circle around Jackie, touching the cross to her forehead one last time. As the shaking grows louder, she raises the cross and turns toward the gun.
And finds it turning toward her, however slowly. She begins to shiver almost violently, her breathing faintly ragged, as she watches it.
And then she smiles a manic smile, her eyes wild. It fades as quickly as it had come, along with her shivering. "Safety's on, dipshit..." she says, her tone softly contemptuous. The accent sounds nothing like her.
And then she takes several running steps toward the gun. The second vial is in her free hand, her thumb flicking the cork out, upending its contents over the cross. And then the cross is pressed to the trigger assembly of the railgun with all her might, the soaked cross throwing up a cloud of steam and a vicious hiss as it touches the weapon...
|Lucky||As Jackie straightens up and speaks, Lucky's right hand instinctively grips her shoulder; not too tight but enough that if applied force was needed, he could.
Okay... so now the floor is shaking from the gun's vibration... that is freakily weird.
Is the gun turning ...
"Uhm, okay I've seen freaky shit. That is beyond freaky shit." Lucky exclaims aloud without realizing it; his left pointer finger pointing toward the moving gun.
Then Tina assaults the rifle's trigger assembly with a wet cross. Lucky's eyes go wide in disbelief.
The supernatural is real.
The supernatural is real.
|Jacqueline||Jackie's entire body tenses, her hands rising from her knees as if to reach for the weapon...
But Tina is there first! After seeming to /taunt/ the evil gun, she's now attacking it with a cross!
The gauss rifle goes rigidly still, quivering violently in place. But it seems to be /reacting/ to the cross, not acting on its own. The hissing intensifies, the steam thickens and begins to cloud up the area around the gun, then the entire ritual...
The lights surge to full brightness, even the dead one coming back on! The whole room is lit with stark shadows that seem to waver, even with such steady light.
Jackie's entire body stiffens, and she seems to choke. Almost invisible in the mists, a tendril of mist escapes her mouth and nose, trailing slowly to the gun.
Jackie sighs softly and goes limp, collapsing back into Lucky as the lights dim almost to nothing.
The hissing stops. The room is utterly silent for one awful moment.
Then the lights come back up again. Even the dead one, though it's dim.
The fog is clearing.
Jackie doesn't move. But she's breathing.
The gun is still, a cross-shaped mark burned into its infernal finish.
|Tina||Tina sinks to her knees beside the gun, her whole weight pressing the cross to its metal, until the last of the steam vanishes and Jackie falls limp against Lucky. As the lights come up, she looks at the weapon, raising the cross from the scorched metal that is somehow cooler than the room around it.
"That puts paid to /you/," she growls. "/Bastard.../" And then her eyes roll back in her head and she wavers, nearly falling. Blinking hard, she looks at Jackie and and Lucky. "I don't remember /that/ part in the ritual. But I think we've done it." She moves to stand with a little groan. "So tired... I never knew five minutes of work could be so exhausting."
|Lucky||Everything happens in a flash; bright lights, mist and Jackie's body stiffening.
Lucky takes everything in and when he feels Jackie going limp, falls to his left knee, right bent. His right hand goes to cradle the nape of her neck, the left to her stomach and eases her back a bit against his leg. "I gotcha..." He murmurs, feeling her chest rise and fall through the hand on her stomach.
Then the lights flicker on again, the fog is clearing up.
"She's alive, just unconscious." He informs Tina, looking to her. "Is it.. over?" As she answers, he nods to her as he listens, eyes looking back to Jackie with concern.
|Jacqueline||Jackie's breathing evenly, seemingly just asleep. It might be the first easy rest she's had since her last trip to Dunwich.
And the gauss rifle, the cause of all the trouble, seems to be just... a gun. Possibly not even a functional gun now.
|Tina||"That's good. If the book's right, she should be fine in a minute or two. When she comes to, tell her to dump that gun in Dunwich, preferably in pieces, or bury it somewhere remote, where nothing can find it. Or bury it in Dunwich... i'm not fussy, as long as it's gone for good," Tina says softly, shaking her head tiredly. "I need a nap. A really long nap." She wobbles over to the podium to take a sign from behind it and carry it to the front doors to hang outside. It reads, 'SAVING SOULS or SAWING WOOD? Either way, services are cancelled for the day.'.|
|Lucky||Looking up to Tina, Lucky nods. "I will. Thank-you, sister." He tells her with a faint smile before looking back to Jackie quietly. He'd stay by her side until she awoke.|