(12:05:52 PM) The Storyteller: So it was that Erin arrived at the van a while after Sergei and Whim, and found the green-haired girl standing just outside the door, breathing heavily. In the dull, grey world of the Twilight, Whim's hair shone like a slightly over-dyed beacon. "Well. That did not work. Rabbit fellow can move."
(12:05:58 PM) The Storyteller: ||
(12:08:11 PM) Erin: All those fast food desserts had taken their toll on the small woman, and despite having moved much slower than Whim she looked a good deal worse. "Gehhhhhhhhh---" was all Erin could manage in place of anything helpful.
"What's he doing in there?" she managed to huff, in between gasping for breath.||
(12:12:03 PM) The Storyteller: "Take a look." Whim said, then paused. Erin, despite her many other talents, was not granted an imposing height. The van was tall. The bottom of the van's window was about a foot over Erin's head. "Uh... let me boost you up." The wizard hummed a few bars, causing the shadows to gather and rise, creating a fairly solid stepladder before the van.
(12:13:57 PM) The Storyteller: Inside, Erin could see Sergei, himself a little out of breath, in the process of unpackaging the paper-wrapped bundel that he and Aleksander had taken from the closet. It was a rifle. A hunting rifle, as a matter of fact, complete with a scope and a silencer. Sergei rolled down the rearview mirror of the van, oblivious to Erin's face nearby, and rested the tip of the barrel on the window's edge. ||
(12:17:40 PM) Erin: "He can't hear us, right?" Erin confirmed, still hyperventilating. "Looks like he's setting up as a sniper nest."||
(12:18:30 PM) The Storyteller: "He shouldn't, no." Whim said, with a tad less confidence than would have been comforting. "Most muggles can't." ||
(12:21:07 PM) Erin: "Yeah, but they know about us. Or something. They had ghost sensors and everything," Erin replied, leaning slightly away from the gun barrel. "Not very well, from the looks of it, though, if they think either us or Venatores are going to come anywhere from the parking lot."||
(12:23:56 PM) The Storyteller: "It can't hurt you." Whim said as she looked at Erin and the gun, before adding. "Probably." The mage turned to look back at the museum, squinting slightly as she sought to make out the distances. "He's got a pretty good spot though. Parking lot, east side door, every window in the back of the museum." ||
(12:29:03 PM) Erin: "Just the two Russians and Boss Wormwood against all of us. I have a feeling they must be expecting that brain to even the score," Erin mused, chewing her lip. Experimentally, she tried to tap the gun with her antenna. "Best we don't have two Russians lurking around where we can't see em, then."||
(12:31:05 PM) The Storyteller: There was some resistance, but then it passed through the gun cleanly. Whim watched with a wry smile. "Got a plan? Or shall we get onto the van's roof, I open a gate, and we dump Milady out here in front of his nose?" ||
(12:44:53 PM) Erin: "We could probably hide anywhere around this van, it's so huge. It's exceptionally impractical," Erin said stuffily, sniffing at poor mpg the thing must have gotten. "Is there anything you can do about the parking lot lights? I could always try to sneak around and disable them myself..."
"As for the lady... every horror movie has em show up in the back windshield," Erin said with a mischievous grin. "How fast are you and your shadows on the draw? Maybe we can have her vanish before he opens the door and gets a good look."||
(12:47:14 PM) The Storyteller: "Parking lights... not much. Nothing magic, at any rate." Whim said. She tapped her chin. "I can try... I'd need to keep the gate open, and it'd be close, but we can try and have it disappear." ||
(1:03:05 PM) Erin: "I think we should talk to him..." Erin said after a moment. "How good is your dramatic timing, Whim?" she asked with a smile. "I think maybe the Lady should lurk around outside... in the mirrors and the rear view mirrors... just enough so that he's not sure if she's really there... this van's big enough she could hide just about anywhere."||
(1:06:01 PM) The Storyteller: "Creepy dramatic timing. I can do that." Whim said with a slow little smile of her own. The green-haired girl had a very wicked smile. "Shall I open you a gate inside the van? Gimme a minute and I'll have her ladyship showing up all over the place." ||
(1:11:03 PM) Erin: "Sure... i doubt he'll be looking too carefully behind himself, if he's in a sniper nest," Erin said. "Though he's scared enough to be. Guess we'll find out."||
(1:16:00 PM) The Storyteller: So it was decided. Entering the van proved to be... interesting. Passing through walls turned out to be somewhat akin to passing through a brief sauna, or a quick dip beneath the water. A feeling of pressure, which then passed. Whim took her very cultic-looking dagger, opened a smallish Ghost Gate, and Erin passed through.
(1:18:27 PM) The Storyteller: Even as the gate closed, Sergei heard something. Or perhaps he was just naturally twitchy enough. Turning just a second to slow to spot the Ghost Gate, the Russian dropped his rifle, a hand diving into a jacket pocket. Erin got a glimpse of a pistol's hilt before Sergei's eyes widened, and the Russian arrested his motion, staring at the changeling with obvious confusion in his eyes. "Da chert... Erin?" ||
(1:21:24 PM) Erin: "Hello, Mr. Sergei," Erin greeted politely, as if this were just another day at filming and she were waving hi to him over a cup of coffee. "Is it... do you have a last name, Mr. Sergei? I never asked before."||
(1:23:18 PM) The Storyteller: "Zaitsev." Sergei said, still rather nonplussed. You could all but see him trying to gather his wits. With about as much casualness as he could manage, he pushed the dropped rifle back into a corner with his foot. "How did you get in here?" ||
(1:26:57 PM) Erin: She blinked. "The same way you did, wouldn't I have? It's not strange, Mr. Zaitsev. That's more proper, now isn't it? Mr. Zaitsev." ||
(1:29:50 PM) The Storyteller: "...Right." Sergei said, but before he could add anything more, he twitched, eyes flashing towards the rearview mirror before he whirled once more. The mannequin, which had been there just a second ago, was gone. The Russian had his gun out now, and his hand was not shaking. ||
(1:32:49 PM) Erin: Erin hummed, not bothering to look in the direction he'd whirled, just sitting and staring at him. "Is something wrong, Mr. Zaitsev?"||
(1:36:09 PM) The Storyteller: "Just me going mad." Sergei muttered. This may or may not have been intended for Erin's hearing. The Russian turned back at her, looking at her strangely. [Wits+Empathy, if you like]. He lowered the gun, holding it by his thigh, then stepped for the van door. "Do you trust me Erin?" Was all he said as he opened the door. ||
(1:39:52 PM) Erin: "Should I?" was all Erin asked in return.||
(1:42:28 PM) The Storyteller: "No." Sergei said in a quiet voice, slid open the van door. Gun in hand, he made a slow half-circle around the door, in the motion which in military manuals is called 'slicing the pie', examining most of the area outside in search of threats. Seeing nothing, he hopped out of the van, pistol at the ready, and turned merely looked at Erin, his face haunted. ||
(1:47:28 PM) Erin: "Is something wrong, Mr. Zaitsev?" Erin repeated. She scooted over toward the edge of the van, her feet dangling from the edge of door, a good several feet above the ground. "Are you in trouble?" ||
(1:49:21 PM) The Storyteller: "Yes. No. Chert... I don't know. You're in danger, though." Sergei said, said, taking a few more cautious steps, then suddenly whirling and lifting his gun towards the driver's seat of the van, stopping short. "I'm going mad..." ||
(1:59:43 PM) Erin: "Hey, if you're in trouble we should get you out of here," Erin said, sliding from the van and landing on the ground below. "What's happening, Mr. Zaitsev? You shouldn't be here if it's dangerous."||
(2:03:50 PM) The Storyteller: "Running won't help me." Sergei said absently, moving fast in a half crouch for the nearest car, glancing regularly at the Museum proper. "And... not even sure. Nothing is sane in this place. Nechest vsykaya...ghosts. You can run, though. Come on." ||
(2:20:27 PM) Erin: "Why won't it? Come on! I don't want to leave you here!" Erin protested, sounding a bit like a cross between a whiny child and a horribly frightened one. This wasn't going anything like she'd expected. She frowned a bit, genuinely getting worried. "Mr. Hammond told me I could come in late and now I can't find anyone... Please, Mr. Zaitsev... the ghosts are just figments of your imagination... that's what Mr. Hammond always tells me. You've just been working too hard. You work such long hours. I get confused too..." ||
(2:24:49 PM) The Storyteller: "Maybe." Sergei said, looking around the parking lot. "Maybe some of them are. Not all of them... ghosts can kill you. Maybe even the imaginary ones can. The real ones... can do worse." ||
(2:31:14 PM) Erin: Erin sighed, looking slightly down at the ground.
"I don't want you to die, Mr. Sergei," she admitted, reverting back to as informal a name as she dared. "I don't care what's going on, or what you've done. I don't want to leave you here."||
(2:33:01 PM) The Storyteller: The scrawny Russian smiled briefly. "I don't want to die either, and I don't intend to. Bad people never die, didn't you know? Go crazy maybe..." ||
(2:37:24 PM) Erin: Erin seemed pleased by this, like a child that'd been placated by a lolipop. She trotted behind him for a few more paces before asking:
"What did you do with their bodies, Mr. Zaitsev?"||
(2:39:18 PM) The Storyteller: "Sen---" Sergei stopped, staring at Erin suddenly. "Who are you? What are you? I'm going mad... mad... mad..." ||
(2:47:19 PM) Erin: "Don't you know me, Mr. Sergei? We work in the same building. You called me by my name," Erin replied, seemingly oblivious to the fact that he could easily snap and shoot her at any moment. "Is it bothering you, Mr. Sergei? I wonder if you had to watch... were they dead, when it happened? Or were they still alive when their heads were sawwed apart...?"||
(2:51:53 PM) The Storyteller: Whim, it seemed, had stopped her steady gaslighting at the moment, as there was only silence as Sergei leaned back against the car, his eyes closed. There was a silence. "The priest was right, eh? For my sins. Forgive me. Oh Lord, please forgive me. For all my sins. For everything I've done. For what I haven't done."
(2:53:51 PM) The Storyteller: "I watched. Someone had to watch. So that the cameras saw everything. The ghost. Proklitaya vedma... she didn't stay in the same spot. So someone had to watch, move the cameras. So it was all on tape, you see? Aleksander, he is no good with machines. So I was the one who watched all the time."
(2:55:29 PM) The Storyteller: "She'd clamp them. It was all in their heads. Maybe this is all in my head. But she'd bind them to that table, and she'd cut their heads open, and Lord forgive me, they screamed. No one ever heard them outside the room, but they screamed... and I watched and did nothing." Sergei said, his eyes glistening with tears. ||
(3:10:35 PM) Erin: "You regretted it, didn't you? What happened to them, to her... Who was, she, Mr. Sergei?" Erin asked, wondering if she should reach out and touch him, and deciding against it.
"You know, it doesn't have to be like this, Mr. Sergei. It doesn't have to end like this."||
(3:18:57 PM) The Storyteller: "Sarah... da chert... I didn't even know her. I saw her around, she was kind. A student, I think? I invited her to the Museum. Dear Lord, I didn't mean to feed her to the witch at first. I didn't. Did I? I don't know... Mad. I'm mad." Sergei said, breathing heavily. "She was just one more... but she was kind." ||
(3:27:39 PM) Erin: "Why keep doing this, Mr. Sergei?" Erin tried, biting her lip. "Why keep working for him? That's how he thinks of you, Mr. Sergei. Just another one. Just a useful pawn. Is this really worth it? Is it worth having to hear those screams again?" ||
(3:29:41 PM) The Storyteller: "He's the devil. I didn't think... I never do. But he is the Anti-Christ, da?" Sergei said quietly. There was a strange glimmering in his eye. "He laughs of it. Wormwood... it is a joke which is not a joke. But he wants to end the world." ||
(3:34:58 PM) Erin: "The fallen star... you know, there's a lot of people who have fancied themselves the devil, throughout time. But the world's still here, and they are not," Erin said, looking up with a small little smile. "And you don't have to obey the devil, Mr. Sergei."||
(3:36:07 PM) The Storyteller: "What must I do?" Sergei Zaitsev said, not meeting Erin's eyes. "Forgive me, Lord, for I have sinned." ||
(3:37:03 PM) Erin: "Mr. Sergei..." Erin trailed off, leaning forward slightly. "What does your conscience tell you to do?"||
(3:38:41 PM) The Storyteller: "Yes..." Sergei looked at the gun in his hand, a strangely speculative look in his hand. "I can't bring them back. But I can make it so that Chernenko doesn't cause any more harm." ||
(5:59:09 PM) Erin: "Hey, you're not fighting alone," Erin said, carefully taking his hand and lowering the gun. "You don't have to kill or die to stop him. Just tell me what he's doing, what you know about him and his plans. And then go home, alright? Don't murder any more people, don't hurt anyone who's done you no harm -- even yourself, Mr. Sergei. Go back to church again... when's the last time you've been? Go back on Sundays, or whenever you can make it each week. Don't talk about the ghosts and demons and monsters to anyone unless I say it's alright, ok? To keep you safe. And keep in touch." She give him her phone number.
"Every week, alright? And if you need any help, too. If you keep those promises, I'll keep the nightmares away." She looked up at him. "Don't promise lightly, Mr. Sergei."||
(6:01:50 PM) The Storyteller: "I promise." Sergei said weakly. He placed his hand on Erin's, bowing over it. She could feel tears splashing on his skin. "Thank you... thank you..." ||