Prologue: Investigative Reporting, Scene III (Underwood, Erin)

Originally Posted by Miss Lamothe
"Well, hello there!" Erin exclaimed to the phone, giggling slightly. She hovered a finger near Underwood's pocket, as if she was holding it out for Sparky to shake, or as if she wanted to pet him. "I didn't see you hiding! Aren't you just the cutest thing?" The pale lady looked back at Sergei, trying to coax the phone further out so that the rabbit-eared man could see it. "You can come out, we're not scary. Honest."
The phone shot back into Underwood’s pocket. There was a pause of a second or two, and then, with a few more tentative beeps, it crept back up again and bonked Erin’s finger a couple of times. Underwood chuckled. “He’s shy around new people sometimes. Hold on, let me take him out.”

The reporter fished the Blackberry out of his pocket – it currently looked exactly like a standard PDA, only with the display blank – and, with Erin’s permission, placed him in her outstretched hands. There was another short pause, and then the screen lit up with a “?” icon. Four little legs extended from the back of the phone’s casing and tapped curiously around for a moment. Then, with a MIDI trill, the screen changed to a icon, and the phone scrabbled around in a circle on Erin’s palms like a puppy trying out a new bed, before plonking down in the middle and making some contented beeping noises. Underwood looked somewhat pleased at this. “Looks like you’re okay in his book.”

Originally Posted by Miss Lamothe
"You know, I have a little fellow named Beat that reminds me a lot of you. He's not so talkative, though. Do you have any stories you like to tell?"
The phone stood up abruptly, switched to a “!” icon, and let out a few seconds’ worth of enthusiastic-sounding beeps and chitters. Underwood snorted with amusement. “He says put him down, he needs room for this.”

Presuming Erin obliged him, Sparky stood on the floor of the van, concentrating for a few moments. Then, his screen changed to a black-and-white picture of massed, thorny vines, and the phone walked slowly around in a two-foot-or-so-diameter circle, presumably setting the stage as “in the hedge”. This done, he skittered quickly into the center of the circle and lay down, his display changing to a little icon of a phone with “ZZZ” on its screen. There followed some adorable, autotuned-sounding snoring noises.

Then, the little phone icon’s screen changed to a “!”, and Sparky got up, giving a high-pitched “who’s there”-cadenced beep. Immediately, he scuttled over a couple of inches to face where he had previously been standing, and gave a lower-pitched series of response beeps – his screen now showing a headshot of Underwood. He zoomed back to Position 1, showing the phone icon, with high beeps; then back to Position 2, showing the Underwood icon, with lower beeps. This “conversation” went on for twenty seconds or so, and was surprisingly animated for a phone that was pretending to be himself and his new owner at the same time.

Then, without warning, Sparky zipped over to a third position, showed a picture of some kind of shadowy monstrosity with sharp teeth, and let out a series of noises that sounded like a lawnmower trapped in a washing machine. Back to Position 1, now showing Underwood’s headshot and the phone icon together, and a sustained tandem beep that was clearly two entities deciding to scream at the same time. Like a shot, Sparky retracted his mechanical legs, popped out a set of tiny wheels, and zoomed every which way around the floor of the van in a respectable imitation of a dramatic chase scene – eventually skidding to a stop in a shadowy corner, still showing the picture of Underwood and the phone icon.

Then, changing characters again, he redeployed his legs and scuttled a couple of inches into the light, showing the monster icon, and grunted about looking confused. Back to the dark corner and the Underwood & Phone picture, and he crept slowly forward to where the monster just was, making the universal cartoon-show “I am tiptoeing up behind someone” sound effect. Then, Bang! Pow! Thwack! Sparky jumped around enthusiastically in a rousing fight scene, making the appropriate sounds and showing comic book-style effect balloons to match. It ended with Sparky-playing-the-monster grunting dizzily, staggering around, and eventually falling face down on the floor.

The foe utterly vanquished, Sparky jumped right back up, showing the picture of Underwood and the phone again, and did a little victory dance. With appropriate music, of course.

Underwood laughed and applauded, obviously quite entertained. He shot a grin at Erin and Sergei. “And that’s how we met. Little guy overstates the case a bit, but there you go.” Sparky bowed graciously.

"That is adorable." Sergei said, reaching out to carefully stroke Sparky with a finger. Sergei, you see, was a tech-geek of a very high degree. In fact, he was an electrical engineer by training, and worked as an electrician still. He liked technology. Technology that made cute pantomime shows was even better. "Is Sparky what he calls himself, or what you name him?"

"Those are very good stories. Very beautiful, all three of them." Sergei said, stretching the definition of 'beautiful' a little bit. Sparky's story was more 'unspeakably cute', so close enough. He grinned, a lopsided sort of grin. "I also do not have any stories about weddings. Not nice stories."

"...there was the headless marmoset story." Sergei said after a moment. He considered it. "I shouldn't tell that story..."

"D'awwwww. Aren't you heroic?" Erin told the phone, grinning wide enough to near split her face. It was quite probable if Sparky wasn't a tiny four inch phone, her fiance would have something to worry about.

Then again, given the way Sergei was petting it, it was a more likely that they'd both team up to kidnap the little guy. But Erin was too soft-hearted to steal Sparky away from his bosom comrade. Even if looking at the literal mobile phone was giving her insane ideas... "He's very lucky to have such a faithful friend," Erin said.

Originally Posted by NeoTiamat View Post
"...there was the headless marmoset story." Sergei said after a moment. He considered it. "I shouldn't tell that story..."
Erin looked at Underwood, then at the innocent little screen of Sparky. "Um, maybe not," she agreed, even as she filed that away as something to ask him about later.

"Maybe something from those books I gave you? I know you've seen lots of faerie tales?" Erin suggested, though there was definite uncertainty in her voice. She didn't really know if Sergei had read anything she'd given him, despite protestations that of course he liked them.

Originally Posted by Mr. Morozov
"That is adorable." Sergei said, reaching out to carefully stroke Sparky with a finger. "Is Sparky what he calls himself, or what you name him?"
Sparky leaned into it, beeping happily. Underwood fielded the question: "Both. Little guy didn't really know what a name was when I found him -- someone wiped his contact list -- so he asked me to come up with one for him."

Originally Posted by Miss Lamothe
"Maybe something from those books I gave you? I know you've seen lots of faerie tales?"
"Yeah, come on, mac, don't leave us hanging." Underwood leaned back in his chair, giving Sergei an encouraging look. "It's a long night."

4 Successes to continue to watch.

"Very well." Sergei said, grinning broadly. It was an odd expression on his face, because his was not a face built for grins. "But be warned, Sasha says I tell very bad stories. But I am feeling lucky tonight, so here is a story I heard, and it is a very special story."


"Once there was a little boy, and he wasn't a special boy, not really. But he was a human boy, and he had a soul, and this made him important. Because souls are important, whether they belong to a king, or a murderer, or just a little boy."

"Now up from the Labyrinth came a demon, and he wanted the soul of the little boy. Now he wasn't much of a demon, just an imp, but imps are clever things. And he went to the little boy, and he said, 'ho, little boy, I'll make you a little deal. Give me a drop of blood, and I'll give you a drop of luck in return.' And the little boy thought about this, because he was an unlucky boy and his parents were unkind, and agreed. He pricked his finger, and he gave the imp a drop of blood, and he got a drop of luck in return. The next time the little boy forgot his homework, he spent that drop of luck, and another student dropped a box of markers as the teacher was checking homework, and everything was forgotten."

"The next night, the imp came back, and asked for another drop of blood, and gave another drop of luck. And again, and again. And each time the imp asked for a little more blood, until finally, the little boy cried, and asked if there wasn't another way. Go catch me a squirrel, the imp said, and use it's blood. And the little boy did that. And the imp was happy, because what starts with squirrels ends with people."

"But there was an angel watching, and the angel thought that even a little boy's soul should be protected. So she went to the imp and talked to him. And she said, this is too much work for you, let's make a better deal. We'll play for the boy's soul, and the winner takes all."

"So they did, and they would tell stories, until both imp and angel agreed as to the better. The imp agreed to this, and he drank faerie wine and told stories, and the angel told stories but drank nothing. But how does one tell, when the imp cheats and would never agree? The angel wouldn't cheat, and so with each story, the angel won but it wasn't admitted, and sooner or later she would run out of stories. So as she talked, she began to carve, something to occupy her mind. And she carved a cup, and said perhaps they should carve each other gifts, to occupy their hands and their throats."

"So, the imp, who was now very drunk, agreed, and whittled a crude flute. But the angel made a perfect cup, because how can angel make anything other than perfection? And she poured drink into the cup, and gave it to the imp, who was too drunk to notice. Because when you pour drink into a perfect cup, it becomes a special kind of holy, and so the imp chugged that drink, and drank down all the holy water, and oy how it burned!"

"He gave an absolutely terribly scream, and ran away, clutching his throat, because now his throat was holy and that was so very painful for the imp. And the angel smiled, for she'd saved the boy's soul."

"And I? I helped finish the drink that the imp didn't, and it was the best vodka I ever had."

Underwood nodded approvingly. “Bet it was. Don’t sell yourself short on the storytelling, pal: you’ve got the knack.” He glanced at Erin, raising his eyebrows. “Remind me not to play you in poker anytime soon, sister.”

“So.” The reporter had drawn a number of inferences from this conversation—and besides, Erin was wearing a ring. “Are the two of you, ah…?” He gestured meaningfully between the two of them. Sparky climbed back up onto Underwood’s shoulder and blooped.

One success on a Watching roll!

Erin had opened her mouth a few times during the story as if to make corrections, but it didn't really seem polite. Instead she mostly sat in the corner and listened, proud of well-done story, but with her cheeks slowly turning a deep cherry red. At the end of it she simply muttered, "I heard it told a little differently. And that angel was totally cheating."

She smiled a little at Underwood's question, a faint curve on a pale face, and then leaned over to kiss Sergei's cheek. It was a tender kiss, just beneath his eye, her fingers trailing around the edge of Sergei's jaw. "We are lovers," she confirmed, sliding an arm around Sergei's shoulders as she turned to look back at Underwood. " He is my betrothed. To be married in the Spring."

"Ah, and that I will not mind you telling to the Winter King," she added with a wink. "For he is invited, presuming his invitation was also not eaten by a cat. And provided our wedding is more like your story, and less like mine, we shall hope to make it through to the Happily Ever After."

Dice Roll: 7d10s8e
d10 Results: 3, 7, 3, 1, 5, 9, 2 (Total Successes = 1)
what oh right watching

“Oh, congratulations!” Underwood hadn’t necessarily been expecting that phrasing for “we’re engaged”, but he seemed quite sincere about it. “Looks like you kids are going to do just fine. Mr. White, well the guy just likes a party – he’ll be thrilled.” Sparky looked very excited about circumstances as well: there was a little bouncing around and MIDI wedding march playing.

"Angel, I would know better than you whether the angel cheated or not." Sergei said faux-primly. He let a bit of a smile leak out into his expression. "I was there, after all."

"And yes. We are to be wed. Or perhaps are wed already, and are still waiting on the ceremony." Sergei said, wiggling his fingers vaguely, even as he put his other arm around Erin. "I am a little confused as to those details."

Erin leaned against Sergei, putting one slender, pale finger to the Russian's lips. Shhhh.

It took some self control not to invite the adorable Sparky to come play the music for the ceremony. He couldn't be worse than Othello's songbird squad (cute, the birds were, but a little murky on timing). Her wedding would be in a mundane church with mundane music, however, so she deferred.

"I have hopes the snow-haired king shall enjoy himself. He is not really the king that concerns me, to be honest. But you cannot invite three monarchs without inviting the fourth, yes?" Erin said, sighing and pursing her lips. "The Horseman does not socialize much, though, so perhaps the invitation will lay unread. I am mostly hoping no one gets cursed or covered with blood."

"What brings you this land, from the Americas?" Erin asked Underwood curiously.

Dice Roll: 7d10s8ez
d10 Results: 4, 8, 8, 7, 3, 4, 6 (Total Successes = 2)
watching! (2)


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