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Crankshaft/Masa Specials and More
Where Crankshaft/Masa Specials (Usually Seasonal) and side stories that don't fit the one shot format will be dumped. 

Table Of Contents:

- Crankshaft Halloween/Darkest Night Special 2020 

> Part 1: Two Moody Witches. (Released 10/10/2020)
> Part 2: They're Shoujo Dancing (Released 10/16/2020)
> Part 3: The Pre-Show (10/26/2020)
> Part 4: Darkest Night (Released 10/27/2020)
> Epilogue (Released 11/2/2020)

-Crankshaft Winter Special 2020/2021
> Part 1: The Snow 11/25/20
> Part 2: Winter Witch Gathering 12/8/20
> Part 3: The Lost Rabbit 1/11/21
> Part 4: Reality Settles 2/10/21
> Part 5:  The Search (Unreleased)
> Part 6: Everyone Dies (Unreleased) 
Crankshaft Darkest Night Special 2020 Part 1: Two Moody Witches
CW: Mentions of Gun Violence

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Targe was settled down on the couch, letting a black and white horror movie play quietly on the television to add a little back noise to the room. Spice on the other hand was busy preparing plates full of snacks and doing final touches on the room's decor. The harmless blue flames emitting from his head flickered about as he hummed.
Targe: Whatcha working on over there?
Spice: Just getting things ready for tonight's party, guests will start showing up soon-ish.
Targe: Right, Kirk and Lex are showing up. Looking forward actually, missed them.
Spice: And a newcomer! Lex is bringing a friend.
Targe: A friend or a "friend"?
Spice: Both maybe? Anyway exciting stuff. 
Targe: Yeah. Glad they still show up for Darkest Night every year.
Spice: Mhmm! Gotta put sad spirits to rest, clean our slates, and get a good reading for the next year. You done getting stuff ready on your end by the way?
Targe: Course, safety first. Made sure this is gonna go as clean as possible. Haven't seen much of either of them lately though, they been alright?
Spice: They've been busy. Kirk says he's been working a big money engineering job, and Lex wants to push her dueling career. 
Targe: Sounds about right for both of them. Kirk's always been good with techy stuff and Lex... is good at getting back up.
Spice: She's actually made some pretty big strides lately. She had a pretty big duel lately, was on the telly and all. Capital Park Summer Grudge Match. You see any of it?
Targe: Seen clips, barbaric stuff honestly. Ref should have called game as soon as someone got capped. Calling meddling there.
Spice: I know right? What the fuck was up with that?
Targe: Should have just outright ended there or let her tag out. She doing alright after that? Match seem pretty rough. 
Spice: Seemed just fine over text and she's still doing fights for money so I'd say so yeah. 
Targe: That's good. Sounds like a lot's gone on though for them.
Spice: Yep. 
Targe: Makes me just a little nervous honestly. Hope we didn't cut into their schedules too hard. 
Spice: I'm sure it's gonna be fine, they both really seemed like they wanna be here today. 
Targe: That's good. 
Spice: They actually mentioned going to the festival tomorrow, you think you might be up for going as a group?
Targe: Course, I'm down.
Spice climbs over the side of the couch and flops onto Targe.
Spice: You think you can win me a prize?
Targe: Easy. I'll go in, win big at the games, and after we'll split a pumpkin cake.
Spice: Kind of wish I had a costume ready... you think I could nab one last second?
Targe: Probably. You look the part already though.
Spice: Guess so. 
Targe:  Yeah. On a side note, you did a pretty good job with the place. Decor hits the mood just right.
Spice: You don't think it's overdone at all?
Targe: Nah, people will love it. Gotta drench folks in that fall mood you know?
Spice: Yeah! Guess when we're both pretty spooky all year long you just wonder.
Targe: Think that makes us experts more than anything. 
Spice: It does. You know this is pretty cozy right now, The two of us like this. 
Targe: Don't get too comfortable, they'll be here any second. 
Spice: I know. Just taking in the moment a little... 
They remained quiet, laying down without much more than the occasional noise and tiny smile at each other.
There was a knocking on the door. Targe scooted up, Spice was a little hesitant to pull away. 
Targe: First guest?
Spice: Probably.
Targe: Gonna check up on stuff upstairs quickly, you mind answering?
Spice: No prob!  
Targe: I'll be back quick.
Crankshaft Darkest Night Special 2020 Part 2: A Different Kind of Double Date 

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A dopple dressed in witching attire approaches the entrance of a small little apartment. The rabbity mage rings the bell quickly, not waiting too long as the shuffling of metallic footsteps arrives closer. The door opens up, a construct in a mask and a blue suit approaches. 

Dotty: Lex! You manage to make it here okay?

???: Yeah but I'm not Lex.

Dotty: Jam!

Jam: You know it. Sup. 

Dotty: Uh, all set whenever you wanna go. You need a drink or anything quick?

Jam: Nah, holding off til we get to the party. Gotta say you look pretty good in a blazer. 

Dotty: Think so? Took awhile to put together.

Jam: Shame you only get to wear it for a couple of nights, it's cute. 

Dotty: Yeah well... you're looking pretty sharp too!

Jam: We used a bit of recent prize money to touch up the witch look, glad you like it. 

Dotty: I do, especially the hat and shades.

Jam: Lex wanted to start carrying glasses so I have a good visual cue to let people know who's got control of the body. She's doing alright by the way, know you might be worried. Just got bit earlier by a little something.

Dotty: Bit? By what?

Jam: The spirit of the holiday.

Dotty: Aww...

Jam: That's a actual thing by the way, if it thinks you're a tourist it drops down and attacks you. 

Dotty: That sounds really fake. 

Jam: It's real, swear on it. Anyway she's good in all seriousness, don't be anxious and think she's in any trouble.

Dotty: Noted. How long you planning to stick around by the way? Just wondering. 

Jam: For now? Just til we get there, maybe there a little bit for the party itself but it'll be mostly Lex. You don't mind right? Always wanted to be walked to a fancy witching event by someone strong and tall. 

Jam slipped her hand in the construct's own. Dotty's ears flicker in response

Jam: Lead the way?

Dotty: Uh... yeah. 

The two started down the road uphill, lights from a festival setup ahead in view.

Jam: This isn't too much right? 

Dotty: No, I'm just... where does all this flirty energy come from? Was Lex ever like this?

Jam: At some point, think she got a little shy after she met you though. Not because you ever did anything wrong but because she doesn't wanna push things too far with you and scare you off. Poor thing. 

Dotty: She seemed fine on the first few dates... that wasn't you was it?

Jam: Nope, just mostly sat back and watched. Think she just realized she really liked you... guess I shouldn't ramble all her thoughts to you though. Sorry about that. 

Dotty: Honestly feels kinda good to hear that so I don't mind. 

Jam: Mm. Of course at any point if you need me to back down you can just say so too, I won't be mad. I know you don't know me that much as a separate person, even if I snuck in on a few dates where she wasn't feeling her best.

Dotty: That explains some stuff I guess. Always was weird how she'd have a headache or be tired and then suddenly acting like nothing happened. 

Jam: Mm. Don't think my impression was best though, pretty sure part of you always noticed a little. 

Dotty: Maybe a bit. I'm not mad or anything though, I like you. I mean I like both of you and all obviously but like-

Jam: Don't worry about it, I like you too. I wanna get to know you as me though and not just Lex with raw energy and I hope that's okay. 

Dotty: Absolutely. 

The duo crossed through the golden lit festival, the smell of baked goods and the jolly decor really setting the spirit of the holiday.

Dotty: You think we got time to stop by here maybe?

Jam: Probably? Lex's friends tend to stop by after they do their witch stuff so you should be good to get a few hours in. 

Dotty: Hope so. I wanna split a pie or something... maybe get in on a fried cream biscuit... 

Jam: If we don't get to go today we'll go for sure tomorrow. 

Dotty: Please. God it's pretty around this time. 

Jam: Sure is. Love the fall... You got a favorite fall thing?

Dotty: Cold, cold weather and maybe some cozy rain. You?

Jam: So this is silly but like, every year Dunk N Tumble does this breakfast thing where they serve Pumkin Brew and Biscuits with this limited spicy jelly-

Dotty: You mean the Spice and Jam?

Jam: Yeah.

Dotty: You a fan of jellies? 

Jam: It's in the name right?

Dotty:... that's not why your name is Jam is it? 

Jam: You'll never know for sure! Anyway It's good I promise and I'll take you tomorrow morning if we're not too tired after tonight.

Dotty: I'll give it a shot. 

The two make it through fairly quickly and reach the neighborhood halfway up the hill, one particularly festive house catching the eye of Dotty. 

Dotty: Is that it?

Jam: Think it should be. Gonna let Lex handle introductions for now if you don't mind, she knows these folks a bit better than I do.

Dotty: You gonna be back?

Jam: If we do chill at the festival after sure. You gonna miss me?

Dotty: A little. 

Jam: I'll be watching. Besides I know you wanna spend time with Lex too. You two have fun.

Dotty: We will. 

Jam holds Dotty's hand for a moment, completely quiet before letting go to nudge her shades back to the top of her hat. It's Lex. 

Lex: Hey! 

Dotty: Lex! 

Lex: You ready to party?

Dotty: Yeah! You been good?

Lex: Yep, just chilling in the backseat all the way here. Hey can you uh... do the thing where you wrap your arm around mine? I wanna look good when we enter. 

Dotty wraps her arm around Lex's. Lex looks away shyly. 

Dotty: Got you covered. We're gonna be the best looking people there. 

Lex: You really think so?

Dotty: At least you'll be. 

The rabbit turned red.

Lex: Left you two alone for twenty minutes and you already rubbed off on each other hard.... 

Dotty: That too much?

Lex: Not at all! But uh... thank you. For real, hearing that already made my day good... you ready to go inside?

Dotty: Mmhmm. 

The two approached the entrance and knocked.
Crankshaft Darkest Night Special 2020 Part 3: The Pre-Show

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Lex and Dotty knock on the door despite a perfectly good bell being on the wall. After waiting not too long, a pumpkin-headed dopple arrives to open the front door. Spice with his carved grin greets the duo. 

Lex: Spice! Yo!

Spice: Lex! Been a hot minute since we last met up, how've things been?

Lex: Busy! You gonna let us in?

Spice: Yeah, yeah. Come right in, this your friend?

Lex: Yep. 

Spice holds out a hand to the elegantly dressed robot. 

Spice: Dotty right? Been told a lot about you.

Dotty takes his hand and shakes it firmly.

Dotty: Yep, what's she told you?

Spice: Things that'd make you blush probably, has a lot of nice things to say about you. 

Dotty’s eye contact wavered, she’d turn red if she could. Spice shot finger guns at Lex.

Lex: You don’t gotta play wingman, we’re already dating.

Spice: Never know with you. Anyway you two come inside, make yourselves at home.

Lex and Dotty step into the apartment.

Lex: Your boyfriend around?

Spice: We're technically not together right now but uh.... yeah he's just setting up some stuff up stairs quickly. No worries. Witch stuff.

Lex: Witch stuff. You two doing your thing again?

Spice: I wanna respect his wishes you know?

Lex: You still cuddling?

Spice: Yeah.

Lex: Sharing a bed?

Spice: I mean… it’s cold at night so yeah.

Lex: You two gotta figure yourselves out.

Spice: It’s fine, it’s fine! We just gotta get over a few little hoops, Targe still feels guilty about you-know-what but like… I think he really wants to.

Dotty: You-know what?

Spice: Ah well… it’s a bit of a story.

Dotty: A long story?

Spice: Only a little.

He knocked on the side of his pumpkin head. 

Spice: That’s not a standard mod, some scrappy little magic from a little accident.

Dotty: Witch stuff?

Spice: Witch stuff gone wrong. I don’t mind it much, grown on me.

Dotty: Is the pumpkin actually part of you then?

Spice: Yep.

Dotty: How do you breathe or sleep or… anything really?

Spice: Honest answer? I got no clue. It works just fine though even if I occasionally need a new casing. No different from OBJ, just fire instead of slime. Gist is though we both messed with some magic that’s a little out of our paygrade and uh…. splat.

Spice makes an explosion gesture with his hands.

Spice: Head gone. Was scared shitless, thought I was dead for real. Targe was quick though and kept my soul attached to my body though so all worked out. Still feels bad about it though no matter how much I tell him I’m not mad. 

Dotty: I’m sorry. Hope things work out between you two. We’ll meet him soon right?

Spice: Course, think you’ll get along with him. He's been better lately so... I think whatever we got will figure itself out sooner or later. He just... doesn't like calling anything by formal names right now. Lex you know how he is.

Lex: Yeah. You hang in there.

Spice: Always.

Lex: If you need a little help from a couple of wingmen we got you covered.

Spice: I appreciate it but I don’t think I’ll need that much. Hate to cut off a good conversation but you when Kurt's coming?

Lex: Yeah he messaged me saying that he might end up having to meet us at the scrapyard. You know how he is.

Spice: Didn't hear anything actually, good to know though. 

Lex: Yeah. He'll be here eventually. 

Spice: Mm. Gonna go check on Targe quickly, you can chill out down here. Feel free to grab snacks and stuff but don't fill up too hard incase we go to the festival after. I figure y'all want room for the good stuff after. 

Lex: I'll be good, don't take too long though.

Spice nods. Lex hurries toward the living room to sit next to Dotty. Spice scurries up stairs quickly to Targe's room and knocks on the door. Targe responded from the other side.

Targe: What's up?

Spice: Lex and her partner are here, Kurt is gonna meet us at the scrapyard. 

Targe: Cool, give me just a sec to tune up here. Tools being fussy.

Spice: Okay, everything alright?

Targe: Yeah, just gotta make sure we do this right. If we do a solid job of getting those spirits to rest it’s good vibes for the rest of the year. If we don't, well... we’re not buying any lotto tickets for awhile I guess.

Spice: I feel that. Either way we'll be fine I’m sure. 

Targe: Mmm... alright scoot over. 

[Image: iqACfhT.png]

Spice stands out of the way of the door. It swings open as Targe slams it with his elbow, hauling out a rather large string instrument. Nothing about its design is sensical and the idea of it playing anything seems absurdist.

Targe: We're gonna be entertaining some ghosts for a little bit, hope you got your game face on.

Spice: Always do. You need any help with that or...

Targe slings it over his shoulder.

Targe: I got this, no worries. Guests ready for this?

Spice: Yeah, should be. 

Targe: follow my lead then.

The two make it down the stairs, Targe reaching the base quickly and knocking on the wall to catch the attention of Lex and Dotty. The duo look over the back of the couch.

Lex: Hey Targe! All good?

Targe: All's good. Gonna fill you both in on how this is gonna go, especially the newcomer. 

He looks over at Dotty. 

Targe: You're uh... Dotty I think? 

Dotty: Yeah, new to all this so wouldn't mind a good explanation.

Targe: No prob. So we're gonna head off to the scrapyard together, gonna be other witches there. Glad you both dressed nice for the occasion, last thing we want to do is look like a scrabble you know? We'll set up some pollen that'll make spirits visible for us. There should be dispensers but we brought our own in case. We gotta make those ghosts feel comfortable and entertain them to the best of our abilities. Even just being there to keep them company does plenty.

Lex: How many is it gonna be this year?

Targe: A few other groups likely, all around the size of ours. The older witches will be there as expected to keep things from getting out of hand. 

Dotty: When you say ghosts, you mean like... actual ghosts right? 

Targe: Mm. Actual ghosts. 

Dotty: And we *will* see them. 

Spice: Nothing less! Promise you they aren't dangerous so long as you're not going out of your way to provoke them. Just be nice and have a good time.

Targe: Well worded. We're gonna spend a bit of time there, then when it dies down a bit maybe sneak in some festival time. Hope y'all brought your own cash for that because we can't be handing out too many freebies. Gotta enjoy our own time too. 

Targe nudges Spice with his elbow. Spice gives him a cat-like smile in return. 

Lex: We're gonna meet with Kurt when we get there right?

Targe: We'll try to.

Spice: Crowd's never too big, we'll spot him easy.

Targe: Guess so, he wanders so hard to say for sure. Did he mention anything about where he’ll actually be?

Lex: Nope. It’s a clearing though so odds are we’ll see him?

Targe: Figures. Hopefully he'll pop up. Y'all ready to go?

Lex: Yep!

Dotty: Mmhmm. 

Spice holds the door open for the group. The witch troupe of four shuffles out quickly, leaving only the light of the little lamp from the kitchen behind.

Crankshaft Darkest Night Special 2020 Part 4:
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The group arrived without a single hitch after a not too long walk through town. The memorial, a statue erected in the middle of the little patch of desert just on the outskirts. It was surrounded by lights and people in what looked akin to a sort of makeshift campsite. 

The air was filled with little glimmers of color, the pollen making it impossible to distinguish the living from the dead. 

The group sat themselves down at the site on some of the "chairs" laid out, various objects placed down more than likely picked up along the way. Targe laid out his instrument on his lap. 

Targe: So gist is simple. I'm gonna play here a bit to keep things lively for the spirits. Lex, you mind finding Kurt? Feel like you got the best gauge of where he'd be. 

Lex: Yeah I got this.

Dotty: You want me to go with you?

Lex: I'll be fine, you should stick here with Targe and Spice. They've got all your bases covered and it might take me a little bit to find him.

Dotty: If you're sure.

Lex waved and walked off past a small crowd of merchants. 

Spice: Don't you worry too much, it’s a peaceful hour and the spirits are just happy to have company today. Just stick to other folks and stay in the light and the heavy amounts of scrap energy won't suck you away.

Dotty: I mean... Lex is Lex. Love her but you know.

Spice: She still gets herself into trouble plenty, huh?

Dotty: A little. She jumps into fights she doesn't need to. 

Targe: She's an adult and she knows how important tonight is for a lot of people. She'll be able to hold back for a little while. Sit down with us yeah? Jam a bit.

Targe pats a spot next to himself and Spice on a pile of hay for Dotty. Dotty scoots onto the hay mound.

Dotty: So you're both old friends of hers?

Targe: Think so, wish she contacted more often but glad she didn't forget Darkest Night. 

Spice: It's pretty big, especially when there's a full moon. Kind of a rare combo. 

Dotty: It's perfectly spooky. 

Spice: You get it. 

Dotty: Think I do?

Targe: Yeah. You'd make a good witch with that mindset.

Dotty seems to relax a bit. 

Dotty: Wouldn't mind if Lex doesn't. Not too weird hanging out with a rando this year?

Spice: Never mind making a new friend.

Targe: Yeah. You're cool, just let us vibe and we'll be all good.

Dotty: Mm.

The three rest for a while and enjoy the chilly breeze and crackle of the fires set all around them. People and spirits unable to be distinguished from each other converse and dance in the glow of all the lights.

Dotty spots a tall hooded figure.. they're carrying two people over their shoulder.

Dotty: Is that uh... Is that part of an act?

Targe: I don't think so.  I'm gonna go check it out, hold on.

Spice: You sure?

Targe: Yeah, someone might need help.


You continued through the crowd, getting increasingly worried as each face passing by is not your missing friend's.

He could be late but he's usually pretty timely about things. You hope he's okay.

???: Excuse me, you need help?

A voice came from behind you.

Lex: Maybe, looking for someone. 

You turned around.

It was a familiar construct from a long time ago.

A rancher unit.

Lex: Flemming?

Flemming: Yeah. Was worried you weren't showing up, been a good year since we've last seen. 

Lex: Yeah well... not a lot of chances to meet each other. Look the same as always.

Flemming: You look... a little rough. Eye okay?

Lex: Sports accident, nothing too serious. The socket got dented a bit much so I can't really replace the eye without some massive repair work. 

Flemming: I see. Well I'm glad you're here anyway, be careful alright?

Lex: Yeah... Question, you remember Kurt?

Flemming: Taller than you, big shades, little bit of scruff?

Lex: Yeah yeah. 

Flemming: Yeah I've seen him around, I can take him to you but I think he's a little lost.

Lex: Lost? How bad are we talking?

Flemming: Took a wrong turn, He's still in the desert. Think I can track him though.

Lex: Is he safe? Can we go get him?

Flemming: Yeah. I'll take you there. 

Lex: Please. 

Flemming started off ahead, you keep your pace and trail behind him

The surroundings were dark, unnaturally so despite the glow of the full moon. 

You're worried you've gone too far for your own good, all you have to work off of is Flemming's voice and footsteps.

Lex: It's no wonder Kurt got lost, can't see a damn thing. Are you still there?

Flemming: Yeah, hold my hand if you're worried. I don't wanna have to worry about two lost rabbits out here. 

You reached for his hand and held on. It's large, cold, and metallic. 

Lex: Appreciated. Can't believe you still show up out here.

Flemming: Not like I have a choice. You know how it is.

Lex: Yeah... you dealing okay?

Flemming: As good as I can. Seeing an old friend helps though.

Lex: I mean of course! You helped me through a lot growing up. 

Flemming: I'm just a lost sentry helping out a kid.

Lex: Not a kid anymore though.

Flemming: Guess so. 

You feel Flemming let go of your hand suddenly. 

Lex: Is everything okay?

Flemming: Think we hit a bit of a turbulent snag. Hold on out there...

The wind is picking up. An unnatural cold unlike anything you've ever felt starts dragging you across the dirt.

Flemming: Just tank it out! I'll find you but don't wander about!

Lex: I don't know where I am!

Flemming: Just lay low and I'll find you if you keep talking! I-

The wind becomes louder, Flemming becomes impossible to hear. 

You're lost. 

Really lost, the most you ever have been.

You're not even sure you're anywhere near you started.

You hear a voice. 

It's from the other side. 

There's a familiar smell in the air, like someone you once knew. 

Lex: Flemming? You there or...?

???: Who's Flemming? 

Lex: Uh... just a friend. Who's there?

???: Don't say dumb things like that! You know who it is. 

Lex: I think? I mean... 

???: You're okay right? You need us to take you to see someone? Is the medication giving you trouble?

You feel a lump in your throat. 

Lex:... Yeah.. Yeah sorry I'm just a bit tired.

???: It's because you don't rest enough. You should lay down a bit. 

Lex: No, no it's fine.... 

???: If you're sure, really can find something if you're having any issues.

Lex: I'm good! Think I just had a really bad dream but I don't remember most of it.

???: Mm. Feel like it's been forever since we talked honestly. Your eye okay? Let me take a look at it.

Lex: Just a minor sports accident, it'll be good in a couple of days.

???: Black eye?

Lex: Just a black eye. Nothing serious.

???: Well... be careful. You going out later? It's into the afternoon, I haven't seen you all morning.

Lex: Yeah, gonna meet some friends later. I'll try not to be back too late.

???: Well if you are just remember to bring your keys. Eat out while you're there if you can.

Lex: I will. 

???: Will say I'm surprised you're dressed for Darkest Night though. Aren't you a little old?

Lex: It's just witch stuff, no big deal.

???: You're still doing that? 

Lex: Yep. With some friends, you remember Spice?

???: Spice? Uhhhh....

Lex: Short guy, floppy ears. Kurt's gonna be there too. 

???: Kurt! You two have been friends forever! Say hi to all of them. Gonna head out now?

Lex: In a sec.... I just missed you a ton. 

???: I miss you too, we don't talk enough lately. 

Lex: I'll try to be better about it. Anyway I... I guess I should go now.

???: A hug? 

Lex: Yeah...

You feel the cold start hauling you. You don't want to let go yet.

It's been so long.

She doesn't know. 

You still have so much to tell her.

Your mind is racing.

You feel a familiar voice.

Jam: You got all gross back there.

Lex: Sorry.....

Jam: It's dark as hell though.

Lex: Yeah....

Lex: Can't move.

Jam: Me neither... Someone is dragging us though.

Lex: Are we gonna be okay?

Jam: Hope so honestly.

Lex: Same.....

It's quiet.

You lose and then regain feeling in your body.

You feel the warmth of a fire near you. There's a constructed hand rubbing your shoulder.

You open your eyes.

It's Dotty. 

Dotty: Lex! 

Lex: Sorry...

Dotty: I should've gone with you! 

Lex: I'm fine now...

Spice: You gave us all a massive scare...

Dotty: I'm not letting you go out on your own like that again! Shit you scared me...

Lex: Are you uh... I'm so fucking sorry I...

Targe: Shhh, relax. You're good.

Lex: I never found Kurt....

Targe: He found you so... points for that. 

Targe points over at Kurt talking to Spice on the bundle of hay. 

Lex: Kurt!

Kurt: Yo Lex! You were passed out on the ground in the middle of nowhere, what happened?

Lex: I went out looking for you, asshole!

Kurt: I was just a little lost, don't worry about me too much. Glad you're okay though, could've froze to death honestly.

Lex: Yeah well..... I mean thank you but...

Targe: Rest for now, really just... take it easy. 

Dotty: Please. We’ll treat ourselves after.

Lex: Yeah...

You lay down and rest for another good ten minutes. After that you feel good and ready to go again. 

You join the other 4 in your group and relax by the fire...

You're a little tired emotionally after.. whatever went down. You still hold out despite this.

You can’t help but wonder. 
Crankshaft Fall Special 2020: A Epilogue of Sorts.

[Image: NpcktkI.png]

Jam: Grabbing some coffee after staying up late two nights in a row?

Lex: You know it. Darkest Night got me bushed.

Jam: That's a pretty dark blend, you sure you don't want to put some creamer in it?

Lex: It's not all for me... you forget what day it is?

Jam: Right right, sorry about that. You getting a little altar going?

Lex: Yeah. Don't have much room in this place so this is the best I can do. Sure my family back home has a nicer one set up so hopefully spirits won't be too mad at me.

Jam: I almost forgot what day it was honestly, holidays are back to back. 

Lex: Yeah. After what happened too? I really gotta this year.

Jam: You think it was the real deal? Darkest Night's got some trickery that'll make you see stuff.

Lex: No idea honestly... I kind of hope it is because at least that means they're somewhere. 

Jam: Yeah....

Lex: No idea where but... it's a nice thought.

Jam: I miss them too even if I can't remember all too much. Do remember they had their morning coffee plenty.

Lex: They were strong, just a little brew and the day was possible. Feel small next to that all the time.

Jam: Worked so hard.

Lex: Wish I was like that. Doesn't take too much to make my day crash a little.

Jam: Give yourself some credit, things are going great for you lately. 

Lex: I guess...

Jam: You got a lot of people who care for you and your dueling is picking up momentum. 

Lex: Always worry that the way things went the past few years would be disappointing for them.. 

Jam: Talked to you just fine. Think you're being too worried. 

Lex: Probably. I hope they're just happy wherever they ended up being.

Jam: Hope so too.

Lex: Really do miss them.

Jam: Do too... you gonna be okay?

Lex: Yeah, think I will be. Just don't leave for a little bit okay?

Jam: I'm here. 


[Image: yvI7qEN.png]
It's afternoon in the winter and you're still in your PJs. The dueling season has taken a hiatus for the festive period, you're making it by on side jobs and what winnings you've saved up for the month, and you can't get yourself out of bed.
You're alone, but that's okay.
You have your friend in your head keeping you company. 
At your service. You should go out you know, the weather is pretty nice today.
Wouldn't know what to do.
Dotty not around?
She's still working. 
You don't got those two witch friends of yours?
They're probably busy too right now. 
You kidding? He's an engineer. Especially busy. 
You don't need other people around to go out.
I mean… I dunno I get lonely.

You got me.

I do, that’s pretty fair. Still though like….

I get you. I do wanna go out though….

Maybe in a little bit? I wanna get over this funk first.

What could I do to help you speed through it?

I dunno… it’s pretty cold though.

You like the cold!

Not when I’m feeling blue though, like…


Feels quieter, you get me?

I’m sure if you hit the boardwalk it’s still pretty lively.

Guess so, you’re probably right on that.

You could grab yourself a bite, watch the beach, maybe catch a show? Go shop a little and pick up some sweaters! Nice long ones…

We got enough jackets and stuff already.

Yeah but like… sweaters hit a real different spot you know? They’re warm, soft, make you feel cute….

Last one’s sometimes hard for me. Feel like I’m held together by hairspray and tape sometimes you know?

You’re plenty good at it.

Really? I mean I dunno, feel like you’re better at that part.

Why’s that?

You kind of just got it all together… plus you know how to do eyeliner so that’s something.

I REALLY don’t Lex.

You’re better at making it look clean and nice-

I meant the having it together part, I know I got makeup down.

You seem so confident.

You’re pretty brave when you gotta be too, you’re just bad at keeping in contact with folks.

Yeah.. that I really do gotta work on.

And you won’t be doing it alone because I’ll be here to encourage you.

Maybe I’ll call some friends later and see if they’re up for hanging out.

You got this.

Really appreciate having you around you know. Don’t know how I got along before without you.

Always been here but it’s been mostly you honestly. Just took a while for us to really have a proper face to face.


Now when are we gonna have a proper winter cuddle session? Tis the season.

I don’t think that’s possible Jam.

We can make it work. There's two of us.

Yeah, and one body.

Yeah well...

There was a knocking on the door.

Ah shit, put something on Lex.

You fumble for your jacket and glasses put them on over your PJs. There’s someone calling from the door. It’s Dotty.

Dotty: Lex! Hey you home?

You yell from across the room.

Lex: Yeah one minute!

Stuff came right to you, see problem solved right?

Guess so.

You manage to scurry over to the door of your little apartment quickly and open it. Dotty is there dressed up nice and cozy for the cold of the chilly winter.

[Image: S9YAecj.png]

Lex: Yo! Dotty!

Dotty: Lex! Jam’s there too right?

Lex: Yeah


Lex: Jam says hi.

Dotty: So work had to close down early, we got snow?

Lex: Holy shit, what?

Dotty: Yeah!

Lex: Like… a little bit of snow?

Dotty: No like, enough to properly cover rooftops.

Lex: That… shouldn’t be possible. We’re near the equator right?

Dotty: People are saying it’s something big, you know cryptid stuff?

Lex: Yeah I know cryptid stuff, you going where I think you are?

Dotty: Big Summit himself. People are saying they spotted him. Wanna go track him down? Grab some coffees after?

Lex: Yeah just give me a sec to get prepped.

Excitement sure came your way huh?

Sure did.

[Image: SvKN9zG.png]

The start of the last month of the year, Charon arrives at a dock along the coast to meet up with a relative who hasn’t been home in a long time.

The boat arrives safely after a long wait. The platform descends from the side of the ferry. Stepping down is Wallace J. Geezer himself in a long poncho with two bags in hand.

Charon takes the initiative to wave.

Charon: Geezer!  Over here!

Geezer: Yo Charon!

Geezer picks up the pace when descending, making it to shore without a single stumble or trip despite what his choice of sandals in the dawn of winter would have you believe.

Charon: Glad you could make it! 
Geezer: Had to! Grandma would kick my ass if I didn't!

Now walking onto the snow itself, Geezer barely catches himself as he nearl fumbles into the ground. Charon reaches out to shoulder him up for a moment as he gathers himself.
Charon: Careful.
Geezer: I got it, no worries.

Charon: I got plenty to worry about.

Geezer: I’ll be fine! You got the ride ready?
Charon: Yeah let's pack your things quickly first. Rented a car so try to be careful.
Geezer: You think I'm driving after being on the ocean all day?
Charon: You're the better driver.
Geezer: Guess so. Still, I thought you can drive?
Charon: I mean I can... but I already just drove all the way out to the coast.
Geezer: Fair enough. Give me one moment. 
Charon quickly scooted over to the trunk of the car and opened it up for Geezer. Geezer shoved his bags inside carefully
Charon: Everything fit good?
Geezer: Yeah, just gotta make sure not to break anything. 
Charon: Seems on the smaller end of things.
Geezer: Yeah, didn't pack too much since I figure y'all got a lot of my stuff still at the Judgment house.
Charon: Mm, your towels and blankets are in storage there right now.
Geezer: Good good. So talk to me, how you been back home?
Charon: Fine, starting knight work has been somewhat tough but I'm gaining speed with contracts.
Geezer: We still gotta celebrate you getting your license.
Charon: It's been a few months, it's somewhat late...
Geezer: Doesn't matter, I just want a good reason to go out and eat. 
Charon: You'll be eating plenty when we get back to grandma's place. 
Geezer: Yeah but like... I dunno. You get me?
Charon: I think so. You pack anything besides the essentials?
Geezer: 'Course, brought over some goodies I wanna show off.
Charon: Oh? Details.
Geezer: So you remember those old arcade cabinets? 
Charon: Mm. 
Geezer: Got a fancy piece of hardware that's got arcade perfect porting. Shit's unheard of in most of the world but the folks in Plaza are so nuts about their arcade scene they talked to the cabinet production company and were able to license a lot of the technology and put it in home console form. It's hella nice. Shit can play Arc Caste 1 and 2, Gumranger, Big Bullet Squad-

Charon interrupts Geezer in the middle of his gushing ramble.
Charon: You’ll need to show me when we get back. 
Geezer: I can plug it in as soon as we get to a TV. How long's the trip gonna take to get to the Judgment house?
Charon: Well it's a long way to Wonder so... a few days, around half a week. 
Geezer: Let's hope it's less, nothing personal but I don't wanna be cramped in a car too long.
Charon: Thought you were used to living in a vehicle back home?
Geezer: Yeah and that shit gets scary. You end up with some weird stuff at night popping your way.
Charon: Why don't you just get an apartment? Plaza hands them out to residents all the time no?
Geezer: They don't like giving apartments to folks who travel. Plus they'd want me to hang by the beach and I don't trust those waves like that. 
Charon: I get you. We settled on who's driving?
Geezer: Yeah, I'll take the wheel. Gonna let you take a rest for now but we can shift between checkpoints.
Charon: Sounds fair. 
Geezer: Toss me the keys.
Charon tossed Geezer over the car keys. Geezer caught them and shuffled them into his pocket. 
Geezer: Nice. Doors unlocked?
Charon: Yeah. 
Geezer: Go sit shotgun. Gotta talk to me while we do this.
Charon nodded and shuffled into the side seat. Geezer scooted into the driver's seat and fiddled with the mirror.
Geezer: You drove out here with your setup like this? Gonna make me nervous.
Charon: What's the matter?
Geezer: Can't see shit is what's the matter. Could've ended up in all sorts of accidents.
Charon: I don't drive too often, not this far out.
Geezer: We'll take this as a chance to correct your game a little. You got your seatbelt on?
Charon: Mm. You?
Geezer: Yeah. 
Geezer slotted the keys into the car.
Geezer: How long's the car been sitting?
Charon: A good while, the engine needs warming up.
Geezer: No biggie, gonna be doing a lot of this. You got the gas filled up?
Charon: Yes. Meters are all accurate. 
Geezer: Tell you what then, let's hit the donut shop first before we go out too far from town. I wanna munch just a little. Being on a boat that long leaves you hella snacky.
Charon: Really? I just feel nauseous. 
Geezer: That's cause you got no sea legs. Gotta take you with me to plaza one of these days.
Charon: Sounds good. 
Geezer: Got so much to show you out there, think you'd appreciate that shit. 
Charon: I'm certain I would, for the spring perhaps?
Geezer: Yeah, long as you aren't scared of the rabbit hunt.
Charon: That's... worrying. Aren't you a rabbit?
Geezer: I mean that's complicated but sorta yeah. Nothing like that though. Think the car is good also. 
Geezer put his foot down on the pedal. 
Charon: It's going.
Geezer: Going good.
Charon: So the rabbit hunt.
Geezer: Yeah yeah, hella wild stuff. Let me tell you what, we grab some coffee and pastries and I'll make good on telling you about it. 
Charon: You better.

The two cousins in red began what would be a very long drive to grandmother’s house.

[Image: zkggzda.png]
You reach a point in the road where you find most of the area covered in a sheet of snow and ice. You feel the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. 
Lex: That's so weird! 
Dotty: Yeah no, never seen it snow like this around here.
Lex: Never seen it snow here at all, period. You think we got some oversea snow clouds?
Dotty: Absolutely not, shit wouldn't have lasted the trip to give us that much and like..... it just kind of trails and cuts off in a weird spot. It's some cryptid stuff. 
Lex: Like, you're sure?
Dotty: The reports are all over the local news right now, it's Big Summit. Everyone saw his tall lanky ass walking by as the snow fell. 
Lex: He's like a continent away, how? That doesn't line up at all.
Dotty: Who knows, but I wanna meet him. 
Lex: I don't think we have a big enough crew to take him on. 
Dotty: You don't think the two of us can take him on?
Lex: Not like this, we need people with a little more knowledge on this. 
Dotty: You got a person like that?
Lex: I got two! We're in the area so like, follow me yeah?

Dotty: I don’t have the right kind of treads for this. No good in snow.

Lex: I’ll keep you from falling over, hang on.
You hold out your hand, Dotty reaches over and grabs it. 
Dotty: Lead the way.

[Image: EOfAJf2.png]
The two of you run wade through the snow at a decent pace, holding each other to keep from slipping. After a point the two of you stop in front of a familiar apartment building.
Dotty: Isn't this the witch house?
Lex: Yeah, I mean who else better for a cryptid?
Dotty: I mean, there's knights.
Lex: You used to be a knight right? You got this.
Dotty: Yeah, in another life I guess. Don't remember a thing about knighthood.
Lex: You still got the muscle, I know you won't let me get hurt.
Dotty: Long as you don't go picking a fight.
Lex: No promises. Hold on one sec.
You knock the door a couple of times. There's a yell from inside.
???: Gimme one sec! We're in the middle of something!
Lex: It's me! 
???: Lex?! 
Lex: Yeah! 
???: Shoot hold on!
You hear something fall over from inside.
Lex: You okay in there!?
???: Yeah I'm fine! Just- I'm opening up hold on!
After the shuffling of some locks and chains the door is pulled open from inside. It's Spice, with his usual carved gourd head and flames floating about like a jack-o-lantern. 

[Image: EpAEdtI.png]
Spice: Heyo! Hurry inside.
Lex: Yo! You see all the snow around town?
Spice: Yeah I see all the snow, stuff's cursed. Scoot inside and warm yourselves up, we got the heater going.
Lex: You got a heater?
Spice: Had a heater for awhile, you need to check in with us more often.
Lex: I'm trying. Don't wanna bug you guys.
Spice: We miss hanging out with you, don't worry about it. You too Dotty, was fun having you around on Darkest Night.
Dotty: Aww, if you really don't mind.
Spice: Course not. You really blew us away with how you just dominated ring toss at the festival. Never seen anyone take on a funnel cake like you either, brought a lot of life to the party. 
Dotty: Yeah well.....
Spice: For real though come inside, it's cold and we're gonna let all the heat out.
Lex: Right sorry.
Dotty: Will do.
The three of you quickly hurry for the living room and huddle up around the sofa area. 
Spice: You want anything to drink? Maybe some TV on in the background?
You hear shouting from the other room.
???: Don't turn on the telly right now! Might mess with what I'm doing!
Spice: Ah.. scratch that. 
Dotty: Is that Targe?
Spice: Yeah, he's in the middle of fussing. Thinks the snow is some kind of supernatural phenomenon. People are saying it's some weird creature just wandering about?
Dotty: Big Summit!
Targe yells again from upstairs.
Targe: It's not Big Summit! He lives in the South!
Dotty: How do you know it's not Big Summit?!
Targe: It doesn't make sense geographically! How the fudge would he get here anyway?! A boat?! Anyway give me a sec! 
Spice: Right so... he's trying to see if he can get a read on the situation. He'll clean up and be back shortly.
Lex: It is something though, right?
Spice: Probably! Right now we're unsure if it's dangerous or not but... absolutely not natural snow. Could be some kind of cryptid though? We're scared it's outright otherworldly.
Lex: Otherworldly?
Spice: Last time a supernatural snow fell on Plaza, an angel showed up and left an egg and... well you know how that went.
Lex: Ah.... I don't like that.
Dotty: Like.... the angel egg?
Spice: Yeah... you're a rancher actually right? You should know all about that, your model was the first wave of defense against them yeah?
Dotty: Uh.... memory got wiped at some point so don't remember a lick of it. 
Spice: Ah, sorry about that. Maybe you weren't involved in combat against it now that I think about it, most who fought it got hit by the cornfield effect-
There's the sound of footsteps coming down the stairs. 
Spice: Ah, hold on I think Targe is wrapped up. 

[Image: jpgqjUq.png]
Targe finishes his descent down the staircase, hands covered in a clay residue.
Lex: Ey!
Targe: Evening Lex, same for you Dotty. Two of you came at a perfect time because we might have a job to do. 
Lex: Monster hunt?
Targe: No. Not yet anyway. If it gets dire though we might.
Dotty: Taking security measures?
Targe: Yeah. All readings giving the feeling we're about to see a huge storm. One that most of the area isn't nearly prepared for.
Spice: That sounds scary. 
Targe: It's... not great if I'm honest. Snow is absolutely supernatural, not from our world. Everyone should probably bunker down at home til morning at the least. 
Dotty: I live kind of a bus ride away, will I be alright?
Targe: .... No, not if you go out right now. Your best bet actually would be to stay with us or Lex for the night. You both can stick around honestly if you're willing to share the couch, might end up storming while you're walking back. 
Spice: It sounds dire... 
Targe: I mean it's not world ending... but it's also happening in a place that's absolutely not ready for snow. Guess it's practically the same thing at that point. It should just be a one off thing hopefully but there's a decent chance we might get a few layers of ice.
Dotty: Anything we can do?
Lex: Yeah like, there's gotta be something right?
Targe: Maybe, we'll see for now. Spice, check the window quick would you?
Spice peeks outside through the curtain.
Spice: It's actually starting to snow a little right now. You two should probably stay with us until it slows down, I don't want you to walk that far like this.
Lex: It's not that deep yet and it's not that far from my place.
Targe: It's a little over three kilos to your place on foot, might be rough on your friend if she's not built for ice. 
Dotty: I'm really not. You can head home if you want though.
Lex: Nah, I don't want to leave you alone right now. 
Targe: Make yourselves at home then, if you want some mocha we can fix you up some easy. 
Dotty: That'd be really nice.
Lex: Yeah.
Spice: I'll go get you the blankets for later, only going to get colder and the heater can be fussy at night.
Targe: In the morning we'll talk gameplan for this. 
Dotty: Yeah.. Yeah sounds good.
You nod.
Targe: If it gets bad enough we'll need the extra muscle from you. For now we'll just keep cozy til morning. 

[Image: 0JVGhY8.png]

The two knights in red make a stop by a little breakfast spot, getting themselves seated really quickly.
Geezer: Shit's cold today.

Charon: It IS snowing.

Geezer: Yeah, doesn't happen in Plaza so I'm not used to it.

Charon: It used to snow back at grandma's place, this isn't new to you.

Geezer: I stayed inside, I didn't deal if I didn't have to. Like don't get me wrong, it's pretty but damn. 

Charon: Fair enough. Unfortunately it's going to be a lot of that during the drive.

Geezer: Maybe I'll invest in another layer while we're in town then.

Charon: You're pretty decently layered as is.

Geezer: It's all thinner than it looks. Ah right so the rabbit hunt.

Charon: Yes you never explained that.

Geezer: So there's a few weird supernatural occurances every year around rabbit people showing up right?

Charon: Plaza's main population is rabbits so I don't see how that's unusual. 

Geezer: No but like, something is immediately off. Some otherworldly vibe to them you know? It doesn't feel quite right if you get me.

Charon:... Okay. Continue. 

Geezer: For some reason in spring we get all sorts of weird sightings. It culminates in a game of trying to get a photo of these rabbits or something but... they don't show up on camera.

Charon: That's odd, is the photo just ruined?

Geezer: No like, you snap the picture but when you get it developed they're missing completely! It's the weirdest thing!

Charon: So how do you know it's true?

Geezer: There's a few stops the rabbits go to every year. Artists wait by and speedpaint if possible. People know it's them because they make certain gestures. There's three of them. If you try to interact with them directly though they just vanish instantly. 

Charon: As in just poof?

Geezer: Just poof. Plenty of rabbit hunts get ruined each year by them. The weirdest part of all though is they stockpile eggs of wildlife at the end in the middle of the desert. Nobody can figure out why.

Charon: This sounds fake.

Geezer: It's hella real, I gotta take you sometime. 

Charon: Maybe.

Geezer: Didn't you say you wanted to visit?

Charon: I did, I'm just split on whether doing this during a region-wide monster hunt is smart.

Geezer: I mean... it'd be fun.

Charon: I suppose. I don't understand the photo or egg bits much.

Geezer: Vampires maybe?

Charon: Vampires don't exist. 

Geezer: I mean how do you know that?

Charon: Because at the very least in Taverne, the concept of the vampire is heavily inspired by a Fiend eccentric who was very much in the public eye. It's a myth created off of speculation of what a Fiend who lives in a castle must be up to during their spare time.

Geezer: I mean... if that's the case why are there stories about vampires overseas? 

Charon: Fiends can show up everywhere. They're not common so people create all sorts of ideas in their head when they encounter one. 

Geezer: What about the whole turning to bats thing? The drinking blood? Magic?

Charon: Fiends can infact turn into bats sometimes, they lean carnivorous, and they kind of just are. 

Geezer: Huh.... wish I got the chance to meet one in person. 

Charon gave Geezer a look. 

Geezer: You.... you okay?

Charon: You have to know right? You couldn't have not noticed all these years.

Geezer: Know what?

Charon:.... I see. Anyway we should go up and order something soon.

Geezer: Yeah, yeah that sounds good.

Charon: I'll cover today, that alright?

Geezer: I mean you sure?

Charon: Mmm. My pockets are doing nicely right now.

Geezer: Appreciated.
CW: Mentions of Death

After an evening of setup the place is well protected. You and Dotty both end up staying on the couch overnight. 
Despite the circumstances, it might be more comfortable than your own bed.
That's because you got to share with someone you like.
Besides me of course. But I know it's a little different with her. 
I mean yeah. 
She exists in the flesh and all. 
It's okay, I'm just teasing. 
You're pretty comfortable... it's weirdly dark however. You wonder if you woke up too early...
Dotty is awake though.
Lex: Morning.
Dotty: Morning. You rest okay?
Lex: Better than I have in awhile actually? Kinda surprised, usually do bad sleeping away from home. 
Dotty: Same. 
You're both interrupted by a voice coming from upstairs. Targe shuffles down into the living room quickly.

[Image: 31zU9np.png]
Targe: Glad to hear the two of you are doing good. We got a bit of work on our hands today.
Lex: Right now? It's early right?
Targe: It's only a little to noon actually. Sky's just that dark right now.
Dotty: Really?
Lex: Geez....
Targe: We're probably going to have to go and help folks out where we can. The worst of the storm seems to have stopped by now but the snow's still going here and again with no sign of a real end. 
Dotty: So we're going after Big Summit right?

There was a teasing tone to Dotty’s voice. Targe rolled his eyes.
Targe: If it gets desperate enough yeah. Should try to prioritize helping out folks first though. A lot of people are having trouble with the snow.
Lex: I mean... most people on this island haven't seen real snow like this. Me included.
Dotty: Yeah.. I need some treads too if I'm going out there. You got something I can work with?
Targe: I'll figure something out. We gotta have a decent gameplan going on here.

Dotty: Just throw me a job and I’ll get it done.

Targe: We’ll figure that out. Honestly with your kind of muscle though it’ll be a lot of help.

Dotty’s ears perked at the compliment. You couldn’t help but smile to yourself.

Lex: I’m willing to do whatever it takes too.

Targe: I know. We’ll need everyone for this to work out.

Lex: So what are we waiting for?

Targe: Spice actually. He’s busy in the kitchen right now, figured you’d both like a little something before we go out. We’re gonna need all sorts of gear on us to make this work though. Winter wear, cloaks, radars and so on. Prepare for whatever course this takes including a monster hunt if we gotta.

Lex: I’m down for that.

Targe: You’re gonna be doing a lot of lifting as a warning.

Dotty: I’m fine.

Lex: Same.

Targe turned toward the kitchen.

Targe: Spice! You almost done in there!

Spice: I’m just serving quick! Hold on.

[Image: gyj6Gqu.png]

After a moment Spice shuffled in with a tray filled with a very gourd-esque brew. Not a single one of you hesitates to grab a mug and take a good gulp.

Dotty: Appreciated. Thank you!

Targe: Mm. It’s really good today.

Lex: Mm! You didn’t have to do that just for us.

Spice: It’s no biggie.  Gotta be a good host for our guests…. Plus, we’re gonna work you both a ton today so think of this as some advance.  So, what’s the plan Targe?

Dotty: Yeah, lay it on us, we’re waiting.

Targe: We’re gonna go through the neighborhood making sure folks are off the streets. Gotta manage any paths that got cluttered by lost souls. There’s gonna be a bunch of those.

Lex: Lost souls? From snow?

Targe: Snow’s hella cursed. Angel signals. Folks from other world are being split between here and their homes right now. Might be influencing them pretty hard right now too. Makes them terrified, might mistake you for something else you know? We gotta calm them down and snap them back to their senses.

Lex: Any chance we could end up like them?

Targe: Normally yeah, but we got some fancy webbing coats. Got them from overseas. As long as you’re wearing them you’ll be safe. They’re made of fiend silk though so try not to ruin them yeah?

Dotty: We’ll be careful.

Lex: No promises, but I’ll try.

Spice: Do we got enough of those for everyone?

Targe: One of us might have to stay behind honestly. We might need a guy in a chair anyway.

Spice: I can get the radios ready.

Lex: Aren’t those unsafe if there’s angel meddling?

Targe: Normally yeah, but we got customs made in advance.

Dotty: I gotta ask, why do you have all this?

Targe: We run a shop on the side. We get a lot of witching gear in and out. There’s a demand for it with a lot of kids you know? Hell, that’s when Spice and I got into it.

Lex: That’s when I got into it too….

Dotty: You gotta tell me about your witch phase at some point you know.

Lex: We’ll get to it!

Dotty: You better! I feel like there’s a lot of stuff you never talk about.

Lex: Same, I wanna know more too.

Dotty: I’ll be honest, I just don’t remember shit.

Spice: Hate to derail but I gotta point out something quick, look out the window.

You turn over. There’s a vague figure in the dark fumbling through the snow. They seem confused in their movements.

[Image: YlAxKkR.png]

Dotty: What is that?

Targe: Lost souls, like I said.

Spice: They got a certain flame effect to them. Some of them are people from another world nearby. Others are wandering ghosts.

Dotty: No offense but uh….. Kinda reminds me of you. With the fire thing.

Spice: None taken.  There’s admittedly a little bit of overlap….

Targe’s face tried to shake off a frown.

Dotty: Is it too personal or…

Spice: I mean I don’t mind talking about it. Truth be told is I’m not really alive. Not in the sense that everyone else in the room is. Just a walking body with a soul glued to the neck.

Targe: Makeshift necromancy.

Spice: Technically a type of undead! Think we mentioned this a little before.

Dotty: Vaguely? Something about head exploding?

Targe: We messed with magic we weren’t particularly ready for. It’s my fault really but… what’s done is done.

Dotty: Shit… I’m sorry.

Targe: Nah, it’s alright. You’ve been hanging with us for awhile, fair enough to ask.

Spice: I don’t mind honestly though. Means I’m spooky all year long you know?

Lex: It’s a killer look. Kid me would’ve probably done it on purpose given the chance.

Dotty: Lex….

Lex: I’m kidding.

At this point the wandering lost soul seems to be stuck in a bit of a rut. It’s fumbled around in the same circle for a while now. It looks over at you here and now. There’s a gut feeling. You’ve got an idea.

Lex: You don’t think one of these ghosts could tell us something potentially useful right?

Targe: In theory. Like what though?

Lex: Like… what dragged them out here?

Targe: Maybe. If we get some kind of description we can put together some theories and work from there.

Lex: I’m going out there.
Spice: You might wanna wait.

Lex: There’s one right there, don’t wanna wait til it wanders off.

Targe: It’s freezing, wait for us to get you some proper gear going.

You hurry over to the door.

Spice: Lex, please don’t.

Targe: For real, just wait while I get you ready.

Targe starts going up stairs.

Lex: I’ll be quick about it, promise! I got a weird hunch about this one.

You quickly march outside. The air is colder than you’ve ever felt before in your life

Spice: Lex no-

Dotty: It’s alright. I got her back.

Spice sighs.

Spice: Please don’t do anything too reckless yeah?

Lex: I’ll play it safe!

[Image: I3T5xWF.png]

You approach the ghost. The light leaking from the house makes it clear they’re some kind of construct, though perhaps not a model from around here. It’s shivering and possibly injured.

Its eyes widen at seeing you.

???: Y-You’re here to help me right?

Lex: Yeah. You don’t look like you’re doing too hot.

???: No…. I’m really not.

Lex: Let me help you out.

???: That’d be really nice right now.. Having trouble staying awake...

Lex: How long you been out here?

???: No idea, feels like forever….

Lex: Well get you warmed up in a sec.

???: Please...

You grab the construct’s hand. He’s physical, not really a ghost. He gives a squeeze in return.

Lex: You from around here?

???: No…. I’m pretty far from home actually.

Lex: From off island?

???: Different island. Got sucked up by a storm I think.

Lex: You know what did it?

???: Not really sure. But I’m glad you’re here now. It’s been a long time so…

???: I can’t promise I won’t get a little emotional.

Lex: You can let it out as much as you need to. We’ll get you warmed up….

???: I know…

???: I’m sorry it’s like this…

???: I’ve been keeping everyone safe since you’ve been gone though.

Lex: Oh?

???: As best I can anyway. Promised I would.

You wonder what he’s going on about.

???:  Hasn’t been the same without you though.

Lex: I’m sorry.

???: It’s okay. Your hair’s different I think but I kinda like it.

Lex: Thanks!

???: Everyone said you were a goner but you’re okay…

Lex: A goner?

???: Mmhmm… thanks for proving them wrong though…

???: I feel like you’re the only friend I really had so…

???: You coming back for me means the world…

The construct loses consciousness. You scurry to drag him inside.

The poor thing...
CW: Unreality

[Image: qyyH67l.png]
You and your friends spend a good hour watching over the poor construct. Targe and Spice walk in and out of the room, making preparations for you and Dotty to go out. Dotty keeps you company the entire time.
After a long wait, you start to see the construct stir a bit. 
For some reason you're really relieved to see him okay despite being a total stranger to you.
At least you're pretty sure he's a complete stranger. 
He manages to sit himself up.
Lex: Hey, how are you doing?
The construct makes a vague noise.
Lex: That good or bad?
???: It's hard to say. Being out in a storm like that was a bit much for me...
Lex: I'd say, all you've got on is a sweater. 
???: Mm.
Lex: So uh... you got a name?
The construct's face seems to sadden a little. 
???: DOP... I suppose this is the first time we've met then. 
Lex: Yeah, I think so unless you're like an old school buddy or something.
DOP: Never been, didn't really have a need for a formal education or even the option...
Dotty: I mean hey, I don't have much of a formal anything either. Least I don't remember any of it. 
DOP tilts his head at the sight of your friend a little.
DOP: You had standard rancher unit training did you not? 
Dotty:  I mean yeah... but I don't remember any of that these days....
DOP: By these days you're an old vintage model yes?
Dotty: You're making me sound so old...
DOP: That wasn't my intent at all! I just wonder... are you by any chance familiar with a Dorothy?
Dotty: I'm a Dorothy... why? 
DOP: Dorothy the Knight? 
Dotty: Used to be. I think. 
DOP: You think?
Dotty: My memory got jacked up after a point so I don't remember things too well... 
DOP: Ah.... do you by any chance remember me?
Dotty: Not really honestly.
DOP: I see...
Dotty: I'm sorry. Wish I could remember more but most of back then is gone.
DOP: Do you still work for Mori at least?
Dotty: Like THE Mori? If I did I REALLY don't remember that. Nobody from back then really talks to me and I can't blame them. I'm not really their old friend anymore.
DOP: ...They abandoned you?
Dotty: Don't put it like that, you're gonna make me depressed. They just kind of moved on so whatever. Besides, I got people around. Got my favorite people right here.
She nudges your shoulder.
Lex: Aww....
Dotty: In this case literally people.
Lex: I guess I am people. 
DOP: Still, You had so many people in your life back then... where are they?
Dotty: My guess? They're avoiding me or just... gone. 
DOP slumps in his seat a little. 
This might have been a little too much for him to process right now. 
Lex: You gonna be okay?
DOP: Quite a bit to take in. 
Lex: I get you. Take your time for now.
DOP: Mm... I'll just have to figure it out I suppose.
Targe interrupts your conversation.

[Image: u5xHVoE.png]
Targe: So, the weather has died down enough that going out soon might be a good idea. I take it you two are going?
Lex: Yeah, of course.
Dotty: Mmhmm. Are we doing this now?
Targe: Good.
He tosses the two of you a set of cowls.
Lex: Are these gonna be enough?
Dotty: Yeah, these seem kinda thin. 
Targe: It's not about the warmth with these, it's about protecting you from supernatural elements. Besides if the snow is as cursed as we think it is, this should be enough right?
Lex: I guess....
Targe: Fiend silk insulates pretty well so it should be good and you shouldn't be weighed down too bad. We'll take care of uh....
DOP: DOP, just call me DOP for now
Targe: Right. We'll take care of you while we investigate.
DOP: I think I should go actually... I spotted the thing that dragged me into this world. You'll be with few leads if I don't join you...
Dotty: You sure? You were pretty rough just a minute ago. 
DOP nods at the three of you. 
Targe tosses DOP a third coat. 
Targe: I was gonna go myself but the three of you got a better spot. Besides, I can't leave Spice as the sole operator you know? He's baking right now, don't need him running off to check on cookies or something in the middle of this. 
DOP: Thank you, I promise you're making the right choice here. 
Targe hands you a backpack. 
Lex: What's all this?
Targe: Interfacing. Arms, radio, and radar. The big three to any sort of monster hunt. I'll explain-
Lex: You'll teach me on the way. 
You get up and upt the cloak on. Dotty follows suit.
Targe: Excuse me?
Lex: We have no idea how long the storm will calm down right? So I'm going out right away.
Dotty: Yeah she's got a point here, we're burning time.
Targe: Guess so..... you two gonna be able to follow instructions fine? Or three I guess.
Lex: Yeah. I'm familiar with some of this anyway so... should be fine. 
Dotty: Same. Not like we'll run into it right away. Heck odds are the local gods might end up handling it you know?
Lex: Yeah it'd be weird if they didn't step in. Anyway..
You get the backpack on and pull out the walkie. The three of you pace toward the door.
Lex: Just talk to me on the way. I'm heading out.

Targe: You three stay safe yeah? I don’t want to hear that any of ya’ll got hurt out there.

Dotty: We will.

You open up the door and feel the immediate rush of cold.

The snow is above your ankles.

It’s actually kind of pretty…. You’ve never seen this much before…

You look at the horizon. Unnaturally dark clouds. Like a void in the sky. That’s your lead.

[Image: 85qxbft.png]
CW: Unreality, Mild Violence

[Image: Zc9RZPk.png]
You tread into the void, the only sign that you're still in reality the skies above.
Even then it's got such an unnatural vibe that you're not entirely sure if that's true.
Maybe this was kind of a bad idea.
Someone's gotta do it though. 
Maybe, not sure why it has to be us though.
Because.... something has to be wrong if nobody up top has managed to stop it by now right?
You mean the gods and their folks?
Yeah. They must be having just as much trouble if they've let it go on a day like this.
Fair enough. In that case you mind if I take charge during the walk? It's been a bit and I'm feeling a little lonely in here...
Go ahead...
You are now Jam... that feels funny to say like that. Like a little narration in a game of sorts. 
You look over at your friend.
Jam: Heeey! Popped in to see what's the deal with things. God it's cold....
Dotty: Little bit. Jam right?
Jam: Of course.
Dotty: You caught up on what's been going on?
Jam: Mmhmm. Been watching the whole thing. Filled in on everything including the new guy. How you doing by the way?
DOP: Good... you're a different person right now yes?
Jam: Mmhmm! Jam, happy to introduce myself. I'd shake your hand but it's kinda cold and I don't wanna expose myself even a little to the elements like that you know? So I'll greet you proper later.
DOP: That's fine. your voice is different from uh.... Lex.
Jam: It does that. 
DOP: I like it honestly. 
Jam: Aww. Why's that?
DOP: It's weird to say...
Jam: I wanna hear it anyway. No judging.
DOP: It reminds me a lot of someone I used to know.... everyone here does but it's not quite the same. 
Dotty: I mean you knew me right?
DOP: In a way. You're barely the same person though if you can't remember any of it. I just wonder what happened after all these decades...
Jam: Decades? 
Dotty: I mean if he knew me back then he's gotta be pretty ancient. Robot stuff is complicated like that.
Jam: Yeah, that checks out I guess. 
DOP: I'm sorry to burden you all with this....
Dotty: Nah it's no problem, I get it. I guess I just wonder... how DID you know me?
DOP: It's a bit of a long story really but... you were a hero who did a lot for me and the people back where I came from. You, your friend at the time, and the director all showed up and salvaged us from one big crisis. Made life better for everyone... and then you all had to leave. Go back to your own world. 
Dotty: That sounds pretty huge....
DOP: It really was! I really owe you for everything you'd done... I'm just a little sad that I never got to repay you before-
Dotty: Before my memory went to shit yeah. I mean it's alright, you're doing us a huge one by coming out this far with us.
Jam: Yeah no it's a pretty huge deal.
DOP: You think so? I mean it's nothing but... 
Dotty: Don't downplay yourself like that! This is a dangerous job!
Jam: Yeah. 
DOP gave you all a genuine smile... it slowly fades as you can hear the clashing of metal up ahead. 
Jam: What's that? You hear that?
DOP: Fighting. 
Jam: Maybe a duel?
Dotty: Might be, no idea who'd have a duel in the middle of a situation like this though. Follow it, might be out culprit. 
The group makes a big hustle toward the source of the sound. A mix of metal clashes, hissing, and the occasional pained sound creates a trail toward two figures fighting in the snow. One bundled up heavily with a classic dueling blade in hand, the other significantly larger, visibly distressed and covered in ice.
You can't help but feel your nerves build up. You all recognize that sword as a vintage style only belonging to demons from the days of old. One of the local god.
The cloaked demon takes a huge hit, hammered in the face by the elbow of the larger fighter and crashing directly into the snow. 
You tag in. You're Lex. Sorry to shove you out like that... feel a fight coming on.
You're valid, can't scrap to save my life. 
The large beast wades through the snow to catch up to the demon, you and Dotty both rush in to intervene. You group tackle the beast onto the ground and start pummeling with every bit of energy in you. 
The beast manages to knock Dotty off as it gets back onto its feet.
Despite the snow making it hard to move, you manage to awkwardly duck the next strike, avoiding getting hit and finding an opening to grab the beast. You grapple it and slam away. 
After all your efforts however it manages to break from your grip and slams you into the ground with a single hand. 
Your head is spinning, you just took a massive hit directly. As you fight to stay conscious, you witness the cloaked figure land a big strike on the creature, stabbing it through the chest. 
The creature seems to stagger for a moment before shoving the demon off. The sword is ejected from its chest into the ground.

You find yourself feeling weak in all of this. You struggle to stay awake….

You’re allowed to rest.

You have to make sure everyone is okay. You watch as the beast and the demon grapple…

You feel yourself get dragged across the ground as your vision darkens.

You're... being tagged out.

I'll cover for you from here.
Crankshaft Winter Special 2020/2021 Epilogue
CW: Mention of Injury, Trauma

[Image: 9DixBcT.png]

It's been two months since you encountered what those up top refer to as "The Blizzard."

Dotty is around as usual, she's been great. She'll be here any second to visit you.

You're currently under the eye and care of the greater god Mori's demon's as compensation for your group getting caught up in everything. 

For the most part everyone recovered fine from their injuries. 


Someone is absent.

You are Jam, and you've been very lonely in your thoughts. 

To be more specific, Lex hasn't been around much aside from the occasional murmur to remind you that she's somewhere floating about. 

Right now you're pretending to be asleep in your bed, waiting for that knock on the door at any moment.

You're in no rush, you're comfortable laying down in your pile of blankets.

Despite all your anticipation, it's the doorbell that rings. 

It must be one of Mori's folks here to talk to you.


You crawl out of bed after it's run a second time hesitantly.

Jam: I'm coming!

You slump over to the door. You're already dressed up since you do this pretty much every other day at this point. 

You open it. It's Lupe, one of Mori's best duelists, long time demon, and very much a dog. She's here to check up on how you're doing. 

Lupe: Morning. Jam?

Jam: As usual. 

Lupe: Mm. No progress huh?

Jam: Not much. She's been louder lately but nothing I can really tell you know?

Lupe: Sorry to hear that. Good news is we've gotten final approval to bring you in to study your case and help you out. We also got approval for your friend Dotty to stay with you so you're not alone.

Jam: Will it help?

Lupe: Maybe, we have a expert on this sort of thing on us. Traveling witch named Manzana. She'll be able to dig in and probably find out what's going on with Lex. We can do this as early as tonight if you confirm right now. 

Jam: Yes! I mean... yes please. 

Lupe: Good, good. Are you holding out okay? 

Jam: As best I can really. Like... I'm still not used to being the one in control all day. I'm not used to being alone like this, or having to be the one to handle all the interaction or... I don't know just... fuck. 

Lupe: You have any idea what really got her to go quiet like this?

Jam: I don't know. She got hit really fucking hard, way harder than anything in her life. 

Lupe: A lot of fractures, that checks out.

Jam: Right like... she's broken bones before but I guess just being shrugged off and slammed that hard into the ground broke her a little you know? Real fear for both of us.

Lupe: You could've died, it's pretty understandable. Still gotta admire you and your friends for jumping in to help me fight a hell beast like that. Don't know how that fight would've gone without your help. Just wish nobody had to get hurt. Doesn't help that the thing just got away free though.

Jam: Least the weather's been better lately.

Lupe: Sorta. Still getting storms when we're 2 weeks into spring you know? Feels bad. Makes you wish the seasonal rabbit would show up.

Jam: That a thing? Always assumed it was a story for kids.

Lupe gives you a shaky hand.

Lupe: There's a couple of historical basis behind it. Anyway, there's still a lot of loose ends to deal with.

Jam: Yeah... Creature is still loose, poor DOP never got back home... Dotty hasn't been herself either. 

Lupe: Mm... Tell you what though, we'll at least get that last part figured out soon. Gonna come back in the evening. You and Dotty grab anything you need and we'll head off as a group. 

Jam: Really?

Lupe: I mean you've waited long enough and we got the opening so.. yeah. 

Jam: Mm... Thank you.

Lupe: Eh... thank Mori really. They would've gotten to it sooner but they got a lot on their plate you know. Poor thing wants to help as many people as possible but it can be tricky when there's so many on this island. 

Jam: Still... everyone's done a lot for me these past couple of months. Really grateful for that.

Lupe: We gotta look out for each other, this entire island is family if people are willing to put in the work.

Jam: That's a nice way to look at it...

Lupe places a hand on you shoulder. 

Lupe: I'll see you tonight. Spend the day doing something nice for yourself, for you and your friend. I think you both could use that.

Jam: Yeah... I think we both could.
CW: Mention of Falling.

[Image: jTUpQVE.png]

 Manzana stood at the balcony outside her hotel window, taking in the air of her old home region. It's been a good while since she's had to return here and thankfully it was what seemed to be a relatively low scale job. 
 Despite her efforts to keep her thoughts on the sights and smells of the city though, she couldn't avoid being pestered by a presence she's had around for a good chunk of her life.

You know you're pretty close to the ledge. Someone could push you.

Manzana: Are you threatening my life?

Only a little.

Manzana: Why are you like this?

Because we're friends.

Maznana rolled their eyes.

 Anyway you got a job commissioned by one of the local high gods huh? Nice. 

 Manzana: It's just another job.

 Yeah but like, it's for a god of witchcraft you know? That's a pretty big deal considering your occupation here.

 Manzana: Your point?
My point is you look kinda sour when you should be taking this in as a sign that you've really gotten far you know?

 Manzana: I'm not big into smiling.

 You do it for suits all the time.

 Manzana: That's all fake and for show, I'm not going to show up looking grim.
Yeah well, I think it's pretty exciting. Don't fuck up! You have the full details?
Manzana: Mmhmm, can't say I've messed around much with cases like this but I'll see what I can do. 


 Manzana: Mind palace stuff. Speaking of, you should probably show your face instead of loitering in mine.

 Yeah yeah hold on.
Manzana: Anytime now Platino.
The lurking presence reveals himself properly, a shadowy spoof of the rabbit by the balcony.

 Platino: Don't see what the big deal is, most folks can't see me anyway.

 Manzana: I like having a face to the ghosts that torment me.

 Platino: Aww, you like seeing my mug?

 Manzana: It makes things easier for me. So why are you here?
Platino: Figured you needed a heads up on stuff. Your client's been hit by some nasty angelic activity. Tapping into
that might be a little risky. 

Manzana: How'd you figure that out?
Platino: I snooped. Got hit by the uh, what locals dub "Big Summit".

 Manzana: The cryptid?
Platino: Sorta, that's what most folks think but people behind the scenes know a little more. Bastard jacked up the island's climate a bit last winter and they never managed to actually stop it.
Manzana: Mm. I was detecting all sorts of weird activity lately when setting up my equipment and it's been worse than usual.

 Platino: Than usual?

 Manzana: Plaza has a pretty big history of being trampled by angels. There's all sorts of monuments and holidays in memoriam here. 

 Platino: For a place that's such a popular vacation spot, it sounds like it's been rough huh?
Manzana: It only really became big with tourists after the efforts to revive everything. The gods, at least Mori anyway, pushed out a lot of relief programs, cheap housing, and means to get folks back on their feet. You wouldn't think it from looking at the capital though where the big spenders have taken over.

 Platino: The more you know. You like it here at all? 
Manzana: I have some sentiment for it. Home region and all.

 Platino: Some?
Manzana: I mean I didn't grow up here on the best terms but it's still where I came from. I care about it a little.

 Platino: You got any people around here?
Manzana: Not really, nobody I could easily go and track down. Some of them I'm not even sure if they're still around...

 Platino: Old folks?
Manzana: Yeah... A lot of old folks were nice to me. I was a kid living on the streets but people were willing to help me out. 

 Platino: Do I count?
Manzana: Maybe. How old are you?
Platino: I've lost track so that might say something. Being a ghost trapped between worlds is a hard job.

 Manzana: Sounds complicated.
Platino: Absolutely is. You still gotta at some point bring me back to the physical world properly you know. It's your end of the contract.

 Manzana: I'm working on it. I'm just scared what you'd do.

 Platino: What, you don't trust me?

 Manzana: I have a hard time imagining you not being a chaos elemental with a physical form yes. 

 Platino: Aww, I promise I'll be good though! 

 Manzana gave him a quiet glare.
Platino: Anyway, you're gonna have to make good on that at some point.
Manzana: The only part I technically had to make good on is getting you back to this world. Whether you're stuck a ghost or not is up to me.
Platino: I'm sure you want me out of your hair at some point though right? Can't wait to get back to some peace and quiet?

 Manzana: Maybe. When I'm retired.
Platino: Really hope you're not gonna make me wait that long, if you're anything like your mentor you're gonna be working til you’re 80. 

 Manzana: I'd be amazed if I get 80 years with you around.

 Platino: Ouch. 
Manzana: Saying as it is, no offense but you've gotten me in some bad spots plenty of times.

 Platino: Yeah but I get you out, don't I?
Manzana: Barely.... but to your credit you do more for me than you cause trouble.

 Platino: Sounds like a compliment.

 Manzana: Hmm... 

Platino: Hmm? Not gonna dispute that?

Manzana: Maybe, if you’re looking for something to cling onto. It’s cold out here. Think I’m gonna head inside. If you’d like you could join me in figuring out what’s watchable on hotel tv.

Platino: Sure.

Manzana walked back into her hotel room, Platino following behind.

Platino: So, you nervous about your job at all? Genuine feelings on this.

Manzana: Not really but I should be if it’s something that Mori of all people requested. A god of witchcraft means that you’d be already surrounded by damn good witches, and if they need outside help for this that’s not a good sign.

Platino: Is the patient someone big? Gotta be pretty important right?

Manzana: From the looks of it no, just a local from a dueling scene by one of the island’s big boardwalks. Her track record isn’t that interesting for the most part either.

Platino: Alexandra Leon. Likely a civilian casualty of some kind. Got the nickname “Lex Rambo” for her overly aggressive style but it seems like it doesn’t pay off enough to reach any kind of big fame. Civilian casualty or a friend seem like the best guesses.

Manzana: Absolutely not a friend, Mori mostly sticks within their circles. Young people are rarely around them these days.

Platino: Interesting.

Manzana: It doesn’t matter much though, as long as I do the job and get paid.

She grabbed the controller and flicked the television on before flopping onto the hotel’s bed.

Platino: You think you got this?

Manzana: I mean I have to right? Can’t underperform for a god.

Platino: Your mentor would kick your ass if you did.

Manzana: I know.

[Image: 3jVOivs.png]

CW: Existentialism 

[Image: 0KO2RNt.png]

 You are Jam, you are in a void deeper and darker than you've seen in your life.

 Something about it feels oddly familiar in both a warm and terrifying way.

 You've been diving for hours, searching for your best friend who's been missing for a awful long time after your last encounter with the supernatural.

 You miss her....

 After digging down far enough you encounter someone..

 It's her. 

 You approach her casually. She's clearly been crying a lot lately.

 Jam: Hey.

 Lex: Hey.

 Jam: Been a really long time since we last talked.

 Lex: Haven't had the option much, kinda just... been here.

 Jam: Yeah, can't say it was easy digging this far down, glad to see you're here in one piece though.

 Lex: Not really in a way I'd like though.

 You approach Lex slowly, she scoots away from you.

 Jam: Why you hiding? Everything alright?

 Lex: Really don't want you to look at me like this. 

 Jam: You're fine, whatever it is it'll wash off..

 Lex: I'm seriously gross right now, don't get any closer.

 Jam: You want a little bit of space.

 She nods at you. 

 Jam: Right... talk to me then, what's been up with you?

 Lex: I dunno, just... feel like I'm going nowhere you know? Haven't been able to keep a stable job,
mental health has been shot for a decade, and I keep getting my ass handed whenever I jump in on a fight.

 Jam: You keep getting up in the end though right?

 Lex: That's not really enough! I just... I don't know if I'll ever be anything. Don't know if I'll ever fix stuff with my family, or be able to live life without always being tight on cash, or ever see life outside of Plaza.

 Jam: Last one always did bug us huh?

 Lex: Yeah....

 Jam: Getting called a flunkie by teachers and family cause grades were never all that good. Being the weird kid to a lot of people.

 Lex: Having to pull all sorts of hustles to keep money in our pockets. 

 Jam: Been better about that much no? Dueling career was picking up last season you know. And you managed to keep a job longer than the seasonal rush!

 Lex: Not anywhere enough. Still got smoked plenty.

 Jam: There's time to get ready for next season, I'm sure you'd do better.

 Lex: Still a while away, just finished up with the last run, right?

 Jam: Our last run was in winter.

 Lex: Yeah?

 Jam: Lex, how long do you think you've been here for?

 Lex: Couple weeks maybe? Hard to really tell when you're alone but that feels right.

 Jam: Lex...

 Lex: ....It's only been a couple of weeks right?

 Jam: Been a helluva lot longer than that.

 Her body jolted in response.

 Lex: Like... a month? Two months?

 Jam: It's been half a year... you've been dormant a really long ass time. 

 Lex: ....

 Jam: We had to call in professionals, set up this big elaborate thing. Been to doctors, priests, and occultists. It's been hard... really hard.

 Lex: Like, 6 months...?

 Jam: 7. Everyone misses you. Dotty knows, same with a lot of your friends at this point. Only people who aren't in the loop are your boss and your parents and they're both catching onto the fact that something's super off.

 Lex: You had to talk to our parents...?

 Jam: Yeah, you know how they check up on occasion. They know shit's off but they don't seem to have any clue what. 

 Lex: Fuck.... I'm sorry you had to go through with that.

 Jam: It's no worries, it was something to get to talk to them again but like.... I'll be honest I don't think I'm ready to explain myself like that considering...

 Lex: Yeah...

 Jam: We kinda became us through some fucked up means I guess. 

 Lex: Yeah. I mean they knew about the witchcraft stuff but..

 Jam: They never knew we went so far that we became two people. I dunno. I mean I guess I'm more just a proxy you grew up with huh? But I’ve been there enough that it feels like my life too.

 Lex: Yeah... I mean it is. It's our life. Christ... everyone who knows been good about it?

 Jam: Yeah! Yeah actually. Dotty obviously, she's been doing her best to handle this emotionally but she super misses you. Spice, Targe, hell Kurt.

 Lex: You talked to Kurt recently?

 Jam: Kurt moved back into town actually! 

 Lex: Really? God, we haven't really hung out proper since before he joined the trade ships.

 Jam: I mean he's a proper engineer now, works at Capital you know? 

 Lex: Damn.. the city or the park?

 Jam: Both! Got a job in a lot of safety stuff I think?

 Lex: That's good! God I wanna just catch up with everyone now...

 Jam: Yeah... there's a lot of that to do honestly. Truth be told the world's actually had a lot go on since you've been gone.

 Lex: Oh?

 Jam: Yeah like... There's been kind of a infestation of angel spawn so the place has become a hotspot for witches and knights. Actually a lot of demand for both of those in general, and a lot of duelists are jumping on board.

 Lex: Don't know if I'd be up for that...

 Jam: You might have to be honestly. Leagues kinda went through a big merger that mean even lower circuits are tapping into a lot of the "high brow" dueling culture. Shaken up things a hell of a lot.

 Lex: Ugh, feel like I'm gonna have to relearn everything when I get back...

 Jam: Uh... Spice claims to have "ascended bunny" or some shit.

 Lex: He talks about that a lot, what'd he do? 

 Jam: He bought a gun?

 Lex: Like... a magic gun?

 Jam: Like a gun, gun.

 Lex: Those even legal around here without a knighting permit?

 Jam: He got one actually. Targe isn't happy about it but they'll figure it out I'm sure.

 Lex: Damn... 

 Jam: Oh and uh... Dotty's been looking into joining in on the knighting boom you know. But.. she kinda wants you to be there too if she does. 

 Lex: Really?

 Jam: It's something she's good at and it pays well. Like, scary good. She really wants you in on it too... Honestly I'd do it myself but I'm not much of a fighter...

 Lex: I mean.... I'd be down for it. God I really hope she's doing okay....

 Jam: Hard to say but... would do a lot for her if you came back you know.

 Lex: Yeah...

 Jam: What do you say?

 Lex: Yeah. Yeah please. 

 She reaches out for your hand. 

 You grab on and haul her toward you.

 Jam: Gonna be a bit of a walk as a heads up.

 Lex: Mm.... 

 Jam: You ready? Got everything you need?

 Lex: Yeah... Take me home please.


A New Start: Crankshaft Special 
CW: Existentialism, Some Heavy Reflective Discussion 
Lex and Dotty Finally Move in Thank God.
[Image: Day.gif]

 Dotty: We manage to get everything in?

 Lex: Yeah... figured a big move like this gets pretty hectic. 

 Dotty: Little bit, but overall incident free. Got a lot to unbox still but I think we can take a little break. 

 Lex: We got anywhere to sit?

 Dotty: Mattress. We gotta set up the frame for the bed but we can get away with laying down a little.

 You flop without zero hesitation. Dotty scoots herself next to you. 

 Dotty: Tired?

 Lex: Bushed! Don't got the same muscle or energy you do. Plus Jam got a little too eager with packing...

 Dotty: Wanted to get it done that bad?

 Lex: Really did, both been super excited about moving in together you know? Thought you'd never ask.

 Dotty: Almost didn't, usually I like to wait for you to bring something up.

 Lex: Yeah well... you know I'm pretty awful about that. Jam's usually gotta push me a little. 

 Dotty: I mean I can't blame you. I'm not much better.

 Lex: Yeah but like... you did it in the end right?

 Dotty: Guess so. Honestly I've really wanted to for a long ass time. 

 Lex: Why'd it take you so long?

 Dotty: You first.
Lex: Shy, scared..... afraid of looking lame in front of you. 

 Dotty: Shut the fuck up! You're one of the coolest people I know. 

 Lex: One of? 

 Dotty: I mean I know a lot of cool folks but you're in my top 3.

 Lex: Who's above me? 

 Dotty: Jam at full power, Geezer's cowboy grandma. 

 Lex:...I can live with that. Second one's a choice though.

 Dotty: She's fancy with a gun. 

 Lex: She shot you. 

 Dotty: I got better. 

 Lex: She *Shot* you!
 Dotty: Doesn't matter that much. Think we won in the end. 

 Lex: Did we? Can't remember much about that whole incident...
Dotty: You got bopped pretty hard and Jam was tagged in a good chunk of it so... you know. 

 Lex: Really need a refresher honestly...

 Dotty: We'll get to that. 

 Lex: Geezer turned out pretty cool in the end though, lot nicer than we gave him credit at first.

 Dotty: You gave him so much shit!

 Lex: I didn't know he was protecting us from cowboys! 

 Dotty: He had a bit of a country tinge when he talked so... 

 Lex: Yeah.

 Dotty: Probably should've seen that coming. Looking into where his folks live, he'd be surrounded by
big hats and jeans constantly.

 Lex: Actually hell... 

 Dotty: Anyway you got a few sponsorship offers in the end for your dueling stuff yeah?

 Lex: Yeah. Small ones but yeah. Doesn't really pay the bills but at least entry fee and travel aren't a big strain as much.. don't think they're gonna renew me though.

 Dotty: What do you mean?

 Lex: Results are pretty mixed, been out for months after shit kinda went down last winter... I dunno. Don't think they'd have much interest in keeping me.

 Dotty: Ah... 

 Lex: Gonna be hard to keep dueling going as a side hustle like that... also don't really got a main job anymore.. 

 Dotty: I mean I got you covered, and Jam's been doing pretty good while you were gone. 

 Lex: Heard about that, been helping Spice and Targe with their store...

 Dotty: Yep. Those two finally got a slot at one of the local shopping centers. 

 Lex: I mean congrats, those two've been pushing for that so long, you know? It's a lot to take in though.

 Dotty: Too much too fast?

 Lex: Too much way too fast. Like, everyone's still here and it's clear they all missed me but anytime I catch up I feel like I've lost out on a lot you know?

 Dotty: I mean... I get that feeling too. 

 Lex: Yeah... yeah I guess you had a way more extreme case of that. 
Dotty: Little... continue though?

 Lex: Jam's been keeping a handle on things for a good while now and I'm glad they've covered for me but.... I dunno. Like.. after they let me go back home I looked in the mirror for a bit and all sorts of feelings kinda hit me.

 Dotty: Talk about them.

 Lex: Guess my face just... didn't look like me. Like, it's me but it hasn't been for a long time and there's all sorts of subtle changes that make it feel so uncanny to me now...

 Dotty: I think it still looks plenty like you. Don't think Jam's been good about keeping any sort of physical training going though so that might be it. They do use a lot of make up too...
Lex: Guess so, absolutely lost a good chunk of muscle for sure...
 Dotty: You'll get it back. 

 Lex: Also just hoping I'm not taking something from them... like... they've been living their own life for a good while now. 

 Dotty: Don't think that's the case really, they super missed you and being in control all the time's been pretty hard on them.

 Lex: Yeah, they've said as much but...

 Dotty: I mean, what are they doing right now?

 Lex: They're completely conked out I guess. 

 Dotty: Yeah. Those first couple of months were so hard on them you know? Ran out of energy so fast and had no real way to take a break. Broke down crying at work a few times, would sleep almost anytime they didn't have anything they needed to do... had to carry them home anytime they managed to find the energy to go out with me.

 Lex: I guess I always assumed they had their shit together so much more than I did.... 

 Dotty: I mean I don't have my shit together either! You think I knew what I was fucking doing before we met?

 Lex: You had a pretty stable job, a place...

 Dotty: And I was pretty lonely the whole time. Every day was just going to work or getting poked at by scientists and then coming home to have dinner and go to bed. Didn't have any friends I knew in person, never really went out unless I needed to pick up something... you remember what my old place used to look like?

 Lex: It was so empty. You sounded like you wanted to cry when I asked if I could come in.

 Dotty: I almost did! I didn't have anything ready, the whole place looked like I just got out of prison and I didn't want you to think I was weird or shady or-

 Lex: You kinda did in a way. You were being holed up for years and then just thrown at whatever job folks figured you'd be good at. 

 Dotty: Yeah... you didn't mind at all though. You just started throwing me little presents left and right for a good month. 

 Lex: Wanted to help you fill up the place a bit.

 Dotty: A lot of those were potted plants... kinda shocked when I found out you'd grown the bulk of them yourself. 

 Lex: It's no biggie.

 Dotty: Was to me. Gotta say though? Never expected you to have that sort of green thumb going on. 

 Lex: What's that mean?

 Dotty: You told me you grew up in the city, not a lot of room for gardening there.

 Lex: Life finds a way.  

 Dotty: I guess. Shame you couldn't take all the flowers you had back at your place with you.  

 Lex: Whoever moves in will appreciate it. 

 Dotty: Still.

 Lex: I'll grow something better, that's the whole point of this move anyway right?

 Dotty: Yeah.

 Lex: Honestly, as soon as we get the chance, let's do something we haven't in a bit. 

 Dotty: Like what?

 Lex: Get in trouble but not too much, pick some fights, run around the boardwalk til the sun rises, just... living life I guess. I don't think we got as much of that even before I just kinda went away you know?
Lex: You really don't appreciate so many little things like that til you suddenly can't anymore like...

 Lex: Life's too short you know? The chaos, the quiet, the dumb 3am conversations in a old parking lot...

 Lex: I want all of it. 

 Lex: I'd kill if anyone tried to take that all away you know?

 Lex: Maybe that's a little much but... that's what I really want I think.

 Lex: I don't know... 

 Dotty: I mean...

 Dotty: As long as I can be part of that? I want that too.

 Dotty: I've had a lot of feelings come up lately.. 

 Dotty: Old memories are starting to seep in..

 Dotty: A whole different life with people I haven't and probably won't be able to talk to again...

 Dotty: All these emotions that I don't know if I'll ever really feel again the way I did back then
you know?

 Dotty: It's warm sometimes but it hurts a lot..

 Dotty: There's a lot of who and where that I miss a lot but...

 Dotty: I think at the end of the day I want to keep moving forward...

 Dotty:... It's a lot to decode and figure out still, and one day when I get it I want you to know about it too. 

 Dotty: But no matter where it ends up, even if it makes me lose my mind or become a different person...

 Dotty: I want you by my side for it.

 Lex:... How long's this been happening?

 Dotty: Started a few months before last winter, then slammed me hard after you just stopped showing up. Been seeing people about it, catching up with folks I didn't know existed or knew me until recently... been visiting a lot of graves....It's been hard, like really fucking hard. 

 Lex: I'm sorry I wasn't there.

 Dotty: You're here now, that's all that really matters.

 Lex: I won't leave again.

 Dotty: Course you won't, we both got lots to do you know?

 Lex: Yeah.

 Dotty: You still gotta introduce me to your folks at some point you know.

 Lex: You're not scared of meeting my mom?

 Dotty: Your mom is short, she can't do shit. 

 Lex: You don't know that!

 Dotty: I don't! I still need to meet her. 

 Lex: We'll... get to that at some point then. You gotta introduce me to your old buddies though.

 Dotty: They're so old, you really don't.... 

 Lex: They can't be that bad.

 Dotty: Some of them were around before lightbulbs, they're ancient. 

 Lex: I mean they're your friends right?

 Dotty: Like... friends with a different me but not current me. Not the same way anyway. 

 Lex: We'll take our time then.

 Dotty: Yeah, please.

 Lex: We're looking at a lot coming up I think but like... I'm excited for it, you know?

 Dotty: Mmhmm.

 Lex: Just...

 Lex: Even though so much is going on I think we're gonna be okay you know? 

 Dotty: Think so too. 

 Lex: I wanna lay down a bit longer though.

 Lex: I want this moment to last as long as we can. 

 Lex: It's been forever you know?

 Lex: We'll have plenty more probably....

 Lex: But in case we don't for a while, I want to keep this with me as long as I can.

[Image: VH1wOhf.png]

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