Friday, October 4, 2013

Woods Random Legacy: Chapter 60 - The Game of Passing

"Hello?  Can I help you?"
As she spoke, she noticed the man's eyes.  They were wild, seeming to almost glow in the early-morning light.  She felt that this meant something, but precisely what it was evaded her.
"Yes, Miss Woods.  You can."
Epsilon raised an eyebrow, looking the man over.  She didn't recognize him, but yet there was something about him that felt so familiar.  "I'm sorry, do I know you?"
"No.  At least, I can't imagine you would, knowing my brother."
Something tickled in the back of her mind.  "Oh, wait, you aren't-"
He interrupted before she could finish the thought.  "James's older brother, yes.  Lane Woods.  I'm sorry to drop in on you like this, it's just that I found myself back in Sunset Valley with nowhere else to go."
"No, no, it's no problem.  You don't have to stand out in the rain, come in."
Epsilon's mouth was on autopilot, speaking the necessary polite words and waving the man in, as she racked her mind for everything she knew about the man, not coming up with much at all.  He was James's elder by twelve years, which seemed at odds with the man standing before her, but...ah, right, he was a werewolf!  Her father had gone off about that one evening, something about Lane stealing all of the attention right before he left home.  That explained how young he still seemed, and the eyes as well.
"It must have been hard for you, for the past year, with the attacks," she said, testing her recall.
He nodded.  "It was.  Luckily for me, another body was misidentified as being me, so they haven't been actively out looking for me.  Simply being what I am attracts attention, though, and even if I'm supposed to be dead my face is still too recognizable to simply blend in with the public as you've been doing."
Her eyes widened reflexively.  How did he know?  She fought to keep her expression under control and her voice steady as she replied.  "What do you mean?"
"You're a witch.  Don't be scared - if I was going to hurt you, I would have already.  I'm here because I need your help.  I'd been making my way here to hide out at my sister's place, but when I got here I found out that she'd passed away just days earlier.  To be perfectly honest, I have nowhere to sleep, nothing to eat - that I won't have to kill myself, anyway, and that still turns my stomach - and no plan.  I'm an old wolf, and frankly I don't know how long I can keep living like this."
She looked him up and down, taking in the state of his clothing and hair.  They corroborated his story, as the garments were appropriately grimy and his long hair tangled.  Either he had been living outside of civilization for quite a while, or he'd taken a lot of pains to make it look like he had.  He knew about her, after all.  How, she didn't know, but he did.  Just because he was her father's brother - or claimed to be, at least - didn't mean that she could trust him.  She glanced down to the floor, where Shadow had reappeared, looking up to her with unblinking eyes.
She hated not being able to speak to him while she was awake; she could use some of his wisdom and insight right about now!  Sometimes what he was trying to tell her was obvious, but other times she couldn't be certain.  Like right now, that little nod.  Was he trying to tell her that she should hear what this man had to say, or was he just momentarily distracted by a speck of dust?  Then it came again, followed by a slow, deliberate blink.  That was obvious.  She looked back up to the old man, who seemed unfazed by the interaction between witch and familiar.
"I'm not sure how I can help, but I'll do whatever I can.  Are you hungry?"
His mouth curved into a grateful smile as he nodded.  "Famished."

"So," she said, once she had gotten him a plate of waffles.  "How did you know?"
"Mm?  Know what?"  He stopped eating momentarily, looking up to her as she spoke.
"About me being a witch.  What gave it away?"
"Oh, that.  Nothing you have to worry about, from humans at least.  It's because I'm a werewolf, so I could smell it on you.  All supernaturals can sense others, though it varies depending on what type you are.  I worked with a fae girl once who said that her kind saw auras, when they looked at other supernaturals."
She nodded as he went back to his food, attacking it as if he hadn't eaten in days.  She supposed that he might not have.  "That makes sense.  I think I do sort of sense something from you.  A sort of wildness, I suppose."
He nodded, chewing and swallowing before he replied.  "Yes.  That's the wolf in me."
"It actually makes a lot of sense, knowing that.  I always wondered why I could feel the ghosts coming.  It's because I'm a witch, obviously, so I can just sense them..." she trailed off, noticing the look on Lane's face as he put down his fork.  "What?"
"It doesn't work on ghosts.  Nobody can feel them coming, not ever.  The first hint you get is when they make their move against you."
"Oh."  She frowned.  "I have to go after them for my job, though, and I always feel sick to my stomach right before they pop up.  I know I'm not imagining that."
"No, I believe you, but that's not normal.  It must be nice, though, to have a warning."
"It is.  I guess I'm just lucky."
"I don't believe in luck.  It's fate, has to be.  You have this sense for a reason."
"What, like some benevolent god up there in the sky gave me this power to save the world or something?"  A sarcastic smile twisted her lips, as Lane shook his head.
"No, that's not what I'm saying.  Not anything religious like that, I'm the last person to set foot in a church.  I just think that things happen for a reason.  Everything's connected, and there's altogether too much order in the world for things to be ruled entirely by chance."  Noting her expression, he gave a light shrug.  "Agree to disagree, I guess."
"Mmhmm.  So, what are you going to do now?"
"I don't know.  I could keep moving, but I don't know how much fight I have left in me.  None of the packs will take me, I'm not wolf enough for them."
"Huh?  What's that about?"  She didn't know much about werewolf social structures, but pack was supposed to be important.
"I wasn't born a werewolf, or bitten.  I took it upon myself to seek the transformation, using alchemy.  I succeeded, but it turns out that it means I'm not a real wolf, to every pack I've encountered at least.  My partner was also a human, which further excluded me.  They wouldn't have taken me unless I'd turned him, which I never would have done.  He might have agreed if I'd asked, but it would have been wrong, and I could never have done that to him, even though it meant living on after he was gone."  As he spoke, his expression turned to sadness as the memories affected him.
"I'm sorry."
"It's in the past now, don't worry about it."
The breakfast table fell silent for a few long moments as Epsilon thought.  And then, she had the answer.
"Look, there is someplace you could stay, that's safe.  At night, at least."
"Safe at night?"  His expression was disbelieving.  "Do you have a bridge to sell me, as well?"
"I'm serious.  My brother was attacked on the first night, but he managed to stay safe there.  You won't be able to come and go freely unless I hack the genetic lock my father put on the door, but you'll be safe there.  When you're done eating, I'll show you."

That afternoon, Epsilon received a call from work - they needed her to come in early, and meet with Mr. Olivers.  She'd been hoping to finish helping Lane move into the catacombs, but she got the impression that this was definitely not an optional meeting.  After arriving at the science facility and signing in at the front desk, she made her way to his office and knocked.
"Come in!"
She entered, keeping her annoyance at having her afternoon interrupted hidden.  "You wanted to see me?"
"Ah, yes, Miss Woods.  Please, have a seat."  He waved to the chairs in front of his desk, and she sat, watching him as he finished up what he was typing.  Soon, he turned away from the computer, giving her a warm smile.  "I hear you've been very productive."
"It's my job," she replied shortly.
"Saving the world, and all that.  The day we have a working production model can't come too soon!  Any progress on the...ah, technical difficulties?"  He waved a hand vaguely in the air as he continued speaking.  "I read your report, but I must say all of that technical stuff goes right over my head."
"In recent testing, it continues to perform perfectly in some trials, but malfunctions in others.  We don't know why, but we're working on it.  This sort of thing takes time, sir."  It was getting extremely difficult to hide her lack of patience with this man - who thinks that managing a science corporation when you're scientifically illiterate is a good idea? - but for the sake of her work she tried her best.
"Time is, unfortunately, something we don't have."  He leaned forward, lacing his fingers together.  Great, now he was going to go in on the guilt trip, as if she didn't already know how many people were dying each night that she spent testing new solutions!  "Maybe it's time to consider alternate approaches."
"We already have a working model!  Changing our focus now would set us back months, if not years, considering we don't even know where to start!"
"Ah, but we do."  He handed her a sheet of paper from his desk.  She took it and read the e-mail message as he summarized the contents.  "Egypt.  A tourist town called Al Simhara has had virtually no trouble with ghosts.  Reports indicate that there is a high amount of ghost activity, but that it has been almost entirely neutralized through some sort of ancient ritualistic game.  The military wants us to investigate, as they believe it may be an alternate method of controlling the attacks.  I've already taken the liberty of booking your flight, it leaves tomorrow morning.  You'll have the night off work to prepare, of course."
Of course.  She knew better than to argue about that, but one thing about this puzzled her.  "Why are you sending me?  Wouldn't it be better to send an anthropologist or a historian?  I don't know the first thing about Egyptian history or culture."
Mr. Olivers looked at her, his expression one that you might use on a small child who had said something particularly foolish.  "If I wanted somebody to come back and explain how the magic worked, I'd send a historian.  But I don't.  I want somebody to go there, figure out the science behind how it works, and report back with something that will actually be useful.  You'll have briefing materials to go over on the plane, which should fill you in on any necessary cultural context, so don't worry.  Now, I recommend that you go home and pack, because your flight leaves quite early."

Epsilon had never traveled internationally before, but due to her corporate connections her hastily-scheduled flight went smoothly.  Soon enough, she was boarding a bus from the airport to the camp she'd be staying at in Al Simhara.
Even though it was coming up on the full moon, she was surprised to find the residents of the area so relaxed, something that she hadn't seen back home in over a year.  The briefing materials she'd read on the plane had mentioned that there had been very few violent attacks in the area, and no deaths, but seeing the lack of fear for herself clarified the importance of her mission.  After settling into her campsite, she consulted her map of the town to figure out where to go next.  She was looking for a woman named Layla Lufti, and if she was reading the map correctly she lived about three miles from the campsite.  The day wasn't yet hot, so Epsilon set off at a brisk walk.  As she approached the house, she saw a woman lingering by the mailbox.
"Law samahti!" she called out, trying to recall what little of the foreign language she'd managed to study from the phrasebook.  As she struggled for the next words, she peeked down at where she'd written a short cheat sheet on her map.  "MabatkallemÅ¡ arabi kwayyes.  Betetkallem Simlish?"
The woman smiled kindly, responding in heavily accented Simlish.  "I do.  I believe it would be best to stay with that, yes?"
"Yes, sorry.  I'm looking for a woman who lives around here.  Aanesa Layla, do you know her?"
"That depends.  Who is asking?"  Her demeanor remained pleasant, but Epsilon felt as if the woman's piercing gaze was judging her every movement as she replied.
"My name is Epsilon Woods.  I'm a scientist, sent from Sunset Valley to study the local successes regarding controlling ghosts through the game of Senet."
The woman frowned slightly.  "I wouldn't call it control so much as a bargain, an understanding of sorts.  But I see that you meant no harm, you simply didn't know.  Very well.  I am Layla, there is no need for the polite address.  Now, why are you here?"
Epsilon stammered as she responded, confused by the repeated question.  "I just told you."
"No, you didn't."  Layla regarded Epsilon with an inscrutable expression.  "I know who sent you, but you wouldn't have agreed to it unless there was another, deeper reason."
Epsilon nodded.  "You're right.  I didn't want to come at first, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that it was necessary.  I lost my father in the initial attack, and I even nearly lost my own life that same night.  It was pure luck that saved me.  I want to bring back knowledge that can help me create something to keep the people I love safe."
"I doubt you will."
Epsilon bit her lip to keep from frowning.  This conversation had started off so well, but quickly taken a turn for the worse.  Unsure of what to say, she settled for a terse, stubborn reply.  "If that's the case, then so be it.  But please understand that I have to try."
Layla watched Epsilon for a long moment, her eyes taking in every detail from the way her fists had unconsciously clenched to the stubborn set of her jaw.  "I understand.  Very well.  Meet me in the market at four past noon.  In the meantime, I suggest you remain in the shade, away from the hot midday sun.  It can be devastating to those who are not used to it."

Epsilon spent the first part of the afternoon under the shaded shelter at the camp.  Layla had been right, the midday sun was brutal here.  The long robes the native women wore seemed much more suited to the climate, and Epsilon thought that if she was staying here for longer than a few days she might have to adopt the fashion herself.  As the sun moved downwards across the sky, she prepared herself for the meeting.
Layla was waiting for her, and didn't waste any time.  "Good, you've arrived.  Tell me, do you play the game of chess?"
"Sure," Epsilon replied, baffled.  "But what does that have to do with Senet?"
"Little.  But I'd enjoy a game.  Come."  She led the way to a corner shop, and the two women sat down on opposing sides of a stone-carved chess table.
"White moves first.  Ask your questions."
Epsilon briefly considered the board, before moving a pawn.  "Do you know how Senet keeps the ghosts from attacking?"
"She moves quickly, sure of the game," Layla remarked, looking at the board thoughtfully.  "We will see if she knows as much as she thinks she does.  Yes, I do."  She moved a knight in response to Epsilon's pawn - not an opening move the other woman was familiar with.  The silence stretched on for several moments, until it was obvious that Layla would say nothing more.
"Well, can you explain it to me?"  Epsilon tried hard to keep her exasperation from her voice, though she suspected she hadn't quite succeeded.  She moved her first pawn's twin to stand next to it.
"Can the fish explain to the bird the wonders of swimming?  I will try.  I can only hope that I will succeed.  What do you know of Senet?"
"Not much," Epsilon admitted.  "Like I said, I'm a scientist, not a historian.  I read the information I was given on the flight here, but it was hardly anything.  It said that nobody even knew the actual rules anymore."
"That is incorrect."
"How can you know how the game is meant to be played if everybody who knew how has been dead for thousands of years?"
"The dead may have woken with a vengeance, but they were not always asleep.  Even when the veil remained intact, some souls slipped through, apparent to those with the proper gifts.  And so we learned."
"The veil?  What are you talking about?"  Epsilon could barely focus on the unfolding chess match as she tried to digest what Layla was saying.
"The veil between the world of the living, and that of the dead.  It was once whole, serving to keep the realms apart, as they should be.  But it was torn apart, and it still remains to see if it can ever be repaired."
"Alright," Epsilon centered herself, trying to focus on the game while still continuing the conversation.  "So, tell me.  How does this game work?"
"The exact rules are unimportant.  The objective is to reach your End, while blocking your opponent from reaching their own.  Traditionally, the game was seen as an important step along the path to the afterlife."  Layla captured another one of Epsilon's pieces, though she hardly cared at this point; she just wanted to keep the Egyptian woman talking.
"I'm still not following how this works.  I didn't have much information."
"I understand.  I'm doing my best to explain.  When the ghosts rise, you must challenge them.  You must play the game carefully and precisely.  And you must lose."
"Woah, wait.  Back up a moment.  You play the game against ghosts?"
"Yes.  Why wouldn't we?" Layla seemed confused by the question.
"I didn't know that ghosts were that intelligent."
"Why wouldn't they be?  Death does not dull their intelligence.  Now, you must play a good game, simply giving up would be no good.  But, in the end, you must concede, so that your opponent may take the victory, and begin to re-trace their steps to the afterlife.  Do you understand?"
"I think I might, at least the what.  But I don't understand why.  What's the science behind it?"
"Does there have to be science behind it?" Layla took another of Epsilon's pieces, emotionless as she knocked the stone-carved bishop from the board.
"It would be best if there was something I could take back to my boss.  Look, I believe you that this works.  Maybe there's not even a logical explanation.  Maybe it's magic.  I'll accept that.  But I need something to show for my trip here."
Layla nodded slowly.  "I knew there was something about you.  You know there's more to the world than what science shows."
Epsilon inched back in her chair, suddenly wary of the other woman.  "What do you mean, something about me?"
"The blood of the Genu flows in my veins.  Not strong, for it was only a distant ancestor, but still.  Sometimes, I sense things, as I sensed you."
"Um," Epsilon frowned.  "The Genu?  What?"
"It matters not.  Checkmate."  Layla moved a final piece and then set Epsilon's king down on its side.  "If you must give them something, give them this.  The traditional set is carved of stone, but the set which is played with the spirits is carved of copper and of gold.  Perhaps the materials have some say in the matter, I do not know.  All I know is the game."  She shrugged, settling back in her seat as Epsilon nodded, still somewhat stunned by the conversation.
"Thank you, for your time.  And the game."
"Thank you, Aanesa Epsilon.  I hope it was enlightening.  And now, I must return to my home before nightfall.  Farewell."
Epsilon ordered dinner in the market, lost in her thoughts as she ate.
She had never thought of the ghosts as actual people before.  Obviously they all had been at one point, but the ones that attacjed were surely just echoes of their past selves, lost in their rage.  And yet, Layla spoke of playing games with them.  Epsilon suppressed a shiver as she thought of the hundreds of spirits held in containment boxes.  If they were intelligent beings, fully aware of themselves, then what moral consequence did locking them up have?

Epsilon yawned as she descended the stairs to the crypt, fighting against the jet lag that had plagued her since her arrival back in Sunset Valley.
"Lane?  Are you down here?" she called out softly, knowing that her voice would echo through the catacombs, so there was no need for volume.  She still didn't like it down here, but at least now she knew - through Omicron - that it was due to her magical powers being cut off, and not because of anything more sinister.  Sometimes she wondered how much her father had known about the supernatural world.  Clearly he'd known of it, likely due to Lane, but had he known that her mother was a witch?  If so, how could he have kept Epsilon's own heritage from her?
A reply came from further inside the crypt, breaking Epsilon out of her thoughts.  "In the second chamber!"
She hurried through the first chamber and into the second, her eyes adjusting from the dim torchlight to the fiery brazier and the green glow of the crystal in this room.  "I've just gotten back from Al Simhara.  I'm so sorry that I couldn't fix the lock before I left, I hope it hasn't been a problem."
Lane dismissed that with a wave of his hand.  "I made do, don't worry about it.  What did you find out?  Or can't you tell me?"
"I didn't sign a NDA, so I can tell you.  I didn't find out much, it seemed to be much more magical than scientific, which won't go over well with my boss."  She settled down on the couch - the same one that had once been in James's room - next to Lane as she spoke.
"In what way?"
"Well, whatever binding powers the game has seem to be tied to culture and tradition.  The woman I spoke to mentioned that the materials her particular game was formed from might have played a role in the efficiency of the method, but..." she trailed off, noticing Lane's look.  "What?"
"The materials.  Metals?"  He frowned slightly as he concentrated.
"Yes.  Copper and gold.  Why?"
"Follow that lead.  I know it might sound silly to you, but metals can hold certain magical properties.  I studied alchemy as a teenager, and learned to use many rocks and minerals to create potions, so I don't think it's far-fetched at all that the materials the Senet board are made of effects the final result."
"But even so, we've come back around to magic again."
"No, we haven't." He grinned, a wild, wolfish grin, as he continued.  "Magic is just the word we use for science that we don't understand yet.  So, go understand it, witch-scientist."

~ * ~

Yes, it's Lane!  No, I didn't roll help for this generation.  I needed him conveniently nearby for story purposes, but he's not staying in the legacy home in my game.  Besides, like he said, he's an old wolf - he dies before generation 4 makes its appearance.  Even with that untimely death, he still outlived the rest of generation 2 by at least two weeks, thanks to his being a werewolf.

I originally had a long conversation during the breakfast scene in which Lane insisted that there was too much order in life for life paths to be the result of pure chance, citing most of the things that are rolled for randomly in this challenge.  It didn't add to the story, though, so I edited it down to what you see here.  It's still an ironic conviction of his, considering the challenge in which he resides.

For those who missed the reference, Lane's bridge comment refers to this.  I'm not sure how common that reference is outside of the US, so I want to make sure international readers aren't completely confused as to why Lane is apparently a bridge salesman now!

This chapter was so late because I was doing a ridiculous amount of research on Senet, the Book of the Dead, and various Egyptian burial practices, almost none of which was actually used(because Epsilon is a scientist, not a historian, haha).  C'est la vie.

This chapter continued to be late(like, 3 weeks after I wrote the last excuse about it being late in the draft!) because I had a terrible case of writer's block when it came to Layla Lufti.  I just could not get into her head.  I originally tried to write her as something she wasn't, and she didn't like that one bit.  I finally found her song, and that helped.  Still can't believe I spent so long trying to figure out a one-off character. :\

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Woods Random Legacy: Chapter 59 - Ghostbuster

Epsilon cleaned the entire house top-to-bottom before she left.  Of course, there wasn't much to clean, as Omicron had coped with much of his anxiety through copious amounts of scrubbing and laundry, but she made the place as neat as possible.  Alpha would be stopping in from time to time to make sure nothing was wrong, but it wouldn't be fair to give her any more work than was necessary.
Epsilon's studies were much more focused, even more so than the other seniors.  She'd gotten special dispensation to take mostly individual study classes, but even the standard theory courses she supplemented with were very advanced.  The catch-up work was on her to complete during what free time she had, and her professors were more than understanding of any late work.
Because, of course, the Omega project was the university's top priority.  Whenever she wasn't in one of her many classes or frantically trying to catch up to her classmates through self-study, she was either in the lab or working on the main containment unit.  It turned out that bigger was better with this technology, so Carlton's experiment had been scaled up to a three-story contraption.  Replicating the mechanical construction was easy, but determining the necessary core composition was turning out to be much more difficult, as the original research notes had been lost.
No matter how important the work, Epsilon always headed back to her student accommodations before night fell.  She knew that she was no safer in there than outside, but it was a lot easier to block out the memories of the night she was attacked in her living room than in the lab where the attack had taken place.
She felt the ghosts to some degree almost every night.  She'd grown to associate the churning of her stomach and brief dizzy spells with the reports of ghost activity that she read about in the security blog the next morning.  Nobody else mentioned it, so the phenomenon seemed to be limited to herself; rather than expose her non-human status, she chose to keep the knowledge of her coinciding sicknesses between herself and Brendan.  She hardly ever saw him, due to the high level of classwork, but she always called him when ghost activity was high.  Just the sound of his voice calmed her, comforted her, and made it easier for her to make it through the long nights.
A breakthrough in the Omega project took place near the end of term.  Finally, a core that would engage was found!  It wasn't very efficient, but the machine spun up, which meant that it would do its job of capturing spirits.  Now the only challenges were to further refine the core and miniaturize the device to the point where it was practical.  No small task, to be sure, but having something - anything - that worked increased team morale.
The end of term, and Epsilon's graduation, came all too soon.  The piece of paper that they handed to her on the stage didn't even matter to her anymore; all she cared about was the Omega project, and solving the scientific riddles that it consisted of.
Between graduation and her inevitable trip back home, she worked almost exclusively in the labs.  Her focus was on refining the core - miniaturization was coming along nicely - and that work wasn't finished yet.  Not by a long shot.
Eventually, her lease on the apartment ran out, and certain deadlines in the contract she'd signed were looming.  She had to make her way back to Sunset Valley, whether her research was complete or not.  Reluctantly, she packed up her possessions and prepared to return home.

Brendan, of course, accompanied her home.  He'd been picked up as a technology specialist by the military, but didn't have to report for basic training for about a week.  He intended to make good use of that time.
"So, you're really going to go work for them?" They stood in the front room, the late summer sunlight illuminating the house through the front-facing windows.
"Well, I don't really have a choice."
"Of course you have a choice.  It's just easier to go along with it."
She nodded.  "It is.  And I think I should, at least for now.  There's still so much good I could do.  You'll be using one of the rifles, right?"
He nodded.  "I haven't seen it yet, but I know we'll be trained on it.  I know you've done good work, thanks."
Epsilon shrugged.  "It's my job.  But you're welcome.  I guess I should go put my stuff in my room."
She turned to walk through the kitchen, but paused as Brendan spoke.  "Wait.  Isn't the master bedroom through there?"
She turned, shrugging.  "I guess.  But that's not my bedroom.  That's Dad's..." she trailed off, realizing how silly that sounded.
"Right.  And he's gone.  You're the head of the house now, so it's your room."
"I know, but it just feels so strange to think about sleeping there.  It's so...him!"
"It can't be that bad.  Let's go see it."  He took Epsilon's hand, leading her into the bedroom.
"Wow, okay, I take that back.  Your father was clearly not an interior designer."  Noticing Epsilon's look, he quickly added to those statements.  "But we can work with it!  You're not really a green sort of girl, but that's fine, we can wallpaper over the paint.  Everything's very sleek and modern, also not really your sort of thing, but I saw a furniture store on the way into town, so that's easy to fix.  Well, depending on the state of your bank account."
"There's plenty," she said flatly.  "Money isn't an object."
"What did your father do, anyway?"  Brendan looked at her curiously, a frown tugging at the corner of his mouth.
"I don't know, and I don't want to know.  I don't think it was anything honest, and not knowing the particulars is fine with me."
Remodeling the room helped to distract Epsilon and Brendan from their impending future apart.  Reclining on the bed after a long day of finishing up the work, they looked around, satisfied.
"This is so perfect," Epsilon said, smiling to her boyfriend.  "Thanks.  You knew exactly what I needed."
"I always do.  Come on, let's make dinner."
After dinner, they retired to the bedroom.
"I can't believe you're leaving tomorrow," Epsilon said, hugging her knees as she looked down to Brendan, reclined on the bed.
"We both knew it was coming.  I just can't believe I ended up here, running off to basic training tomorrow.  I was majoring in technology to get a nice, cushy job.  But times change."
She nodded.  "They do.  And we do what we have to do, otherwise who would we be?"
Brendan nodded, reaching up to stroke her hand.  "Exactly.  I couldn't live with myself if I just sat by and did nothing.  If something happened to you, because I was afraid to step forward and provide a defense..." he trailed off.  There was no need to finish that sentence.
Epsilon let go of her knees and stretched out, leaning over Brendan, who rolled over onto his back to accommodate her new position.  "I still don't want you to go," she said softly, looking into his eyes.
"Me either.  Do your job, Eps.  Make those guns, and find ways to make them even better, so I can fight these ghosts.  I'll come back to you, whenever I have leave.  I promise."
"I know," she said, leaning down to kiss him, savoring the feel of his lips against hers.
"Eps?" he whispered as she started to pull away.
"What?" she whispered back, pausing so that her lips hovered within an inch of his own.
"Give me something I'll remember, until I see you again."
She did.  And then they slept.

After Brendan left for basic training, Epsilon called and confirmed her employment.  She would be testing the new gun models, by night, on whatever spirits manifested around Sunset Valley.  The small town wasn't a hotspot of hostile ghost activity, so it was the perfect place to test new technologies before deploying them to the military.
The gun she was using was clumsier than the standard anti-ghost rifle, but more effective - in theory.  If it proved so, then then design would be whittled down to something that the military could easily use, but Epsilon had to prove the function first.
The beam deployed as expected, though there was some instability.  A good whack to the side of the gun got it going again, but that was unacceptable.  Brendan could be relying on it to work every time, so the technology had to be perfected before the gun could be issued.  Work was still required.
After a long night of testing, Epsilon arrived back home.  She got ready for bed and then slipped under the covers as the sun rose, closing her eyes tightly to block out the intrusive rays.
A few hours after dawn, a man knocked at the door.  Epsilon, exhausted from her nighttime exertions, continued to sleep.  The man knocked louder, attracting the attention of Shadow.
The cat lept upon the bed, mewing softly as he padded over towards Epsilon.  Pawing at her face, he mewed insistently until she opened her eyes.
"Shadow?  What?"
His duty done, the cat jumped off of the bed, leaving Epsilon alone and confused, until the next knock sounded.  Who could be knocking at the door so early in the morning?  She swung her feet to the floor and stood, walking to the front room.
An old man was visible through the glass-paned front doors, so Epsilon opened them.
"Hello?  Can I help you?"
As she spoke, she noticed the man's eyes.  They were wild, seeming to almost glow in the early-morning light.  She felt that this meant something, but precisely what it was evaded her.
"Yes, Miss Woods.  You can."

~ * ~

Who ya gonna call?

Mystery man at the door!  I wonder who it is?  For a generation where I promised to give you guys answers, I'm sure asking a lot of questions. :P

See!  See!  Brendan isn't dead OR pregnant.  You silly people.  I love you guys. <3

Pay no mind to the weird graphical glitches on Epsilon during her university stay.  For some reason, music waves(like from the stereo) were emanating from her stomach.  I tried to take pictures in between glitches in the matrix, but a few pictures are still distorted.

Next chapter won't be until next weekend at the earliest, probably later.  I have to do real-life research before I can write it, because I'm way too perfectionist to just make stuff up - I have to make stuff up based on actual facts!  So yes, it's not the sets or the pictures that are holding me up, it's the google time.  Bear with me, please.