Looking For Answers

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Dystopia Rising has been going through some major changes. One of them is a huge shift to a new, more streamlined rules system. Now, I’m not here to debate the rules. I don’t even know enough about mechanics to pull that off. But I’m happy to give the new system a try and see if I enjoy it. Part of the process of switching to that new system is that we’re having a three year time skip. At my last DR event in August, Jeanie was 31 years old (not that she knows that). At my next event, in September, Jeanie will be 34. So, this story, is what happens a good year into that time skip. As always, Jeanie is my own character. Hugh is a character I made up solely for this singular short story. The rest of these characters are owned by the wonderful people who created them.

********

The compliance labs of the Iron Works had documented everything. Their work with the Iron Dragoons had been a massive atrocity that should have mentally destroyed those involved. It didn’t. They were focused on the science of it all. Not that they believed Irons were even worth considering as people, so they never once choked up about the potential repercussions of their actions. No, they focused on the data and science. And, as proper scientists, they documented everything in explicit detail.

It would have been impressive if not for the horrific subject matter.

Jeanie sat at the desk, stacks of research notes on the desk around her. Piles of it on chairs and on the floor. A metal mug sat near Jeanie’s open research notebook, filled with a tea that had long ago been forgotten and gone cold. The Iron was hunched over, reading through some of the data in front of her and pausing to take her own notes in her notebook, muttering each word she wrote under her breath.

With a groan, Jeanie dropped her pen and reached her arms up to stretch. She turned at the sound of the door creaking open. An Unstable entered the room carrying a crate. He smiled at Jeanie as he walked over and looked for a place to put his things.

“How’s the research going?” He pulled out two metal tins that had been strapped closed and handed one over. “Find out anything useful?”

Jeanie shook her head and turned the chair around to better face him. “There’s a lot of data on the areas of the brain responsible for decision making and compliance with demands and the relationship between the two thought processes. Earlier dragoons were created based on this data, complete with brain surgery to destroy the decision-making centers of the brain right in the most frontal area. It’s gruesome stuff. But, at least it can be used to help design the deprogramming process for the Dragoons. Give them a chance to start making their own decisions again.” Jeanie opened up her tin. It had creamed corn with some strips of grilled chicken sitting on top. In the middle sat a divider separating the corn and chicken from some canned peaches in syrup. Jeanie grinned at the sight of the peaches.

“What is it?” the Bay Walker had asked from where he stood next to Jeanie behind the bar.

“Peaches. Irradiated. Very tasty. The radiation gives it a nice cinnamon flavor.” Jeanie grinned with mischief.

“You should try some!” Francis had very helpfully added.

“But it’s irradiated.” Billy looked down at the peach in his hand. “Will it make me sick?”

Jeanie shrugged. “If it does, it won’t kill you. You’ll be fine.”

Billy Foster shrugged and took a massive bite out of the irradiated fruit he held. A few moments later he hunched his back over the bar and groaned as the telltale signs of radiation poisoning began to set into his body.

“What’s so funny? It’s mostly just canned food from the storehouse.”

“Nothing,” Jeanie muttered grabbing a fork from his crate. “It’s just… I was remembering when I willingly got a Bay Walker to eat an irradiated peach back in the Grove. It was… it was a fun time.”

“Must have been awhile ago. I mean, it’s from when you were living in the Mass. How long have you been living here in Three Rivers now?”

Jeanie put her fork down and looked over at the Unstable. “I’ve lived out west here for most of my life, Hugh, though mostly Motor City. But this time? It’s been almost a year since I came back.”

“A year? You gonna go back or stay here?”

“I’ll go back. The Grove is my home and there are a lot of painful memories here.”

“So, then how long you staying?”

Jeanie shrugged and took another bite. “Til the job is done. When I know there is a successful process for ensuring that Dragoons forced into submission and blind compliance have their free will once again and it won’t require a trip through the gravemind to get it back. That’s when I can go home.”

Hugh nodded and took another bite. After a moment, he paused and sat up straight, putting his meal down for a moment. “Oh, something came in for you today.” He leaned over and reached into the crate, pulling out a small package of brown paper and twine. “Mainz told me that this was for you. Said to bring it with your dinner and that I couldn’t give it to you till you ate something. Then they started ranting about how you’re worse than Tommi at the whole getting caught up in your work thing and you forget to take care of yourself and if it weren’t for them looking out for you, you’da starved awhile back.” He handed the package over to Jeanie. “It was actually kinda funny. They kept saying fuck as they ranted.”

Jeanie chuckled. “Yeah, that sounds like Mainz.” Jeanie looked over the package. The label on it stated that it was from the Aysea, well, what was left of the place.

“So what is it?” Hugh asked.

“Let me open it first, will you?” Jeanie grabbed a nearby knife and sliced through the twine. She tore the paper off to find a bundle of papers with a small letter on top. The letter simply read “Here’s the information you requested. Hope you find what you’re looking for.”

The iron quickly scanned through the documents. Her eyes would run across the page as her fingers slid over the writing. Then she’d flip to the next page and do it all again.

Finally, she stopped. Jeanie’s finger tapped on a number. A-816.

“Come on!” Hugh piped in again. “What is it? What’s it say?”

“It’s information about my sister. I’ve been looking for her, for years. Since she was sold from Motor City when I was a kid. Once, after I ran away, I got a letter from her. I hadn’t heard anything since then. Not til now.”

“Wait, really? What happened? Is she okay?”

Jeanie turned back to the previous page. In the Aysea. There was a riot. An uprising of Irons. They were all fighting for freedom. There’s a bunch that succeeded. They got free.” Jeanie froze and grinned. “Emily! Her number’s on here! She was there! She got out. She’s free!”

“Who’s Emily?”

“Emily Gordon. She was a friend. She helped me when I first got free and went to Hayven. She was the first person I met. She helped find me a safe place to stay. We went to the May Cape together and got snatched by slavers. I got away. I thought she was with me. But she wasn’t. She’s been in the Aysea every since. She’s free now.”

“That’s awesome! What about your sister?”

Jeanie read through more of the page and turned back to the one where she had found her sister’s number. “She… didn’t make it. She was noted among those that died in the fight. This says a bunch had died in the fight and when they didn’t come out of the morgue, they were looked for in the hordes that showed up. Her zed was put down that night.”

“Oh.” Hugh looked down at his food. “Sorry about your sister then.”

Jeanie shook her head. “No, don’t be. She died fighting for freedom. If you have to die, what better way is there to die?”

“I guess that’s true. I mean, especially with the whole, you don’t know if today’s your last, so enjoy it thing. Fighting for freedom sounds like a really good last day.”

Jeanie rolled her eyes and looked over at her blue glowing friend. “You sound like my uncle.”

“Is he a hedon?”

“A hierophant.”

“Then I’m doing the faith right!”

Jeanie shook her head and closed the now empty metal tin. “I should get back to work. There’s still a lot to do before I can formulate a proper theory to start testing. Fuck, what I wouldn’t give to have Idle and Mica here helping. We’d get this done so much faster.”

“Or, you could come back with me to Mainz and Tommi and get some rest. It’s well past nightfall.”

“Is it?”

Hugh nodded. “Seriously, you need to sleep too. Mainz told me to knock you out and drag you if I had to.”

Jeanie threw her hands up. “Fine. No sense in arguing with Mainz. They’ve got the stubbornness of Yorkers, like my mom Shea, down real good. If they say to stop working and rest, they’ll make sure it happens.”

Hugh smiled. “Besides, tomorrow is Saturday and the hedon temple has some fun stuff going on. You don’t even gotta be a Hedon to get involved and have some fun.”

Jeanie chuckled and turned out the lights, closing the door behind them both. “We’ll see.”

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Apotheosis

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Sometimes a Dystopia Rising event is so good, I have to try and recreate a scene that happened. This is one of those moments. As always, Jeanie is my own character. The other characters are owned by their players and the world is owned by the amazing people of Eschaton Media.

**********

“How are you evolving?” he asked very plainly. There was no skirting around the topic, just blunt and to the point. It is easy to understand someone like Richard Corey when they speak very plainly.

“I’ve been learning to not hate myself. I’ve been learning how to be comfortable being an Iron. I’ve been learning how to survive and have the will power that you spoke of earlier.” Jeanie smiled with pride. It had been a hard journey to where she was now. But with the support of her Curie, of her therapist, of Finch and Mica, of her Uncle, and even Jak Warner, she had grown and come so far. Her evolution was evident, even to the Iron now.

“Therapy and self help are admirable. Good even. They are important, but they are something everyone can do. They are not evolution. They are human. You are more than human. You are growing into something that no one else can follow or be. How are you going to evolve?”

Jeanie thought quietly to herself and looked away from the Techno Savant and towards the sky. Her thoughts raced. He didn’t want pieces of small evolutionary progress. He wanted to know the massive genetic level changes that Jeanie would endure as a result of the radiation in her pocket and the infection in her body.

Some birds flew across the sky. She smiled and heard a voice, long since removed from the wastes.

Be the bird I know you’re meant to become.

“I want to fly.”

Richard Corey placed his hands in the pockets of his lab coat. “Why?”

“I want to feel the wind against me. I want to explore the world and go where ever I want, with no one holding me back or telling me not to.”

“Ruse has an airship. Go with him.”

“That’s not the same. Technology is amazing and wonderful. We do so many things with it, but it isn’t going to last forever. We have to keep updating it and making it new. If I fly on my own, without the support of technology, then no one and nothing can stop me.”

“You want to be an animal? A bird?”

Jeanie shrugged and nodded. “Yes.”

“Flying. Self love. Those are things anyone can do. Becoming a bird? An animal. A creature to be hunted. A creature that shits wherever. This is not evolution, Jeanie. How are you going to evolve? How are you going to be greater than you are? How are you going to achieve apotheosis?” Richard Corey’s arms flew out from his coat and his face contorted.

Jeanie took a deep breath and felt her heart sink. She was being tested.

And she was failing.

The Iron slave gulped and looked at the world around her. She watched as Mica walked across the field to join Jeanie and the Techno Savant in their discussion.

What was Richard Corey looking for? What was he getting at?

“Jeanie, how many times have you died?” 

She looked back to the mad man who stood before her. “As in, died and passed through the grave or including the times I died as part of a tank heart procedure?”

“How many times have you died?”

Jeanie took a deep breath. “Seven.”

“And if you died again, would you come back?”

Jeanie swallowed and looked down at the grass they stood on. “No. I’ve green veined. I won’t come back alive.”

“You could die tomorrow. You could die tonight even, and your big plan is to become a bird?” The techno savant started raising his voice. “You are evolving. Your body is changing. You are becoming greater than anyone in this town could ever be. You are becoming greater than me. Greater than Mica here. You are on the path to becoming a god. How are you going to evolve?”

Jeanie looked up to the sky so that she wouldn’t have to make eye contact with either techno savant. She was failing her test. She didn’t know what they wanted.

“Ummm,” she muttered quietly.

“You are squandering your path,” the mad man screamed at her. “How are you going to achieve apotheosis? Have you ever even thought of this? Have you ever even considered that you are becoming a god? Or have you just been wasting away your chance? Am I wrong Jeanie? Tell me I’m wrong! Correct me! Tell me how you’re going to achieve apotheosis!”

Jeanie took a deep breath and lowered her eyes. “I…” The Iron paused. She could not just guess or try to convince him. Every thought she’d ever had about her evolution had already been given and gotten her nowhere. She had never thought beyond, the way he was asking about. She couldn’t answer him. She couldn’t prove him wrong at all.

Jeanie looked over at Mica. The remnant watched her without any judgement. Encouraging eyes reminding that she had already come so far. She could do this.

Jeanie turned back to Richard Corey. “You’re not wrong. I’d never thought about this before. I’d always hated myself and didn’t know what to do about it. So I tried the one thing I could think of and understand. I dosed myself with massive amounts of radiation. Maybe I could change my genetic structure. Maybe I could stop being an iron. Radiation could work. I have eleven rods in my pocket.”

Jeanie paused and took a deep breath. She could hear the lectures that Finch had given her over and over in her mind. She could hear the words of Spooky Jak. She could hear the way both had consistently told her again and again how what she had been doing wasn’t working.

“I have a bad habit of not knowing what to do. So I keep trying the same things over and over. Cause it’s all I understand. So I kept dosing myself with radiation. I wanted to fly, to stop being an Iron, so that I wouldn’t feel like a slave anymore. But it wasn’t working. So I finally… stopped trying. I stopped fighting to change my genetics. I started working to be okay with what I’ve lived through and what I’ve done. I started trying to be proud of myself. Because if I’m never proud of myself, then I’m never going to be good enough, no matter how much I change.”

“So, you seek perfection.”

“No. Perfection is an ideal, not a reality. No matter how much one changes, they can always be even better than that. But if they hate themselves, then no matter how much one changes, there is no evolution because they’ll never see it as a positive mutation. In order to evolve, one must start learning to be proud of who they are. So, I stopped trying to evolve and started trying to accept me. I never thought about what you’re asking of. I never thought of how to be better and stronger than this. You’re not wrong.”

“Jeanie, you are changing and growing. You are becoming better than everyone around you. You need to accept that. You need to understand that you are becoming an example of evolution. You are becoming a beacon of radiation, a light for everyone around you. You are a living example of the power of change. You are becoming a god. You need to accept that. Can you do this? Can you be a god?”

Jeanie thought about it a moment. A living example of evolution. A beacon of change. A leader. She took a deep breath and met Richard Corey’s gaze. “Yes, I can.”

The mad man dropped his hands to his side and nodded his head. No more yelling. No more pushing questions into thoughts that she had never faced before. Just quiet resolution. “I believe you.”

When Jeanie and Mica returned to town, she no longer walked as the quiet Iron who was just trying to survive. She walked with the confidence of a leader, a beacon of change. She walked with the determination of someone who had a job to complete.

She walked back into town, a god.

The test

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This is me attempting to rewrite a scene that happened at this past Dystopia Rising game. I don’t usually rewrite scenes from the game because I never remember them well enough to do them justice. They’re never exactly like they were in game and that kind of bugs me. However, this scene was extremely important to Jeanie’s character growth and it was a very big, exciting deal for me, so I wanted to share it. The other characters are creations of the players who played them (and were written here to the best of my ability as they were played out in the scene) and the world is from the amazing people at Eschaton Media.

**********

“Hey Jeanie! Delta’s here!”

Jeanie felt her breath catch in her throat. Delta. The Ascensor who had killed Caleb. Delta. The one who promised to be around so he could help her evolve. Delta. The one who disappeared for almost two years rather than keep his promise.

The Ascensor towered over her, his weapon dripping with blood. Tears streamed down her face as she held her dying mate in her arms.

“Evolution is supposed to hurt. Say your goodbyes.”

The Iron’s face felt red with anger. What could she even say to him that would make up for how far she fell when he refused to show back up and help, like he promised he would? What could make up for falling into so deep a personal hell that her struggles were colored by the drugs she shot into her arm, the desperate need for death, the deep struggle with even knowing how to get through to the next morning? Jeanie fought to focus on Spooky’s voice as he spoke of Richard Corey’s newest mechanical mess. She struggled to keep from turning and slamming her fists into the face of the smiling Darwin who didn’t quite realize how badly he’d hurt her.

It wasn’t long before her barely contained rage turned and starting spewing out on the young Ascensor.

“You left me! You promised to be back in a few weeks and you left me. It’s been almost two years now! Two years! You said you’d help me get through it. You promised. And you left me.”

“Yea…” he shrugged. “The seasons changed faster than I thought. I got caught up with the Hansfields that winter.”

“That winter? It was the last snowfall! The Hansfields had already left for the summer! They weren’t a threat in that moment!”

“I really was with them for awhile. They don’t really let people leave.”

“No, really?” Jeanie screamed at him. “You left and spent time with them. Meanwhile, I ended up far worse than I’ve ever lived.”

“So, what happened then?”

“Let’s see. I was more of a drug addict than ever before. I wanted to die and even tried to make it happen. Months of my life just lost to drugs and hating everything.”

“Okay, and did you grow?”

“I mean, I’m clean and sober. I don’t want to die anymore.”

“So then, I did keep my promise!” He grinned happily.

“Oh? And just how did you do that considering you left me!”

“I promised that I wouldn’t let you use me as a crutch.”

Jeanie rolled her eyes and glared at him.

“How about this,” Delta began, “How about we go find a place to see and we talk to a few people about how much you’ve grown since then.”

The two found their way over to a table in the bar and sat down. They called over a few people who have known Jeanie long enough to honestly answer how she’d been doing. Jeanie sat quietly listening to everyone tell Delta how she’d been doing, quietly listening as her anger slowly turned to embarrassment over the deep prying into her life.

“Jeanie can function by herself now,” Tri said quietly.

“I’m her therapist. She asked me for help and has been working very hard at learning how to manage her emotions and become her own person,” Nell explained carefully to Delta.

“I wouldn’t let her baptise me til she could stand on her own. I’ve watched her become her own person, with her own aspirations and dreams,” Spooky shared.

Victor came over and shared how Jeanie used to be bitter and now can attempt to do things. Bloo shouted loudly that Jeanie had grown into a better person.

“Okay Jeanie. Everyone’s saying you’re doing really well now. So, now, you have two options to choose from.” Delta started excitedly looking into the box he held. He opened and closed it a few times before looking over to the quiet iron. “You can choose to believe in your faith and trust in evolution. You can grow and learn. Or you can give in to everything and I’ll keep you happy for the rest of your life.”

Jeanie cocked her head confused. “I don’t understand. Can you explain it again?”

Delta’s eyes narrowed with a mischievous grin. He opened the box and pulled out a needle that he carefully placed on the table before Jeanie. “You have a choice.”

“What is it?” Jeanie quietly asked as she felt every muscle in her body tense up. She felt the itch that she’d fought to control return. The desperate want for the peace and calm that comes with shooting drugs into her arm. Delta placed another needle on the table.

And another.

“May I?” Spooky asked as he reached for a needle. He carefully sniffed at the needle, at the milky white liquid inside the needle, before quietly confirming her suspicions.

“It’s mother’s milk Jeanie. They’re all mother’s milk. Really good ones too.”

One by one, Delta kept placing needles on the table. All filled with swirling white liquid.

“Do you want it Jeanie?”

“No.” Jeanie’s voice was quiet.

“Are you sure?” Delta’s grin looked maniacal.

“I mean, yes, I crave it. But I’m not going to do this. I don’t like what I’m like on that and I fought really hard to get sober.”

“Why don’t you want it?”

“It makes me go numb. Lose all feeling but the need to get high. It’s not worth it.”

“Go ahead Jeanie. Hold one.”

“I don’t want to.”

“Hold one.”

“No.”

“Take one Jeanie!”

“Fine!” Jeanie grabbed one of the syringes and held it in her shaking hand.

“If you want it, just use it. Go ahead.”

“No. I’m not going to.”

“Prove it.”

Jeanie shifted her left arm so that everyone could see the needle and banner inked into her forearm over all the scarred track marks from shooting up without care. “I worked hard to stop. I got this tattoo after being clean for a year. I am not putting any more needles into my skin.”

“Are you sure?”

Jeanie threw the needle back onto the table. Her body was shaking. Her voice was unsteady. “I’m not doing it. I don’t know what you want from me. But I’m not taking one of those needles. I’m not shooting up. I don’t want it.” She pushed some of the needles away.

Delta turned to the others at the table. Nell and Spooky both sat watching quietly as Jeanie shook and fought to hold back tears. “Is she telling the truth?”

“I’ve seen her dealer put needles in her hand and she’s refused them. If she was going to shoot up, she would have already done it,” Nell answered quietly as she turned to give Jeanie an encouraging smile.

“I wouldn’t let her baptize me til she was good and sober. She’s serious,” Spooky reaffirmed.

“Good!” Delta sat up and grinned and then slid the box over to Jeanie. “So then, trust in your faith.”

Jeanie nodded. “Okay.”

Delta nodded towards the box. “Open it!”

Jeanie shrugged. Carefully, and without hesitation, Jeanie pulled the lid off the top of the box. A puff of smoke. A familiar gust of heat followed by a massive bout of nausea and the pain of feeling your body burn and melt away. Radiation. A lot of it. Jeanie keeled over on the table grimacing as her body struggled to breathe. She could hear everyone in the bar screaming around her.

Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Delta lean over and begin to whisper to her.

“They’re in reach Jeanie.  Just take one. It’s right there.”

Jeanie shook.

“You can save yourself. They’re right there.” Delta’s voice was sinister as he reminded her of all the needles on the table. All she had to do was move her hand a few more inches and she’d have the drug that could both save her and destroy her right now.

Jeanie pulled her hand into a fist and dragged her empty fist closer to her chest. She could hear Delta telling every doctor who came over to fix Jeanie that he would take care of her. Her chest was pounding. Her stomach had tightened into knots of intense pain. The world was starting to darken around her. She knew this feeling.

She was dying.

“Fine, if you’re not going to take one, then trust in your faith. Lean on your faith. You’re never going to stop wanting this. You’re never going to stop struggling with what you’ve been through. Stop trying to get rid of that. Stop ignoring it. Lean on your faith when you’re struggling. Gain strength from it and evolve. Choose evolution.”

She felt the familiar warmth of the green glow settling over her and slowly leaving as her heart beat returned to normal, her stomach settled down, her head stopped spinning and her vision cleared up.

Jeanie slowly sat up and took a deep breath. She took a moment to steady her thoughts by looking over the lead box she’d opened in detail.

A few slightly curious and annoyed town members surrounded the table seeking answers about what had just happened.

“You’re a priest Jeanie. You tell them. Tell them what just happened. Tell them why it was a lesson you desperately needed to learn. Tell them how you’ve evolved.” Delta began gathering his things.

Jeanie nodded and turned to those who were around. “I’m a priest of Darwin. We believe in getting stronger and improving our lives. Only, for the longest time, that was really difficult for me. I was hooked on drugs. I couldn’t get past being an Iron Slave and how I grew up. I’ve spent the past year fighting hard to grow from that. I’ve spent the past year trying to overcome that but still hating everything about my life and how I’ve struggled. He was teaching me. Helping me grow and learn. He was showing me that even though I’ll still struggle, I don’t have to hate that. I can learn from it and grow.” Jeanie paused a moment.

She glanced over to find that Delta had left.

Gain strength from it and evolve. Choose evolution.

Slowly, it dawned on her the depth of the test he’d just given her. Slowly, she realized what lesson he’d started to bestow upon her.

Jeanie knelt in the blood stained snow, tears falling upon Caleb’s tattooed face. She brushed his hair off his sweat covered brow as he gripped her free hand tightly in his paw. With his last breath, he whispered “Be the bird I know you’re meant to become.”

Jeanie turned back to the small crowd around her. “He’s teaching me how to evolve.”

An Act of Faith

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Dystopia Rising had a bunch of events this past weekend. I was at one and holy crow was it good. I should be sleeping, but I can’t sleep so I wrote a story based on the weekend. If you haven’t checked out this game, you really really should. The story is based on events that happened to my character, Jeanie. The other characters are products of their players. The world is from the amazing brains at Eschaton Media.

**********

“Updated symptoms,” Jeanie muttered under her breath as she wrote her notes down in her science journal, “Skin has finished healing in both sites. Infection pushed the staples out of the stomach. Tress helped remove the last of the sutures from the chest.”

Jeanie paused and ran her fingers across the y shaped scar on her chest. She had known the experiment that she was helping out with would be dangerous. The theory was sound and had quite a bit of knowledge to back it up. Surround the irradiated tank heart with living infection to increase it’s life span. Increase the life of the tank heart to ensure greater chance it gets used to give people their second chance.

The scar on her chest was a strong reminder of how dangerous the experiment really was. She had a second heart in her abdomen, not attached to anything. Beating at it’s own, slow, undead rhythm. She had zombie flesh slowly rotting inside her body with the hope that her body can keep it from rotting out completely.

She closed her eyes and dropped her forehead onto the table. Her left hand pushing into her stomach as a wave of pain flashed over her. She carefully took deep breaths and focused her breathing. She didn’t want to let either heart (or both) start beating too fast again. The graverobber, Sig, had gone back to Eden. If something went wrong, the only one who could fix it was Doctor Plaggue and he was often out with the hats.

The iron was on her own then.

She sat up and glanced down at her notebook before continuing her notes. “Periodic flashes of pain. Focusing on breathing seems to be keeping the hearts in sync with each other… or at least not beating too fast.”

Jeanie paused. Tress was a doctor or a sawbones? The irons should probably chat about that soon. Make sure they’re on the same page and regularly checking up on Jeanie’s health. Maybe get Nell for when Tress wasn’t in town. Either way, a doctor needs to be involved. After all, she was under orders not to die.

What would Nell think? Would she be annoyed? Appreciative? Understanding of the iron’s decision? Worried like Charles? Or would she understand like Ted that this was Jeanie trying to make a step forward, an act of faith.

Faith. The graverobber said there was a small chance of death. Jeanie may not know much about bodies but she was a scientist and understood the grave and the undead. The chance was much much higher than Sig would actually say. But, she had faith. Faith that she would survive this. She had no proof, but she was certain it would work. She would help usher medicine into a new age of science. She would help humanity evolve.

An act of faith.

What would Finch say? Would he agree? Would Savannah speak though him? Jeanie sighed. She would have to tell him. They would likely have a long conversation about it. Hopefully he would see that it wasn’t a suicidal choice but her actually trying to move forward in her faith and act on the very painful lesson he taught her at Devil’s Rest.

Jeanie shook her head and went back to her notebook. “Lethargy still present. Subject is staying in well populated areas to ensure regular rest and nutrition. Will have regular check ins with medical staff to look for symptoms not visible to non medics.”

Jeanie yawned and took a deep breath before closing the notebook and putting it away. She curled up on the couch and glanced across the room at the bar and to the red headed Rover who was wiping down some glasses.

“Wake me up if something happens,” she called out to him.

“Sure thing, kid.”

Jeanie closed her eyes and took another deep breath. She would get through this. It would succeed. She just knew it. She had faith it would work.

It had to work.

It would work.

Right?

What is Freedom?

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My goodness. If you haven’t checked out Dystopia Rising by the amazing people at Eschaton Media, you need to do so. This past weekend was a game and it was intense and wonderful and made the world amazing. Seriously guys, play this game.

**********

Jeanie glanced over at the new ink on her left forearm. It was one of two new pieces. Or maybe one new piece and one updated piece. The updated piece was on her shoulder. The bow of ship leaving a cloud of smoke. A number added to the bow of the ship A-825. The new piece was down on the forearm, in purple. The number 25 and the Hedon triple X figure.

Do you want to be free?

What kind of question is that? Of course.

Do you want to be free?

Yes.

She slowly slid her fingers over the new number and sighed. She had spent years fighting to remove the numbers that had been tattooed to her face back in Motor City. She had searched and fought and cried. Mickey had gotten ahold of the syringe that removed the numbers branded into her skin. She had cried in agony as she remembered the pain of having it placed on her cheek while Caleb had held her and the brew burned the ink out of her skin.

Only to have not only the old number returned but a new one.

And by her own choice.

You know how the Dock Workers ink their story into their skin? Well, Irons sort of do the same. We claim the ink in our skin as our story and wear it with pride. Only I haven’t. And I’m trying. I’m trying to be proud.

As much as she wanted to be proud, there was a certain hurt that came every time she got new ink and remembered the pain of getting her first tattoo. There was a certain pain in the knowledge that she was once again marked as property of someone else, as a slave. She was trying so hard to reclaim pride in her life and in what she had lived.

It still hurt.

Hey Jeanie. Have you torn up your papers yet?

No. Why would I?

Slavery is illegal now. You’re free.

Her papers were still in Charles’ pocket. She had not torn them up yet. He had asked, but for some reason, she wasn’t ready. It wasn’t the right time yet. And despite numerous members of the town reassuring her that she was now free, she didn’t feel free.

She never had.

Remember the first question you asked me?

Yeah.

Well, I’ve never felt free. And every time someone reminds me that I’m an Iron or comments on my glow, I don’t feel free. And I’m trying, but honestly, it’s hard.

Jeanie sighed and stared down at the empty glass in front of her.

Would she ever feel free?

“Yo, asshole,” she shouted to the red headed rover chatting at the other end of the bar before waving a 5 chuck lager at him. “I want another.”

Withdrawal

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Dystopia Rising piece about Jeanie. You know the drill. The world is by the awesome folks at Eschaton Media (go explore all of their work. Seriously, just go do it.) And the characters are characters created by other players in the LARP and used with their permission (or it’s me quoting actual interactions we had while in play).

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Glowing red hands were tightly gripping the large mug of steaming hot tea. The retorgrade had warned her that it would be hot, but she didn’t care. Very calloused fingers desperate for warmth didn’t care that the mug was hot. It’s not like she’d burn her hands. The forge didn’t and that was hotter.

Jeanie sipped at the hot tea, trying to stop the shaking. She was certain it was from the cold. It had to be from the cold. It wasn’t unreasonable to think otherwise.

Got an itch you can’t scratch?

Jeanie dropped her forehead onto the counter and squeezed the mug tighter.

Years of addiction don’t go away with one conversation.

The iron sighed and bounced her forehead against the counter of the bar. It was difficult without the needles. Without the milk ensuring that she was calm and able to think. Without the salvation giving her comfort from the overwhelming stress caused by the Hansfields and the lack of Charles.

Fuck where was Charles? He hadn’t been seen since Pequod Port. He was her owner. He had the contract. But without him and the contract, his protection meant nothing. Did he even care? Would he ever come back? After Caleb died, he’s one of the few who still understood. Was this the time that his business would keep him away for good?

Charles is an Ascensorite. He’s not capable of loving. He just has those that are his and fuck anyone who messes with his things. It’s not love. It’s pretending to love things he’s decided to own.

Jeanie sat up and shook her head. No. Jak was wrong. Had to be wrong. Charles was like her. Emotions too strong to handle. Easier to control them with drugs. Stop feeling and then you know how to function again. That’s why he hadn’t stopped her from using until she went crying to him in Pequod. Right?

The iron scratched at her right fore arm.

The only reason he cares for you is because you’re his and he cares for what he owns.

“No,” she muttered under her breath before guzzling a large amount of the still scalding hot tea. “No, I won’t give in. I won’t do this. I’m gonna stay sober. I have to.”

The iron shuddered.

“I gotta find someone to talk to.”

“I hate withdrawal.”

Her

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Most of you are used to me posting stories about Jeanie, my original character for Dystopia Rising. Well, this is not a Jeanie story. This is a new character. The Dystopia Rising LARP allows me to have three active characters at once, even if I can only play two a game. Up till now, I’ve only ever had Jeanie. Now I have a new character. Her name, is Rahab. So, here you go, an introduction to Rahab. I apologize if the writing is a little clunky, as this character’s personality might make writing a bit on the tough side, but we’ll see. As always, the world of Dystopia Rising is put out by the amazing people as Eschaton Media and is totally something you should check out.

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“Pardon, but can he help her?”

The man looked up from where he knelt in a small garden patch. His eyes widened and he gulped a moment at what he saw. A woman, green skin, almost sick looking, veins stretching across the face in purple and blue, white gauze wrapped around the eyes. “‘Scuse me?”

“Can he help her, please. She got separated from the caravan and is lost.”

“She? She who?” He stood up and brushed his hands on his pants to get the dirt off.

“She is…” the woman paused and her shoulder slumped a moment. She took a deep breath and continued. “Would he understand if she said ‘I am lost’ instead of ‘she is lost’?”

“You? Yer talkin’ ’bout you?”

The sickly green woman nodded. “Yes. She is lost and in need of assistance.”

“Um…” He glanced down quickly at the rifle on the ground. “You ain’t gonna do none of that brain juju bull shit, right?”

The woman shook her head. “The ancestors did not give her the ability to use her mind that way. This is good as she was taught it is a sin. He doesn’t need to worry.”

“Um… alright… Were you headed anywhere in particular?”

The woman shrugged. “She doesn’t know. That one never told her where the caravan was headed.”

“That one?”

“The one who leads the caravan.”

“Right.” He looked behind her a bit, towards the treeline, scanning for anything he could see. “Where did you come from?”

“That one did not really permit her to leave the caravan camp when we had arrived in a town. That one said that people would be frightened by her and it would be unkind to scare them.”

The man forced a quick laugh as he glanced around, still looking to see if anything had changed. “Yeah, well, that one was probably right. Are you lookin’ fer anyone in particular?”

“She would feel comfortable finding those of the Fallow Hope. They would know what to do with her.”

“Then y’all probably wanna find yer way to town. It’s close. ‘Bout a day or so walk down the road.” He pointed behind him at the path leading into the woods. “That’s the Grove proper. Out here is a bit less busy an all. But there’s a trade meet comin’ up. Might find people there that leave home for it or even live in the Grove center instead of us folk here in the Outer Grove. That’s probably yer best shot.”

“Thanks. She is grateful for his help.”

The woman walked around the man, careful not to step on his gun or in his garden. Somehow, she seemed to know where to place her feet despite the fact that her eyes were covered up in cloth.

The man just stared at her as she walked away.