[17:53:48] <~Charm> November 2, 2054 || Kiev, Ukraine; Royale Hotel || 10.54 Hours, GMT+3
[17:56:43] <~Charm> Laura had a good morning, once she woke up and got over her minor headache. Though there were still too many mysteries for her liking. Right now she had nothing but a potential fling who may or may not be willing to move.
[17:59:20] <~Charm> The sunrise was about 3 hours ago, but she hasn't had a bike ride today. It's eating at her.
[18:01:16] <Laura> She glances at the clock, then stands up and paces her hotel room. She has the whole afternoon to kill before her date with Ted, but she's been avoiding using her motorcycle. Not until she figures out what made her lose consciousness last time.
[18:02:05] <~Charm> Well, it's not like she crashed or anything. She should go for a ride to make sure it wasn't just a dream
[18:04:50] <Laura> The urge to ride was strong. Laura grits her teeth and looks up at the ceiling, frustration evident on her face. She reaches for her jacket, as if getting ready to leave, but instead fishes her phone out of the inside pocket and punches in Julie's number.
[18:05:10] <Laura> Her foot taps impatiently as she waits for her boss to pick up.
[18:05:14] <~Charm> Ring ring ring…ring ring ring…
[18:05:53] <~Charm> Ring ring ri-*click* "oh hello Miss Ingram. I understand you did well for yourself last night. He made the call."
[18:07:33] <Laura> Laura's eyebrows go up, and for a moment she forgets why she called. "He did? I expected as much, but still… What'd you tell him?"
[18:08:35] <~Charm> "That there was a job opening, and that he could get an interview around 5 your time. We'll keep him for about an hour, then call him about the job on the fourth."
[18:09:49] <Laura> "You're interviewing him when? Today?"
[18:10:08] <~Charm> "Oh not me. But yes, today. Is that a problem?"
[18:12:52] <Laura> "Nono, I just didn't know you had someone in Kiev for that. It actually works out well; I'm meeting him tonight, so I'll get to ask him how it went, resolve any doubts he has. Glad to hear that's working out." Laura leans casually against a table as she speaks.
[18:14:19] <~Charm> "I actually have someone come over from London, since having you as the interviewer might raise suspicions. In any case, it's working fairly smoothly. You've got nothing to worry about."
[18:15:04] <~Charm> Julie is right, there's nothing to worry about. She ought to just ride around until her date. Maybe just a few laps around the Nuremburg Ring.
[18:17:46] <Laura> The sudden urge to feel wind through her hair and adreneline in her veins snapped Laura out of her reverie, reminding her why she'd called. She speaks quickly, trying to get it in before Julie hangs up. "Oh, one other thing…!"
[18:18:10] <~Charm> "Yeah? What's up?"
[18:22:36] <Laura> "Er…" Laura scratches the back of her head, looking for the right way to phrase her concern. "Lately I've been feeling a little out of control. I keep getting these urges-" She cuts herself off, putting a hand to her face. "No, what I mean is, I think I'm getting magic-dependent." She grimaces as she waits for Julie to ask for clarification.
[18:23:36] <~Charm> "Explain." well, her tone tenses up. Well, if she wanted to clarify, now would be a good time.
[18:26:17] <Laura> "Ahm, I'm probably not being clear. It's like, um…" Laura gives up. She stands up off the table and puts her free hand in her pocket. Her tone loses its casualness, dropping into the curt manner reserved for mission briefings. "Last time I rode my motorcycle, I blacked out and woke up in Kiev."
[18:26:45] <~Charm> "Are you hurt?"
[18:28:22] <Laura> "No, I'm fine. I have no memory of the trip over, though. And only about two hours passed from when I left Geneva - not near enough time to get here."
[18:29:50] <~Charm> "…That's not good. I'm guessing that…you've been having these…urges…to go on rides at that speed?"
[18:31:40] <Laura> Laura nods, despite it being a wasted gesture. "Yeah. Any time I'm on my bike, it's almost irresistible. And now I'm having them even when I'm not riding…"
[18:33:36] <~Charm> "…I see. Sadly I'm not sure there's much I can do for you from here."
[18:34:58] <Laura> Laura nods again, frowning. "Any course of action you'd suggest?"
[18:35:46] <~Charm> "When you get back, I'll be sure to set up a full evaluation for you. Rest assured, it's not natural and I doubt it's been caused by anything you've done. As for action…"
[18:36:42] <~Charm> Julie sighs on the other end of the line. "I'm looking at your most likely path…and there's no mention of any motorcycle related accidents."
[18:39:45] <~Charm> "How well do you think you could control such things?"
[18:41:25] <Laura> "Hate to admit it, but it's been getting worse for a while now. I think it's past that point."
[18:43:17] <~Charm> "Right." that didn't sound good. "In any case, despite your lack of conscious control, you seem to have been unharmed. I'm not entirely confident that this would work, but there is a chance."
[18:43:45] <Laura> Laura's ears perk up. "I'm listening."
[18:45:46] <~Charm> "In the short term, I'd say ride. Go as far as you can while keeping control, and shut it down the second you feel yourself slipping."
[18:47:34] <~Charm> "If I'm right…it should help you develop a tolerance, to where you won't lose control regardless of your speed. If it works."
[18:47:46] <Laura> "Stress-test, eh?" Laura grimaces. "Alright. I'll give you a call as soon as I stop. If it's more than a couple hours, feel free to worry."
[18:48:10] <~Charm> "Okay. Good luck out there."
[18:51:33] <Laura> "Thanks." She hangs up, puts on her jacket, and heads out to the parking garage where she left her motorcycle.
[18:55:10] <~Charm> The second she sits on the bike, she already feels herself going numb. Magic is part of her, and since no one is here right now…she could totally transform and get away with it. Right?
[18:58:21] <Laura> Not a good idea. Laura puts on her helmet, then pauses with her hand on the starter.
[18:59:01] <~Charm> Even if she wanted to, it won't start. The engine dies quickly after turning over.
[18:59:21] <~Charm> A cursory check shows that her gas tank is bone dry
[19:05:02] <Laura> "Oh." Well, that solves that problem. Temporarily, at least.
[19:06:07] <~Charm> There was a gas station about half a kilo away. But…she needed something better. Surely there had to be something better - something faster than having to *walk* over to the station.
[19:07:06] <~Charm> If anything, her problem just got worse, as the thought of having to go anywhere without her bike was literally nauseating.
[19:14:40] <Laura> She would need some short-range transportation. Laura focuses on what she needs - something simple, just enough to get to the petrol station and back. Something that she wouldn't break the land speed record in. She squints her eyes for a moment, drawing on the power within herself, and then straightens up and walks briskly out of the garage.
[19:15:59] <~Charm> Standing against the wall is a 21-speed bicycle. It's hardly something that she would really want…but it would be good enough to get enough gas for her real bike to start up, right?
[19:16:48] <Laura> Right where she'd imagined it. She grabs the handlebars and gets on, body still complaining about the lack of horsepower.
[19:18:50] <~Charm> It takes a bit to get used to - the balance isn't the issue, her motorcycle is less forgiving. The issue is remembering she has to pedal.
[19:19:29] <~Charm> But she's just gonna get some gas, then she'll be good to go.
[19:21:49] <Laura> She pumps the pedals, heading up the hill toward the gas station. Even the gradual slope takes a good bit of effort for muslces unaccostumed to the work, but the trip is mercifully short.
[19:26:32] <~Charm> Gas gotten. And the trip downhill into the wind…it sends a shiver down her spine. This is what she's lived for. This sensation, right here. If she could capture it…she'd be set for life.
[19:29:10] <Laura> She leaves the bicycle leaning against the wall where she found it, a bit uncertain as to whether or not it would disappear when she turned her back. Not that it matters: she fills the motorcycle's tank with a few liters of fuel and once more sits astride it.
[19:30:23] <~Charm> Now it revs up. And having waited for as long as she had…the entire trip, her soul wanted one thing: speed. Now that it was in her grasp…why wasn't she taking it?
[19:32:48] <~Charm> Every second she spent idling was a second she wanted to curl up and die. If she wasn't moving, she was dead. It was the way of the world. And she wasn't dead. Not yet, anyway.
[19:34:59] <Laura> A small voice at the back of her mind urges caution. She forces herself to go through her pre-trip checklist like a rookie driver - checks the mirrors, handlebars, windscreen. Then, slowly, she presses the clutch in and shifts to first gear.
[19:36:22] <~Charm> First gear? That barely counts as moving. No, it wouldn't do. Her hand moves to shift straight up through to fourth gear.
[19:39:01] <Laura> She holds it back, focusing on her breathing. No, first would be fine. This was a busy urban street, after all.
[19:40:42] <~Charm> The street is packed, but Laura can squeeze her bike through. Now that she's on her way out of town, she can go straight into the highest gear, right?
[19:40:48] <~Charm> Right, let's do that now.
[19:44:45] <Laura> She keeps it to a reasonable speed until she's out onto the beltway. Then, and only then, does she open it up, racing past the thin midday traffic with a wide grin.
[19:46:47] <~Charm> You mean, she goes so slow it's sickening until she's out on the beltway, then she opens it up to a reasonable speed.
[19:48:21] <~Charm> Of course, a reasonable speed is about 500 km/h. So she's gonna need some help, right?
[19:50:59] <Laura> She can't help but sigh, even through the glorious feeling of acceleration. She had enough on her plate without having to tackle a dangerous speed addiction.
[19:53:35] <~Charm> She doesn't need to tackle it. She shouldn't want to tackle it. Embrace it. Become one with the road. It's not an addiction - it's a raison d'être.
[19:56:06] <~Charm> So long as she doesn't crash, what harm can come of it?
[19:57:17] <Laura> She sees a pair of autohaulers running side by side up ahead, her speed bringing them rapidly closer. With a exultant shout to match the roar of her engine, she shoots through the gap between them, never slowing down.
[19:58:49] <~Charm> As she blows through the current between them, something clicks. This is what she's been looking for. This rush, the spark of life that she's been missing for so long. She can't slow down, but why would she ever want to?
[20:00:01] <Laura> She can feel her heart pounding in her chest. That…was fun, but it wasn't getting her closer to what she wanted. And try as it might, the voice in her head wasn't going to make her forget what that was.
[20:01:00] <~Charm> What she wanted…it didn't matter. What she NEEDED, the voice kept reminding here. She NEEDED to feel alive, and going faster than was possible was the only way to do so.
[20:02:22] <~Charm> Fun wasn't just doing little tricks. Not anymore. What mattered was living on the edge. Risking everything to push her limits past their breaking point. Without that…
[20:04:27] <Laura> Without that, she's just a… no, that isn't right. There's plenty more to life besides this. Laura hits the clutch and lets friction gradually eat away at her speed.
[20:08:06] <~Charm> She can't bring herself to bite down on the clutch.
[20:09:29] <~Charm> As she coasts along the freeway…is this what she wants? To be bound down by a kid and a drunk computer nerd? Sure, Annie is adorable. But why can't she just run the bastard over and keep Annie sheltered?
[20:10:46] <~Charm> He already chewed her out for leaving her…gah! No time to keep wondering about crap that doesn't matter. Just keep going.
[20:11:05] <~Charm> Everything will be fine, so long as she never stops, right?
[20:13:11] <Laura> Laura feels instantly guilty for the thought. She grits her teeth and takes another deep breath, this time trying to relax her hand off the throttle.
[20:15:19] <~Charm> She can, but only just. As much as she doesn't want to, the bike goes at a constant speed now, not picking up any more speed.
[20:16:35] <Laura> This isn't any different than when she was a teenager, she reminds herself. Back then, it hadn't been the partying, the drugs, the alcohol that had gotten her life in order. It had been Ted.
[20:19:09] <Laura> Painful memories, those. She couldn't have picked out the moment it happened, back then, but in retrospect… that was the moment her chaotic existence had finally started to settle down, bit by bit.
[20:19:47] <~Charm> That was different. She's been clean ever since. The partying is above board. All she loves to do is ride her bike. Is that a crime?
[20:24:28] <Laura> A deep breath. There are two reasons to ride the way Laura does: to get somewhere, and to escape from something. And in her heart, she knows that right now, she isn't doing anything but running away.
[20:29:04] <~Charm> Running away..maybe. But she's coming back.
[20:30:57] <Laura> She nods to herself. That's right. She's coming back, and she's doing it now. Laura manuevers the bike into the slow lane and prepares to exit back into the city.
[20:33:35] <~Charm> It takes a lot of willpower, but Laura is able to slow down.
[20:34:40] <~Charm> Kiev, Ukraine; Royale Hotel || 12.12 Hours
[20:35:05] <Laura> The trip back to the hotel parking garage is a cautious one, guiding the motorcycle back to its space with no shortage of care.
[20:35:59] <Laura> As soon as the engine is off, she pulls out her phone and calls Julie to give a quick report, walking back to her room in the meantime.
[20:36:43] <~Charm> Laura herself is a mess. Sure, she was able to keep control…but she feels like she's doing something wrong. She's got to find a balance.
[20:38:13] <Laura> Hopefully a long shower will give her that. Followed by a nap, ideally.
[20:39:43] <~Charm> Around 6 in the evening, Laura is stirred awake by a soft echoing voice.
[20:39:56] <~Charm> <Mamma…mamma…where are you?>
[20:40:59] <Laura> She blinks hard, clearing the sleep from her eyes while scanning the area. But the voice isn't coming from anywhere in the hotel room.
[20:41:37] <~Charm> Not only that, but the room is empty. And yet, she knows she heard it.
[20:43:44] <Laura> She's felt this way before. With a deep breath, she sits up in bed and reaches out mentally. <I'm here, sweetheart.>
[20:46:13] <~Charm> <M-Mama!> Anastatia's voice reaches out to the æther, Laura hearing it with crystal clarity
[20:46:49] <~Charm> <I'm scared mama…where are you?>
[20:48:34] <Laura> <Scared?> Laura tucks her legs up under her and raises a hand to cover her mouth. <What's wrong, Anniebear? Don't be scared, mama's here.>
[20:49:49] <~Charm> <I…I don't wanna be alone mama…where are you?>
[20:52:05] <Laura> <I'm not far, baby. Tell me where you are.> Laura is already moving while she asks, pulling on the outfit she'd picked for tonight's date and her nicer pair of boots.
[20:52:43] <~Charm> <I'm home mama…why aren't you home mama? Where are you?>
[20:54:47] <~Charm> <It's lonely…only papa and me…where are you?>
[20:56:13] <Laura> Laura stops with her hand on the doorknob, wavers a moment, and slumps onto the ground in front of it. <I'm real close, honey. Mama's gonna be home real soon, so hang in there and be a good girl for papa, okay?>
[20:58:34] <~Charm> <I…do you promise, mama?>
[21:00:50] <~Charm> <pr-promise me you won't leave again mama…where are you?>
[21:02:46] <Laura> <I promise.> Laura's thoughts are soft and gentle, like a whisper in a dream. <I know papa's sad right now, but pretty soon he's gonna find me, and when he does we'll all be a family again.>
[21:04:06] <~Charm> <O-okay mama…if you promise…> and then the voice fades.
[21:05:14] <Laura> <Sleep tight, little Anniebear…> Laura coos as the girl starts to drift off.
[21:07:03] <~Charm> She's been a good mother…when she's been around.
[21:07:46] <~Charm> Now…now she can't even be around. What's she to do about it?
[21:11:07] <Laura> Right. Laura's got a geek to woo, and she's got exactly one chance to do it.
[21:12:32] <~Charm> At 9:30, Laura figures it's time to head over to the bar. She could take her bike, assuming she still can maintain control. If not…no, there really isn't another choice.
[21:14:15] <Laura> Bah. She calls for a taxi. The last thing she needs is to show up with her hair blown straight back. Or to not show up at all.
[21:14:37] <Laura> Besides, it'll give Ted an excuse to drive her home.
[21:17:07] <~Charm> She really shouldn't. But she does anyway.
[21:17:44] <~Charm> It isn't long before she's at the bar. But it's ten till ten. Ted isn't here yet
[21:19:02] <Laura> Not a problem. Laura forces herself to relax and orders a beer to nurse while she waits.
[21:21:17] <~Charm> It doesnt take too much longer. "You're here early."
[21:23:01] <Laura> "Figured I'd get a head start on you." Laura smiles disarmingly and gestures to the stool next to her. "Take a load off."
[21:24:02] <~Charm> "Don't mind if I do. By the way, thanks for the tip last night." The man gets the bartender's attention and starts with his first shot of whiskey.
[21:24:35] <Laura> "Oh, you followed up on that? What'd they say?"
[21:26:03] <~Charm> "Hard to tell. Interviewer was stone faced. I might have won the job, might get arrested. You tell me."
[21:27:54] <Laura> She laughs lightly at that. "Arrested? C'mon, it can't have gone that badly…"
[21:29:35] <~Charm> "God, I hope not. But I don't have any clue. Here's to hoping, I suppose."
[21:31:04] <Laura> She raises her own glass of whiskey, recently arrived courtesy of the bartender. "Here's to your new job," she counters, taking a deep drink.
[21:31:50] <~Charm> "Hey now, don't jinx it now! You know if I don't get this gig, I'm gonna blame you for it."
[21:32:18] <~Charm> With that, he takes another shot of whiskey
[21:34:59] <Laura> "Hehe. Don't you jinx it either, now. You know I'm counting on you to fill this job for me." She leans one elbow on the bar and tilts her head, studying him. Same old Ted.
[21:35:37] <~Charm> Teddy raps on the wooden bar twice. "But yeah. I don't know anything about you, other than your name. You're not one of those timid girls who only say anything when they're drunk, right?"
[21:38:39] <Laura> She chuckles. "Timid? Please." After taking another sip, she raises an eyebrow at him and bats her eyes. "What would you like to know about me?"
[21:40:01] <~Charm> "Well, since I told my story, I guess it's only fair" he chuckles.
[21:46:13] <~Charm> He takes another shot of the drink, waiting for Laura to weave her tale
[21:50:16] <Laura> Her story. Laura pauses, quickly trying to hide a frown, masking it with another sip. "Hmm… well, where should I start? Grew up in south Kansas, down toward Wichita. I wasn't much for school, back then, and anyway we could never have afforded it, so I started working odd jobs wherever I could find'em. Eventually I wound up here - recruiting gig travelling all over Europe."
[21:52:07] <~Charm> "The American dream, and in Europe no less. I'm impressed." Ted nods, elbows on the bar.
[21:55:10] <Laura> "It fits me alright; I get to be my own boss, more or less, and the travel suits me. But hey, don't let me bore you with all that." She shrugs and waves in the next round. "After all, there's more to life than work."
[21:59:34] <~Charm> "Yeah. Of course, having a kid can put a dent in that. But tell me - what's a pretty little girl like you do for fun?"
[22:01:56] <Laura> "When I'm not cruising bars for freelance computer programmers, you mean?" She gives him a teasing smile. "I'm a biker, mostly. Motorcycles, I mean."
[22:03:27] <~Charm> "Nice. What'cha riding nowadays?"
[22:08:24] <Laura> Transformed, or untransformed? Laura doesn't ask that, quite. "A '45 BMW. Picked it up used a few years back when I moved to Geneva. 's a beauty."
[22:10:32] <~Charm> "Huh. Didn't know they were still into bikes. Anything else I should know about you?"
[22:16:57] <Laura> She chuckles. "Maybe I'll take you for a ride some time." After another sip, she continues. "Anything else? Hm… I like horror movies, camping, and classic rock. Long walks on the beach make me throw up in my mouth. I've been skydiving once; it's not the thrill people say it is. C'mon, what're you fishing for?"
[22:17:48] <Laura> She gives him a friendly nudge. "And don't think I haven't been keeping track. You're a shot behind me."
[22:19:12] <~Charm> "Don't tempt me, Ingram. And…I dunno, I haven't done much of this 'dating' thing."
[22:19:27] <~Charm> He takes a double shot to keep her honest.
[22:24:36] <Laura> She gives him a pitying look, but then smiles. She can feel the drinks setting in, and if they're as evenly-matched as they'd always been, he should be too. "Bah. You're better off without it. If you like someone, you should be able to tell'em that, right? And of course you'd want to hang around with'em. Why put a label on it?"
[22:28:29] <~Charm> He does seem to be a bit off-kilter, but his liver has taken more abuse than should be humanly possible. "you know what, you're right. Maybe I oughtta move out of here anyway. Someplace has to have a gig, right? Even if this doesn't pan out…hell, maybe I can drag you along for the ride. You me and Annie…how's that sound?"
[22:32:29] <Laura> "Hehe. Easy, tiger. At least give it 'til you hear back from my group, eh? Geneva's a great town." She pats one hand on his shoulder, then leaves it there. "And I've gotta work too, you know."
[22:33:55] <~Charm> "Right…but I'm curious. You're hot, and I'm praying that based on the way you're flirting, single. Why haven't you found a man yet?"
[22:34:06] <~Charm> And two more shots go down the hatch.
[22:35:31] <Laura> She's keeping up with him, but by now they've both ingested silly amounts of alcohol. "Well, I work a lot. And until now…"
[22:37:09] <Laura> She shrugs and looks into her drink. "The truth is, I've dated a lot of guys who turned out to be real assholes. So for the last couple years, I've kind of been… avoiding all that. You know?"
[22:38:27] <~Charm> "I do. Don't forget, I'm raising a kid that I don't even know if she's mine, and that's because some bitch threw her at me. Haven't been much for going after other fish since then…"
[22:39:25] <~Charm> The level of alcohol has at least gotten Pete's attention - he cuts you both off, Laura one shot behind.
[22:40:18] <Laura> His tone stings, but Laura knows how it must seem. /I'm trying/, she pleads mentally, /I'll make it up to you, I swear/.
[22:41:47] <Laura> But if they've been cut off, it's looking like time to go. Laura stands up, a bit unsteadily, and falls toward Ted, letting him catch her.
[22:42:01] <~Charm> "Something on your mind?" Teddy was always good at reading faces, but Annie could read the look of pain on hers.
[22:43:33] <~Charm> "Woah there!" Teddy catches Laura with ease, looking concerned. "Damn, how many shots behind were you?"
[22:45:58] <Laura> Laura leans into him and runs one finger down his chest. The vulnerability in her voice is hardly faked at all. "I don't want to be alone tonight," she whispers, embarassed for taking such a cheap tact.
[22:47:07] <~Charm> "…me either…but are you sure it's a good idea? I don't want Annie getting the wrong idea…"
[22:50:07] <Laura> "I'll can be out before she's up," Laura promises, eyes pleading. "I know how hard it must be, for you…"
[22:51:22] <~Charm> He seems to be deep in thought. Or as deep in thought as a drunken programmer can be. If she had anything more to convince him…
[22:55:42] <Laura> Her other hand is running up his inner thigh, slowly. "I know you've been alone a long time… let me make it better for you, 'kay?" Laura can't decide whether she's blushing from the booze, or her forwardness. She's starting to think she severely misread the situation…
[22:56:57] <~Charm> "…okay…but just one night. N-nothing serious, I god to Swear."
[22:57:18] <~Charm> "Pete, can you get us two Titanics and a cab?"
[22:58:17] <Laura> She nuzzles closer, smiling contentedly. Just as planned…
[22:58:29] <~Charm> (/session)