Polysomnography

Anything you might want to try out that doesn't temporally or thematically fit the serial should go here. This is an ideal space for all your what-ifs and might-have-beens, as well as for your average silliness.
Post Reply
User avatar
IamLEAM1983
Site Admin
Posts: 3456
Joined: Tue Jan 08, 2013 12:54 am
Location: Quebec, Canada

Polysomnography

Post by IamLEAM1983 »

The cots had been prepared, small propane tanks connected to heating elements, light blankets now covered Harry Miles, Marius Vlastos and the rest of Penfield Hilliard's ensemble. Miles' instructions had been simple enough: they only needed to wait for the lead dreamer to draw them in. The vampire would've had a short while to relax, a few moments spent with the soft snores of men he barely knew, and his own dreamscape unfurled as it usually did.

A variable amount of time passed, a jumble of scenes unfolded; the half-sense of normal dreams obfuscating his perception of reality. As is often the case with immortals, his dreams usually had a busy quality to them. Ordo Dracul or not, a lifetime measured in the thousands of years allowed anyone a long time to set goals, and Vlastos was nothing if not a goal-driven man. In the immediate, the usual odd focus had settled in; the sense of having something to do and of being in the process of carrying out the steps needed to perform it, without being aware of what the end-goal of that task was. Busy minds rarely erupt out of their own morass of unconsciousness and so rarely step out into lucidity while asleep, that it would've absolutely come as a shock to Marius. That undecipherable whatever crumbled as he came to, leaving him with the understanding that he was dreaming and that, somehow, this would lead him to singing parts of Magnus Tower back into shape.

He was in Alexandria Antiquities again, and would be able to pinpoint the exact day the dream was drawing from. This was just twenty-four hours before the Goat's visit, the cityscape outside looking hazy and indistinct, if intact. He'd realize he typically couldn't memorize faces while in normal dreams, and there he was speaking to one of his former employees, her facial features registering with the absolute crispness of reality. Erika Lambert had been a fresh-faced thirtysomething woman with a Masters in Medieval Art History, one of the many small moving cogs that kept his scheme's presented front working as intended. Dark skin, frizzy hair, wide black eyes and a smile like a Nubian priestess from all those years ago. She wore Alexandria's required uniform - a black power suit with a personal touch, a cascade of tiny false jewels inset in a contemporary whorl of gold and copper hanging from her throat. He'd been speaking to her, but only came to mid-sentence. She'd been agreeing with him on the need to store a Pieter Bruegel piece for eventual restoration, the original varnish had yellowed so much over the centuries that the native color balance was all but unrecognizable, now.

"I know the guys in Accounting might not agree, sir, but The Wedding Dance is absolutely known for its color balance - the whites of the girls' aprons and bonnets, the white linen shirts on some men; they're all meant to really stand out. The varnish is crackling as it is, so acting sooner might allow us to preserve more layers. The frame's external lining is still in good condition, but the pegs giving the canvas tension enough to keep it flat are turning flaky. I wouldn't sell it as it is, but I absolutely would call up Baumgartner in New York, see if they can fit us in their schedule-"

She stopped, realizing a prospective client had been waiting to speak to her - or to Marius. Vlastos would recognize Harry, who was entirely unmasked as though Void Weavers had always been able to move about the surface world in impunity. Erika didn't look bothered in the least and merely gave the Squid a polite smile.

"I'll be right with you, sir; I was just finishing up with the proprietor. You're welcome to browse, if you like."

Harry nodded back, having appeared in decidedly cleaner clothes than what he wore in the Real, in an impeccably-tailored blue three-piece with silver cuff buttons, black cufflinks and a metallic tie clip. There was an inkling of power in his voice, the musically cheerful, subtle and kind relative to Vlastos' own insanity-inducing logorrhrea. 

"Actually, Mister Vlastos and I had an appointment. Er, lunch, actually. I guess you could call me a potential investor. I'm representing New Dalarath's Penfield Ensemble - I called earlier, considering our needing a few pieces to decorate the lobby and waiting areas for the Delmar-Greene Opera House."

Something might click into place in Marius' mind, at that moment. The dream had started as a memory of the past, but Harry had just spoken something personal into being, seeded his dream with his own hopes. Outside, the landscape had subtly changed, shifting from the goldens and reds of late autumn to the pale greens of late spring.

Erika, it seemed - or the figment of the real woman - picked up as if things hadn't been altered. "Yes, I remember now - you're mister Miles. You're in luck, we've had a few months to spend working with other Void Weaver contacts and a panel of archeologists. The Old City is packed with pre-Usurper material, all of it exquisite. As long as the security perimeter around Respite Point holds, we have entire buried levels of the city all to ourselves. Merath and the Augur had planned for the worst, so most of it all hasn't aged a day."

She pursed her lips together. "Should I tell Roger to shorten his break? I can have him back from lunch sooner, if you want - I can talk your ears off about the Dutch Renaissance, but you'll need the local specialist for Dalarath material."

A dream of the past bleeding into a projected future with just a few words, none of them mind-rending or traumatic... The dream would supply Marius with missing information almost as if he'd always had a Roger on payroll. Roger Grayson was the odd male in his Appraisal Service's team members, a Prelate with a foot in Paleontology and another in Art History, the tall and lanky sort that wielded the reassembled bits of Dalarath's uncorrupted idiom with surgical precision.

Or, well, he would be. Or could be.

For now, Harry seemed content to avoid disturbing the fundamentals of Marius' dream. "I was thinking Egyptian, for lunch," he said, looking back to Marius. "Nothing too heavy, Arif supposedly makes the best kefta in town."

User avatar
Karl the Mad
Posts: 1107
Joined: Wed Jan 16, 2013 12:27 am
Location: Idaho

Re: Polysomnography

Post by Karl the Mad »

As he drifted away, Marius could not deny a ridiculous feeling of self-consciousness. He shook it away and did his best to relax, letting the breaths and snores of his fellow dreamers lull him down. Soon enough he did so, and his sleep proceeded as it usually did, in a jumble of intentions and vague images, his brain defragmenting after another long day. He had sometimes wondered whether his memories were deleted during these weird twilight hours, actually, but until very recently had not been bothered enough to pursue the thought.

Oddly, the vague dreams eventually settled onto a lucid presentation, and enough context was provided for him to pinpoint exactly where and when he was. Back before everything went to shit, before Shield began catching onto him. Before the Black Goat paid his infamous visit. The exact day before all that, when he was still comfortable in his schemes.

Why this day? he thought as he listened to his employee speaking. He understood what was happening, or thought he did. This dream was meant to lead into the greater dreamspace of the Squids. But how? He started to reply to Erika, when he realized Harry was standing there waiting for them. His words sparked a change in their surroundings, and Marius marveled at it. Is this what they meant, by dreamers being gods? Or however they'd put it.

"Actually, have Roger meet Harry and I at Arif's," he told Erika. Automatically he adjusted the cuff links of his own black power suit, and smoothed out the lapels in the same absent motion. In sleep as in wakefulness, Marius was aware of his appearance. Even when he'd been cursed into oblivion, he had looked after himself that way. "I need to step aside for a moment..." He indicated the bathroom with a tilt of his head, and hurried in that direction, stepping inside and then into one of the stalls, firmly closing the door. Using magic disrupted the weave, true, but if he did it before they truly entered, in this somewhat isolated place?

He imagined himself, tall, lanky, gaunt, and muttered the words under his breath to alter his appearance, the way he would present to the world at large. The same suit, the same eyes, the same general shape... but the rubbery skin, the tentacles, the bald head of the Void Weavers. Hopefully subtle enough to not cause too much of an echo.

When the effect was settled he stepped back out, and beheld himself in the mirror. Good enough, he reckoned. He'd been around plenty of squids lately, and his skill with illusions was sublime. He hoped it would pass muster once they went deeper into the dream. He went back out into the lobby, smoothing the front of his suit down. "Well, sir, shall we proceed?" he asked of Harry, grinning beneath his new facial appendages.

User avatar
IamLEAM1983
Site Admin
Posts: 3456
Joined: Tue Jan 08, 2013 12:54 am
Location: Quebec, Canada

Re: Polysomnography

Post by IamLEAM1983 »

Another tiny shift in the dream-setting, a slight trick of the light - and puzzlement left Erika's face before it had so much as fully taken shape. She smiled and nodded at the aged Void Weaver as if Marius had always sported those tentacles. "Go on ahead," she said, "I'll have someone text you if something comes up, sir. Bon appétit."

Harry opened the front door to Alexandria Antiquities, and out they stepped into something that would feel slightly off to the vampire. It was Hope, yes, but not quite his Hope, or his memory of his vaults' immediate neighbourhood. Things looked hazier at a few meters' distance, as if the world's metaphorical graphical engine had to wait for high-resolution assets to load in. Harry merely stood beside him, hands at his hips, letting him take it in for a second.

"Welcome to a chunk of my own dream," he said. "This is, what, Matheson Street, right? Three blocks off of Cross Avenue, I think - I've only ever seen tourist maps... Penfield and the rest of the guys were captured in Heathrow and portaled straight to Hell, if you remember; the only accurate map I've got in my mind is around Magnus Tower. You're the one with memories of the next several blocks, so..."

With an almost game-worthy pop-in effect, details began to crop in. Marius would realize that not everything fully rendered, and that those parts that didn't corresponded to side-streets he'd never glanced at, storefronts he'd never paid attention to - essentially his own mental map of his business' environs. Reputation might've billed the Darkhallow as being physics-defying or otherwise terrifying but for now, things merely looked slightly off-kilter. Passerby and onlookers felt like Marius' mind were pulling from a limited pool of facial features, the street's chatter filled in by the same four or five voices chattering indistinctly.

"Stay calm," cautioned Harry. "It takes time for non-natives to match our slow-wave sleep patterns. Fair warning, you'll wake up more tired from our little heist than you were before you laid down on that cot," he said, grinning. "Your fresh blood intake should take the edge off, but Penfield's always advised us to hydrate before and after - and to rest our minds, too."

He stepped onto the sidewalk. "Alright - Operational Basics, if you will. You'll quickly feel like you're in complete control of every facet of this reality - especially once I take the workload off of my shoulders and hand it back to you. You'll be tempted to give individual faces to every NPC, fashion voices, reconstruct textures and sounds and extrapolate new places out of pieces and places you're familiar with - but don't. At least, not too much, and not at first."

Harry started walking. "It's not a blank canvas - not for now, at least. For now, it's a tug-of-war between the part of you that's lucid and engaging with the Darkhallow, and the part of you that normally gets to stretch its legs when you sleep: all the unconscious bits, the surface-level unmentionables, things you thought about doing and never actually did... If you've seen Inception, then you know where I'm going with this. If I overstay my welcome in your mind or abuse of my liberties while in here, your subconscious is going to let me know - and painfully, at that. The sleeping part of your mind will get used to this over time - word is it's worked out fine for Drake and Jenkins, actually - and you eventually won't lift so much as a single subconscious finger unless you actually do feel threatened."

He gestured as he walked. "Push too hard in the immediate, and old faces might crop up from the crowd - faces you might prefer to think you've forgotten. They'll grab me, pull me away, stab or blast me to bits - and if I can't stay in the right mindset out of panic or fear or forget that none of this is real, then I'm opening myself up to real death in the Darkhallow. They'll be a part of you, in essence, so they'll do everything they can to protect you from a perceived threat: me, in this case. No matter how strong you decide you are in here, they'll be stronger. They'll pin you down, screaming all the while and you won't be able to stop them because they're effectively you trying to save yourself."

They arrived at a streetlight, Harry perhaps thinking he could give Marius a bit of a demo. With a head tilt, he caused the streetlight to collaspe as though it had a trap door underneath waiting to receive it, and compressed the perpendicular street down to a hair's width, effectively causing both sidewalks to touch. Nobody in the crowd reacted in an untoward way, but a faceless parked cop raised its smear of human features and patrol sunglasses and scowled at Harry.

"That was just a love-tap along your dream's seams," said the singer as he shrugged off the look of hostility he'd received. "Imagine what would've happened if I'd made like the Chamberlain and figured I'd subconsciously wrestle you into submission. That's why guests only ever receive surface-level editing privileges in polite Squid society and why bigger changes are usually limited to a person's Sanctum."

A few faces popped into view, weirdly specific features Marius would recall from eons ago, random villagers or even the occasional Spartan diplomat he'd only ever nodded to during his guard days - now rendered with contemporary clothing. Nobody too jarring - yet. All six of the oddly specific persons made a bit of a show of bumping into Harry, muttering the least-credible excuses the Alexandrian would've heard in a long while.

As far as people went, his own unconscious didn't exactly feel friendly, to say the least...

The amaneuensis coughed his unease aside. "It'll pass - especially once you start processing on your own. Don't worry about it - everyone's subconscious is a bit of a tosser at first; it's just doing its job and it hasn't recognized what's happening as being part of a new normal for you."

User avatar
Karl the Mad
Posts: 1107
Joined: Wed Jan 16, 2013 12:27 am
Location: Idaho

Re: Polysomnography

Post by Karl the Mad »

Marius bit back a smile as he watched things unfold, and Harry explained the power at their fingertips down here. Euphoria struggled to assert itself; he wanted to let loose for once, leave his self control behind and just... be himself. His real, nihilistic, self-destructive, grandiose self.

Instead he stood idly by as the pedestrians with familiar faces jostled into Harry, scowling as if he were fighting against constipation. "If you see a pink-haired Hispanic woman in an HPD uniform, run," he explained tersely, projecting an image of Tiara Delgado, his one-time police hitwoman. The image faded before it could do anything, though. "If you see a gigantic geometric thing made of pure light, then we've both fucked up and we're all about to die, very badly. Or get erased. Whichever is more painful."

For a fleeting moment, the sunlight overhead became overwhelming, and distant Enochian words echoed dimly, as if from a submerged memory of a dream a thousand years old. That too passed. To distract himself, Marius tried bringing the street lamp back and widening the road out again, gesturing with his hands as if manipulating a smartphone screen the size of a television. "I'm not sure what other devilry my subconscious might throw at us, honestly. Are we to remain here until I've adjusted to the place, or something?"

In that case maybe he should let loose, if only a little. But he waited for Harry to confirm it.

User avatar
IamLEAM1983
Site Admin
Posts: 3456
Joined: Tue Jan 08, 2013 12:54 am
Location: Quebec, Canada

Re: Polysomnography

Post by IamLEAM1983 »

Harry nodded in the negative. "You won't fully adjust until you take root - and that takes a Sanctum. What we need is a blank spot, an area that's formless enough for you to superimpose a safe haven onto. We need that save haven, and we need a maze."

They kept walking. "Your projections aren't all there, you'll notice, and most of them are wholly dependent on the dream-state. Case in point, Erica Lambert, back at the office. I'm sure the real deal's a smart cookie, but your figment of her would've smiled and nodded if you'd decided to reshape yourself into a common squid, sans sentience. As to why, it's because holding an entire psyche and suspending it in there requires data storage - which you don't yet possess. Meris is housing Delmar the Revered's personality construct wholesale, for instance, and it hasn't overwritten her own mind because she's given him a space to call his own within her own Sanctum. Until you get there, your constructs are going to be single-minded and very, very easy to fool. Hence the maze."

A nearby storefront popped into view, its details suddenly manifesting more lifelike qualities, and one of the other choir members - Taylor - walked out, nodding to Marius and Harry and falling in lock-step with them.

"If you've been around, you know our people can be right nosey gits," he explained. "The Loyalists don't so much as trust their own unconscious to keep their secrets, so they've had generations to spend shoring things up. They're paranoid, sure, but it's a healthy habit to keep on both sides. Add a few sensors or objects you design to act like sensors, and you can get advance warnings and opt to bug out instead of facing off against whichever scrawny or doughy researcher with too much of an Ego's decided to punch their way through to you. Wake up, cut the connection, and whoever's trying to spy around also gets kicked out - hopefully with nothing concrete to show for their efforts. Conflict is a zero-sum game, here, Vlastos - it's almost never worth it. If you picture yourself as a walking god, the other guy's going to do pretty much the same and you'll spend forever trading reality-warping glove slaps while both your bodies deteriorate."

Harry nodded. "It used to be an archive and a shared agora; now everyone's on the same level playing field and everyone's trying to out-fox everyone else. Those who aren't have their hands on deeper, more insidious tricks that gives them an unfair advantage. The only visitor in the Darkhallow I'll ever advise you to run away from without fail is Jonathan Bloody Chambers. The only one I'll ever tell you to crush with zero prejudice is the Augur's son - or what's left of him. Most of us here are too young to know what his background really is, but his grasp on the Black Speech is terrifying, even for us. If you see a doughy, shellfish-white Squid dressed like a James Bond villain, use every ounce of power this place gives you and turn him into a smear on the wall - before he gets into your head."

Taylor eyed a side-street and led the group along into an enfilade of gray, formless placeholder streets and blocks, their stride remaining the same while the scrolling landscape bled past them ever faster. Eventually, it'd be clear he'd led the group far beyond Hope's actual borders. Yet, more blotchy streets and storefronts surrounded them, pedestrians here reduced to vague polygonal suggestions with garbled speech. A dog barked, off in the distance, the pitch and tone of the sounds all but distorted beyond recognition.

"There," said Harry, "we should be deep enough for you to put down some roots, Marius. You don't have to stick to Hope as a template if you don't want to, we'll actually end things by closing off most obvious access points. You need to be as close to out-of-bounds as you can manage, but it's common courtesy to think of some slightly more obvious guest entrances that mostly bypass your maze."

Taylor nodded. "Don't forget to place watchdogs of some kind, or at least obstacles. Reaching you should be a gauntlet for whoever actually wants to hurt you, and a matter of a few verification challenges for everyone else. Puzzles, riddles, constructs of your own self to handle surface-level inquiries that don't actually require interaction or combat - whatever works, really."

Post Reply