Jack-O' - Permutations and Pappardelle

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Description: Shadowing I-No's activities to get a better idea of the shape of her witchy agenda brings Jack-O' Valentine to the doorstep of renowned psychic, Rose. Which she promptly breaks into. And then tries to make dinner for the hostess of. It's pretty much just all downhill from there. But in the midst of shattering wine bottles and exploding couches, Rose and Jack-O' find they may have more than a few things in common.


The house is like any other somewhat moderate if old-styled house in the neighborhood; indeed it is in a tony section if not a rich one. Rose probably bought when it was cheap. She foresaw this. The garage has been converted into a space that can be used for fighting or for training, as well as with a nook for the telling of fortunes... and a spiral stairway up to the front door of where Rose herself resides...

But that's a sucker's game!

There are two options for Ingress, or, in some cases, Pokemon Go.

OPTION ONE: The kitchen window. Easily reached by hopping atop a trash can, this has the downside of being potentially noisier and also requiring you to wiggle over an array of bottles of fine fruit vinegars, wines, and something in between. Doable but difficult, especially in this dark.

OPTION TWO: The bedroom window. Actually open right now to let in the sea breeze. The big problem is Rose herself reclining in a filmy nightgown in her big comfortable four-poster bed, eyes lidded shut, breathing in the sea air and dreaming strange dreams. Also, you'd have to climb up the side of the building. Also, Rose can see the future or something. Also, is it really okay to sneak into a lady's bedroom????

THE GOAL is probably the address book + a certain pair of lipstick-written sunglasses in a drawer... probably... somewhere... the apartment isn't that big, with a generous bedroom, a smaller guest room, a big open living room connecting to the kitchen, and a study full of books on, like, spooky stuff, along with an extensive collection of the paperback novels in which the elves have special kisses.

VERY special kisses.

"Hmmm," muses Jack-O' Valentine in the grim dark cast of an unlit room, voice full of trepidation.

"... But is it really okay to sneak into a lady's bedroom...????"


"HmmmmmMMMmmmmm... I'm not suuuurrrrre..."

Jack-O' Valentine, ace up That Man's sleeve, spanner in the works, and other colorful euphemisms about things upsetting the established order or being overly convenient to the needs of the plot, currently stands just outside everyone's friendly neighborhood Rose's front door, plotting. Mask eyes burn a wicked shade of emerald as the be-haloed woman strokes her chin with one hand. The other is poised to knock, hesitating just at the threshold.

"I feel like going through the front door is the proper way for a lady to behave," frets Jack-O', mask somehow scrunching inward until it becomes a lemon-faced knot of consternation. "Oooohhhh but it's just not EXCITING! Where's the danger?! The adventure?! I need to leave my mark!! I don't think I've ever met her, unless I have and we both don't know it, and -- and and and -- first impressions are important!!"

And so Jack-O' frowns, stamps her foot exactly (/exactly/) once, and turns around. She has been wandering back and forth between the front door of Rose's home and the base of the perimeter surrounding it for at least ten minutes now. One would never even know she was here, of course, so subtle is she.


She's practically a ghost.

Evidence in support of this notion can be found in the fact that she is currently spewing a veritable army of actual, ghostly Gearlings into existence around Rose's home courtesy of various spawning pods set at strategic points of ingress, thusly stacking her deck with heavy-handed metaphor. Said ghosts are currently assembled just outside the entrance to that home, floating warlocks and spectral lancers and surly knights all prepared -- not for battle, but for -stealth-.

They are all silent, silent as the gwave, as Jack-O' approaches. She looks upward, toward the house, the mask seeming to sober with a soft hiss of metaphysical implication as a frown settles over its glowing green slit.

"... I suppose stealth is probably paramount for a situation like this, though, as much as I might like to put my best foot forward. She'll understand in time. She /is/ psychic, after all. So..." Shimmering green eyeholes look. From the kitchen window. To the bedroom. Kitchen. Bedroom. Kitchen. Bedroom.

"... a two-pronged assault, maybe?" she muses. "But it seems very improper for a lady to invade a private room without invitation, but then..." Jack-O' thinks of I-No. She is probably picturing her doing or saying something crass. We of the narration will give you a moment to properly envision the possibilities.

"... maybe that's just how things are done nowadays. Even so..."

The sound of soft, emphatic 'poik!!'ings draws Jack-O's attention to her right. She blinks at the tiny, angry knight Gearling that stands beside her. Despite only coming up to her shin, its gesturing is impassioned. Larger than life. Overly dramatic.

The sequence of wild flailing movements all end with the Gearling gesturing pointedly at its crotch. Jack-O' taps her cheek.

"Well, that's a fair point."


Anyway so that's why there's a bunch of Gearlings ransacking Rose's bedroom now.

The first thing she may well wake up to is the sight of one of them, rifling through her bedstand, throwing everything inside pretty much everywhere, possibly on Rose, to boot.

But, you know, stealthily.

The face it gives when spotted is best summarized as such:



Jack-O', meanwhile, has found herself on a fantastical journey of great importance, which is to say,


being endlessly distracted until she has forgotten why she was here to begin with. But, you know.


Currently, Jack-O' can be found half-shoved into the refridgerator, her lips worrying around a mouthful of Venchi nougatine as she peruses Rose's wares. Occasionally, she tosses something out -- and a Gearling intercepts before poik poik poiking its way over to the kitchen area, where even more Gearlings reside, turning on burners on the stove and mixing ingredients in bowls. Are they -- cooking??

This raises so many questions. What are they cooking? Why? How are they preparing ingredients with no opposable thumbs? Who is the head chef? Where did that one get that adorably oversized chef's hat?

Jack-O' herself looks good as she pulls out of the fridge and starts thumbing her way through a particularly sordid tale of Elves and the places they yearn to kiss, as one doubtlessly ought to when they're wearing the finest bathrobe that hastily rummaging through Rose's wares can buy. She looks sparkly clean. Radiant, even. Even her halo looks a little brighter. Her skin, a little flushed. A hand comes up to her mouth in shock as she reads her steamy tale amidst her gaggle of Gearling goons. She smells pretty nice, too.

"... gasp! Der romantische!!"

Did she -- did she take a shower in Rose's home??

The world may never know.

COMBATSYS: Rose has started a fight here.

[\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  <
Rose             0/-------/-------|

COMBATSYS: B&E Gearlings has joined the fight here on the left meter side.

[\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////////////////////////]
B&E Gearlings    0/-------/-------|-------\-------\0             Rose

COMBATSYS: Jack-O' has joined the fight here on the left meter side.

[\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////////////////////////]
B&E Gearlings    0/-------/-------|-------\-------\0             Rose
[\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  <
Jack-O'          0/-------/-======|

A warm voice, like slightly crumpled silk in the Tuscan sun, speaks into Jack-O's ear.

"Do you like that one? Ah - that smell... I see you've used the bath milk. It's really something, isn't it? It helps to keep your skin looking radiantly youthful, but it does cost a pretty penny or two," Rose says (translated from the Italian, which Jack-O may or may not comprehend). "Doesn't it? But I see you've decided - you're worth it -"

Rose seems to sort of refract into place. She is not exactly a queen of illusion but to veil one's passage for the ten yards it takes you to get into the kitchenette is not exactly a feat of profound sorcery. And she'd taken the time to bring Jack-O a present.

The wine bottle swings downwards for the top of Jack-O's head--

COMBATSYS: Jack-O' fails to interrupt Random Weapon from Rose with Random Strike.

[\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////////////////////////]
B&E Gearlings    0/-------/-------|=------\-------\0             Rose
[     \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  <
Jack-O'          0/-------/---====|


"Every day this week I get this! For weeks, months, nothing and now you all come in here! You saw the sign on the door but any fool would know that you couldn't come into my house like this when I'm asleep! This is something that comes from getting raised in the woods!

"And what is with your gall to go in and use my finest things?! I didn't even leave that in the shower for you to make the mistake! You had to go into a closet with a closed door to get it out and even so, the elusive fragrance of luxury proves the root of your crimes!

"And what in the name of Christ and all the saints are these little things?! (I suppose they're cute...)"

"Mm. I do. It does make me wonder about courtship nowadays, though. Are elves truly real? And do they really kiss there--?"

A few things happen in short succession, all predicated on one momentous event:

"Still. Worth is something of a relativistic measure for mOH NO ASSAULT!"


The tragic sacrifice of a bottle of wine.

(Jack-O', it should be noted, did in fact seem to comprehend; that she was also responding in Catalan instead of Italian is really neither here nor there.)


(She just gets confused sometimes.)

Wine goes spilling with a shatter of glass as Rose warmly welcomes her new house guest with violence and aplomb. Jack-O' takes it about as well as one might expect: she spins, brandishing what looks like -- is that a slab of manchego? -- only to be squarely beaned across the noggin with a despairing cry of,


before summarily toppling head over ass across the ground, wine decorating the flooring beneath her in nice splatter arrays as she goes, each fresh tumble bringing with it a new, squealing response to Rose's tirade:

'You saw the sign on the door but any fool would know that you couldn't come into my house like this when I'm asleep!'



'And what is with your gall to go in and use my finest things?!'



'And what in the name of Christ and all the saints are these little things?!'


And thus is how Jack-O' ends up, on all fours in her very best downward dog as a surge of green clasping along one ankle summoning forth the cast iron ball and chain that is Dopoulos, the familiar's face scrunched up in a very 'WANNA FIGHT?!' kind of look that absolutely does not reflect its mistress' words.

"wooogh... that's some strong wine...!" Shaking her head, Jack-O' looks up; mask gone, those cherry pink eyes look oddly sugary sweet in one moment... before in the next, that all washes away into something calmer. More gentled. Her smile, apologetic.

"I'm sorry," she murmurs, sincerely. "But I got a little curious, and needed to acclimate to the surroundings. It's no excuse, but I was actually hoping we might sit down and enjoy some food and wine--" a second passes by; Jack-O' licks the corner of her lip, "--some food and talk a while. I'm making some rabbit--"

Whereupon one of those aforementioned cute Gearlings suddenly springs up behind Rose, tossing a long, wide length of noodle about her neck to clench it at her throat like the world's most adorably ineffective garrote.


A second passes by, as the Gearling attempts to strangle Rose with pasta. Jack-O's face scrunches up.

"Oops um um ummmmm mulligan~??"

COMBATSYS: B&E Gearlings successfully hits Rose with Quick Strike.
- Power hit! -

[\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////////////////////   ]
B&E Gearlings    0/-------/-------|==-----\-------\0             Rose
[     \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  <
Jack-O'          0/-------/---====|

Elves absolutely kiss there. Every elf has done that. Loads of times. With most of their friends. Sometimes with their enemies.

Yes: Even Sylvanas.

The presence of Catalan makes Rose's brow furrow, but she keeps speaking, a little more slowly. "It is not - if you have such discerning taste, you should know better than to intrude." She folds her arms, holding onto the broken neck of the bottle on the sound theory that she might, at any moment, need to shank a Shadaloo assault team.

"If you are after luxury, go up the street! Interrupt Dona at her adulteries, she would probably enjoy having an audience," Rose continues on: "God alone knows how loud she is about it, and every other night, too! She's in Ibiza or else I could not have had the window open in my room!"

EXTERNAL VIEW: Dona's house is technically almost a kilometer away from Rose by street maps, but in fact Rose can almost see into this other woman's bedroom from her own, and when the windows are open it would have been possible to chat. Indeed, former inhabitants of these classic houses probably did.

Jack-O's suffering plays out before her. There is the tiniest 'hmf' from her lips and in her soul, but it seems her inclinations towards sadism are abundantly and easily requited. "It doesn't even fit you," Rose says, waving the glass bottle - "Backyard?"

Then she looks at Dopoulos.

She points the glass shiv at the familiar as if to say: bring it, fatty.

And then Jack-O does the unthinkable. The ultimate. The act that Rose must always acknowledge. Those words that Rose has heard out of the mouth of someone over the age of fourteen - who meant it - exactly six times in a life that is - hm - well, it's been eventful, full of events, we'll rate it that way. Jack-O APOLOGIZES.

Rose tosses the broken glass into the sink. Her free hand goes to her hip. She lets out a huge huff of breath. "Well!" she says. "I do enjoy meeting people, but this is really quite a late time of night for that, don't you think? But you're here, so you might as wwrrrgghkkkhhh--"

And that is because Rose is now being choked at.

Unfortunately for Rose she did not use cheap store bought pasta which would have probably shattered into glass when it touched a body as immaculate and perfect as hers. No, it was the good stuff- a long trailing singular noodle made in a bronze pasta press from fresh durum wheat, blended in with a goose egg for a variation in flavor (one goose egg for every two chicken eggs, you know), no doubt breathed upon by vestal virgins before arriving in her nearby store where she could buy it.

It's nigh invulnerable when it's basting. And now it's around Rose's neck, and perhaps empowered by the Gearling's horridly adorable touch!

Rose staggers back and around, clutching at her neck as she blanches first. Then she begins to redden as she wheels around, knocking most of those glass bottles over, sending them falling to the ground and rolling. One slides under her foot and she pitches forwards before a sparkling burst of Soul Power sends a jeweled pastel light into one of the bottles - which rights itself, improbably propelling Rose over Jack-O, towards the couch!

Where she lands, still being strangled. She is turning purplish by the time she gets back up and is starting to get one of those weird, I'm dying sorts of looks on her face when she finally wedges a finger in the strand of the pasta - moves it enough for her to choke out a gasp, suck in a breath -

And throw herself backwards in a reverse suplex, aiming to put the Gearling through her chic glass coffee table.

COMBATSYS: B&E Gearlings endures Rose's Soul Fall.

[       \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////////////////////   ]
B&E Gearlings    0/-------/--=====|=====--\-------\0             Rose
[     \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  <
Jack-O'          0/-------/---====|

From her position on the ground, moments before the erotic (?) pastasphyxiation (??) -- Jack-O' Valentine tilts her strawberry pink stare upward, brows rising a quarter of an inch.

"Dona-?" She considers available evidence helpfully presented by Rose. Adulterous. Loud. Exhibitionist. Defiles the sanctity of windows and open air.

"That does -sound- like someone she would know. Hm. Might be worth the data, at least..."

Now look what you've done, Rose. Now look. What you've done.

Wine drips in sticky droplets from the sodden tips of Jack-O''s bangs as she stands, with a confident wobble, back on her bare feet. Soaked though it is, that strangely-colored mane of white-red still seems to dance along some unseen breeze like every strand had a mind of its own, creating a strange harmony of floating hair. The light of her halo provides a sole source of illumination as her nose wrinkles and her gaze casts downward, inspecting herself.

"Really??" she all but pouts, mood turning towards the cartoonishly dire as she lifts a hand towards her lips. "Oh no. Oh no!! What do I do?! This is my favorite robe!" An oversized sleeve slumps slothily down her arm as if to just underscore Rose's point, and also, the more subtle point that these are not her clothes.

"Maybe I should get it taken in at the waist--??"

All this, of course, leading to a slow, dawning blink of realization. Backyard? says Rose. "Backyard?" echoes Jack-O', head tilting s l o w l y towards her left. "Back... yard? Backyard. Ah! Yes. We -were- discussing the Backyard, weren't we? For a moment I thought that was something we talked about tomorrow. It's the static." Her expression turns towards the apologetic. "Sometimes it's just a matter of trying to readjust the figuratives for the literals. Now, you wanted--"

And so, Jack-O' Valentine, Candy Stalker, watches with a pleasantly perplexed expression as Rose staggers in her direction, being throttled purple-faced by the world's most godly of noodles, the high-quality pappardelle. Her lips purse together in concern as Rose soars above her and crashlands.

"Oh. Oh! OH! OH NO~!"

And, with a quick spit of jade magic, Dopoulos LAUNCHES into the air, sending Jack-O' vaulting over--


--straight for Rose just as the classy lass with the Italian sass shatters her way through the cute and stylish glass of her coffee table.


And so it is: Rose, colliding with the ground. The Gearling, exploding in a cutesy ~* <3 POP! <3 *~ that somehow, yes, radiates green hearts. The other Gearlings all pouncing upon Rose in tandem, trying to hold her down. And Jack-O' --

-- Jack-O', spiraling through the air to land on Rose, straddle grimly, and--

"Oh please oh please oh pleeee~eeease don't die, I-Noes would be all sorts of mad! I'm so so so sorry, they still think you're a threat, and sometimes there's a delay between order processing because my connection to the Backyard is a little wibbly wobbly and and and oh I hope there's enough oxygen going to your brain to understand this!"

-- just starts up with the aggressive chest compressions, as if not yet realizing Rose is breathing handily all on her own. Honestly, it might be more than a little uncomfortable.


Remembering things: it's tricky.

COMBATSYS: Rose blocks B&E Gearlings' Partisan Rush.

[        \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  /////////////////////////     ]
B&E Gearlings    0/-------/--=====|======-\-------\0             Rose
[     \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  <
Jack-O'          0/-------/---====|

COMBATSYS: Rose dodges Jack-O''s Armed Combo.

[        \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  /////////////////////////     ]
B&E Gearlings    0/-------/--=====|======-\-------\0             Rose
[     \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  <
Jack-O'          0/-------/---====|

Rose did not seem to be finding it erotic... at leat, not unambiguously so, although evidence could be disputed.

Dona remains resolutely not in Genoa, and thus not avaiable for Jack-O's examination. She will probably not be pleased at this turn of events, but Rose has a magical power when she is not being choked out by a Gearling: that power is not caring. She is a good person by many lights, but nobody likes the rude neighbor.

Rose's eyes turn towards Jack-O as she explains the nature of the Backyard. This is happening while she is in about stage four of being strangled, but somehow there is the sence that she is listening. She has questions, of course. Many of them. But then she is committed and she is falling backwards. Dopoulos launches Jack-O and she hits the ground just as the Gearling is c r u s h e d beneath her with a glittering sparkle. They come for her! Pinned down, Rose struggles amidst the coffee table's remains (fortunately it seems to have broken into three big slabs, none of them particularly jagged - the Gearling's last gift? Soul Power? Both??) before Jack-O descends upon her.

With a majestic ker-STRAD, Rose is pinned down. She struggles, of course. She struggles while being restrained by animate globs of high-gluten flour (this is her best estimate on what the fudge a Gearling is). She struggles while Jacko speaks to her eloquently. She struggles because maybe one of her lungs collapsed a little.

Her chest gets compressed violently. "*wheeze*" Rose exhales.

Did -He- ever feel this old? Rose wonders. Is this what -He- was trying to avoid? This kind of thing, if not literally and actually this thing?

"That - is not - hah - how you do a ch - chest comp - hooh! Stop," she groans. "Those aren't the lungs, you know!!"

Her robe rustles and falls open, proving that, indeed, they are not lungs.

This is also because her robe - wait, it was a night gown. Well, that's the interesting thing. The night gown is lessened in some way because Rose's scarf, woven of yellow and immaculately soft fabric, *came out of nowhere*. Perhaps it had to cannibalize Rose's outfit? A mystery indeed. But not every mystery is disgustingly adorable.

The scarf twines around Rose's arm as she tries to wiggle out from underneath Jack-O, a project that fails entirely because her focus is elsewhere. The scarf twines around her and this time for once it moves in a manner almost exactly like a snake, and by almost exactly like a snake we mean to say that it seems to form a curling tube, crackling with that pastel polychromatism, that snaps at

One gearling
two gearling
Three gearling

Five Gearling
Six Gearling
Rabbit papparedelle or

As this horrid Gearlashing occurs, Rose coughs.

"I have," Rose says, "NO idea what half of what you are saying, but you're talking about the lewd woman with the guitar, yes? Red vinyl underpants? Aura of steaming, throbbing decadence? You know her?"

("Please get off of me.")

COMBATSYS: B&E Gearlings blocks Rose's Aura Scarf.

[           \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  /////////////////////////     ]
B&E Gearlings    1/-------/=======|=======\-------\0             Rose
[     \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  <
Jack-O'          0/-------/---====|

"Don't worry!!" Kompress~! "I or someone like me had training in this once, at least most of the times that I've recalled it!" Kompress~! "But um it was kinda like seeing your reflection performing a thing you know" Kompress~! "where it's you but flipped so it can never actually /be/ you and then sometimes you wonder if you're compressing lungs or--"

Fabric brushes along her wrist, jostled free. What was once a night gown parts open. What was once and will be again a Jack-O' looks down.

"-- ~*those*~?!"

A second passes in still silence.

"Gasp! Grande!"

And thus, this shocked observation delivered, Jack-O' Valentine quite demurely covers her face with her hands. Somehow, her blush overlays across her gloves in exaggerated diagonals of pulsing pink. /Magic./

It takes the scantest handful of embarrassed (??) moments before gloved fingers part open in slivers to give way to the peak of much more curious red eyes. Lips press together in a duckfaced purse.

"Hum," exhales the Valentine. Those hands part ways with her face. The left reaches out. Pokes.

"Not that it all isn't very impressive," poik poik,
"but should it be moving like /that/--?"

Whereupon, of course, that scarf bursts out from under her poking finger.

You perverts.


For a moment, Jack-O' looks on in wide-eyed wonder as the scarf zig-zags its way through the night air; the excitement that dances in her gaze, however, is tempered, subdued. Venturing, almost, as if on the cusp of something like recognition as she bears witness to the prideful painbow that accelerates Rose's fabric through Gearling after Gearling.

"... Ah. I think I see."





And this is the adorable sound those phantasmal servants make as they all twist in adorable agony and explode into emerald arrays of magical light. It makes for a beautiful spectacle of fireworks as the Valentine casts a pensive gaze down toward Rose. It is a look somehow sad in some haunting way hard to quantify as she reaches out, resting a palm gingerly over Rose's heart. As if she could feel something deeper even than that by just the contact of glove on flesh.

"You're like me, aren't you...?"

As Gearlings are whipped into oblivion, the questions come. And the answers, as they do, are delivered rapid-fire and in varying states of calm versus mania:

'I have NO idea what half of what you are saying,' "I hear that often. Consider it an unfortunate side effect of my nature. I'm often barely even an idea, myself."

'but you're talking about the lewd woman with the guitar, yes?' "AND the hat~! Though I'm rather uncertain how lewd the hat itself is."

'Red vinyl underpants?' "W-we're not at that stage in our relationship yet!"

'Aura of steaming, throbbing decadence?' "It's all bit egregiously phallic, isn't it? But I suppose that's always in vogue no matter what the era."

'You know her?'

And with this one, Jack-O' leans back a bit. Her smile is a coy one, dancing at her lips like someone protecting a precious secret seconds from bubbling past the tip of their tongue. "Mm-hm!" she declares, blithely.

And up comes her hands.

"We're ~*gal pals*~!"

And presses them together into a heart shape.

As green hearts bubble all around her.

Before winking.

Which also sparks a heart.

All while looking either completely oblivious to the implications or completely uncaring. It's truly hard to say.

('Please get off me.')

Jack-O' looks down at her position. Blinks, as if she's just now remembering it. "Oh." Her eyes widen. "Oh! I'm so sorry I didn't mean to sekuhara you!"

And with this, Jack-O' makes a spritely spring backward, relieving Rose of her bubbly weight as she lands, effortlessly, in a hand-stand, Dopoulos dangling from her ankle. Gearlings begin to surround them anew as Jack-O' watches with wide, wondering eyes -- eyes that seem to be assessing with a keen edge that defies the Valentine's typical, well, everything.

"I think the Gearlings are synched back up to my master soul again. Unfortunately, though, I've been informed that it's going to be a bit longer until the sauce is ready, and I am a bit curious about you, I'll admit..." From her flexible position, Jack-O' smiles an inviting smile.

"Would you mind going a few rounds more while we wait?"

COMBATSYS: B&E Gearlings focuses on its next action.

[           \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  /////////////////////////     ]
B&E Gearlings    1/-------/=======|=======\-------\0             Rose
[     \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  <
Jack-O'          0/-------/---====|

COMBATSYS: Jack-O' focuses on her next action.

[           \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  /////////////////////////     ]
B&E Gearlings    1/-------/=======|=======\-------\0             Rose
[     \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  <
Jack-O'          0/-------/---====|

"Thank you for noticing," Rose says, still oppressed.

As the Gearlings are vaporized, sent back in green light to -- wherever; Rose feels a moment of guilt, even as she rises upwards just a little bit. Then Jack-O puts a hand over her heart and Rose flops backwards as if she had gotten her cue too early. Her pulse is strong, a little slow - heavy cardio? just good luck? - and then Jack-O... speaks.

Rose's eyes half lid. "That depends," Rose murmurs, "on exactly how you mean that statement."

And then Jack-O blushes, elaborates, and explains about gals being pals - and Rose raises her non-scarf-wielding hand to say, "I understand completely."

Sparkle sparkle sparkle sparkle sparkle pap~~~!! <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3

Rose exhales.

Jack-O removes herself and Rose is finally able to sit up. She reaches behind herself to check for punctured kidneys and finds nothing other than a tiny little trivial scrape, perhaps 0.2% of a health bar. Examining the pieces of the glass table, she turns round to start drawing them up and putting themm on the smaller couch, which will hopefully not get jumped on by Gearlings who will reduce these three or four pieces of large lead-crystal glass (repairable, perhaps even improvable, with that japanese gold repair technique) into dozens of vicious shards suitable for putting in children's food.

'I think the Gearlings are synched up to my master soul again.'

Rose looks over her shoulder. "The master soul," Rose asks, slowly. She turns then, putting her scarf-sheathed arm down along her hip line and saying, "What an interesting turn of phrase... but let's talk about this sort of thing after we eat, if it's all the same to you. You're getting me invested, now."

And then comes a proposal.

Rose lets her eyes run down along Jack-O, from her upraised feet down to her shocking leggings and past her lingering ball-and-chain and towards her hands, so cleverly being used. "You should be careful," Rose says, quietly. "Some pieces may have gotten lost. I would hate for you to cut your hand."

Then she extends one hand, snaps her fingers, and extends as if reaching.

INSERT MUSIC: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HcZ9kQ1h-ZY

On the countertop, where it has blessedly been unoffended by mayhem, a bottle of white wine begins to sparkle within, effervescing lightly. It also begins to slide across the polished marble as Rose focuses her eyes on Jack, not wanting, perhaps, to jinx what she's doing.

"I've been attracting a lot of attention lately... Frankly, I like it a little, but I suppose it can't augur anything good. But maybe I'm just being a gloomy Gerta, influenced by the dark shadow of a chin the size of a planet."

The wine bottle stops dragging across the marble countertop to gently fly towards Rose, landing in her hand with a pap. A moment later the cork disgorges with a sparkle-FWOP! and bounces in the air. Rose catches it.

"While I'm refreshing myself," Rose says, "Tell me more about your 'Gearlings.'" She wonders momentarily about the hat, but takes a belt of wine, straight from the bottle, rather than let herself gabble on like a rival schoolgirl or something similar.

COMBATSYS: Rose gathers her will.

[           \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////////////////////    ]
B&E Gearlings    1/-------/=======|=======\===----\1             Rose
[     \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  <
Jack-O'          0/-------/---====|

Somewhere beyond them, in the quaint kitchenette of Rose's home, Gearlings not dedicated to violence enjoy a potentially violent debate about exactly how long to let the sauce simmer. Or, one assumes. It's hard to say, what with Gearling dialect being a confusing flurry of squeaks and squawks.

Meanwhile, in locales more violent in more straightforward ways, Jack-O' and her more aggressively adorable minions seem to have settled into a comfortable sort of holding pattern. As Rose looks down, so too does the Valentine's run up, taking her host in with an insatiably curious, assessing stare, her expressive eyes widening by a simple sliver. Their eyes meet halfway. Jack-O''s smile is dazzling in that innocent way that only the guilty can manage. Robe draped awkwardly and potentially scandalously around her thanks to the malicious trickery of gravity, she considers a moment.

"After," she agrees, warmly. "I'll be happy to satisfy anything that might need satisfying, then. Maybe you can return the favor? Your existence feels very anomalous." Her eyes squeeze shut, her smile becoming an enthusiastic grin.

<3 "But in a good way~!" <3

Reference to her hands, however, jars Jack-O' out of her jubilant reassurance. Pink-red eyes flutter in a blink, hair blooming in a wide drape around her in defiance of that aforementioned tricky gravity as she shifts herself into a one-handed handstand to inspect one of those gloved palms curiously.

"Cut free~! Except -- wah, oh no, is that a cut--!? Oh no, my life is ruined, I'm dying, save meeeeohhh no, no, wait it's sauce! Phew!" Punctuated with a V-sign (for victory) flashed in Rose's direction, the anomalous Valentine's expression softens just a touch, sobering mildly when she speaks again. "That was very nice of you, though, to show that kind of concern for something like me. You truly are a compassionate soul, aren't you?"

And, through the power of the (Soul) Force, wine blesses Rose's grip (commented by Jack via the paired statements of, "my, that's a promising vintage!" and "OH NO PLEASE DON'T BASH ME AGAIN"); Jack's hands tense on the ground before she -springs- forward back onto her feet, robe falling back into place all around her with a rustle of expensive (she assumes, they /feel/ very nice) fabrics around her long legs. Tell me about your Gearlings, requests Rose.

"I'll help you clean up after," Jack-O' promises first, and most importantly.

"The Gearlings, though... mm. They're a rather simple concept for me, but I understand what's simple for me is not simple for everyone, and sometimes my own perception of what they are and aren't might change." Arms folding under her chest, she rests the weight of her right elbow on her left palm as she lifts that hand, stroking musingly at her chin. "... I suppose the easiest way to put it is that they're like extra limbs for me. Calling them in any way 'Gears' is a bit of a misnomer, though; they're more like condensed packets of raw, blank data drawn from the Backyard and tempered into usable extensions of myself. Think of them like stem cells. They can be anything; it's only by introduction and exposure to data from the outside world that they begin to specialize. But..."

Rose drinks. And Jack-O' leans her weight on her left leg, body tensing subtly.

"... maybe showing you might be better~? Go, <3 my minions <3! Your mistress demands blood!!"

And off fly two Gearlings, lancers both, each igniting in contrails of double-helixing green magics as they aim to collide with Rose.


And then they owl it down like two notches or so. Still. Dangerous!!

Especially as Jack-O' rounds out the offensive not seconds later by -lunging- into the air, grabbing hold of Dopoulos, and then turning the pumpkin-faced-familiar upon Rose --

-- providing covering fire in the form of a relentless series of literal spitfire as Dopoulos fies orb after magical orb from its lips in a rapidfire series of 'PTEW~!'s.


COMBATSYS: Rose blocks B&E Gearlings' Ranseurs Ruin.

[            \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ////////////////////////      ]
B&E Gearlings    0/-------/------=|=======\======-\1             Rose
[      \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  <
Jack-O'          0/-------/---====|

COMBATSYS: Rose reflects Remove the Chain of Chiron from Jack-O' with Soul Reflect.
- Power hit! -
~~ Alluring Hit! ~~

[            \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////////////////       ]
B&E Gearlings    0/-------/------=|=======\====---\1             Rose
[     \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  <
Jack-O'          0/-------/=======|

If she is guilty, and she calls the Gearlings, would that make them...

Rose pauses in her swilling white wine directly from the bottle. She raises her eyebrows. Her eyes turn down. Her shoulders rise slightly in her faintly reduced robe's embrace. She seems to be shrugging. Perhaps she had little outrage to spend already... or perhaps she simply thinks Jack-O is entirely right.

She really can't deny it, especially when she finishes things out. Speaking of finishing, Rose is finishing off this bottle, which she had already hit before - perhaps why she was able to affect it with the Soul Power - either way, it means she is not putting herself three sails to the wind in the face of Jack-O's aggressions.

One sail maybe. Perhaps two.

"You're very kind," Rose says. "I hope you mean it..."

She has the air of someone who's heard THAT one before. In the immortal words of Ronald Reagan, 'Trust in Allah, but tether your goats. Islam is the light.'

But then, wonder of wonder, Jack-O actually explains things. The conceptual structure is created in Rose's mind but it is a problematic map of concepts even as the presumably-older woman touches her chin with a fingertip in thought. "I have several questions... in particular I have never heard the term 'the backyard' used for... for what is it, exactly? The world-soul? A connection to something greater? And the way that you say data -"

Oh, right. They're fighting. The lancers fly towards her and Rose tenses up to leap over them and you can spot the exact moment when she thinks: Oh no, I can't jump that high. My house here is for normal people and mid-tier sex moves! I'd bust through the ceiling and that ceiling is expensive!

She has to do something, though, or she's going to get spit-roasted again. Twisting the scarf around, it forms a rising figure-eight that aims to loop around both of the lancers and, in a sense, works, because the lancers do not proceed to skewer her, but which does something else: their impetus for motion carries the scarf PAST Rose, with a crackling spark discharge of Soul Power that looks creepily purple and red lightning like.

From the look on Rose's face, where the poise of mysterious reserve is running MIGHTY THIN, she didn't expect that. Then she looks back towards Jack-O as Dopoulous begins to spit forth a horrid barrage of pew-pews, Jack-O herself having the great fortune to leap upwards in the part of the apartment with higher ceilings, which, Rose thinks, shows that she really did goof it up when she remodelled this interior.

But she never expected to SPAR in here.

The spheres redouble. Rose sees them in that shining time that comes when she knows she is about to die and/or get her butt kicked up around her shell-like, extremely attractive ears. She has no choice here, and to her great dismay this awareness has never come with greatly accelerated motion. Her scarf is too far away now.

But, Rose resolves, she does have another form of fabric on her. Leaning backwards slightly, she shrugs the night dress off of one shoulder as the other comes round with the mostly-empty wine bottle. The night dress slides down her shoulder; the seams explode outwards with silent polychromatic light, filling her hand with a long piece of partially disassembled Egyptian cotton...

Rose sweeps the fabric upwards. It billows out in a mathematical funnel, shining with flowing radiance and filling the still ill-lit apartment with a shining light. The glasses in the cabinet, the Tibetan singing bowl Rose has contrived to use as a doorbell, everything cuplike in the apartment sings in a crystalline crescendo as Rose sweeps the fabric around, letting go of it to allow the evolution of the shape to conclude...

And it sweeps in front of her. When it fades away, the magical orbs are all gone.

No, they're not all gone.

The bottle in Rose's hand shines with refined light. The orbs bounce fatly around within the glass. The label peels off from the heat even as Rose raises it upwards, saying with a languid smile, "I think I will, Jack. But I wonder what the rabbit thinks."

A moment later, the naked woman shoots the wine bottle full of horrible magic bzouts right back square at the pumpkin like weight. The remaining aerosolized wine, activated by Soul Power and superheated by ... whatever that is, erupts into a rocketing flame! Can Dopoulous manage that?

Rose tosses the disassembled night gown over her shoulder and strikes a perhaps-slightly-familiar pose.

COMBATSYS: Rose successfully hits Jack-O' with Reflected Remove the Chain of Chiron.
~~ Alluring Hit! ~~

[            \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////////////////       ]
B&E Gearlings    0/-------/------=|>>>>>>>\>>>>>>>\2             Rose
[             \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  <
Jack-O'          0/-------/=======|

Guilty Gearlings Xrd -Candygeddon-. Coming soon to a nowhere near you.

I hope you mean it, says Rose. And for a moment, before the madness commences anew, Jack-O' Valentine's gaze turns askance, sobriety making a fleeting home on her features.

"I do, too."

Rose still has questions, of course, which is entirely understandable if the sympathy evinced in the freak Valentine's expression is any indication. But there's very little time for a mouthed promise of 'after' afforded to the violet-haired psychic before the Gearlings well and truly launch off into adventure, and/or mayhem. In those moments before Jack-O' springs into action, the Valentine spends her time observing; watching. Watching the way Rose's scarf flies. Watching as it spews Soul Power of a distinctly unsettling shade. Watching the expression on Rose's face in the aftermath. Her brows knot.

And she leaps.

It's to her great luck (or Rose's (probably mostly Rose's)) that she doesn't crash through the ceiling in the doing. And her reward for her efforts is to watch Rose literally remold and repurpose the remains of her outfit, such as it was, into an impromptu mathematic miracle. Shimmery pink eyes widen against the blinding radiance. The harmonic chime of crystal sings a ringing song that tickles the tiny hairs in her ears. She sees something -- sees the fundamental way that cloth is disassembled and funneled outward. And her expression sings a song of sublime surprise just as clearly as the crystal.


The same.

The light fades. The magic is gone.

But the magic's never really gone, is it?

In a figurative sense, surely. In a literal sense, too, as Jack-O' still /feels/ its presence, even as she begins her descent groundwards.

"-- oh no, my balls!"

She's serious. She is taking this very seriously. It's just, sometimes, her serious is silly.

It's complicated.

There's little time for her to mount a proper reaction, though; overcommitted as she is in her landing, all she can do is whip her head upward, halo spinning about with the gesture. "Gasp! You knew my name well enough to give me a nickname! You ARE a psychic!" Her gaze brightens, considerably, even as she feels the threatening heat of her own Soul-infused magics turning on her.

"I've often wondered that myself, though. Believe it or not, it's a question that troubles me often and oh my gosh your clothes! Is this -- is this becoming *that* kind of fight??" Her hands come up to her face once more. She starts to wiggle. /Wiggle/. In distress. One assumes. "But we're not there in our courtship yeWAH ALLURING HIT!"

And it's just as she's started to crack open her fingers to peek once more that she is blasted away by rocketing flame and magic and Soul Power and ignited wine (oh no, the wine!); or rather, Dopoulos is, which ultimately turns out to be much the same thing. Jack-O''s right hand snaps outward; magical formulae spring forth. But it's not nearly close enough to in time. The assault hammers Dopoulos, which goes flying with an airhorn-like wail. The chain winds back and back and back and then it goes -taut- --

-- and YANKS Jack-O' along for the ride.


laments Jack-O'.

Still peeking as she soars.

Perhaps out of sheer helpfulness, Gearlings crack open a window. Moments later, Jack-O' flies through it, her robe blasted open as she goes toppling into the open night. In mid-air, she twists --

--and then dives straight into Dopoulos' gaping, open maw.


Like an ouroboros, the Valentine's familiar consumes her, and then itself, both disappearing in a -=pop!=-. Seconds later, a shimmering green tunnel opens up in the air above Rose, and in defiance of all physical laws and logic, Dopoulos then proceeds to spit itself out of itself, and then Jack-O', depositing them -both- back in the apartment -- Dopoulos scorched and unhappy, and Jack-O', her robe in tatters and burning here and there, largely just kind of sloughing off her as she descends through the open air towards Rose, wide-eyed and smiling and fingers wiggling ~dangerously~ as a gaggle of Gearlings spring upon the psychic to drive the butts of their spears into the back of her head and disorient her for just long enough.


Whereupon she just tries to shove Dopoulos, currently transforming into a massive iron maiden, over Rose, to drive them both into the ground.

Delicately. So as not to disturb the floors.

COMBATSYS: Rose dodges B&E Gearlings' Medium Strike.

[           \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////////////////       ]
B&E Gearlings    0/-------/------=|>>>>>>>\>>>>>>>\2             Rose
[              \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  <
Jack-O'          0/-------/=======|

COMBATSYS: Rose endures Jack-O''s Elysion Driver.

[           \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ////////////////////          ]
B&E Gearlings    0/-------/------=|>>>>>>>\>>>>>>>\2             Rose
[              \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  <
Jack-O'          1/-------/=======|

It's true, Jack-O; it's all true. Rose has used her Soul Power to subvert the[Balls] and to send them [flying]. Fortunately her [Chin] is protected by the heavy pumpkinball - even as the bottle flies towards her, Rose takes a small if in some ways imperious bow. "I try my best," she says. "Really, it just came to me."

She blinks once, but before she can answer Jack-O directly, the Alluring Hit happens. She half-turns her head and has to strive not to laugh aloud. Partially of course because it is disrespectful, but also that all of this could be a sham, a ruse, a scheme to get her off her guard and deliver some kind of brutal battle.

Despite now being in literally no clothing, though, Rose feels pretty good about herself. She stands on the balls of her feet out of pure reflex, used to that posture from a career of wearing heels, as Jack-O laments her loss of her purity.

"Well," Rose says, shaking her head as a window is opened and Jack-O escapes, "You'll always have the box that it came -"

Rose pauses.

Awareness illuminates her. The Gearlings are coming behind her and Rose throws herself forwards, landing momentarily in a leg-stretched half-Downward Dog position as they go sailing past her. "Heh," she says, before her awareness skips a beat, the shining near-term presience revealing to her that

Oh no

"Aaahhnh~~!" Rose cries out as she is gathered up in Dopoulos's cold embrace and slammed into the ground hard enough to rattle the floorboards, make the couch jump, and cause a chain reaction complicated collapse in her reading room and study which is going to continue occuring throughout the remainder of the fight.


Wait... is that how it usually goes?

Just what did Dopoulos bite down onto?

Where is Rose?

A shining figure, shimmering, splendid, and exactly as naked as the regular Rose rolls out from beneath the couch and rises up to do a somersault over Jack-O and land behind-o her-o. This figure of luminous angelic power - possibly Rose's soul, now that she has been murdered, wraps her arms around Jack in a soft embrace.

"You know," Rose says, "I'm enjoying myself. It's the wine, I'm sure, but I've felt a lot perkier ever since I had that turn in the isolation tank on that anesthetic drip. Do you think that's unlocked new doors within me? Do you think that drugs ARE the answer?"

Rose tightens her grip. This is Jack-o's LAST CHANCE FOR ESCAPE. MASH HARD.


The touch of Soul Power has a synaesthetic tingle to it, not entirely unpleasant in a vacuum but definitely as stunning and disorganizing as being hit with Rose's actual fist, foot, elbow, etc. This is ALL Soul Power - and it probably feels surprisingly good... Except that this manifestation of Rose's spirit seems to be feeling its oats and its wine, for despite being a momentary form of pure energy -

It grips... holds... tilts backwards...

And is aiming a shocking spinning suplex RIGHT at that nice black leather couch that Force Ghost Rose seemed to have been hiding under!

Inside of the iron maiden, Rose thinks: it was always a tacky couch, and that stain wasn't coming out for love or money. Let's just start from scratch. What was my insurance policy number...?


COMBATSYS: Jack-O' blocks Rose's Aura Soul Throw ES.

[           \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////////////           ]
B&E Gearlings    0/-------/------=|>>>>>>>\-------\1             Rose
[                  \\\\\\\\\\\\  <
Jack-O'          1/-------/=======|

Down goes the Dopoulos like SHUNK.

Joyous goes the Jack-O' like "WHEEEEEEEEEEait. D E S T R O S E D?!"

And just like that, Jack-O' Valentine finds her fortunes reversed in a moment of meta-peeking. As is often the case with fortune tellers. Her summation of her situation is as sage as it is succinct:

"oopsie doodle"

These are the precious moments before the effervescent figure that is Rose in party-size form springs forth from the spiritual depths of a sofa (?!): Jack, eyes wide with revelation that comes just a second too late, turns that sweetly surprised stare up towards the ethereal gleam that is Rose. In the moments that vault Rose into the air, Jack's expression transforms from subtle surprise to transcendent trepidation as the wheels turn at the back of her gaze. A projection. She can see the shape of it, in a way only those eyes deeply entrenched in the Backyard can. Her lips part. She gives voice to her excitement:

"Is this...

"... ~* Soul Glo *~?!"

Close enough.

It's a startled cry that only lasts only for a precious second before the glimmering Jem-like astral form of Rose lands behind the Valentine. She could try to move. Try to outmaneuver Rose, try to reverse the situation. Try to cleverly slip away from Rose's grasping intent. But when those arms embrace, warm and disorientingly pleasant around her, Jack-O' Valentine doesn't try to outrun her fate.

She embraces it. Literally.

Rose's arms fold around Jack. And Jack sinks back into the psychedelic touch of Rose. The sensation is euphoric in a way that makes those pink-red eyes lid, but it's more than that -- like an opiate for the soul, it settles the quantum tempest that is Jack-O''s entire existence as the Soul Power seeps into her, opens up to her. And she, in turn, opens up to it.

"Mm," she exhales, devoid of the manic intensity that so sporadically defines her; her left arm lifts, her palm pressing into the shimmering stretch of Rose's cheek as she turns an inquisitive stare up towards the taller woman. "This power of yours comes from within and without, doesn't it?"

And as raw an expression of the soul as Rose may well be at this moment, at this proximity, as unstable as the mystical nature of Jack-O''s entire existence is, always, a connection is formed. A tenuous bond between (sort of) psychic and what (debatable) Gear.

And so for a brief moment, they enter that mythical, legendary state:

The [cyber-feeling]...!

One can just imagine the sparkle space. Go on. Imagine. We'll wait.

And within that [cyber-feeling], they are both exposed, literally and figuratively as the shape of what Jack-O' is becomes as clear as it is confusing: the feeling of a soul that is not whole, but merely an echoed aspect of another, not yet come into itself. In the psychic's grasp, in these moments, the Valentine feels undeniably real -- and yet also like she could simply fade from Rose's hold within the next second as impermanent as water between one's fingers. Half a soul, tied to something -- someone? -- else, far, far away.

An existence that does not exist, yet.

"There's something to be said to finding a way to open your mind up to all the strange possibilities of the world, even the ugly ones," a voice cuts through, warm and sweet, as fingertips dust Rose's cheekbone. "I'm not sure if this is the right answer, but remember that thing Dali said?"

Jack-O' can barely feel her sense of self, let alone her surroundings, as everything drifts into a sweet, tingling numbness. But she finds it in herself to struggle just enough against that grip to lift herself up onto her toes and introduce her lips to Rose's ear just long enough to whisper in a voice tinged with muted mischief -- like someone sharing a private joke.

"'I don't do drugs.'"

The Naked Stand that is Rose grips tighter. Jack's right leg twitches backward just slightly.

"'I am a drug.'"

And back they go, spinning through the air; wind resistance whipping wildly against white and red hair that already refuses to stay still, Jack-O' feels the pervasive crackle of Soul Power electrify across her skin down to her nerves. Feels the momentum of Rose's superior psychic suplex bear them down towards that tragically tacky couch's end. She makes the astute judgment that this is going to hurt.

And so, mid-flight, she gives her leg a nice, hard, -yank-.

A second later, Dopoulos is peeling away from the real Rose in wobbly layers like it was made of putty instead of whatever maddeningly metaphysical metal was actually used in its forging; the familiar turns into a wide array of ribbons that rubberband rapidly back towards their source, folding inward in mid-air until they once more become the familiar face of Jack's jack-o'-lantern companion. Its eyes gleaming a bright shade of green, it screams forward --

~* FWOOM *~

-- and Rose and Jack find themselves paused in mid-air, seconds before impact.

The good news: they don't crash into the tacky couch.

The bad news: Dopoulos, now pressed against the soles of Jack-O''s feet, is currently struggling against Rose's momentum to hold the fighters frozen in mid-air by way of magic thrusters that are currently turning that tacky couch into a melted, burning mess all over Rose's floor.

So. Different paths, same destination.

For a moment, Jack-O' strives against Rose's soul-fueled suplex. She feels the familiar sensation of exertion and pain lance through her muscles. But that rocket propulsion just intensifies, and intensifies, and -=intensifies=- --


Until, gripping fast onto the shimmering Soul Glo Rose, Jack-O' seeks to REVERSE that momentum, rocketing forward as a sheathe of emerald magic encases her like a cocoon --

--sending her, and the astral Rose, and a cadre of phantasmal Gearlings, all flying towards Rose's physical body, face and lances and souls and half-souls first.


is Jack-O''s terrifying (apologetic) battle cry.

COMBATSYS: Jack-O' successfully hits Rose with Zest.

[            \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////////               ]
B&E Gearlings    0/-------/-------|>>>>>>>\>>>----\1             Rose
[                   \\\\\\\\\\\  <
Jack-O'          1/------=/=======|

COMBATSYS: Rose deflects Pertuisane Phanlax EX from B&E Gearlings with Soul Deflect.

[                    \\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////////                ]
B&E Gearlings    0/-------/=======|=======\-------\0             Rose
[                   \\\\\\\\\\\  <
Jack-O'          1/-----==/=======|

*soul glow theme plays*

The back-slam of Jack-O phases into something new, something strange, something cosmic. Rose finds herself (for this projection of her is really her, as much as her body is hers, even if her body, unfortunately, has the burden of doing metabolic processes to support the brain that controls the Soul Power) in a new place, a different place.

Rose is already rather exposed. From this perspective it is clearer what she is: a cutting, something removed, but now grown into something new without forfeiting that fundamental aspect. Like a tree grafted onto new stock. What of that girl who might-have-been but instead became Rose oh so long ago? Well, what of her?

There is Jack-O - a separate existence - looking at her makes Rose feel a pang of both sympathy and confusion. And yet she is in fact a psychic, and has seen through many mysteries. Rose has a synaesthetic flash.

On the one hand... that malachite shard from another realm that sits on her night stand, still faintly luminous with residual power. No!

Instead... she imagines a shadow, a Brockenspectre cast by a mountain that the train of time has not yet reached. Fingers touch her cheekbone and she breathes out, "I always thought Dali spoke best in his art," but it's a tangent, even as Jack-O answers her with heartfelt strength.

The feeling coruscates through her. She feels like a prism full of light. She tenses up around Jack-O -

And her leg shifts. Rose's psychic side says, "!"

Rose's physical body is revealed, wet and naked and steaming AGAIN, rolling to the side as she struggles momentarily with the bifurication of consciousness. Then in comes Dopoulos.

Jack-O is struck and mooshes against Rose's astral front. Her head arches back even as she can hear the roar of the thrusters in a pulsating slices-of-time beat, motion seeming to be remembered rather than percieved. The couch melts down, and it had a steel frame; the leather of course also combusts, filling the house with the reek of burning skin, although (fortunately) much of the material is simply vaporized into so much carbon and hydrogen and oxygen, leaving no fragrance compounds.

But some of it isn't being roasted by thrusters. And the steel frame... well...

Dopoulos Can Melt Steel Beams. (#QuestionEverything #ShadalooTV #BisonDollar:up_arrow:)

By contrast the Gearlings are a much simpler problem although Rose has several additional issues. While this strange shimmering joyous connection means that Rose is damned sure she is seeing a little bit through Jack-O's eyes, and thus has warning, her scarf has been temporarily left behind, fluttering wildly in the aftermath of those thruster jets (even if it is undamaged). Rose shifts her hips around as she says, "It's alright," probably about the couch.

And then the corporeal Rose, who has been rising sluggishly to her feet, is about to make contact with the tines of a pitchfork-wielding Gearling, when she moves exactly two centimeters, and what was going to be a prod turns into a sudden capture move.

"?!" The Gearling is, of course, confused at this turn of events. Its brain is probably mochi. Then its green eyes start to sparkle - to change hues - the round pain transitioning into something resembling Rose's, if still with the characteristic cute little cheek blushes. Eyebrows become swept and dramatic! Lips become that kind of o3o face that Rose so often assumes when she knows she's being photographed.

It is the Gearling that says, distorted, "Soul Blffhglct!"

Then it goes 'pop!' in an extremely rainbow sparkle, sufficient in its radiance to knock back the assembled ranks of cute li'l goobers. Unfortunately, while this chain reaction of Soul Power is enough to thin out and buffer back the ranks of assembled, it does not do a ton for the Corporeal Rose, who instead does a little jump... to the left, JUST in time for Jack-O to sweep her Astral Form there, the two of them resynchronizing with a sparkle and leaving Rose letting out a genuine warm breath against Jack's cheek.

A moment later everything smashes into the ground...


The floor is BREACHED! THIS at least is covered by Rose's homeowner's insurance, although she probably shouldn't press her luck! As floorboards, carpet scraps, the interstitial materials, an ancient skeleton of a victim of a vendetta six hundred years ago, a small cask of Amontillado, and an extremely surprised rat topple out, the entire scene of activity is transferred from Rose's apartment...

To that broad open space downstairs!

Rose lands in a crouch, lingers for a moment to reach over and relax her backside to remove the pitchfork, flings it away, and tells Jack-O, "That was amazing. Don't stand there," before leaping a good body's length away.

The reason is that the impact has left the couch teetering. Gravity has claimed it, but the couch resists, defiant. How long can it hold out?


Dona looks up from what she's doing. "Mmpfh?" (what is that horrible psychic woman doing now, I bet this is the fault of that Egyptian child again.)

She sees, and is seen.

And in that moment, with both of them bare as a raw nerve, there is an understanding that goes so far past the mundane that it transcends the physical and all seems to stand still in the wake of it. It's just Jack-O' and Rose, differing permutations of a similar concept, tangled in a metaphorical and literal but also still kind of metaphorical there too embrace.

It's an out of body experience.

Right up until that moment that a violently vibrating Jack-O' bodyslams Rose back into her body. Because nothing good can last before things get all Warner'd up.

Seriously. There's a cartoonish ~*SPROING!*~ and everything.

The intervening space before collision is full of a lot of colorful commentary and exploding rainbows, as things tend to go when two women have an existential heart to heart. There is, for example, the observation of,

"WATCH OUT THE SPEAR'S HEADING RIGHT FOR YOUR," poik, "g-gasp, your poik--!"

Or, as Rose Assumes Direct Control over that rapidly-purpling phantasm,


And, as they reach the final collision,

"You know, I sometimes have experience with interior decorating, so if you would care for a second eye during renovations--"


The brush of gentle warmth on her cheek is a sharp contrast to the harsh trag of wood and plaster and carpet friction on her skin as Jack-O and Rose go barreling into the lower floors of the latter's home. All around them, Gearlings explode in prismatic bursts dominated by green flares, a breathtakingly morbid light show that the Valentine largely ignores in favor of offering Rose an easy smile that seems woefully out of place amidst their rapidly descending chaos. Her hands, framing Rose's face, flow her shoulders with a bracing grip.

"You have a lovely home."

And she really sounds like she means it too, which might be most surreal of all.


A second later, they impact. Thanks to the reality-bending benefits of magic, Jack-O', operating off cartoon physics as needed, rebounds like flubber off of Rose, the positioning of her hands aiding in her push off as she goes soaring through the air, arms flailing wildly through a rain of bizarre esoterica.

"Oh W~O~W~, is that a REAL small cask of Amontillado?!"

Once bouncing impact -- two bouncing -- three bouncing impacts later, Jack-O' lands, fingers and heels dragging across the floor boards as Dopoulos bumps along behind, angrily snorting with each impact.

"It was a breathtaking new experience I never thought I'd be have. Thank you," she speaks when she finally comes to a stop, voice warm as the summer sun. She doesn't quite move yet, even with that warning. "I have to admit, I'm envious. You live from someone else's shadows and yet you've become your own existence. Your own person. And in comparison, I..."

Her sentence trails as she slowly straightens into a stand, plucking up Dopoulos as she goes. She dismisses the lingering conflict in her eyes with that playful warmth as she holds her familiar against her chest.

"... well, in any case, I can see why I-No would have sought you out. I wouldn't mind getting to know you better myself, now."

The couch lurches forward with a melted groan. Jack-O' thrums with magical circuitry.

"Maybe soon. I'm told the sauce is just about done."

And with that, she -leaps-, -just- as the couch threatens collapse, the last handful of the Gearlings invested in this conflict dropping down from above with spears thrust for joints -- they won't pierce flesh, the weapons intentionally dulled down with some last-minute Boundary modifications, but they will disable, disorient, distract --

-- just in time for Jack-O' to spike Dopolous, engulfed in green flame, down towards Rose like the world's loudest volleyball.

Chain extends. Dopoulos screams. Jack-O' --


-- Jack-O's, as her last depth charge of an assault will see Dopoulos collide with the ground...

... and then EXPLODE, into a tremendous pillar of green that shoots straight up through that gaping wound in the ceiling to finish her final shot with a theatric bang.

COMBATSYS: B&E Gearlings successfully hits Rose with Fauchard Charge.

[                      \\\\\\\\  < >  //////////                    ]
B&E Gearlings    1/-------/=======|=======\==-----\1             Rose
[                    \\\\\\\\\\  <
Jack-O'          0/-------/-----==|

COMBATSYS: Rose fails to reflect Calvados from Jack-O' with Turquoise Soul Overdrive.

[                      \\\\\\\\  < >  //////                        ]
B&E Gearlings    1/-------/=======|====---\-------\0             Rose
[                    \\\\\\\\\\  <
Jack-O'          0/-------/---====|

Rose has been poik!'ed in her time, before.

"I'll think about it," Rose says, before the colission comes. Afterwards, though, her eyes flutter half shut, tilting slightly towards the right as Jack's hands run down her cheeks, her jaw line, her neck, down to her bare shoulders. She is held.

The floor gives way.

"I was wondering where that went," Rose says, putting a hand on her hip and letting out a huge breath as she coughs into one hand for a moment, probably from the asbestos fiber that will lead her to walk in the footsteps of Gen in about fifteen years. (Hah! Alma will spot it and fix it during one of their half-day massage sessions.)

"Is that so...? Well," Rose says, "Nobody was there to teach me. And I had the advantage of starting very young. I've been doing this for a while. I know it's trite, and a generality... often true but not universal, and thus, fairly, distrustful to hear. But no matter how broken and wounded you feel, no matter how bereft or how disgusting..."

Rose smiles, just a little. "It gets better."

"And I would love that if - ulp -" Rose looks upwards at the couch, which is moving according to her foresight. Rose has seen its path.

But her vision does not encompass Jack-O in the same way it encompasses, for instance, Duck King. She sees her with her eyes, she sees her immediate presence, and now that she knows, she can see that Jack radiates back, in a sense, from the future. But what Jack does next? A total surprise.

The Gearlings pin her backwards, Rose struggling enough to stay afoot. Her arms are bent back, her chest stuck forwards, her legs speared into place by bracketing and expanded pitchforks. As she wobbles beneath their barrage, she cries out, "No --!!"


And Rose rises, up the way she came.

Buoyed in place by her bondage-inducing Gearlings, Rose is at their mercy in her rise and in her fall. Whether by rank incompetence or a subtle motion of will, however, they drop her down on the OTHER couch, which had NOT been blasted or incinerated, and she is left sprawled on her back into the sultry heat of her apartment, now full of the smell of dead couches. The dead couch, without preamble, topples downstairs.

"Uh! Oh, I feel so faint," Rose says. "You have me at a disadvantage, Jack. It's strange: That's your name, isn't it? Or close to it, though you've never been introduced to me. Oh-h-h... I think I might swoon. Please - I feel I can trust you - but prove me right -"

Her eyes flutter shut. Is there hope for her? Yes...

The sauce, undisturbed, and helpfully covered, too!!



Later, Rose will inform Dona that it was 'terrorists'. Dona, who secretly hates Somali immigrants even if she has dated four of them, buys this instantly. It helps that Rose leaves her house for the next few weeks, of course.

It gets better.

And there, in the glinting light of the Calvados, Rose might just spy Jack-O''s grateful smile before all becomes a searing haze of jade and anomalous probability.


Any number of things could happen in the moment the Calvados sets off, almost all of them varying degrees of unpleasant. Prediction is oftentimes a matter of math as much as it is mysticism, and Jack-O' could tell you, in her slightly less confusing moments, all the ways this could go wrong for Rose, or for her, or for the entire architectural structure of this building. It could be a disaster. Instead...

... instead, it's only a mild disaster.

Which is still a strange fluke at best. Really. It could have gone super bad.

So Rose soars, bound by phantasmal Gearlings and consumed in a gout of raw magical discharge that nearly reaches to the ceiling of the upper levels. In some scenarios, it did, and past the ceiling, through the roof, until they entire building collapsed on them both. You don't want to know how many.

In this situation, though, what ends up happening is green pillaring force licks the ceiling as Rose goes soaring, soaring, soaring -- not into the floor, or through the window, or the ceiling, or the field of broken glass. No. She lands squarely on the -other- couch, like it was destiny. Like it was --

"I'm blasting off agaaaaaaaaa~~~aaaiiiiiiiiin~~!"

-- Jack-O'.


This is the sound of the Valentine sent airborne by her own attack, twisting in mid-air, becoming an ominous shadow cast over Rose before she lands atop her in a tangle of limbs.

The end result is Jack-O' taking over the binding for her Gearlings; positioned over Rose and holding her wrists to the couch, left knee slid between the psychic's, her long two-toned hair falling like a drape around them, flowing like the gentle ripples along a lake's surface. The light of her halo illuminates her faintly as she leans in, lips parting in an exhale.

"Oh no," she breathes, voice fraught with subtle tension, "sekuhara...!!"

But Rose speaks; and as she does, the veil of Jack-O''s hair briefly darkens her expression as she listens. When she speaks again, her tone is once more sobered and playfully serene, the saccharine drained to the last drop from her voice.

"Sometimes I'm me, sometimes I'm nothing, and sometimes I am someone from very long ago. But when I'm me, or even when I'm not," her lips nestle against Rose's ear, like she were sharing a secret,

"... you can call me Jack-O' Valentine."

And as she leans back, a smile quirks at the left corner of her lips.

"Though I like Jack too; it sounds very trendy and modern, especially from you."

Rose's eyes begin to flutter shut. And as the combative Gearlings wriggle their way back to the top floor, Jack-O' offers a simple, bittersweet look.

"I'd like you to trust me. We still have a lot to talk about, Rose. About the Backyard. About you. About everything. But until then..."

The last thing Rose might feel is the pressure loosening from her wrists.

The last thing she might see is Jack-O' Valentine, running off towards the kitchen, declaring "HERE COMES THE CHEF TRAIN! CHOO CHOO~!" despite clearly holding her arms out in the classic airplane pose as she runs.

When next Rose awakens, she will find herself in her bed, swaddled in the familiar comforts of her blankets.

A cold compress arranged with a methodical certainty on her forehead, to help cool her down.

And nothing but the smell of fresh, waiting rabbit papparedelle to greet her.

Log created on 20:43:53 12/27/2018 by Jack-O', and last modified on 23:09:37 01/06/2019.