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Miles Caal

are you happy with the choice you made?

0 · 72 views · located in Scarmouth

a character in “Blinding Lights”, as played by phosphene

Description

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MILES CAAL
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"It's still magic even if you know how it's done."
It's still magic even if you know how it's done.- Terry Pratchett

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xxxxx|| Name || Miles Ian Caal
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xxxxx|| Nicknames || N/A
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xxxxx|| Gender || cismale
xxxxx|| Age || 31xx
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xxxxx|| Sexuality || pansexual
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xxxxx|| Hex || CC0063xx

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xxxxx|| Height || 5'10"
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xxxxx|| Build || fit
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xxxxx|| Description || Miles is a handsome man, and he knows it. With a strong jaw, intense eyes, and a charming smile, he tends to be able to captivate people when he chooses. He keeps his naturally curly hair long enough to curl and cascade just down his forehead (someone told him once that it was dreamy, and he's kept it that way ever since), and he tends to keep just a touch of stubble on his face. Whether that is by design or because he has better things to do than be clean shaven is unknown. He dresses more for functionality than fashion; lots of pockets, fitted enough not to get in the way, but not so tight that he can't comfortably move. He doesn't really have separate wardrobes for work and everyday life, so he tends to always look the part of a tech engineer. When he needs to, he can throw on jeans and a sweater, but he doesn't remember the last time he wore shoes that weren't sneakers. He has no tattoos, no piercings, no notable scars.
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Miles is charming; with a smile, a well timed joke, and appropriate eye contact, he seems to be able to draw anyone in that he wants to. He’s honed this to make people more comfortable to have him literally tinkering around in their head. It’s mostly fake, however. Generally, in personal interactions, he is brief, to-the-point, a little blunt. He carefully guards his words, his secrets, and himself. He never speaks without considering his words, and is always careful not to reveal too much. He tends to try to deal with problems, and people, pragmatically, having decided when he was young not to hope for anything better than what he sees in front of him. He does have a bit of a bleeding heart, though. After his mother died because they didn't have the money to keep taking her to the doctor, he has a hard time turning down anyone who genuinely needs help. As tough as he tries to be, he can't help but remember how horrible that was.

His close friends know he's a softie through and through. He’s protective, quick to offer help, and asks only the questions he absolutely needs answers to. Before the last few years, he was boisterous, exuberant, he told bad jokes. The people who knew his heart knew that he had a good one; but his father's failings had made him feel like he had to guard himself closely. With strangers and acquaintances, though he's not one to pry, (he knows the value of secrets and privacy), he’s seemed to master the art of gentle questioning. He thinks it important to know at least a little about everyone he regularly interacts with, not to hold information against others, but so that he knows if and when he needs to cut ties and move on.

Though he does shine through on occasion, Miles has been a shell of his former self for a long time. He's anxious, paranoid, testy, cold, distant, rude. The revolution and the things he saw, the things he had to do, have only made it worse. It's as if he's less of a person every day.

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Even with the advanced fertility treatments available to them, it took Miles’ parents nearly five years to conceive a healthy, viable baby. So when Miles was born, he was absolutely spoiled to death. His mother doted on him, his father bought him anything he wanted. They loved him deeply, and told him often how glad they were to finally have him in their lives.

Under his grandfather’s leadership, Caal Industries was a remarkably honestly-run company, and the principals it was founded on earned them quite a bit of trust among people. But Miles’ father was more interested in seeing how quickly they could get products out, how much more money they could earn per quarter, and how they could increase their profit margins. At first, it all went remarkably well, and then a defective batch of adaptive tech went out. People got hurt, it caused an uproar. They sold the company to recoup the money they’d lost in the lawsuits, but initially didn’t change much about their lifestyle. They had plenty of money stashed away, they were fine for a time.

It happened pretty slowly. Miles’ mother’s friends stopped inviting her to their parties, and his father started drinking heavily. Miles noticed. Of course he noticed.

He was a brilliant kid. He got into nice schools because his grandfather donated a lot of money to them before he was born. He was tinkering with computers and technology as soon as he was old enough to properly access the interface. He learned a lot, and he learned quickly. People never seemed to be very surprised: his grandfather was a genius, Miles must have gotten it from him.

They lost their home and had to move when he was maybe ten or twelve, the memories start to blur together around that age. His parents were fighting. “You can’t take his college fund!” and “Well how are we supposed to live?” They sold his mother’s jewelry. His father couldn’t get a job. Wouldn’t get a job? His mother started getting sick, their money was all but gone, and by the time Miles was a teenager there was barely enough left to stay where they’d landed. Miles was able to get jobs here and there, he started out doing some back-alley tech repair, the occasional drug run, anything he could get his hands on. It was hard finding a reputable job with his family name, but he made it work, and he never told his mother that what he did was illegal. All that mattered was that they had food on the table, and she could afford her medicine.

He was seventeen when his mother got sick for the last time. One day, she was fine, then she had a headache, then a fever. She was dead in less than a week. What little savings they had were drained by the funeral, and Miles couldn’t afford to pay all the bills on what little money he made. The last conversation he had with his father was a bitter fight, and he hasn’t spoken to the man since. Doesn’t know where he is, says he doesn’t care.

He was grateful that his grandfather had left him a college fund that his parents couldn’t touch, almost as if the man knew something like this would happen. Even after college, though, he couldn’t get a job doing what he wanted to do. The only thing he had any passion about was creating implantable technologies. He felt like if he could just do well, prove himself, that he could redeem himself and escape the looming shadow of his father’s mistakes. So he did it anyway.

Working out of an old workshop gave him a lot of freedom to work on what he wanted, and to help people. It was amazing to him, the amount of people that needed fine-tuning for their prosthetics or sanctioned adaptive tech that just couldn’t afford to go to a doctor. As tough as he tried to be, Miles couldn’t seem to turn anyone away if they really needed the help. People paid what they could, sometimes they traded. Miles always assured them that he thought it was fair, even when it wasn’t.

Everyone knew a revolution was coming long before it came. Miles always assumed he’d stay out of anything that might happen; he couldn’t stomach violence, and he wasn’t nearly influential enough to make any sort of difference. He was surprised when government agents showed up at his door. He didn’t have a lot of options; it boiled down to cooperate, or rot in prison (with the implication that they were very busy and may just forget about him once he was in a cell). Miles knew that what he did wasn’t legal: he was recreating existing technologies and selling them outside of the government regulations. He didn’t have a leg to stand on. So he cooperated.

The kind of implantable technologies they used weren't approved for use, and it became quickly evident that Miles was going to be a scapegoat if it went wrong. It did, occasionally. The soldiers suffered infections, headaches, psychological problems; but they worked well enough to give them an edge. The more Miles did, the deeper they dug his grave. After the revolution, he was worried about what was going to happen to him. It was easy enough to prove that he'd been coerced to work with the government, and he's been very cooperative, but he knows that it's unlikely anyone will ever trust him again.

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cs: phosphene - fc: Oscar Isaac - hex code: CC0063

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So begins...

Miles Caal's Story

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Noah Lawson Character Portrait: Hatch Williams Character Portrait: Scott Feltikk Character Portrait: Ryan Joshi Character Portrait: Camilla Rhodes Character Portrait: Magnolia Wrenley Character Portrait: Danika Orlov Character Portrait: Miles Caal Character Portrait: Ashleigh Barnes Character Portrait: Damien Moore Character Portrait: Blake Langston
Tag Characters » Add to Arc »

4.00 INK

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noah lawson
the medic - #879788 - outfit

i hear the voices when I'm dreaming
i can hear them say
carry on my wayward son
there'll be peace when you are done

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The last thing Noah wanted to do after yet another long shift was go to some awards ceremony for “significant figures in the revolution.” He’d seen enough of the revolution in person and he didn’t particularly want to be reminded of it. But Gabriel had said that they’d invited representatives from the Emergency Department after their role in things, and so Noah had agreed to go. Apparently there was going to be free alcohol and free canapes, which was at least something.

It had been six months since the revolution ended, and things were being rebuilt. They had a new government that was already implementing sweeping changes. It wasn’t official yet, but word around the hospital was that in the next few weeks, the healthcare system was going to move over to publicly funded. Public housing had already been implemented and the number of homeless people on the streets was dropping rapidly by the day. The damage caused in the rioting and fighting was long gone, just a memory.

But it was a memory that was sticking in Noah’s head. The nightmares weren’t as intense as they had been in the initial aftermath, but they were still very much there. The scar on his stomach was healed, but there were mornings he awoke and for a few seconds, the pain was still there. When he walked down the street, he was waiting for an ambush, for an explosion, for anything. The entire group of emergency med residents had stopped going to bars after work because every time a glass shattered, they all flinched and almost launched back into action.

Thankfully, the awards ceremony didn’t seem to dwell on the actual fighting too much. It seemed to be more government focused, awarding and recognising those who had protected their communities throughout the fighting. Someone who had helped smuggle people out of the fighting, someone who had created safe spaces for their community... They were in what appeared to be the last few awards when they began describing a scenario that was uncomfortably familiar.

“The next award we’d like to present is to someone who was selfless and brave on the front lines. We are deeply grateful to all of the staff of Scarmouth’s Emergency Departments who put themselves in harm’s way to save lives and minimise loss of life. But this man drew attention for his actions after he was photographed treating the wounded, even as a government soldier had a gun pointed at his head. Stories from those who served on the front lines tell us this was not the first or only such of these incidents, and that this doctor fearlessly and selflessly treated the wounded indiscriminately. Tonight, we would like to recognise Dr. Noah Lawson of SUH for his bravery and thank him for his service with the Medic’s Hero award.”

Noah glanced over at Gabriel, and the man’s small smile gave away where all this had come from. All around him, people were applauding, some even getting to their feet. Noah just wanted to climb under the table and wait until the moment passed, but he couldn’t. He managed a smile as he stood up and made his way up to the stage, taking the statuette and shaking the presenter’s hand. And then one of them smiled and said, “Would you like to say a few words, Doctor?”

Noah could feel the blood drain from his face. He instinctively looked back towards Gabriel, whose smile had slipped slightly but who nodded, somewhat encouragingly. Noah swallowed, his mouth suddenly dry as he felt what had to be hundreds of eyes on him. He wanted to shake his head and run back to his seat or possibly just straight out of the room, but everyone was watching, waiting, waiting to see if he lived up to what they expected. He knew he wouldn’t, but he cleared his throat.

“Thank you all for this aw- w- w- for this recognition.” He started. He tried remembering every single bit of advice he’d been given on how to minimise it, but his head was blank. And anyway, the rising discomfort and anxiety in his chest as he saw people glance at each other at his stammering was going to completely counteract anything he tried. He kept it as brief, knowing it was probably too short, but he couldn’t get off the stage quickly enough. And then they moved on to some other award, and eyes were finally off him.

“Noah, I’m so sorry, I didn’t realise there would be a speech-” Gabriel said as Noah made it back to the table.
“It’s f-fine,” Noah said, sitting back down. The statuette was clutched so tightly in his hand it was starting to dig in, and he released it, stretching his hand a few times. He could feel Gabriel watching him for a few seconds, but his attention eventually turned back to the stage. As they announced the final few awards, Noah was restless, unable to concentrate or focus on anything around them. As the awards wrapped up, the hosts invited everyone to mingle and have a few drinks and canapes in the adjoining bar. As everyone moved, rushing to the bar at the promise of free food and alcohol, Noah slipped away, saying something about the bathroom to Gabriel. The bathroom was quiet and calm, exactly what Noah wanted and needed. He wet his hands and ran them down his face. For the half a moment his eyes were closed, he saw the barrel of the gun pointed at his face, saw his hands coated in blood- was it his own or someone else’s? He shook himself out of it, almost physically. He dug in his pockets, fishing out the pills he knew he had. There was one almost heart-stopping moment where he couldn’t feel them- and then his hand closed around the bottle. He tipped two out and swallowed them dry, taking a deep breath. And then he stashed them back in his pocket and headed back out towards the bar.


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hatch williams
the mechanic- #400026 - outfit

i wasn't born yesterday
a bloodsport but I'm a saint
it's time to consider
there are no winners

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Hatch hadn’t specifically received an invite to the awards ceremony, but an open invitation had been publicly issued for people to celebrate those who had been nominated and recognised. And the promise of free booze had been enough to lure Hatch into attending. And besides, she was curious to see the types of people who were getting recognised.

Choosing an outfit had taken her a while. She didn’t tend to get dressed up all that much and finding something she could actually stand wearing for a while was difficult. She’d contemplated a dress for a while, but nothing seemed right. And then she found the suit and everything fell into place. Roger looked confused for just a second as she stepped out of her room in heels and makeup. And then he jumped off the couch and ran towards the door.

“Not this evening, buddy.” He whined a little. “Trust me, buddy, I’d love to bring you, but don’t want to draw attention to myself. Not this evening. You look after the house for me, okay?”

By the time Hatch reached the hotel, she was fashionably late. She thought that she might have been out of luck with regards to getting a seat, but apparently the organisers had anticipated the demand as she was shown to a seat at the very back of the room. Her view of the stage was somewhat obscured, but that didn’t overly trouble her. She sat, her legs crossed, and watched the awards with some level of scepticism and interest.

They had an interesting range of awards for sure, and one thing that she noted was that the range of people that were being recognised was significantly broader than the old government would have recognised. There were people of all ages, all areas of the revolution, from all areas of the city. The focus seemed to be on bravery and loyalty, and things took a turn into the overly patriotic for Hatch. The speeches were at least kept brief and non-preachy. There were a few figures that she had heard mention of somewhere along the way, but none of them seemed to match what she imagined. One thing that struck her was the fact that none of them stood out. She'd walk past half of them in the street.

Eventually, the awards wrapped up, and Hatch followed the surge of people towards the bar. Her first priority was to get her hands on a glass of champagne, and then she turned to scan the room, seeing if there was anyone of interest to talk to. She new there had to be plenty, but scanning the room, nobody particularly stood out to her. She took a long sip of her champagne and stayed watching the room.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Noah Lawson Character Portrait: Scott Feltikk Character Portrait: Ryan Joshi Character Portrait: Miles Caal
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29.50 INK

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every word has consequences.
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zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzevery silence, too.
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Ryan had been to a few events like this: he used to cover them. You show up, take a couple pictures, do a little eavesdropping, write a piece about how good the speeches were and how happy you were for all the award recipients, and that was it. He learned pretty early on not to dress a certain way, or else you might be mistaken for the event staff, which was a hassle that he’d once preferred to avoid.

The past six months hadn’t been easy; Ryan wanted his life to go back to normal, but it had become increasingly obvious that wasn’t going to happen. Either no one wanted to deal with him at all, or they wanted more out of him than he wanted to give. So far he’d survived by selling some of his unused shots from the revolution- some of his shots had turned out to be a bit too artistic for rogue news websites. He would have preferred to go back to being unknown by everyone besides the sorts of people that actually cared about the sports and entertainment pieces published to the media streams.

He’d been invited to this event. He wasn’t entirely sure he wanted to be there, or that he even deserved to be there. In his mind, he hadn’t done anything extraordinary; he’d done what anyone who had the nerve to call themself a journalist should have done, he told the truth. Apparently his work had helped catch the attention of the governments who’d sent aid to the revolution. The seemingly endless work he’d done in those long months had accomplished something, at least.

Ryan knew many of the people who were receiving awards: he’d taken their pictures, heard their stories, in one case his pictures had brought major attention to them in the first place. Ryan genuinely felt bad for Noah; while he couldn’t begin to understand what it was like, he did know how uncomfortable being put on the spot could be. How you never forgot the way the other children mocked you when your ears turned red, your eyes welled with tears, and you couldn’t spit out the words no matter how badly you wanted to. Some people refused their awards, and Ryan could understand their reasonings. He felt very much the same, in some ways. When called up to receive his own award, Ryan looked visibly uncomfortable. All those eyes on him made him wish he could run and hide; he stared wistfully at a fire escape, wondering if he could make it out before someone stopped him to ask if he was okay. He also considered using the moment as a platform to speak up about how disappointed he’d been in journalism in Scarmouth, how so many people should be ashamed, and how little faith he truly had in the new leadership.

Instead, he graciously accepted the award. “This is very nice... I’ll try to make sure my cat doesn’t break it.” Someone chuckled. Ryan hadn’t meant to make a joke. He grew a little more uncomfortable, and it struck him that this was the first award he’d ever received for his work. He wasn’t sure this was what he wanted to be known for. He wasn’t sure he ever really wanted to make a name for himself in the first place. He also knew he probably needed to say something else, “I, uh…” Why was it so hot? Was he speaking too quickly? He was speaking too quickly. “I did nothing more than what I felt I had to do, but thank you.”

Once all the awards were finally distributed, Ryan, like everyone else, made a beeline for the bar. Being the homebody he was, he never got out much, and he didn’t really know what to ask for. He wound up with some fruity monstrosity- tasted pretty good, though. He wasn’t really sure what to do with himself, but he saw Noah and made his way over. “Hello,” He said, and after a beat, “It's nice to see you again.” Ryan had never just attended an event like this, and Noah was the person in the room he felt most comfortable with at that moment. Whether this was a good or bad thing had yet to be seen.


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he seems to feel his own worth,
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zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzand the greatness of his fall.
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When you’re given a chance to integrate back into society- especially after a particularly bloody (and successful!) uprising- you take it. Attending a stuffy awards ceremony for the very people you’d once actively worked against seemed like a strange decision, but Miles knew he wasn’t that important. Not really. So he went to the award ceremony. These were the heroes of the revolution, and ultimately they weren’t all that impressive. (Well, aside from Damien. Sure, he turned down the award, but good for him.) Nobody seemed larger than life, several seemed like they would rather be anywhere else. Something about seeing it all laid out in front of him like that made him feel like perhaps he hadn’t done enough.

He thought about just leaving after the awards were given out, but there was something about fancy party food that was impossible to pass up. The free booze wasn’t really his thing, but Miles had never let himself feel ashamed for sipping a diet coke at a party before, and he wasn’t about to start now. As it were, he was pretty content to sit back for a time. There was plenty to take in, after all. Sad as it may have been, Miles knew that if life had played out how it was “supposed” to, he’d be very used to events like these. And probably in prison. Sometimes things really do work out, in the end.

Two things happened: first, Miles spotted Magnolia, and considered walking over to say hello. Then Camilla Rhodes approached Magnolia. An interesting mixture of dread and anxiety filled Miles’ stomach, and he immediately knew that there was no way he was going to go anywhere near that if he could help it. Cam was likely to be on her best behavior, but Miles was sure nothing good would come of it.

Second, someone came and took the empty seat next to his. Now, in years past, this wouldn’t have bothered Miles in the slightest. Now? He was in a room full of people, and though he knew he could leave whenever he wanted, he was beginning to feel a little trapped. He didn’t know if this would pass, if he would ever get used to being free again. He shot Scott a look that pretty accurately communicated his thoughts: ‘what do you want?’

Pretty quickly, though, Miles thought he understood: Scott wanted to sit down with someone nobody here would be looking for. If you look busy enough, people will leave you alone. It’s true at work, parties, the grocery store. So he smiled; bright, brilliant, and genuine enough that most people wouldn’t question it. “I think I would rather be at the lab right now, but you know how I live to disappoint.” He leaned over so he could speak lower and still be heard, “We’re all adjusting, aren’t we?” Other than that, he mostly dodged the question of how he’d been: the past year of his life had been a nightmare followed by some kind of listless twilight. Things were starting to look up for him now, but it wasn’t hard to guess that Miles had had a rough go at life, lately.

He shrugged, settling back into his seat, “But enough about me,” He said, as if he had actually said anything personal or noteworthy, ”What about yourself?”

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Camilla Rhodes Character Portrait: Magnolia Wrenley Character Portrait: Miles Caal Character Portrait: Samar Chopra
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When Magnolia heard the pop star’s voice, her chest clenched with anticipation of her wrath. Though the heiress was no stranger to being disliked just for who she was - she wasn’t sure how much more she would be able to politely endure. Kindness had never been Camilla’s agenda, though maybe she’d just wanted to get close enough to see if Magnolia was crying. She made no attempt of smiling at Camilla’s joke that Magnolia would one day be able to stop the attacks on her by retaliating herself - as if Magnolia ever had the option of self-defense.

“And to think, you wouldn’t have gotten a drink splashed in your face if your father was alive and our-, his side had won. This ceremony would still be happening, Sophie’s Valentine….” Camilla’s words faded out after that, Magnolia repeating those same five words over and over to herself.

If your father was alive.

Her glass threatened to give under her tightened grip. It was like Camilla had triggered sleep mode, only the core functions left running but nothing really processing. It was the only way to keep the image of her father gurgling his last breath out of her thoughts. Taking the embroidered handkerchief with a look of confusion, she could see Camilla’s lips move but her mind was already elsewhere - her psyche going into survival mode.

As fast as she had come, she left - leaving behind a path of destruction and an embroidered piece of fine linen. Magnolia left seething in Camilla’s wake. She clenched the cloth before throwing it aside in anger. Her thoughts came rushing in all at once, all the things she wished she could have said - processing Camilla’s words belatedly. Wincing, she raised a hand to her temples feeling the oncoming signs of a stress headache.

‘If you only knew why he’s not alive anymore.’ She thought to herself, wishing she could ever say the words aloud. Accidentally slamming down her now empty glass harder than she intended, Magnolia offered the bartender an apologetic expression - but they were too preoccupied making drinks to even notice.

A half empty bottle of wine left on the other end of Magnolia’s eye. It was an open bar but she was well past the time of waiting between each drink. She went to walk around to grab the bottle discretely and detour to the bathroom - a familiar profile causing her to pause.

Of course Magnolia had known there was a possibility that Miles would show but she was surprised all the same to see him. She almost smiled, forgetting for a moment the disaster that was the last seven minutes. Obscured by the crowd, she couldn’t see who he was talking to - if he’d come with someone, maybe. He gave them a big smile before leaning in, Magnolia inching along the edge of the crowd trying to peek through the windows between the people to make out who was holding Miles’ attention.

‘What are you doing?’ Magnolia shook her head at herself, huffing under her breath. Insecurity was a new emotion for her, quickly thrown from the veil of adoration into being one of the most detested free people of the State. It was enough to give anyone a bit whiplash.

Plan A it was then.

Magnolia made sure no one was looking when she snuck an arm around to grab the wine. She scuttled into the bathroom making sure to hold the bottle low to obscure it along the length of her leg. There were a couple people washing their hands and adjusting their makeup in the mirror when she walked in, quickly locking herself in one of the stalls. The cork had been haphazardly pushed back into the bottle, Magnolia ripping it out and throwing it at the ground before drinking straight from the bottle. Groaning in frustration because she couldn’t scream, she angrily tapped at her PCU dialing Samar’s number. When it went to voicemail, she turned on holo so that he’d get the full visual of her misery sitting on the toilet drinking wine straight from the bottle.

“Hey, Samar.” Magnolia sighed heavily, then taking a long drink. She could hear the two who’d been at the mirror leave, emboldening her to fully submit to her self-pity. “So, in case you are thinking about bailing on me - I have locked myself in the bathroom with a bottle of wine. I am not coming out either until you arrive, or until I need more alcohol.”

She considered telling him about someone throwing a drink at her, but decided instead she’d rather save it to guilt him with later in case he did end up bailing. “No one will even know you were ever here, it’s so crowded and people are drinking it’ll be like a frat house within the hour. Message me when you’re here, please - okay? Byee.”

Taking another long drink as she signed off, Magnolia slumped against the wall behind her. She had spent plenty of events just getting drunk in the bathroom before, those nights had rarely ended with grace. Maybe if she just stayed here for a while, she could make one last round in the room and just head home. No one would blame her, though the press would be sure to spin it into something if she was caught by them on the way out.

Admittedly, sneaking in an exiled radical to be her drinking buddy wasn’t the best plan. She and Samar both had their crosses to bear but both of them were worthy of praise, of celebration. Besides, most of these people knew their debts to Samar - what they owed him. He deserved his moment in the light, even if it was stolen.

Magnolia sat there for what felt like a while, or rather until the wine was finished. She used the toilet paper to dab at what remained of the drink on her dress, frowning when the residue of the drink left a shadow. As materialistic as it made her feel, she didn’t have much left from her life before. Not that she wanted to cling to those things, but she wasn’t quite ready to let go. She peeped out of the stall to double check she was alone, then quickly tossing out the now empty bottle. Using a combination of soap, water, paper towels and a hand dryer - she managed to wash out the stain. Wiping herself down with the moistened towelettes, she could still feel a bit of the residue of the drink on her skin but at least she was no longer sticky.

“Alright now, little dove.” She said to herself in the mirror, mimicking her mother’s tone and intonation. “You are a Wrenley. You will carry your head high, never let them see you falter.”

Repeating the words back to herself, they sounded wrong. It was the same speech her mother gave her every time Magnolia dared to express self-doubt. What pride was there anymore in a name so befouled? She gripped the sink as she leaned in closer to the mirror, examining her eyes intently - checking for weaknesses in her expression. Caught in her own reflection, she nearly jumped out her skin when she heard the creak of the door open. Shrinking into her own shadow, she blended into the wall behind her. The two stumbling into the bathroom didn’t even notice her, giggling as they followed one another into one of the stalls. Magnolia sighed with relief, leaning back against the wall.

Oh, how the mighty have fallen.