Pulpy good action
Jose Morales Sacramento
Born: September 14, 1909 in Rocha, Uruguay
The Sacramento family has been raising cattle for generations, not unlike many other ranching families. What sets them apart, however, is the other thing they are famous for: breeding exceptional cowboys. No one can remember the last time a Sacramento didn't win at least two of the four events at Rocha's annual rodeo. Bull riding and cattle roping seem to be their best but Sacramentos are good at anything that involves taming a four-legged beast. They are very friendly too; unlike a few other families who have burst to the forefront of the community for whatever reason, Sacramentos take their victories stride, knowing that life is hard enough without giving others a reason to hate you.
Speaking of "giving others a reason to hate you", there are 2 factions warring in the underground of Rocha and Montevideo. A surprisingly large cult of chupacabra worshipers has local ranchers, especially sheepherders, enraged. It is local superstition that the chupacabra feeds on the worship. Ignore it and it will go away they say. It is also believed that the chupacabra is not of this world so it cannot be killed with ordinary bullets even if someone were to find it. When a herd of sheep is attacked it affects the entire community, not just the unfortunate man who will be struggling to feed his family for the rest of the season. Why would anyone want to see this happen? No one knows for sure but there are a few men willing to find out and, more importantly, put an end to it.
A countercult of sorts has emerged, willing to use force to stop these hooligans from empowering the chupacabra and causing more loss. Their meetings are as secret as their opponent's but much shorter. Instead of donning sheepskins, lighting candles, and burning the flesh of wild animals this other group simply prepares the molotov cocktails, plays a few hands of poker, and enters the night with the intent to set ablaze every member of that damned cult.
This is where Jose comes in. He and all the male members of his family, even his elderly father, are members of this countercult but Jose has big plans. Rather than killing off these creeps, why don't we just end the chupacabra? "But Jose, it's not of this world. You would have to cross over to engage it in combat. You would not return."
"I will return with the chupacabra's head. Mark my words. I am a Sacramento."
This post was updated on .
(Because I may NEVER be un-lazy enough to ever actually draw this asshole, enjoy this reference. Pretty much what he looks like, except that he is almost never this cheerful. Also his hair has a bit of gray.)
"Do no unnecessary harm."
Name: Stanley Reinhold Pepper
History: Stanley was born in 1902 under the name Reinhold Pfeffer in the city of Kiel, located in the province of Schleswig-Holstein in the Kingdom of Prussia (modern-day Germany). His parents emigrated to the United States when he was three years old; he remembers nothing of his time in Germany.
Upon arriving in New York, a few changes were made by the family to help blend in. Their last name was changed to Pepper, and Reinhold was given the name "Stanley" for easier interaction with his schoolmates, though at home, he was always "Reinhold." He grew up learning English and German alongside one another.
Stanley vaguely remembers the events of World War 1. He was a child, at the time, but his mother, having extended family still living in Germany, followed the events closely. Their English was not as good as their son's, so he was often obliged to translate the newspapers and radio reports for them. He developed something of a knack for languages and translation through these events.
His parents worked hard, providing their only son with the money he needed for a decent education. Until he was in his late teens, Stanley lived a largely uneventful life, burying himself in his studies. He did what he could to absorb the character and mannerisms of the denizens of the city, spurred both by a desire to belong and a need to differentiate himself from his German heritage, which had become something of a liability. His accent betrays only his origins as a New Yorker, not as a born German.
When Stanley was sixteen, his father, an otherwise healthy and robust fellow, was sadly caught up in the great influenza epidemic sweeping New York. The experience remains vivid in the doctor's mind: watching a loved one go from healthy and laughing to a wasted wreck of a man, and it was one of his primary motivations in pursuing a career in medicine. His father did not survive, but left behind a surprisingly substantial inheritance.
He pursued his two great loves in school: medicine and the natural world. Stanley exhibited extreme intelligence from an early age, and devoured his chosen subjects voraciously. During this time he also picked up fluency in several new languages.
After receiving his medical training, Stanley opened up a practice in Brooklyn. Stanley had pursued a medical profession not for fame or fortune, but from a simple desire to help, and an underlying need to be useful, to belong; many of his patients only paid what they could afford to pay, or bartered for their treatment. From the day he first opened the doors, it was as if someone had flipped a switch in his life: what had been a rather humdrum, unexciting existence became something of an adventure. The roaring twenties were in full swing, and Stanley found himself leaving his practice as often as bringing patients in.
He became no stranger to danger in those times. One night he'd cross the city escorted by gun-wielding gangsters, bringing him assist the wounded in a warehouse shootout; another he'd be ducked in the back of a rum runner's car while bullets whizzed overhead, his medical case clamped tightly in his hands. Most of his patients were the poor and the unfortunate, and most of the treatments he dispensed were for injuries sustained in their hectic lives. Stanley never allowed himself to be caught up in their inter-faction rivalries. His clinic was mutually-respected neutral ground. Despite personal grudges, nobody could argue that Stanley was a damn good doctor.
Even so, he has faced personal danger many times. He honed his skill with a firearm during these days, and became particularly skilled in dispensing first aid (he's also quite good at poker and billiards).
Stanley's mother remarried roughly four years after his father died. She was young when she settled down with his father, giving birth to Stanley when she was only nineteen. Even so, the middle-aged woman was somewhat surprised to learn some months after the second marriage was made official that she was pregnant. Stanley became the older brother of two identical twin girls, a full twenty years their senior.
Perhaps because he was well-acquainted with the dangers of the modern world, he became extremely protective of them, which put an understandable damper on their social lives. Stanley is very fond of his sisters, siblings he never expected to have, and despite his almost mother hennish behavior over their teenage years (which have just begun), they are quite close with him, as well.
In more recent years, his life has quietened down somewhat. War is looming over the horizon again, and Stanley is finding that while he had made a name for himself as a respected doctor, he has never really pursued his plans to explore the natural world. His clinic is well-established, filled with fresh new doctors, and he has enough money to leave and explore without worrying about leaving unfinished business behind.
Perhaps it has something to do with his subconscious sensing of an impending disaster, maybe it's the knowledge that middle age is creeping up on him, or maybe it's just a desire to be among the flora and fauna of the world, but either way, Stanley has decided to get out and see it. He's joining the expedition in question as a medic, but will be quite glad of the chance to explore new life, to lay eyes on wonders of the natural world undocumented by man.
He has no idea that he is going to get exactly what he wants. Well, maybe not exactly...
Personality and Apearance: Stanley is most often seen as a stern and taciturn individual, and perhaps inclined to be a bit grumpy. He has a tendency to be blunt, and is not easily rattled in the face of danger. He takes his job very seriously, and despite his somewhat brusque mannerisms does possess a healthy amount of compassion. He can be nurturing when the occasion calls for it, with a soft spot for children. He is very fiercely protective of them, and will not countenance any endangering of a child's life.
He's used to standing firm in the face of adversity, and will not back down if he feels strongly about something. Stanley is not easily threatened or swayed by personal cost, but can be coerced into compliance if he feels someone he is responsible for is in danger.
He's not much to look at: a rather tall fellow, neither particularly skinny nor especially robust, with slightly dark skin, black hair that's starting to go gray, and light gray eyes. He has a prominent, straight nose, and a strong jawline; his face has a somewhat youthful appearance, and many are startled to learn his true age. His face is most often set into an expression of grim attentiveness, and he speaks with a thick Brooklyn accent, which often comes as a surprise to people when they first meet him. He doesn't sound like an academic or what most people consider to be a well-educated man.
Stanley is homosexual, and deeply protective of that secret. He will deny it and go to any personal sacrifice to keep such knowledge from being publicly revealed. He has not had many relationships in his time, partially because he has been very cautious about who he trusts with this secret, but mostly because he is honestly genuinely married to his job.
And it's kind of hard to look for romance when you spend most of your time getting shot at.
Stanley's sexuality does not impact most of the other facets of his life. He is not defined by it, and is at all times professional. He's also a mature man in his mid-thirties who is not inclined to let his hormones get away with him.
He is a highly skeptical and scientific individual. He does not believe in the hollow earth, and dismisses paranormal activity as something that has simply not been explained yet. However, he is not the sort of man to cling to denial. When presented with evidence, he will study that evidence, and come to the logical conclusion. If someone starts shooting fireballs out of their hand and calls it magic, he's not going to argue the point needlessly.
Overall, he is a stalwart companion, who, while not initially warm, is not terribly hard to get along with. Once one has worked their way into his affections, they can count on an unshakable and sympathetic ally.
Theme Song: Carbon Nadsat/Cuestick Genius
Medicine (First Aid) - 11
Empathy - 8
Science (Biology) - 10
Firearms - 6
Linguistics (Deciphering) - 8
I've already tweaked his stats a bit, taking away his Animal Handling and giving him a boost in Linguistics and Firearms.
(GUESS WHO DIDN'T PROOFREAD HER ENTRY...
IT WAS ME...)
Isaac B. Sanders was a self sustaining farmer, who lived in a three room cabin in the rural city of Guelph (Southwestern Ontario) with his wife Mildred and infant son Jean L Sanders whom they called Slim...
One night in 1908 Isaac came home from the market and found a small crowd around his house. Mildred was in tears as she told them that their only son had been kidnapped. Though distraught, Isaac tried to calm his wife by telling her they would likely have their son back once they received a ransom note. However, no demands were forth coming.
The kidnappers were members of Gaia's Gate, a small animist cult located within a small English village in Iceland. As the cult leader was given the infant, he was pleased to hear that the child was born in the seventh circle of the moon Lahseen. Believing young Jean would grow to be endowed with powers over the earth itself, the members of the Gate took him in as their own and raised him with the name “Tarahn Tow” which, in their personal secret language, meant ruler of all that is.
As Tarahn Tow came of age he was taught to venerate the earth itself as well as all the plants and animals that the earth sustained. He developed a great love for dogs in particular, owning over 12 that roamed the communal village. Though he did well with dogs, Tarahn Tow proved to be a disappointment to the elders of Gaia's Gate, as he developed no supernatural abilities of any kind. At age 15, with the Gate on the verge of collapse due to overwhelming doubt of the prophecy, Tarahn Tow was exiled. The Gate did him one kindness by buying him a bus ticket and telling him that his birth parents were of the name Sanders and lived in Guelph.
Tarahn Tow eventually found his family living in a run down shack. His father saw him and instantly recognized him as his son due to the strong familial resemblance. Tarahn Tow's father told him that his true name was Jean, but was nicknamed “Slim”. Tarahn Tow/Slim was grieved to learn that his mother had died giving childbirth to a second son, who did not live past infancy. His father Isaac drank himself into debt and eventually lost his farm.
Tarahn Tow/Slim lived with his father for five more years as he worked with his father in order to save enough money to buy a plot of land. During this time locals started calling him “Toronto Slim”, and in an effort to fit in, he adopted this as his nickname. When Isaac Sanders died of liver failure five years later, Slim was left with the land he and his father worked for. In order to better sustain himself, he started a local medicine shop out of his home. He used both his agricultural knowledge that he obtained as a small farmer, as well as some lesser known techniques he learned as he grew up in Gaia's Gate. His medicine was popular (likely due to frequent mixtures of cannabis), selling enough for him to make a comfortable living.
Sometime in the 30's he decided that Canada, as well as most of North America, had become too industrialized. He was considering selling his land and shop when he heard a rumor. During a conversation over a game of poker some of his clients and friends had told him of an unsettled land located within the earth itself. Initially, shrugging of the talk as being side effects of the “reefers”, he came to feel a sort of faith that there was somewhere some land that had not yet been raped by industrialization. He sold his assets (aside from his personal herb cache) and decided to go in search of such a place. Whether or not it was within the Earth himself he would have to find out.
Dark Skin (African descent)
Quiet but friendly. Accommodating personality on most matters. Usually slow to anger, but he shows great rage at those who harm animals unnecessarily, especially dogs.
This post was updated on .
The only conclusion that Stanley Pepper derived from his efforts to chart their course across the Mediterranean was that he needed to brush up on his navigation. The sight of the island of Malta had completely taken him by surprise, and they were upon Crete hours before he expected it. He was honestly more used to finding his way around the streets and alleyways of his hometown. Of course, nobody would be able to blame him if his nerves were somewhat rattled, seeing as how they had been attacked by pirates.
He'd left New York looking to explore the natural world, and so far he had at least engaged in the time-old struggle of survival of the fittest.
He still didn't know what quite to think of his teammates. He couldn't help but subconsciously size them up from a medical standpoint out of sheer force of habit. Most of the acquaintances he'd had over the years had ended up in his care one way or the other. It was easier to start thinking of new faces as patients first and people second.
The young Asian fellow--Dash, was it?--was quiet, but moved with the easy grace of a athletic man. He would likely be able to take care of himself. Likewise, Asim was obviously fit, hardened by a life in the less-than-forgiving climate of the deserts in which he had been born (and he was probably the most agreeable of the party, Stanley decided). Jose Sacramento also fell into this category, and also displayed a degree of quiet competence that led the doctor to believe he wasn't the sort of man to get himself into dangerous situations recklessly. As for the Russian... well. Heaven only knew what the Russian was capable of. Stanley had not been expecting to head out into the great eastern frontier with a group of sickly layabouts, but even so, he was grateful for the relative health of his fellows.
Slim was much frailer, and from what Stanley had gathered, he was also unused to the heat, hailing as he did from Canada. He would need to be watched. As for the leader of their expedition, the Mansfield fellow or whatever his title was (Stanley simply couldn't be bothered with such frivolities; it was absurd), aside from getting himself shot, he seemed sound enough, if very, very personally irritating. The doctor had taken an instant dislike to the aristocrat, but that didn't change what his responsibilities were.
Even so, they were nearing Egypt. He would soon see whether or not his fellow travelers were the sort to get themselves into the kind of trouble they'd need a doctor's aid to get out of.
In reply to this post by Tomasik
I'm not sorry.
Jose Sacramento and Dash "Midnight" Hawkins
Toronto Slim and Asim
Broverstreet's Character whose name I forgot and MANFIELD LONGSPEAR DICK JOKES MCGEE
And Dr. Pepper. I used this generator.
This post was updated on .
Theme Song: Prey Overture
Raised in America by his Native American father and his Japanese mother, Dash has been stuck between two worlds his entire life. His father met his mother after leaving the Native American reservation to travel the world. He left his Dash and his mother behind when Dash was only three years old to explore the hollow earth. Dash can barely remember his father, but, thanks to his mother, he doesn't view his departure as abandonment.
Dash frequently got into trouble throughout his childhood due to his desire to explore, a trait he inherited from his father. Dash's mother would tell him stories of his fathers adventures, inspiring Dash to teach himself the skills necessary to follow in his father's footsteps. By the time he reached adulthood, he was a skilled hunter. Eventually he sold his skills, using them to track down criminals as a freelance bounty hunter and used the money to begin his search for his father.
The only things he knows of the hollow earth are gathered form his mother's stories and rumors that he has heard over the years.
Due to his unusual upbringing, Dash is reserved and independent. He tends to act rather than talking and is slow to trust others with his problems. He prefers simple living, as that is what he is accustomed to. His quiet personality tends to hide his true abilities.
This is the highest paying job that Dash had been offered to date. While he had no idea how Cecil York had managed to track him down, Dash had no choice to accept the offer. The contract seemed simple enough, find York's uncle in Cairo. It also seemed relatively easier compared to contracts that he had tackled before, just a missing persons case, no signs of foul play. This whole situation still made Dash uneasy. A contract this simple didn't need this many people, even if York was being cautious, meaning that there had to be some other detail that York hadn't mentioned.
Finding Arthur was as simple as expected, but Dash never expected how much trouble he would be. This one man had managed to make himself known throughout the city for insulting the local religious sect. The citizens are holding him responsible for the odd happenings throughout the city. Dash was glad now that York had formed such a large team, regardless of the reasons he had for hiring them.
I would not think it possible for the human body to survive such a trauma if I had not seen it with my own eyes. This coupled with the nearly instantaneous regeneration closing the wound so quickly as to push my arrow out of the wound is something akin to the stories about my father and the mystical abilities and artifacts that he encountered in his travels. I never expected them to be true, but somehow I always did. In some sense I guess I always wanted the stories to be true, so I never truly stopped believing. I knew there was something strange about this contract, but I now want to see it through more than ever, though I am not sure why. Whatever the reason, I am not in a position to do otherwise by any means; I have the local fanatics to blame for that.
This post was updated on .
عاصم رشيد سحاب
In reply to this post by Jacbo117
Our target is dead, killed in some kind of ritual sacrifice. Those fanatics had no reason to kill him; they knew we planned to take him out of the country. Yet they persisted, determined to get their petty revenge against an already beaten man. There are few things a man can do to deserve such harsh retribution, but he had done nothing so severe to warrant killing him. The people of this city deserve better than these fanatics who keep their power through terror and death, and they deserve to know the truth about what these fanatics really stand for. With my contract effectively over I see no reason to end this regime and stop their madness. Religious zeal such as this cannot hope to hold true to the teachings and tenets that a loving God would charge his creations to follow, but instead it puts the entire community around them in danger.
In reply to this post by Bumbershoot
Under the chin was always the trickiest part, even with a decent lather and without the gentle lurch and sway of a ship underneath his feet. With a surgeon's care and precision, Stanley Pepper guided his razor up the curve of his throat in one smooth arc before he tilted his head, examining himself in the grimy mirror. He'd done what he could with what passed for soap here, some water, and a straight razor. Not as close a shave as he would have liked, but at least he was presentable now.
Finding anything relating to personal hygiene in a place like Blood Bay was about as likely as turning up the Holy Grail (actually, considering the events of the past few days, Stanley was convinced finding the Holy Grail would be easier). The place was probably a cesspool of filth and disease... still, it had a killer comedy club, and Stanley would be lying if he said he wasn't looking forward to exploring it next time they returned.
“Cor.” His audience, at least, seemed impressed. “Not even a nick, eh?” Young Fergus was a bright-eyed young man with startlingly red hair and a face that seemed to be comprised of one enormous freckle. He had been wandering around the space Stanley had staked out as a medbay, chatting off and on with the doctor and occasionally inspecting the unripe lemons hanging from the tree he'd picked up at port.
“Steady hands,” Stanley replied, wiping his face with a (mercifully) clean towel. “Comes with the profession, kid.” He smiled slightly to himself as he began to meticulously clean his razor. “And I've shaved in worse conditions. Spent a crazy weekend in the Pine Barrens in Jersey when I was younger, once. Ended up shaving in the back of a Buick while we high-tailed it back to the border. The road wasn't what you'd call smooth, and we were being shot at,” he added dryly, “at the time. Driver was an old friend of mine, Shotgun Sally. Said she was descended from a long line of coachmen. I'm not so sure about that, but one thing's for certain: the dame could drive.”
“What's a Buick?” Fergus asked. After a moment's consideration, he added, with considerably more interest, “What's a dame?”
“It's a... mm. Nevermind.” Stanley shook his head. “You're too young for either of them.” He grinned to himself at his private joke. Fergus was likely in his mid-teens, and almost certainly had young ladies on his mind (Stanley was fairly certain he even had a girl at Blood Bay; he'd seemed awfully anxious to be free of his tasks when he was helping out and was reluctant to say why).
“You can't be that much older than me,” the lad protested.
“I'm well into my thirties, I'll have you know.”
“Oh.” Fergus snorted. “Well, you don't look thirty. 'Cept for the hair.”
Stanley shrugged. It wasn't the first time he'd been told he was somewhat fresh-faced for a gentleman approaching middle age. “Greying early also comes with the profession. Speaking of professions,” he flicked his razor shut with practiced ease. “You've been reviewing the letters I gave you?”
Fergus's posture immediately slumped. It seemed as if gravity had increased upon him tenfold, dragging the unenthusiastic youth closer to the deck each second. Stanley was used to this reaction. “Yeah, a little.”
“You're going to need to know them a lot before we start our lessons.” Fergus had sort of become Stanley's unofficial aide over the course of their journey so far (he was still having trouble accepting that he was sailing on a pirate vessel, and was, for all intents and purposes, an actual pirate at the moment), and the doctor had quickly noticed that, while Fergus was a bright fellow, he was, like most of the crew, entirely illiterate. That would not do.
Stanley had no idea how long he would be here or whether or not he would ever get home. He intended to pursue any possibility with all the aggression he could muster, but while he was here, he was going to do what he did best. He would need a reliable assistant, and by Jove he would have one even if he had to educate the lad himself. “I know you don't value reading as much as you might hacking someone to pieces with various and sundry bladed weapons,” he continued dryly, “but I promise you it will serve you invaluably. When you can do something most people can't, you've got leverage, and it could save your life one day. Trust me, I speak from experience.”
He made a show of tidying up the workbench on which his mirror had been precariously placed. “Besides, you could even write letters. If there was anyone, y'know, you wanted to keep in touch with at port.” The young man straightened, looking suddenly quite thoughtful; Stanley caught the movement in the mirror and grinned to himself. Bingo.
“Anyway, your Captain—our Captain, I suppose—is dragging us off to some doubtlessly horrifying and dangerous place fraught with peril, so I'm going to start preparing for the trip. Which means you have time to study if you're behind the grind. So scram, kid.” He jerked a thumb over his shoulder. “Hop to it.”
Fergus obligingly scurried off, leaving Stanley to blissful peace and quiet, except for the gentle rustling of the lemon tree's leaves.
OH GOD DAMMIT I HAD FORGOTTEN YOUR PONIES
DAMN YOU CIARA
not sorry 8)
When Stanley Pepper woke up, he was not in his bed. He stared muzzily at the unfamiliar ceiling for a moment and reached out with a single hand to investigate the surface he was lying on. It appeared to be a... a table? A few more moments' fumbling later, he brought his spectacles to his face and blinked away the last of his drowsiness.
There was a woman at the far end of the room. The room itself was decidedly shabby, its walls lined with shelves which were bent under the weight of an army of jars whose contents looked dubiously medical at best. The woman was standing in front of a table, over winch a soft cloth had been draped, and industriously cleaning a wide array of tools laid out on top of it, one at a time. Hearing the doctor behind her stir, she looked over briefly, and said, “Oh, good. You're up.”
Stanley opened his mouth to reply, but yawned instead. He remembered now where he was. His comrades had successfully lead an uprising against the oppressive force that had captured Blood Bay, but the aftermath of their victory had been messy. There was damage to be repaired, livelihoods to protect, and injured citizens to tend to. Stanley was useless as far as city management went, but the last bit... now that he could do.
The past three days had gone by in something of a blur. Stanley was not the only doctor in Blood Bay, though he was certainly the most modern. He and his fellow healers had set up an unofficial base of operations near the dock and had been processing patients while the wrecked remains of the Panzers were still cooling. They'd all been run ragged, snatching a few hours' worth of rest when they could, but at the end of three days, with things finally slowing to a manageable trickle, the majority of them had crashed.
This partly explained why he had fallen asleep on a table. The other reason was because there were simply no beds to be had anywhere nearby, all of them being occupied by the worse-wounded patients. His back was certainly not thanking him, but at least he'd gotten some sleep. He lifted his spectacles and rubbed the bridge of his nose. “How long was I out?”
“Haven't the faintest, I'm afraid. I've been busy,” was the lady's simple response. She shrugged and offered him a smile. “I can tell you that someone was nice enough to bring us some hot soup. Next room over.”
“You,” the doctor replied, “are a saint.”
Sometime in the middle of his meal, an aide came looking for him and informed him that Governor Briggs had requested his presence at the mansion. Stanley was happy enough to oblige, not just to discuss the takeover of Blood Bay, but also to check up on her, as he hadn't seen her since the night of the coup. After he'd scarfed down two bowls of blisteringly hot soup, he began the long walk back to the governor's mansion. Stanley hadn't had time to reflect on the whirlwind events that had brought him to this point, but as he wove his way through the complicated maze of sidestreets and alleys that characterized the dockside neighborhoods, he found himself lost in his thoughts.
In some ways he regretted the course of action he and his comrades had taken. Many of the denizens of Blood Bay had been hurt or killed by the coup he'd helped incite. It had been mercifully quick, though, thanks in part to the unified assault that the townsfolk had provided, so Stanley had at least that to be grateful for. His kneejerk reaction to the entire affair had not been remorse, or grim satisfaction, or anything similar, however.
He'd been angry.
Furious, in fact. He didn't know too much about these fellows, other than they seemed to be some form of offshoot of the Nazi movement in Germany. They likely had access to the surface world, given the technologies at their disposal, but what on Earth (or what in Earth) they could want from these people completely eluded the doctor. He had seen evidence of their intelligence, though, which was only surpassed by their cruelty. As he'd stood there in the governor’s mansion with the blood of an innocent woman on his hands, he had felt cold rage grip him when he realized that these men were using science, using knowledge to hurt people. It was a perversion of the principles of science, a slap in the face of its purpose, and more importantly it was damn hard to deal with from the point of view of a medical caretaker.
It was easy to hurt someone with medical knowledge, but difficult to undo the damage.
I suppose that means I'm just going to have to be better at healing than they are at hurting. The disaster at Blood Bay had been dealt with, but Stanley was relatively certain that it wouldn't be the last time he ran into the Thule society's handiwork.
No matter. For now, it was time to wrap up the loose ends waiting for him at the governor's mansion, though Stanley had a feeling this matter was going to get more complicated before it got simpler.
[Taken from the journal of Stanley Reinholdt Pepper, being a record of the flora and fauna encountered throughout the doctor's journeys in the Hollow Earth rather than a repository for his personal thoughts and feelings]
These diminutive theropods were among the first unusual creatures I encountered in this strange realm colloquially referred to as the “Hollow Earth.” They possess the same carriage and general shape of Wagner's Compsognathus longipes, though I have noticed that they seem to be capable of reaching a greater size than the specimen recovered in 1859. Whether this is attributed to a subspecies, genetic drift, or the possibility that Oberndorfer's acquisition was in fact an example of a juvenile individual remains uncertain.
It has been postulated that Compsognathus is a relative of the proto-bird Archaeopteryx, a conclusion that I must confess I am not educated enough to deny or confirm. These creatures certainly lack the feathers for which Archaeopteryx is well-known, but they definitely carry themselves in a way that is distinctly and inherently birdlike. This observation is hardly sturdy enough to pin grandiose claims of origin upon, however, so for now I will simply withhold any judgment on the matter of their relations.
The Compsognathus specimens I have encountered so far are quite widespread, and even purposefully kept in small to large groups by the various citizens that call this strange region their home. The largest examples I have seen are around the size of turkeys, and also like the turkey, they are occasionally eaten. I have it on the authority of several settlers that they taste “like chicken.”
Individuals possess an uncommon curiosity and a surprisingly high tolerance for human contact which I have observed even in a semi-wild state. This could suggest at a tendency of the species towards self-domestication, but I cannot be sure. I have not had adequate time to examine their behavior in any great detail, but they do seem intelligent, and I have to wonder if they possess that same strange mental acuity observed in Corvidae.
They appear to be carnivorous, and I have it on the authority of at least one shopkeeper in Blood Bay that they make excellent ratters.
“I'm not entirely sure what it was,” Stanley was saying, “but the fact that we got dinosaurs and all kinds of things like that running around makes ya think.” He was sitting at what passed for a desk in his medbay, writing into his journal as he spoke with no apparent difficulty. “Maybe an old skeleton was found, some kinda prehistoric mammal we don't know about yet? Maybe that's where the story came from?”
“But José already said what it is.” Fergus was seated neat the lemon tree, happy enough for the distraction of the conversation—it meant he could pause his grammar exercises. “It's the chupacabra.”
“Yeah, I get that, kid. But what the chupacabra is is the question.”
Fergus gave this some though before he shrugged. “An evil thing that kills goats...?”
The doctor gave a snort. “An animal can't be evil, it can only be an animal. Ever since we came here I've been noticing... connections. Assim thinks this place is his peoples' version of Hell, and based on what he's said, I think maybe he might be onta something. Everyone here has something to say about this place. I've only seen a little of the Hollow Earth, but if things from it are poppin' up in Peru, and it's well-known enough to spawn legends in a culture halfway around the world...” He shook his head. “Then it's gotta be huge. Almost everyone that came with me had something to do with this place.”
“Maybe they were meant to be here,” Fergus opined.
Stanley glanced his way, giving the young man a stern look over the tops of his spectacles. “I'm thinkin' more along the lines of the possibility that this place is just so massive that it's impacted a hell of a lot of human history.”
“Or,” Fergus said, somewhat stubbornly, “it could be destiny.”
“No such thing, kiddo.”
“I don't know. Like you were saying, it's convenient, right? José came looking for the chupacabra, and you guys saw one within a week. We don't get a lot of folks from the topside anyhow, much less some guy whose religion knows about this place.” Fergus shrugged. “And, hey, it's real convenient that when we needed to save the governor and take back Blood Bay, they also happened to bring along a guy who's a good enough doctor to get the job done.”
“It wasn't easy, but it's not like I'm the only guy on the planet who could've done it.” Stanley continued to fix Fergus with a skeptical stare.
“Destiny.” Fergus said simply.
“The low down's this: doctors go where they're needed. It ain't hard to see how it might look like someone showed up in the nick of time to save the day or something like that, but our group would've had a doctor with them anyway, as part of the expedition. It could've been anyone.” He turned his attention back to his book. “I don't really know why we're all down here, or if there even is a reason. What I know how to do is patch folks up. And if we're chasin' down some kinda legend or making a trip through hell, it's good enough to have a doctor along without stoppin to ask why.” His younger companion looked as if he were about to say more, and without even looking at him, Stanley pointed with a free hand and said, “You finished those conjugations yet?”
Grumbling, Fergus got back to work.
Up until that first strange word had been spoken, everything had been going normally.
...or, well, as normally as a violent coup involving a mobile island, a number of beast-shaped humanoids, and a weather machine could be expected to go. Things were weird, but they were a comfortingly familiar sort of weird, possessing an oddness that Stanley Pepper had come to associate with the Hollow Earth.
But the moment the word, both unfamiliar and instantly somehow recognizable rang in his ears and halted his feet, things went into an unfamiliar and bizarre place that, at the end of the battle, left the doctor shaken. It had all happened to quickly that he hadn't really had time to stop and analyze any of it. He'd simply acted on instinct, doing what he'd needed to do to keep himself and his companions alive. And now...
He gripped the staff-weapon tightly, not because he intended to use it, but to keep his hands from shaking.
Being surrounded by dinosaurs, talking bears, and a variety of equally-unusual humans from various periods of history was one thing, but to have something strange happen inside his own head was another. As the group caught its breath, Stanley glanced up suspiciously at the floating crystals above. He'd always had a knack for languages. Could the technology here, now that it was mysteriously active, have... tampered with his thoughts somehow? Amplified what he was already capable of? Or was the speaking of language itself somehow responsible? They were the only explanations he could immediately think of, but it was soon apparent that he didn't have time to dwell on the matter.
Apollo was speaking again, and, strange and powerful mystery language or not, there were still people fighting, still people dying out there, and they needed to get this situation under control as quickly as possible. It was better to focus on doing what he needed to do right away and hash out the details of this... new oddity later. Before he left, though, he made a point to ask Apollo what the strange words he'd heard said and had said himself were.
The language of the Atlanteans, he thought to himself as he joined his companions on the flying disc. I've always picked up languages pretty easy, but never as a souvenir.
What Jose has been thinking since the island started rising:
This... what is happening? Is the land moving? It seems we are approaching the sun. As things begin to heat up my thoughts cool down. I have been running on pure adrenaline for so long; it is finally catching up to me. Perhaps it is not my duty to defeat the chupacabra? I was foolish to believe a mere mortal could overpower such a terrible beast. Even in my sleep I have not been able to rest, my mind racing toward dead ends as I tried to understand what is happening in this strange place. I need to take a step back and come to grips with the fact that my life will likely end here. I will never return to the world I once knew. The goat-sucker can wait. This is my new home and he will be waiting. My new priority is to help my companions with their goals. I will consider myself a success if I can keep just one of these people alive long enough to fulfill their mission, whatever that may be.
I should be more like the quiet Assim and meditate. Think about the next course of action rather than relying on my physical skills to solve every problem. I know the good doctor looks to me as a leader and he likely is not the only one. I need to act like a leader and have solid plans rather than just waiting for things to happen.
Stanley had hoped that his trip to the library would offer him some peace of mind, or at least convince Assim that he wasn't possessed by demons or anything else suitably horrific. He'd accomplished one of those goals, that was for sure: Assim no longer associated his abilities with anything dark and unholy. As for peace of mind...
The weirdness had started when Assim began to recognize some of the phrases that Stanley read aloud from the various scrolls and tomes (Assim himself could not read, of course). They'd spent the better part of several hours diving through text and after text, and at long last his pious friend had come to the conclusion that Stanley's powers were linked with the supernatural beings that had given him his own.
“The what now?” Had been the doctor's immediate and skeptical response.
Assim had replied by levitating the table between them with seemingly nothing but the power of his mind. When Stanley had pushed incredulously down on it, he had felt himself lifted, as well. “Okay, okay, point taken, Assim, you can set me down now!” He'd squawked. An explanation had followed next, and Stanley had listened in stunned silence as his traveling companion had revealed to him the nature of his psychic abilities, abilities Stanley hadn't even known he had.
It was all rather a lot to take in, especially after the events of the past few days, but as soon as Stanley had learned that Assim's sudden weak spells during battle were brought about by him overexerting himself, his medical instincts had taken the wheel and he'd given his friend a good chiding about minding his own health.
It seemed it would be several days until they'd managed to find some way off the now-flying island. As Stanley retired after parting ways with Assim for the evening, he resolved to spend the next day down in the city, rendering his assistance where he could to those wounded in the uprising. It would be somewhat therapeutic to immerse himself in normalcy after everything that had happened. He'd been given answers that gave rise to yet more questions.
He made sure to stop by Captain Flint's room before he retired (Or Gaius? The doctor made a mental note to ask him what he'd prefer to be called), quietly informing him that if he wanted or needed to talk, Stanley's door was always open. It was hard not to like Flint, for all his various (and sometimes downright dangerous) flaws. He had a undeniable, relentless charm about him, and to see him brought so low was genuinely upsetting. It wasn't as if Stanley didn't understand why, but even so, if he could help, he wanted to.
Despite his restless mind, he fell asleep almost immediately.
All in all, it felt good to have pavement (or something like it) under his feet again. Stanley was a city kid born and bred, and he'd always preferred the view from the ground-up rather than from looking down from some fanciful exalted tower.
As he moved among the various--neighborhoods of the city? Boroughs? Blocks? All of those names seemed incongruously casual for the grandiosity of the ruins around him--sectors of the city, Stanley found it was hard for him to determine whether the damage to the city itself was anything new, or simply the result of ages of neglect. Atlantis city had once been great, that was undeniable, but now... it was almost a mournful sight.
Still, there was no use getting sentimental about buildings when there were patients to attend to. Stanley's experience with species other than humans was understandably limited, but he was still able to help with first aid for those who had to wait for the use of the healing crystals. He did he best to be helpful and obedient when necessary, taking his cues from those who were more experienced at patching up beastmen and vril-ya. He was attentive and willing to learn as well as teach. After all, knowing how to assist other species could only help him if he ended up stuck here in the long term.
It felt comforting to be back in a position that was so familiar to him: ushering wounded in from the street into a makeshift clinic, especially when he had spent the last week or so here, helping plan and enact a bloody insurrection. Thinking back on the events of the previous day, he couldn't help but wonder if he could have done things more peacefully, somehow, or if he'd let the shock of having his brain rewired by Atlantean technology rattle him into uncharacteristic violence.
Then, around noon, a teenage human boy had brought in a patient: she was a curious-looking thing, something like a panther that walked like a human—a race he'd yet to encounter anywhere in the Hollow Earth, even in Atlantis. She had a bandage across her face over where she'd clearly lost an eye. The thing that struck Stanley most was not how surprisingly expressive her feline face was, or the faint iridescence of spots that could be seen in her glossy black fur, though. It was the fact that she was very clearly a child.
Any remorse he'd felt instantly evaporated as he knelt to examine her. What had been necessary had been done. Despite her obvious injury, she seemed in good spirits, her tail lashing as she chattered enthusiastically with Stanley. “Why is your shirt so weird?”
“What, you've never seen a bunch of buttons before?” he asked, his tone good-naturedly gruff.
“You talk weird, too!” She peered at him with her one remaining eye.
“Yeah, well, I ain't from around here, kiddo. I need you to hold your arm out for me, okay?” She continued to talk as he worked, and her companion stood nearby, half-smiling. Stanley could only assume he was her guardian. He let her carry most of the conversation, only chiming in occasionally. “You been here a while?”
“Yep, I was born here.” She paused for a moment, still peering, and, seeming to come to some conclusion of her own, said, “You're one of the outsiders, aren't you?”
“In your own words, 'Yep.' We decided to do some redecoratin' while we were here. Needed a new bunch of leaders to go with the drapes and all.”
“You got to work with Apollo!” If she understood his joke, she didn't show any sign of it. “He's our leader, you know. And he is,” she added, in the tones of grave conviction possessed only by the very young, “the best.”
Stanley couldn't resist a chuckle. “I'll be sure to tell him you said that, miss...?”
“Arra.” She responded, her eye widening. “And you will? You really will?”
“Of course,” Stanley responded gravely, standing at last. The little panther-girl immediately struck up a great, rattling purr. Good Lord, the startled doctor thought to himself, that's the most adorable thing I've ever heard.
As the days passed, Stanley found himself growing more and more familiar with the layout of the city. It felt remarkably good to be doing what he did best once more, and equally gratifying to be back in proper metropolis after having been traveling for so long. He was understandably eager to get on his way, but until the time came that Apollo and his men figured out a means of escape, he was stuck here. Things were bound to get excitingly dangerous once they struck out into the Hollow Earth proper again, so he figured he'd might as well enjoy the peace while it lasted.
The longer he stayed and the more detail he took in, the more he began to realize that, for all its time-worn decay, for all the neglect it had suffered, Atlantis was still a truly beautiful place. He was happy to have been there and to have helped its rebirth: hopefully its current tenants would treat it more kindly than the former, or than the masters who'd abandoned it.
On the last afternoon before departure, he sat on a fallen column by one of the canals, watching the dappled shadows of the ever-present cloud cover shift over the waters below, enjoying lunch. One of the patients had been kind enough to bring some along for the doctors—of all things, a sandwich, an honest-to-goodness sandwich, which Stanley had been inordinately happy to receive. The bread was obviously hand-made, but that only added to the deliciousness: it was in every way indistinguishable from a baguette. It was filled with sliced, cured meat and fresh chopped vegetables, and it was the best-tasting thing that Stanley had eaten in a long time.
I think this is going to be what I remember about Atlantis the most, he thought to himself. Sittin' on the ruins of some ancient temple, waitin' to patch up the next patient, who might be a giant lizard—another giant lizard, that is, and... He looked down at his hands. Eatin' a hoagie.
Maybe this Hollow Earth place wasn't so bad after all.
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