Welcome to No Books of Men! We are a modern alternate history board set in a magical school nestled in the Columbiana Valley of the Rocky Mountains. Students of the Collegium Illustrata Columbiana (commonly called simply The Academy) are free to explore their wildest imaginations in learning the mystic arts, so long as it does not jeopardize the ongoing Shadow War with the Exarchs. How will you live up to the legacies of Merlin?






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 Hell's Waiting Room, Tag: Open, SWP
Neva Gaines
 Posted: Dec 19 2015, 04:44 PM
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45
Columbiana
Mayor of Columbiana
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Neva wasn't happy about this, she wasn't happy at all. This was the sort of decision that every politician dreaded. A decision that had to be made, but there was no right answer. The Valley was infected, the psys at P.I.M. had discovered it and the eggheads at E.A.S.T. division had confirmed it. Now Sigma was demanding a decision that Neva knew was political suicide, but knew that it had to be done. A quick phone call was all it took. She knew that Sigma was smiling that smug grin of his on the other end of the line. What she wouldn't give to smack it off his face, but now wasn't the time. He was an ass, but he was efficient. She knew that within minutes his team would have the checkpoints secure and reinforcements already en route.

While he did that sight unseen, Neva took a deep breath and began preparing herself. She asked George, her secretary, to put out the call for the citizenry within the hour. The local press would be there, no doubt, as well as the bulk of the more outspoken and active citizens. They were known variables. It was the unknown ones that she feared. The witches at the Academy had been more unruly and problematic lately, and if the damned Manifesto all over town was any sign they were in a state of upheaval themselves. She had no idea what to expect from them any more. Worse, there were strange beast-men and ogres that had come to the Valley as of late, if her intelligence was accurate. If the Academy had become unpredictable as of late, they were still known. These new creatures were another story...

The hour was over soon enough, and she walked down to the conference room. She wore her suit like armor. Her kind eyes were a shield. Her smile was a weapon. She was entering the fray, knowing this may be the battle that turns the war against her or it may be the one that turns the tide in her favor. "Good Afternoon and thank you all for taking time to join me today. As I am certain many of you have already heard, the road out of the Columbiana Valley has been closed off by Federal Authorities and a General Quarantine has been declared disallowing anyone from leaving the Valley without the express permission of the CDC authorities that shall arrive within the next hour. I wish to preface the rest of this conversation with the assurances that I have been in contact with State and Federal Authorities throughout the process and this decision was not made lightly. As to the cause of the quarantine, I am certain that many of you are wondering why it has been imposed when no notable or fatal infections have been obvious in recent days. I assure you that the quarantine is necessary to contain a peculiar strain of the influenza virus that has been identified within our population and can cause dramatic side effects that must not be allowed to spread until they are better understood." She paused and glanced around for the briefest of moments before finishing her prepared speech. "I know that many of you are wondering, with the Holiday season so close at hand and Christmas barely a week away, when the Quarantine is to be lifted, I cannot say with certainty but we hope it will not be long. We will do our best to minimize disruption during this holiday season, but until we know more we cannot commit to any particular timeframe. City Hall and the CDC are both committed to an informed public and we ill be issuing frequent updates when new information becomes available. We thank you for your cooperation at this time and I will now open the floor for questions..."

Neva took a deep breath and looked out over her podium at the amassed populace. This moment of silence and peace underneath these lights was but the calm before the storm. In a matter of heartbeats, the calm would break and the storm would roll in to crash against the shore. She could only hope that the levies she had built., the bulwarks to save this community from itself and the creatures that lurked in its shadows, would prove to be enough.... That she would prove to be enough....
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Faye Gneiss
 Posted: Dec 20 2015, 02:24 AM
Quote
19
Elemental
Advanced Member


In her own time, while Faun had kept up with the general news of the country, she hadn't really be an active political participant. Now, however, finding herself stranded in a time and place far from her own, she felt it prudent to gather as much information as she could about her new home. That included its government. So, when she heard about the open meeting scheduled today, she had decided to come. Rumors and gossip had been circulating about road blocks of some kind, an unsettling piece of news in any context. Hopefully, this would shed some light on the whole thing.

She was seated somewhere in the back, quiet and unobtrusive. One or two questioning glances might have come from those surprised to see a teenager at a meeting like this, but nobody was telling her to leave, so she remained where she was, waiting patiently for the conference to begin.

There was a quiet murmur through the room as a middle-aged woman entered, carrying an undeniable air of authority. That must be the mayor, then. Faun shifted slightly and settled down to listen, but as she did so, her expression shifted from a calm neutrality to a look of concern. They had quarantined the town for the flu? She could understand that, but...something just didn't click. She had yet to see any "dramatic side effects" aside from the usual congestion and coughing that winter always brought. Judging by the measures taken, people should have been dropping like flies.

An idle thought occurred to her, followed by an immediate wave of worry. What if there wasn't any epidemic at all? What if this was a coverup of some kind? Columbiana was up to its ears in magic and conspiracies, even she knew that. In a town that housed mages and Fae-taken and who knew what else, it wasn't that great a stretch to imagine that the local bureaucracy had a few things odd about it as well.

Questions and worries raced through her mind, but she couldn't bring herself to speak up.
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Mad Bill
 Posted: Dec 20 2015, 06:53 PM
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21
N/A
Reason in Madness


Bill floated at the rear of the room, carefully ignoring any questioning glances towards him. Columbina Valley had been good to him the short while he'd been there and he was curious to see more of the political life. So when the Mayor called a meeting he couldn't resist taking a peak.

He noticed the younger fae sitting up the back and moved carefully towards her before the Mayor entered the room. He could see her stress lightly running around her face, her confidence and a hint of the unknown in her eyes. Her speech, well, clearly political, beautifully vague, carefully sculpted to avoid clarification. What a politician, Bill mused before raising his had slightly.

"Miss Mayor, if there have been no deaths due to this illness why are you imposing a quarantine?" He looked right into her eyes, stoic, and slightly challenging her. This was cruel but he was in dire need of a bit of fear, ever since the hedge spat him out here he'd been running low on glamour.
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Dexter Gathers
 Posted: Dec 24 2015, 02:34 AM
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Tin-Foil Hat Crazy
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News travelled fast in such a small town. Between general gossip and his police scanner, Dexter was very much aware of the fact that the road into and out of the valley was closed. Now the important question was who closed it and why. He had his theories of course, theories that no one else seemed to want to entertain, but he was determined to get to the bottom of it all.

And so it was Dexter arrived at the little city hall. His arrival was announced by the squeal of rubber on rubber, his hip waders rubbing against each other as he walked. They might call him foolish, strung-out, or even crazy, but no one could ever say that he wasn’t prepared. The mayor gave a nice long speech, which Dexter surreptitiously recorded of course, but he wasn’t buying any of it. No there was no influenza going around. He would have known about it if there were. Something was up, and it was his job to uncover the truth.

One of the other attendees had a very good question about the necessity of a quarantine and Dexter nodded in agreement. “Mayor Gaines!” He raised his hand, waving it frantically above the crowd like an exuberant child waiting to be called on. Except, of course, he didn’t wait until he was called on. “Does this quarantine have anything to do with the recent per capita increase in chimera consumption at the Academy’s food court?” Because screw what statisticians said, correlation did often mean causation. Dexter hadn’t ever trusted cafeteria food anyways, and this might just be the nail in the coffin. “And what about these so called, dramatic side effects? What are they?”
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Jamie Bleddyn
 Posted: Dec 27 2015, 01:30 AM
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44
N/A
Newbie
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"Come on kid, be sure to bring the camera...this is gon' be good."

Jamie wasn't often allowed to these sort of events, not offically, but as a member of hte press and what with this being an open press conference he didn't exactly want to miss the best this had to offer. The valley had been shut down, the interstate closed and pretty soon hysteria was gonna kick in...that had to get on film. He gestured to his newest reporter...some sort of freshfaced...uh, whatever he or she was that he had hired on. Good credentials, he didn't know about much else.

Except that the valley denizens were in rare fucking form. of course, an epidemic kind of had that going for it. Most everyone couldn't get a word in edgewise just because they were so preoccupied talking over each other. Not that any of the questions were wrong, just...well how did they expect to get an answer all at once like that? The shadowy faced man smirked, taking notes as he looked up at his 'old friend' the mayor, who was now heaped in shit,and while professionalism was something he strived towards, it kind of became a moot point as the crazies started to chime in

Ah Gathers...local area crackpot and yet, one of his best subscribers, "It was unicorn Dex...get it right." He gave Ellis a nudge with the back of his hand and chuckled. Though he waited in turn to ask his own question. "What are you going to do to make sure that supplies still come into the valley? Is the CDC truly in charge of this? Or are we gonna get FEMA'd here or what?"
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Walter von Richtofen
 Posted: Dec 29 2015, 02:42 PM
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39
Solificati
Groundsman
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Sitting toward the back, to one side was the Scandinavian groundskeeper. He'd been in the hall some time, waiting for things to kick off and now, it seems, they certainly were. Now the mayor had made her speech and broken the bad news, the crowd were tense and clamouring for answers.

For now, Walter was content to watch and listen to see how the Q&A session panned out. Still focused within himself a little, meditation having been a good way to pass time before the mayor's arrival, Walt began to question his own motivations for being here. Back in Scandinavia, where political engagement was commonplace amongst the electorate, he had never really bothered to participate in the whole fiasco, as he saw it. Here in his new home, though, where political occasions like this were much less well attended, the dour, lumbering blond felt some strange compunction to take part.

Looking around, he saw a few people he recognised from the odd chance encounter he'd had. Many others he at least noted that he had spotted them around campus once or twice.

With news of the quarantine, questions raced around in Walt's mind. He elected to keep them to himself for now, though, until certain other pertinent questions - already raised by some more vocal attendees - had been answered by the harried looking mayor.
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Ellis Donoghue
 Posted: Dec 29 2015, 06:59 PM
Quote
33
Spring
Emerald Paperman
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Grab the camera. Like the thing didn't weigh a million pounds. There were a few things Ellis found odd about his new boss. It seemed like the man would be more at home in some old noir pulp novel hunched over an old press-key typewriter versus a modern day computer. That aesthetic was cool, at least. But the while having to light around this ancient-ass box camera with a big flash bulb in top?

Not as cool.

But Jamie had insisted that developing photos was ‘just the way the news should do it’, and so here Ellis was, half kneeling on the outside aisle seat next to his boss in the city Hall conference room, trying to feed a new roll of film into the back of the camera that was in all likelihood older than he was.

There were some hushed whispers going around the crowd, mostly people trying to figure out just what was going on, but Ellis didn't need to join in. You didn't work in the investigative journalism field without making a few friends in the local government. Or, more accurately, Jamie had friends in high places, but neither way, the reason they were here wasn't exactly a secret: the town was on lockdown.

It was the why and how long that remained to be seen.

The major began her speech and Ellis couldn't get the back of the camera shut in time to get a good shot of her began she began speaking. But by the time the big bomb was dropped he had it more or less-- oh wait, nope, he could drop the whole thing on the floor instead with a loud clatter, then scramble to pick it up, only to watch the film roll detach and roll across the floor, getting that dark red exposure tint to it and oh, great, that was ruined…

Fuck it. Out came his phone and he began snapping away, the flash camera forgotten in his lap as he muttered a ‘my bad’ towards Jamie. He smirked at the town crackpots question, even though in this Valley there was an actual chance that could be the case, offering a follow up snerk to Jamie’s retort. He switched his phone over to video mode, making sure to capture the mayor's responses, letting his boss take the reigns this round. Because one, he was the newbie here, and two, he was currently fighting off the wave of worry that came with the news of the town's quarantine.
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Neva Gaines
 Posted: Dec 30 2015, 03:34 PM
Quote
45
Columbiana
Mayor of Columbiana
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Neva sighed internally. She so sorely wished she could do so literally, but she knew that doing so would be unwise at the best of political times and this was about as far from ideal as was possible short of a literal firebomb going off somewhere in town. As it were, she kept her frustrations a personal and internal matter as she mentally began to collate answers to the barrage of questions. Those questions that she heard most often, or in some cases were shouted loudest, did however elicit a response.

First to raise their voice above the crowd was someone unknown to the Mayor. She wished that was proof of the man's recent arrival, but unfortunately between the bizarre sorts this town frequently attracted and the constant influx of students to the Academy made all but the biggest thorns and largest contributors to make themselves known to her. "A fair question sir. While I am not currently privy to all the details that has led to the CDC imposing quarantine, they have assured me that the illness has not yet proven any more fatal than typical influenza but the quarantine is necessary to minimize the impact of the worrisome side effects..."

She barely had time to finish her statement before the storm of questions rose again, only to die down again and leave Mr. Dexter Gathers staring her down. Now this was a man she knew all too well. One of the local crackpots, he and his cronies were harmless but a frequent thorn in the side of her administration. "I cannot speak to the Academy's policies regarding food or any other matter, but I can assure you that contaminated meat is not a known source of this disease..." She kept her expression tightly controlled when answering his follow-up question. "I cannot speak to the nature of these side-effects beyond what the CDC has reported to me." Not quite true, but not quite a lie either. "All I have been told is that there have been non-fatal but notable neurological side effects. Effects that must be contained until we know more..."

Again, the cacophony rose and Neva tried to let it wash over her until it again receded to reveal yet another familiar face. Trying to keep her expression neutral and resist the urge to ask who had let Jamie into the meeting hall, she smiled and replied. "Supply lines are being established as we speak, all our necessities and the vast majority of amenities that we cannot provide ourselves shall be screened before entry and accommodated to the best of the CDC's abilities." She paused, her lips thinning ever so slightly in annoyance. "As to what parties are managing security of the quarantine, I cannot disclose in its entirity. However, I have been authorized to say that most will be handled either by either the CDC directly or more often by the National Guard under orders. FEMA is not directly involved to my knowledge..." She did sigh slightly when the sea of questions again rose.

Neva continued to field those questions she could and deflecting those she could not, knowing that the security of the valley was already being established. The highway out of Columbiana was already closed off, as well as checkpoint along the main road to the official quarantine border. Sigma would doubtlessly already be moving troops in to secure the heart of town despite her assurances that it wasn't necessary. There were dissidents in town to be sure, but it was rare that (even under stressful situations such as this) those sorts would cause intentional chaos. She hoped...
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Faye Gneiss
 Posted: Dec 30 2015, 06:00 PM
Quote
19
Elemental
Advanced Member


Movement in her side-view caused her to look over, in time to see a truly haggard-looking man take a seat next to her. He was obviously a changeling like her, though the two of them were hardly similar in appearance. He was caught between human and monster, something out of a nightmare or horror story. Too late, Faun realized she was staring and looked away quickly. Odds were, he knew how he looked, and no doubt she had just appeared incredibly rude for gawking. As she glanced around the room, she picked out a few other changelings mixed in among the mundane crowd as naturally as anything. It was a strange contrast, to be sure.

After the mayor's speech, questions were immediately raised, some more pointed than others. She couldn't help but look puzzled at the mention of people eating chimera--or unicorn, as another man claimed. Only the second person had been a changeling--were mythical creatures common here, or was the man simply crazy? He did have that look to him. She spotted Mr. von Richtofen in the room as well, looking unfazed by this news of a quarantine.If only she had that same self-control. Her stone patches were slowly growing as she tried to think of an explanation for all this. Nothing quite made sense (and the Mayor's answers were frustratingly ambiguous), but what else would happening in Columbiana that would be cause for isolation--

Oh.

Oh, no.

Faun's heart skipped a beat at the theory her mind had just presented to her. Could this have something to do with...them? The changelings? She wanted to doubt it--after all, if the mages knew about them, surely the local government would too, right? If they wanted anything to do with the local Courts, they could simply meet with them instead of going through all this subterfuge, right?

Already nervous, Faun jumped in her seat as something fell loudly to the ground in the back of the room. She looked over her shoulder at a wiry, hunched Changeling man attempting to right the camera he had just dropped. It was obviously an accident, and she sat back, trying to calm her racing heart before she petrified completely. Everything will be fine. Everything will be fine. The Courts can handle any trouble from the government.

...Right?
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Dexter Gathers
 Posted: Dec 31 2015, 01:45 AM
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???
N/A
Tin-Foil Hat Crazy
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The din of the congregation was almost overwhelming. People crowded in from all sides, all trying to talk over one another, but Dexter stood firm. This was business, serious business, and he wasn’t going to allow himself to be intimidated. Not yet at least. When Bleddyn chimed in with a correction, Dexter furrowed his brow and shoved a hand deep into one of his pockets. A moment later he produced a pad of paper which he began frantically flipping through. Ah. “No, no it says right here. Chimera.” He jabbed a grubby index finger at a line covered in unintelligible symbols. Clearly, clearly it said nothing about Unicorn.

The mayor’s answer to his question was disappointing to say the least. Another dead end in this conspiracy Dexter had started to concoct. Well, either that or the mayor was lying to save face. Maybe they were connected, and she was just determined not to say so. She had no good answer for the question about side effects either, and that was something that she should have known. Why would the CDC or anyone want to keep dramatic side effects secret unless...unless, they wanted this horrible disease to spread...and now here they were, a crowd of people packed into a small place. It was the perfect place for a disease to be spread.

“It’s a trap! It’s a trap!” Dexter shouted above the dull roar of the crowd. “They asked us to come here so they could infect us all with their mysterious disease at once! They don’t want to tell us what it is, because they don’t want us to protect ourselves!”
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Mad Bill
 Posted: Jan 1 2016, 01:36 AM
Quote
21
N/A
Reason in Madness


Bill waited for the mayor to answer his question. Despite those who were obviously mad, even by his extensive standards, the mayor held her composure well. Obviously this was not her first time dealing with these people. A gift he was quite happy to see her make use of.

He heard the clatter of the papermonkys and their fumbling, it was nothing he was worried about however the young faun nearby was getting edgy and that was dangerous particularly if someone were to attempt to incite...

.... panic by suggesting this room is full of the infection. Buggery.

Bill could feel the lovely LOVELY glamour of fear swirling around him but he needed a bit more... order within the group. Cautiously he approached the yelling man and as he finished he pushed some glamour through his system and felt that if the man wanted to cause fear, fear is what he shall receive. Activating two of his contracts he leaned into the man's ear.
"You're right of course, these terrible people want to keep you here, to infect you with a disease that will make you like them, that will close your eyes. You should run home, fast. What if they were to capture you, to keep your secrets to yourself? That can't happen you must go NOW!"

Bill stepped back and sat next to the faun with a gracious smile.
"Hello, my name is Bill. What's yours?"
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Jamie Bleddyn
 Posted: Jan 3 2016, 02:55 AM
Quote
44
N/A
Newbie
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Jamie put up his hands as he got it from both sides, not a man unused to being harped at, given that he usually deserved it. "Alright, alright..." With Dex? Well, he'd change his tune later, never changing his mind of course, just new intel or the like, but he was really quite fond of the man, hell, he was fond of Gaines too, even though the feeling wasn't exactly mutual.

"Until it is a natural emergency. Do you have any plans on how to keep the peace?"

What with the already electric feel in the air coming from these civilly minded locals he could only imagine what would happen if say...SELF or even the Gardeners figured that they had been put on lock down. Things that made for a good story, often didn't sit with him well on a moralistic clause. That was to say: Jamie was worried, but only because he cared. His brows bobbed as the camera took a tumble, he smirked and made a snag for it. "Eh, don't worry about it." And he meant that, it wasn't too important in the long run, pictures were pictures and more often then not, it was just a formality that wasn't going anywhere because of a hex or whatever.

"Oh my god Dex, shut up." It was said levelly, as though it was just as natural as saying hello to the theorist, but he was quick to come to his defense as he gestured towards Bill. "Come on man, don't egg him on, he's sick." Hmph, he gave Ellis a look like 'do you believe that shit?' Sure he'd play but he wasn't outright nasty like whatever this other changeling had been up to, in fact...seemed to him that everyone else was a changeling, they were just coming out of the woodwork weren't they? At least it seems as though the initial stress was dying down- and he waited to see what else the mayor was going to say next, if not...it was grillin' time.
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Walter von Richtofen
 Posted: Jan 3 2016, 06:36 AM
Quote
39
Solificati
Groundsman
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Walter sat and listened to the details unfold. He was not exactly one of those people who trusted implicitly in elected officials, nor did he believe that they did not have their own agendas. He was sensible enough, however, to realise that a problem of this scale required intervention and control from the state. That was, essentially, what this little gathering was all about.

Then, the crowd started to take a more manic turn. Talk of conspiracies and intentional exposure to disease. The dour Scandinavian wasn't sure whether there were any grounds in the gentleman that he had com to refer to as 'The Birdman''s allegations, but he suspected he knew precisely what effect such words would have upon a large crowd in such a small space.

Walter rose to his feet and watched the gathered throng like a hawk. His steely blue eyes looking for any sign of panic. A stampede or conflagration in such a small, enclosed space could have tragic consequences.

Concern etched grimly upon his weathered features, he still remains silent. Perhaps unintentionally adding to his frankly deserved reputation as a grim, humourless soul.
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Ellis Donoghue
 Posted: Jan 4 2016, 02:36 AM
Quote
33
Spring
Emerald Paperman
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Wait, wait, neurological side effects? Ellis drew his eyes away from the screen of his phone and glanced over towards Jamie, quirking an eyebrow, an unspoken question of what -sort- of side effects? Not that he was expecting the other reporter to have an answer, but still, kiiiinda worrisome. This whole thing was, really, Ellis had never been in a lockdown situation before, and he knew he had a job to do here but he was sort of wishing this meeting would end so he could run back home and make sure everybody in his little commune was alright.

They'd be fine. All of them. Right?

It was thoughts to the contrary that kept Ellis' mind worrying when it should have been focused on what was going on here. Jamie got snappy with some guy giving the local crackpot a hard time, but Ellis hadn't caught exactly what had been going on with all that, but the sound of his boss' voice got him to focus, and he once again looked at the mayor through the screen on his phone, trying to hold the thing steady. Maybe he could upload the video to the paper's crappy outdated website. God, that thing needed a redo like burning...
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Neva Gaines
 Posted: Jan 4 2016, 04:09 PM
Quote
45
Columbiana
Mayor of Columbiana
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This was exactly why Neva hated doing these things. All too often public meetings and press events proved to be grounds for little beyond panicky citizens and conspiracy theorists. Sadly, careful observation to determine which was which only seemed to work half the time. Other than the old standy-by nutters, the others were x-factors whose worries seemed valid but could easily fly out of hand…

The clamour seemed to be dying down at least, most of the trivial questions having been addressed between the stingers. Then she noticed a jumpy young woman in the back and Neva leveled her calm and stoic gaze on this unknown young woman. An idle thought went through the mayor’s head as she scanned the nervous girl, wondering why she seemed somehow out of place, but she pushed the thought aside and focused on the questions still flying at her despite the diminishing chaos.

Neva sighed deeply as the crazies argued about their particular brands of insanity, which was something she tried to ignore and avoid whenever possible. After all, acknowledging their madness only encouraged them. She braced herself for another of Dexter’s frustrating and maddening questions, but instead she got something she deeply feared: His screaming about traps and intentional infections. As the crowd began to grow panicky, as first the already jumpy feared the man’s paranoia and their reactions spread on up the chain until all but the most level heads were clamouring for some kind of reassurance. “Please be calm people…” Neva found her usual political tones incapable of overcoming the increasing din. “I said calm down!” She shouted, finally interrupting the chaos enough to be heard. “I assure you Mr. Gathers that I and none other in City Hall have any intention or interest in such foolish ideas. You and all others are as safe here as you would be in your own homes…” She casually gestured at a trio of uniformed policemen positioned about the room for security to magnify her point.

While Her words seemed to have the desired effect on most of the crowd, others seemed to be taking advantage of the situation for their own purposes. From her position above and in front of the crowd, Nevva narrowed her eyes at the strange man who took the chance to whisper something in Dexter’s ear. While the content of the whispered words were lost to the noise and the exact effects of their voicing would have on Dexter remained unknown to Neva in this moment, but she took note of the man nonetheless. This person would bear watching…

Turning to the other thorn in her side, the Mayor tried to remain calm and reassure the crowd by continuing with business as usual. “I can assure you that, in addition to our regular police forces, we have been granted the additional security of the National Guard and what forces they can spare to help maintain the safety and security of this town and its environs.” She didn’t like how much leeway that would give Sigma and his goons, but it was a necessary evil (both in procedural and realistic senses). “I have confidence in the citizens of Columbiana and doubt that the additional security will prove necessary. That said, I have been assured that those same soldiers have already taken up their temporary posts to aid our town in this regard…” In fact, they began to move into said positions nearly as soon as the press conference had begun. Before moving on, Neva’s gaze did shift to one of quiet thankfulness as Jamie tried to corral his fellow conspiracy theorist.

Though she barely noticed the tall and dour man move to support the police officers near the exits, she understood his concern. Though the clamouring had died down, the room still felt electric and about ready to explode with only the smallest additional spark. She hoped that concerned citizens like this man would prove enough to maintain order…

Finally, seeing that most of the questions had been addressed, Neva smiled reassuringly and decided now was the time to quit while they were ahead (or at least not yet falling behind). “Thank you all for attending this meeting, but I’m afraid we are out of time. If anyone has additional questions, I and my office will be happy to address them individually. Thank you and have a wonderful…” Neva trailed off as her eyes widened. She had just seen a young man standing near the back of the room, and his was a face she recognized all too well. Her words caught in the split second before his mouth opened, unwittingly giving him the opportunity he needed...
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