Dark Calculus
Roleplaying Log: Dark Calculus
Participants
IC Details
Synopsis:

Daisy Johnson and Phil Coulson have a covert meeting to discuss the next steps of her undercover assignment.

Other Characters Referenced: Ulysses Arngrim, Frenzy
IC Date: July 03, 2019
IC Location: An Abandoned School in NYC
OOC Notes & Details
Posted On: 04 Jul 2019 02:28
Rating & Warnings: G
NPC & GM Credits:
Associated Plots

Coulson had said they needed to keep any future correspondences 'oldschool' but Quake had never expected a literal translation. They are actually -in an old school,- one which seems to have been left by the wayside by at least a couple of years. A friendly 'Condemned' sign has been posted at every one of the building's doors. The darkened halls are home to a collection of puddles of grimy water. Sound carries quite well with the calls of smaller birds carrying on from within.

It's a good place for shady dealings, regardless of the variety. Room 113 becomes their next meeting point, layered with dust and with all of the old desks stacked and pushed aside along one of the walls. It's an interior room without any windows looking outside, adding yet one more layer of security.

Quake has arrived early this time with a courier bag slung across one shoulder. She may not be wearing her gauntlets just yet but they're never far, making up part of the bag's contents.

When Phil shows up it'll take some self control on her part not to jump up and hug the superior agent. The situation on her end has not been going so well since their last talk.

"You take me to the nicest places, AC," she kids while bobbing her head and casting a wide-eyed look around the room.

* * *

Phil quirks an understated smile. "I try," he says simply. But his smile doesn't last long. He's studying her with the critical eye of a worried parent, let alone a worried CO, trying to take the measure of her physical, mental, and emotional state.

He, of course, carries nothing visible. He's in one of those suits that makes him look like an accountant. Like the world's most boring and forgettable man. Someone too legitimate to be doing anything other than considering a real estate purchase if he's been spotted coming in. It's reversible, in case he needs to quick change as he walks, but this hasn't been an issue for him today.

In the end it's unclear what conclusions, if any, he has drawn from his scrutiny. He simply decides to ask. "How are things going, Daisy?"

* * *

"Not..great…" Daisy admits with something of a forced smile. This quickly leads to looking off to one side while explaining "Iii..was an accessory to leveling an entire building. That was ..still full of people. Even Frenzy noticed that didn't go over so well for me, I think she may have pushed me back a couple of levels on the roster after that went down."

Arms come together in a self-hug as she begins a very idle and aimless pacing within the room. "I'm not getting anywhere with this, Coulson. If I keep at it I'm likely going to get more people hurt with nothing useful to show for it, but there may be another option."

She holds her position here and looks back to Phil. "We could lure Frenzy out. Maybe I can't get anything out of her but that's one of the Division's specialties, isn't it. Getting intelligence out of unwilling sources. I'm sure they would -love- to have a crack at her."

* * *

Phil's expression doesn't exactly change. It's a microexpression, the way his eyes soften with deep compassion, the slightly sad turn to his mouth. He doesn't answer her plan right away. He sits on the edge of a teacher's desk that looks sturdy enough, if dusty, and says, "There is absolutely nothing worse about running that calculous. Do I do this terrible thing to stop worse terrible things later? How do I add up the value of all the lives that are going to be impacted? Does it matter that this group would have done it with or without me? I can't think of a single story that isn't on a need-to-know basis of classification, but…there is blood on my hands too, Daisy. And not all of it belongs to people who deserve it. There are undercover assignments that don't involve that sort of choice…but they're usually professors or trophy paramours."

But rest assured, he is turning all the rest of her words over in his mind.

"If you pull out now, claiming you can't handle it emotionally," he says slowly, "they have no reason to come after you. They don't go after everyone who leaves, according to our Intel. But if you pull out and, in so doing, completely screw one of their own, they will hunt you to the ends of the earth. On the other hand, I understand you want to make the sacrifices you've already made worth it. Though honestly, anything you got about locations, methods and means, future targets that they've talked about, possible targets, current member rosters…that alone could be worth it."

Not a yes or a no either way. His microexpressions have changed again, and what's going on behind his eyes is a complicated chess game where he's theoretically playing several sides at once, trying to see potential outcomes, to weigh risks and benefits.

The same sort of dark calculous, in all honesty, that he just referenced.

* * *

Through most of this Daisy can't quite bring herself to look at Phil again, either because she wants to focus on what he's saying rather than who he's saying it to or because she doesn't fully trust herself to keep it together. Though the amount of personal experience that he brings up does give her plenty to think about. Certainly they would have demolished that building and everyone within it whether she had been a part or not. Frenzy had -easily- busted through the vault doors which had taken Daisy considerable effort to crack apart. It had been a training run for her, and a costly one, but she wasn't responsible for it taking place.

"If I give up now then we lose what could be our best shot." And if she helps set up an ambush for one of their highest ranking members then it doesn't matter, that -would- put a target on her back which may never leave.

"Damn," she mutters while looking more contemplative. "I really thought that could work out. Okay," is decided with a quick breath. Now she's found the courage to look back to Phil.

"I have some locations. Methods and means. No future targets, though. When I was tapped on the shoulder for that one it was last minute, I was left in the dark until we teleported in and got started. Possible targets, anything and everything which is even remotely anti-mutant. That lab was working on some sort of mutant detection system, I think. She didn't give me a chance to look over the notes she took out of there."

"As for transportation they use teleporters for everything. Jump in for an ambush, raze everything to the ground, teleport out. Her name is Sarah. Blonde hair. Doesn't say much. As obedient as if she had been programmed. Frenzy seems to rely on her quite a lot."

* * *

Phil doesn't call attention to her difficulty looking at him. Not directly. But he does say, gently, "It is okay to say you need to pull out. It is okay for any reason. I would rather you pull out when you know you need to then staying a course that's going to erode your soul and sanity. Every agent who is still alive has pulled out at some point."

And once he gives that quiet bit of encouragement, he looks thoughtfully into the distance. "Getting Sarah isn't a good move," he murmurs, almost to himself. "They'll just find another T-porter. But maybe the lab boys and girls can whip up an anti-teleportation field that we can install into the current SHIELD base, and any targets we're guessing at. If they're siloing information that well you won't get much more of value than you already did. They either don't trust you yet, which means you won't be able to draw Frenzy out without her suspecting a trap, or they silo their intel from everyone, working the terrorist cell model to perfection, and there wouldn't be any way for you to find anything useful to begin with. Where are the locations, and what's going on with them?"

* * *

Phil's comment (suggestion?) about pulling out is heard but Daisy is still committed to getting something more than what amounts to scraps of intel before calling this quits. It may be driven by personal means after having been involved with the helicarrier's destruction but if she can't bring them Frenzy then it -has- to be something else good. Such motivation transcends any intention of proving herself to the Division. In her mind it's the goal of the mission.

Asking about the locations brings another shift from the 'mutant' who now unshoulders the bag and pulls out a tablet. In doing so she also uncovers some of the updated gauntlets hiding within. Phil had seen the previous versions. These look more refined. They also look expensive.

Bringing up a map of Metropolis, the hackerette comes to take a seat beside Coulson on the desk. A few points are marked out.

"They've given me space at a safe house over here. Over here is the club where I had first found Frenzy, they're pushing a recruitment drive there through some glow in the dark wristbands. Then up here in this construction yard is a single story warehouse where we've done most of our training. I think they have some basic amenities there for bringing in other metas, too."

"And..I think you're right about this 'silo' thing. Every week I'm given a new burner phone. I've had very little contact with anyone other than Frenzy and she's a damn ghost until she's ready to be seen. Which..isn't very often."

* * *

"Well," Phil says, lifting his eyebrows. "We had no idea they were in Metropolis. We weren't looking there for them at all. Now that it's been pointed out it makes sense to me, but before? I was thinking in terms of targets, and that's probably not a target-rich environment. But it's swiftly becoming an environment full of disaffected metas who had to pull up stakes and start over to avoid Registration."

He frowns thoughtfully. "We could raid the nightclub, but that might not be our highest value proposition. Placing a few meta assets who had previously been unaffiliated with SHIELD though…that could bear some fruit. And you could covertly watch out for one another. I'm also going to see if I can't figure out how closely your safehouse is being watched. If we run a raid on any of these places I think it blows your cover, but if we slip a few more people in then everything will be a little less silo'd. Even if they show you all different things without offering you the bigger picture, they have to show you something."

He frowns thoughtfully. "And we need to emphasize your value as a hacker, not as a weapon. If they value you as a hacker, they have to show you more to use that…and it won't matter that you're not preferred back-up for field operations, which means you can ease off the blowing things up for awhile."

He narrows his eyes thoughtfully and looks up at her. "If you were to guess at high-value hacks for them, hacks that would excite Frenzy, what would you hit? Say, top 5."

* * *

"More than Registration, the DPS and the Sentinels, the Big Apple is where the Trisket was. They're still lying low after the attack," Daisy explains. "Metropolis doesn't have any problems with metahumans, they're free to press their agenda without always having to look over their shoulders."

Hmm. The thought of having more agents working undercover is a good idea. Daisy may never know them personally but it would be nice to know that she isn't completely alone behind enemy lines.

"If they're completely unaffiliated with the Division then recruitment should be easy to do. You didn't need a secret handshake or anything to get one of these bracelets, she'd just hand them out to anyone that came over. Each one has a phone number under it which went straight to her. I can't promise that anyone who calls it will be taken in, but..it's a start."

Pushing the hacker edge is a brilliant move. Daisy's expression almost lights up with the thought. It keeps her out of the really questionable sectors -and- gets her that much closer to skimming some proper intel from their operations, or at the very least what it is that they're going after.

But a top five? "Uh…" she hesitates, suddenly looking blank. "Well..she was -real- happy that I hacked the Registration database. She didn't ask for a copy of it and I didn't suggest that I had one, so that was good."

Then it hits her. The most obvious target of them all. "Anything to do with the Sentinels. How they're built, what tech goes into them, who's behind the tech, who's financially supporting the R and D. Next would probably be weapons research for the DPS. If they're coming out with anti-mutant weapons or power inhibitors or the like then I can guarantee that they'd want to know all about it. If they had confirmation of something that big? They won't hesitate to make a move."

* * *

Coulson nods thoughtfully. "Hacking Amon Bell's personal and work files would be a nice start," he says. "And honestly, I don't like the smell of the Sentinel program myself. I have some contacts who would also greatly benefit from that information, and could use it without directly implicating you at all. But all this means I need to ask you something."

He looks up at her seriously, all Dad face. "How much do you trust Ulysses? I ask because he came to me, first, when he figured out you were the one who hacked that database. And I told him to forget he saw it and erase the evidence, with no explanation. He didn't like it. But he obeyed. He has since tripped over several more of my plans. He's good. But sooner or later if I don't bring him in he's going to lose his trust in me and I'm going to find myself sitting cuffed in an interrogation room, and he'll give someone else in SHIELD everything he knows about what I've been doing. I want to bump him up as my new XO, and give him full disclosure. But you asked me not to say a word to anyone, and I won't break your confidence without your express permission."

* * *

The name 'Amon Bell' is swiftly filed away within the storage device that is Daisy's brain. She can absolutely look into that lead. The best part is that the Brotherhood doesn't have to come asking her about doing any of this first, she can take the initiative and play it that much further that she's in this fight with them. They want proactive fighters. This could help make her more valuable in their eyes.

Then Ulysses' name is brought up, prompting another one of those wide-eyed looks being directed at Phil. "He figured out I had —aw..DAMMIT the USB drive!" she grunts with a rolling of eyes. "Things went downhill so quickly I couldn't properly clean up all of my traces." But that's beside the point!

"Okay, just..speaking purely as a co-worker sort of arrangement here? I like Uly. Between the two of us we can barely string a full sentence together in conversation but we still seem to get one another. He might not be the best for keeping a secret but that might suggest that we -should- clue him in on this. And— " she snaps both sets of fingers then holds index fingers upward " —we might be able to establish digital contact. I could get you intel faster through that link." Suddenly her mind is back in hackerspace, going a mile a minute. "And I've got a hardware link that's..like..-impossible- to crack. It takes some time to establish but we could -totally- do this."

Suddenly realizing that her enthusiasm may be overstepping its boundaries she takes a mental step back, returning a blank stare to Phil before a smile can get pushed into place. "Aaand thank you..for taking my feelings into consideration on this sensitive and delicate operational matter."

* * *

Phil's smile edges up a faint notch as she reigns herself in. He hadn't looked at all offended at her discussing the problem as her unbridled self, no formal language required. "I won't promise I can always take your feelings into consideration," he says, with total honesty. "Many times I will have to make moves without consulting you, or even telling you, even if they impact you directly. But to the extent I can, I will. I have no other family but SHIELD, nor will I. And those who are on my team? Who have been taken into my confidence? Well, that makes you a member of my immediate family so far as I am concerned. It is not a feeling which I expect or need others to reciprocate, but it does guide me as I consider my actions in regards to all of you."

But he shifts a little, tapping the map thoughtfully. "So, then, let's go over the play fully to see if we can find holes or other maneuvers. And you can be as 'Daisy' as you want. I don't need you to speak Org at me. I like it better when you call me AC."

He switches gears fully then, and counts the points off on his fingers, filling in lines and thoughts they'd already half covered during the 'thinking' stage, or hadn't covered at all. "First, I'm going to identify and cultivate potential assets who can be sent to that nightclub and positioned for possible recruitment. Second, I am going to see if I can't get someone to at least check in on you from a distance, who can do it without drawing any undue suspicion. I already have a candidate in mind. Third, you are going to hack Amon Bell's personal and work files. And you're going to establish this hardware link with Ulysses once I've brought him in fully."

He pulls out a burner phone. "I'm going to send a spam text to this phone when he's ready. It will be about a Back-to-School sale. Text like you're opting out of the communication from that company to confirm you've gotten it. You will stay in contact with him so you can deliver support and intel through there, and you'll pass anything you get on Bell both to Ulysses and to Frenzy. If I'm very lucky and very good I might be able to maneuver him into being the one who 'investigates' the hack if it is discovered. That way he can help cover more of your tracks. Maybe you can give him one of those back door things you guys are always talking about so he can then pass information on to you and to me as Bell continues to receive and send communications. And if anyone ever catches you talking to him, well, he's just another hacker, the L-3-3-t badass known as…"

He gives the faintest of smiles. "As 'Nobody.'"

She could probably come up with own code name for him, and without all Phil's groan-worthy attempts at speaking hacker out loud…but Phil finds nailing down details like that before entering a high-pressure situation is always preferable.

Besides. It lets him slip a geeky, mildly obscure literary reference joke into his spywork, which pleases him. He has to enjoy his hobbies catch as catch-can, after all.

* * *

At Phil's reassurance that he'd prefer that she be herself Daisy gives him one of those proper, genuine smiles. Nothing forced, nothing staged. "I'll always call you AC. Don't worry about that."

As the plan begins to take form she's able to give Phil her complete focus, nodding along the way without interruption. The burner is taken and given a quick once over, the electronics guru appraising the disposable piece of tech as appropriate. "You're really on a school kick lately," she quietly teases.

The idea of leaving Ulysses a backdoor -through- Amon's system is devious, and again right on point. "A piggyback signal. Yah, shouldn't be too difficult depending on Bell's security."

Wait. 'Nobody?' Daisy's expression goes blank again in one of those 'yeeeeah..no' kinds of looks. "Let's work on that," is her suggestion.

"Which reminds me. I've also been working on something else." The phone is pocketed but she leaves the tablet behind while hopping off of the desk to retrieve her bag. Or rather, the gauntlets resting inside of it.

"You might remember these from our last visit," she starts in while slipping an arm into one of the devices. One obvious new detail is that they each have a green and a purple wire running through most of their length. "I've been getting some help from ..uh…"

Her entire expression changes once more, this time to one of utter confusion. That one shielded hand is slowly brought forward, her open palm aiming right at Phil's chest.

Right where the device which has been keeping him alive resides.

"Coulson," she starts in with an opening and closing of her mouth while trying to find the right words to say. "Why..is there something metal where your heart should be..?"

* * *

"It's what Odysseus, a.k.a. Ulysses, told Polyphemus the Cyclops his name was in his journey home to Ithaca!" Coulson is more amused than upset though. "I thought it was clever."

There's a reason nobody ever lets him name things. They are always nerdy and bad.

But then she's digging up those gauntlets.

He has no heart to lurch when she holds out that gauntlet to him, right at the replacement. For one wild moment he thinks: They know. They know she's a plant and they slipped some sort of program into her gauntlet that's going to force her to break it or vibrate it right out of my chest. She won't be able to stop it…

Strange that a man who has something of an inside track on life after death still can feel fear for his life. Though it's probably a healthy sign. When he was still grappling with it he probably wouldn't have felt anything other than regret that she'd have to live with it.

The upshot of all this is that he actually freezes, like a man with a gun to his head, letting the Cheshire Cat smile he wears when he's in deep danger and needs to remain cool slip onto his face without really having to think about it.

But then she asks her question, and reframes the entire situation.

"You're not feeling something metal where my heart should be. You are feeling my heart," he answers. "The only one I have."

* * *

Alright, so two things can be confirmed here. One is that Coulson is an ubernerd. Two is that Coulson's rocking a completely artificial ticker. Daisy's eyes remain wide open as she stands there in disbelief, the one arm still poised forward as if she isn't believing what it is that she's feeling. Phil's not wrong to be concerned, either! At this moment a number of horrible mishaps could take place. There is always a chance that her control might slip.

Fortunately there is no disaster forthcoming. She has to remind herself to put that arm back down. It's like her whole world has just been turned upside down and Phil's being so nonchalant about -not having a real heart.-

It takes a moment before she can utter "What happened?" And "That's like nothing I've ever felt before" with a subtle headshake. Then her eyes pinch shut and her head is given a more firm shake. "I'm sorry, this is like..-none- of my business at all."

The damage has already been done, regardless. The conversation has been permanently sidetracked and she's not going to be able to get the thought out of her head.

Now her hands are being put to use in quick gestures. Fortunately nothing starts to shake or vibrate into dust. "I really wasn't meaning to pry, I just wanted to talk about where these came from, and I … Sorry."

* * *

"Daisy," Coulson says gently. "It's okay. You didn't do any harm. A traitor stabbed me through the real one. Shredded it. I was on life support, in a coma, for months. They even buried a fake me, an LMD, for security reasons."

The half-truth…coma, life support…it's getting so much easier to say now. He questions his judgement of months ago, when his emotions were uncharacteristically driving the bus, when he was battling depression and told a few people who he probably should not have told. Now his cards are safely tucked against his chest once more, artifical heart and all.

But nevertheless, he will play a few.

"They didn't ask me about that, by the way. I was pretty angry over it when I found out. But the damage from that has been mostly smoothed out, and occasionally it's even been useful."

And then, having told her what he can to put her at her ease, gestures at the gauntlets. "Please. I'd like to hear more about them."

* * *

The confession does help to put matters into perspective. Daisy had always wondered what really drove Coulson to be as protective as he was, not only toward her but toward anyone who looked to him for guidance and leadership. It's easy to play the 'family' card but there had always been something more to it. Some extra 'edge' which she never fully understood.

Now it's starting to make more sense.

This is also the first time she hears about an 'LMD' but it's a question which doesn't currently need an answer. She gets the general idea.

"Saving lives is always the priority, isn't it..?" she inquires with some caution. The alternative isn't voiced, 'would you have rather died?' "Listen..AC. For what it's worth, I'm glad that they could do that for you. My life would be -way- different if you hadn't been around to help me through everything which you have."

Maybe she shouldn't say anything more about it and move on. The second gauntlet is pulled from the bag then she quietly comes over to reclaim that spot beside him on the desk.

"LexCorp made these for me. Luthor himself has been directly involved with the process. They help me to focus and keep me from destroying myself. ..Mostly. I don't know why he's been so eager to help out the 'vigilantes' of Metropolis but he's asked for nothing up front other than my stopping in now and then to try out the latest model."

* * *

He doesn't answer the unspoken question. He just says, "I meant the funeral. It puts kind of a bomb in your personal life, to have to go back to all your friends and say, 'surprise, sorry about the fact that you mourned my death and everything.' It makes me feel guilty. And…"

His hands roam over his chest and he admits, "I'm 55 years old. I sometimes wonder if the millions of dollars they had to have poured into keeping me alive was a good investment for them. But nevetheless I am here, and glad to have met you, too."

But this latest revelation prompts a thoughtful tilt of Coulson's head. "Well, he has always been a philanthropist," he says slowly, "and I've heard that he has taken special interest in metahuman issues of late. He wouldn't be the first multibillionaire to retain his generosity, after all. I trust you ran all sorts of diagnostics on it to make sure there were no hidden surprises?"

Like the hidden surprise he just feared, in fact, but he leaves that unvoiced, too.

* * *

"Oh..yah..that makes more sense," Daisy awkwardly replies. "Must have been kind of a drag."

Another gentle smile is soon forthcoming despite the minor slip-up. "Millions, huh? I always knew you were a valuable person."

When Coulson doesn't immediately raise any obvious warnings regarding LexCorp Daisy relaxes somewhat. She wasn't sure how he'd take the news but she's certain that he would know more about the corporation than she does.

To his question she has to shrug, "As best as I was able to? I mean it's not like they have a micro-USB port I can plug into. They don't always work quite as I want them to but they've helped me in so many ways. I can actually train with my power now and not be at risk of a trip to the emergency room. Or a Brotherhood healer."

"This could work to SHIELD's advantage, you know. Whenever the Brotherhood wants me to power-bomb something you should be able to track the seismic signature, it'll pinpoint wherever it is that we're causing trouble. You could probably have a team in the air before we've teleported out. Although I miiight have recently used it in Metropolis fighting a couple of strange self-healing robots…" she sheepishly admits.

Then she brings up some video footage of the five robots in question on her phone. There's plenty of footage of Superman, Havok, and Firestorm in there, too. She may have been fangirling just a little at the time.

Also she had made an absolute MESS when two of the machines tried to attack her. Fortunately that piece of evidence didn't make it into her recording.

* * *

"That's a great idea," Phil says, and means it. Tracking the seismic signatures means plenty of plausible deniability. "Though if our plan works as intended there should be little enough of that. And…we'd need to show up everywhere, including when you're trying to fight self-healing robots, attempting to 'arrest you.' I think Uly and I could cover that though. It might become yet another reason they'll keep you out of the field, and get us a few plausibly deniable slugs to their nose too."

The plan is becoming a prime example of wheels within wheels, but this is how Coulson likes it. With plenty of contingencies and plenty of resources in place, plenty of flexibility to respond to sudden surprises.

He watches the video with unfeigned interest, asking, "Was that a one-off or are these robots something SHIELD needs to take an interest in?"

* * *

It's a risky 'project' but Daisy seems to be enjoying the progess that they're making as well. Working alongside Phil is a much different experience, it offers some much needed validation in what she's been doing with the Brotherhood. He's become something of a reality anchor for her. While face to face meetings are risky and rare she really does look forward to them.

"Worst case scenario, I'm pretty confident that I could give someone a power shove without hurting them. Badly," she adds with a slight frown. "Frenzy doesn't make for a good human analogue when sparring."

As for the robots, "I'm gonna say 'probably.' See these red lights for their eyes? At first they were only doing collateral damage, deliberately avoiding hitting any people. Then they seemed to 'study' those with powers. The red lights turned green then they attacked us back with the same power we had just used on them. Like they're able to record our tricks. Something tells me this isn't a one-off event. One more problem to keep an eye on, I suppose."

* * *

"That sounds like Sentinels, but they don't look like Sentinels," Coulson muses with a frown. "I'll have to go ask around to find out if there are fragments of those things floating around that SHIELD can take a look at. Maybe there are some unique parts with limited sources, or there will be code fragments Ulysses can poke at. I'll find another copy of the video and watch it closer. "

In the age of YouTube he's pretty gosh darn sure there's another video floating about. And he doesn't want to risk Daisy having to send it to him directly. Not when that sort of thing could leave a record they don't want left.

* * *

"Definitely not Sentinels. Maybe we've got a copycat designer with too much time on his hands. Either way it's nothing that anyone needs right now.

Daisy nods to this then puts her phone aside. They've managed to cover a lot of ground in short order. All of it and then some, really! There may be another quick subconscious glance toward Phil's chest before they happen to part ways, but she's kind of glad to know more about what happened to the older agent. Now she knows to be more careful with any power use around him.

The one glove is pulled off and gathered with the other. "Another meeting, another pile of details to pursue. It'll be nice when this is over and we can go back to our usual levels of covert Chinese lunches," she offers with a smile. "Once I've established a deadlock connection I'll reach out to Uly, we'll get things moving on the digital front. Anything else we should go over today?"

* * *

"Not on my end. Good work, Daisy. Be careful."

The last bit is hardly necessary, but he adds it anyway.

"I'll slip out twenty minutes after you do," he adds. "I'll be leaving via the north entrance, so take a different one."

All due precautions are still firmly in place, here in the shadow-shrouded abandoned school.

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