(2016-12-02) Food Court Puppet Show
Food Court Puppet Show
Summary: Coral Springs students continue to be plagued by encounters with unknown super-humans as a relaxing trip to University Mall turns into an all out melee in the food court.
Date: 2016-12-02
Related: Library Shenanigans (AKA: Support Your Local Test Tube Murderkids) Skating Rink Fracas and Mosquitoes of Death and Devastation
NPCs: Puppetmaster (AKA: Touchy); your average mass of mall guests.
Scene Runner: Gabrielle

University Mall, as its name makes obvious, is a small, high-end mall located almost equidistant from Brown, the Naval Academy, and Rhode Island University. As one might imagine, a Friday night finds the mall fairly busy, full of college students trying to blow off some steam from the stress caused by the final week of classes and the looming threat of finals. The area immediately around the newly open World of Beer is particularly busy. This is exacerbated by the fact that the Cheesecake Factory has stationed an employ near the entrance to WoB to hand out 15% off coupons.

A week ago seems half a forever away by now; Nevada left his home-bound life in southern AZ for just this very experience, and experiencing it, he is. Being around all the students at school is quite stimulus enough to his labyrinthine powers as they creep outward and form new rooms and corridors and secret passages even he hasn't found yet. Being out in public is a whole 'nother beast, and all these college students cramming for their finals are packing their collectively crammed brainspaces onto the periphery of his own. He may be of a meditative, preternaturally calm disposition, but this is a lot, for him, and being out in the world, to boot— that's a strange lightness in his step, as though walking in lowered gravity, nothing keeping him down, nor anything keeping him safe. The halls of his labyrinth are humming with a fervor which makes the white hairs above his ears stand up, but, on the whole, he's just keeping half-behind Tabitha, soaking it in— and practicing blocking it out.

The other half of Tabitha's back is being 'protected' by Gabrielle. The blue-haired girl is doing her best to walk in the middle of their small group but she's finding it hard to do that with only 4 people. In almost a whisper she asks, "Why are there so many people?? And why are some of them wearing masks?" The masks she speaks of are actually what is keeping Nevada from being stared at more than he is since the group has already seen a 'horse', a 'chicken', and a 'unicorn'.

Two more weeks until the semester is over… but no more time to put off one thing that Tabitha was dreading: talk shows, press junkets, and interviews. It was a miracle that she and the band had been left more or less alone in the time since the kidnapping, but those good graces were over now. Tabitha had been diligent in working with Terrance to maintain the band's online presence, but the networks couldn't be held off any longer. So before the avalanche that will come down upon their heads over the weekend, she suggested heading into Thunder Bay early and extending an invitation to some classmates. The offer being that the band would split the cost of all their respective hotel rooms and meals, but touristy stuff was out of pocket for each person.

She was careful not to show the surprise when Nevada and Gabrielle took her up on the offer, each one having their own reasons for keeping to much smaller crowds than can be found in the highest tech city in the world. But having them along has certainly been fun. And now that they're at the mall and surrounded by mostly college students with the usual smattering of families and random teens, she's been glad to answer questions. "This is pretty normal for a Friday in holiday shopping season, actually." She is once again using the uncanny powers of the Comically HUGE Supergirl Fleece Jacket as a way to keep her baldness and blindfold from public eyes, the droopy hood not blocking her vision at all, of course. "Not sure about the masks, though. I think it might be a sports thing." Which is a subject more arcane than actual magic to her mind.

Dyna is somewhere towards the back of the group, dressed casually and seemingly keeping track of everyone and everything around them. The mall is where a lot of people seem to go, giving her access to a whole wealth of information to process. She nods, though, as Tabitha explains the situation. Good. She was wondering about the masks - Halloween was a while ago.

As the Coral Springs group makes their way through the food court the young man handing out the Cheesecake Factory coupons reaches out to gently tap Gabrielle on the elbow, "Would you like a coupon? We…" His spiel comes to an abrupt stop as Gabby almost literally jumps out of her skin and ducks fully behind Tabitha, looking at the young man suspiciously over her classmate's shoulder. Coupon guy looks at her with an expression that combines confusion and surprise as he holds out the coupon, "I'm so sorry! I didn't mean to startle you." Remembering the coupons in his hand he peels off three more and offers them to the rest of the group with a smile, "Here, let me give you a few extra coupons to make up for it."

"I'm not sure it's a coherent enough theme to be sports-related," Nevada rumbles in his deep baritone, keeping his fingers tucked into his front pockets, thumbs hanging out and one of them toying at the hem of his shirt. "More like a fad," he supposes. "But a fad in aid of what? You alright?" he asks Gabrielle, then turns his attention to the coupon hawker, tilting a gentle smile for the fellow and taking a coupon to investigate more closely. "Even at fifteen percent off, prices at the Cheesecake Factory are going to far outstrip the pop and pastry kiosk downstairs," he remarks in kind, low tones.

Gabrielle looks a little distracted and she takes a couple of seconds before she nods to Nevada, "Yes, just nervous with all these people around. But I needed some new leotards and the /seemed/ like a good idea when Tabs suggested it, instead of waiting for Amazon… I'm regretting that choice right now." She says all this without really looking at Nevada, instead keeping her eyes glued on the coupon hander-outer.

Tabitha shrugs at the observations of the masks, "Yeah, it could be a drunk college thing, too." And then she's being used as a human(ish) shield to protect Gabby from the evil coupon dude! She reaches over to accept the extra coupons. "Regrets or not, it was a good idea and I'm glad you came with, Gabs. Even if you do keep trying to hide behind me." She nods up to Nevada at his observation of the prices. "That's true, but they really do have the best cheesecake this side of Chicago. There's a place there that cannot be beat." She tilts her head to look past Gabrielle as she moves to no longer be a hide-behind. "How you doing back there, Dyna?"

Dyna seems happy enough with the coupons. Free things are one of the better thing she's discovered outside of the Lockwell labs. It doesn't even matter if she can't eat the discount cheesecake she'd be entitled to! Free stuff!

With the coupons in hand, Dyna nods. "Good," she comments. "I got a coupon. What is cheesecake like?"

The Cheesecake Factory guy gives the group, especially Gabby, one last look them moves on to hand out coupons to other people. Something that might be considered unusual by someone really paying attention to what he's doing is the fact that he seems to be going out of his way to somehow touch each person he hands coupons out to. A graze of a hand here, a quick touch of an elbow there, or a tap of a shoulder. But there's not much time to continue watching how he works since after talking with the Coral Springs students he quickly finished off the last of his coupons and heads over to Panda Express to buy some food.

Gabrielle slowly emerges out from behind Tabitha, mostly because the other girl gives her no choice then starts to look around. Quickly realizing she has not eating options at all she put her hand in her purse and pulls out a little tube of parchment paper, which she unrolls to reach the homemade fruit 'jerky' within.

Tabitha has been feeling particularly twitchy and paranoid the last few days since learning of a massive breach of trust that took place while she was missing, but that's been tapering off during this expedition. "Cheesecake? It's heaven on a fork, that's what. Creamy and sweet with the crunch of the crust. Yum!" Then her mouth twitches as she drools at the memory and stuffs the coupons in her pocket. "Gonna have to find someone that can use these coupons." She nods as Gabrielle pulls out some of her homemade fruit jerky. "Yeah… not sure why the food court seemed like the place to wander." She doesn't think too much of the coupon guy being all touchy-feely, although it does creep her out somewhat. She mentally tags him in her perception as he heads off away from his post, but is mainly looking for a place not surrounded by temptation and inevitable regret.

Dyna watches the cheesecake man wander off, paying attention to what he's doing but not seeing anything too unusual with it. Maybe, were she more familiar, she might pick up on it. She shoves the vouchers into a pocket on her jeans.

"I see," Dyna tells Tabitha. "Thank you for explaining." The commentary about the food court just draws a shrug from her. "Is there a food monarch of the food court?" It's an honest question!

Nevada excuses himself for a moment and heads directly towards the restrooms.

It starts slowly: Somewhere around the exit of WoB a couple of bros bump into a girl and her boyfriend. The boyfriend turns around and aggressively confronts the two guys and after some words are exchanged he shoves one of them. The shoved guy bumps into an older man who then shoves him back in the other direction. In a few seconds the wave of aggressive behavior seems to spread throughout the crowd in the food court and the whole area becomes the equivalent of a saloon bar fight in a spaghetti western.

And Gabrielle seems to be affected along with everyone else. As the 'wave' reaches the group the normally she girl dashes away from her companions. But instead of jumping into the growing brawl she uses her supernatural flexibility and reflexes to practically glide through the melee, heading straight for World of Beer, fruit jerky forgotten on the floor to be trampled by the crowd.

For his part, Coupon Guy seems to be completely oblivious to the fracas going on around him. He calmly continues to eat his meal at the table he picked at the outskirts of the seating area. And somehow the combatants and the people fleeing the whole mess both seem to avoid his table, leaving a small circle of complete peace around him, like the eye of a storm.

That a fight is starting near a mall bar in America doesn't really phase Tabitha. That Gabrielle runs towards it and starts combat dancing her way into said mall bar does, however. "The hell, Gabby?! Get back here!" She doesn't go diving into the melee herself quite yet, though. She's been on enough actual battlefields to know better. Instead she makes a kind of periscope out of her aura to try and get a lay of the land. In doing so she spots the incredibly conspicuous empty space around Coupon Guy's table and said guy's complete lack of concern.

She looks over at Dyna and points in the guy's direction before starting to move through the chaos in his direction, using her aura to push and deflect people away. Once she's able to reach the edge of his calm space she doesn't step inside of it. Instead she balls up the coupons from her pocket and tosses them at his head, "Hey, Mister Touchy! What the hell?"

For a moment, Dyna stares as the entire food court erupts into a brawl that wouldn't be out of place in many of the films she had watched. Yep, that's someone beating someone with a chair, even!

Letting her analysis of food court leadership systems fade away, Dyna moves through the crowd with Tabitha. Where Tabitha has an aura, Dyna just pushes people aside. If they strike her, she shoves them down, but generally doesn't seem any worse for wear.

"You are rather calm," she tells him. "Would you mind explaining yourself?"

And then Tabitha finds herself to be the focus of the attention of many of the combatants edging the calm spot. They start to crowd around her, pushing on her aura, banging on it with their fists and viciously kicking at it. Mister Touchy, as Tabitha has dubbed him, simply smiles at the girls and gives them a finger wave before going back to eating his food. A ring of people forms around his circle of calm and another just surrounds Dyna, pressing in so close they can't even move enough to attack her.

For her part Gabrielle has now made it into World of Beer. Taking advantage of the chaos around her she forces the register open and starts stuffing the money in it into her purse. The only staff member that even notices her does try to stop her just to find themselves quickly passed out on the floor with what, even seen at a distance, is a clearly dislocated shoulder and what will soon be a huge bruise where their forehead made contact with the floor.

Tabitha lets out a long suffering sigh as she starts ducking, dodging, and blocking the flurry of attacks that start coming at her. Honestly, there's so many people with less than zero idea of how to fight that it's almost embarrassing. With a bare mental twist she pulls the bulk of her aura in close to her body and then causes the demi-dimensional energy matrix to become solid and then grow outwards. It moves with all of Tabitha strength, which is enough to easily toss around diesel train engines, but slowly so that she doesn't do the crowd any more damage than they're doing to each other.

She uses it to also clear the press of people from around Dyna so that after a few beats the two of them are in the middle of their own circle of empty calm to match that of Mister Touchy. Seen from above the two clear areas are like a kind of Venn diagram, with the blue-white dome pushing outwards against the empty circle around the coupon guy's table. Her intent is to grow the aura dome large enough so that only she, Dyna, and Mister Touchy's empty space are contained within. The mass of people pushing and beating against the aura dome only serve to make her stronger as the kinetic energy of their strikes is absorbed.

The whole time she does this she's just smirking at the guy at the table. "You'll have to do better, not that we'll give you the chance."

Pressing in Dyna as simply as that poses her a distinct problem - she can't do anything to hurt them, which might be the only way she could move them, given that they are - technically - innocent as they do not appear to be in control of their actions.

Thankfully, Tabitha pushes them all back, buying Dyna some space. After a momentary systems check, Dyna kicks at the leg of the table, a precise blow designed to crumple the thing and spill Mister Touchy's food all over the floor. "You should listen to her," she says, like they're good cop, bad cop.

As Dyna goes for his food Touchy launches out of his chair, both hands reaching out for Tabitha, one hand high, one hand low. Almost the same time Gabrielle disappears in a pop of light from World of Beer and appears inside the Tabitha's dome of force on the opposite side from Touchy, leg flashing out in a vicious low kick aimed at Tabitha's thighs. On the outside of the dome hands and feet continue to drum against the wall of energy, people continuing to press up against the force field, the ones on the outside of the circle starting to crush the ones on the inside against Tabitha's protection. The floor inside the dome starts to become precarious thanks to the bills steadily falling out of Gabby's purse.

Tabitha lets out a somewhat startled yelp as Mister Touchy makes a grab for her, then the yelp becomes a shouted curse when Gabrielle pops in and tries to leg sweep her! And then there's the matter of the bag full o' cash that's spilling out! "So you're just a damn thief?" This is directed at the asshole as she kicks up off the floor to fly out of his immediate reach. "Hey, Dyna! I really think you should introduce yourself to this guy. He has to touch bare skin to whammy people's minds!"

As for the threat from Gabrielle? Well, Tabitha just tries to keep moving through the air semi-randomly to hopefully present a more difficult target. This is made a bit more difficult from the need to keep out of Touchy's reach.

"Understood," Dyna tells Tabitha, and she moves to introduce herself with a sufficiently proportional amount of force. She's not sure if he could alter her mind as well but doesn't really want to find out.

She'll let Tabitha handle Gabrielle. Dyna, for her part, simply moves to sweep her leg out and knock her opponent to the ground. Like she's a cop, she immediately moves to follow up, keeping him pinned with her knee against the small of Mister Touchy's back. And she is much heavier than her redhair and pale skin might suggest! "Stay down. If you attempt to touch me, I will be forced to consider your hands as dangerous weapons and be forced to react accordingly."

Things in the air turn into a surrealistic game of tag. Tabitha flying in near random directions while Gabrielle tries to guess where she will be and stay airborne by teleporting in and out in quick succession, trying to end up falling on top of Tabitha. The flashes from Gabrielle's teleport start having a similar effect to that of a strobe light but finally she manages to clip Tabitha. Her intention was clearly to grab Tabitha but her angle is all wrong so all she ends up doing is spanking her so hard the slap is loud enough to be heard over the rest of the din.

On the floor Dyna manages to easily take down Touchy but his reaction to being captured is a strange one. First he looks a little stunned at something and a second later a slow smile creeps over his face and he says, "Look around you. I think if you don't want the death of a few hundred people on your heads you better let me go."

Silence fills the food court as everyone stops fighting. People grab knives and forks, everything from nicely sharpened, well cared for pocket knives in some cases to simple plastic forks in others but in every case they are holding whatever they have up to their necks, eyes, temples, or any other part of the body that would count as suicide if they pressed too hard on the implement in their possession.

One of the things that Tabitha has managed to keep secret about her powers is that while she can do a lot of amazing things with her aura, she can't do them all at once. Another is that while her relationship with her aura is complicated and not well understood, it isn't actually something she generates. So while she can still fly and see because she's inside her aura, having it pushed out into the dome keeping their immediate area combat-free means that she's physically not much better off than a normal human. So when Gabrielle lands a hit, it really hurts! She drops in altitude from the literal spanking, her hands going to rub at the sore spot on her ass, "Hey now! That's reserved for Rissa and you know it!"

Her mood lifts as Dyna gets Mister Touchy down and pinned, but that doesn't last as she sees those closest to the aura dome set up for mass suicide. She hesitates, her flight faltering as her mind uselessly starts to count. She's not much use as she still has to run interference against Gabby, and is neither close enough, fast enough, nor currently strong enough to act against him. She can't even say anything to Dyna, and can only silently pray to the Names that filter unbidden through her mind.

Dyna keeps him down but, when he talks, his words get snared among some of her sub-routines. Above all else, Dyna cannot let someone come to harm, through action or inaction, and this certainly counts. She does not /want/ to let him go, but she is forced to as her programmed shackles compel to act.

Abruptly, Dyna releases him and stands up, although the expression on her face makes it clear that she's quite agitated by it. "I have let you go, so let them go," she says, like she's biting off every syllable.

The strange aerial game of tag between Tabitha and Gabrielle continues, along with its accompanying light show. On the ground Touchy's smile grown into a grin as he stands up, straightens out his shirt and finally brushes off the dirt and food that stuck to it when he was flattened to the floor by Dyna. "Oh, I will, I will. Once I'm well and far away. Wouldn't want us to trip down to the floor again, now would we?" Making his way to Tabitha's forcefield he knocks on it like it was a door, "I'm going to sideline your playmate but you need to open this nice little wall for me." As soon as he says this Gabrielle reappears in the ground and just stands there, like a statue.

Once the barrier is open Touchy stuffs his hands into his pockets and starts leisurely making his way towards the exit. Stopping right as he opens the door he looks back over his shoulder and adds, "Toodles. We'll see you all soon." As he exits through the doors the sounds of sirens can be dimly heard in the distance, overlaid by his tuneless whistling. The tableau holds for another five minutes then suddenly everyone in the food court is looking around, completely befuddled by why they are threatening themselves with random flatware pieces.'

When Gabrielle is taken out of the fight, Tabitha wants nothing more than to bring the whole matter to a single bloody end. The horror of seeing so many people half a twitch from dying mixes with the deep anger she carries at failing to stop her Father from killing tens of thousands. But she manages to keep The Wings from manifesting and opens the dome just enough for Mister Touchy to make his exit. She tries to think of some way she can stop him or track him or something, but with her aura concentrated on keeping the dome up she can't even see more than a few feet outside of its border. So all she does is land and pace until the hostages come out of their mental haze.

(feel free to tag the log with character names of those involved!)

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