3. Champagne and Vodka

This is the third part of the compiled and edited log of the 2009 Memorial Party role-play. It encompasses the fourth string, which branched twice. The first branch concerns a round of champagne shared between Trojanhorse, Leas, and the Infernal Trio. The second branch concerns Sara Knight, Marcus Langston, and a bottle of vodka, with a sub-branch following Jessie Lancaster and James Murphy on the dance floor. The writing in this section comes from the following Boarders:

  • Trojanhorse (Agent Trojanhorse and Absinthe)
  • Khajidu (Agents Krisprolls, Whatever, and South)
  • Wingnut (Agents Deryn and Leas)
  • KGarrett (Gerald "Small" and James "Big" Murphy, Agents Marcus Langston, Zodfang Gobrunt, Vincent Cyrus, Einarr, Yuri, and Greg)
  • Sara (Agents Sara Knight and Zach Homewood)
  • Cassie Cameron-Young (Agents Seth Emerian, Luke Celinus, and Jessie Lancaster)

String 4, Branch 1: Champagne

Trojie and Absinthe wandered in. 'Hey guys,' said the Bad Slasher, smiling round the room. She perched on the edge of a set of shelves, sniffer-dog settling down beside her. 'Happy Anniversary, I guess.' She pulled a bottle of champagne and a dog-eared cardboard box of champagne flutes from her Bag. 'Who fancies a celebratory one of these?'

"YAY!" said Krisp. "We're here!"

The Infernal Trio approached and took a glass each. It wasn't time yet to borrow an entire bottle for them three. Just kidding.

"S'pose so. Weird, the way we do this sort of thing, innit?" Deryn took a sip of her drink and grimaced. "No, thanks, think this is enough alcohol for me for now."

"I might have one, if that's all right," Leas said. "Cheers."

Trojie handed out the glasses and started fiddling with the cork on the bottle.

'Actually,' she said after a few seconds. 'If anyone actually wants to drink some of this, can someone else please open it? Otherwise I'll just end up taking someone's eye out with a ballistic cork...'

"Sure." Leas took the bottle and considered for a moment. "Let's see… if I remember correctly, it helps to hold it like this—" this being a forty-five degree angle— "and hold the cork instead…" Not that it seemed any easier to get the cork out that way, but at least he didn't lose it when it did come out. He poured a glass for Trojie first. "All right. Anyone else for champagne?"

"US!" shouted the Trio.

"All right." Leas poured out a reasonable measure for each of the Trio, and handed them out. "Here you go." He poured another one for himself, and smiled. "I don't think I've seen you three before. I'm Leas. Pleased to meet you." He looked over at Deryn, only to find she wasn't there any more. "Oh, dear…"

"I'm Whatever, and these are South and Krisprolls. Nice to meet you. Thanks for the drinks. Krisp, your glass is already empty?"

Leas nodded to each of them. "If you don't mind my asking, may I ask why those names?" he asked, adding by way of explanation, "I'm curious. They seem a bit unusual.

"There seems to be a bar over there. Maybe we could relocate there?" He didn't quite want to impose on Trojie more than was necessary, after all.

Whatever answered Leas's question. "Well, I have this nickname because not many people outside Norway can pronounce my real name. In fact, that's what they say when they give up, and Krisprolls had this stupid idea of nicknaming me this. I retaliated by giving him the name of a Swedish roasted bread brand which kinda looks like his name, and South has this name because he was originally named after the most Southern part of our country."

"Like 'Statsraad Lehmkuhl' is so difficult to say."

"What South said. By the way, I'm Christian Radich and this guy is Sorlandet. And I guess you know why people called us the Infernal Trio. We totally deserve it. Okay, let's go to the bar."

"You're from Norway, then?" Leas started towards the bar. "I suppose Norwegian looks more difficult than some languages, but… sounds faintly Germanic."

He nodded at the names, then blinked. "The Infernal Trio… because your names are difficult to pronounce? I suppose, though I don't quite see it myself. One could practice, couldn't they?"

"Yes, we're from Norway. 'The Infernal Trio' is just because we're..."

"A bunch of zarking idiots."

"Thanks, Krisp. Well, I guess people could practice saying our names, but they usually don't make that effort. They can't even write them properly. Well, most of the time, I mean."

"I suppose it's easier to avoid it," Leas said. "Might be easier if it was part of learning the rest of the language, too," he mused.

At this point, Deryn wandered back over, looking somewhat discontent. "Hey," she said, less than spiritedly.

"Didn't find anyone?"

"Didn't even manage to get a conversation going," Deryn muttered. "You'd think someone would respond to a request, even if it's 'nooo, why would you think that', but no." She looked up at the Trio. "Say, do any of you know the trumpet?"

"Guess so," said Whatev. "Or more people would be able to write 'Statsraad Lehmkuhl' the first time. I'm afraid none of us can play the trumpet," he added when Deryn asked.

Deryn drooped as best she could in HQ. "Dangabit," she muttered, then looked up hopefully. "Don't suppose you'd happen to know anyone who does?"

"We just arrived," said What'. "We don't know anyone, much less someone who plays the trumpet. Sorry."

"I see," Deryn said. She did her best not to droop again—wouldn't want What' to feel bad. "That's all right. I think we can make do."

"What is it for? Just curious."

"Curiouser and curiouser," said Krisp.

"The 'Last Post'," Deryn said, simply. "With Anzac Day in a week back home, it seems… well. Sort of appropriate. Something. Just can't play it myself, not yet. And it's not the same on clarinet, of course."

Branch 2.1: Vodka

The procession of agents continued.

In the middle of it all, a short and fairly rotund Irishman made his way inside. Smoothing down his hair with his hand, Gerald Murphy, best known by most as "Small Murphy" due to the fact that he was only about 5'4, looked around his competitor's store almost nervously. It was true that he had made a lot of money off of the Invasion, but he had still thought he should at least show some respect by attending the memorial, especially when his giant of a brother threatened to smack him upside the head if he didn't. As the 6'10 James Murphy (or "Big Murphy") squeezed through the doorway, the brothers nodded at each other, before Gerald pulled out a flask of whiskey. While they had each decided to make sure they were about as well-dressed as they could be without being out of uniform, Gerald had never been dissuaded from bringing his own drink.

"C'mon, James," he said in his thick Irish accent, looking up at his brother while taking down a swig. James really didn't look much like him, sometimes, it was almost as if they weren't really brothers. "Like you said, least we can do is pay our respects."

As the two Irish businessmen started to mingle with the crowd, Marcus made his entrance, followed by Zodfang. Instead of the usual banter, both were silent. In fact, the past week Marcus hadn't so much as said two words to anyone, even during missions, only really talking when he had to read out a charge list. The hulking Ork next to him had been trying to get Marcus fired up and talking again, but he was now silent, mostly because Marcus had quite bluntly told him that he'd blow Zodfang's head off if the Ork went about any of his usual antics. Nodding to his partner, Marcus went off into the crowd, looking for anyone he knew. He felt eyes upon him, and even if they didn't say it, he couldn't help but feel like they agreed with him; he hadn't been there, he hadn't been able to fight, so what right did he have to be here? If he hadn't been suspended, were there people who had fallen that'd be alive now? Reece, Dylan, Seth, Steven, Alex, Travis... could he have saved at least any of those men? Any others? He should have been able to fight. Agents moved wordlessly out of his way, as he made his way to a bar some agent had set up in the corner of the General Store. Dropping himself onto one of the makeshift seats, he let out a sigh, looking up at the youngish man behind the bar, a nasty scar from the Invasion's fighting obvious on his face.

"Oh, hello," the man said, slightly surprised. "Didn't see ya come up. What can I do ya for?" He asked, looking at the stash of drinks he had stored under the bar. "Bleepka, I bet? Bleepsynthe?"

"Nah," Marcus said, shaking his head. "Never thought I'd say this, but just give me the real thing. Leave the bottle, don't wanna bother you by continually askin' you to fill up a glass." It didn't take long before the agent set down a glass and a bottle of vodka in front of Marcus, who nodded in gratitude as he poured some of the bottle's contents into the glass. He had told himself he'd never touch alcohol again, when being drunk was what got him into the PPC, but there were extenuating circumstances, he supposed.

Meanwhile, in another part of the crowd, agent Vincent Cyrus looked around sombrely. The rest of his group were standing around him, but they didn't seem particularly talkative either. Though he, Einarr, Greg, and Yuri had all made it out alive, it had been a close call, and they each knew several people who hadn't, especially on that barricade they'd set up. Vince supposed it had been worth it though; that barricade in the middle of the corridor had stopped a lot of Sue re-enforcements from making their way to Medical when the fighting there was at its hottest. "This ain't much a party," he said, almost mumbling to himself. "Feels more like a funeral."

"Over a thousand warriors paved their way to Valhalla with the bones of the Sue invaders," Einarr said, nodding to himself. The wiry agent and his long blond hair didn't look quite as imposing without his spear and bullet-deflecting shield, but Vince knew that even unarmed the former Viking was always holding himself ready for a brawl, even while at a party commemorating the deaths of one thousand agents. "The atmosphere is appropriate, I believe. Anything else would be disrespectful."

"Da, the Norseman is right," Yuri said, his left hand unconsciously moving up to touch part of his ear that had been blown off in the fighting. The Russian usually seemed fairly jovial, seeing everything as better compared to fighting Hitler's forces on the Eastern Front, but even he was sobered. "Many people died here, da? We should show our respects."

"Suppose y'all're right," Vince replied with a shrug, looking to Greg. The former Gear, whose skills with the Longshot sniper rifle had saved them many times over, remained silent as he sipped from his drink. He was even less talkative than usual, it seemed, so instead Vince looked around to see if there was anyone else he knew in the immediate area.

Dragging her partner by his shirt, Sara entered the store and looked around.

"Is this really necessary?" the taller agent grumbled, readjusting his skewed glasses.

"Yes. You need to socialize more," his partner nagged, pushing him towards Cassie and Nat and scanning the room for any other familiar faces. She noted Marcus at the bar, and raised an eyebrow as she read the label on his bottle of drink. Making her way through the crowd, she tapped Zod on the shoulder.

"Oi, Zod. What's up with your lump of a partner?"

Zodfang looked over when his shoulder was tapped. "Eh? Wotcha want?" He asked, upon noticing the female agent behind him. When she asked what was up with Marcus, he took a few seconds, and then shrugged. "No bleedin' idea. 'Oomie's been like dis all week, fink it'z 'cuz o' dat big fight last year."

The woman sobered. "Yeah, I was there. Awful..." she was lost in reverie for a moment, then suddenly jerked and looked up at Zodfang, surprised.

"If I remember correctly, he wasn't here at the time. Why's he all worked up about it?"

Zodfang couldn't help but chuckle. "Awful? Sounded like a right an' propa fight, t'me! Only bad ting wuz dat da Orkz wuzn't dere!" Zodfang, having a completely incompatible view of warfare from most humans, genuinely didn't see what everyone was worked up about. In fact, he thought it had been a party to celebrate a good, hard-won, fight until Marcus threatened to kill him. When the woman suddenly jerked up, asking him why Marcus was so worked up. "Zoggif I know. Ask 'im yerself," was all he managed to say, shrugging his massive shoulders as if he'd given up even trying to figure out what was up with his partner.

Sara wrinkled her nose at the Ork's comments, but kept her thoughts to herself.

"Thanks, Zod."

The woman made her way to the bar, where she sat next to Marcus. Picking up his bottle, she sniffed the contents and took a tentative sip.

"Ugh. Never was a big fan of this stuff. Too strong for me. Didn't expect to see you drinkin', though. What's up?"

Not even looking over, Marcus darted his hand out at Sara. However, the veteran wasn't on the attack. Instead, he merely snatched the bottle out of the woman's hand, filling up the glass again before downing it all in a couple swigs. The bottle and glass were placed back, the agent letting out a sigh and giving his new companion a pointed, if lazy, look. Had he not already been at a rather decent level of intoxication, part of him would have realised how pathetic he looked, but right now he didn't care.

"The 'ell is it to you?" He asked, unable to hide the slight slur to his voice. "Everyone's drinkin'... Heh, the Bleeproducts... they just dun' do the trick, y'know?"

Taking another long drink, Marcus could hear the music starting to turn up, partygoers tentatively dancing to the stereo's choice of music as bit by bit some people attempted to liven the place up. Really though, he honestly couldn't care less. People had died, and he'd never been able to do anything but stand by helplessly and try to get some of the wounded out, but here people were almost celebrating it. He just didn't get it. "Well?" He asked, impatiently. "Wh-wha'd ya want?"

Sara thought about it for a moment.

"I want you to tell me why you're trying to drown your sorrows in the worst-tasting alcohol known to sentient life." She snatched the bottle back and took a swig, glaring over the rim at him and daring him to do something about it.

Giving Sara an annoyed look, Marcus grabbed the bottle back. "Looked like the strongest stuff 'e had," Marcus replied, placing the bottle on the opposite side of the glass from Sara. "'Sides, not that bad. Otherwise ya wouldn' be drinkin' it!" Snickering to himself, Marcus stared at the empty glass, half listening to the song and half losing himself in his alcohol-veiled thoughts. What the hell was it so important to her for, anyway? Couldn't a man just get plastered in peace?

Watching the slowly filling dance floor, Gerald Murphy shrugged a bit. "I can look into it later, should probably find Leto," he said to his brother. "You know how business is, bro. You go have some fun for us, aye?"

Chuckling a bit, James grinned at Gerald before heading onto the floor. "Aye, sure. Just don't try to pickpocket anyone, y'hear?"

Sara glared viciously at Marcus. "Do our dead friends and comrades a favor and let the past be the past. You're disrespectin' them by dwelling on it and not livin' the life that they gave theirs up for. And give me back the damn vodka," she growled, snatching the bottle up and taking another generous swig.

"Coulda had a freakin' mojito," she grumbled, noting interestedly that the bottle was almost empty.

That finally got a rise out of Marcus. "The hell do you know?!" He asked, forcing himself to his feet and rounding on Sara. Justified or not, her comments only served to push his buttons, which he had already been making a good showing out of pushing himself. Excluding Sues, he had never hit a woman, but the look in his eyes showed he was definitely considering knocking Sara's block off. "Y-you think you're so frackin' smart, dontcha?! Where d'ya git off, talkin' like that, y'little brat?! Disrespect, heh. At least ya prolly got t'be there!" Stepping closer to Sara, one hand grabbed the collar of her uniform, as the other snatched the now almost empty bottle and almost slammed it back on the counter. His face so close to hers, he could actually smell her breath, not that he much cared. Whoever the hell this lady thought she was, now he was just hoping she decided to make a move.

Sara just folded her arms. "I was there, idiot. I lost some of my best friends. People I grew up with. And as your friend I'm telling you, keep going the way you are and it'll kill you. And their deaths will go to waste. But you wouldn't care, would you, you selfish frakface."

The angry and slightly tipsy woman wrenched herself out of Marcus's grip and slipped into the crowd, managing to unobtrusively make it out of the room. She walked a ways down the hall and then sat down, back against the wall.

"Way too much angst, way too much drama. Just calm down, sweetie. No more vodka for you..." she mumbled to herself.

At this point, Seth also left the room, not really in the mood for a crowd of people, and wandered down the corridor. He came across a young woman sitting against the wall, looking rather less than happy, and stopped. "Hey, are you okay?" He knelt down next to her. "You don't look too good." He smelled the alcohol on her breath, but decided not to mention it.

Meanwhile, back in the General Store, Luke had spotted the little argument at the bar and wandered over, a little tipsy himself. "Hey, man," he greeted the older agent, dropping onto a stool. "What's up with you? Never seen you drinking like this before, an', an' you don't go arguing with people."

"I'm... fine..." Sara grumbled, rubbing her eyes.

"Just frustrated. Y'know when someone's being reeeeally stupid, and you just wanna bash some sense into them because you know they know better? ... Yeah..."

Seth chuckled a little and sat down next to her. "Yeah, I know the feeling, believe it or not. Last time it happened... well." He lost his smile immediately. "Well, maybe I shouldn't go into it now. Let's just see about getting you sorted, shall we? I'm Seth Emerian. You wanna tell me who you are, hon, and what's got you so upset?"

Sara sighed. "I'm Sara. Sara Knight. I have this friend... Langston? Dunno if you know 'im. Anyway, he seems to think that he's a terrible, worthless person 'cause he wasn't here for the fighting and lost some friends. Eru, we all lost friends," she sniffed, biting her lip. She didn't want to admit it, but the confrontation with Marcus had upset her greatly.

"Nice to meet you, Sara... wait, Langston? Marcus?" Seth was mildly surprised. He'd known Marcus for years, had been his partner at one point, but he'd had no idea the guy had even been at the party. Still, maybe it wasn't all that surprising.

"Yeah, I know him all right, and he's just that kind of person," the DAVDer managed after listening to what Sara had to say. "He's very, uhm... protective of his friends, so not being able to help them out would have upset him. Friend of mine told me he went ballistic at the DIA when they wouldn't let him in to help."

Damn, Sara looked really upset. He hated this kind of situation, mostly because he had no idea how to deal with girls on the verge of tears. Maybe offering a hug...? No, probably not a great idea, too many agents tended to react violently to physical contact from virtual strangers.

"And, uh, I do know how you feel. I lost my partner in the invasion. He wasn't much younger than you, I think, and I feel terrible about it." Seth leaned back against the wall and sighed. "Nearly ended up getting killed myself, too. But anyway," he added, trying to change the subject, "what did Marcus say to you to get you so upset? He's not the kind of guy who goes around upsetting people... not on purpose anyway."

"Eh. It's not really anything he said, it's just that he's being so stupid and he's not a stupid person, y'know?" she scratched her head. "I mean, yeah, he got a little violent, but violence is part of the job. Oh, I dunno," she grumbled. She looked up at the other agent and grinned weakly.

"Sorry. I barely know you."

"Hey, don't worry about it, hon. Pretty girls bending my ear makes a nice change." Seth smiled, trying to make her feel better. "It's not like him, though, especially getting violent. If I'd known he was going to feel this bad about it, I'd have tried to find him beforehand and let him get it out of his system."

He shook his head, puzzling over the mystery of Marcus. "I'm sure there are other people in there who know him, they'll shake some sense into him eventually. In the meantime, maybe we should get out of here and get you cheered up, eh?" He stood up and offered a hand to help her up, deciding that he could ignore his own less-than-perky feelings. "Come on, you shouldn't be getting miserable, Sara. Let's get a smile back on that pretty face, hm?"

Sara grabbed his hand. "Thanks."

She took a deep breath, deciding that this was someone that she'd like to get to know better. She gave him a small smile.

"Where to?"

"That's more like it." Seth's smile grew bigger as he pulled her to her feet. "Is there somewhere you like to hang out when you're not on a mission? I'd offer my RC, but it's not in the most cheerful area of HQ — well, DAVD generally isn't."

He shrugged. "Or there's the Cafeteria, but I'm guessing the offer of potentially fatal food poisoning isn't all that attractive... wait, I know. There's the Lounge. A friend of mine from Despatch — well, she's DIA now, but she was in Despatch — told me about it. Apparently the coffee's pretty good there. Sound like your kind of thing?"

"Hm, coffee." Sara nodded. "Don't think I've ever been there. Heh, I probably need the coffee. Lead the way, then, yeah?"

"It's just down this way. Shall we, milady?" He offered his arm, playing a bit of an old-fashioned gentleman in an attempt to make her laugh. Once she'd taken it, they strolled off down the corridor together.

Branch 2.2: Jessie and Big Murphy

At this point, Jessie decided to join the dance floor. She didn't feel too great about the idea, having been thinking about the friends she'd lost last year (not to mention the scar running across her back that she'd picked up in the fighting), but maybe she should make an effort.

Shifting into the crowd, she began swaying along in time with the music. As she moved through the dancing people, a few familiar faces appeared, and she smiled. Maybe more people were okay than she'd thought. Backing away from one girl who looked like she'd had a bit too much to drink, Jessie bumped into someone behind her and turned round.

"Sorry — oh. Hi, Big Murphy. Been a while."

Just then, Leto set off a brilliant display of fireworks.

Ears still ringing from the fireworks, he turned around. At first, James didn't recognise the person speaking, but after the fireworks settled down enough for him to actually focus on her voice and what she looked like, he grinned. "Good to see you're alright, Jessie," he said, scratching his head a bit. Jessie was a rather frequent customer of the Murphy brothers, finding them a lot more conveniently placed than the General Store and Armoury. She also had a nice eye for what was worth selling, often bringing in pretty nice finds from her missions, which tended to fatten either Murphy's wallet significantly when another customer came around. While they weren't all that close, he did get along with her, and had actually found himself rather worried when she had been wounded. It was nice to see that she was on her feet again.

"That pistol you ordered finally came in, finding the exact model wasn't easy," he said, trying to talk over the din of the music and people dancing, finally starting to liven up from the mournful atmosphere earlier. There was respect for the dead, then there was just being a mood killer, he figured. Wouldn't they want those left behind to remember them with happiness, not despair? "Once you feel up to it, just come on down with the right payment. I got the Beretta and plenty of ammunition, was actually pretty cheap. Or did you just want to chat?"

The red-headed woman looked up at him. Despite his size, she'd never felt intimidated by the oversized Irishman. "Thanks. Same here," she replied to his first statement, grinning and adding, "Not that anything could do much damage to you, huh?"

On hearing about her latest order, she shook her head a little. "Sorry, didn't realise it'd be that much of a nuisance to get hold of. I'll come by later, sure. But chatting sounds like a good idea. It's not as though I'm in a massive rush anywhere; for one thing, I'd have to round up Luke and detach him from whoever he's hitting on first." She rolled her eyes, sure Big Murphy'd know what she meant. The flirt machine she'd been partnered with since joining the PPC still grated on her nerves at times.

"No worries, it's my job."

Shrugging as the much smaller woman apologised for the inconvenience, he snickered a bit at Jessie's description of her partner. He'd met the man a few times, especially since Luke had a particular interest in collecting guns, and Jessie's description seemed pretty accurate. The guy really would hit on anything vaguely female, it seemed. James half wondered how the guy went through missions without trying to get in the Sue's pants. Looking around, taking advantage of his height to see clear over the heads of almost everyone in attendance, he eventually spotted what looked like Luke near the bar, talking with two other male agents. While he couldn't make them out 100%, they looked like Osbert, one of the more well-known agent trainers, and Langston, who was another occasional customer of his.

"Well, the good news is he's not hitting on anyone right now, unless he's suddenly decided to switch orientations on us," he told Jessie, looking back down to her. "Hm, wonder where the bloody hell my brother went. Hard to keep track of someone that short sometimes. Anyway, what've you been up to? Enjoying yourself?"

She stretched up on tiptoes, but couldn't see Luke, so accepted what her companion said with a shrug. "Can't see him doing that. He's always been after girls as long as I've known him."

Shifting her weight from one foot to the other to ease the slight cramp, Jessie nodded at Murphy's friendly enquiry. "Can't say I've been enjoying myself as such, the occasion being what it is, but things haven't been going too badly." Resisting the impulse to touch the scar — it seemed to be tingling, for some reason — she gestured around at the dancers. "Everyone else seems to be trying to have fun, so I thought I'd make an effort."

"Aye, probably for the best," he admitted. "I understand that we should respect the dead, but that also means we shouldn't be letting ourselves get down in the dumps about it. I don't think they'd have wanted us to waste their sacrifice like that, that would be more disrespectful than total irreverance, I believe."

Placing his hands in his pockets so he wouldn't accidentally hit anyone or anything like that, he looked at Jessie's leg as she shifted her weight. "Your leg alright?" he asked, nodding to the leg that, unknown to him, had started cramping up. "Can't blame you for not exactly enjoying the atmosphere, I know it still feels odd to me, but think of it as honouring our comrades the way they'd have wanted to. If it was them here right now, they'd probably pay us tribute the same way."

"Hm? Yeah, leg's fine. Bit of cramp." She shrugged it off. "I suppose you're right. I just think too much about that kind of thing, especially when I keep remembering I could have been one of them."

With that, she shook her head, not wanting to dwell on the time she'd had to spend in Medical recovering, and forced a smile. "I'm sure they would. You're right, let's at least try to be cheerful for their sakes." She tugged him further onto the dance floor and began dancing, losing herself in concentrating on the music.

James allowed the woman to pull him along. Though he hesitated for a second, before long he had also started to dance, trying to make out what music the stereo had changed to as he started moving to the beat. He had never been much of a dancer, but he figured he may as well try. Somehow he managed to move well enough that he didn't accidentally knock anyone out with his bulk, helped by agents who saw the giant Irishman start to move decided to give his spot on the floor more of a berth, and eventually started to settle into a kind of rhythm, though he still didn't move as well as Jessie seemed to be. He still didn't know where his brother had gone, but he was sure the guy was doing fine on his own, even if it was odd for so many agents to just be hanging out, no missions going on at the moment and no danger of Sues.

Funny to think this was a battlefield a year ago.