Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Light and Shadows

After the last adventure, there were a few lingering details to go over... killing a man does that, as it turns out. There was an informal hearing with those present and a judge; the judge agrees that Niles Henry was, indeed, a serial killer. Evidence gathered showed that along with Krista Levens and Dawn Ramirez, Niles Henry had kidnapped at least two other girls. He kept a detailed journal, and frequently wrote how he hoped to be found, and relished the thought of a fight to the death. It was obvious that no matter what, Niles Henry would have used lethal force.

After hearing the evidence and testimonies, the judge thanked the group for their quick action, but warned them against future vigilante behavior. "This isn't the first time your names have come up, and while this court finds your actions to be excusable homicide, future courts will view similar action as a pattern vigilantism."

Finally, the judge ordered those of the group not already attending sessions with a psychologist to do so.

And, after a few weeks, leads us to today. During a mandated trip to the school psychologist, the group overheared the school nurse talking about another student, Tessa Ng: "I honestly don't know what to do; she's fine during the day, but is absolutely terrified of the dark. Even shadows seem to set her off. She's taking a mild sedative, but it no longer seems to work. I'm getting worried."

Wondering what was up, Priya asked around her floor about Tessa, and found her room, though her roommate said she wasn't there. She suggested the physics labs.

Across campus at the labs, the group first found a simple laser setup, demonstrating interference patterns between laser beams; next door, they ran into Tessa, who was just locking up. She asked if they wouldn't mind walking with her, as she was deathly afraid of the dark. As they walked, she explained that she has been working on a system for treating phobias; using pulsed light from calibrated lasers, a person is exposed to their phobia, then strobed with light via a arm cuff. The pulsing light causes a reset of sorts, lowering the subject's fear of whatever thing. Unfortunately, the machine that detects spikes of fear wasn't particularly precise, and would occasionally go off when it wasn't supposed to. A few days before, it had gone off, flashing the lasers in her face.

About that time, Tessa realized just how dark it was, and quickly noped out to Solheim. The others followed, and Alistair noticed shadows that seemed to be following her...

Inside, everything was fine for a while, but soon the lights began to flicker and dim. Just as the last light flickered off, Tessa bolted for the labs again. Priya and Alistair could see dark, horrible shapes lurking just outside the light, and dodged past them in pursuit of Tessa. Inside the labs, the lights continued to flicker as Tessa passed by. In her lab, door shut, the lights flickered and dimmed; she stood in the middle of the room with the others crowded around her as the lights went out. The computer monitors managed to stay lit, and in the dim shadows, more of the creatures could be seen, deformed monstrosities, standing in the darkness. Oddly... Tessa seemed to exude light. It wasn't that she lit up like a Christmas tree, rather that light seemed to crowd around her.

Realizing it was likely the lasers, the group set to work pulling them apart and trying to figure out how they worked. Will managed to pick the lock on the "black box" that was driving the lasers, and inside they found a sticker linking the equipment to EyePhi...

After several quick experiments - the lasers seemed to banish the dark creatures, but they would return almost immediately - the group finally stumbled upon the idea of re-flashing Tessa. After a near-blinding flicker of light... the room lights clicked, hummed, and turned back on. The creatures were gone - and, incidentally, so was Tessa's fear of the dark.

The next day, the equipment was gone, replaced with a more off-the-shelf version - and the "black box" was removed entirely.

Alistair, always wanting to try a new spell, attempted to improve everyone's knowledge for the upcoming midterms. That... didn't go very well. The spell worked once; the other three times, not so much. First, they summoned a weird, blobby monster with a mouthful of tentacles. Then, Alistair had a (temporary) magical sex change. Finally, Alistair and Priya were transformed into a bumblebee and a hedgehog, respectively. Once the various magical mishaps were reverted, they decided to stick with good ol' book learnin' to get them through their tests.

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