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May 28, 2022 10:56 PM
april crawls out of a basement in hilltop road
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They don't burn Annabelle's statement. Or the building.

They do turn off the tape recorder. They get ready to leave.

(Somewhere else, a teenager is in a cellar. The cellar has a crack, and eight spidery legs, and they pull her in--)

"What was that?" Daisy asks.

"What was... what?" 

"I heard... something. I think someone's here."

Everyone freezes. Melanie's hand tightens on her flare. 

(She wakes up in a chair. It's dark. Musty. There are cobwebs. She doesn't see the crack anymore. Or, for that matter, the legs.)

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A soft sleepy mumble issues forth from the chair, and then cuts off abruptly as the person in it wakes up and instantly freezes. Dead still, not even breathing. It's several long seconds before she dares, as silently as possible, to inhale.

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Daisy still hears it. Such are the benefits of having someone on your team with supernaturally good senses. "Over here," she says, and inclines her head before beginning to walk.

Everyone else--Jon, Basira, and Melanie--follow her cautiously.

The door swings open. The four of them look at April.

"She doesn't look like Annabelle Cane," Melanie says dubiously. Her knuckles are starting to turn white. "She looks as scared as we are."

"She still might be dangerous." Jon (a heavily scarred man who looks like he hasn't slept or eaten in a week) steps forward. 

Daisy's head snaps towards him. "Jon..."

"I hate to say it, but Jon's right." Basira sighs. "Just ask if she's going to hurt us."

"Are you going to hurt us." Something in Jon's voice tugs at April. It demands an answer.

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Her face scrunches up in deeply suspicious bewilderment and she makes an unintelligible noise like she was trying to say several different words all at the same time, and then, on the second try, "—how the hell should I know—not on purpose, probably—what the fuck?!"

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Jon looks back at the three girls. "Not on purpose, probably," he repeats, a bit sarcastically.

"Jon." Daisy shifts uncomfortably.

"What, so we go visit Hilltop Road, and just coincidentally, there's someone else there? I have to know why she's here."

Melanie speaks up: "I don't think anyone's claiming it's a coincidence, but that doesn't mean it's a good idea for you to--"

Jon interrupts her, voice rising. "--what other options do we have--" but Melanie interrupts him back with "--we could just leave--"

Basira cuts them both off. "No. No, if she's here, she was sent for us. I don't know what the Web's playing at but I don't like it."

"And Jon can't just know something?" Melanie says.

"I told you, I can't see anything here." Jon sighs, frustrated. "Unless I ask."

There's a long pause. Melanie sighs. "Fine."

Jon smiles a little. It's not a nice smile. His eyes are greedy, hungry. "Who are you?"

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She bites her tongue and snarls under her breath and neither of those things prevents her from answering, "April Turnberry. —see the problem with asking somebody if they're going to hurt you and then forcing them to answer is that it's one of those things where the act of observation changes the thing being observed, it's all Heisenberg up in here—I don't have any idea who any of you are, just thought I'd point that out—"

She shifts slightly in the chair, and the grimy sheet that has already slid down to mostly reveal her face slides down farther to reveal a decidedly shirtless shoulder. She clutches at it to prevent it from falling any farther and glares at the group as though they personally are responsible for her state of undress.

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"And if we didn't force you to answer you could just lie."

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Melanie glares at him. "For Christ's sake, Jon, she doesn't have any clothes." She turns to April. "I'm, um, Melanie King. The ex-youtuber."

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"Never heard of you," she says, but she relaxes slightly at this relatively non-hostile interaction.

Her free hand comes up to push a lock of damp tangled hair out of her face, and then she squints, makes an abortive gesture as though adjusting a nonexistent pair of glasses, ends up poking the side of her face just behind the corner of her eye instead, and looks disgruntled about it.

"Where am I? ...actually, what year is it?"

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"Oxford. July 20, 2018." Basira's flare is still pointed at April; she doesn't lower it. 

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"...fuck," she sighs, glancing uncomfortably away from them all. "Explains the accents, I guess." (Her own is somewhere in the generic North American space.) "Could be worse, at least you speak English."

She takes a deep breath as though steeling herself for an unpleasant task and then says, "Last look I got at a calendar was in May of two thousand and seven. And I'm pretty sure it hasn't been ten years since then. Pretty sure." Her wandering gaze returns to Jon, with another uncertain squint like she can't quite see well enough to be sure where he's standing. "Your turn. What the hell is up with the magic questions?"

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Time for a bit of an awkward silence!

”...You do realize that I don’t actually have to answer that?”

Melanie glares at him and he sighs.

“I’m, um. The Archivist. It sort of comes with the position.”

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“What he’s trying to say is that he’s a monster. Spooky, lots of eyes, wants to eat your fear.”

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"Oh. Great." She makes a soft noise, a sharp exhalation that might be a distant cousin of a chuckle. "Yeah don't do that. Pretty sure anybody trying to eat this mess," she gestures vaguely at her head, "is gonna choke on it."

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Jon. Listen to me. You do know how this looks, right? You say the Web might be making you take statements, we go to Hilltop Road and there’s someone, clearly traumatized, a nice victim all wrapped up in a bow, and you’ve got the... bad-decision look in your eyes. I don’t like it.” 

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“If the Web wants us to hear her statement— look, I don’t trust it either. But we need more information.”

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“We’ve already stayed here too long. We can keep having this argument somewhere else. April, come with us, we can get you some clothes back in London.” She’s still pointing the flare at April; it’s not really a request. 

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"...clothes are good. I like clothes."

She awkwardly wrangles the sheet into the world's worst toga, attempting with mixed success to minimize wardrobe malfunctions along the way. At the end of the process she's standing up and holding the sheet in place with both hands and not displaying any socially inappropriate anatomy.

"I will come with you for the promise of clothes." She tilts her head in a futile effort to shake her hair out of her face and winces. "And maybe a shower. Food would be nice too." She squints at Basira. "Oh, you're threatening me. Whatever. It's not like I have better options."

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“Great,” Basira says, and they head out. Other than the flares, they’re holding some papers and a tape recorder. 

There’s an argument over who April should ride with. Jon’s car is summarily and unanimously vetoed by everyone except Jon. 

Melanie ends up taking her, mostly because she has a jacket in the back seat that’s about April’s size.

It’s a very quiet hour’s drive to London. They pull up to the Magnus Institute. 

“Most of us live here now,” Melanie says. “It’s... safer, a little, than our flats. Less comfortable, but you get used to it. You can borrow Daisy’s clothes for now, you look about her size. And we have a stockpile of food in the tunnels.”

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She is quiet on the way. Very quiet; her default state seems to be 'not moving, breathing as silently as possible'.

"Thanks. ...dare I ask why it's safer to be living at your office and stockpiling food like an apocalypse cult?"

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“Honestly, you’re not too far off with the apocalypse cult thing. Unfortunately all the other apocalypse cults want to kill us, so.” 

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"Oh." She sighs. "Great."

And, after a moment's reflection, "Well, at least I get to wear clothes."

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“Yup.”

As soon as April enters the Institute, she gets a sudden and intense feeling of being watched. 

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"Haha wow fuck you too," she says. "—sorry, not you. The," she gestures awkwardly, reluctant to let go of her Garbage Toga but trying to indicate the environment at large with a sweep of her shoulder.

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“Well, if you get something else figured out, you can leave. ...Probably. Basira might want Jon to ask you more questions first, make sure you’re not going to kill us or something. Trust me, I don’t like it either.”

The feeling intensifies as they head to the Archives. The other three are already there. There are some clothes laid out for April on a cot: a white blouse and a long skirt. 

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"Is there somewhere for me to change or is this some straight-up fuckin' Panopticon shit?"

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