May 18, 2021 4:17 AM
esther and ivy meet the Stage
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She ducks into a nook in the room and leaves it dressed in stage black - not the sort that light sinks into like some abyssal well, the sort that one's eyes slide off of. Emerging from the darkness of the room, she falls in step with a girl in blue carrying far too many pots of brightly colored paint.

"Hey. Where's that paint headed? I didn't know there was a show build in progress."

The girl responds with a smile. "There's always time to refresh the backdrops, there's never enough time to add detail when it's build season. I'm Natasha by the way, and you?"

"Esther, call me S."

"S it is. Help me carry these pots?"

S shrugs. "We're headed the same direction, don't mind if I do." Never one to turn down an opportunity to make herself seem useful.

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He's already dressed in black for exactly this occasion. He looks around the room until his eyes fall on someone with a similarly eye-searing hair color as his own. She's leaning over a flat, drilling it for rigging.

"Hey! I like your hair," he squats down next to her, picking up the extra drill. "I'm Zero, mind if I help you with this? You seem cool."

"Thank you! I like yours too! And yeah, you can totally help, I'm Juniper, I've already drilled the guide holes so you can do the screws?"

He gets to work. His new friend is talkative and friendly, if not the sharpest tack, and she has good technique. They make quick work of setting the flat up for rigging.

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As they reach one of the many backstage storage rooms, S sees a plethora of setpieces propped against the cinderblock back wall, lit only by a bare bulb overhead. Dust swirls in the air as the door opens, and S leans back so as not to breathe in too much of it. Natasha strolls right in with apparently no care for the lurking dust clouds and pulls down the dust cloth covering the pile of props. The contents of this room seem star-themed - there are star drapes, a starry night sky, red stars that look like they might hang from chains and with a shock, she recognizes a star-windowed tower.

"Hey, is this from last year? I could have sworn I saw it on the stage last night when I was poking around."

Natasha gives Esther an odd look. "Yes, but you see the dust in here - as far as I know, noone's touched these since last spring."

Huh. Better derail. "Must have been a dream, ignore me! So, touching up the night sky? I wouldn't expect to need so many brighter colors for that"

Natasha is only too happy to explain her craft. "See, you'd think that, but actually we need these to color the edges of the stars so they each stand out against the background..."

As she chatters on, S feels a shiver pass down her spine, and a light clicks on beside an elevator in the distance.

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Juniper insists that they take their flat into the theater to test its weight against the fly bars and to estimate where to set it down for rigging. Zero picks up one (very heavy) side, and Juniper picks up the other. He's preoccupied with thoughts of the night before, and anticipation to see what the Stage will look like today. They enter through a side door, turning the flat sideways in order to fit and coming out into what seems like one of the wings.

Zero sets down his side of the flat for a moment, calling a break, and pushes aside the black velvet of the wing, expecting to see- if not the same stage, then one similar- and stops.

The stage is fine. Great, even. It's clearly been recently repainted, the lights above it are gorgeous and the latest models and he itches to get his hands on them, but- it's not the Stage. There's none of the set pieces he saw last night, and the seating is directly in front of the stage instead of all around it. The balcony is too far for anyone to have fallen off it and successfully landed on the stage. He searches for the red drapery that was so ubiquitous last night and finds nothing but deep purple curtains.

"Had enough of a break yet?" 

Oh. Right. Juniper. He turns back and picks his side of the flat up again. If not this stage, where was he last night? There's no way it could have been transformed to this so quickly, but how could he and S possibly have gotten somewhere that wasn't here? He doesn't remember two stages being listed on the website, but there wasn't a creepy giraffe mentioned either...

Somewhere deep down below, machinery begins to whir.

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They complete their work in companionable silence after Natasha finishes up her spiel on the importance of bright colors in astronomical iridescence. S finds the work strangely engrossing and in the flow state, she almost doesn't remember that she has actual classes to go to. She makes a hasty exit (doesn't Natasha have classes to go to?) and slides into a seat in the middle of homeroom. The teacher walks in just after her and they all stand for roll call. She looks around for her new roommate - is Zero here?

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He is! He looks slightly out of breath (he also lost track of time) but very happy to have spent some time helping with the rigging.

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She smiles at him, then proceeds to doodle on her notebook for the entirety of the first half of class. If she needs help with color theory, she's sure that Natasha will be willing to help. She starts by drawing lights and mics but quickly meanders into less related territory. By the break, several pages are covered in costume design for someone who looks suspiciously like her.

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He smiles back! His mood is highly improved by small displays of friendly affection. He can just see S's notebook from over here.

"Nice drawings! You into costume design?"

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"You could say that. Coffee?" She closes the notebook firmly.

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"Yeah, I'm down for that!" He registers the notebook close. Best not to push it, though they were quite pretty drawings.

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Ritual is important in making people comfortable. Esther walks over to the vending machine, passing a peppy girl with oddly styled yellow twintails. She keys in the coffee code for Zero, then offers him the can.

"So, how did your socializing go? I found out that no one dusts prop storage."

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"It went well! I helped with rigging and-" he leans in closer, "that stage is not the stage we were on yesterday."

He stands back at a normal distance away, and notices that the coffee is for him. He smiles and takes the can.

"Thank you!" This is his very grateful face.

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Personal space, Zero. At least she's getting some information out of this.

"Yeah, didn't think so. The equipment was beyond professional stages, let alone what I've seen of school auditoriums. Any clue where that Stage actually is?"

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"I didn't get the chance to look around today, unfortunately. Seemed like it was maybe underground, but I'm not sure."

 

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"Could also be magic."

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"You think? I guess I don't have any better explanations."

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She shrugs. "Best I can think of right now."

She glances from side to side, though none of the other students are paying her any mind at all. "Did you feel something this morning? Like a call to be somewhere else?"

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“Yes, actually, funny you should mention. I’m... a little scared to go back to the Stage, if we can figure out how to get there, but something in me... wants”.

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"Same. I'll be going hunting after class." Before she can say anything more, a bell rings. As they return to the classroom, she passes the peppy girl who seems to be staring at them. She ignores her for now, and resolves to solve that mystery another time.

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Zero shifts uncomfortably under the stare. He stares back as long as he possibly can until he realizes Esther is already halfway down the hall. 

“I’ll come with you on the hunting!” 

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Not so loud! She winces, thinking of the questions people might ask and breathing a sigh of relief when none come. The second half of class is more engaging with some practical tips on how to layer colors in a multiinstrument cue and managing backdrop bleed, but she still has trouble concentrating. That girl keeps staring at her from across the classroom, but she never manages to quite call her on it, and there's a twitching feeling in the back of her mind that feels like a live wire every time that her thoughts eager to that Stage below.

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He has, as usual, become dead to the world in favor of learning more about his favorite thing. He has a harder time concentrating than normal though- his mind wanders and he ends up scribbling his cues from the day before in the margins, turning them over and over in his mind as if he’s rehearsing. He can almost remember the feeling of all of it, being inside the show, on the Stage brimming with stardust-

He’s called on to answer a question and he realizes he’s been zoned out for the last 10 minutes. He stammers out that he doesn’t know among quiet whispers or stifled giggles throughout the class. This isn’t the type of school where you don’t know the answers.

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"Oh! I know! You'll want to use glass filters with conventionals because of the higher temperature, but with LEDs you can use plastic and have less distortion for the same chromatic transformation!"

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Enthusiastic.

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It might be unreasonable to dislike someone just for giving a correct answer when he couldn’t, but he is struggling to be reasonable at the moment, and also trying to find ways to disappear into the floor. He knew that, no one should know more about this than him!

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