What If We Didn't Finish Our Article?

"It wasn't supposed to be like this. It wasn't supposed to be like this!"

A woman stands at the head of a long table, screaming, her arms drooping. Everyone seated there wears a heavy mask over their face, some even in full hazmat suits. Crimson and black logos are present on all of their breasts, depicting a fearless owl with its wings spread wide.

A shadowed figure at the opposite end speaks up in a calm and cold voice. "Nevertheless, White, it is like this. You and your team have caused mass extermination of the ones we are actively trying to protect. This is unforgivable."

Faint murmurs spread across the room, but quickly die out as the figure begins again. "For your carelessness—your utter incompetence and inability to predict or prepare for the consequences of your unprecedented actions—you are now dismissed from your position forever. Leave immediately or we will resort to force."

All of the mutterings immediately die off, leaving a heavy silence hanging over the entire room. The woman stutters for a few moments, trying to absorb what was just said, before finally speaking again. "You… you're firing me? After all, I've done? After all I've done?" Screaming, she suddenly droops down, supporting herself up above the table with only her shaking arms. Her voice reaches new levels of volume, anger, and madness as the yelling continues.

"White. Even now, you're extremely tired and extremely angry, losing control of your body and mind alike." They pause for a moment. "I'm sorry, I truly am."

The woman suddenly stops, hunched over the end of the table with her eyes wide, falling completely silent. A cold expression of utter horror slowly spreads across her face as she slowly realizes what the figure means. "No no no no please please please—"

Bang. A shot rings out, echoing throughout the small room, everyone diving to cover their ears. Getting back up, they can see the dark figure holding a small device and the woman slumped over, a small dark puddle slowly forming on her chest. Those that even recognize the weapon don't have any clue as to where they could have possibly obtained it, but before any inquiries can be made, they tuck it into an inner pocket. "Clean up the blood—and for fuck's sake, make sure you're wearing the suits correctly before even thinking about it. For the rest of you, this meeting is over. Take your teams and go into hiding—further ineptitude will not be tolerated. Execute any afflicted immediately."


A pair runs down a winding hallway of Level 3, their footsteps echoing down the passages and forming a special sort of harmony with those of the people—or things—pursuing them. Neither party knows why the chase is occurring, but it is occurring nonetheless, with the only important thoughts being about survival and bloodshed.

Swiftly approaching a small doorway, one of the pursued figures grabs the other, the two of them ducking into a small electrical room centralized on a single large generator, piles of crates surrounding it. They dive behind the miscellaneous objects just in time to hear the footsteps of their hunters run past.

As they take deep breaths in relief, counting their supplies and being thankful they're alive another day, a faint crackling suddenly plays from one of the boxes. One of the people quickly opens it up, revealing a large old radio.

"Hello, and welcome to episode 533 of 'Talking with Quinoa.' Do you ever get a nagging feeling in the back of your mind that something big just happened? Last time I felt something like this, it turns out someone had found something called a 'beach' somewhere—apparently, that's a big place made from—can you believe it—sand! And I missed it! Follow your curious heart!"

The two turn to each other, dumbfounded.

"Oh crap, it's starting! Get over here!"

"Hello, and welcome to episode 539 of 'Talking with Quinoa!' Today's a very special episode—I just got some fan mail, and I can't wait to share it! This big radio thing over here—actually, I'm not sure where it came from—lit up, so someone must have sent a message directly to me! How kind!

[The sound of something heavy being dragged over can be heard, followed by a click. After a few seconds of silence, loud static plays, then, glitchy and low-quality dialogue in a different voice.]

"Portage has fallen. Some people came, they had full hazmat suits or something with scratched out badges, and—oh god oh god oh god.

"They had canisters or something, sprayed a thick gas everywhere. Hundreds are dead—my friends, my family, all gone. Only a few of us actually escaped, some even tried to get to level zero to get away from everyone—I saw one man trying to get through a fucking chalkboard. I ran like—like a fucking coward. Left everyone to die.

"I'm sending this out on the first channels I can reach. If you get this, fucking ready yourself. They—they had scratched-out emblems or something on their chests, I couldn't see clearly, so… watch out for those."

[Heavy breathing and snuffling can be heard before another click. Quinoa then pauses for several seconds.]

"Well, that was… interesting! I wonder what they were talking about? Do you think I should do something? Because I don't know what! Thanks so much for the fan mail, and follow your heart!"

"What the fuck was that."

"I know, it's bizarre, and that's why it's great! I found this old radio back in a dumpster, and it's just occasionally spewed shit like this. The man's completely clueless, and I think that's an optimal mindset for the whole situation."

"Are you… You know what, never mind. Sure."

"I must congratulate all of you, that was impressively fast! Barkeep, you got anything good on hand?"

A certain gentleman sits back in the lobby of a grand hotel, other staff mingling about as well. "YeS, I CaN GraB YoU AlL SomethinG…" a wheezing voice rasps.

"I'm sorry about asking this, but Housekeeper, you did double-check those doors way down in the boiler rooms? They can be a bit finicky at times, always end up popping open no matter how tight you lock them."

She sighs a strange chittering sound. "Yes, yes I did. And the stairs, and then all the other doors, and that one elevator that showed up out of nowhere you still need to look into."

"Apologies, apologies, but it's all done now, is it not? You guys up for a little tune?"

"You got it, Boss! 'Righty boys, 4/4 swing, and go!"

As several instrument-headed men begin to play smooth jazz, another figure walks into the room, his face a blending mould of various features, parts, and accents. "There you are, my dear!" The Gentleman stands up, slowly swaying to the music, and walks over to the newcomer. "Care to dance?"

"Ack! The hell you doin', man?" The Jazzheads are suddenly shoved aside as a fellow runs out of a hallway, their music cutting off. Xe pushes through them, carrying an old radio under xir arm.

"Dude! Dude! You seen this?"

He pauses for a moment before lowering his hand into his palm. "That is a radio. Yes, I have seen radios before."

"It's not just any radio! It's that show's radio."

"What show?"

"'Talking with Quinoa!' You've never heard of it before? There's this guy, and he talks about things as the name implies, but it's always weirdly and funnily…"

"You are describing almost every radio show in existence. Do you actually have anything interesting to report?"

"This is interesting!" Xe hits the radio a few times. Nothing happens.

The Gentleman grumbles, slowly turning back to the Bellhopper."Are you done wasting my time?"

Suddenly, the radio crackles on.

"Hello, and welcome to episode 546 of 'Talking with Quinoa.' I received some more fan mail today! It doesn't look like a letter, I can't really tell what it is."

My fellow Maidens,

It is with great regret and hesitation that I write to you now. Though we tried, the circumstances were out of our control even before the events of three days ago.

As of now, the Masked Maidens are being temporarily disbanded for the sake of everyone's safety and security. Though the change is not permanent in any manner, the current situation is nothing more than chaos. We have failed.

In the meantime, however, your services and skills can still be put to use. A new group is slowly gaining a larger following, seemingly focusing their activities on some sort of broadcast. Monitor their activities closely, but do not fully engage.

Madam Evangeline Holmes

The speaker system overhead blares a message out, "People of Base Beta, please meet at the intersection of First Street and Stretch Boulevard; there is an important message."

The crowd in the intersection grows steadily, all crowding around a man holding a radio.
The radio flickers to life, as the volume is turned up.

"Hello World, and welcome to 'Talking with Quinoa', Episode 563! How'd you like the new intro?"

The crowd murmurs in the excitement of the new radio broadcast.

"So yesterday I found out that people build out of sand! Can you believe that? I thought people built out of rocks and stuff, but no apparently your cities are big ol' sandcastles!"

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