Riddle Of The Ring Toss


seren_icon.gif ff_silas_icon.gif

Scene Title Riddle of the Ring Toss
Synopsis At the pier fireworks festival, Silas comes upon a scam artist trying to rake in some cash … who's confronted with someone claiming to have beaten his game.
Date July 3, 2019

The boardwalk near Memorial Wall, Ferrymen's Bay

Clink. Clatter. Clink.

The sound of metal rings clattering over the necks of thick milk bottles and falling to the ground can be heard over the din. The boardwalk along Ferrymen's Bay is gushing with foot traffic even as the sun goes down, courtesy of the promise of fireworks after the last of twilight fades. Festival stands line the street beyond and the boardwalk itself, advertising food that comes in a variety of smells, drinks both alcoholic and non, and games.

Delightful distractions that tease one with the lie of a reward.

“Oof, so close,” the gamemaster croons with false sympathy. The grin he wears is much more honest. He waves jovially at the disgruntled young man wandering away with ten less dollars to his wallet and no prize to show for it. The gamemaster circles in his booth closer to the throng of the crowd, shouting, “Step right up for this game of skill and precision!” He gestures back at the sea of milk bottles in a grandiose sweep. “Two reds get you a small prize, a blue gets you a medium, and the green,” of which there is only a single bottle bearing green paint, “nets you our grand prize!”

Hanging from the roof of the tent by a string is a box for a Yamagato Awasu, the recently-demoed marvel of a tablet-phone with a folding screen.

“Come test your mettle! Sun's going down, fireworks soon start, and then we're closed for the night!”

The man grins as a slender figure with short-shorn hair steps forward, crinkled ten dollar bill fished from their wallet. “Aye, that's the way!” he boasts, scooping the bucket full of rings before turning back to accept the money. “Here y’ g—” and blanches at them, “um, go.” he finishes, off-kilter.

“Thank you!” Seren is beaming, their eyes limned with silver at the edges. They have a butterfly painted onto their cheek … and its wings just flapped, making the gamemaster wonder if he'd seen that right. Seren merely accepts the bucket and settles it down, determined with their gaze set on the green bottle. “Baird!” they call out jovially, half-turned over their shoulder. “Come on over here. We're gonna get a new phone!”

The gamemaster is back on track at that, grin returning. “That's the spirit, sugar!”

The boardwalk is packed; if Silas were so inclined, he probably could be out here working, running a barbecue stand and raking in some extra money (or, if he wanted to flirt with old ways from the not-so-good days, running some three-card monte)… but with Fiddler's Green getting closer and closer to opening its doors to the public, he'd rather not risk burnout by working every second of every day right up to the grand opening.

So… here he is, walking down the boardwalk with a greasy corndog in his hand, watching the various carnival games. Ah, the basketball shoot! Rigged; the rims are usually ovals, and the set itself is carefully crafted to make it hard to judge the right trajectory to land a shot. There, the dart throw! Also rigged, because the darts are light, dull, and the balloons are underinflated — you've gotta throw the darts hard enough to basically nail the balloon to the backboard to actually pop them. Over there, the classic milk bottle pyramid, where the bottom bottles are loaded with several pounds of lead to make a clean knockdown almost impossible! And over there, the ring toss, every bit as dubious as the others; the necks of the bottles are only a hair narrower than the rings, and the rings are hard plastic to maximize bouncing, making it difficult to land a shot. Up ahead —


Silas frowns, his gaze slipping back to the ring toss. There's something familiar about the figure standing there, but it takes him a moment to put a finger on it. The World's Fair. The Mantis bit. Good showmanship. He considers for a moment, debating whether or not he wants to throw his hat in the ring… then shrugs. Why not? He steps up to the counter, not exactly slapping his hand down but certainly putting it down hard enough to get some attention; the green of a bill is just visible peeking out from under his fingertips. "Heya," Silas says, giving a brief grin to the other player — that butterfly on their cheek wasn't there at the Raytech presentation, he's pretty sure, but he's pretty sure it's the same person, barring an identical twin — and then a much toothier one to the gamemaster. "That one of those new Yamagato spacephones?" he asks, raising an eyebrow. "Looks pretty cool. Mind if I take a crack at it?" he asks the gamemaster.

“Sure thing, sure thing, step right up…” He reaches underneath the table to grab another small plastic bucket, scooping rings into it to plop it down before Silas and take his cash instead. The gamemaster is quick to look behind him, judging the other three contenders also playing from other angles. His brow furrows for just a moment before he folds the tenner and slides it into his apron with a winning grin. “Just keep an eye on your rings and everybody else’s … make sure to not go trying to claim someone else’s mark, eh?”

He settles back into the corner of the inside of his booth, arms folding while he leans against the tent’s support. For the moment, he’s content to enjoy the fifty or so dollars he’s staring at right in front of him, maybe a little anxious that one of them might hit that green bottle in the center …

“You just watch yourself,” Seren informs Silas a bit wrily, head canting to the side briefly before they toss another ring. It clatters between a set of clear bottles nestled between blue and red painted rims. They seem nonplussed. Just warming up, maybe? “That gadget’s as good as mine!”

Competitiveness aside, they chuckle and slide a step to the side to give Silas a better berth for making his shots. “Don’t mind me. Just a bit of banter.”

A noise rises from the opposite end of the booth — the tense sound of breath sucked through teeth, of every muscle in one’s body going rigid because they swear they’ve got it. It’s just enough time for Seren to look back up to see one of the wide metal rings soar like a delicately-thrown pancake …

and land just off of the green bottle’s position, clattering down between the glasses. The gamemaster lifts a hand, thumb brushing the side of his nose as he looks off for a moment and then back to the game.

The thrower looks down into his bucket, finding it empty, and grits his teeth. He pats his pockets, and the grind gets even worse. He has words, opinions about the way this has played out, but he limits himself to throwing only a violent stare before he storms off. The summer-dressed blonde woman standing next to him holds her next toss loosely, a thoughtful look on her face while her gaze flits from the ring to the man to the gamemaster in quick succession.

Sahara could have sworn that…

“That’s tough luck,” Seren remarks, wincing sympathetically as the man storms off. “Though, if you’re going to potentially win a phone worth hundreds and hundreds of dollars, a couple buckets isn’t much at all in comparison, is it?” With that casual affect, they make their next shot.

"Of course, of course," Silas murmurs offhandedly at the gamemaster's admonition… though the use of the word 'mark' at the end does draw a side-eyed glance and a flicker of amusement. Worried about poaching, huh? Heh… back in the day, maybe you'd have had something to be worried about. These days, though, I'm just an honest businessman, he thinks to himself… not without another twinge of amusement, though, because thinking of himself as an 'honest businessman' is something he finds faintly hilarious.

Then Silas picks up one of the rings from his basket, and finds his first surprise: it isn't plastic, as he'd assumed, but metal. He hefts it, frowning thoughtfully as he stares towards the bottles; the ring is heavier than aluminum, lighter than cast iron. Hollow steel, maybe?

The familiar face next to Silas speaks up before he can muse on it too long, drawing a grin to his face. "Heh. I'm not gonna be too mad if you beat me to the punch," he chuckles, glancing sidelong at them for a moment before turning his attention back to the game. He hefts the ring, eyeing the bottles critically… then pauses as he sees that almost perfect pitch fall short. A hint of a frown touches his lips, his eyes flickering surreptitiously to the gamemaster; that really had looked like a dead on pitch to him…


Well. Silas is willing to buy coincidence once. And the Voice of the Mantis over there has a point; losing ten bucks when you're playing for a New Age Spacephone isn't that bad. "I'll give you that," he acknowledges, tossing his own ring gently towards the green bottle. His aim is off, though, and it hits the neck of a clear bottle, bouncing off and falling between them. "By the by. Is my memory playin' tricks on me, or were you at the Mantis exhibition?"

Seren leans forward as they gently lob another ring, only for it to land snugly around the neck of an unmarked bottle. With a snap of their fingers they come upright. Silas's question brings them to grin, more of an outright pride in it than a reluctant one — though it had taken them some time to make that transition.

“Yep! That was me,” Seren clarifies brightly, then looks back to the prize to make another pitch and a miss. “Well, me and Baird, anyway. I couldn't have done it without him.”

The creature that had been with the Raytech employee is nowhere in sight, though.

However, a silent companion is now by their other side, standing shoulder to shoulder. He's dressed well, far better than anyone around him with a sleek, deep navy suit with dark grey pinstripes. The cuffs on his white undershirt shine gold as the sun. His hand reveals itself to be a mellow bronze as it dips into Seren's bucket noisily, pulling one of the red-glazed rings free.

He leans forward, head turning to Silas with a gracious tip in both greeting and a silent acknowledgement of Seren's thanks. His eyes are human, a darker grey than his friend's. It's the last thing about him that is.

He has the head of a falcon, plumage so deeply black it shines blue in the overhead light of the booth, only smallest patch of tawny visible on the neck where head meets shoulder. Even his beak is stained dark near the tip, every part of him well-thought out.

The butterfly on Seren's cheek gently bats its wings again, and they turn to look at Baird beside them with a broad grin. “There you are. I was wondering.”

Silas is normally pretty good at masking his emotions, but when he realizes there's someone there on Seren's other side, his mask slips. There's an immediate bolt of terror — the sort of thing his Virus twin might have called an oh shit Kain's got a gun kinda feeling, if he'd been alive — but even as the adrenaline's crashing into his bloodstream, it becomes obvious that no, the person standing there is emphatically not his own evil twin with a gun.

…of course, what (who?) actually is there is… interesting in their own right. Silas blinks as he takes in the details of Baird's appearance… then, a half second or so later, the part of his brain that handles social interaction staggers out of whatever sub-basement his fight-or-flight response had stuffed it in and notes the polite nod. "Uh. Hello," he says, returning the nod as graciously as he can. "Jesus, you, uh, startled me there," he says with a nervous laugh. The fluttering of the butterfly on Seren's cheek is seen, but it isn't quite properly parsed — his brain is still trying to recover from the bucketfuls of adrenaline that just got dumped into his bloodstream.

Operating mostly unconsciously, Silas's hands find their way to his bucket of rings and pull one out. Immediately, he begins rotating the thing in his hands, turning it this way and that, passing it from one hand to the other with a bit of sleight of hand; having something to do with his hands has always made him feel better. "So, uh," he starts, taking a deep breath to try and get himself back together. "I wanted to say that I liked the showmanship at the Mantis presentation; it was very nicely done," he says, offering a nod towards them both. "Wasn't expecting to see Devi and Caspian there, though I suppose I shouldn't have been too surprised, I, uh. Don't think I saw you, though," he says to Baird, not having made the connection between the critter onstage at the presentation and the very snazzily dressed corporate Horus lining up his shot at the bottles now.

A twinge of apology stains Seren's expression, like paint droplets seeping through water. They try to keep it contained, but it becomes them, and then it mellows into them but is still there ultimately. Scaring the poor guy out of his skin had not been a part of the plan at all. A deep-throated, distinctly catlike purr comes from Baird, gaze flitting to Seren.

They translate, “He says he can become something else, if you need him to. Didn't mean to startle you.” Seren shakes their head, explaining, “That wasn't our intention. It's just the way he looks today.”

Baird nods tacitly, eyes drifting back to the prize. He hefts his ring once, then gives it a light toss at the bottles. It falls neatly in the space between two necks, landing with a muted clatter. The gamemaster's brow suddenly twitches as he notices the oddity out of the corner of his eye, double-taking at Baird's miraculous appearance in silence, the fold of his arms slipping.

Blinking once as they realize their rudeness, Seren quietly intones, “Oh!” and slides half a step back from the table. “I'm Seren, by the way. And this is Baird.” While they offer their hand out for a brusque shake, Baird merely gestures with the next ring he's preparing to toss. He's a bit busy trying to win that prize right now. No time for handshakes.

“He was with me at the event, too,” is explained as if the wild change in Baird's appearance is remotely normal for most people. “And wasn't that just something else?” Seren is beaming again. “The trick reveal was Miss Devi's idea, all I did was help bring it to life — are you a friend of hers?”

"Huh? Oh, no!" Silas says, shaking his head; he's not quite sure about the whole 'becoming something else' thing, but honestly Baird's appearance… okay, it's definitely weird, but just so long as birdman doesn't whip out a pistol or something, Silas is fine with it. "Nah, no need. You're dressed to the nines, Baird; not gonna lie, I'm a little jealous. It's just… the way you just appeared like that." He lowers his voice a bit. "That's, uh. Kinda something I do…" he murmurs, a bit distracted…

Then, out of nowhere, a grin shows up on his face, bright and amused. "…so I guess I can't be too mad about that, either. Turnabout's fair play, right?" he asks. He places the ring he's toying with back in the bucket, then extends his hand to shake Seren's. "Silas Dantes, part owner of the Fiddler's Green Dinner Theatre, out in Bay Ridge," he offers, by way of introduction.

At Seren's question about Devi, Silas's grin brightens a bit. "Acquaintances, at the least. Devi's working on the boat for us, trying to get it ready for the Grand Opening," he says with a grin. "Trying to get me familiar enough with the guts of the place to be able to handle running it, too," he adds, a bit more ruefully.

The motion of Baird's pitch draws his eye, though; it's a miss, but it reminds Silas that there's a game at hand. He picks up a ring from his bucket, and, after a moment, throws it — a casual, light-handed toss that drops just a bit too low, hitting the neck of one of the red bottles before falling. Still a miss… but he's getting closer. He frowns as he catches a glimpse of someone vaguely familiar looking on the other side of the ring toss; he tilts his head a bit, but he can't quite get an unobstructed view. Oh well.

"So. What do you do at Raytech, Seren?" he asks, still studying those bottles. "Assuming you don't mind me asking, at least."

Seren looks mildly surprised at Silas’s murmured admission, brow popping up. Their grin is quickly returned, accompanied with a pat on Silas’s shoulder. “It’s very good to meet you,” they enthuse, pleased as punch to make the acquaintance of someone like himself. “I had no idea — that’s wonderful! If you need any help bringing color to the place, tell her to let me know!”

Because that seems to be something the darkly-garbed Seren is good at.

“Me?” they ask, fishing a ring from their bucket. Only now does it seem to go down any, despite Baird’s throws. They sheepishly shrug a shoulder before throwing a toss. “I’m an architect, I work with Miss Valerie … and I get pulled sometimes for special projects, like the Mantis.” They blink in surprise as the ring clatters, circling several bottles before it circles violently around one of the red bottles scattered. Their breath sucks in. They win! Right?

Baird shakes his head calmly at them, holding up two fingers as a reminder. In silence as well, Seren snaps their fingers.

“It’s all a bit new to me,” they sigh out after. “But I’m making the best out of New York. It’s a whole different world out here this far south. I signed up for different, though.” Seren’s gaze tracks up to notice someone else’s gaze catching on Baird’s unusual appearance — the blonde woman standing across them on the booth. Sahara’s having a little trouble processing. What is he — one of those furries? He looks so real, though. And wasn’t it a bit hot to go around in all that black? The heat feels sweltering compared to lately, even with the cool of sundown setting in.

Overall nonplussed, Baird makes another toss. It sinks neatly around a clear glass close to the green.

Silas's grin shows more amusement at the comment about a whole different world — he knows that particular feeling, definitely. "Ha! So you do interior decorating too, huh? Well… if you wanted to come by sometime and have a look at the place, I'd be fine with it, and I'm sure Amelie'd be glad of it, too; we need every edge we can get. Maybe you can come by with Devi sometime?" Silas says, winding up and pitching another ring; it's a miss, but not by a lot.

"I didn't know Raytech did a lot of architecture, though," Silas muses. "Though to be fair, I suppose I don't really know all that much about what Raytech does, other than make neat-lookin' motorcycles and robot dogs and such. Richard's… done me a lot of solids," a half million of them or better, "but I don't really know all that much about the company…" Silas muses, taking on a thoughtful mien for a moment. Now that he's actually talking about it, that seems like a significant oversight on his part. You gotta know the territory, he thinks to himself, resolving to fix that.

That momentary pensiveness is gone almost as quickly as it came, though. "Maybe I'll see if I can line up a tour of Raytech sometime. But! I have to admit, I'm also curious about what things are like up in Canada these days," he says; granted, it’s possible Seren could be from the north of Maine or something, but Canada seems the more likely guess. He takes a moment to line up his shot, then carefully pitching his ring towards the green bottle. This time he's close… but again his ring misses its mark, hitting the neck of a clear bottle near the green one. He clucks his tongue and reaches for another ring.

"I'll ask Miss Devi about it. Make a day out of it," Seren supplies easily. A wry grin touches their expression as they add, "Make a race out of it." That sounded like a good time anyway.

Seren lobs another ring, barely watching it clatter between the glasses for someone who'd been so insistent on winning only moments before. The question about Canada has made them curious. "It's where I'm from, actually — Nova Scotia, anyway. And honestly?" They turn over a ring in their hand idly. "Not much has changed, not when you compare it to here. But the political landscape everywhere changed after Midtown, after Petrelli's announcement." They stop short of making another pitch, gaze growing distant with thought.

"I had a lot of hope, then, that being able to come into the light would solve a lot of issues…" One hand lifts to curl around the tattooed script on the side of their neck and the scar it covers. Seren smiles weakly, almost self-deprecatingly. "But I was just a kid, then, you know? Made the mistake of having too high of hopes for things. Now? I'm just glad I didn't grow up in the UK, or hell, go to school out that way. The US has its share of problems with Registration, but it's nothing like…"

The edges of their irises glint silver, and Baird shifts a glance Seren's way. With a sudden determinedness about him, he tosses another ring right at the green bottle.

It lands almost directly on top of it, clattering and bouncing… but landing dead on the bottle with a satisfying thunk.

Eyes widening, Seren looks up. Baird merely lifts his head, 'chin' tilted just so with a prideful cock.

Silas’s eyes are on the ring toss as Seren speaks, but most of his attention is on their story. He does glance back Seren’s way and offer a sympathetic nod at their talk of having their hopes too high; he knows that one. The metallic gleam in Seren’s eyes doesn’t go unnoticed at the end of their speech, and a hint of a thoughtful frown comes to Silas’s face. Wasn’t there something else, too? Something about that butterfly tattoo? He debates asking about it… but no. That’d lead into a discussion he’s not particularly inclined to have in such a public place. Maybe later, maybe not; there are more immediate things to focus on right now, anyway, like the ring toss.

Silas is just reaching into the basket to pick up another ring when Baird makes the winning throw, cutting him right off. Silas blinks, then clucks his tongue. "Damn," he says in a quiet, mostly off-handed way, but when he turns to regard Sere, there's a faintly rueful grin on his face. "Looks like both of us lose, and Baird's gettin' a new spacephone,” he chuckles. His gaze shifts to Baird. “Congrats, Baird!"

Silas doesn’t seem particularly distressed by his loss, though; still wearing that rueful grin, he turns his gaze back to the ring toss; mostly for shits and giggles, he lines up one more careful pitch and aims another shot of his own for the green bottle — mostly just to see if he can land the shot.

The gamemaster’s eyes haven’t left the green bottle, eyes widened in a touch of shock. He watches on as Silas’s toss, too, looks like it should hit dead on … and then just barely overshoots. Something about it helps the man collect his composure as he swivels his head to Seren and Baird both. Baird lifts his hand and wiggles fingers in a coy wave.

“My friend here won your prize, it looks like,” Seren offers helpfully.

The gamemaster at first just continues to stare … and then he shakes his head, looking back to the green bottle with a look of deep contemplation. “No,” he decides carefully. “I don’t think he did.” Sahara looks up from her side of the table with interest at these latest developments. She’s never one to eavesdrop on potential gossip, but this potentially involved her, so why not?

Seren looks a little boggled, but they try to keep it polite. “No, I’m pretty sure he—” The gamemaster is setting his sights on the bottle, and then looks back to Baird, a little more agitated now. “The hell he didn’t.” the man declares with more certainty than before, boldly looking at Baird first before directing his look back to Seren. “You’re trying to pull a fast one, and I don’t know how, but hell if I’m gonna let you get away with it.”

That throw…

That throw had been spot on. Silas is pretty sure of it. Pretty sure? No, entirely sure. Once is happenstance, twice coincidence, three times enemy action… except he's pretty sure you can skip at least one of those when you're dealing with a carny. The guy's reaction, though, that seals the deal. He'd been stunned when Baird had made his shot, but when Silas's had missed, he'd recovered. Uncertainty for a moment, as if wondering whether some fundamental law had been broken, then certainty that no, it hadn't, and therefore a cheat must have been involved in the successful shot. Which means that as far as the carny is concerned, a successful shot is not merely improbable, but impossible… which means that the game is rigged such that it is impossible.

Not that Silas blames the guy for that! Hell, he's used his little trick to run a mean game of three card monte now and again, when he was trying to make ends meet. Everyone knows the game is rigged anyway; even the marks know it, and they go into the game knowing it even as they're slapping their money down, so if you find a special way to rig things, why, that's not even really cheating; it's innovation! It's the American dream in action!


If you're going to play by those rules, then you've gotta take it on the chin when someone comes along and outfoxes you. Lose with the same grace you won with. Close down for the night, sure… but don't throw a tantrum just because someone came along who's a little further ahead of the curve than you are. That's just bad form.

Nevermind how Baird had managed to beat the game; Silas is certain that the carny's right, and that there is some kind of cheat involved, but while he'd love to know exactly what the trick there was, that's something he can get to the bottom of that later. The important part here is that the carny's cheating too, so he's got no right to protest just because someone did a better job of it than he did. He's pretty sure the trick to it is in those metal rings; are they magnetic, perhaps? No, because then they'd stick together —

You know damn well that's not it. That carefully indifferent look when the last shot had missed — it's exactly the look Silas would have on his face when he was lifting someone's wallet. Dollar to a donut says that if the guy has legit ID, it'd put him as either metallokinetic or… ferrokinetic or… whatever-the-fuck kinda trick lets you move metal. Hmm. Now there's a thought. Maybe if he can get the guy to step over to this side of the counter, there'll be a way to test that theory.

Play him. He thinks he's the craftiest fox in the henhouse; guy like that would probably always be whispering to whoever's next to him at a magic show, explaining how the magician does his tricks, how he isn't really that good. So play the rube; means well, but just a little bit dumb, keeps slapping the money on the counter to win that teddy bear. Draw this guy out. Silas schools his face into an appropriate look of puzzlement. "Huh? But… I thought he made the shot?" Silas asks earnestly, looking from the carny, to the bottle, to Baird, as if doubting his own eyes.

The agitated gamemaster is spinning up to aggressively spurn Seren and friend off when Silas’s ploy begins to play out. It takes some of the steam out of him, and he starts to dial his behavior back. After all, he’s trying not to overplay his hand more than he already has, with an outburst like that. “No,” he says, trying to edge his voice back to something more cordial. “I don’t think we’re seeing the same thing here.”

Seren’s stubbornness, even indignation is tempered by that for just a moment, looking to Baird by their side. There were people who couldn’t see that he was real, after all, and they wonder suddenly if —

… No, they’re careful to think back, the guy had seen Baird previously. So what gives? They haven’t caught on as keenly as Silas has, but now they’re beginning to suspect something, too. “Sir, I think that—”

But a voice across the table cuts in suddenly. “Now wait just a minute here,” the blonde woman says. Silas’s gentle insistence has given Sahara some courage to do more than simply observe and eat metaphorical popcorn. “I’ve seen two, maybe three perfectly good shots that should have sunk it and somehow didn’t. I mean, this table’s not that big, and these rings are pretty sturdy.” she balks, more open with her accusation than Silas is. “Now that somebody finally won, you’re going to try and disqualify them?”


The man’s brow furrows, feeling the pressure. “Well, yes, because—” And the reason slips on his tongue. He doesn’t want to out just how he knows.

It's a good thing the gamemaster's looking Sahara's way, because there's a visible flicker of surprise on Silas's face as he recognizes the woman stepping up on the other side. It's gone almost as quickly as it had come, though, buried again beneath Silas's carefully composed expression. He doesn't allow any trace of a grin to show, either, though he's definitely feeling one… because the pressure of the blonde woman's discontent has pushed the gamemaster into a slip that's just too good to pass up.

"Because?" Silas prompts, a moment after the gamemaster cuts himself off. His expression is still earnest, but now he's frowning, squinting just a little bit, looking… thoughtful. Not quite suspicious — not just yet — but it's the look of a mark who's suddenly started to slip out of the spell of cotton candy and calliope music; a mark who could, potentially, start thinking about what's going on here and maybe, horror of horrors, put two and two together and get four.

It is, in Silas's experience, the kind of look no crooked gamemaster ever wants to see on a mark's face.

The guy is up against the ropes, his opponents have him three (four?) to one, they're closing in to finish him off, and…

The sound of a firework screaming into the air rings like a bell, a single one that explodes with a pop and glimmer to start gathering people’s attention. It serves its purpose well.

"Oof," the gamemaster croons apologetically, not daring even a grin. He's gotta act fast. "All the games will be closing now. Fireworks gonna start, see." Sahara is stammering now, trying to find her words quickly, but she's never had to think this fast on her feet before when it's mattered. The gamemaster swipes away what remains of her bucket of rings. "Sorry, come see us again," he invites, planting a stuffed toy on the table in front of her for her efforts, then pulls on the the keeping the rain flap on the side of the tent up. It rolls down, creating a solid barrier between them both, clattering down behind the board the bucket had been sitting on.

The man turns back to where Seren, Baird, and Silas are standing, starting a step to close down that side of the stand as well. One look at them, though, and he reconsiders reapproaching their end. He has a sore look for Silas in particular, one filled with loathing for the egging on he'd given the whole situation.

So he simply lifts his hand and makes a swift, cutting motion. The metal hooks that had been holding up the tarp unfurls, and it falls almost instantly now that there's nothing in its way.

At seeing that happen, Seren's eyes widen and they let out a gasp, still standing almost nose to nose with the tarp. "That… that crook," they mutter, fists clenched by their sides, and they stamp a foot on the ground. The butterfly painted on their cheek bats its wings quickly, reacting to the sudden movement. They look to the side at Baird, letting out an exasperated sigh. "I'm sorry, bud. You tried."

Turning to Silas, Seren's brow arches. "Can you believe all that?" they ask incredulously. "I'm glad I didn't give them any more of my money."

Silas cackles softly after the gamemaster brings down the curtain; his suspicions about the nature of the gamemaster's trick have been vindicated.

Silas's gaze slips past Seren and Baird for a moment, scanning for a trace of that familiar blonde, but the now closed-off stand obstructs his view. He can only hope she comes around to gossip a bit; this is twice she's given him a hand, and so far he hasn't been able to thank her for either one.

Silas's attention is drawn back to Seren as they stamp the ground in frustration, though; he turns to regard them with an arched eyebrow, just in time to catch the butterfly tattoo on their cheek again moving. "You seem surprised," he says, faintly amused.

"You weren't?" Seren sounds incredulous, and maybe a little sheepish. Maybe they should have seen it? Baird places a hand on their shoulder reassuringly. Don't take it to heart, Seren.

They sigh anyway, just as the blonde woman comes around the corner, holding onto the small purple teddy bear that had been plopped down for her to take. Sahara looks like she agrees with the sentiment. "The nerve of some people. He was using some kind of trick," she says before she can stop herself from leaning especially disapprovingly into the last word. She waves a hand dismissively, turning to the horizon for a moment to peek for more fireworks. Not yet — just the warning.

When she looks back, she doesn't wear a smile but she's quickly back to being of a high-energy friendliness. "Well, they say bad times are good for bonding, right? Something to chuckle about together later on?" She strikes a hand out at Silas, still a little not sure of what to make of the other two, for all her efforts to strike up conversation. "I'm Sahara."

Silas chuckles. "Well. I didn't twig to the particular trick this guy was using until near the end," he admits, maybe a bit sheepishly — the clues were there, he probably should have picked up on what was going on sooner. "But am I surprised the game was rigged? Not one bit," he shrugs, a bit apologetically. "These games almost always are, in one way or another."

He could go on at length about the economics of festival games, but it's at that moment that the familiar blonde woman rounds the corner, headed their way; Silas's lips curl up into a broader grin. He definitely notices the venom she imbues the word trick with, but while he definitely makes a note of it, he doesn't let his grin falter; he takes the extended hand, shaking it firmly. "Pleased to meetcha, Sahara; I'm Silas," he says. He thinks about making a desert joke, but thinks better of it; someone with a name like that probably gets a lot of those.

"I wanted to thank you for speakin' up there, by the way; this is twice now that you've done me a solid, and I didn't get a chance to thank you after the last one," he says with a chuckle. He pauses for a moment. "I've, uh. Still got that scarf, by the way. Let me know when and where and I can get that back to ya."

Sahara shakes Silas's hand a few moments longer than necessary while she parses that one. Scarf… well, she hasn't seen her scarf, since…

"Oh!" First shock, then delight: "You're the hero from the fire!" Still overly loud as she cries that part out. One hand moves to Silas's shoulder to gently indicate she remembers and understands. "My word, it's still in one piece after all that?" she asks incredulously.

Seren watches on with a bit of curiosity, attention drifting to and from without seeing a place to get a word in edgewise. Maybe that's just how it's meant to be? In silence, they offer their arm out to Baird for him to loop his elbow with theirs. Instead, he shifts his head from side to side… and talons appear one after the other out of the collar of the smart button-up, feet latching onto Seren's proffered arm with a simple one-two step. Once that's done, the suit he was wearing simply falls to the ground in a crumpled pile, a long tail of peacock feathers freed from the suit's body. Now two mishmashes of birds, Baird ruffles his feathers momentarily — with the affect one might adjust their cufflinks, even — looking between Sahara and Silas expectantly while the remains of the suit simply wisps away into nothing a moment after it's abandoned.

Seren turns and notes the change belatedly, only after wondering why hand felt suspiciously like claw. "Ah," they murmur. "… Probably for the best?" Baird only leans forward, brushing the side of his beak against Seren's cheek.

Sahara has noted the whole thing out of the corner of her eye and oh how her expression has changed for it, but she quickly looks back to Silas again instead of trying to process whatever that was. She forces a smile.

"I'm Seren," is ventured anyway, despite the awkwardness, and their offhand is lifted to gesture to the familiar on their other arm. "And this is Baird." It forces Sahara to acknowledge them, which she does with that same smile.

"H-how do you do," she greets somewhat tepidly. She has no idea how to handle the odd things she's seeing, though bless her, she seems to be trying.

Silas's smile falters a bit at being called a hero; for once he doesn't seem to have any glib comments or well-polished witticisms to trot out. Not that he's not trying, but he's also busy contending with a lump the size of a silver dollar that seems to have suddenly materialized in his throat… because if there is one label he does not deserve, will not ever deserve, it's 'hero'. "Yeah, heh… yeah, still in one piece…" he manages. He scrabbles to try to find some more words, but he's still in a bit of a tailspin from the hero comment.

Luckily Baird's there to bail him out! Thank God. Under other circumstances he might have done some gawping himself, but right now he's just glad that Sahara's been distracted a bit. Maybe more than a bit, judging by her expression; she looks like she just took a big gulp of what she thought was iced tea and found it was something 150 proof instead.

"Huh," Silas says as he peers at Baird — partially to fill any awkward silences before they can really take hold, partially because things have finally started to fall into place. His gaze shifts to Seren, grin broadening; now that he knows that Baird can do… well, things like he just did… he can finally make sense of Seren's comment about Baird being there at the Mantis presentation. "So that's what you meant about Baird being there at the event," he muses; his grin's back, but his expression is halfway between impressed and contemplative as his gaze flickers between Baird and the spot on the ground where the suit had fallen… right before it dissipated into nothing. Something else has started to come clear, too… there's still a lot of details he's not sure on just yet, but now, at least, he thinks he has an inkling as to how Baird managed to sneak a shot past a ferrokinetic.

Then, remembering that their latest arrival hadn't been there for that bit of the conversation, Silas glances to Sahara with a grin. "Ah, yeah. I was at the World's Fair awhile back, went to the Raytech presentation for their new motorbike, the Mantis, and I thought I recognized Seren from it; turns out we know a few of the same people!" he chuckles.

“Is that right?” Sahara asks, trying to get back on being a bright light in the conversation rather than the odd man out. “Imagine that — what a small world these days, isn’t it?” She smiles and turns to Seren, looking like she’d like to say something, but something in her being prevents it from being anything she’d deem polite. Prying isn’t necessarily a thing she tends to do, but she has questions after seeing what she has with that whole transformation.

Besides, it’s rude to ask if something is real, isn’t it?

Seren might be catching onto that, as their own friendly smile begins to taper down. Their gaze sits somewhere between the two before they lift their free hand in apparent farewell. “Nice meeting you, Mr. Dantes.” Politely, their head bobs, and Baird’s does the same almost in tandem. “I’ll ask Miss Devi here soon about you. Hope you both enjoy the fireworks!”

When they turn and begin walking away, Baird’s peacock tailfeathers trail and breeze in the wind, loose and free and long.

And clip right through the leg of a person walking next to them in the crowd.

Blinking blearily, Sahara looks away from Seren’s retreating form to turn her attention back on Silas, honeyed smile returning. “If you’re insistent on giving it back, I suppose I can’t argue with that. I’m glad it and you were safe after all of that, it was…” She pauses while she unzips the purse hanging by her side, looking for something. “It was quite a night.”

It’s in only certain types of company that people tend to carry business cards right on them, and the fact that Sahara produces more than one and has to figure out which one to give is something that’s entirely lost on her. She nods knowingly at herself, putting away the cards for two other companies and instead offering one with just her name on it and her phone number, along with the subscript Certified essential oil vendor~

She knew these things would come in handy.

“I live out in Phoenix Heights, I’m sure we could meet up some time to get it back?” Sahara asks brightly.

"Nice to meet you, too!" Silas says, offering a wave of his own to Seren and Baird… but as the two take their leave, he notices Baird's tailfeathers seem to pass through the leg of a passerby, unnoticed. His expression shifts into a frown as he mulls that over for a moment.

Sahara's comment draws Silas's attention back to her, though; he finds himself nodding at her assessment of that night. "You're tellin' me! I was out for an evening walk, ended up getting a lot more than I bargained for…" he says with an uneasy chuckle.

He accepts the offered business card with a grin, glancing down at it. "'Certified essential oil vendor'," he murmurs aloud. He has no idea what essential oils are, or how one gets certified to sell them… but she's proud enough to put it on a business card, so… good for her, right? Maybe he can ask her about it later.

At her question, though, Silas grins back to her. "Sounds good!" he agrees.

On the waterfront come the sound of screams — that end in explosions.

Color, light.

It gives Sahara a start, but she sighs as the first few of the fireworks take off. Blues and greens and yellows glitter and make shakes against the darkened night sky, and the lights on the boardwalk wink off in sets to better allow for a view of the sky. She lets out a chuckle and turns back to Silas with a warm smile. “Yeah, I’ll put you together a package for you. The least I can do for getting my scarf back to me. And hey — think of it like the ‘thank you’ for risking your life how you did?”

She shutters her bag closed with a drag of the zipper along the side, eyes wandering back toward the sky. In the distance, she can hear the tinny sounds of music meant to be heard with the show. So far away, though, it can only be heard in the spaces between the thunderous claps of the fireworks. “I think I’ll find some place to sit and watch these,” Sahara decides. Her head turns in Silas’ direction even though her eyes never leave the lightshow. “You?”

A… package? Looks like I'm gonna get to find out what these things are sooner rather than later, Silas thinks, his smile taking on a faintly bemused look. "Ah… much appreciated," he chuckles.

At Sahara's question, Silas frowns. The fireworks don't captivate him the way they used to, but there's still a certain nostalgic draw there… but… he's probably indulged in enough nostalgia for today. He's got a boatload (literally, har) of work yet to be done.

"Mm. I think that I'm gonna have to head home soon, actually," he says ruefully. "It's been nice, visiting the festival, but… gonna be a long day tomorrow. Nice meetin' ya, Sahara! Enjoy the fireworks," he chuckles. He raises a hand in casual farewell, then turns to take his leave.

“Well, you on and have a good night, then,” Sahara asides to him warmly. She saunters forward to find a space in the crowd and a spot to lean against while she watches the show, mystical and bright and otherworldly and much better (to her) than the strange happening she’d just witnessed.

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