After The Storm: NonPlayerCharacters Introductions: Mannequin

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Originally posted on IC thread, page 17 post 165


The previous night

Hurrying out of the office building, Colleen Duquesne checked her watch. "Is it that late already? Damn overtime, now I missed the bus. I so miss my cell phone... Should I go back and use the office phone to call a taxi." She thought for a moment and then shrugged. "Oh well. The subway station is just a short walk away. If there isn't a taxi there, there are at least payphones."

Colleen set off towards the subway station. She was about half way there when suddenly she found her way blocked by four young men who appeared from an alley.

"Out for a walk this late?" a red haired man at the front of the group asked. "Don't you know this neighborhood is dangerous?"

"We could escort you if you make it worth our while," The man behind him said.

"Thanks, but I think I can manage," Colleen said warily. Then there was a clicking sound and a blade appeared in the redhead's hand.

"What my friend meant is that if you hand over your wallet, you won't get hurt," the red haired man said.

"We might even frisk you to see what other goods you are carrying," the other man added.

Colleen reached into her handbag. But when she pulled her hand out, it was not holding a wallet but a can of spray. "Back off!" she stated, pointing the spray towards the men. "I have mace!"

The men just laughed. "Suppose you manage to mace one of us," the redhead said. "Then what? There would still be three of us and one of you."

"Two," a voice said.

Colleen looked over her shoulder. There was another woman standing a short way behind her, dressed in jeans and a red hoodie, her face hidden by the hood. Colleen had not noticed the other woman arrive. Neither had the men, apparently, for they were momentarily surprised. Then the redhead grinned. "Well miss, if you want to join the action, that's just fine by us." Turning to look at his friends, he said: "Two girls and four boys. Looks like we are going to have a party."

The moment the redhead turned, the woman in a hoodie shot forward. She rushed at the men, leapt high, kicked herself off from a wall and flew at the foremost man swinging her leg. The redhead barely had time to turn his head back towards the women when her foot impacted with the man's lower face with a sickening crunch of a dislocated jaw. The redhead made a short pirouette and fell on the street unconscious.

The three other men stood dumbfounded for a moment as the hooded woman landed gracefully in front of them. Then one of the men yelled: "Bitch!" and punched her. The woman counterpunched. Her fist impacted with the man's fist straight on, and there was another crunch as the man's knuckles broke. Screaming, the man fell on his knees, holding his broken hand.

The remaining two men leapt at the woman, fists swinging. She deftly sidestepped the first man's swing, but the other man's fist impacted with her face. The impact did not seem to faze her in the slightest, but her hood fell from her head. Colleen gasped. So did the men.

The woman's face was expressionless and doll-like, with a texture that looked more like plastic than skin. Even her blonde hair had a shiny, artificial look. And the gaze in her unblinking blue eyes seemed empty.

For a moment, the men froze in shock. The woman didn't. She punched one of the men on the mouth and he dropped down whimpering and spitting teeth. The other man turned to run but the woman reached out and effortlessly pulled him back. Turning the man to face herself, she closed her hand around his throat and brought her expressionless face within an inch of his, staring at the man with her unblinking eyes.

"W- What are you?" the man asked in a strangled voice.

"Maybe I am a mannequin that came to life," the woman answered in a cold, emotionless voice. The man pissed his pants.

The woman’s face twisted into a grin. In Colleen’s mind that made her even more terrifying for the grin did not seem to reach her empty, unblinking eyes. However, when the woman spoke it was in a much more lively voice. "You appear to have developed a leak. Well, potty time over. Nappy time starting." Her grip around the man's throat tightened. He made a choking sound, then his eyes rolled over and he fainted, the woman letting him drop on the street.

Colleen took a step backwards, but the other woman said: "You do not need to fear me," replacing her hood. "The station is right at the end of the street," the woman continued. "You will be safe among the people there. Go there and call the police. I will watch over these men until they arrive."

Colleen took off at a run, leaving the hooded woman standing a silent watch over the men.

Colleen was sitting on a bench outside the subway station, shaking. Two taxi drivers were keeping watch over her. Then a patrol car arrived and two police officers got out. "Ma'am? Are you the one who called us?" one of them asked.

Colleen nodded.

"She is pretty shaken," One of the drivers said. "Did you get the assholes who jumped her?"

"We have them in custody," the officer said.

Colleen managed a smile at the drivers. "Thank you for keeping me company. I think I will be fine now that the police are here. No need for you to lose fares over me."

"It was no problem," one of the drivers said. "Been a quiet night anyway."

"Take care," the other driver said.

As the taxi drivers headed back to their cars, Colleen turned to the officers. "Did you find the other woman? The one who rescued me?"

"No sign of her," one of the officers replied. "She must have taken off when she heard the sirens approaching."

"Did you get a look at her?" The other officer asked.

"I will never forget that face," Colleen said. "She looked like a-" she laughed nervously. "She even called herself that."

"What did she call herself?" One officer asked.

"Mannequin. She called herself Mannequin."


Posted originally on the IC thread, page 31, post 303

Mannequin leads the way to the basement and opens a door to a windowless room. Originally it was most likely warehouse space, but now it contains workbenches, shelves full of tools and parts and even a small bookshelf. There is also a desk and a worn and patched up comfy chair next to the bookshelf, but nothing that looks like eating or sleeping space.

"Home sweet home," Mannequin says, takes some cubical device from a shelf, attaches it to the door and turns it on. "There. Now no one can hear what is spoken in the room. The Cyborgs are a nice bunch, but some of them might try to eavesdrop."

"We could talk about tonight's incident," she continues. "But let's talk about ourselves first. You said that you are curious about my story, and I am curious about you as well. But since I was the one who invited, maybe it is fair if I start."

"Cyborgs were the ones who thought up the name I use," Mannequin tells. "It is a bit of a pun, you see. Mannequin. Guinevere Mann. That is the name I gave them. Because that is the name I remember having. There are things in my past that puzzle me. Like the fact that I have memories. Human memories. As Guinevere Mann.” She turns her lips into a smile. “If my behaviour seems odd to you at times, that is probably why. And as for those memories, this is what I remember."

"I was the only child of a single mother with substance abuse issues. Not that she was ever violent or abusive. Just a bit negligent. I was an accident after a one night stand, no clue who the father is. Mother chose to have me. She kept me fed and clothed, made sure I went to school and was nice enough. But she never managed to kick the addiction, so much of the time she was just way out there. Also, she did not much care where I went, with whom, or how late I stayed out. So, too much freedom, too few limits, no direction. I did not do well at school, I got into all kinds of trouble, and collected plenty of juvenile sentences. Mainly minor stuff though. Shoplifting, vandalism, truancy, that kind of stuff. Then one day I was not a juvenile anymore, and the next time I got in trouble I was given an option. Army of jail."

"I opted for the army. Jail might have been a better choice. I was so not army personality. I hadn't given a damn about authorities my entire life and I was not about to start. And you know how they do with the recruits in the army. First they break you, then they mold you into the kind of person they want. But I was unbreakable. Push me and I push back. Things started going off the track the very first day when the drill sergeant was doing the standard 'what are you looking at?' yelling at my face, and I answered: 'You, sarge, because you are so sexy.' Then it was disciplinary action. But no amount of disciplinary action could tame me. I wasn't popular in my unit because of the collective punishment deal, but I didn't care. Discipline escalated from push-ups all the way to military police holding cell. Then the Storm hit. In the aftermath, the already non-existent patience to my kind of troublemaking evaporated among all the problems, and in short order it would probably have been exit the army, enter the jail. But that was when Colonel Marsh arrived."

"I was spending another night in the cell when Marsh walked in. He said that I seemed like a rather hard headed person, and that he was looking for exactly that sort of people for a special assignment. He said that he believed I would do a lot better in the team he was assembling than in my current position, if I was interested. I thought that it could hardly be any worse so I said yes."

Marsh had me transferred to a facility upstate. Leaving the grounds wasn't allowed. Cell phones and computers weren't allowed either, but this was soon after the Storm, so no one had them anyway. Otherwise, it was rather lax there. There was a bunch of others in the facility. Just about everyone was a misfit or troublemaker of some kind, and mostly we got on just fine. Sure, there was plenty of training. All kinds of athletic stuff. Close combat. Surprisingly lot of small arms training. Another surprise was how little trouble there was with the training, considering what a bunch of weirdoes had been gathered. But Marsh was charismatic, in a natural leader kind of way. He told you to do something, you found yourself wanting to do it. And he was a rather cool guy. Humorous. Hardly ever raised his voice. I might even have seen him as a bit of a daddy figure."

"The weirdest part was all the medical tests. You had to give all kinds of samples. Not just the typical blood and urine samples. I do not even know what kind of samples were taken. They'd just stick this awful-looking needle into your back or neck or somewhere and draw something. There were scans made with big machines. Injections. Psychological evaluation. The works."

"You see, Marsh was not a special forces commander. He was from Medical Service or Science Corps or somesuch. A military doctor. Field surgeon turned biomedical scientist. As he explained, the facility was part of the Soldiers of the New World Initiative. A project to increase battlefield effectiveness and decrease mortality rate. He was conducting research. I once went and asked him if there were other facilities since ours was a 'part of' this initiative, and he said that there were other, parallel lines of research."

"And now we get to the point where things started going weird. People started getting flushed out. One day, someone would not be there anymore. Marsh explained that this was a special assignment, there were requirements, and just like with any training, not everyone was going to pass. And those who failed got sent back to their former unit. And no, he could not explain what metrics were used to determine who passes. It was classified. Well, it was kind of odd but in the end it just made us more determined to do well because generally we liked it there. Then I got called to another medical examination. Pretty much routine at that point. There was an injection, like so many times before. But this time I blacked out."

"My next memories after that are really haphazard. I remember what may have been an explosion or power surge. Funnily, every time I recall it, it reminds me of the Storm. After that there is this confusing jumble. Attack. Evade. Run. Leap. Hit water - I must have been close to the waterfront, or on a ship. Then, sink. But not drown. No need to breathe. My next coherent memory is walking ashore at the eastern part of Long Island. I was looking like this. And decked out in military gear. I was really confused, but clearly I had just escaped from somewhere. So I ditched the gear in case it could be tracked, stole some normal clothes and went looking for supplies and a place to lay low. That was how I met the Cyborgs. I was waiting for an opportunity to steal some tools off them when these other bikers showed up. Highwaymen. Cyborgs may be bikers, but they are more of a club than a gang. They just like bikes and other gear. But Highwaymen are criminals. What happened was that Highwaymen tried to pressure Cyborgs to join them, but then I leapt in and convinced them that it was a really bad idea. And, well, you saw how the Cyborgs reacted to you. They weren't frightened of my appearance like some people are, they were fascinated. And they asked me to stay. I did, and it has proven to be a good choice. I have a room and a base of operations here at the clubhouse. I have access to tools, repair facilities and spare parts. And they act as camouflage."

With a smile, Mannequin explains: "If I walk on the street in broad daylight looking the way I am, there is gawking and 'what the hell is that?' But if I put on my MC Cyborgs jacket and something like this..." She puts on a Robocop-style helmet that covers the top of her face, but is obviously just a worn piece of gear. "This way, the reaction I get is 'oh, it is just those stupid kids again.' Especially if I have some of them with me. I just blend in. Even my skin is assumed to be makeup. Some of the girls have actually taken to wearing makeup that gives the skin a plastic-like sheen. I can go shopping, and mainly just get jokes about it not being Halloween yet. The worst I get is 'we don't allow gang colors here.' That, and the guys who want a piece of me, and you know what piece I mean. I must appeal to some weird cosplay fetish or something. Eyeroll."

Removing the headgear and pointing at her eyes, Mannequin says: "Compared to a human, I am somewhat lacking in facial expressions. So my vocabulary has increased with several spoken terms. Such as 'eyeroll,' 'wink,' 'blink,' and 'seductive eyelash flutter.' One of those was a joke."

"To get back to the story, I learned that I had lost two years. Between that injection and getting ashore on Long Island, a bit over two years had passed. And I have no memories of that time. After getting settled in I started looking into things. That upstate base was gone. Equipment removed, buildings bulldozed, nothing to be found. And the people Marsh had gathered at the facility - all dead. Even the ones who supposedly flushed out. The official story is that during paratrooper training, the transport plane went down soon after take-off, before anyone had a chance to bail out. No survivors. But the weird thing is that if it was a cover up, you'd expect that the bodies would have been burned into unrecognizable crisp. That didn't happen. The plane crashed but didn't burn. The bodies were intact. Guinevere Mann's funeral was an open casket affair. Mother got the flag and everything. I didn't dare to go check up on her because if someone was looking for me, that is what they would expect me to do. But I had friends. Some of the Cyborgs looked into the matter for me. Turns out that mother is doing a lot better than I expected. Maybe the shock of her daughter's death was a wake up call. She still visits Guinevere's grave - my grave - every week. But she has finally managed to kick the addiction. She is doing evening classes, and is even dating again."

Mannequin leans on a wall. "What really bothers me is that everything seems to indicate that Guinevere Mann is genuinely dead. So why do I have her memories? And not just bits from here and there, but the entire set, collector's edition. And that is not even the only strange thing. What about those two years I can't remember? Was that when I learned to build things like that?" She points at the device on the door. "And do repairs on my body. And speaking of the body, Marsh was a biomedical scientist, and there is nothing biomedical about this. He didn't have the education to design something like this. That must have been done by someone else. So what is the link between the body and the research Marsh was doing? I have been trying to locate Marsh to get some answers. But it is like tracking a ghost. There is no information on him. When I ended up in the news, I thought to see if someone came after me and pressure them to give up his location, but it appears that Marsh was thinking one step ahead of me. Somehow he knew that the Iron Jeremys would show up looking into an android sighting and put the drone on their tail. At least that is what I think happened."

"And now there is you," Mannequin says, looking directly at Tal. "There are similarities between us, but your design is entirely different. Less Action Barbie, more Robocop. More angular and conspicuous, with increased armor and capacity for flight. Different armament too. Could you be from one of those parallel lines of research Marsh mentioned. So - what about you?"