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The Man in Red

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From within the dusty halls of the long-decrepit facility, the squealing of an intercom system being roused from its long slumber echoed. The sputtering pop-hiss of static followed, for several seconds, before fading into the almost pleasant crackly near-silence of old-timey radio transmissions. A pleasing, whimsical jingle resounded with a tinny chorus of notes from several chiming bells, giving rise to a rousing fiddle number fading out into silence again.

"Goooooood evening, ladies and gentlemen!" A voice blared out, filled with the same charming crackle and pop of primitive radio. "I hope everyone enjoyed their time off. Maybe a few days for some of you, maybe a few decades for others! IIIIIIII'M LOOKIN' AT YOOOUUU, JOHNNY! Thirty-seven years is plenty of vacation time!"

Lights began to flicker on, slowly and one by one. Hissing, sparking and fizzling pops and cracks as the power slowly led to illumination. Many an ancient bulb actually burst, sending cascading showers of sparks to falls and nearly catch fire in errant cobwebs. But within moments, a fresh new lightbulb grew in its place, like some grotesque flower of glass and metal, and beautifully sparkled to life.

Where the light fell, the years of neglect, wear, tear, and general disuse immediately faded. Cobwebs disappeared, dust of ages vanished to be replaced only by the magnificent sparkle and shine of immaculate cleanliness, the ancient speakers and sagging cables all at once blessed with decades of innovation. Lighting fixtures themselves went from grimy old inefficient fluorescent cages to wonderful new (and mercifully silent) fixtures with a clean white light. Old posters and advertisements, many decades out of date, found themselves seamlessly replaced with new ones.

Doors hissed and whirred open, lights in bedrooms flickering on. The workers there, whisked away from whatever precious interdimensional vacation they had been enjoying, groaned and did everything from hop up to eagerly return to work, to lazily sprawl and flop out of bed to only grudgingly go about their tasks.

"The time has come at last, yes indeed it has," this time, the voice that came through the speakers was crystal-clear, and spoke with a soft musical edge that every individual there recognized, and which they all shared a simultaneous shiver as it crawled up their collective spines at just hearing it again. "A show to put on, and a game to be played, far better than the last."

In the main hall, an elevator slowly descended, the numbers denoting its floor glimmering a cheery shade of red. The fact they went far higher than what the staff knew as the highest floor only added to the unease as they hurriedly tugged on uniforms -- suits, gloves, masks, misplaced nametags all -- and set about frantically rushing to their posts to begin the preparations they need make.

"It must be perfect, as all should know, and by no means lame," the elevator finally reached the base level, and with a soft ding! its doors slowly opened with a silent whisper of machinery, casting a soft pale yellow glow out into the hall, and casting the sole occupant of the elevator into a scarlet-hued shadow from the light glancing off his suit. "And anyone who misses their cue to make it so, will be another player in my dear Game."
 

The Man in Red

The Host
Level 1
Joined
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€2,429
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The place was a whirl of activity. While the beckoning call to action and eerie rhymes of the red-clad and bemasked man had done all they needed to get the place awake again, that only meant that work had simply begun. All the sparkling clean and new facade of the place was just that: a simple overlaying mask to cover up the decrepit filth of ages the facility had fallen into. An illusion, laid skin-tight over the actual setting beneath it, and a clear guide on what it would and should look like when the work was done.

The materials to make it so were present, being expediently shipped in from sources the staff dared not question. Where the Man in Red got the resources to make such acquisitions all at once, let alone to have them arrive so quickly, was just one of many oddities about him, right along with how that damn mask of his seemed to change its face. Everyone knew that when that grinning fool mask turned to a sad and disappointed face, that someone was liable to simply come up missing. Usually that was whoever had been the subject of the disappointment.

.....usually.

He was an enigma, and for all his playful demeanor and childlike whimsy in his mannerisms, he was an unreadable and capricious mess. It made working for him lucrative, but risky. The rate at which he had to replace his staff, with carefully selected recruitment drives, was astounding. The number who managed to last more than a year were minimal, and they were all very nearly as disturbed or unnatural as he was. None of his employees really liked him, but they put up with it all regardless. The pay was exceptional, and they didn't exactly want for anything -- better working hours aside, of course.

The Man in Red himself, of course, knew all of this very well. He also knew one thing they didn't -- he actually knew many, many things they didn't, but that was beside the point.

He sat alone in his office, if it could be called such. Fashioned in the manner of something incredibly old-fashioned, almost like the study of some medieval scholar, and lit only by the crackling fires of an exceptionally large and overly-ornate fireplace. A projector whirred and chugged along where it hung from the ceiling, flashing its display onto a large blank area of wall. It flickered charmingly with static and occasionally cut out in its image quality, the audio accompanying the scene giving a similar quaint and pleasant sounding crackle as it hummed softly with static and dull white noise. The familiar sounds of a long bygone time of such primitive televised reception.

The fact it was hooked up to some rather state of the art equipment to receive and transmit the signals was completely and utterly unimportant.

"Dante's Abyss..." the scarlet-clad figure murmured, shifting in his seat. The old armchair, its cushions colored the same deep red as his own suit, squeaked under his movements. It was old, very well worn and extremely well broken in, and had formed nearly the perfect resting place his his unsettlingly tall, lanky frame to nestle in. "...what a treat this is..." His golden eyes peered from the holes in his mask, glimmering and sparkling like molten gold in the dim light of his office as they sat glued to the display.

"I believe this year's event will be truly magnificent," he murmured, and his entire frame shook with a mild tremble from a painfully-suppressed chortle of mirth. "...a wonderful new way of killing, such lovely entertainment." He shifted in place, lifting one leg to cross it over the other as his fingertips drummed the arm of the chair. "In past games, we did the killing for lack of success..." he murmured. "...not the most well-liked, but this plan, that shall address."

With a flick of his wrist, the projector shut off, and in his hand appeared the form of a sleek, battered old flip-phone. He flipped it open, and with the press of one button brought it up to his ear. ".....good evening to you, mister Brash. I've new plans for my next game." He paused, the indistinct murmur on the other end of the line clearly audible thanks to its speakers loud voice, but indistinct. "No no no, not just you. This one will be especially grand; I've need of you all." He paused again, and this time his mirth could not be suppressed as he broke into a delighted cackle, leaning forward in his seat. "You hear correct, my good man. All of you. This year's event will be..." He managed to restrain himself again, though his free hand gripped at the arm of his chair so tightly the wooden frame cracked lightly. "...to die for."
 

The Man in Red

The Host
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"Wonderful, wonderful selection of venue for this event, mister Glayde! I love the scenery you've chosen!" The Man in Red chortled as he stood in his observation room, one of the first areas of the new locale for his coming game to be finished. The lavish over-luxury of a well-appointed lounge room, and the sleek and stylish design of an ultra-modern and efficient office space. The walls were draped entirely in rich scarlet curtains, save for one of them which was formed entirely of glass. This last wall looked out into the void of space, and the huge field of space debris and rock which littered the emptiness as far as eyes could see. "An asteroid field. A veritable graveyard of space. All this carnage and destruction of vehicle and property..."

"Ahahaha-ha!" From a console on the office's central desk, a voice spoke up. Almost achingly energetic and full of enthusiasm for anything and everything. "I had a feeling you'd enjoy it, sir! Especially as the backdrop for a place like this! We've already got the engineers working on getting one of those bigger hunks of rock pulled in and set up properly, too!"

"Aaah, excellent! Do make sure that in spite of the false bubble there it has a clear view out into the stars above, won't you?" The crimson-clad host turned his head slightly, his head lifting slightly and his tone taking a sudden shift. No mirth, no open amusement, but strictly business and authority, for a fleeting moment. "This must be first and foremost entertainment, and even our good competitors must have a constant reminder of how unnatural it all is!"

"Aha, right you are, boss! Right you are! I'll make sure the dorks in the lab get the memo!" The call crackled slightly with background static, and there was a mess of indistinct shouting and rapid-fire talking. "Whoop, hold up boss, we got a live one here! Gotta run and cover this mess; Firecracker, you take over!"

The sound of the phone presumably clattering across the floor, and then light shuffling sounded, before another clear voice spoke up, ringing out with such clarity and volume it was akin to a slap in the face. "Jimmy Firecracker here, reporting LIVE from the Carnivale Rosa Research and Development labs! Where we have some seriously sacrilegious scientists really raising a fuss over the new work orders!"

"Ohohoho. They take offense to the new direction, do they?" This drew the direct attention of the Man in Red, and he went from standing at the windows to seated at his desk in the blink of an eye. Elbows resting on the polished surface, fingers interlocked beneath his chin. "How unfortunate. Mister Firecracker, if you would, have Glayde alert security and prep the airlocks. We seem to need a morale booster."

"At once, sir!" The phone was filled with the discordant sound of wind-fueled static and rampant chaos of angry shouting as the reporter-turned-overseer dashed through the hectic mess to find his colleague.

For several minutes there was only garbled static and the confusing chorus of abject disarray coming through the call, before it was abruptly silenced by the sharp, ear-splitting report of three quick bursts of several-shot gunfire. That plunged everything into silence, and the disquieting sound of clacking and rattling before a voice spoke up, faint but clear enough through the phone speaker.

"Listen up here, youse guys. Maybe you done went and forgot just who da boss here is, and how generous he is for lettin' ya be aware of his schemes and plans for the comin' games, see?" Several sharp clicks and clacks came, and behind his mask the Man in Red grinned with delight at the familiar sound of fresh magazines being loaded into automatic weapons. "So straighten yer asses out, if ya wanna keep 'em where they are. Youse all is one smart move away from bein' filled full of daylight, geddit?"

"Looks like we've got things under control for now, sir! We'll keep monitoring things here and keep you apprised of any sudden changes or updates!"
The phone returned to the reporter's ear, from his sudden increase in volume and clarity. "Until that point, this is JIMMY FIRECRACKER!" And with a sudden snap-click-hiss the call went dead.

"This event is going to be truly delightful. A wonderful distraction from all the horrors of the real world." The Man in Red waved a hand nonchalantly, as if dismissing someone to leave, and the paneling of his desk slid shut again, hiding the integrated phone apparatus within its ornate frame once again. "I suppose the next step is to...begin gathering all the wonderful toys and special guests that will be set to appear to really liven things up here."

A light tap of one finger caused the entire desk surface to split down the middle, sliding to either side to reveal an oversized keyboard as a large screen slowly rotated up from the back of the desk to rest before him. "Now, let us see...just which of my old friends are still alive out there..."
 

The Man in Red

The Host
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"Your freshest report, please, mister Glayde," the Man in Red murmured, from where he sat behind his desk. "I do hope your news shan't ruin my day."

"Ohohohoho, boy oh boy, boss-man, do I have some news for ya!" Glayde chirped in his obnoxiously sugar-coated, enthusiastic voice. "We got in touch with aaaaall your old contacts! They're all still alive, even after all these years. And furthermore, all but Jenkins still have access to their old resources and contact groups."

The scarlet-clad host leaned forward at his chair, hands splaying out on his desk. The smile of his mask seemed to somehow curl upward even higher into a deeper and far more pleased look, the eyes thinning into slits of utter delight. "Oh yes? Wondrous! Do make sure to send dear mister Jenkins a thank you gift for his time, won't you?"

"Already done it, boss-man!" Glayde bowed with a flourish, and tossed a bright red folder onto the desk. It flopped open as it touched down and spun across the surface, coming to rest with a scattering of pictures around it. Grisly scenes of an older man, hair once black but beginning to go gray, in a state of violent death. His entire front side seemed to have been torn out, the bloody mess of meat and bone it once was now decorating the surroundings. As if someone had just sliced and scooped him in half with a giant spoon.

"Ah, how delightful," the Man in Red murmured, with a soft clap of his hands. "Now then; we are set to begin on schedule, yes?"

"You betcha!" Glayde confirmed with a grin. "T-minus four weeks, four days, and..." He paused to check his watch. "...four hours, 18 minutes until we open!"

"Excellent, excellent. See to it that the facilities are ready three days in advance for any...guests who wish to observe the proceedings directly. And begin acquiring the necessary personnel files from my contacts about who is available for...recruitment."

"I'll have it done yesterday, boss-man!" Glayde threw a smart salute and then turned to hurry away, out of the room.
 
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