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File 139705590006.png - (19.08KB , 800x800 , 001.png )
569863 No. 569863 ID: 7e38be

"so Lupa is running around with her butt on fire right, and the whole team is on the floor clutching their sides and then harry is like 'wait guys this is a coal mine' and we all look at each other and then we're like 'oh shit' and start chasing her trying to stomp this fire out."

the table erupts into laughter as Charlie takes a swig from his flask.

"well if you had said 'hey Lupa let me put your butt out' instead of just dashing at me with your boot ready to stomp me I bet I'd be more accepting of it." Lupa says, chuckling.

the group continues to tell stories they'd all heard a thousand times before as Lupa stares at her breakfast. there is a weight in her gut. the same weight she'd always get before descending into the mine, even though she'd done it every day for five years. sometimes as they ate their preshift meal she'd try to catch glimpses of the others and maybe see if they were also apprehensive. she'd wonder if knowing that the others were frightened would make her feel better or worse.

the cafeteria, normally in a constant cacophony changes to a stifled silence in an instant.
Expand all images
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No. 569864 ID: 7e38be
File 139705596971.png - (20.90KB , 800x800 , 002.png )
569864

"good morning everyone." Reggie Nutalli, the head security officer for the research station, says as she walks down the rows, "don't worry. no one's in trouble."

the room returns to its low roar as the avian approaches Lupa's table.

"good morning D unit." she says.

"mornin" the miners around the table reply.

"Lupa, you need to update your immigration papers. your work visa expires this week." she says, thumbing through some papers.

"I know. I'm sorry." the Vulpine replies, "I forgot my stuff in the dorm."

"no problem." she says, "just come by the station after your shift. we'll get everything sorted out."

"ok thanks." she smiles nervously. Reggie always made her nervous. she always felt like she'd done something wrong and Reggie was about to punish her, though the Officer had been nothing but kind to her.

"it's my pleasure, Lupa." she says, then sniffs, "Charles what's in that flask?"
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No. 569865 ID: 7e38be
File 139705600315.png - (21.79KB , 800x800 , 003.png )
569865

Charlie quickly sucks it down and then coughs.

"nothing." he grins.

"mmm-hmm." she perks a brow.

the intercom plays a melodic ringing.

"oh hey look at that," Charlie laughs, "time for work. excuse us Ma'am."
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No. 569866 ID: 7e38be
File 139705604960.png - (20.88KB , 800x800 , 004.png )
569866

they pack up their food and head out of the cafeteria and to the lockers. as Lupa dress in the hefty canvas and leather coveralls, Harry turns to her, speaking lowly.

"Hey Lupa, you alright? you've been kind of quiet today."

"uh." she utters nervously. has she been too quiet she wonders. her anxiety slowly begins to gnaw at her again as it did ever since Cammy transferred to F unit. she wonders what to say. how should she say it. how long should she wait to say it. is it too late already? is it too soon?
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No. 569870 ID: 189a54

Why don't you start nice and simple with "Yeah, I've just been thinking." Keep that anxiety under control, you've been acting fine.
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No. 569878 ID: fe4bfc

Take a deep breath and start talking.
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No. 569882 ID: b7a896

Tell him that you just miss Cammy, who knows maybe Harry feels the same.
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No. 569886 ID: 2c6ff1

>>569866
Tell him you've been feeling anxious ever since Cammy transferred.
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No. 569921 ID: 9ddf68

just say you're a little tired is all, nothing to worry about.
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No. 570096 ID: 7e38be
File 139721382554.png - (17.30KB , 800x800 , 005.png )
570096

she takes some extra time to catch her breath and calm down. Lupa doesn't want people to see her having a panic attack in the locker room.

"I've been feeling really... uneasy since Cammy transferred out."

"huh." he says nodding, "yeah I can see that. you're the only girl in the unit, now. other than the commander, maybe. must be tiring sometimes dealing with all that testosterone by yourself."

"it's... it's not that. really."

"hey everyone shut the hell up. I gotta do the TiP talk."
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No. 570097 ID: 7e38be
File 139721385441.png - (17.57KB , 800x800 , 006.png )
570097

the Commander, a grizzled veteran of the mines, stands on a rise in the floor.

"thank you. good work yesterday D unit. that one's coming directly from the company's mouth, so take that with a grain of salt. I'm giving a personal congrats to Charlie and Lupa. they struck a new vein of Pharonium yesterday, gonna keep us swimming in it for a few months, which means we'll also be swimming in excess funding."

"does that mean we'll be getting uniforms that don't suck?" Charlie yells.

"nope." she grins, "uniforms are still gonna suck but if we keep the Pharonium flowing everyone's gonna see some more zeroes on their paychecks."
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No. 570098 ID: 7e38be
File 139721395820.png - (31.87KB , 800x800 , 007.png )
570098

D unit piles out of the locker room and into the tram station. Lupa sits down in the creaky metal tram at an empty seat. soon, Charlie sits next to her, his flask refilled with a bourbon so potent Lupa feels her eyes water.

"hey there shorty." he smiles, "ready for the dig today?"

"always." she lies.
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No. 570099 ID: 7e38be
File 139721398345.png - (27.39KB , 800x800 , 008.png )
570099

Harry sits down on my other side.

"jeez Harry change your tampon." Charlie says, unscrewing the top from his flask.

"I can't believe the Commander didn't say anything about me." he says grumpily, "I was with you two when we found that vein."

"technically speaking it was just Lupa. we were both just kind of standing near her when she struck the good stuff."

"yeah." Harry sighs, "so why did she mention you?"

"must be my rosy lips and come hither eyes."
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No. 570100 ID: 7e38be
File 139721402323.gif - (72.36KB , 800x800 , 009.gif )
570100

the tram is filled with the 25 men of D unit and creaks to life. as it descends into the dark of the mine the harsh lights of the facility become more and more distant. all that replaces it is the grinding and creaking of the ancient tram and the suffocating darkness. her heart thumps faster and faster, painfully hard. her eyes dilate trying desperately to find a gleam of light or movement or something, anything. she starts to lose her breath, breathing heavier and heavier, eventually wheezing and gasping. she descends into the darkness surrounded by friends, but completely alone.
>>
No. 570107 ID: 37aa84

Alright don't panic, you can't see them but your friends are still there, you can still hear them breathing if listen.
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No. 570112 ID: 75b8af

>dealing with all that testosterone by yourself
...I can't tell if that's intended as a joke or not. Either way, he gets a D- in sensitivity, I think.

>>570100
Calm yourself. Mental exercises. Focus on your breathing, steady pace, count your breaths. Lose yourself in the rhythm. Your fear and panic will go with it, and your heart-rate will slow down to something more manageable.
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No. 570115 ID: ea8be9

just relax. Close your eyes and just focus on your breathing and heartbeat. when the tram stops then open your eyes but try and calm down. You've done this before so you got nothing to worry about.
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No. 570124 ID: 189a54

Go through some breathing exercises, keep yourself calm. There's nothing to be afraid of here, your friends are still right where they were before it got dark. Put a hand out to either side, find some extra comfort in the fact that you can still feel your friends even if you can't see them.
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No. 570143 ID: f93bc2

Just don't imagine the walls closing in all around you. Whatever you do don't imagine the walls closing in, or a cave in happening.
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No. 570357 ID: 321d85

>>570143
You.... *facepalm*

Hey, Lupa, everything's ok; everything's ok. [send warm fuzzy thoughts] So, do you want to tell us what's up? Is it just the light, or is there some root to your difficulties? If now's a time you can talk about that - otherwise, just try to remember that your friends are there to help.
>>
No. 570359 ID: 2c6ff1

Use your other senses. Listen. Smell. Feel.
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No. 570361 ID: 7e38be
File 139738144035.gif - (45.55KB , 800x800 , 010.gif )
570361

despite herself Lupa finds her mind wander to the thought of a cave in. of her and the unit being compressed by the immeasurably massive earth into nonexistence. her entire life of 23 years ending. her 23 years of memories and experiences simply vanishing, with no epilogue, no paradise or afterlife, and no eulogy. she simply would not be. she'd die alone in the limitless darkness.
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No. 570362 ID: 7e38be
File 139738146581.gif - (45.64KB , 800x800 , 011.gif )
570362

Lupa closes her eyes and tries to concentrate on heartbeat and breathing. the panicked, painful gasps and frantic drumming calm down slowly but surely. she thinks for a moment to reach out for Charlie or Harry. to ensure to herself that she is not alone in this squealing grinding darkness, but she can't bring herself to. she can't bear to let the others know. she just focuses on her breathing.

her anxiety and fear slowly melts away. all of her melts away. she feels weightless and formless in the infiniteness of the dark. for some time she stays this way, counting her breaths, outside of the physical world, until she sees the unmistakeable glow behind her eyelids.
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No. 570363 ID: 7e38be
File 139738148595.png - (21.30KB , 800x800 , 012.png )
570363

she opens her eyes to see the station inside the mine. the Tram slowly begins to empty, but Lupa hesitates to stand. the same time everyday she thinks to lie and say she's too sick to work or that she hurt her back or something to let her stave off her return to the mine, but now it's too late. once the tram is at the station it will stay there until her eight hours are up.

she must enter the mine again today.
>>
No. 570386 ID: 37aa84

This seems like some pretty heavy fear here, are you sure this only started after Cammy left? Could you tell us a bit about Cammy.
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No. 570388 ID: 189a54

Not letting our friends know is a mistake that may endanger all of you at some point. This seems like a pretty serious thing to try struggling with by yourself, especially in a situation like this where you all need to count on each other for safety. At the first good opportunity, tell your friends what you've been feeling.

Also, why did something this intense start from someone just transferring units? Was Cammy involved in an accident after she transferred or something?
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No. 570431 ID: 9ddf68

might as well get going. work hard enough and it might help make it seem like time is moving faster.
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No. 570432 ID: 75b8af

Well, unless you want to cower at the station alone while your crew goes on a man down, it's a little late to stop today.

Maybe you should find someone to talk to at a better time, though. You can't ignore something like this forever.

How long has it been this bad?
>>
No. 570480 ID: a36601

Why do you stay if you experience such intense fear here? Surely there are other places you could find work if you needed to.
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No. 570802 ID: 7e38be
File 139755704403.png - (24.99KB , 800x800 , 013.png )
570802

Lupa thinks hard but she can't remember a time she wasn't afraid of the dark. she had dreaded coming to the mine since she was a child, but she had to. every man in her family belonged to this mine. her father was buried in this mine, and her grandfather succumbed to the Ivory from working in the mine. she already knew that her father wanted a son to carry on his name, and all her got was her; but she promised to herself that she would carry on the family's legacy and work the mine.

Cammy attached herself to Lupa almost as soon as she walked through the locker room door. she was very bubbly and cheerful, like Charlie, without the machismo. Cammy was sort of like a big sister. thinking now, Lupa struggles to find the words to describe Cammy. she felt at ease with her. Cammy was the only person in the Unit that Lupa told about her fear. Cammy just... got it. she didn't judge Lupa, she just supported her.
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No. 570803 ID: 7e38be
File 139755706794.png - (17.67KB , 800x800 , 014.png )
570803

"come on shorty." Charlie snaps her out of her fog, "let's go before all the rigs that don't smell like ball sweat are gone."

she sighs and stands. she follows Charlie to the check in station. the check in process is long and detailed and made to ensure the facility knows exactly how long each miner is in the mine. Lupa punches her card, then enters her SSN, then a password; then a large imposing counter begins counting down the seconds until the end of her eight hours.
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No. 570804 ID: 7e38be
File 139755709781.png - (20.86KB , 800x800 , 015.png )
570804

she follows Charlie as he shoulders past everyone to the rig station. he of course grabs a custom rig extended to be able to actually fit on his massive 6'4" frame. she wordlessly dons a heavy metal rig, which will serve as her spine for the next 8 hours, and follows him to one of the shafts.

"Hey short stuff." Charlie says, breaking a multiple minute long silence, "you've been real quiet. what's up?"

"It's nothing." she replies solemnly, turning away from his and Harry's gazes.

"actually." she blurts out thoughtlessly.
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No. 570805 ID: 7e38be
File 139755732087.png - (26.67KB , 800x800 , 016.png )
570805

"actually?" Charlie repeats, "actually what?"

he notices the Vulpine's hesitation, and his smile vanishes.

"Lupa what's wrong?" he kneels and looks at her face closely, "are you sick? hurt? is your rig damaged?"

"no it's... my rig is fine." she stutters.

"so what is it? I can get the commander on the horn and get the tram to pull back around."

"n-no I... don't call the commander. I'm not sick or hurt. my rig is fine... I..."

millions of words and phrases, prose and poetry, songs and hymns from heaven and hell swirl through her mind in this instant. none of it, no words, no metaphor nor hyperbole, no allusion nor reference could possibly explain what she feels. she struggles to find any way to describe it. indeed she struggles with an excuse to not have to. she wants desperately to take her words back. to tell Charlie and Harry she is sick and that's all that's wrong. to lie and say she's been feeling under the weather and to not worry.
>>
No. 570806 ID: 189a54

Go ahead and tell him the truth, nothing is stopping you! Tell them about your fears, your friends could all help like Cammy did if you let them know more about you.
>>
No. 570812 ID: f290a2

>>570805
"you're my friend, right? you won't laugh if i show weakness?" just to make sure he knows it's serious. then just tell him you're scared, the rest will follow.
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No. 570813 ID: 694ee2

You are now Isaac Clarke. Prepare for zomb..er i mean necromorphs.
>>
No. 570821 ID: 14d3df

Get him to calm down a bit, he's obviously making you nervous by making such a big deal about it.
>>
No. 570825 ID: 75b8af

>the Ivory
A mining disease, I presume?

>exo-spine
Why is that necessary? Doe sit make you a lot stronger or something?

>>570805
Just sigh. Not having such a good day. Feeling a little freaked out down here, okay? (Try to downplay it, you're feeling him out).
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No. 570909 ID: 9ddf68

say you just heard of something called dead space and can't stop thinking about it.
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No. 570962 ID: 2f4b71

Tell him your fear of the dark is getting worse. No way have they spent every day for months next to you in the train without anyone on your team noticing. Besides, it's hard to rib someone about fear of the dark when you know they've been working through it all this time.
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No. 572334 ID: 7e38be
File 139842653736.png - (30.97KB , 1000x1000 , 017.png )
572334

"you guys are my friends. you wouldn't laugh or anything if I said something personal, right?" as the words leave her mouth Lupa becomes more and more sure that this is a huge mistake, but she's gone too far now to play it off as a joke or momentary insanity.

"of course not." Charlie nods, respecting the gravity of the situation perhaps entirely too much.

Lupa opens her mouth, waiting for the right words to fall out, as though there was some combination to explain it. she can't think of a string of words that don't sound stupid or comical.
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No. 572335 ID: 7e38be
File 139842656447.png - (37.00KB , 1000x1000 , 018.png )
572335

"I'm... scared..."

"you're what?" Harry says leaning in.

"Scared." she repeats, "of the dark."

there is a long silence.
>>
No. 572336 ID: 7e38be
File 139842660575.png - (24.61KB , 1000x1000 , 019.png )
572336

"you really picked a poor occupation." Harry smirks.

Lupa nods, smiling uneasily, "I guess so, huh?"

"I already knew that." Charlie shrugs, "you are really bad at hiding it, you know."

"yeah I guess so." she laughs fraudulently, "it's not really a big deal. I guess I've just been weird about it lately."

"no sweat Short stuff." Charlie turns back to the tunnel.
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No. 572337 ID: 7e38be
File 139842663555.png - (20.93KB , 1000x1000 , 020.png )
572337

Lupa follows the two of them deeper into the earth, feeling a burning emptiness that she had hoped would have been filled in with her confession. she had expected some sort of closure. either they would accept it or they wouldn't. it would have been binary, a black and white yes or no. instead it was almost as if she had said nothing at all.

what was the point of speaking at all she wonders. the english language, which for much of her life had been her passion and art, refused to obey her in her time of need. was it the words she said she wonders or the words they heard. are they simply unable to understand just the depth of her fear? of her vulnerablility? she had beared her heart unprotected and unsheathed and rather than comfort it nor peck it out like buzzards they simply ignored it.

she can tell she's angry but she can't tell at what. is it charlie or harry? is it herself? is it the darkness? or her family or the world or life? does it matter at all? does the subject of one's anger validate the anger itself?
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No. 572338 ID: 7e38be
File 139842669264.png - (76.80KB , 1000x1000 , 021.png )
572338

they reach the vein of Pharonium Lupa had discovered the day before. the harsh glow of the mineral stings her eyes and the hefty, acrid stench burns the back of her throat. she often thinks about the damage the rock has already done to her lungs, and the damage it will continue to do. she sometimes wonders if she'll die to the ivory like her grandfather did. the thought is uncomfortable. Pharonium crystals forming in one's lungs and the bronchi calcifying both sound painful enough as separate conditions, but ogether they are the stuff of nightmares.

the obvious solution of course would be for her to invest in a rebreather or some sort of purifying apparatus, but that would be vastly impractical. the weight of such an apparatus and the required supplies for 8 hours of continuous use would be ridiculous and besides she needs unrestricted access to the already thin air of the mine or she'd likely pass out. no, the Ivory is simply a specter which must loom over everyone in the mine. some will surely contract it and some won't. she just has to be one of the ones who won't.
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No. 572354 ID: ca65e6

>>572338
Can't you just, I don't know, wear a dust mask?
>>
No. 572358 ID: 189a54

>>572337
There's no way they can understand the full extent of your fears and issues from you just mumbling "I'm scared of the dark." Really elaborate on how badly your fear has been affecting you lately, how intense the attacks of anxiety from it have been. Tell them about how on edge you've been, how you've been over-thinking even the simplest conversations to the point that you're unable to communicate your real thoughts on matters.

Your friends aren't psychic--they have no way of understanding what's on your mind besides your body language and words. If you don't really let everything out in detail, nothing's going to change and that burning emptiness will keep growing until it's as much of a danger as the Ivory.
>>
No. 572393 ID: a36601

>it's not really a big deal
That's part of why they're just dismissing what you're saying; because you are dismissing it yourself before they can say anything. They figure that since you make such a small deal of it, that you have already faced your fear and found a way to cope.

From the way you're reacting to their response, I'm not sure if you want to just be comforted or to find some way of fixing the problem/coping with it. If it is the latter, ask if they have any ideas that could help you get over/handle it because it's been messing with you a *lot* lately.

>>572337
I think you might be angry at the way you are thinking/feeling. You recognize that you are bringing yourself down, but you can see no obvious way of fixing it; so you just go over what is in your head over and over again trying to find an answer that will help.
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No. 572434 ID: 824f43

>>572338
So, how do we go about harvesting this stuff, then?

Fall into the rhythms of your work. It's harder to worry about the dark, or the possible fates that await you, if you're distracted by a task and physical labor.
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