Prior to V6, the staff team has released some sneak-peeks at new members of the Arthro Taskforce and locations for the new game.
Preview 1 (Trent Camden)Edit
The Wiltshire air hung in the two men’s noses as their car turned into the quaint countryside lane. Even with the windows closed, the smell of cow shit was not to be missed. A row of houses dotted both sides of the road, each one fronted by a garden of varying conditions, filled with clues about the house’s owner. They stopped at a small bungalow with a reasonably, if not perfectly, maintained front. The effort was there, but the results were lacking.
The two men left the car and approached the front door. The younger of the two, a lithely built well-dressed man of his mid-twenties, would lead the conversation. The older, who retained an air of professionalism in spite of his comparatively more casual demeanour, would be there to oversee it.
The front door of the bungalow was opened by a man who looked to be no older than twenty five, as if he could have gone to school with the younger of the two guests. He was wearing a modest t-shirt and jeans combination, and despite it being mid-afternoon, the blonde hair that hung down to his neck was an uncombed mess, whilst a faint scraggle of hairs dotted his unshaved chin. He greeted them with a warm smile, and a friendly hello.
“Trent Camden?” the younger of the two men who had knocked on the door asked, getting right to the point.
He shook his head immediately, still smiling. “No, sorry. I’m Rich Steele.”
The second guest took the opportunity to speak this time, producing a sheet of paper from his pocket. “Our mistake, Mr. Steele. You look very much like the man in this photo, though.”
The photo in question came from a national newspaper clipping. The article was dated back a few weeks, and described the case of a pharmacist from the Cambridge area, wanted by the police for his trade in illicit prescriptions that had resulted in a lethal overdose. The photo, a staff shot given by the pharmacy to aid the police, did indeed look just like the man in the doorway.
His response to the mugshot, however, was only a soft chuckle.
“Ah, this again. Sorry, but you’re not the first to tell me that. I’ve had to deal with the police talking to me quite a few times about it actually.” He chuckled again, then wore a look of mild concern. Not panic, just a polite display of hesitation. “Though now that I think about it, you’re not with the police, are you? I don’t want to sound rude, I’m just asking.”
The two guests dismissed the idea, their expressions unchanging in response to the man’s casual demeanour. “May we come in, Mr. Steele?" the shorter man asked. "We’ve an opportunity we’d like to discuss with you. We’ll try not to take up too much of your time.”
Rich Steele appeared to ponder the offer, but it did not take him long to beckon them inside. If he was troubled by the prospect of inviting the two men into his home, then it was surpassed by curiosity. _____
A young girl with glasses and wavy brown hair was sat in the living room as the three migrated into it, her nose stuck in a book about a fantastic fox. It pulled out to see the two strangers in the room, then immediately hid back in it. The sounds of dishes being washed could be heard from the kitchen nearby.
“Who is it, Rich?” called out a voice from the other room, as a short, round woman, with hair to match her daughter’s, appeared in the doorframe. She gave a polite nod to the two men and tried to look friendly, but her nerves were much more apparent.
“They’re some old friends of mine, Janet. Could you make us some tea?” He continued to smile, checking with the two men how they took their drinks. He requested three lumps of sugar in his own.
Janet walked quickly back into the kitchen, followed by her daughter, who hid her face from the two strangers. Their nervous mutterings carried back into the living room quite audibly, but Rich didn’t appear to pay them any heed.
“Well, you’ve got me interested now, so what’s this all about? If you’re looking for Trent Camden, I’m afraid I’ve never met the man.” Now that he was sitting, his hands motioned quite readily as he talked, waving his hand in front of his face as he denied any connection.
"Haha... no, of course not. Actually, Mr. Steele... Rich? I like Rich better." the taller of the two replied, resting his leg over the other as he leant into his chair. He also spoke with his hands. "Rich, we're actually running an operation over in the States, and we're in need of somebody with a strong... pharmaceutical background to join the med team. You may, uh, not know Trent Camden personally, but am I wrong in assuming you've got the skills we're looking for?"
Rich Steele’s smile appeared to falter, if only for a moment, as quiet concentration set in. As before, his concentration only appeared to last a moment before he went back to that warm smile stuck on his face.
“It’s true that that’s the one thing in common Trent Camden and I have. Well, that and our appearance.” Once again, he chuckled. “That said, I’ve got dozens of offers for pharmaceutical work on my plate. I hope you appreciate it if I’m not prepared to drop everything and move to the States without good cause.”
Janet appeared from the door at this point, carrying the three cups of tea. She was staring at the two strangers until the moment she had to put the tea in front of them, at which point her face became hidden behind her hair. She handed Rich his, but her attempt to smile at him was corrupted by anxiety. He just thanked her and turned back to the two men, cupping the sweet beverage in his hands.
The taller of the two continued the conversation.
"Our operation isn't exactly your run of the mill pharmacy, Rich. You'd find the work to be quite unique and... eh, the benefits would more than make up for the need to migrate."
“Unique?” Rich replied, a challenging eyebrow raised. “You can’t just say that and expect me not to ask for more details, can you?”
The two guests glanced into the kitchen, where ears continued to pick up the conversation. Rich watched the two without comment.
“It’d be best if your wife and daughter gave us some privacy,” the shorter man said. Rich laughed, more than a chuckle.
“Oh, I’m just a guest in the house. They’ve been kind enough to put up with me this whole time.” He turned to call out to Janet, but she was already lingering in the doorframe.
“Janet, honey? Can you and Sherry go out in the garden for a bit?”
“Rich, you’re not lea-“ Janet tried to interrupt.
“I SAID GO IN THE GARDEN, JANET.” he shouted without pause, shattering any traces of the comforting warmth he'd projected before.
Janet looked startled, but not shocked. She hurried out of the house, dragging a terrified girl behind her.
“Now, where were we?” He turned back to the men, face as calm against as if they’d been discussing the weather.
The two men were waiting by their car outside. A blanket of grey clouds had rolled in overhead, and it threatened to start raining soon.
Inside, Rich Steele was packing his bags. Janet had returned along with her daughter, who had taken to hiding in her bedroom, as she often did when Rich began to behave erratically. She had learned better than to stay and watch.
Janet’s distraught voice echoed throughout the building and outside. Rich could be heard offering her small comforts, but his suitcase continued to be loaded all the same. He said that he wouldn’t be gone long, that he would come back a richer man for the three of them. He didn’t like it any more than she did, but this was the only way things were going to work out for them all. She just had to trust him, the way he did her.
Finally, the front door opened, Rich wheeling a full suitcase behind him. Janet continued to trail, about to follow him out the front door. He stopped, turned around, and held her face in his hands.
“It’ll be ok. Don’t worry. I love you, and we’ll be a family.” he promised, before kissing her softly on the mouth.
The three men entered the car, and drove off as the first drops of rain fell.
Trent Camden would never return to the bungalow, but then he had never intended to.
Preview 2 (Josie Knight)Edit
Josie rubbed her gloved hands together. It was cold. Not that it wasn't always cold, but it was colder than usual. There was a little snow falling but it wasn't even close to blizzard conditions. The only noise was the sound of the wind whistling through the trees, setting branches swaying. Her breath misted in front of her face before being swept away in the wind. A visual reminder of the cold, like God was mocking her. It wasn't the greatest season she had ever had, that was for sure. Normally Josie was able to bring home enough to see herself through to the next season but this time...
She pulled a face.
Just then, the caribou she was stalking finally decided to sit its fat ass down. Josie grinned and raised her bow. There was a dull twang as she released the arrow, which hit its mark. The caribou was up and away fast, but she was lackadaisical in her movements. There was no rush; it had an arrow in its neck, after all. If she wanted to, it would have been easy to just let time finish the job. That would have been boring, though, and Josie didn't go in for boring.
Slinging her bow over her back, she broke into a brisk jog, her footsteps sending some rocks skittering over the ground. She put one of her earbuds back in as she moved. The rhythm of the music helped focus her, especially when she had to run. Keeping her head in the game was important. Obviously she always stopped it once she got close, but during the down time having something to listen to was a godsend. As she ran she spotted some short-tailed albatrosses flying overhead, which took her by surprise. She knew the younger birds sometimes flew over land but she had never actually seen them before. They were worth a lot of money, not that it mattered; hunting a short-tail got you a lifetime ban. It was only something to do if you were desperate. She had to make sure she caught the caribou anyway.
Slowing down slightly, Josie spied her prey again. It had slowed a bit. Pulling up, she ripped her earbud out.
"Thank god I'm smarter than you, honey," she said with a grin. "Otherwise this could've taken an age."
Raising the bow again, Josie steadied her breathing and fired.
A week later Josie was back out in the wild. She had made a healthy profit on the caribou and felt like trying her luck again.
Luck had abandoned her, she guessed, since she hadn't managed to catch anything during the final week of the season. She was sure God was mocking her by giving her plenty of tracks to follow but nothing at the end of them. She wondered how the Iditarod was going. She had been keeping up to date on it ever since it started, but going hunting cut into her ability to do that. Her hope was that this would be a quick hunt, though. She was taking a risk, but if it paid off she'd be in a much healthier position money-wise.
Finally, after she waited for what felt like an eternity, a caribou decided to amble past. Josie thanked Lady Luck for returning to her and carefully raised her bow. Taking a deep breath she waited, exhaled, and fired. More albatrosses flew overhead. Josie watched them go.
The drive back to town was always a pain in the ass. Her beaten-down truck made a meal of the route and every bump led to her inevitably banging some part of her body, normally her ass. A smile was plastered across her face, though. She was going to make good money. Maybe it wasn't the best way to go about making her money, but Josie was sure it was worth it. Something about a heavy risk.
That was when she saw the rangers jeep just off the side of the road.
"Shit." The word forced its way through grit teeth, making it more of a hiss. The ranger himself was out of his vehicle and signalling for her to pull over. Josie slowly complied. Her heart was pounding so hard it felt like it was going to burst free of her rib cage. Her eyes darted over to the glove box. Popping it ope,n she ran her eyes over her pistol and her licence and paperwork. She weighed her options. Reaching out, she rested her hand on her pistol, feeling the coldness of the grip. The ranger walked closer to the truck, and with a sigh Josie wound down her window.
The TV in the bar was talking about how a new study had shown the population of short-tailed albatross was rising. Josie couldn't help but laugh at the irony of the situation. The damn birds had gotten her banned for life, and they didn't even have the decency to stay endangered. She raised her beer and drank down some large mouthfuls, emptying the glass. The ticker at the bottom of the TV said it was eleven in the morning. That sounded like her life.
"Yo! Marky! Can I get another beer over here?" she called out, raising her empty glass in the appropriate direction.
The bartender shook his head with a wry smile. "You really should get a job, Josie. You can't just live here all day."
"Sure I can," Josie replied with a smirk. "It's working well for me so far."
Marky put the beer down on her table.
"Thanks... Hey, can I get a job here?"
Marky looked down at her. She could detect sympathy... or maybe it was just pity.
"Josie, no." His voice was gentle, but she got his hint.
"Fine, fuck you too," she muttered. As Marky walked off, Josie imagined shooting an arrow into his back. Smiling with satisfaction at her imaginary kill, she turned her attention back to the TV.
It was at that point that two men approached her table. One of them was young looking and had messy blonde hair, while the second was clearly a veteran who kept himself in shape. Josie raised an eyebrow.
"Josie Knight?" the older and bigger of the two asked. Josie thought she spied a marines tattoo on his arm.
"You're not hunting group people, are you? Or animal rights people?" she asked. The two men exchanged a look.
"No," said the bigger man. "Mind if we sit?"
Josie gave a non-committal shrug. "We live in America don't we?"
The two men interpreted this as an affirmative and pulled up chairs. Once they were sitting, the younger of the two started talking.
"So, Josie. I can call you Josie, right?" She nodded, causing the man to smile. "Great, so, Josie, you won't have heard of us but we run a big operation that requires a lot of outdoors work and we've got a couple of openings that need filling."
Josie's eyes lit up. "What would I be doing?"
"A lot of monitoring and boots-down work in the field," the former marine said. "It would suit a hunter like you."
Josie's finger was playing with her ear spike. It was nerves thing, although she was excited by what was being offered to her.
"How much would I make?"
"Trust us, you would make plenty. More than enough money to meet your needs," said the blonde-haired man.
Josie laughed at the response.
"Alright, give me some specifics," she said, taking a large drink from her beer.
A few days later, Josie was on her way. The air on the runway was piercing cold, but it helped focus Josie. She had a perpetual smirk on her face. Getting the money she was getting for the work she was doing was like a dream come true.
Some albatrosses flew overhead, and she mimed shooting them out of the sky. Somehow, those birds had been the best thing to ever happen to her.
Preview 3 (Boris Petrikov)Edit
Boris Petrikov was not a happy man.
Five. That's how many people lived under his parents' roof that he had to financially support, besides himself. His mother, father, his aunt and her husband, and his disabled brother.
Boris sipped at the small glass of whiskey he had poured just a few minutes ago as he sat on the couch in front of the old, CRT TV in the living room. His lips curled slightly as the whiskey hit his tongue. Despite being used to it, the cheap junk still left him with a bad taste in his mouth.
All five of the people that Boris lived with were either too old or not able-bodied enough to actually work and support themselves. Retirement barely covered any of their expenses.
Boris leaned back on the couch and rested his head as his father changed the channel to the local news.
As a result, Boris, being the only able-bodied person left in the house, had to shoulder the burden for their expenditures. Food, water, medical bills, everything. The absurd cost of living in San Francisco was just too much—it was hard to make ends meet for one person, let alone six. He just couldn't take it any more. To make matters worse, every time it seemed like he was making progress towards not having to work twelve hours a day, something set him back. When it was just his parents, Boris had to work two minimum wage jobs just to barely make ends meet. Then he managed to get a position at a local software company, but his brother lost his apartment due to rising cost of living not being covered by disability, so Boris had to keep one of those minimum wage jobs on top of the programming to take care of all three of them.
Boris managed to quickly work his way up to being a manager, but then his aunt and her husband got kicked out by their children and didn't want to go to a retirement home, so his parents took them in. Boris should have objected, but as usual he quietly let his parents do what they wanted. He could never argue or seriously talk with them.
He took another sip of his whiskey as his father asked him a question, about what he thought of the current news story. He gave some vague thoughts as an answer, which seemed to satisfy his father. Boris wasn't really paying attention. His father always liked engaging with him as much as possible, probably to make up for how his father neglected him when he was younger in favor of his siblings. Boris sipped again at his drink. While it bothered him when he was younger, her forgave his father a long time ago. It often seemed his father still wanted to make it up to him.
As a result of having even more people to take care of, Boris took up some freelance work just to make ends meet, having quit the minimum wage job after his promotion. He could have left them at any time. He made more than enough money to take care of himself on his own—to be well-off, even—but they were family, and he couldn't just abandon them in their time of need. So Boris stayed, making sure all of them were taken care of in spite of all the stress that working that much and worrying about whether the freelance work could put food on the table was putting on him.
Then, a ray of light came. Boris saw his opportunity to get enough income to finally stop working all the time and really live his life after the head manager position was vacated due to being arrested for corporate embezzlement. Following his superior's removal, Boris did his best to outshine his fellow managers in order to get the job and impress the higher ups. Ultimately after a lot of work, some showmanship, and some things that he wasn't proud of, Boris managed to reach the head manager position in record shattering time. He quit doing freelance work and finally started having time to himself, to do things other than work for the sake of those around him. For a while.
Unfortunately, these good times were doomed from the start. His mother suddenly fell ill and soon found out that she had developed Stage III lung cancer from her smoking habit without anyone realizing. With the medical expenses from his mother's treatment once again pushing their expenses over the edge, Boris returned to freelance work to cover it and was left broken and unable to think of a way to make things better. He had nowhere left to realistically rise in his company. He couldn't possibly devote even more of his time to inconsistent freelance work without losing his mind, and taking another job at a different firm could end up losing him his current position.
So Boris stayed where he was, working nearly every waking hour for three years now just to accommodate his family. He didn't know what to do anymore. He was overwhelmed and on the brink of collapse, spending his free time drinking just to escape.
Boris downed the last of his whiskey and stood to get more as his aunt and father talked about the news. He walked into the kitchen and poured another glass, while grabbing some leftovers from dinner on his way back to the couch. He sat there for a few more minutes, munching on the cold chicken and potatoes and drinking his whiskey, when the doorbell rang.
Boris sighed, putting his plate and glass on the table before standing and walking to answer it. Outside were two people that he didn't recognize, one man and one woman. The woman extended her hand. "Boris Petrikov? Hi, I'm Christina Stockton."
Boris shook the woman's hand as she continued. "We heard some good things about you and our organization would like to extend to you a... business opportunity."
Boris was taken aback. This sort of thing was largely unprecedented—he hadn't applied for any position recently that he could recall. He didn't like how suddenly this had come up, what with them contacting him in person rather than over the phone, and was uncomfortable with the whole prospect. He responded, without really thinking. "W-why? I'll have you know I've already got a stable position."
Christina let out a small chuckle. "That's actually why we're asking you. We hear things have been going great under your management, and we're thinking that we could use a guy like you. A position just opened up in our organization, and with your blatant success and your technical expertise, we think you'd be a perfect fit."
Boris didn't know what to say. He felt intimidated, with these two knowing his name and knowing so much about him and his job. He didn't like it, not one bit. "Look, I... I need to think about this." Boris moved to shut the door but the man extended his hand and stopped him.
"Look, this is an offer that we know you can't refuse," Christina said. "Two reasons. One, we can accommodate your family here with more than enough money to not only cover their living expenses but to let them live practically in the lap of luxury."
"Two." Christina paused. "We know of the more... unscrupulous things you've done to get to where you are. In our business, we like the kinds of things you've done. We appreciate a spirit like you. But the higher-ups in your company? They might not like to hear about it, and we have it on good authority that they're getting close to figuring it out, too. Our boss, he can make these sorts of problems disappear. So not just for your family, but for your own sake, you might want to consider our offer."
Boris stood there in shock. He looked at the ground. How could the possibly have known that he framed the head manager for embezzlement? He thought he pulled it off perfectly, messing with the proper records, putting the right documents in the right places, leaving an anonymous tip... he thought there was no way he could get caught, and yet here are two people who seem to know what he has done. Were they bluffing? Could he afford to take the chance if they weren't?
...No. If not for his own sake, but his family's sake.
He looked back up at them. "Wh... What's the job?"
The next morning, Boris packed the last of the things quickly. As he walked out the front door with his two suitcases, his father tapped him on the shoulder.
"So... let me get this straight, once more. You were offered a job that you're sure can pay for all of us here, pay for your mother's medical bills, but you have to go somewhere else and the money will be wired to us?"
"That's right, father." Boris replied.
His father looked at the ground for a few moments before looking back up. "Just... stay safe, and visit for your mother's sake, alright?"
Boris put his suitcases down and hugged his father. "I promise."
The horn of the van that Shamino and Christina were driving sounded, signaling to Boris that they were getting impatient.
"I have to go now, father. But I'll be back to visit as soon as I can."
And with that, Boris made his way into the van and sat down in the back, his suitcases sitting next to him as they drove away from the only home he'd ever known.
Preview 4 (Peaceful Meadows)Edit
"Whenever one of the residents passes away, Peaceful Meadows is where the service is conducted. The small chapel is located a short walk away from the main grounds of the hospital and is surrounded by gardens that were clearly well maintained during the days when the hospital was in operation. Now though they have become overgrown and many different exotic species can be seen in between the various weeds that have built up since."