22,002 / 50,000
I have determined that by the midway point of 25k, something must happen. At least, the whole point of the story must explode onto the page. And I am almost there. I just need to set up the locales a little more, meet a few more people, and have the shit hit the fan.
The room had a few people in it waiting with me, one or two I recognised from earlier years. Most of the ones I recognised were the media relations crew behind the main table in the far corner from the door. Most of them were hidden behind the monitors and machines they had set up atop it, to verify identities, information, and print out badges. UniCon had definitely kept up with modern technology in some regards, and it was no surprise to me that the media relations group was one of those areas.
They'd set up in a small room, just big enough to hold what they needed, and about two dozen people, including their staff. If anyone came in with tons of cameras and equipment, that could be a whole other matter, but in general, it was a pretty empty room.
There were comfortable padded chairs around the walls for lots of people to sit in, a large round table not quite in the center of the room, and closer to the door than the rectangular table used by the media crew. In the corner nearest me was another long table, but smaller than the one they were set up on, and had a coffee machine, a few cold drinks, and some snacks. I grabbed some coffee and added some sugar and cream while I waited.
There were only three or four people ahead of me, but the third had a number of people to sign through and get their badges. Everyone else in the room was just sitting around and flipping through the guidebooks for the convention, or filling out some other forms, or just chatting amongst old friends.
Someone dressed as Spike from Buffy and Angel, including very bleached blonde hair, was near the large round table, and talking to a few people there, and entertaining a few others, drawing most of the attention from those not busy with other work.
I sippsed my coffee and watched the ersatz Spike speak with his friends, and when there was a lull in the conversation, I held the camera draped around my neck up a little, and asked if he would mind if I took a picture.
Naturally, like with almost every costumer I encountered at a convention, he was more than willing to pose for the camera. It was rare to encounter anyone dressed up that didn't want their photo taken. Outside of obvious circumstances, like if you ran into one at the rest room, or if they were eating, or hurrying elsewhere. Although I'd grabbed a few like the last instance on occasion. One memorable instance was a Superman who was more than willing to delay his departure for a few seconds so more people could get their cameras out. The second the cameras stopped, he slipped out of his Superman persona, and zoomed off. I remember calling out as he rushed off, "Fly, Superman!" It was only the rare snob that didn't want theirs taken. I never knew why, the few times I encountered it. It wasn't a matter of being shy, they were rather rude about it, and rushed out of the way. The majority of people want to show off their costuming skills, and love the attention, but those few odd souls just avoid the cameras, which never made sense.
Spike posed and let me snap a few pictures, and being creative I asked one of the girls if they'd mind being a victim, and asked Spike if he would mind. Both were game, especially Spike. Most got very into their characters, and loved posing in fun ways. The girl posed and made a scary face and Spike leaned in ready to bite her neck as I flashed the camera at them one last time. The moment the camera was away and I'd replaced the lens cap, they were both back to normal people, or as normal as a peroxide blond guy in a black trenchcoat could be, laughing about something, as the queue to the media table had finally cleared ahead of me.
I introduced myself, as I did every year, handed over my ID, and they pulled up my information I'd submitted months ago. I confirmed everything was still accurate as it was brought up on the screen in front of me, and they printed out my badge and sealed it in plastic. I took it and admired this year's badge picture, a creature that looked like a cross between a pirate and a zombie, sailing the open seas looking for plunder.
I clipped it to my camera's neck strap. My first few conventions, it took me forever to figure out a good place to clip or pin my badges to, until I realised I had the perfect thing hanging around my neck the entire time I was out.
Thanking everyone behind the table, and giving a wave to Spike and friends, who nodded back with a smile, I left the room. I backtracked to the ballroom registration area, and started working my way around the preregistered section to try and find Chris.
I found him about half way to the booths, and with the lone form he had to fill out to flesh out a few details of his own badge already in hand and filled out. I caught him up on my thrilling adventure and showed him the pictures of Spike, and he laughed at the staged attack.
Just as we were laughing at that, my spidey sense started tingling. "Hi, Andy," I said and turned to see my new friend trying to sneak up on the two of us, and ready to poke me in the back, from the way her arm and finger was outstretched just a few inches from me.
"Ah, we meet again, Mister Stuart! You win this round!" All that was said while remaining in a half crouch, arm still outstretched, and even one foot just touching the carpeted floor of the ballroom with the toe of her sneaker. She straightened up and looked me right in the eye, before smiling again, with a bit of a laugh as she moved to my side, closer to the side of the curtained pathway. "Ok, that was weird, Marty. How did you know?"
Chris leaned over the barrier, and almost put his head right between the space between ours. He looked at Andrea, and gave me a good view of the back of his head. My hand was halfway to grabbing a stray hair and giving it a yank before I grabbed it with my free hand and swatted it away.
He met Andrea's gaze and just shook his head, oblivious to my shennanigans behind him. "Don't ask. I've known him since '99 and still haven't gotten a satisfying answer to that question. That path leads truly to madness."
Andrea nodded and I added, "Actually, I saw Chris glance over my shoulder while we were talking, and the corners of his mouth twitch into a smile. He probably doesn't even realise himself he was doing it, but he saw you coming, and didn't want to let me know."
That surprised the girl, and even Chris blinked a few times as I revealed my secret. At least, in this instance. "Wow, really? I did see her coming, but didn't know I'd given any sign."
"You did. I bet you probably fought back that smile, conciously or not, the moment she started crouching. I wouldn't be surprised if she even told you to be quiet behind my back."
Andrea had ducked underneath the curtain while I was talking, and popped back up on the other side with a bounce, "Chris! Thank you so much for saving me my spot in line! Whew, I really had to go! Nudge nudge, wink wink!"
Her mood shifted as a few people glanced her way for cutting in line, and she turned back to me. I remained out of the line, as I didn't need to travel through it, and the line was long enough without adding those who didn't need badges.
"That's a pretty neat trick. You give your camera too much credit, you're the all-seeing eye too, it seems. That crazy train person may've been on to something. Any good at counting cards?"
"I must only use my powers for good, and not for my own gain."
Andrea rolled her eyes. "Let me guess, Captain America is your hero and idol?"
"You probably like Cable, or the Punisher."
She smiled, and I knew I was right. "Cable, sure. I like my gun toting sociopaths to have a little extra punch to them."
I opened my mouth to say some more, and Andrea's arm shot up into the air, waving frantically, as she whistled sharply. Two other women wandered over, both with dark auburn hair, about my height, and not quite as waif-like as Andy was. Both of them had badges already, carried in their hands, and the taller of the two girls was clipping it to the hem of her shirt, dangling over her right hip.
"Guys! These are our neighbours, and my new partners in crime!" Chris' eyes went large when he heard that, and he smacked his forehead in jest. He had the feigned look of someone dreading what they'd found themselves trapped into.
"These are the two you were telling us about," asked the one trying to get her badge to clip on right to her shirt, turning her head away from her task to look us over. I waved my hand in the air, in a cutting motion that would just about count as a wave, and returned it to my side.
"Yeah, they seem cool enough. This is Chris, and Cameraman there is Marty."
I rolled my eyes and correct my name. "Is she always this much of a pain in the ass?"
"Not at all," said the other one. "She's usually worse."
Turning back to Andy, I pointed angrilly, "And you! You have given away my identity! How now shall Cameraman protect the innocents, now that everyone knows who he is?"
She swatted my hand out of the air. "Cameraman will just have to get over himself. Anyways, these are my roomies, Lisa and Anna, they're sisters."
The one afixing her badge to her pants finally got it clipped so it would stay, Lisa, stood up and shook our hands. Anna did the same afterwards.
"Anna, huh?" I looked between the three girls. "And Andrea? That must get fun."
Lisa laughed. "Oh, it gets worse. We have another friend named Andrea too. She's not here, but you can imagine."
"That I can."
"So, are you two doing any costumes, this year," I inquird.
They both nodded. Lisa started replying, "I'm going as a Battlestar Galactica soldier, and maybe grab some other clothes and do a Peacekeeper from Farscape to hang out with Andy."
"And I'm going as a frog," said Anna.
"A uh, frog?" I arched an eyebrow, and glanced over my shoulder watching Andy and Chris inch forward, and the trio of us on this side of the fence followed to catch up.
"What? What's wrong with a frog? There's zombies, and spartans, and princesses, and fairies. Why can't there be a frog? I've seen a few foxes and other animals too."
I shrugged. Who was I to argue with that? "Fair enough. Just unexpected. Mind if I ask why a frog? You have to admit, it's not exactly amongst the normal fare here. There may be all those other groups, but they're pretty minor, so why the amphibian?"