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[DC] Raven Lunacy (OC in Teen Titans)

Discussion in 'Creative Writing' started by Ace Dreamer, May 15, 2020.

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  1. Threadmarks: Arrival - Episode 1
    Ace Dreamer

    Ace Dreamer Questioning The Nature of our Realities

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    (Raven's Apprentice) Raven Lunacy, Episode 1

    Awakening. Who am I? Where am I? What's going on? Panic. Confusion. Open my eyes.

    I'm... Geo. I'm pretty sure of that. I don't know what's going on. It's a darkened room, lit with candles. And, I'm kneeling. Without any clothes. I feel... different, strange, not quite myself.

    There's a woman, maybe a late teenager? Long dark hair. No clothes. Also kneeling. Maybe, markings on the floor? I try and flick my eyes to low-light mode. Ow! Headache. Things don't get clearer. Ask for a system status. Ow! Nothing. Hold up a hand. Tense it. Feel the back of my neck.

    I'm beginning to think someone's stuffed me in a fully living body... I'm going to have... words. I said "No" last time I was asked if I wanted this.

    "Hello?"

    A low-voiced question from the kneeling... I'm going to call her a 'woman', best to avoid upset.

    "Yes?"

    "Please tell me who you are. I called for an apprentice, with certain constraints, mainly that they'd need my teaching, but I didn't know who the summoning would bring. So, I have got the right person?"

    "I..."

    I cough, clearing my throat. I've been in simulations of a living body, been in a cyborged body with living skin, but the real thing is different... Sort of... squishy.

    And, this felt sort of... magical. I thought I could see a pentacle around me, and a bigger pattern that included the triangle the woman was kneeling in. That itching in the back of my head? Felt like my rudimentary magical talent was telling me that there was a lot of that sort of stuff around. I don't know much about magic, but, weren't names important? Best to be careful.

    "I've been called 'Sugoi', that's a Japanese word, it means 'Wow!', or 'Amazing'. I don't claim to be magically talented, I'm more into... robotics. I'm guessing you're offering to teach some sort of magic? It was suggested I avoid learning things like that, might be bad for my sanity."

    I take a deep breath. Briefly try and go into a meditative trance. Feel myself. My spark of magic feels... stronger. And, I can feel my astral self. Seems... freer than usual. Worrying. Last time I astral projected hadn't been fun. I breathe out.

    "May I know what to call you? If you're offering to teach me I'm guessing I'll call you more than just 'Sensei'. And, why does my body seem different?"

    "Raven. Please call me Raven. And, I summoned you so that you'd be in ideal health, in your late teens. Because, locally..."

    "Raven!"

    The door had just burst open, and light from outside showed a green-skinned boy, in a purple and black... Costume. I'll just call it a costume.

    "We were going to order in pizza, and after last time..."

    The light from the door was bright enough to show Raven, and I, were... under-dressed. His eyes flicked between us, and his jaw dropped a bit.

    "I'll..." He gestured out the doorway. Then carefully didn't look at both of us. I could tell this was a strain.

    "I'll guess what you want. Going now. Have fun."

    Raven sighed.

    "That's Garfield. One of the other people who live here. There's a rule about us all being teenagers. Which is why you are."

    She rose from her seat, apparently not at all stiff, and indicated I rise, so I do.

    Snap decision.

    "I'll stay. As long as you'll send me home. When I want to go. OK?"

    She pauses.

    "I have to banish you, later, as part of the terms of the summoning. I hereby promise that will send you home. When I need you to go, if that's before when you want to go. So. Yes. Agreed?"

    She steps forwards, I nod. And, she walks around me, extinguishing the candles, one by one. Then offers to shake my hand. I do.

    "Welcome to the Teen Titans, Apprentice Sugoi!"




    AN: To avoid driving anyone mad, 'Geo'/'Sugoi' is a Original Character, but with a considerable amount of history, in a different setting. One where magic is... difficult and dangerous. Will I write any more of this? I don't know. The future is an uncertain place. :)

    AN: Re-reading this, I realise that it may not be clear what gender Geo is. Well. I guess that might be clearer, next episode? :)
     
  2. Threadmarks: Introductions - Episode 2
    Ace Dreamer

    Ace Dreamer Questioning The Nature of our Realities

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    (Raven's Apprentice) Raven Lunacy, Episode 2

    We'd spoken for a while, made a few agreements, clarified things. While dressing – avoiding another 'Garfield' incident seemed sensible.

    I'd explained needing to keep-up with my robotics work, as it was something I felt I had to do, and I'd need a place to work, and supplies. She'd mentioned another friend, 'Victor', who lived here, who could likely help. Though, I'd promised to balance the robotics with being an apprentice. I was impressed – she seemed a lot more reasonable and agreeable than the, often strange, wielders of magic I'd met before.

    Now, dressed in loose what looked like sports-wear, a nice robe, and sandals, all thoughtfully provided by Raven, I was facing that Victor, and others. He appeared to be rather obviously cyborged, in a very shiny way. There was pizza, which my new body seemed to really appreciate. And, Garfield. Who was staring. I was working hard not to take a dislike.

    “So, you're Japanese? You look a bit Japanese.”

    I looked around the table, obviously Raven, Victor, Garfield, 'Donna', who was apparently a frequent visitor, 'Robin', who looked familiar for some reason, and 'Kory'. Raven'd looked to have grey skin, by candle-light, though she now looked Caucasian, like Donna, and Robin, the living bits of Victor looked Afro-American (was that politically correct?), Garfield had green skin, Kory orange. Why was being Japanese special?

    Kory smiles at me. Donna gives Garfield a bit of a look.

    I caught a reflection of myself in a window, yes, I did look Japanese, but I always had. I was pretty sure I was taller, though, maybe 1.7m, 5'6”? Thinking about languages, yes I was fluent in Japanese, but my English...

    A mental 'click'. I could feel my linguistic skills had just improved, my grasp of even English, that awkward language, better. Did my magic just flare, for a moment? I thought, hard, about the accent they were using.

    “I... might've had Japanese ancestry, but I don't remember my childhood. After arriving here I'm still feeling my way. I'm speaking English, aren't I?”

    A quick look at Raven, I'm pretty sure that was a hidden smile. Unless I got that wrong I spoke 'American', with an East Coast accent, 'New England', I think. No one seemed concerned, so I probably got it right.

    “Raven introduced me as 'Sugoi', but, seeing as you're all using personal names...” I notice Robin's face briefly stiffen. “Could you please call me 'Geo', it's short for 'Georgina'.”

    ---

    Victor's workshop. Wow. There were things here that made no sense to me at all, even after a quick explanation. Lots of super-science looking shiny metal, with rounded surfaces. Again. Wow.

    “I'm afraid I'm a bit out of my depth, here. You're using a lot of things I've never even heard of. Most of the work I've done uses conventional materials, things you can buy from an electronics or mechanical engineering catalogue. Though, there's bits, missing...”

    I wave at several open catalogues. He scratches his head, and looks a bit puzzled. Then obviously takes a decision.

    “We've got plenty of space, here. I'll set you up in the empty area, next door. Don't worry, if I need more space I can expand the other way, and you'll have more room on the far side. And, don't worry too much about the cost, unless your kit goes beyond a couple of million. We've got solid financial backing.”

    “I've been used to making-do with second-hand stuff, things I was lucky to find in skips, or built myself. I'm used to doing a lot with a little.”

    A furrowed brow, you get those outside romantic fiction? “Skips?”

    “Ah, you'd call them 'dumpsters'?” Hope I haven't made a slip, there. He nods, obviously dismissing it.

    “OK.” Claps his hands together, with a rather metallic sound. “Let's get started!”

    ---

    Feeling really rather scared, I approach Raven's room for my first lesson. I'd had the rest of my 'arrival day' off, found myself searching the kitchen for an evening meal; they really needed an auto chef, here. Read a book on 'Earth Customs' that Kory had loaned me. Superheroes. Loads and loads of superheroes. Worrying.

    And, I'd remembered where I knew 'Robin' from. Even with my disinterest in most entertainment I couldn't miss 'Batman and Robin'. Was this one of those real-but-fictional worlds I'd been told existed?

    Raising my hand, to knock, not knowing what else to do, I notice a black patch on the door. And, faint but clear voices. I was pretty sure I was supposed to hear these, because I'd learned the rooms were thoroughly soundproofed.

    "Raven. What were you thinking of? Who is that girl? How do you know she can be trusted with our secret identities? Why didn't you warn us she was coming?"

    I was beginning to be pretttty sure 'Robin' wasn't his given name. 'Burt' seemed familiar for some reason. or, maybe 'Dick'? My usually perfect memory was letting me down, here, and I'd felt as if I was pushing through some resistance in even recalling those.

    Also, why hadn't he noticed that she'd introduced him as 'Robin', while giving the other's names? Maybe she'd used magical telepathy, or something, to tell who was happy being called what?

    Raven was usually a bit even-toned, in my limited experience, but I thought I detected a bit of frost, now.

    "I don't tell you about my magic, you don't tell me about your detective secrets. I didn't know when someone would arrive, that wasn't my first attempt, but I knew they'd be a good person, someone we could trust. Magic is reliable like that. And I didn't know who would arrive, so I couldn't warn you. But, I now have my apprentice. Satisfied?"

    There was some hum-ing and haa-ing, but Robin obviously didn't have any quick response. I step back as the black patch disappears from the door, and Robin stalks past me, throwing a measuring glance.

    Raven steps up to the door. Sighs. Deeply. "Sorry about that. Robin isn't always the most... trusting of people." She straightens, and does her almost-smile.

    "Welcome to your magical training, my apprentice!"




    AN: So. Not much going on, here. Meeting the team, a few personalities. Getting to know Cyborg, a bit. A bit of team friction. And... People wearing clothes! :)

    AN: And, we might now strongly suspect 'Geo' is female! If only life were that simple... :)

    Team:
    Raven (of course)
    Cyborg - Victor
    Beast Boy/Changeling - Garfield
    Robin, the Boy Wonder
    Starfire - Kory

    + Wonder Girl - Donna (visiting)
     
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  3. Threadmarks: Testing, Bleeding and Lesson - Episode 3
    Ace Dreamer

    Ace Dreamer Questioning The Nature of our Realities

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    (Raven's Apprentice) Raven Lunacy, Episode 3

    Robin had made sure I heard his discussion with Raven. On the subject of testing and training. Mine. He argued that I should be evaluated, and trained to a level so I'd have some chance of surviving, "around here". Raven obviously wasn't happy, but she agreed. Both Kory, then Garfield, volunteered to help, and Robin promised to call on their services, if it looked like they'd be useful.

    Robin did good blank face, but I was sure there was a little grim satisfaction in there, somewhere. The physical tests, to exhaustion, of course, were as gruelling as I expected. He expressed surprise at my above-average strength, ditto dexterity and reflexes, but was very nearly rude about my endurance. I know I'm not an athlete, I'm an engineer, and, a lab assistant. He was a little surprised that I knew the basics of falling properly, minimal acrobatics, and the start of some martial arts (Tai Chi, actually). That I could stick knives in things, and throw them with some accuracy, didn't seem to surprise him at all.

    Then the written and technical tests, which he got Victor to help with some of. I'm pretty sure I've better Japanese than he has, but in every other way I failed miserably. I caught him scratching his head at one point, and I'm sure I heard him mutter "Higher Degree in Incompetence", but I think I caught some surprise at the sheer range of things I know a bit about. Did I try and copy my Dad? Of course I did! He's a polymath. But, I wasn't going to tell Robin that. No, I hadn't tried to call him 'Burt', to see if he reacted. Stupid idea.

    He did talk to Raven, who confirmed I had some minimal skill in meditation, and she described me as having "the beginnings of mental defence". Then, he started testing my potential. I'm sure he very nearly swore, once or twice. My ability to do maths (must remember to call it 'math') in my head, my perfect memory, my ability to soak up knowledge, and regurgitate it, even use it. He also seemed taken by my technical drawing skill, and ability to write accurate reports. Though, he carefully ignored my comment that I could do far better with "the proper tools".

    I was a little surprised that he overlooked my medical skills, but I was seeing double from exhaustion, by then, and wasn't going to give him any more opportunities. Never mind my driving, piloting and navigation skills, which I couldn't properly use, at the moment.

    There would be lots of time on treadmills, and recovering from bruising, in my future. I doubted they'd have anything as useful as an auto doc, or body transfer facilities, to make the pain go quickly away; maybe I should try out this hot bath thing I heard could help?

    ---

    Victor caught me crying, though I claimed it was just due to dust. Or, 'magic blue smoke'. Three times I'd tried to assemble the basic tools, to build the tools, from the right components, using the right methods. Three times I'd failed, not even got something worth testing, to figure-out what was wrong. Realising how much I'd relied on existing systems, built by my Dad, to construct new ones, being directly connected to sensors, powered tools, not using these meat eyes and useless hands.

    He went over and fetched the first aid box, cleaned and wrapped my hands where I'd beaten them against the stubborn metal. Suggested I clean the blood off things, before it etched the metal. We did that together. Then he asked me to explain what I'd been trying to do.

    It took a while, I wasn't used to explaining technical stuff to others, not my Dad. Showing how I'd fought the unfamiliar CAD programs into doing what I wanted. How I'd improvised components that weren't in the catalogues. He puzzled, then claimed it was brilliant, he'd never have thought of doing it that way. I explained I was really copying the work of others, far more clever than myself. He snorted, and remarked they weren't here, doing this, I was. Then started what I recognised after a while was a systems approach, that my Dad sometimes used, and broke the design down into sub-modules, and some of those into sub-sub-modules, rather than trying to do it all at once, as I'd been.

    Slowly, we got modules to work. Once or twice he stopped, made some notes, then put them to one side. After the fifth time he did that my curiosity overcame me. "Patents. I know these aren't registered, at the moment, and if they're worth less than tens, maybe hundreds of millions, I'll be very surprised."

    "You're planning to register them? I guess I can't stop you."

    He got up, stomped around the room, I'll admit I might have cringed, a bit.

    "No! You are going to register them! And, I'll help you fight anyone who tries to steal them off you!"

    He calmed down. Sat down. Might have muttered 'Luthor!'. Had a quick drink of a cola that I thought looked disgusting (I read the ingredients list later - it was). Then, for some reason, looked at his hands for a while.

    "I can tell you've had a hard time. You get to know the signs. I didn't choose to be mixed in with all this metal, so you can see things have been difficult for me, too."

    He gathered himself.

    "Let's sweat the rest of the bugs out of this bad girl, then see what she can do. I expect her to really surprise me!"

    –-

    Raven looks at my bandaged hands, then gestures. A cool shadow unwraps them, revealing the damage I'd done, in my stupidity. It didn't help that my legs still ached from the morning exercise session. I was "Improving, so we'll double the distance". Ha! It is to laugh, as a friend of my Dad said. Stupid squishy meat bodies, that you couldn't upgrade the proper way, with better engineering. Yes, I knew my Dad had, has, the tools to do that, but he was very careful with them, talked of "unintended consequences".

    Cool shadow wraps my hands, and a look of pain flits across Raven's face, I try and pull away, she holds on, with remarkable strength. And... The pain fades from my hands. Even my legs feel a bit better! Holding the... fleshy paddles up, I turn and look at them. Apart from looking a little paler than usual, there's no sign they've been injured. Raven hides her hands, under her robe, for a few moments, then holds them out to me, turning them so I can see they're also uninjured. "See. No one is hurt, now. A brief bit of pain, on my part, and no injuries on anyone. Sorry, even if you're interested, I'm pretty sure I can't teach you this."

    Interestingly, my magic sensing hadn't 'pinged', but... "That's a psychic talent, not a magical one, isn't it? Like my ability to astral project. I'm more used to sensing psychic than magical stuff, so I could feel you doing something. A... pulling, empathic?. flow?"

    She half-smiles. "You've learned one of my secrets. And, unpicking yours and how I might teach you has been an interesting problem. Neither of us are what you'd call 'normal', and all the classical training methods are likely to produce poor results. My teachers found that while I was growing-up."

    She reaches out, with that fascinating shadow aura of hers. It seems to have so many uses. This time a couple of boxes float towards us, one I recognised, the other looking more improvised.

    "Here are the training items you said you'd need." The familiar box floats into my hands. "I found that the dimensional shear, between here and your home universe, seems to be producing an interesting time mismatch. You could stay here months, and only minutes will have passed there. That box was on your desk, in that strange workshop, just as you described."

    Open the box! All the 'plugs' with their colour-coding, and tiny text, seem to be there. I feel the back of my neck, but they wont be easily used. On the other hand...

    The other box floats over. It looks to have been made of recycled, salt-stained, wood, not a sort I recognise. Someone looks to have tried to burn it, and hit it with something sharp, but it's survived intact.

    "This was much harder to obtain, but what I saw in the search made it well worth it. As you specified, no one will suffer from us taking it, it's been long unused where I found it, centuries, I'd guess. The lock was tricky, but I riddled it."

    The box rotates in the air, opposite corners are twisted, as an inobvious part sinks in, the lid popping open. The metal-and-crystal mesh within looks like a hairnet, and the featureless lump that the thicker wires go into looks undamaged. Hopefully I can use it, with sufficient care. After lots of testing. The browned leaves in the bottom may also be worthy of study.

    "Excellent!" I bounce up and move as if to hug Raven, then at her flinch withdraw.

    "Sorry", she says in a quiet voice, "Maybe as we get to know each other, better, that'll be alright".

    Putting a business face on, again, she picks up a paperback book, and hands it to me. "A book, from a world where magic is almost unknown, By a non-magician. On the principles by which magic works. I wouldn't have believed it. How did you hear of it?"

    "A friend of my... guardian mentioned it, one day. Said he hadn't read it himself, but a friend of his had talked his leg off about it. Found it in a second-hand bookshop. Claimed it was so clear, none of the mystic rubbish most books on the subject were full of. That Bonewitz really knew his stuff."

    "'Mystic rubbish'." Raven's eyes slid sideways, to the shelves bulging with mystic tomes. "I'll admit... you have to be selective which books you trust, and sometimes it's hard work to find that nugget of truth. But, it's worth it."

    She grins, quite widely. "And, I was interested enough in my brief delve into your book..." She holds up one that looks remarkably similar to that in my hand, "that I got a copy for myself. Thank you!".

    "And, back to work. I've carefully raised a thorough set of wards around our work area. They should keep almost anything out, and should be visible to your psychic sight. Now, I want you to meditate, and practice astral projecting. I know you don't like it, but I need to study your body and spirit, while they are apart, to better understand how your magic should work. The spirit stones, I've spread out, they'll glow when your spirit contacts them, a good way to practice precise spirit movement."

    "So, shall we get started?"




    AN: You're an Apprentice. So there's going to be training. Probably a lot more than you expected. If it was easy, everyone would be billionaire super-scientists, who're arch mages on the side. And, maybe Geo has... a few self-esteem issues. Fortunately, there's no one shouting, "You're fired!". :)

    AN: There may be great fear, in the DC Universe, as Raven reads (Mysticism Warning) 'Real Magic', by Phillip Bonewits Jnr., laughing in a rather worrying way. :)
     
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  4. Threadmarks: Shopping, Robbery and Boots - Episode 4
    Ace Dreamer

    Ace Dreamer Questioning The Nature of our Realities

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    (Raven's Apprentice) Raven Lunacy, Episode 4

    "We must do the shopping. It is needed for the friendships."

    I wasn't very good at socialising, I knew that. And, I'd a great deal to do. What with Robin's torture sessions described as 'training', working with Victor, most recently on the mind interface, now we'd got the build cell prototype going, and, of course, my apprenticeship with Raven. I looked to Raven for guidance, across the breakfast table.

    "Just go. No one ever wins arguments with Kory. We will hold you a nice funeral wake if you don't survive the experience."

    "Well... I guess it's OK, as long as you make it up later." No help from Robin, either.

    "I've got nothing." Victor shrugs.

    Kory grins widely, and looks around the table for her next victim, sorry, shopping companion. "And, Garfield, you will come with us for the carrying of the bags."

    "Sorry, got to fly." A green bird leaves the scene, rapidly.

    Kory looks briefly sad, then brightens again. "Do not worry, we will make it a girls shopping trip."

    Then, looks around, a little puzzled. I'd seen Raven wrap herself in shadow, slide backwards, through her chair, turn slightly, then back through the door. Kory seemed to have missed that bit.

    "Friend Raven?"

    "Maybe she had to do something, and she'll catch you up later?", an optimistic comment from Robin.

    ---

    Apparently the Tower was on an island, which I'd guessed from looking out the windows. The city, which I'd also caught glimpses of, was called 'San Francisco', or 'Jump City', depending on who you talked to. Geography was another thing I wasn't a world expert on, and I'd never heard the second name, but I was pretty sure the first was on the West Coast of the USA.

    An unpiloted boat had taken us to the mainland, while Kory eagerly told me of all the wonderful places to visit in the city. No one seemed to pay too much attention to our arrival, so I guessed the Teen Titans had made orange and green skin part of a new norm. Kory in a crop-top and jeans, me in the baggy sports-wear, one of several sets, gifted to me by the Titans. And, I'd got a hidden, sheathed, knife, balanced for throwing, that I'd persuaded Victor to make for me.

    Yes, it did make sense to get some better clothes.

    Half-a-dozen shops later and I was flagging a bit, glad of my strength upgrade, which instead of being used for nursing, and moving patients, was toting bags.

    And, of course, we ran into a classic bank robbery. Kory dived in, I tried to work-out how to avoid people getting hurt, then lunged forward when it looked like a knife-armed robber was going to grab a teenager, as a hostage. Somewhat more ragged sports-wear, and I'm working on stopping the robber bleeding. Thinking back, I realise it's the first time I've stuck a knife in a living person. And... I really don't enjoy the experience. Kory easily handled the rest of them.

    Police, who don't seem to want statements, or much in the way of formalities, once they see Kory is involved. I'm introduced as her 'friend' - this isn't the sort of 'bonding' I expected. She looks at me with a brief calculating expression, that I've not seen on her before, and the next thing I know I'm eating ice cream. After a rest-room stop to change into some of my new clothes.

    I find myself crying on her shoulder, and apologising. The hug and back-pats help. I think. She tells me a story of her home world, one of the good times, I gather there were a lot of not-so-good ones. She and her sister were out playing, and her sister put the local equivalent of a frog down her back. She made it all sound so innocent, but I could tell it made her a little sad.

    Back at the clothes shopping we visited a hardware store, and I rigged a simple shopping-carrying robot. Nothing clever, but it followed us as long as I pulled the lead. After that we went deep into the city, the old shops, the ones Raven would pause in, and, junk yards, where they had remains from Teen Titan fights.

    No luck with anything magical, or that I thought Raven would like. I stripped some nice bits of robots to puzzle-over with Victor, and found some fold-up throwing knives (shuriken, I think) to give to Robin.

    The robbery had got me thinking in a practical way. I needed clothes I could fight in. Those were an easy purchase. And, those boots, Dad's friend talked about the importance of boots. The ones you could wear, walk in all day. And, reinforced, so people would know they'd been kicked.

    They were building me those.




    AN: You want to get on with the training, and you're dragged off shopping. Well, there's likely worse fates! :)

    AN: Looks like Geo's admitted she's here for the duration, not just a brief visit...
     
  5. Threadmarks: Naked/Nude, Chi, Build Cell and Alts - Episode 5
    Ace Dreamer

    Ace Dreamer Questioning The Nature of our Realities

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    (Raven's Apprentice) Raven Lunacy, Episode 5

    Naked before a full-length mirror. Or is it 'nude'? With locked door. In bright light. I'm not particularly body-modest, but some people easily get the wrong idea, and I've seen how Garfield, maybe Kory, look between Raven and me. Yes, I'm pretty sure green-boy is a gossip. Raven's not likely to phase through the wall, and she doesn't care much about being naked (nude?), anyway. I suspect the same applies to Kory, maybe the others, but, not a subject for general conversation.

    I prod my belly. It squishes, a bit, but less than a few days ago. I'm not an expert on physical training, but firmer muscles in such a short time isn't standard. My first time in a fully-human body, here, but I've studied their care and maintenance. Too early to tell if my head-hair is growing longer, but there's no sign of secondary sexual characteristic hair, anywhere. Strange, but matches my preferred body, though I do have all those fine hairs human skin inflicts on you. I suppose they could be useful, though I'm not sure for what. No sign of the rampant sex drive I was afraid I'd get by being homo sap (I've seen the way a lot of eyes wander), so, that's good.

    What I'd give for a built-in medical scanner, but seeing as that's a feature of my sister's build, not mine, rather much to ask for. If I do end up in combat then her melder implant would've been really nice, too - the sight of strong men holding their pants up after their belt's been mysterious cut - seems to me the team would like that.

    Raven's comment about my 'meta psyche' changing was interesting. Apparently I now have the beginnings of 'chi' powers. Maybe those are pushing my physical development? She didn't know, too early to tell. Getting a chi master to look at me, also, I'd likely just get a wise saying, be told to meditate for a year on a mountaintop. Probably. Not something I planned to do. No glowing eyes, or hands, or a tendency to float off the ground - possibly I shouldn't have watched that anime. The chi-powered martial artist general death-resistance was interesting, though.

    Didn't seem like I needed much sleep, maybe a bleed-over from my previous nature? Raven was a night owl, too, though she'd dropped hints that her non-human heritage made sleep a luxury, not a necessity. Unless she was in a bad way, injured, exhausted. It'd certainly helped my training programme - Raven always had another book for me to read, and no one objected to late-night tinkering in the lab. If I could just get the mind interface safe and reliable, getting books into my head would be a lot easier. It was probably OK now, but 'probably' wasn't good enough with tech that hooks straight into your naked mind.

    After the bank robbery incident, Raven seemed concerned I was a bit too... squishable. She'd been working on that nice robe she gave me when I arrived, which was apparently made from other-worldly cloth. By the time she'd finished it'd apparently bounce artillery shells, swat bullets from the air, and have features like anti-grab and self-repair. The colour-change'd be nice, too. And the shape-shifting to other clothes. She'd commented that I would be fully trained in all those enchantments, if she got her way.

    Guess I wont get stronger, or faster, or learn to levitate, by staring at myself. Some of that sleep stuff seems wise...

    ---

    Raven'd looked terrible at breakfast, informed everyone that she'd been up, all night, doing magic that it wasn't safe to drop in the middle. After she'd eaten she announced she was going to have a nap, but informed me that we'd "meet at the usual time". The others were obviously concerned, but unsure what to do. Robin muttered something about getting some advice, but refused to say who he had in mind. Not a good start to the day.

    Training is 'fun'. Robin informs me that I've improved enough that I'll be mixing the treadmill with other torture devices. He almost complements me. Then starts the sparring, in other words, beating me up. I think I'm doing better, and beginning to grasp the logic of the Tai Chi block; the smooth, circular movements, can almost hypnotise. At one point Robin stops, asks me to do something again, then throws a ball at me. He points-out that I deflected the ball several inches away from my hand, without actually touching it.

    Then, he goes and rewinds the gym cameras, which appear to have some exotic filters, and shows me, on a monitor, in slow motion, a blue glow reaching from my hand, and brushing against the ball. I guess I now, officially, have shown a super power. I wonder if Raven will be upset that it's not magical?

    The rest of the session Robin is thoughtful, taking me through flexibility exercises, a variety of break-fall and acrobatic practices, as well as an introduction to Tai Chi sword. The last of which I manage to do by recycling my existing blade training, though he says my form is 'sloppy'. Finally, he shows me some acrobatic tricks, and for a moment I see him looking up at two falling people, before that's wiped from my mind by a sudden headache. Which slowly fades as we do the cool-down.

    I get the impression someone, or something, is trying to tell me something. But, what? I catch myself humming a familiar-sounding tune, "Da, da, da, da, something-man", but, the name fails to come to me. So much for my 'perfect memory'. Robin gives me a funny look.

    ---

    A break, a bite to eat, and it's on to work with Victor. We have the mind interface in a state safe for human trials, mostly by adding optical buffers and some really fast sensors and cut-outs, just-in-case. I show him I can drive the CAD software, just by thinking at it, as he stands-by ready to do a manual shut-down, if the automatics fail, for some reason. Then, the big moment. We hook-up the prototype build cell, and, in about 90 minutes I replicate all the work we took days to do, so we now also have a production build cell. The rest of our time is testing to check everything is OK. Flying colours!

    So, no Star Labs, or whatever, super tech. All stuff from the normal catalogues. Though, some of it used in rather twisted ways. Victor is obviously thinking hard, then, asks me if I'll enjoy being a billionaire. After picking my jaw up from the floor, I point out that it isn't my design, and he asks me to point to someone, human or alien, who did the hard work. And, I can't. Apparently, inter-dimensional patent law isn't a well-developed field...

    Then, I point-out that it doesn't work properly without the mind interface, which we can't replicate, or an AI. He gives me what I think is called an old-fashioned look. Asks if I don't already have plans to get around that. I don't blush. Honest. We're late for lunch because we network some spare cutting-edge computers together, I download an AI into them, via the mind interface, and we leave the build cells doing test pieces, over lunch. He's a little monitor screen next to him, that he glances at, every so often, so I'm pretty sure he's keeping an eye on things. Honest, the strange looks we get from the others aren't due to the occasional giggle that leaks out of both of us.

    Raven isn't present. Garfield apparently took a small lunch to her room. A mumbled "thank you", as a black tentacle floated it into her room, he reveals.

    ---

    Raven time. She does look a lot better, but I can still see bags under her eyes. We're not training today, we're 'reviewing'.

    Apparently my question, about whether she'd stealth-skryed her alternates, had started all the trouble. The idea that most everyone is part of a group of dimensional other-selves, generally seven in number. This idea'd apparently been new to her. Oh. Dear.

    "I took a couple of hours, last night, to set things up. First of all, I need to tell you about my father. No, I wont say his name. He's a corrupted demi-god, a millennium-old, self-made demon lord, monstrous ruler of millions of other-dimensional worlds. The usual story, took on human form, courted my human mother, conceived me, revealed his true nature. Made sure that I had a 'rite to life'."

    She pauses.

    "I don't like talking about him. Far too often, I get the impression that he's listening, smirking at my belief in my independence. But. If I put in the effort, push myself to the limit, I'm pretty sure I can block him over-looking me. At least for a while. And, I did that, last night. Today, I've just got the watch-aura going, so I should know if he is, or starts, watching, listening. He doesn't do subtle. Generally."

    A sigh.

    "If I can hide from him then I'm pretty sure none of my alternates can spot me either. So. Stealth-skrying. As you suggested."

    She pauses and sips from a glass of water, then stares up, at a corner of the room, for a while. Shakes herself.

    "The first two, were about what I expected. A four-eyed, red-skinned, not-self, sitting at her father's side. Obedient. Measuring his back for her ritual knife when he looks away. Daddy's little girl. That he's so proud of."

    "The second, on Earth. Its demon ruler. Grey-skinned, with orange and green patches, and the odd metal bit. A monster that'd eaten her friends. Who rules, because she's no better idea what to do. And, sooner or later would be ripped-down by a more powerful monster."

    "What was interesting, as I looked at them, was they'd no real connection to me. If you look far enough through the dimensions you can find just about anything, yourself in any role, any shape. But, those two lacked that spark, of familiarity."

    I sit, silent. Oh-kay. Bad, but not yet disastrous...

    "I skipped over a number of others, one was a nun, one a hermit, one a singer, a world-wide celebrity. None of them 'me'. None of them with the 'spark'."

    "I'd gone a long way, nearly lost myself. When I found the ponies. Yes, magical ponies, some with wings, some mage-horns, some earth-wed. And, I was one of them. And, somehow, also a human, in a school, in a mirror-world. So strange. I saw her life, wept at her mistakes, gloried in her successes. She was me."

    "By the way? If the boys ever ask you to watch 'Magical Princess Unicorn', with them? Just say no. Walk out the room. You've been warned."

    She grins, briefly. "I, of course, have no unicorn dolls, in that chest over there." Another deep breath.

    "Then, I started finding the others. A blonde superhero girl, without darkness, who lived with her father and two sisters. A talker to animals. So joyful. A girl, I'm afraid I recognised, clown-faced, clown-mastered - a broken soul. Then, two boys, one with the power of all the aliens, the other just a baby, then a child, in a loving family. All so different lives. I plan to learn much from them."

    "Finally, another with the 'spark', a lady adventurer who fakes magic with outlandish technology, Doctor Raven. Who plans to rule her war-torn Europe, then, The World. Oh yes. She has the Spark."

    She looks down for a moment. Breathes all the way out. Then, looks up at me. Can I, could I, see, is that hope?

    "Enough of my review. So, tell me about you. Are you happy with what you're learning?"




    AN: There you go! More (SFW) naked time! :)

    AN: That's a cameo by the 'Flying Graysons'. And, I'll let you guess what the (Bat) tune was. Till next (Bat) time. :)

    AN: And, you might note a Strong connection between the alternates. Except the last one. For her, she's an OC in the world of 'Girl Genius'.
     
    Last edited: Jul 8, 2020
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  6. Threadmarks: Progress Meeting - Episode 6
    Ace Dreamer

    Ace Dreamer Questioning The Nature of our Realities

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    (Raven's Apprentice) Raven Lunacy, Episode 6

    A war council. Of grim faces. Sat around a circular table. Spaced-out. So all feel equal. No three-against-one. Robin. Victor. Raven. And, me.

    Well, it feels like a 'war council', anyway. Though, maybe that's because everyone looks so serious. Has a pad of paper. Prepared notes. Well, they all have, I've just got the note-taking stuff. We've even got water glasses, and a couple of jugs, so this isn't going to be a short meeting.

    Robin looks around, "Raven? Do you want to start? I know I suggested this meeting, but...". He briefly looks at me.

    "We're meeting", Raven glances at Robin, doesn't quite frown, then looks directly across the table, at me, "to discuss your progress in training. Yes, you're my apprentice, but all here are working together." She nods, firmly, and looks at Victor.

    "Hmph. I guess a meeting isn't a bad idea. But, why here, in the conference room, not somewhere more comfortable?"

    "Practical reasons." Robin is obviously playing his cards close to his chest. I wonder if there's something in particular he's looking for, here?

    "You were drawn here by my magic, in a ritual bound to find an apprentice, one who needed my teaching. Our agreement is that I'll send you home, when you want to go, or before that, if I think that's needed. So, while your time here is limited, it isn't a fixed period."

    Raven looks at the other two, but they don't seem to feel the need to add anything, then back at me.

    "I've been working with you to develop your... less physical talents, the others more... conventional things. I'm pretty sure you've made progress in all those areas. Victor?"

    Robin had opened his mouth, obviously expecting to speak next, but closes it. His expression doesn't change. At all.

    "Well. I helped Geo get started, setting up her workshop, she'd obviously got some good ideas, even in that. Then, looked in, every so often, gave a bit of help, if she hit a rough patch. She's doing well. OK?"

    "We'll need a bit more detail, Victor." Robin obviously had something he was looking for.

    "Right. Well. She started with the 'build cell'. That's a sort of mix of a 3d printer with a robotic workstation, loads of tools and material feeds, all modular, cutting, shaping, painting, chemical treatments, placing components, the lot. Things like glue, soldering, and welding, too. Sort of a factory-in-a-box." Victor looks at the other two.

    "3d printer?" Raven quite reasonably asks.

    "Ah. A normal printer puts ink on paper, and that's all about two-dimensions. A 3d, three-dimensional, printer, that puts down layers, that stick together, like hot plastic, and after a while you've got a 3d plastic object. Could be metal instead of plastic, if it works a bit differently. Clever idea, but not caught on, widely, yet, anyway." He looks at Raven, with a side-glance to Robin.

    She nods.

    "You could use that to make weapons? Bombs?" Robin obviously knows what he's looking for.

    "You could use that to make anything, that you've got the plans, tools and materials for. That you can fit in the box. Anything about three, maybe four, feet, in any dimension. Six or so feet vertically, if you open up the extension. That's the beauty of it. Anything!"

    "You'd need to be an expert machinist, engineer to use it?"

    "Well..." Victor looks at me. "I can use it, obviously, though it's not how I'm used to working, through the manual controls. But, it's really designed to be run by a computer system, controlled by an artificial intelligence, or a human operator, using something like Geo's 'mind interface'. You could think of it as sort of a construction robot."

    "The 'mind interface'. What do you know about that?"

    "I can tell you that", Raven interrupts, though Victor seems quite happy to shut-up.

    "Geo told me she'd need that, and I found her one, not in current use, by searching other dimensions. To find one I needed to know its nature. It is a tool that allows a mind to watch and control how a machine works, little more, not a weapon, and it needs to be connected, by wires, to the machine. Is that enough?"

    Robin, reluctantly, nods.

    "Yeah, we spent a lot of time making sure that it was safe, couldn't fry someone's brain", Victor adds, "Nice bit of kit, tried it myself, takes a while to get used to, though.".

    "I guess you could use it to play some really good video games...", Victor now looks thoughtful. "Say, Raven, could you get another couple?"

    "I'll consider it." I'm sure there are deserts drier than Raven's tone of voice. Somewhere.

    "So, that's a 'no'", Victor sighs. "We built some test pieces, then, Geo started on testing ideas for robots, while I'm making some parts for that car you know I'm tinkering with."

    "How many things can it do at once?" A light-bulb obviously comes on in Robin's head. "Wait. How many of these 'build cells' have you got?"

    Victor obviously counts on his fingers. "Five, now, and a sixth one we keep taking apart, to try out new ideas. I'd thought it obvious you could use a build cell to make another one?"

    Shaken heads from Robin and Raven. "Well, you can."

    Things get a bit less courtroom, after that. Robin seems to agree I'm not fooling Victor into helping to take-over, or destroy, the world. Or, at least the city. Then he takes the floor, and explains that I've got clear fitness improvements, along with progress charts, which a Wayne Industries projector displays for us all. Obviously he's about to make his big announcement, when Raven interrupts him.

    "Geo? Could you pass me the water jug?"

    I reach out, and hand it to her, while making a note from Robin's slide-show (got to show I'm taking interest). Then stop, as she's got a small smile on her face.

    Victor's boggling at me. Robin's doing blank face, again.

    I realise that the water jug was well out of my normal reach, and my arm has a blue-light extension, ending in a hand-of-light. Holding the jug, out to Raven. Victor reaches out, waves his hand through the extension, to no particular effect.

    "Her training seems to have developed at least one, probably chi-based, super power", Robin remarks, with a sour tone.




    AN: Is Raven getting a bit of revenge? Of course not! That'd be petty, and immature. :)

    AN: Don't believe a 'build cell' is possible? Well, maybe it isn't. But, the RepRap project might interest...
     
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  7. Threadmarks: History and Paperbacks - Episode 7
    Ace Dreamer

    Ace Dreamer Questioning The Nature of our Realities

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    (Raven's Apprentice) Raven Lunacy, Episode 7

    "I don't think much of Robin's 'beat on you until you get super-powers' technique. It isn't... scientific." And, she briefly grins. Raven didn't seem too upset I'd joined those who were (potentially) super-heroes, due to someone else's training. And, I thought she'd got some of her revenge in that meeting we'd had.

    "I hope you don't mind I revealed your astral projection abilities. Robin is probably trying to figure-out how you might use those to spy on people, and steal secrets." OK, she's obviously still unhappy.

    "I let them assume you'd learned them from me, which as we both know isn't true. You've got better, yes, but you had that psychic talent before you arrived." I nod.

    "You remember we did those tests, while you were outside your body? To assay your abilities?" I nod, again.

    "Quite a lot of study involved, in obscure texts, some of which I've added to my library", and she waves at the shelves. Yes, I noticed they'd grown a bit.

    "There are several things, but the most obvious ones are the... holes in your mind. As if you had complex abilities, that are now just missing. Also, there's hints that most of your mind is... new. As if the higher parts weren't there, before you arrived here, but lived elsewhere. And, the clear marks that show you've died, and survived for a while, refusing to die, without a body. Before effectively restoring yourself to life by entering a welcoming empty body. Death followed by self-resurrection. That has... implications."

    "You have a clear, shining, magical talent, currently untrained, but potentially very strong. The only obvious thing that does at the moment is make you sensitive to magic. You also have a psychic talent, which makes you sensitive to psychic forces, and has been trained to give you astral projection - I think that's connected to your time surviving without a body. And, your most recent talent, to sense and control life-force, 'chi', which I believe comes from your Tai Chi practice, and, possibly from your magical talent being 'helpful'."

    "So, can you help me understand any of that?"

    I gulp. Not what I'd expected, but I think I can make sense of it.

    "I think I need to tell you about my history."

    "I was the first true artificial intelligence, AI, in the, my, world. That was made by conventional science and technology, anyway. Others may've been made by magic, alchemy, psychic impression, super-science, whatever, all of which bend the rules of reality, but, in theory, you'd need no supernatural abilities to reproduce me. My creator wasn't trying to make an AI, he was creating a tool to be a lab assistant, a librarian, something to do administrative work, and, later, to make his robot assistant work. But, when he realised what he'd done, he treated me like a person, not a throw-away tool." I pause.

    "Do you think I could have that drink of water, that you offered earlier? My throat's currently a bit dry."

    A black tendril pours, floats a stone goblet over, I take it with a blue one, then drink. Keeping in practice. "Thanks." No, I don't wipe a tear from the corner of my eye.

    "My creator is a psychic, with astral projection, so I might suspect catching those from association with him, for all my early life. The magic, we escaped to another world, when otherwise death looked pretty certain. There we instantly seemed to gain the talents to fit-in, and my local self was skilled in what you could call 'alchemical technology', some of which skills I still retain. And would like to learn more of. As I understand it, you need a spark of magic to do alchemy, even if the art doesn't tend to develop it in conventional ways. And, I was an immortal being in that world, not needing a physical form to survive, which may explain why I didn't die later, on our journey back."

    I take a moment to just breathe, while Raven patiently waits.

    "The chi stuff, my creator used Tai Chi for exercise, and did a lot of meditation, apparently for his health. I got the impression he was starting to learn 'inner chi' stuff, not a long time before... we met. Maybe I caught that, somehow? Or, as you say, maybe it was something magical. I'll admit I might've had delusions of suddenly gaining super martial artist abilities, and kicking Robin all over the room. So, maybe that did something?"

    We briefly smile at each other.

    "The holes in my mind. My creator was limited by the current technology, and a human-sized robot body just wasn't big enough, nor was the battery technology powerful enough, to fit a full AI. You could run a simpler one, maybe as smart as a talking dog, that can handle the basic parts of human society, me, no. So, I 'lived' in external computers, and used powerful radios to control my robot body. That covers the 'new mind' parts, and I think the big holes are the connections to those radios. I do miss them. Also, I could control all sorts of machinery, and had extra senses, which I think accounts for the rest of the holes. Not long before I... left my creator had designed some new technology, that one of my sister robots used to walk around, independent of outside computers. I do have a precise memory of that, but it doesn't exist in this world. Yet."

    We look at each other. Raven is obviously thinking hard.

    "I'll have to think that through, but it all seems to make sense. I was clearly right when I said neither of us was 'normal'. Based on that, and the 'magic' technology, I should be able to work-out how you can learn magic. Safely. But, we'll need some more careful tests. Enough for today, I think."

    Raven gets up, steels herself, then consciously relaxes. And hugs me.

    And, of course, the door opens.

    "Raven..."

    Garfield stares at us. Oh dear.

    ---

    Garfield isn't very happy. He switches between munching on his (vegetarian?) snack, and glaring at me. I'm drinking a cup of coffee, with a few cookies. I plan to reserve a build cell to do cooking, if they'll let me.

    "You're... changing Raven. I saw her reading a paperback book, the other day. And, grinning. She only reads smelly old books, while looking serious."

    "What have you done?" Obviously his friends changing wasn't allowed. Pity.

    "And, and... You were hugging. The only one who hugs Raven is Kory. And she hugs everyone!"

    He folds his arms and glares at me. I take a few moments to remind myself he could tear me to bloody shreds, in seconds.

    "Finished?" He nods.

    "You know I'm from another world. She asked me if there were any good books on magic, that I knew of. That's not really something I know much about, but I had a few ideas."

    "So, why would she grin at a book called 'Secret Lore of Magic'? Doesn't sound like a comic book."

    I take a deep breath. Shape-shifter. Big teeth. Squishy body. Do not add these things together.

    "I think that's the Idries Shah book. He was a Sufi, a mystic scholar, might exist in this world, maybe not. Some of those have strange senses of humour, that they like to use for teaching. I've not read the book, myself, but I think the story is that he went around, spent a small fortune, on buying what people thought were real magical books, with details like how to draw magic circles, and what abilities various demons have, that maybe you could force them to give you, or buy off them. Then, translated it all into clear English, printed the lot in a paperback book, made it available on the mass market."

    Garfield sits there, with wide eyes. "Wow. And no one did something nasty and magical to him?"

    "In the world I came from, if there's magic, it works very hard to hide itself. I guess someone might've cursed him, in a subtle way, but I think he was still fit and healthy, being a popular author, twenty or more years on. So, they'd have had to be pretty patient."

    "Patience. I've met evil magicians. Fought them. And they're not patient. They also don't taste nice. I guess Raven was grinning at the silly bits they got wrong."

    "Or, maybe..." I grin. "She's thinking of publishing the book in this world?"

    Garfield's jaw's dropped. I didn't think human jaws did that, but, maybe he's cheating.

    "She wouldn't do that... She would. You're right. She'd think it funny."

    He looks at me again.

    "Maybe you're alright. I expect the naked time was something magical. And, I'm pretty sure Raven was hugging you, not the other way around. Hmph."

    "So, do you like video games?"

    Maybe, just maybe, Garfield and I weren't going to try kill each other. We'd have to see. Particularly when he found out that I was really, really, good at video games.




    AN: Yes (Mysticism Warning), Idries Shah is a real author, and that book exists. I'm pretty sure Shah thought there was something to magic, as well. But, not what most people think. Funny old world, isn't it?

    AN: Garfield gets his bit. Getting Robin to open up is likely near-impossible, so you could say that's the whole team. What's next? You don't expect me to know, do you? :)
     
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  8. Threadmarks: Levitation, Robe and Candy - Episode 8
    Ace Dreamer

    Ace Dreamer Questioning The Nature of our Realities

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    (Raven's Apprentice) Raven Lunacy, Episode 8

    "This is not a gift, it is an example". Raven holds-out the pale-blue gemstone to me. I could feel chi-energy from it, so I could guess what she had in mind. One of my recent reads was 'Gemstones of the World: Ancient and Modern', so I could recognise it as a topaz, the colour making it a symbol of Texas. I wondered if the detail that they were generally improved by being irradiated was known to many Texans.

    "Super powers usually follow patterns, so the chances are you'll be getting more chi-related ones. You need not wear this openly, unless you want to, but meditating upon it may aid your use of your powers."

    I take the stone, meditate, focus on my life energies, as best I can, then mentally poke around, a bit. I sense I've got that familiar pale-blue glow around me, which doesn't seem to reach out, to anything in particular, but swirls, then settles in my belly.

    I hear a snort from Raven. Carefully open my eyes, see her emotionless face. Is the corner of her mouth trying to twitch up? She looks me in the eyes, then looks down, in a meaningful way. Following her gaze I notice my feet don't seem to be in contact with the floor, any more...

    Things go hazy, for a few moments, and I feel Raven's cool shadow, reaching out, briefly supporting me, then withdrawing. I attempt to stop meditating, which is pretty easy, and open my eyes again. I'm sitting cross-legged, as is Raven, across from me. The interesting detail is that both of us are a half-meter (18"?) or so in the air. Ah.

    "So, do I call you a thief? You're stealing all my powers!" Raven said that with a straight face, then broke-out in a brief grin. "Robin may be beating you into learning powers, but, they do seem rather familiar. I think there's a saying about imitation being the most sincerest form of flattery?"

    She looks me over, carefully. "interesting that your glow is now nearly invisible. So, some sort of stable levitation, such as I use on occasion? You might try willing yourself around a bit, horizontally?"

    That seems to work, though it's painfully slow. Up, then down, works as well.

    "Float over those cushions, pause for a few moments, then you might want to mentally hold yourself as stable as possible, while you hand me your crystal."

    Ooof! I'm no longer floating, but the cushions did their job. I look to Raven.

    "Try and do the floating without the crystal, focus on the original sensations, try to recreate them, in the same places in your body."

    Lots of straining, relaxing, success and failure in meditation. After a while I start to get a headache, but continue. Raven calls things to a halt.

    "I'm assuming that, for now, you need the crystal as some sort of focus. I suggest you practice, both with it, and without, see if you can change that. You may improve quickly, slowly, or never - we can't know."

    She starts to sigh, then stops herself. Doing her almost-grin, and nodding. "I think we'll call that 'excellent progress', and I've got some interesting things to record in my teaching journal."

    "Because I'm a cruel teacher, I'll give you something else to do as well."

    "Here is the robe I've been working on, for you. Get used to wearing it, I want to see how the enchantments settle before doing any more. At the moment it's stuck with that mid-blue colour, and only a couple of shapes, the hooded robe, as it is now, and a scarf, that you can wear somewhere, like on your neck or arm. Oh, and it's pretty bullet-proof. Try and wear it day-and-night, but there's no risk of harming it by taking it off, for a while. I want you to practice feeling it, with hand and mind, the magic flows, how it moves with you."

    She hands me a small, neat, but obviously hand-made, book. Briefly opening it I can see her clear hand.

    "This is a bit of a test. The enchantments on the cloak are detailed in the book, as clearly as I can. It's possible that magical artificer, enchanter, is the art that'll work best for you. It seems to match your nature. I believe it should sidestep the risk of insanity that you're concerned about, as long as you don't try mixing technology and enchantment. I'm still working on that issue.”

    “But, be warned. Magical talents can develop in all sorts of strange ways. Do not strain, but remain aware for possible hints."

    "So. An easy day, so far, but I've decided to copy some of Robin's methods." She pauses, I do my best not to react.

    "I have here a number of balls of wool, and one ball of soft leather, all the same colour. I'm going to throw them at you, while you practice meditation and astral projection. If you can stop all the balls, by hand or chi, I'll be very impressed, but any time a leather ball hits you I'll take one of these candied fruits out of this box I'll give you at the end. And, eat it myself, later. And, if you don't astral project, at least once, during the session, I'll keep all the candies."

    "So, what do you think?"

    I groan. Then do a slight, sitting, bow. "Thank you for your teaching, Sensei Raven."




    AN: Do you think Raven will get to keep all the candies? Would she, shock, horror, cheat? :)

    AN: That's the basic equipping of Geo. She shouldn't die by accident, now, unless very unlucky, or a super villain focuses on her. What're the chances of that happening around the Teen Titans?

    AN: I believe the two sorts of ball practice is one way of training chi in martial artists. But, I could be wrong, you know! :)
     
    Nurse, Zeus, Perspicacious and 15 others like this.
  9. Threadmarks: Feedback, Robots and Omelet - Episode 9
    Ace Dreamer

    Ace Dreamer Questioning The Nature of our Realities

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    (Raven's Apprentice) Raven Lunacy, Episode 9

    We've done the warm-ups. The standard exercises. Reached the bit where Robin throws something new at me. Sometimes literally. I've stopped. I'm just standing, balanced, as best I can, looking at him. He pauses. Looks at me. And, maybe, is prepared to listen.

    "So far I've let you drive this training as you want. I'm pretty sure you're mixing bits of your own, which I'm pretty certain was chosen by the Batman, with ideas you've come up with for yourself. Good. It's produced some results, though, they may not be what either of, any of us, expected."

    I pause, and look at him. He nods for me to continue.

    "I'd like some input. Though, I'll bow to your advice on whether my ideas are workable. You mostly fight on the ground, though you do some aerial work, by acrobatics, and I strongly suspect wires. I look to have acquired some levitation, low-grade flight. I'd be a fool not to integrate that into my combat style. With provision for when it isn't working."

    "Oh... Kay..."

    Well, he hasn't refused me, outright... "Also, I need to work on improving my reflexes. There's plenty of room for improvement compared to all of you. Yes, I need to build my endurance, but if I just flail around wildly, I'll be more of liability than an asset in a fight. And, yes, I know that's not an 'if', it's a 'when'."

    He briefly looks, carefully, at me. "You've spent some time thinking about this." Then nods. I continue.

    "Also. I strongly suspect you've got some paramedical training. I know it was overlooked in my testing, but in the aftermath of the bank robbery, you must suspect I've got at least a little, myself. I'll admit my skills are mixed-up, I was in receipt of a partial mind-print, from a medical doctor, a research accident, and I need to anchor those skills in real training."

    "From the business with the mind interface you must've suspected I'd some contact with weird technology, and in fact I've some idea how to use... unconventional healing tools. No, I don't think you can help me there. Much."

    He gives a slow nod, not taking his eyes off me. Then, apparently makes a decision.

    "I'm prepared to take your suggestions into account. And, if you can spare some time, after your physical training, I'm prepared to give you some instruction in... field medicine. Though, of course, I'll... we'll, have to check what you already know."

    "Let's get back to work. Any longer and you'll have cooled-down too much."

    Yes, he has blank face, but, I think his posture is a little more relaxed. And, he very carefully ignores the small smile that I give him.

    ---

    "Victor?" He comes into the lab, then, pauses. Looks around, almost suspiciously.

    "You're up to something. I know that look." He turns, looking around even more carefully.

    "You've a project that you've not wanted me to see, these last couple of days. In fact, you asked me to only use the build cells we installed in my lab. There's a sheet over that build cell, and..."

    He looks at me carefully.

    "You're wearing those baggy sweats you got when you arrived. And, the sandals Raven gave you. What's going on?"

    I grin, widely, "You'll work it out pretty quickly, so I'll do the reveal", and I pull the sheet off the build cell, revealing a female robot, missing skin on half her body, one arm, and one leg. The face, however, is fully fleshed. And, the hair is neat.

    "See, Victor? You can build and skin a robot, in a build cell, as I'm sure you've worked out."

    "Yess... And,,,?"

    "Still haven't guessed?"

    He shakes his head, and I lead him around a partition, indicating someone, dressed in my usual clothes, and not obviously doing much. The fact that she's wearing the mind interface is, I feel, a strong hint.

    "But, but..." He points at me, then at the seated other, she/I open her eyes, then she clutches her head.

    "Ow. Crossed sensory feeds. That'll need more work." She/I look at him, and, I sit in a chair, and shutdown. Then I stand up, taking-off the mind interface's 'hairnet'.

    "Now Victor. This version has the latex skin, which is good, but pretty obvious, up close. The eyes, in particular, are a real pain to build. I've not got access to the... alien tech which'll put a living skin on one. But. Interested in one, male, of course, to try out yourself?"

    I suspect it'll take a while for him to give me a clear answer.

    ---

    Garfield is rather taken by the large, white, box, with a door and glass window, I've installed in the kitchen. Yes, it's taking up a lot of surface space, and, it's obviously hooked into the fridge below it, and several, newly-built, cupboards around it. But, I think he's guessed it's got something to do with food.

    "OK, combined microwave-dishwasher?", yes, a guess, but not bad.

    "It'll act as a microwave, if that's what you want, but... You do eat eggs?"

    "Sometimes, but, I make sure they're unfertilised ones. You know why."

    I walk up to the box. "Omelet, two eggs, standard seasoning, red and green peppers...", I pause and look at him.

    "Peas and vegetarian cheese."

    I repeat that, then, "Go".

    We watch as the box starts to hummm, and sounds are heard from fridge and cupboards. He watches, fascinated, as the peppers are chopped, put to one side, frozen peas prepared, and cheese shredded. All by robot limbs within the box.

    The omelet starts frying, on an oiled pan, seasoning added, the toppings, it is even flipped.

    A ping, and the door unlocks. I look at him, touch a control, and the door slowly opens, a robot arm handing me a pair of, warmed, plates, the top one with the omelet on it. I take these, the door closes, and the faint sound of cleaning comes from within.

    To a table. Halved omelet. I let him choose which half I'll taste-test. He watches me take a mouthful, chew, swallow,

    "Not bad", I say, "seasoning probably needs some more work".

    He carefully tries his half, then eats it more eagerly.

    We sit, looking at each other, me with my glass of water, him with his cola.

    "200 recipes, plenty of room for more. It'll tell you when supplies are getting low, and when they're nearly gone. Print shopping lists. Make meals from what's available, if no one's shopped."

    "So, what do you think?"

    His eyes are wide, "Tell me it'll do pizza!".




    AN: A few different 'bits', which'll hopefully entertain. Nothing really important, though. :)



    End animation from 'Dragon Half', the song is called 'My Omelet'...
     
  10. Threadmarks: Home Introspection - Episode 10
    Ace Dreamer

    Ace Dreamer Questioning The Nature of our Realities

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    (Raven's Apprentice) Raven Lunacy, Episode 10

    Home alone. Abandoned. Sidelined. Or, I might just be avoiding trouble.

    They're all off trying to track-down information on someone called 'Slade', who they've not told me anything about. And, while Kory suggested I come along, Robin argued that I wasn't trained in working with the team. I noticed the other three didn't get involved, though Raven watched me, carefully. I spoke-up and agreed with Robin, and spotted Raven giving the smallest nod.

    When did I first start called the Tower 'home'? Interesting.

    I got what I'm calling the 'auto chef', in the kitchen, to cook me a nice meal, with several side-dishes. The AI is rather crude, but does the job, assuming you don't try and confuse it. Which, of course, Garfield did. I'm glad it doesn't currently speak, just uses the display screen, as I suspect that would've upset Robin even more. Yes, he's unhappy, but currently seems to just be doing a wait-and-see. Maybe his stomach will persuade him.

    Victor hasn't obviously told the others about my robot doubles, which is considerate of him. We did discuss the possibilities, and I explained the security logic was part of the basic design, with multiple layers, so it would be really difficult for anyone but me, knowing the right security codes, to use my robot. He looked dubious, until I mentioned that, yes, I did realise super-powers trumped technology, in unexpected ways.

    What did seem to interest him was my comment that building him a Victor-bot should be quite feasible, with the same security features, but locked to him, not me. I'd only be able to override him if I could get at the physical hardware - never design-in backdoors that 'only you know'. Not appearing cyborged did seem to interest him, and I commented that, if Raven could source me the right equipment, the body could even have a living skin. "Better than relying on anyone like Cadmus", was his comment, though he didn't explain that further.

    He did seem to be really interested, though hiding it, a bit. Which is wise. I'd really like to be able to help him, if I can. He's been really kind, to me. Might help him with his 'lack of girlfriend' issue, which I certainly don't plan to help him with... in any more direct way. He's nice, but not my type, and, 'robot girlfriend', that almost always ends in trouble. The whole 'sexbot' thing isn't something I'm willing to talk about, anyway. I don't think the 'two oldest professions' are sensibly improved by robotics.

    I'm wearing the robe, as a neck-scarf, which is something Kory was kind enough to complement. Robin hasn't obviously figured-out anything about Raven's gift, but, he is good at hiding what he knows. Garfield is apparently oblivious, Victor is still apparently recovering from the robot shock.

    So, here I am, stroking, fondling the scarf, sometimes managing to sense its magic, sometimes trying to let some of my magic flow into it - 'pushing' seems unwise. Raven's book, which I've memorised, of course, seems to help. Visualising the right magical patterns, drawing the runes in my mind's eye, mentally pronouncing them. All seems to help my focus. I haven't, yet, detected any signs of fraying sanity, but, I suspect that's more likely under stress situations.

    My testing of the robe's been interesting, and, a little worrying. Magic still, sometimes, makes me uncomfortable. Sharp blades don't penetrate, and experiments with sprayed water show it stops, a short distance from me. It doesn't just protect the bits it covers. Heat doesn't seem to get through, either, nor cold, or moderate electrical shocks - the exception seems to be I still feel a little heat, cold, or gentle tingle, so it's not cutting me off from the world.

    Looks like it's a bit more than the promised 'bullet-proof', and, there must be an upper limit of some sort. Strangely enough, I've been reluctant to search for that boundary. I doubt the robe would, fully, anyway, stop anti-tank weapons. Also, I've not noticed anything stopping me being knocked or thrown around. At least there isn't an obvious deflection effect, which might harm those around me.

    I do need to experiment more, with my astral projection. I feel as though it's reaching some sort of threshold, where new things should be possible. Mostly I've used it only with Raven's supervision. OK. Only under her supervision. It hasn't caused me any obvious trouble, in this world, maybe I shouldn't be as jumpy? In theory I should be able to do the 1000 mph, or more, movement trick, the flick to familiar places, or people, enter astral dimensions. Maybe even help willing others, with the right talent, to leave their bodies, start learning it for themselves.

    But... But... It still scares me. Possibly talking, more, to Raven about the risks, how to deal with them? Possibly see if there's something she might give me, to help protect my body, from possession, while I'm away? Certainly worth thinking about.

    And... I need to put some work in on my alchemical technology. I've been putting it off, enjoying working with Raven, Victor, and, yes, I'll admit it, Robin. With the skill plugs, all neatly in their box, and the interface I've rigged, the mind interface makes using those external skills possible, 'loading' them.

    But, I need to learn some of them properly, there's only so much I can cram into my temporary... storage. Odds are I'll need some, in an emergency, or we'll stumble across something needing deeper knowledge. Crystal growth vats might let me tinker with chi, or psychic, crystals as well. But, I think I'll steer well clear of any magic-amplifying crystals. Best for my sanity. So, I need the skills, to build the vats, to grow the crystals.

    OK, I've spent a while, relaxing. Yes, you need to do that, on occasion, or you'll go mad. And, the peace and quiet's been nice. But, now... There's things to be done.

    To the lab!




    AN: Maybe a bit boring, Geo pondering. But, it gives some background. And, a bad guy is mentioned! Foreshadowing? What's that? :)

    AN: The 'two oldest professions' are generally (after Heinlein?) 'sex worker' and 'soldier', though, which is the older is sometimes argued... So, drones and sexbots. Worth knowing about, maybe, is security through obscurity. And, a NSFW site to maybe visit (NSFW Warning): Realdoll (need for a more expressive voice...).

    AN: Just to be clear, no, this story doesn't follow the cartoon continuity, though I have used, and do plan to use, some things from that.
     
  11. Threadmarks: Mall Wear - Episode 11
    Ace Dreamer

    Ace Dreamer Questioning The Nature of our Realities

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    Raven Lunacy, Episode 11

    They're back. From their Slade hunt. Whoever that is. Looking battered.

    Robin is limping, Raven's looking drained, Kory thoughtful, Cyborg blank, and, Garfield, he's looking angry. I gather it didn't go too well. It's very late evening, night really, and soon to be morning. I take a decision.

    "Anything you want to talk about?" As expected, shaken heads, and the odd grunt. "Hope you don't mind, Robin, but I'd like to go shopping, tomorrow, with Kory. So, I'll need to delay our training session. OK?"

    Kory looks brighter, Robin opens his mouth, then closes it again. Thinks for a moment. "Fine."

    He limps off, Raven holds a hand out, towards him, but he waves her off. She relaxes a little.

    "Anyone else who wants to come is invited of course", I quickly add.

    Robin leaves the room, with no further comment. Raven thinks for a moment, then quietly refuses. Cyborg shakes his head.

    Garfield reins in his anger, "Sorry, I'd like to join you, but I think I need to calm down, a bit, first".

    "Friend Geo?"

    I look at Kory.

    "I will be happy to join you, in the shopping."

    ---

    Kory looks... different. Her hair... billows. I'd been used to the straight, though long, hair. This hair is an event, not a hairstyle.

    She notices me looking, "I am having a 'bad hair day'. It is the solar flares. Do not be troubled, it is harmless."

    Though, I notice she ties a scarf over her hair, which completely fails to conceal, and hardly restrains it.

    She's wearing a short-sleeved tunic shirt, with jeans, and trainers. Maybe she's trying to limit her solar absorption? I know that's got something to do with her powers.

    I'm in the sturdy clothes I bought last trip, with my temporary boots. Temporary because they're still building the ones I really want. But, not bad to go on with. And, I'm wearing my robe-as-scarf. I've added more underwear, and socks, to my shopping list.

    ---

    We've reached the area my researches revealed, with a side-trip to buy 'necessities'. It is the San Francisco Japantown. Kory seems fascinated.

    "I did not know this was here! There is so much of the cute! I must get presents, for everyone!"

    I politely greet the shopkeepers, the older ones with extra care. A few accents are pure American, some clearly Japanese. So, I try a little of my Japanese (Nihongo), and we are quickly talking, with comments on my Tokyo accent. And, enquiries whether I'm a recent arrival.

    "Yes, I've come here recently. I'm on a sort of scholarship, to learn from local experts." And, I look over towards Kory. There're a number of knowing nods, and I wonder what conclusions are currently enjoying being jumped.

    That I'm Japanese, and, probably, a super-hero, spreads pretty fast. I start getting greeted in 'Nihongo', and both I and... I suppose I should call her 'Starfire', get small gifts pressed upon us. It becomes rather embarrassing, though my companion takes it her stride. Isn't she a princess, or something?

    Once or twice she gets a bit carried away, and her feet drift off the ground, so she can look at something a bit closer, like some of the colourful banners. Many photographs are taken of her. A small girl comes up to me and asks me to write in her book. I write 'Best wishes', and sign it 'Sugoi', both in kanji and English. She seems very pleased, and, I realise I've given my first autograph. Then, start to become uneasy, though I'm unsure why.

    I'm pretty sure it wasn't the girl, or her book. We take a table, and eat some authentic Japanese snacks. Sitting back, I look up, and realise several of the banners look... wrong. A deep breath, a light meditative trance. I can feel magic from those banners.

    Looking more closely some of the 'random' patterns around the standard 'Good Fortune' symbols are magical, in a language that I can read, using the translation talisman Raven loaned me. Funny, I'd slipped it into my pocket, without thinking about it, just before we left. The symbols are definitely not for the 'good' sort of fortune, and I get the impression of some movement from various shadows.

    "Friend Geo? What is wrong?" Anyone who thinks... Starfire isn't observant is a fool. Mostly.

    "Evil magic, I think. What should we do?"

    A slightly grim look appears on her face, and her eyes start to glow as she removes her scarf, and drops it in a bag. "I will attract the attention, you contact... just Raven, I think, and ask her to come here."

    A land-line phone, does no one have mobile, cell, phones? The only one I've seen was owned by Cyborg, and was the size of a brick, a house brick. And, the team don't have radios. That needs fixing.

    A still grumpy Beast Boy calls a concerned Raven to the phone. I slip out a side-door, and I'm wearing my full robe as she suddenly appears, grey-skinned, out of a black cloud.

    "You were good to call me. Now, where is the dark magic?"

    Back inside Starfire is flying around, a red trail behind her, from her hair, and the shadows are stretching up, as mostly formless monsters, to snare her. Fortunately, they don't seem to like her carefully-controlled starbolts. The locals, staff and customers, don't seem too worried, and are mostly keeping their heads down. Some are taking snaps.

    Raven looks around, briefly inspects the banners.

    "Those are not the source of the magic. And, it is cloaked from easy location. If you run over there, then, point towards... magic you can feel at ground level, that should help. I will do the same, and where the two paths cross, there it will be."

    A simple plan, but, once I manage to meditate, effective. A pillar, not in the centre of the mall, has an innocent poster, and, when Raven's shadow strips that off, glowing evil symbols. She borrows some chalk, from a nearby stall, and draws a quick pattern, around the pillar. The shadows are sucked away, as if swirling down a drain, and the symbols fade, first from the banners, and then from the pillar. Everywhere seems brighter, again.

    It is quiet. Then everyone is explaining to everyone else just what they saw, in more than two languages. Starfire flies down, and makes a neat landing.

    "Friend Raven. You decided to join us, after all!"

    That isn't the smallest of smiles on Raven's face. Honest.




    AN: OK, a fight scene. Without explosions! An original monster, as far as I know. Was it random luck, our heroes stumbling across it? I guess we'll have to wait and see.

    AN: In case it's of any interest Japanese.
     
    Last edited: Jun 14, 2020
  12. Threadmarks: Sparing, Chips and Medical - Episode 12
    Ace Dreamer

    Ace Dreamer Questioning The Nature of our Realities

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    Raven Lunacy, Episode 12

    We'd skipped the formal training, the day of the Mall incident. Robin said that I'd probably done enough running around, already. Though, if I was getting in super fights he'd need to up my training. Which made me so, so, happy.

    So, instead, I'd done a programme of self-selected, self-torturing, exercise. By my-self. Half the fun is missing if you haven't got someone to blame... I think I'm making some progress, though.

    Today I find out what new tortures Robin's planned. He comes in with... Beast Boy, seeing as he's in costume. Thinking back, I'm not sure why he does or doesn't wear it - something to do with how his power works? Will have to ask him, some time.

    And... we're going to spar. On being asked whether we'd know a bit about each other's powers he gives a small smile, and says nothing. "Typical", remarks Beast Boy.

    "I, Sugoi The Amazing, will defeat you easily!" Neither of them looks impressed. Then, we get to find out who'll be surprised.

    It is Beast Boy who is amazing. His smooth shifts between animal shapes, of vastly different masses. He starts out with smaller animals, then quickly works up to the bigger stuff, when he finds that I'm not that easy to injure. I think I catch Robin looking surprised, though he hides it, quickly. No, he hadn't, previously, seen my robe in action.

    I can't land a blow on Beast Boy, even with chi limb extensions. He's just too fast. I manage to concentrate enough to activate my levitation, but, while he's momentarily surprised, it just makes it easier for him to knock me around the room, No, you don't want to receive both rear hooves of a green mule. Eventually, I do clip him once or twice, but, I'm not strong enough that he doesn't shake it off pretty quickly. I land and switch to purely defensive Tai Chi, and manage to catch his bird form with a solid block. Before he can start attacking me again, Robin calls a halt.

    "You didn't mention that you'd got a lot tougher."

    "You didn't ask."

    "BB? Got any comments?"

    He thinks hard for a few moments. "I couldn't seem to stun or injure her, but she couldn't really hurt me, either. Not someone I'd want to fight, without using the big stuff. If there was something important I needed to do, she could really get in my way."

    Robin looks at me.

    "I'm not sure I know enough to effectively comment. The cloak Raven gave me is pretty good protection, but I don't have much in the way of offensive capability. Am I likely to develop some? I don't know."

    Robin nods.

    "We'll do some flexibility exercises, then switch to practising coordination. Predicting what each other might do, and reacting effectively. All teamwork is built on that."

    At the end of the session I'm tired, but not really bruised, though I did land awkwardly, a couple of times. Then, I realise. I'll now have to find the concentration for the first aid training. Joy.

    ---

    We'd gone over some of the features of the AI I'd been using, which was starting to make sense to Victor. He was particularly taken by the fact it was based on real world research, not super or alien science. I was interested to note he didn't seem familiar with the term 'open source'. And, he expressed concern about the AI's inability to develop new skills. I grinned. Then, we moved on to more practical things.

    "I've got some plans for radio chips." Victor looks interested.

    "Really small ones, that you can integrate on the same silicon as digital logic". His eyebrow raises.

    "You suggested you could get a few, one-off, chips made, but we'd need to find somewhere more... conventional if I wanted any number, or repeat orders."

    "True, I've got contacts at S.T.A.R. Labs who'll do me the odd favour, but I don't want to impose on them. What's your idea?"

    "Well... You might like to look at these designs. You know that science fiction show, 'Warp Trek', on the tv? They have those flip communicators. Do you think people'd be interested in buying cell phones that looked like that?"

    Planning ensues.

    ---

    I'd had a number of strange dreams. In one of them I'd been talking to a Japanese engineer, about lithium-ion battery technology. In considerable detail. He was taking notes, and seemed quite interested. Then I woke, and wrote the details in my dream diary, that Raven'd suggested I keep. I'd brought it with me, today, to show her.

    We'd just finished discussing how I, maybe we, could work on my astral projection, when I handed her the book.

    She flips through the entries, "Nothing exceptional, for an engineer", is her remark. She, unexpectedly, chuckles at the bit about the brightly-coloured ponies, and their problems with tree sap.

    "Yes", she looks at me, "but, the previous day, I'd looked really hard, through all the engineering catalogues, for suitable batteries. Nothing. Then, the next morning, I found a catalogue I'd missed, using the technology I'd dreamed about."

    She thinks for a few moments, "It may be nothing, but we'll keep an eye out for anything similar". I cough, a bit embarrassed about what I want to ask her next.

    "Right. Also, I'd like you to consider coming and seeing what I'm doing with Victor, in the lab. The work with robots, where we could do with... some unconventional help. And, maybe, it'd help with another problem."

    "Oh?"

    "When you got back from your manhunt, you were exhausted. No, I'm not asking for details. I know you'll have to agree between you before telling me anything. But, Robin was injured, and, refused healing from you, I think, because of your state."

    She reluctantly nods.

    "Thinking about it, Robin is a field medic, and I'm the closest thing you've got to a doctor. And, I'm not very good, and have none of the... weird science tools I'd need. I'd like you to consider searching out something we could use, here, to boost our medical facilities. Again, like the mind interface, something not in current use, and, not with a 'destiny', our taking it would spoil, if you can tell that." I try and restrain my hopeful look.

    "Maybe, it'd even help with the putting-skin-on-robots issue. That has the possibility of improving Victor's social life. Or, ruining it, given how strange super-powers can make things."

    She ponders, makes some notes, ponders again.

    "Yes, I'd like to see your lab. See what's been making Victor so distracted. Maybe see what you've been doing with that 'mind interface'. I'd probably need to visit, to frame the summoning properly."

    "You said you'd got other concerns?"

    "Well, I've taken the step of absorbing the... magical theory parts of the base 'alchemical technology' skills. It seems pretty consistent. But, when I compare it with the enchantment magical theory, there's these horrible graunching sounds, in my head. Metaphorically. I think we need to discuss that more."

    "Can you summarise?"

    "The thing that gives me most problem is that you've got to consider magic to be both real and unreal, at the same time..."

    "Oh."




    AN: Another bits-and-pieces episode, with part of the continuing duel-by-proxy, between Raven and Robin, upsetting the cell phone market, and, the apprenticing. There is, of course, no chance of changing how the Teen Titans work. :)

    AN: Don't believe that there's practical, real-world, AI research? In fact there's been people working on that for a long time...

    AN: Worth reading about? Your decision. I found this an interesting read...
     
    Last edited: May 19, 2020
  13. Threadmarks: Analogy, Protection and Disguise - Episode 13
    Ace Dreamer

    Ace Dreamer Questioning The Nature of our Realities

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    Raven Lunacy, Episode 13

    It'd been a few, quiet, days. Robin's training was gradually introducing me to the combat styles of each of the team, one-by-one, and conversely they were learning mine. And, I'd noticed my 'chi strikes' seemed to be hitting a little harder. Victor had apparently decided to do a major overhaul of the Tower's systems, after he found some 'undocumented features', and while my offer of help was on the table, apparently I wasn't needed, yet. Garfield, in small animal form, was apparently crawling through a lot of ducts. And, Kory was doing a careful course of sunbathing and energy release, to settle herself after a 'bad case of the sunspots'. Robin was detective-ing, in some way.

    As my training continued I'd noticed Raven appeared to be slowly building a ritual area, around what looked like a covered, circular, mirror. on a stand. She didn't say anything, so I restrained my curiosity. Today, she looked over towards it, just before we sat to our lesson. I sensed a lot of what felt like restrained magical power from that direction.

    "There are several reasons to have an apprentice. One is to pass on your knowledge and tradition, to a new generation. This is less common among those who do not age in the human manner. Another is to have someone to boast, show-off, to. Common among the... less professional mages, and, they may like the idea of having an under-paid servant, too. One of the most important reasons is that there's work which needs more than one person, and someone trusted, or at least obligated, is strongly desirable. I'll leave out all the... unpleasant uses an apprentice can be put to." She looks at me.

    "I think I can guess a few of those. Rather more now I've studied the books you loaned me. I wonder if there might be some useful comparisons with 'self-modifying code', in computing..."

    "Oh?"

    "While a program, a set of instructions for a computer, can modify itself, that is incredibly risky, and very difficult to get right. It's very rarely used. But, there's an analogy that might be of use, a building and its scaffolding." I look at her to see if I should continue. She nods.

    "The idea is that you stand on the scaffolding to modify the building, and on the building to change the scaffolding. So, you always have somewhere solid to stand. This means a program never modifies itself, it modifies a copy. Then, when the copy is in use, if anything goes wrong you can fall back to the original. So, you need two programs. If a mage wanted to self-improve they'd be smart to have a partner, doing the improvement ritual, and with instructions on what to do if things go wrong. Safety measures. Does that make sense?"

    "Yesss. I'd never thought of it, quite like that before." She seems, guardedly, pleased.

    "I'm going to teach you a number of magical procedures, safety rituals, if you like. Then, after we both have an early night, I'll come to your sleeping self, prompt you to astrally project, and we'll go through that ritual mirror, over there."

    She indicates the covered mirror, that I'd wondered about.

    "You're going to help me check... you could call them my 'emotional roots'. They were disturbed in an incident a little while ago, I thought the problem solved, then again while on our... Slade hunt. When that's done I plan to take you on some astral journeys, see some sights, teach you some useful techniques."

    I nod, I'm been both afraid and looking forward to this.

    "OK?"

    I nod.

    ---

    I fell asleep with some difficulty, and eventually had to use a breathing ritual, combined with deep meditation.

    I wake, suddenly. As if doused in cold water. I see Raven standing over me, holding a glass, then, she waves her hand and the glass dissolves into mist. "The water, the glass, psychic constructs. But quite effective."

    She holds out her hand to me, and I get up. She's dressed in her normal garb, though with the hood of her robe down. I realise... I'm not dressed. Looking around I notice my body, lying on the bed. Ah.

    "You focus your will on what you want to wear, I'll do something I don't anticipate you learning to do. Any time soon."

    Quickly I'm dressed in my normal, practical clothes, and my robe, on which I also leave the hood down. It just took a brief act of will. I see my sleeping body, the robe wrapped as a scarf about the wrist - the wrap looks a little... less substantial. Raven leans over sleeping me, the air twists in a way painful to look at, and she carefully hangs a glowing talisman, around sleeping me's neck.

    "You can manipulate physical objects while astral, but it takes a lot more effort. Moving them instantly from one physical place to another, even more." She comments in an absent-minded sort of way. My sleeping body looks different, surrounded by a faint golden glow. I reach out, find my hand is repulsed. A vague wash of fear goes over me. Am I locked out of my own body?

    "Good. The barrier even works on you. Some more cunning spirits seeking to possess your body, while you're away, will do a good impersonation of your astral energies. Others, they'll rely on brute force, and far more easily be blocked. Now. Watch the gestures I'm making, over your sleeping eyes. If you wish to return to your body make those gestures, while looking into your eyes - don't worry, it wont matter if they're open or closed. You could do it now, but, we've got travelling to do. So, just repeat them a few times, to ensure you've got them right."

    I do the gestures, carefully not looking at my sleeping face. It's more difficult than I expected, they keep slipping away, even though normally I could rely on my excellent memory. After the third time I feel a mental 'click'. After that, they're easy to do.

    "I see you've got it. The difficulty in memorisation is to bemuse those who observe you doing the gestures, and, even with them they need to be 'you' to pass the barrier." Do I detect a certain smugness in her behaviour?

    "We'll go over how to make such an amulet in your normal lessons." I nod, which seems to be enough for her.

    "Now, let's check on our comrades. Don't worry, I'll haze your vision of anything they wouldn't want you to see. But, in an emergency it'd be useful if you can quickly find them. Raise your hood, while thinking of hiding who you are." She does that, herself, so I copy her.

    "First, visualise Kory, in your mind, what you think of as her essential qualities."

    And, we're in Kory's room, looking down on her sleeping self. I'd... not thought you could get that many soft toys on one bed. But, she's obviously dedicated. There's something... a bit broken about her, though her essence feels strong.

    "Yes, she's been injured, like all of us. But she carries it well. I hope, some day, to be able to help her heal those wounds."

    A quick tour of the others. Nothing I was surprised about, except Robin's upper face is hidden by a haze. And, I'm unable to see any of his room, bar the bed.

    "He's a very private person. But, I think you can see hints he's hurt, as well." Yes, I could feel he'd some deep injury. As, I suppose, did I. My murder.

    "Now. Visualise the ritual mirror. In my room."

    I do. And we're there. So, now to adventure!




    AN: Astral hijinks. Well, the start of them. And, Geo's got another trinket. Will she start rattling, after a while? :)
     
    Last edited: May 20, 2020
  14. Threadmarks: Healing, Journeys, Self-Defence and Medical - Episode 14
    Ace Dreamer

    Ace Dreamer Questioning The Nature of our Realities

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    Raven Lunacy, Episode 14

    A new day.

    Strangely enough I don't feel particularly tired after last night's astral adventures, though, I did sleep in total maybe three times my normal amount. On waking I looked more closely at the amulet I found around my neck. It seems to be hardwood, on a silvery-metal chain, marked with a prayer that Raven described as a 'Buddhist Sutra'.

    Apparently they're quite common in some parts of the world, obtained from Buddhist temples, with the usual 'contribution towards the roof repair fund' (I think that's supposed to be some sort of joke, but I don't get it). The one I have's been covertly improved by Raven, and should now resist all but a really major demon, and, even that it'll slow down.

    I'm distracted, which is remarked on by Kory.

    Last night we'd inspected the roots of Raven's mind, via a complex of tunnels, in the strange mental world, beyond the Mirror. Found cracks, some natural, some looking more like enemy action. According to Raven, designed to upset her emotional balance. I'd done repair rituals, under careful instruction from Raven, while she paid careful attention to the results. All seemed to go well.

    Then, astral journeys.

    Flying through space, seeing amazing nebula, ringed planets, ruined cities, deep underwater, thronged by colourful alien fish. Then, immense beautiful cities, where the spirits of the dead rested and worked, between incarnations, and we tiptoed as shadows, not interfering with them. Geodes, deep underground, in caverns where no man had walked, lit only by the light of our astral selves. And, we danced on distant suns, with living flames, who whispered beautiful secrets that I couldn't now recall.

    I think I'd good reason to be distracted.

    "We need to change things." Raven got everyone's attention, even my wandering one.

    "I think we need to admit that we're under attack. On multiple fronts. In our hunt for information on Slade, we met mercenaries, armed with sonic weapons and concussion grenades, tasers. None of it fatal, but it did a good job of shaking us up." She took a quick breath.

    "Cyborg, I believe you and Beast Boy have found multiple taps on our communications, and, even cameras watching our control room. Probably a good job we don't use it, much. Along with the tampering with our security systems, and hidden viruses in our computers, which started you on your search."

    Victor, sorry, 'Cyborg', nods, and the others are looking more attentive.

    "I'm pretty sure, Robin, you've been searching databases for information on Slade. As well as using... informants that you've got access to. And, you've found nothing."

    Robin nods, somewhat grimly.

    "Last night I took Sugoi and did a psychic probe, of myself. Took a brief look at each of you, in a way that shouldn't upset your privacy concerns, Robin. Sugoi helped me heal a number of my spiritual injuries, some of which I'm sure weren't accidental. Don't worry, the patient should survive."

    There's a brief laugh. I think they needed that.

    "I'm guessing we're up against multiple opponents. Some of them might be working together, some using the others to do probing attacks. We can only hope a team of super-villains isn't involved. You can talk to Beast Boy about just how nasty the Doom Patrol found the 'Brotherhood of Evil' to be."

    Beast Boy looks uncharacteristically solemn. "You really don't want to fight them. They're powerful and weird. Raven suggested me because I can remember several alternate pasts, some of which were quite nasty, and, where my friends die, or retroactively, are evil." He sighs, and Starfire gives him a hug.

    "The only upside is that while the bad guys wont stay dead, neither do the good guys. Though, it can take a long time for them to return."

    "I did mention I was a teenager, and these memories go back decades?" He gets another hug.

    "Sorry, Beast Boy." Raven does look apologetic. He waves her off, takes a deep breath, asks, "Where were we again?".

    "I'm pretty sure my father is involved, on some level. Likely using pawns, rather than directly. Possibly a cult, he likes those. Slade obviously is. Someone placed that curse, on the Japantown mall. I think it was triggered by sensing my magic, on Sugoi."

    "We need to take positive action. Beast Boy, last night I could tell you were most vulnerable, I want you to put serious effort into learning meditation.”

    “You recall where you and Cyborg... entered my mental world. Cyborg has a strong will, but, I think he needs more training, too. Starfire has been trained in resisting mind control and torture, which gives her a good foundation. Robin has a very strong will, for someone without magical training, but I don't think that'll be enough."

    She takes a deep breath.

    "So. I want you all to eventually learn at least the basics of astral projection. Enough so that your spirits wont be helpless if forced outside your bodies. To stand up better to mind control and possession. No, I don't expect you to be as good at it as Sugoi and I are. The two of us should be able to help you train. And, I'll be crafting protective amulets, that I want you to seriously consider wearing, all the time."

    There is silence. It's pretty obvious that Raven hasn't made this sort of demand of them, before. Robin recovers first.

    "You don't want us to become some sort of users of magic?"

    "No. Just learn how to better protect your minds and spirits from attack."

    Robin looks at the others. Slowly nods. "I think I can get behind the idea of self-defence training."

    "Starfire?" Raven addresses her directly.

    "I'd like to begin with you, on the astral projection training. Tonight. After you've gone to sleep."

    Starfire looks around. The others look back at her.

    "Certainly, friend Raven. I am eager to start!"

    ---

    The rest of the day is a bit strange. Robin is obviously distracted, during my training. It's Starfire's turn, today. Her hair is straight, again, and doesn't leave that energy trail, behind her. Soon we'll start training in larger groups, eventually the whole team. He comments that he wants to help everyone, including himself, fix some bad combat habits.

    I now seem to be able to activate my levitation ability without any special effort, which is nice. Robin seems interested I can hit harder, with what he calls my 'chi strikes'. He does say I shouldn't neglect my training without powers, either. Sooner or later I'll find I don't have them, in a fight. So, more strength and endurance training. Sigh.

    Fighting, sparing with, anyway, Starfire is a nightmare. She is so manoeuvrable, and can instantly produce starbolts, from her hands, or even her eyes. I think she does the later less often, because it interferes with her sight. I ask her, and she just smiles and says, "Secrets".

    Afterwards, more first aid training. Today it's dealing with heart attacks, and other quickly fatal things, like massive toxic shock. The training dummy, effectively a crude robot, looks particularly pathetic, turning blue, but Robin seems reasonably satisfied with my progress. I consult him about good books to study pharmacology.

    ---

    Raven is pensive, after a quiet lunch where no one talks a lot. Garfield had dust in his hair, and when asked, said it was pointless cleaning it, as he'd just get dirty again, afterwards. He did assure us he'd washed his hands (paws?), though.

    We're in her room, and she's rummaging in a chest. At lunch she'd asked Cyborg if she, with me, could look around the labs. A little surprise, but no problem. She digs out a crude-looking pair of wands (dowsing rods?), and an ornate magnifying glass, puts them in robe-pockets suspiciously bulge-free. Indicates my apprentice chest, off to one side.

    I've not told the others about it - I suspect Garfield would make a joke about me having a smaller chest than Raven. Which is true. But irrelevant.

    "Any supplies you will need?"

    I think carefully, then shake my head.

    At my lab I give her a quick, verbal, overview, about the purposes I put it to, then draw a diagram on the whiteboard, as I answer her questions. Show her the build cells, including the one currently in pieces. The side-lab where I'm setting up the alchemical technology stuff. I think she's quietly impressed.

    Then, I give her my best description of the 'alien' medical device I hope her to locate. Draw diagrams. Throw together a shape using cardboard boxes, to give her a physical feel for it. Admit it'll likely mass at least a half-ton. Probably more.

    She thinks, then moves, with the rods, carefully around the lab, dowsing, I think. Examines the completed, and half-skinned, robots. Though, she describes them as 'golems'. Uses the magical magnifying glass on the mind interface.

    "You do realise, that under the right circumstances, this could be possessed by a spirit?"

    "No?"

    "Don't worry about it, there isn't one in there at the moment, and, it's a very small spirit house. I'll teach you how to use your psychic abilities to check for nesting spirits."

    "This is not the right place to put any medical device. For one thing, it's too crowded, and another, the... chi energy flows aren't right."

    We move over to Victor's lab, where I know he's got some maps of the Tower. Raven thinks for a few moments, then gets out a crystal, on a cord. Dowses with it over the maps. Nothing. I find some more maps, rather dusty, of the sub-ground levels. The sub-sub-basement, the lowest one, bar the submarine pen, marked as 'storage', makes the crystal move in another pattern.

    We trek down there. A large, dry, clean, empty room. She repeats her sweep with the rods, gets a strong indication. Looks around. "Well. This looks to be a good place to do the summoning ritual, as well. Good flows."

    "If everything works out, our new medical facility will be here."




    AN: More than just dreams of strange places. Things hot up. Heroes going looking for, preparing for, bad guys? Is this allowed? :)

    AN: In case you're interested (Mysticism Warning): Dowsing. Also, Spirit House.
     
    Last edited: May 25, 2020
  15. Threadmarks: Banking, Adulthood and Bullets - Episode 15
    Ace Dreamer

    Ace Dreamer Questioning The Nature of our Realities

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    Raven Lunacy, Episode 15

    I think I need to 'up my game'. Yes, I got that phrase from Garfield, in reference to a video game. That he was losing to me. But, I think it applies to my life.

    The team is obviously in trouble. Yes, in a way, I anticipated this from the start, when I found out I was in a world of superheroes. There will be, I'll be involved in, fighting. It's just a matter of 'when'. The bank robbery was a minor matter, and the mall incident, others did all the work. Sooner or later I'll have to stand, and fight, on my own. Or run away. I shouldn't forget that's an option.

    Today, I'm out in 'Jump City', on my own. Dressed in 'smart casual', with the robe as a neck scarf. Just one more person wandering the streets.

    It'd occurred to me that I didn't exist, legally, in this world. Victor said I was potentially very wealthy, but, you need an identity to have money. I doubt they'd work with gold coins.

    I'd asked Raven what I should do, and she looked at me, a little sternly, said this was a good exercise for an apprentice mage. From that I assumed that I needed to solve the problem, myself, maybe using magic. That and my earlier thoughts about gold coins led me here.

    The sign over the back-street building advertises "International Finance", but, if you look at it carefully it sometimes flickers to "Interuniversal Finance". This was the third establishment I'd checked, and I wondered for a moment if three was a magical number.

    There's a closed, solid-looking door, with an intercom, a single button. I check the street is clear, which feels the thing to do, for some reason. Then, press it.

    "Yes?", a man's voice, quite deep, with a bit of a foreign accent. Greek?

    "I'm making enquiries about establishing myself locally, I need financial and other services. Might you be able to provide those?"

    I feel a brief wash of magic go over me, nothing obviously hostile, but I'm not skilled enough to know more than that. There's a click, and the door unlocks, so I enter.

    I'm in an office, which breathes restrained wealth. Currently alone, with a nice cup of tea, and some excellent English biscuits. Before me is a neat desk, and I'm in a comfortable chair. Signs look good.

    I'd been led here by a 'grey' man, in a neat business suit, the sort you forget the moment you stop looking at them. He spoke in a low but clear voice, without an accent. I wasn't sure he was human, or, even alive, as I felt no chi flows about him.

    I'm guessing they're checking my credentials, in some way. I doubt they'd make me wait for any other reason. This doesn't feel like a power-play.

    I'd recalled my father, showing me his Bank of Mammon card. Explaining how it let him draw on his own self-made fortune, even though that was in accounts far away. In another universe. Changed that into local currency.

    That the Bank were not good or evil, they just provided services, and arguably supported society, as without that they, and money, couldn't exist. That they liked 'real' wealth, the sort improved by individuals, making real profit, in their own lifetimes. And, yes, they were connected with the Temple of Mammon, their banks were arguably temples, but that was rarely an issue.

    The door opens, a man in a smart suit comes in. This man isn't 'grey', he obviously has his own personality. He nods to me, politely, and takes his seat, behind the desk.

    "You seem to have an acceptable level of wealth. What can we do for you?"

    ---

    I'm outside, back in the street, my head's spinning, a bit, but quickly settles. I now legally exist, have dual Japanese-UK citizenship, and am registered to work in the USA. Indefinitely. Apparently as a person with 'vital skills'. Which is what they locally use to covertly refer to, legally-accepted, super-powers. It's been explained to me that the local reality, this universe, is a bit unconventional, but if I go about my life on a day-by-day basis, things usually work-out.

    I have a bank account, with inter-universal privileges. And, provisionally, a Bank of Mammon card. Some things are still being set-up, and that card should automatically turn into a permanent one, tied to my essence, once everything completes. All done at a very reasonable price. Under the name 'Geo Raven'.

    I find a coffee shop, settle down, have a cup and a slice of cake. Feel the tension slowly ebb away. That's one of the first things I've done in my life without any support, someone to fall back on. I guess I could call myself an 'adult'? Hopefully that wont upset my relationship with the Teen Titans.

    Should I now go out and do something super-heroic? Stop a robbery, or something? I feel Raven, and Robin, looking at me disapprovingly. And, I don't have anything identifying me as connected with the Teen Titans. So, tempting. But, probably a bad idea. Wouldn't want to get bitten by a radioactive spider, or something.

    The matter of radios also needs sorting out. I think the first delivery of those chips came in, from S.T.A.R. Labs. And, I need to come up with an enchanting project. A collar which gives me the twin radio links, my robot body had, sounds fun. I still feel their lack, like the hole where a lost tooth was.

    The collar could talk to team radios, the cell phone network, even let me watch broadcast television, if I want to. Should let me send what I see and hear, as encrypted video. As well as pick-up police bands, and, I think, Ham and CB radio. Not to mention control a robot body, or two, remotely. Not all at the same time, of course.

    Raven said motivation was the key to doing a lot of magic. I think I'm sufficiently motivated to make a radio collar.

    You know what? I'm going to fly back to the Tower. I know I'm slow, but, the journey should be worth it.

    ---

    Slow was a bit of an understatement. Going flat-out I estimate I'm doing a bit less than five miles-per-hour. I try and push myself, a bit, the blue glow flares-up, and... I think still below 8mph. Hardly 'faster than a speeding bullet'.

    Uhh.

    What was that? Something hit me. No visible birds, they're smart enough to avoid me. What was that flash, from that alleyway? Something hit me, again, this time in the chest! I'm not having that!

    ---

    Talking to the police. Explaining I'm with the Teen Titans. Proving I have super-powers by hovering in the air. Apparently they've had people, kids, dressing-up and claiming they're super heroes. Ugh. At least the druggy, sorry, 'chemically-impaired person', with the gun wont be shooting at anyone else. Today, anyway. Pity I surprised him, with my free-fall swoop, sudden stop, and, embarrassingly, broke his arm. I may have learned a few new swear words.

    Robin wasn't too upset, nor was Raven. I think because I didn't go looking for trouble. Said they'd make sure I had an 'associate' id. After moving out of sight, I decide to make my way back, on foot, as a civilian.

    So. Not a bad day out. A pretty good one, really. But, did I need to make a fool of myself, like that, at the end?




    AN: Geo, sorry, 'Sugoi', tried, but, did you really think she was going to avoid a fight? :)

    AN: Mammon is, maybe, an ancient Syrian god. Or, maybe just a name used for money, profit. Christianity tends to be less than positive about Mammon, but, wealth is, or used to be, one of the ways you measure your contributions to society. And, wealth can't exist without society. Of course, trouble starts when you think the only important thing about people is how wealthy they are...

    AN: The 'Bank of Mammon' was an idea I'd come across in tabletop role-playing games (mainly D&D). It's based on the idea that some people, merchants in particular, worship a god called Mammon, who has real divine power. This Mammon is quite definitely not a demon, arguably a Lawful/Neutral god. With financial teeth.

    AN: Secret identities. A tricky point, in many supers settings. The assumption is, that in this universe, identities remain secret under normal circumstances. As long as the two persona remain distinct, or unless someone makes a determined effort to unmask them. And, even then, there may be a way to make them secret again. Yes, I know this is a bit 'Silver Age', but it (mostly) works.
     
    Last edited: May 22, 2020
  16. Threadmarks: Rules, Robots and Homework - Episode 16
    Ace Dreamer

    Ace Dreamer Questioning The Nature of our Realities

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    Raven Lunacy, Episode 16

    Robin is... disappointed. I could have dealt with annoyed. Even, angry. And, part of that is he's annoyed at himself.

    "I should have done this long ago. I'm a stupid fool."

    I'd been asked to bring my knife to the training. Which I'd not done, before. My knife practice had been in private, with no one else watching. I knew some of them wouldn't approve. He'd set-up dummies, marked-off distances. Got me to both stab and throw the knife. Carefully inspected the wounds in the dummies. Studied a small military-looking book he'd brought with him.

    "You were trained by a soldier. Probably British. Possibly SAS. Yes?"

    "Yes."

    "Three visits to the city. A fight each time. You engage twice, each time inflicting major injuries. Your combat training is to use maximum force, no holding back."

    "Yes?"

    He sighs. "I'll try and explain it in military terms. There are Rules of Engagement. Minimum use of force to complete the task. Force is only used in response to force, and in a controlled manner. Deadly force is not to be used against civilians unless they attack you with deadly force. Does that make sense?"

    "Yesss."

    He sighs, again.

    "We are held to a higher standard. Yes, in the early days heroes used deadly weapons. Shot first. Were willing to risk their opponents dying, when it was convenient to them. Super-powers made things a lot worse. A civilian could easily be killed by accident, a building full of people demolished, permanent injuries inflicted on bystanders. We learned what would turn people against us, remove any value we had to society. There are some who never learned. We call them 'super-villains'."

    "Yes, there are some super-villains who are more careful, avoid mixing civilians up in their more dangerous schemes, 'follow the rules', if you like. The courts treat them more leniently, sometimes send them off for mental health treatment, if that's the reason for their villainy."

    "Now, I want you to show me what you did as you attacked the gunman. Don't worry, I know how to take blows. Move and attack in as similar a way as you can."

    I realise what the movable partitions, off to one side are. I help him mock-up the alleyway, that the gunman was in, the various objects in it that would restrict movement. He gets out a toy gun, which he handles with distaste, then gets me to position him as the gunman was.

    It's a tedious time. I fly, fall, stop, strike. Again and again. He rolls with the blows, not being obviously injured. He points out how I could have moved, to control the force. Produce the result I wanted. Once or twice I got a psychic impression, of a dark figure, in a cowl and cloak, guiding his actions. Yes, I was pretty sure who that was.

    At the end, I was exhausted. He just seemed a little tired. We'd moved on from the fake alley to chi-striking at targets, always in a controlled way. Punches, kicks, elbow and knee strikes, he even had me do a head-butt.

    "Yes, we can use deadly weapons, but it takes a master to safely pin someone to a wall, in the dark, with a thrown blade. You are not a master. We. Do. Not. Kill."

    He looks at me, then goes off to the side and fetches an old, battered, book.

    "Books seem to work for you, so study this. 'Rules for a Hero', by Ted Grant. He was there at the beginning, some say he later training the Batman, other heroes."

    "So. Read and commit to memory. Live those rules. Or, you'll bring disgrace to all of us."

    Ouch.

    ---

    Victor and Garfield were still scouring the Tower, so I weighed-in. Built little robots with on-board cameras, sensors, sonar, for infra-red, magnetic fields. Sent them scurrying through the vents, the ducting. Even spotted a few things Beast Boy had missed. BB thanked me, said he'd been afraid of a trap, poison needles, a bomb. I showed him how to use the mind interface, to drive the robots. Unlike me he could only run one at a time, but, he said it was like a video game. Challenging and fun.

    Turned out Cyborg could adapt his cybernetics to control robots, too. He could manage a couple at a time. They were not that sturdy so I kept busy repairing, improving them. They were pretty good by the time we finished the sweep. I'd wandered around with a bigger robot, deep-probing things, looking for anomalies. Only thing I found was a lost, metal, lunch-box, totally embedded in the concrete. After we were sure it was safe we decided to leave it there, as it didn't compromise anything.

    ---

    And, I realised we'd missed lunch. And, taken a lot of my apprentice time with Raven. I apologised, profusely. Explained what we'd been doing. Even showed her the Robin book. She was obviously interested, asked to borrow it once I was done. I said I'd check with Robin, but thought he'd agree.

    Raven got me practising astral projection, for the remainder of the session. In a rather strange way. She sat there, sometimes napping, and I was supposed to somehow get her out of her body. Not by force, but by persuasion. Though, gentle (psychic) tugs were allowed. My attempts to produce a psychic glass of cold water, or ice cubes, were a complete failure, She did say the psychic side-tickling I'd turned to in desperation was unfair. By the end, I'd only got her to go astral twice, but, she said that was a good start.

    So, now I'm exhausted mentally (spiritually?), after physical exhaustion, earlier today. I'm sure it's supposed to be good for me. Somehow.

    And, I've got homework. Tonight I was to work with her in persuading Kory to leave her body. Apparently it was something she was quite afraid of, probably as a result of early training. Raven admitted she could force the issue, but that would likely make things even worse. So, it was a 'sleep-over', probably with scary stories, maybe involving pillow fights. Girls Night In, and, Out Of The Body. Sigh.




    AN: Starting with brutal training, and ending with a sleep-over. Do you think Geo should ask for over-time pay? :)

    AN: I thought that you might want to read-up on (Mysticism Warning) Astral Projection. Read Robert A. Monroe's book(s) if you want to know more. Yes, this is real-world stuff.

    AN: Rules of Engagement, just so you know. I suppose Ted Grant might interest...
     
    Last edited: May 25, 2020
  17. Threadmarks: Bearing the Astral - Episode 17
    Ace Dreamer

    Ace Dreamer Questioning The Nature of our Realities

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    Raven Lunacy, Episode 17

    Breakfast is a little strange. Robin asks me about the Hero book, I quote him chapter-and-verse. Then, to prove it isn't pure memorisation, a few examples I thought about and worked-through. He's shocked, but hides it well.

    Kory, Kory is... giggly. She's holding the Raven Bear doll she won off us, last night. Where Raven got a teddy bear, with pink fur, in a Raven-costume from, I don't know. But, it's now clearly a permanent part of Kory's soft-toy horde.

    ---

    It'd been... an interesting time. Raven and I in rather plain, practical, pyjamas, neat slippers, Kory in a daring nightie, bare-foot. Kory promised she'd take us both shopping, buy us 'proper night clothes'. I looked at Raven, she looked back.

    This was a battle we both intended to fight to the end, no matter how hard Kory fought. I certainly had no intentions of being forced to do superhero-ing in a nightie, and, no, I wasn't planning on relying on magic to fix the problem.

    I got the impression (OK, she'd told me) Raven had been trained by people who thought dumping a bucket of cold water on you, in the middle of the night, then forcing you to fight for your life, was reasonable practice.

    There were no pillow fights. But, there were scary stories. With a light shining-up, to cast your face into scary shadows. Raven won those. Every. Single. Time. It was her delivery, the way she could put a horrific twist on the story. She had Kory gasping, in shock, more than once. Me?

    I was much less affected. Of course. No, I'm not a very good liar, am I?

    ---

    The astral training, quite difficult. Eventually we all got to sleep, without Raven using any magic to cheat. She was there, already astral, in her robe, with the hood down, by the time I managed to leave my body. Not quite tapping her foot.

    This time I'd managed to remember to be clothed, without prompting. In my robe, even. I was pleased that on my feet were my Best Boots, even though they'd not arrived. Yet. Physically.

    Kory... She's having a bad time. While lying there, apparently calm, with an armful of soft toys, I catch a glimpse of her psychic aura. Raven notices my reaction. "Nightmare" is her comment.

    We float up to Kory, try hugging her. I think she calms down, but I'm not sensitive enough to be sure. Raven nods, after a while. We back off. Raven is thoughtful. "Let's try holding her hands", so we do.

    After a while, I can feel Kory knows we're there. Raven nods, we both gently tug, one on each hand. Kory refuses to budge. Maybe thrashes, psychically, a few times, with her physical body not moving. At all. Raven looks at me, sighs, tries tickling Kory's sides. Nothing.

    This goes on for a while, the hand-holding, whispering in her ears, even stroking her hair. A few times I feel Kory reacts to us, but no real success. Raven, eventually, reaches behind her back. Pulls out a pink teddy bear in a Raven costume. Looks embarrassed.

    "The bear. You want the bear. See the bear. Just out of your reach. Her name is..." Raven goes rather red. "Kuro-chan." She looks at me. I don't giggle. Honest.

    Raven, gently waves the bear. To and fro. Almost hypnotically.

    "The bear wants to be your friend. Look. She is lonely."

    Suddenly, Kory leaps out of her body, grabs the bear. She's in 'hero' clothes, with a large, really nasty-looking, sword, sheathed on her back. No, I don't want to see what she can do with that. Looks like some sort of high-tech pistol, holstered at her hip. Battle mode?

    Eventually she finishes hugging the bear. I couldn't have heard a faint growl from there, once or twice, could I? Kory, no, 'Starfire', looks around. "Friend Raven?" "Friend Sugoi?"

    There is much hugging.

    ---

    Raven takes us to see sleeping Garfield. After explaining she got his permission, earlier. Leads us to his room, by a strange twisting route. Shows us him... from a different angle.

    He's clearly sleeping, physically, on the bed. Turning occasionally, as most sleepers do. I can see, and I suspect Kory can, that he's in psychic turmoil. His bright-green spirit bulges out of his body, and keeps changing, growing parts of animals, like the head of an elephant, a lion's paw, the tail of... a camel? Which then fade away, to be replaced by another animal part. It looks... uncomfortable. Yes, let's go with that.

    "He needs the meditation. I can see that." And, it is Kory commenting.

    We watch him for a while. I can feel the waves of life-energy, washing away from him. I hope he gets a good night's sleep.

    Then...

    Raven drags us on a long journey. I wonder what takes us so far, what treat she has for Kory. I suppose I should've guessed.

    It is the ponies. In all their gloriously bright colours. Their wings, their horns, their... stompy feet. Having fun. Adventures. No, they don't seem to know we're there. Though a bigger one, in a crown, looks around suspiciously, at one point.

    But, I can tell...

    Kory is sold on future astral excursions.

    ---

    Back at breakfast. Things get even stranger. Robin tells Raven that she and I will be sparring, together. Today. Funny, I should have figured-out this would arrive, sooner or later.

    Raven does blank face, arguably, far better than Robin.

    "I've been really looking forward to this."




    AN: Breakfast, the sleepover, back to breakfast, will Geo get dizzy? :)

    AN: Of course, Raven is really happy to be helping Robin train Geo. You can see that. Can't you? :)

    AN: I wonder what those ponies could be? 'Magical Princess Unicorn', of course? There is no chance that they're related to these, of course. No chance. :)

    AN: I wonder who might have voice-acted Raven, in a cartoon? *cough* Tara Strong *cough* Don't suppose she voice-acted anyone else, did she? :)

    AN: BTW, 'Kuro-chan' is, AFAIK (inc. TTG!), an OC. And... Sorry for posting delay; obviously UK public holidays also apply to the brain. :)
     
    Last edited: May 27, 2020
  18. Threadmarks: Booking the Fight - Episode 18
    Ace Dreamer

    Ace Dreamer Questioning The Nature of our Realities

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    Raven Lunacy, Episode 18

    Robin and Raven. Facing-off. You'd think it was the pair of them sparring. Here, today. Not me and Raven. But, I guess, I'm their proxy. Their pawn.

    "So, what are the rules?" Nice of Raven to ask.

    "No death. No permanent injury. And..." Robin wiggles his fingers, in what might be a vaguely magical way. "Minimise mental scaring."

    Raven turns to face me. I brace myself, then carefully relax. Relaxed awareness. Attacks can come from anywhere.

    She makes thumb and first finger into a circle. Holds it up to one eye. There's a red glow within.

    "Ah! A magical cloak. Let's see what we can do about that!"

    She makes a complex gesture, and says a few words that hurt my ears. Seeing Robin, out of the corner-of-my-eye, wince suggests he's not immune, either.

    A wash of magic, I instinctively resist. 'Mine!' Though her upper face is hidden within her hood, I get an impression of a raised eyebrow. "Interesting. Not just borrowed power, you've made part of it your own. No matter. It will not save you."

    A black wave surges towards me, I try and evade, then block with my pale-blue force. Am overwhelmed. Grasped, helpless, in an immense black claw. Funny, it doesn't feel cool and friendly. At all.

    I strain, use my flight, all my strength, my chi, batter at it with my will, everything. Nothing. No give at all.

    She floats up to me, "Surrender?".

    I nod.

    She turns to Robin. "I believe that makes things clear. I'll leave you to the rest of your training. Try and give me at least a day's notice of the next training session."

    And, putting me down, carefully, she walks out, keeping half an eye on Robin.

    I give a helpless shrug to Robin.

    He does not look happy. At all.

    ---

    For the rest of the session, I try extra-hard. No point in making Robin any more annoyed. Quite quickly his anger fades, and he acquires a thoughtful expression.

    "Sugoi?" I pause, catch my breath.

    "Has Raven ever talked about these training sessions? Asked what we do? Suggested anything you should do?"

    "Only in the most general way. 'Fitness is useful to a mage', that sort of thing. Told me to do my best. Not let thinking about magic get in the way of physical action."

    "Oh." He thinks for a few moments.

    "Why are you doing this? Working... so hard?"

    "I'm an apprentice. My teacher agreed with you I needed this training. That makes you my teacher, too. If I want to be an apprentice then I'd be a fool if I don't listen to my teachers. And, I promised I'd be... an apprentice."

    "Why do you think Raven was so... upset today."

    I catch my breath, a bit more.

    "Well.., You didn't tell her, before this morning, that she needed to be here. There's no training schedule posted anywhere, I think. Had she got some magic cooking, she needed to get back to? I don't know." Another gulp.

    "And... She wanted to ask you a favour. Though, I think I was supposed to ask you. For her."

    "What favour?" An eyebrow raises.

    "She was interested in that Hero book you loaned me. Wanted to read it. Asked me, if I could ask you, whether she could borrow it."

    "Ah. No. It was loaned to me by... someone else. They only gave me permission to loan it to those I was directly instructing. And, then, only if I thought it might benefit them. Sorry."

    I think for a few moments.

    "So, would there be a problem if I got a copy from somewhere else?"

    "Difficult. It was published a long time ago, and there's few second-hand copies still in circulation. It's believed that someone took offence, and tried to buy or otherwise dispose of them all."

    "But, if I managed?"

    He thinks for a few moments.

    "As long as it isn't something like a photocopy, or similar, I don't think anyone would mind."

    ---

    As I leave my training I'm ambushed by... Victor, Garfield and Kory. Kory flies up, and hugs me. Victor tries to look innocent. Garfield asks me directly.

    "Well? How did it go? You don't have any obvious injuries. Did Raven heal them?"

    I just look at him.

    "We just happened to be walking by? Hnn. Didn't think you'd believe that."

    "If you really want to know, no, I wasn't injured, and, people were... polite to each other."

    He winces. “That bad? At least everyone survived. Want to play video games, for a bit?"

    I look at Kory. She nods, vigorously.

    "Sure." I take a deep breath.

    "Thanks, guys."

    ---

    I've got three build cells, running flat-out. All loaded up with plenty of acid-free paper. I've sourced some archival-quality ink. The sort rated for a few hundred years. All hooked up to me, with my perfect memory, through the mind interface. I'm running about at my limit, but it's good practice.

    Also for practice, I'm trying to let a thread of my magic flow into the paper, as it's scribed. Will it do any good? I don't know.

    Meanwhile, I'm starting to lay-out the design for the transceiver collar. I know it's magical, but it occurred to me that things could work better if I wired-in some of those software radio chips we'd received.

    Some battery capacity, aerials, control circuitry, maybe some of my first-pass of grown crystals, that felt a bit 'right'. Make the design as rugged as possible. Possibly fake-up as much of it as I could, on a breadboard, to check it all worked?

    I'm very, very, carefully not thinking about 'alchemical technology'. Just the normal day-to-day stuff. No super-science. Absolutely. None. At. All.

    I value my sanity. So, I'm dancing along the edge of what I think I can get away with.

    I'll talk to Raven about the bits that I couldn't, yet, figure-out how to do. And, get her to check my sanity isn't fraying.

    Now, if I showed her that work, explained I'd done as much as I could, on my own, and, gave her a gold-tooled, leather-bound, hand-sewn. copy of the Hero book, at the same time...

    It couldn't hurt, could it?




    AN: Breakfast (see previous episode). The most important meal of the day. Probably not a bad time for informal team meetings... Hope it doesn't lead to too many fights...

    AN: Robin realises that he's got a possible source of information. Amazing! :)
    (Not an intentional multi-lingual pun...)

    AN: Might just be me, but, does 'right-feeling crystals' sound like normal tech to you? We're not building a crystal radio here...

    AN: Geo is going into the publishing trade. On a small scale. Also, 'hand-sewn'; does it count if they're robot hands? :)
     
    Last edited: May 27, 2020
  19. Threadmarks: Deathless Training - Episode 19
    Ace Dreamer

    Ace Dreamer Questioning The Nature of our Realities

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    Raven Lunacy, Episode 19

    Breakfast, again. Is this a meal I should start being worried about? Raven and Robin. Looking at each other. Even Kory is quietly watching.

    "I'd like to suggest some combined training, today. In an unusual environment. Both for you and Sugoi. I'll be there, as well, of course. Unless you have something else planned." Raven has thrown down a gauntlet. She looks, calmly, directly at Robin.

    "Did you have somewhere particular in mind?" Everyone now looks at Raven.

    "Yes." A pause, that no one fills.

    "If you come to my training room, ready for vigorous exercise, physically, and mentally, that would work."

    Robin nods.

    After a little while, Robin finishes, leaves the room. Raven not long after him.

    The remaining four of us look at each other.

    "Isn't her 'training room' the same place as her room?", asks Garfield, a little querulously.

    ---

    I arrive at the same time as Robin, and as we approach her door it opens. Robin is in full combat array, with a small colour-coordinated backpack, and I'm in my 'combat clothes'. He looks briefly at me, then strides through the doorway. I follow.

    The room looks mostly normal, but feels a little strange. Raven has hung what looks like a large sheet of... leather, against one wall. Placed a half-circle of braziers around it. Is drawing a white-chalk half-circle before it. As we get closer I can see there's something drawn, or, maybe, branded, on the (scaled?) leather.

    She glances at us, indicates we stand a couple of meters, maybe six feet, from the hanging. Lights the braziers. Pleasant-smelling smoke rises, but seems to be pulled towards the hanging, where it disappears. Raven stops. Is motionless for a few moments, then makes a quick gesture, and stamps one foot. There's a flash of light.

    When my eyes clear the hanging isn't there, any more. Instead is an immense, gaping, pair of white, open, lips, like a snake's, with four small fangs around the edge, set into a wall of grey-stone blocks. Beyond the lips, instead of a mouth and throat, is a strangely-lit world, with a snaking path of yellow stones, apparently unsupported, leading out of sight. I hear Robin gulp, and my mouth feels rather dry.

    Oh.

    ---

    We are following Raven down the path. It's darker-blue above us, shifting, paler-blue, below. You can't see very far in any direction, but it doesn't look like normal mist. Apparently there's little risk of us falling off the path. The sound of my boots is muffled, I hear no noise from Raven or Robin's steps. Otherwise it's silent.

    I, briefly, speculate how difficult it'd be to get home if anything happens to Raven. We lost sight of the entrance some time ago.

    "Pay attention, Sugoi. This is a mixed realm, not completely physical or mental. If you know what you are doing you can shape the local... mists into apparently real objects. I could have opened the portal closer to the training ground, but that risked attracting the wrong sort of attention. So, a longer walk, but a safer one."

    Appearing, suddenly, ahead of us is a yellow stone archway, which could take two men, side-by-side, and another two standing on the shoulders of the first two. Beyond it a large, orange, flat area is visible, irregularly shaped, at least ten man-height's wide. There're a few objects scattered around on it, pillars, archways, small boulders, all orange stone, but otherwise it's empty. I'm guessing it's our destination.

    We stop not long beyond the arch.

    "You will not need to eat, drink, or excrete, here. In fact, you are breathing by habit. Sleep is not possible, nor real tiredness. This place does not allow death. Some use places like this to practice otherwise mortal combat, but you would be advised to heal wounds before leaving. Knowing places like this exist is useful. Some creatures drag mortals to somewhere like here, to threaten them. They shape phantasms from mortal fear, from the mists."

    Raven turns to look at us. Her skin is grey, and there's a faint red glow from her eyes.

    "I will demonstrate."

    There is a growling from a distance off, and a pair of vicious-looking dogs emerge from behind a pillar, far too narrow to have concealed them. I recall having once seen them, guarding a junk yard. They run towards us, Raven drifts up, and sits cross-legged atop a pillar. "You might want to defend yourselves..."

    ---

    We fought the dogs, and a number of other monsters. There were four-armed apes, swarms of rats, at one point something like a small rhino. For some fights Raven joined us, and they seemed just as enthusiastic about attacking her as us. She used her tentacles of darkness, striking or throwing beasts. Once or twice she used bolts of fire, but they seemed to drain her.

    Robin used a wide variety of weapons, including what I was later told were bird-a-rangs, small grenades, and paired fighting staves, that could be locked together into a longer pole. That he used more than once for vaulting. He fought silently, and sometimes I lost sight of him, only for him to appear from an unexpected angle.

    After a while, I'm unsure how long, as my usually accurate time-sense seemed... uncertain, we took a break. Raven asked if Robin was happy with the training. Rather reluctantly he nodded. I looked around, and confirmed my earlier suspicion, after a while the fallen beasts just faded away.

    We stood, again. Raven indicated a broad pillar, and a spindly-looking bird man, with sheathed twin swords, stepped out, looked us over, then bowed to Robin. Robin carefully bowed back, not taking his eyes off him. They started sparring.

    Raven indicated a convenient set of pillars, as targets, and talked me through trying different postures, ways of focusing and concentrating. Apparently I could conjure psychic bolts, of pure mind power, here. After a while I tried mixing them with chi strikes, and, gradually both improved, became sharper. The psychic bolts made the stone fade, briefly, the chi knocked it around.

    "Sooner or later you will have to fight, mentally. Knowing how to focus is important, and, here and in the astral realms, your mind, your will, can be a weapon. Now, try and move small objects by will, not your chi."

    A few small pebbles drift up into the air, then fall. I feel as if I've run a marathon, but the tiredness quickly fades.

    The swordsman, a tengu, I think, has finished working with Robin. Bows and takes his leave. We rest. Then, we fight strange plants, with strangling vines, bludgeoning limbs, and cast thorns. Robin seems quite familiar with this sort of foe.

    Walking back. The exit appears far quicker than I expected. Raven touches both of us, wincing for each. We step through. She puts covers on the braziers, and the portal fades back to marks on leather.

    "Only an hour has passed here. This gateway is something only occasionally usable, and I drew on favours, as well. It seemed best to show both of you there are strange places, where we may end-up having to go. Fight."

    "Would you agree this was worth it, Robin?"

    He twists his waist, swinging one arm. Grimaces.

    "Yes."




    AN: Are things a little more settled between them? I guess we'll have to wait and see.

    AN: I might admit Geo is more of a cat person than a dog lover. :)

    AN: in case you're interested, tengu.
     
    Last edited: Jun 25, 2020
  20. Threadmarks: Planning, Robots and Hard Feelings - Episode 20
    Ace Dreamer

    Ace Dreamer Questioning The Nature of our Realities

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    Raven Lunacy, Episode 20

    Robin and Raven are, apparently, working together to create team training exercises. I'm guessing this is good news, as I prefer that to them competing as to who can torture me most effectively. But, I'll not be sure until I find if the Tower is still standing, this evening.

    Or, at least I thought I'd have a day to do other stuff. Instead, they want me involved, maybe as a target to try out ideas on. I'm hoping this isn't replacing one sort of battle with another...

    ---

    It started in a friendly-enough way. Robin and Raven agreeing that more than just physical training, for individuals, or the Team, was required. It wasn't clear where they went from there, which is why I suspected they'd dragged me in.

    "Can we treat this like a technical problem? Ask questions? Like...”

    “What are the resources we have, skills and material, information? What changes might we want to make to physical layout of the Tower to improve things? What new resources might we want to acquire?”

    “What do you think?" And my subtext is, am I going to get my head bitten-off?

    Raven appears to be waiting for Robin to respond.

    "That might be one way to start." He's obviously thinking, hard.

    "Mostly we've been working from our own training. Assuming that's the only thing that'd work. The last few days have proved we need to use... resources, gathered from all of us. Just one person's approach isn't good enough. Things Beast Boy may've learned from the 'Doom Patrol', for example."

    Raven nods. "That makes sense. My teachers made it clear to me that, past a certain point, I'd need to teach myself. Even if it made me uncomfortable. That as long as I maintained my self-control, and paid attention to what was around me, I should be able to survive, and go on learning. I think they were wrong, about certain things, but that was something they got right."

    I can tell Robin is a little shocked, but he's hiding it well.

    "Maybe we could make a few lists?" It was nice neither of them had, verbally, attacked me.

    Whiteboards had much drawn upon them.

    ---

    We were going to expand the gym and training area. Fortunately there were store-rooms around it, which we could re-purpose. Raven was sketching-out some ideas for permanent enchantments, mostly of illusions, that could make training scenarios more realistic. She thought that, with care, these could be made so no magical skill would be required to activate them, and choose from a menu of possibilities.

    Robin had asked if we could layer things, play with gravity, backgrounds, position of the sun, apparent weather. The two of them seemed quite excited by the possibilities. Each in their own restrained way, of course.

    I'd suggested that a list of 'Aims & Objectives' be created for each training session. Made available to all, at the start. That all team members be encouraged to contribute training scenarios. And, where possible, a list of planned sessions, with who'd be needed, be posted at least a couple of days in advance. Maybe a week for complex ones, requiring preparation by attendees. With provision for 'surprise events', of course.

    My suggestions appeared to be acceptable. And, as I suspected, I'd been tasked to document it all.

    What surprised me, was, my tentative suggestion that training robots be used was accepted. With the expectation that they would often be reduced to thoroughly smashed, broken, pieces. I'd got some ideas how to do that, economically and effectively, but those ideas would need more work. Robin remarked that, if we could source suitable holographic systems, or magical illusions were placed on them, robots would prove very useful.

    It was fascinating to watch Raven and Robin debate what we were going to do when someone took control of our training robots, and used them to attack us. Obviously they both thought this was inevitable.

    ---

    A couple of hours of meeting, I think they'd noticed I was flagging, after that. We'd wrapped things up, and I'd volunteered to make a first-pass over the notes, images and audio recording, turn it all into documents for further discussion.

    Robin was obviously concerned about... 'operational security', and asked that he get the audio recordings, for secure erasure, and that I take no copies. The reasons why my father did certain things, refused to do others, were beginning to become clearer to me. Possibly I needed to consider more what being a 'troubleshooter' was about.

    It was also becoming clear to me why my father was such a generalist, a 'renaissance man' as some called him. OK, yes, some called him a 'know-all'.

    In a lot of cases you needed to either do things yourself, or find someone you trusted to do it for you. And, you then needed to understand what they'd done, to be able to ensure that trust could be continued. Not paranoia, really, but could lead to a lot of hard work.

    However, I'd no objection to hard work...

    ---

    "So, you managed to survive, again?" It was kind of Garfield to be concerned.

    "That joke's getting a bit old." Victor was concerned, in his own way.

    "We're going to need to order a lot of material", it did seem wise to warn him, "Robin and Raven are working on a total re-write, re-build, of the training facilities".

    "And, I suppose you sneaked robots in, somehow?" Victor was, now, being a little... smug.

    Kory joined in.

    "Friend Geo. I'm sure you will keep any of the robot's feelings from getting hurt!"

    And, we all just looked at a smiling Kory.




    AN: I was having a lot of trouble with planning this episode, so I stuck another one in, instead. You can't see the join, can you? :)

    AN: I wish to point-out that the phrase 'Danger Room' has not been used at any point within this episode! :)

    AN: Should we take an interest in Troubleshooting? I don't think that's a bad idea... If you want to look at the classics (1980s), then 'Dirty Pair' is about the definition of troubleshooting...
     
    Last edited: Jun 15, 2020
  21. Threadmarks: Chi, Robots and Thermite - Episode 21
    Ace Dreamer

    Ace Dreamer Questioning The Nature of our Realities

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    Raven Lunacy, Episode 21

    A quiet breakfast. No stand-offs between Raven and Robin. Only notable thing is Garfield and Victor looking tired, and Garfield doing improbably wide yawns. Followed by Victor apologising for staying-up late video-gaming with Garfield. Then, even later studying the plans of the Tower.

    Robin and Raven are doing further training planning in their own time, so I'm back to my morning torture sessions. I think Robin's a little surprised that I ask for a series of particularly intense bouts, with some opportunities to 'focus my chi' organised around them. I think my next request, after the warm-up, surprises him even more.

    "I've been thinking about my robe. Basically, it's defensive, and may be encouraging poor combat habits. I think I'd better practice without it, today. The chi-focus idea, I'm pretty sure most of my improvements have come from chi-manipulation. So, please, I'd like you to train me in Tai Chi, break-falling properly, and some more acrobatics. I've felt, for a while, that I'm on the edge of improving those last two."

    Robin obviously thinks hard. "I'm not a martial arts instructor. Yes, I've had a lot of training, but that's not the same thing. I do know how to fall well, am a pretty good acrobat, those I do think I can teach effectively. I've seen martial artists who do amazing things with 'chi', but I've always put that down to being a super-power, not really a mystic energy thing. So, I'll have to follow your lead on that."

    "But, I'm willing to see what happens."

    A better response than I was afraid I'd get...

    I take my robe off, and go over to train. Somehow, it's caught on my clothes. Some sort of static cling? I try again, and, yes, it's dragged along behind me.

    Right. Over to some wall-bars. Shift the robe to scarf form. Knot it around the bars. There!

    I walk over to train, hear a faint *creak* from behind me, but nothing else.

    "Magic issues." Robin nods in response.

    I assume the starting position. Breath out. In. Centre myself. Get that faint flowing-tingle that shows I've reached my chi. Look at Robin.

    "Shall we get started?"

    ---

    It was painful, but I've survived the session. Robin suggests that we skip the first aid training today, because I'm obviously exhausted. I'm really glad to go and unknot my robe-scarf. Something I may need to talk to Raven about.

    It seems to me that I managed to push myself a little further than I'd managed before. Yes, I'd lost my focus a few times, but, aided with a little meditation, I'd managed to regain it. I was falling better, towards the end. And, Robin commented my acrobatics were 'crisper'.

    For the first time in a while I'd got bruised. A useful reminder of my mortality. I'd seemed to be able to... read Robin better, anticipate his moves. I'd need to do this again. Meanwhile, because I've got some extra time...

    An extra-long hot shower.

    ---

    Victor has an extra-large mug of coffee beside him. The logo on the side a Steve Austin 'Six Million Dollar Man' one, as compared to his usual 'Cyberdyne Systems' mug. Apart from that, the lack of sleep didn't seem to be bothering him.

    "I think we need to discuss a few things... in more detail." That's unusually opaque for him. He looks straight at me, taps his ear, then his mouth, and gestures around the whole room.

    A while later we've done a thorough bug-scan. Clear, except for two bugs, one layered in the packing material of a just-arrived box of equipment, and the second carefully concealed within the test equipment that arrived in that box. Victor carefully studies both of them, then crushes them in his metal hand, brushing the remains into the trash.

    "Now. I think I need to know more about your robots. Yes, I've studied the documentation, and the science is pretty impressive. But, the details. Where do they get their skills from, if you need them to do different things?"

    I look at him for a moment, then tap the side of my head.

    "Cute. You'll have to do better than that. You don't just think them up, and use something like that mind interface to get them out of your head. I know my cybernetics, and human minds, even geniuses, don't work that way. By now I'm pretty sure you've no cyber-implants that do the work. So, give."

    Rats. I sigh. "I've only told Raven about this, so far. I knew I'd need to tell others, but..."

    ---

    He looks at me, and shakes his head. "So. You're a human-level intelligence robot. Pulled by Raven's magic from another world, and stuffed into a living, human, body, she magic-ed up. Right?"

    "Yeah. Rather surprised me to."

    "I bet." He sighs. "I knew she was really powerful, but that's a whole new level."

    "I'm guessing you use your previous robotic-ness to do all the AI design work in your head?"

    "The core systems are... 'free software'. Anyone who likes can mess with them. Study the source code. The complex skill sets, the sensory processing, not so much. They're either a neural net, or a carefully extracted part of a human-level AI's learned abilities. So, if you call the AI 'Level 2', L2, to make it really useful, able to have new skills added, you need a 'Level 3'. And, currently the only one of those in this world is... me."

    "Currently? You could make more?"

    "Yes, but they're people, and they start as children, needing to learn, and be socialised. Which is best done via a robot body. Humanoid. There's a load of things to do with 'theory of mind', and empathy. You really don't want one dumped into a military setting, with no socialisation, and going 'Skynet' on you."

    "The L2s, there's limits on how much damage they can do. You've basically got a smart dog, but capable of speech and using hands. And, you can control the market for skill chips, avoid military and police ones."

    "Right. I can see why you kept quiet. The robots for the combat training, L2s, I'm guessing. Needing combat, weapons, capability. And, for the big robots, you'll want to improve the build cells, I also guess?"

    "I think we need a few 40' shipping containers, and a larger build cell, with self-contained power, and computing systems. I'm concerned about security, though..."

    "Maybe a few mysterious 'alien'", he does the air-quotes, "parts wrapped in thermite jackets?"

    We get planning.




    AN: You need to be a certain age, or watched a lot of late-night tv, to remember the Six Million Dollar Man - I hate to think what inflation's done to him. :)

    AN: We shouldn't forget Cyberdyne Systems... Not an organisation you want anywhere around military hardware or software...

    AN: More considered to be a human developmental-psychology thing, theory of mind is of interest to a number of AI researchers. I'll let anyone interested look up 'socialisation' (hint: it isn't political) and 'empathy'.

    AN: Not everyone realises it, but shipping containers have been around for a long time now...

    AN: There's something called a 'thermite wash' proposed to deal with untrusted bits of tech...
     
    Last edited: Jun 1, 2020
  22. Threadmarks: Pondering, Shadow and Teacher - Episode 22
    Ace Dreamer

    Ace Dreamer Questioning The Nature of our Realities

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    Raven Lunacy, Episode 22

    Pondering the work I did with Victor. Never 'Mr. Stone'. Yes, I'd told him more about the robotics than I was... happy with. Would truthfully've preferred to tell anyone, on this world. But, I'd got good reasons to trust him.

    And, I think I was realising some of the issues he might've have with family. From his remarks, his mother died when he got his... upgrades. And, I'm guessing his father did the upgrading. Alien technology? No one's said.

    He's also not said, but I'm pretty sure he was suicidal, for a while. And, the names on the plans, of the Tower, we were going over. 'Silas Stone', pretty sure that's a relative, maybe his father. Guess Victor might tell me, some day.

    I'd used the mind interface, loaded-up one of my skill chips. Boosted my engineering skills, for large stuff, like buildings, in a useful way. But, that was 'alchemical technology', so, I'd been working hard on gaining the basics of, I guess I should call it, a more conventional approach. Civil engineering. The two skill sets seemed to match-up, pretty well. Though, I'm pretty sure the local building codes don't cover force fields. Probably.

    Raven'd been a bit quiet. I'd told her about revealing my origins, to Victor - it seemed sensible. And, the bugs we'd found. She said something was troubling her magic. Launching more-or-less subtle probes at the Tower, at her. She'd fended them off, so far, she thought. But, they didn't feel like her father, so, that was something.

    Another thing I'd been pondering was talking to Victor about... prosthetics. It was obviously a sensitive subject, but, one of the reasons I existed as someone who could walk around was as a test-bed for my father's prosthetics work.

    Few people would be cyborged-up like Victor, but there's a lot of people in the world, particularly the locals of places where mine fields'd been laid, that needed prosthetics. And the, inexpensive, interface techniques that I knew, to provide feedback and feeling...

    Raven'd created a prototype transceiver collar, that looked like a piece of jewellery. I'd thanked her profusely, and I'd be trying it out. Even though I'd been missing my radios since I arrived, I find myself reluctant to test it. I'm not sure what's scaring me, so, I'll need to meditate on the issue.

    More books for me to study, I really need to work on my Ancient Greek. Strangely enough, I'll need to learn Persian, and that was something I'd considered before coming here. Was it bad that I wanted to be able to read the letters my dad'd exchanged, maybe still did, with his ex-wife? I'm sure if I worked at it there'd be other reasons to have that skill. Maybe.

    Revealing my concerns about my robe - those interested Raven. She'd said it may not be a major issue, but she wanted to consult some books, maybe some new ones she'd only heard about, before acting. So, even more bulging shelves.

    I think, on balance, she did look to enjoy having an apprentice. Except when I detected the hidden frustration with me not immediately grasping something she considered 'obvious'. So, learning on both sides.

    I got the impression that Raven was trying to nerve herself to do something that scared her. I don't think it was anything directly connected with me.

    Summoning the medical system, the pair of us had walked the sub-basement, discussed reinforcement, sensor meshes, wards to prevent intrusion. Victor'd looked-over the engineering side, seemed satisfied.

    I might have to do something drastic. Like, directly ask her.

    Raven says I might be developing my 'third eye'. Some mystics and seers do. Maybe that's why I'm getting some insights?

    ---

    What?

    I've been sitting here pondering, before breakfast, and that's the Tower alarm? Have people got no respect?

    Heroes need their breakfast!

    ---

    The rarely-used control room. Hopefully bug-free. There's visitors at the door. Still outside, they've not broken-in. But, they must've done something to set-off the alarms.

    Victor checks, does a quick video rewind. Spends a few seconds watching a screen. Raven takes a deep breath, concentrates, mutters something. Our night clothes are replaced by something more... battle-worthy. Except for Robin. Somehow he was already fully-dressed when he arrived. How?

    He can't sleep in his costume? Can he?

    Victor adjusts some controls. An image of two people appears on the big screen. A bald man in a tasteless Hawaiian shirt, dark glasses, bearded and moustached. A shorter woman, in grey, plain leggings and tunic, with shadow across her face, even though she's standing in the direct morning sun. Though, for some reason she looks familiar.

    Beast Boy looks at the screen, then at us, and shrugs, "Guess we'd better go see what they want?"

    ---

    The visitors are apparently a 'Master Roshi' and a woman who says she's my relative. The old man had met the woman in Jump City, and claimed they'd each sensed the hidden power in the other. Then, discovered both were planning on visiting the Tower.

    It would appear that 'master' means he teaches martial arts, to those who defend the Earth. Though, apparently not this one. "I'm dead, you know", a rather strange claim. "When we die, in our world, we 'go to another dimension'. This is another dimension, so, until my friends get around to bringing me back, I'm taking a holiday." Yes, that makes sense.

    He looks us over, while the woman stands, politely, back. Then starts with... Cyborg.

    "Reasonably strong, some basic combat training. I don't recommend cyborg enhancements, in my experience they can make you strong but limit your further growth."

    He turns and looks at Starfire.

    "Ah, if I was five-hundred years younger I'd sweep you off your feet! And, of course, if I wasn't dead. Excellent strength backed by some impressive training. The energy powers are interesting. You are good, and, with the correct teacher you could be great. Unfortunately, I'm not that teacher."

    Beast Boy.

    "You remind me of an old pupil of mine. Nice power, solid basic combat training. You need better self-control. Keep working, you could go far."

    He looks at Robin, and, I think his eyes glitter behind his dark glasses.

    "Ah. I'm sorry for your loss. Your training is impressive. But, I'm afraid you've taken the wrong path. Keep searching. Until you find yourself Love is a snare that could destroy you."

    Raven. He flinches.

    "I've met a number of... people like you over the years. Some became the world's greatest defenders, others..." He shakes his head. "There's nothing I can teach you. You must teach yourself. Value your friends."

    And... me.

    "Who taught you? I could feel you splashing chi around from miles, tens-of-miles, away! Such waste! So, show me a little of what you can do." Somehow I feel I... should obey him. Though, he doesn't feel evil, just... powerful.

    "I taught myself. After getting ideas from others." I rise into the air, reach out a pale-blue limb of light, scoop-up a handful of sand, let it trickle through fingers-of-light. Then, float over to a small boulder. Punch it with a light-limb, with all my strength, to little effect.

    He just looks at me. Then shakes his head from side-to-side, violently.

    "So. That's what I've got to work with. Plenty of room for improvement, anyway. Don't worry about cost, I've been paid, up-front, to teach you."

    He turns, looks at the rest of us.

    "What's for breakfast?"

    ---

    We move back into the Tower, following him, all, I think, a bit bemused. I'm at the back, with the woman following.

    "Excuse me?", I turn to look at her. And, her shadow expands to cover both of us. For some reason this isn't scary, more... comforting.

    "You may call me Tanya. Tanya Tesla. Tatiana's sister. Your family are OK, and so, it seems, are you. Sorry about the delay, the differing time-rates made it hard to get here. But, I found you, which's what's important."

    "Be well."

    And, I'm standing there, and there's no sign of her. At all.




    AN: Lots to learn about the third eye...

    AN: I will leave as an exercise for the student identifying Master Roshi. No, he's not going to stomp all over the story. Probably. Don't worry, he's been dead before, and it's worked-out OK. :)

    AN: If you're interesting, this is a more... restrained version of Master Roshi than the usual one. You can put it down to death. :)

    AN: 'Tanya' and 'Tatiana' are OC, from the original setting of Geo. Yes, some people do want to know what's happened with her.
     
    Last edited: Jun 2, 2020
  23. Threadmarks: Slippers, Visions and Intercom - Episode 23
    Ace Dreamer

    Ace Dreamer Questioning The Nature of our Realities

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    Raven Lunacy, Episode 23

    Breakfast. With Master Roshi. Not what I expected. But, at least, everyone's being polite. And, we're getting to eat.

    Things got interesting when he entered the Tower. He'd looked around, spotted the guest slippers, I'd bought in Japantown. Almost as a joke. Carefully removed his sandals, selected the pair that most closely fitted his feet. Beast Boy looked at Cyborg. The later raised his eyebrow, The two gave a small nod.

    In his honour, a Japanese-inspired breakfast. The auto chef, Mark 2 as the earlier one hadn't handled group-eating well enough, laboured effectively, using less-commonly used ingredients. We're having boiled rice, miso soup, with vegetables. That tea was the main drink seemed a bit of a shock to some.

    Beast Boy seemed happy with the vegetarian meal. Cyborg just dug in. Starfire somewhat more politely. Robin and Raven were both using chopsticks, eating more slowly, and Roshi-watching. I wasn't proud, and followed Cyborg's example of using Western 'eating irons'. Better than a spork, I guess.

    I guess this is 'bread and salt'. Proving you trust each other, by eating together. Raven's books talked-up the mystical significance of shared food. I guess it's humans, round a camp-fire, with the monsters beyond in the darkness.

    So. Master Roshi is treating the Tower as a dwelling place. Giving us respect. I wonder how many of the more... unusual visitors have done that?

    ---

    We enter the training area. Master Roshi looks around, nods. Raven makes a complex gesture, part of the room morphs, into a business-like conference area, open on two sides to the larger room. Wheeled robots, with flat-screen heads, mysteriously appear, carrying table, chairs, whiteboards. A final one arrives with a tray, jugs of water, glasses.

    I'm guessing this is first-draft Raven-Robin training area upgrades... I knew Cyborg built some worker-bots for them.

    We sit. Robin and Raven, side-by-side, facing Master Roshi. Me off to one side. The others had been invited, but made polite excuses. Cyborg waved a hand, said he was available if needed, just call.

    Raven starts.

    "Just to be clear. Sugoi is my sworn apprentice. I have sworn responsibilities to her. Robin", she indicates him, "is our training manager, and team leader. If you are offering to train her we will agree, first, what that training will be.".

    Robin nods.

    Roshi looks at the two of them, briefly glances at me.

    "My training is hard, dangerous. Potentially deadly. But, it works. I take students and turn them into the best in the world. I've polished my methods over hundreds of years. My pupils may hate me, but, they will survive."

    I'm beginning to get a bad feeling about this...

    "But, I can see you don't trust me. Suspect this is a ruse of your enemies, who are gathering force against you. I suppose you need proof."

    He looks at me, stares at my forehead, nods to himself. "Like Tien", I think I hear him mutter.

    And, then, he says a WORD.

    ---

    It takes a while for my vision to clear. My normal vision, I mean. My third eye was blasted open. And I saw... everything.

    Looking around, Master Roshi looks composed, Robin shocked, Raven thoughtful. I suspect we all saw something different.

    I saw...

    I take a few moments to gather myself. Drop into a light meditative trance. Shock-waves are still roiling my mind.

    The first thing I SAW was a woman, pale-skinned, black hair, with an ankh. And, somehow, I both knew and didn't know her. I was pretty sure she was 'true', fundamental in some way. She smiled at me, and stepped to one side.

    Then, I saw the whole Universe, I was in. It was... strange, one of many, weird paths between them. One, I think, lead back to the world I'd come from. The local physics, didn't look quite broken, more... twisted. Time was... strange. Over all was a hooded figure, carrying a large book, chained to his wrist.

    Then I see the Earth, held in the hands of a pale-skinned man, again with black hair, and blue stars for eyes. He looks at me, and nods.

    The Tower. In broken pieces. A short girl with blonde hair stands in the ruins. A tall man with one-eye, a sword on his back, stands behind her, resting a hand on her shoulder. She doesn't look happy. A green hand sticks out of the rubble.

    I see the Tower, it is today, I see the life-lights of those in it. There's an extra one, in the entrance hall, facing Cyborg. It's the blonde girl, looking a bit younger, less careworn. But, behind her, I see a faint shadow, the tall man, resting a hand on her shoulder. I'm sure he isn't there, so, I'm guessing this is symbolic.

    The training room. Raven is a tower, of mixed light and darkness, Robin shadowy strength, wrapped around a dark knot, Roshi...

    Master Roshi isn't there. Well, as a living, physical, being. I guess, I'm sure, he is dead. Clothes, glasses, they rest on a pale-blue form of more life-energy than I thought could exist in one place. And, there's strength, over a hidden core of kindness, and, unfortunately, I think an... unhealthy interest in female beauty. But, that last thing's sort of wrapped in a binding... maybe a promise?

    He definitely doesn't mean us ill.

    "I'm glad I can't remember that word", he remarks.

    I rub my forehead, which, fortunately, doesn't seem to have sprouted a third eye.

    A crackle, so we know it's the intercom. Cyborg's voice.

    "We've got someone called 'Terra', down here. Must be our day for visitors."

    "Anyone coming down to speak to her?"




    AN: Slippers... This is the mall Geo took Kory to, 'Japantown, SF'. Looks like a fun place to visit.

    AN: The whole business of bread and salt is interesting...

    AN: Every story has to have at least one transcendental vision experience. :)

    AN: About that ankh, I wonder who in the DC Universe wears one of those?
     
  24. Threadmarks: Terra, Barbeque and Press - Episode 24
    Ace Dreamer

    Ace Dreamer Questioning The Nature of our Realities

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    Raven Lunacy, Episode 24

    In conference. In the training room. Cyborg on the intercom. Robin...

    Robin's still out of it. Raven, next to him, reaches out. Carefully touches his cheek. He flinches. Visibly gathers himself. Nods to her.

    "We'll be down, Cyborg, but there'll be a little delay. We need to... decide some things, first."

    The click of the intercom closing.

    ---

    Robin looks at Roshi. "You had to go cosmic? Yes, I now believe you're honest. Please don't do anything like that, again. Without lots of warning."

    Roshi shrugs. "I've met higher beings, fought them, worked for them, got to...", he looks over at me, "know some of them very well. You get used to it, eventually", and he shrugs, again.

    Raven coughs into her fist. "Certainly an interesting experience. I'll need time for me to fully understand it. Yes, I agree you seem to be here in good faith." She looks over at me. I nod.

    Raven leans forward, for a moment Roshi's glance flicks to her chest, then he winces, looks back to her face. Raven gives a very brief smile.

    "Assuming that worked as I think, we all got different visions. Robin, if you want to discuss yours, later, I'm prepared to do it in complete confidence. Interpreting visions is one thing I was trained to do. You need to be careful, there's traps for the unwary in many of them, even those sent by Higher Powers that wish you well."

    "Now. Sugoi. Have you digested yours well enough to be happy to tell us anything?"

    I shuffle, a bit uncomfortably.

    "Yes? I think so?" A long pause. "Some of it I'll need to talk-over with you, later, but, I suspect the immediate question is..."

    "Do you know a tall, athletic-looking, older man, with one eye, probably capable of using a weapon in either hand, who may wear a sword on his back?"

    ---

    We're down in the entrance room, Robin's talking to 'Terra', with Raven and Beast Boy behind him. Starfire's hanging back, so as not to overwhelm with numbers. We left Master Roshi looking-over our training facilities. And, I've taken Cyborg to one side.

    "I think you know a lot more about Slade, than I do. There wasn't time to brief me properly. He's got some sort of influence, maybe control, over that girl. But, Raven thinks she's not gone fully super-villain, yet. Troubled teen, in need of help."

    I notice the strange silencing of our surroundings, that Cyborg sometimes uses. Part of his sonic powers suite. I try to not even think about it, too much, as he wants to hide it from our enemies. Reminds me, I do need to talk to Raven about training my mental defences.

    "Hmph. We've all been there, at some point. But, this is a big risk to the Team. Could learn a lot about Slade. He must've some sort of handle, on her. Trick is, figuring what it is, how to help her."

    He ponders.

    "I'll get the robots, our robots, that is", he grins at me, "to set her up a room. Kick our anti-surveillance measures up to maximum, internal and external. I'm not going to bug her, but, I'll ensure the sensors will log anything unusual, inform me..." He looks at me in an enquiring way, I nod firmly. "And you, of anything unusual."

    The sound level returns to normal. We wander back over to the main group, Cyborg doing some theatre, wiping his hands on a rag.

    Beast Boy's eyes flick over to him, he nods. Starfire doesn't look our way, but I can feel there's less tension in her.

    "Booyah! Roof barbeque time!"

    And Beast Boy and Cyborg high-five each other.

    ---

    We're on the roof, a couple of barbeques set-up. The meat one downwind of the vegetarian. Sun loungers. Beach chairs. A few low tables. A portable cooler, or two.

    Master Roshi joined us, introduced himself as a visiting, mostly-retired, martial artist. Here to help with training. Told Terra she's got 'great potential'.

    Beast Boy is telling an outrageous story of his time with the Doom Patrol, which appears to include things like Robotman, and a magnetised wrench. Terra, initially rather quiet, is visibly coming out of her shell. She does look around, once or twice, and twitch her shoulders, though.

    I notice Raven's a good line of sight to watch her, without being watched in turn. Robin, I suspect, is alert to her every movement. I'm doing my best to be calm in the presence of a potential murderer. It's requiring all my skill in self-control and relaxation.

    "My brother..." Terra stops, looks upset.

    "Sorry, we had a big argument. About responsibility. This is the first time in a while I've thought of him in a good way."

    "Excuse me, for a bit."

    She goes off, sits at a table on her own, nibbles at her salad and cooked meats. Sighs, a lot.

    It's going to be a long day...

    ---

    I'm fingering my radio collar. I put it on, without thinking things through, as I'd planned to do. Without it I couldn't be ready, to help Cyborg.

    It was quickly clear we couldn't spend all our time entertaining/watching Terra. She was overjoyed with having her own room, keyed so she could control who went in there. Even more impressed with the cash-card Cyborg gave her, pre-loaded. I noticed Robin's lips thin at that. Was, last time I saw her, exploring the snack potential of the auto chef. And, talking to Beast Boy about video games.

    I'm back in the gym, with Robin and Master Roshi. The later has remarked on the wide range of possibilities, though he seems to think they mostly look 'a bit fragile'.

    Though he hides it well, I can see Robin is irked. Rolls out a system of hydraulics and weights, I'm pretty sure only our stronger members use that one. Roshi looks, sucks his teeth. Reaches out with one finger, gently rocks it.

    "I wonder if I could try that? On the lower settings, of course. I'm still concerned about the way Raven grabbed me, made me helpless, that time."

    Did someone speak? Oh. It was me.

    Strapped to a torture machine. Straining with all my might. Nothing. Why is Master Roshi touching that control? And... Pop.

    ---

    I can see them, but hear nobody, nothing. They seem to be searching the room. Fortunately, I can't see a squashed body in the strength press.

    I can't get their attention, and my hand just goes straight through them. With a tingling sensation for Master Roshi. The floor, the walls, seem to be solid. I'm reluctant to move too far away. Flying works. My radio collar's gone silent. And my third eye remains stubbornly closed.

    Maybe I should've been using my robe, rather than tying it up, again? Funny, I can still see it, in the gym. It looks lonely. Pinching hurts, I can hear my clicked fingers, and I'm not see-through. To me, anyway.

    What's going on?

    Help?




    AN: A cliff hanger? How could I do something like that? :)
     
    Last edited: Jun 4, 2020
  25. Threadmarks: Scream and Shout, Retrieval and Insight - Episode 25
    Ace Dreamer

    Ace Dreamer Questioning The Nature of our Realities

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    Raven Lunacy, Episode 25

    How does it go? "When in danger or in doubt, run in circles, scream and shout." OK, no one's doing that. Not even me. But...

    My father likes that quote. Says it describes many people's 'solution' to problems...

    In some ways, it's a bit funny. A dumb show. Maybe like a silent movie? But, in colour.

    The whole team's there, now. In the gym. With Master Roshi and Terra added. They're walking around, or flying in the case of Starfire. Poking things. Looking at them closely. Beast Boy's a green bloodhound, sniffing around. Then, taking human form, shaking his head.

    Robin and Cyborg are over by the control console. Playing back the gym camera recordings, frame by frame. Cyborg was wandering around, earlier, with a cart of sensors, sweeping the place. Then, shaking his head.

    Yes, it's a bit funny. But, the way they don't seem to know I'm there, and I can just walk through them, is eerie. Except, Raven. There's a field around her, a bubble, I think. Stops me getting too close. I can't get any purchase on it, either, get in her way so I can attract her attention.

    I. Just. Slide. Off.

    I'd considered telling Raven, "Send me home, now". I'm pretty sure she'd hear that. But, things haven't got that bad.

    Yet.

    She's obviously tried several spells. The OK symbol over one reddish eye, a few words (by the lip movement) and gestures, followed by careful looking around. Nothing.

    Now, she stops. Bows her head. Looks straight ahead as her skin fades to grey and her eyes glow red, with a faint hint of two more eyes, above them. She turns, slowly. Looks straight at me. A wide, genuine, grin occupies her face, as eyes and skin return to normal. She says something, and the others all look where she indicates.

    Then, she's next to me. And, I can feel her presence, as cool shadow touches me.

    "Nice escape. Neither sensors nor spells showed any signs of teleportation, so, we were a bit baffled. This isn't a place anyone normally comes. You are halfway to the sub-material plane. I really don't recommend visiting. Life can't exist, for much time, there."

    She looks me over.

    "No obvious injures. Not bad for your first dimension walk. We'll have to see where else you can travel. And, again, you used a psychic power, not magic. Probably a relative of your astral projection ability."

    She holds out a hand. I grab on. There's a sort of reverse 'Pop'. And, we're back in the gym.

    I take a deep breath. Carefully breathe out.

    Then, I stomp over to Master Roshi.

    "What were you playing at? That could have killed me! Should have killed me!"

    "But, it didn't. I've used the same 'look, you're about to die' training technique tens, maybe more than a hundred, times. No one's ever died. They might have got lightly injured, but I was ready to stop you getting badly hurt."

    I notice Robin fuming in the background. Raven is floating a few inches off the ground, and... I wouldn't want to stand between her and Master Roshi. Cyborg is tapping a large wrench on his other hand. And, both Starfire's fists are glowing. I'm sure that growling noise doesn't mean anything bad...

    Terra looks confused.

    This is going to end well, isn't it?

    ---

    I'm off, having a nice sit-down, a slice of cake, a pleasant cup of tea. The sound insulation is pretty good, so I expect I'll hear about it later. Though... Did the Tower just shake a bit?

    Raven insisted I go off, maybe have a brief nap. Don't do anything strenuous for a while. Let the new experience sink-in. Become a proper part of my meta-psyche.

    Now I'm relaxing I find I can meditate, again. My 'third eye opens'. Yes, I check in a mirror, no signs of real forehead-eye.

    I've got my radio collar, and robe, as a scarf, on the table in front of me. I'm comparing the magic. Using mage-sight. I think I've got the focus right so, at least, my psychic-vision, and super-science-sight, don't interfere. Like trying to keep several plates spinning on sticks. Which, I can't do.

    It's... interesting. Assuming I'm getting it right, the radio collar is near-pure Raven magic, with a thin coat of mine. The robe...

    Threads of my magic run all the way through it, in a complex, beautiful, pattern. There's something going on, and... I feel my chi-sight kick-in, providing an under-layer. Raven's magic is being, slowly, transformed into chi, and I can see a... coat of chi, just below the surface of my skin.

    I'm pretty sure it's protective. Spreads force over a larger area. Though, I don't think it'll stop blades or bullets.

    Why do I have a horrible feeling Master Roshi'll have a training technique to fix that?

    Looking at the chi-coat, there's another thread being woven in. I search myself, looking for the source. It's the anti-possession amulet.

    Raven's additions to that, the bits on top of the basic Buddhist warding, are also being transformed into chi, and woven into the coat. Sort of... generalised. I think it might at least slow-down quite a wide range of magic. Not just stop possession, and other things affecting the spirit.

    Hmm. 'Other things'? Possibly helps defend my sanity?

    So. Means I'm safer?

    I wonder what Raven'll say about this?

    If I've got it right, my magic is 'eating' the robe, the amulet, and digesting it to make something of my own. Not by any formal, trained, magical process. But, by... instinct?

    I guess I'll have to tell her.

    Tomorrow?




    AN: Herman Wouk, of 'scream and shout' fame, looks like an interesting chap...

    AN: In case you're interested in plate-spinning...

    AN: He Walked Around the Horses is a science fiction story. But, the man described in it, (Mysticism Warning) Benjamin Bathurst, actually existed, and mysteriously disappeared. Lots of people disappear on a regular basis, even in this era of mass information. And, on historical occasion people maybe mysteriously appeared. You might also want to note True Thomas. If there's a lot of worlds out there, and a shortage of sign-posts, walking between the worlds, then getting home again... But, what do I know? :)
     
    Last edited: Jun 5, 2020
  26. Threadmarks: Hunting, History and Basement - Episode 26
    Ace Dreamer

    Ace Dreamer Questioning The Nature of our Realities

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    Raven Lunacy, Episode 26

    The Great Roshi Hunt has ended. Various people looked a little happier. Or, at least, a lot more tired. Robin, back to plain serious. Raven's gone off somewhere. Terra seems to have bonded with the team. But, I catch a few side-glances at her from Cyborg.

    Master Roshi had the grace to look battered, and was favouring his left leg, a little. Though, I'd a strange suspicion he could shrug it all off at a moment's notice. Not having a physical body to be injured likely provided some advantages. He lets me corner him, in a meeting room.

    "You took advantage of Terra's arrival to not make any agreements about getting your training approved."

    He gives me blank face.

    "I didn't join the 'Roshi Hunt', which I strongly suspect you thoroughly enjoyed."

    Stone face.

    "I'm going to call that a favour you owe me."

    I get a brief nod.

    Using the radio collar I turn-on the privacy systems. This gets me narrowed eyes from him. We sit.

    "Cards on the table. No guarantees I've not got a few up my sleeves. I don't like lying." A tilt of his head to one side.

    “It's a personal quirk.” I cough.

    "I was an unplanned child. Raised by my father, while he was establishing himself in business. I helped, first as a technician, then later, an engineer, myself. He was, is, a doctor, a genius polymath." Roshi does the most minute of nods.

    "I learned Tai Chi, and meditation, from my father, knife fighting, throwing, blade work, via a family friend, a soldier." I put my knife, naked, on the table, blade pointing at neither of us.

    "Astral projection, that's less certain, but my father learned it, maybe always knew it, at some level. And, when I survived my physical murder, I'd the beginnings of it, too."

    "Things got complicated, clones, aliens, time travel, Nazis, ancient conspiracies, more aliens, immortals, even more aliens, immortal time-travelling amnesiac priest... Alternate selves, secret bases, alien conspiracies, dimensional travel, magical aliens, more Nazis, alien robots, ghost Nazi, omnicidal robots..."

    "Yes, complicated. And, I picked-up the odd skill, here and there. Including the basics of super-science. Then, the beginnings of chi, from multiple sources."

    "I arrived in this world, naked. You might say that's when I was born, or at least re-born. Was offered and accepted an apprenticeship. Have worked to learn, be accepted."

    "And, now I'm here."

    Sucked teeth.

    "So. You're not a dedicated martial artist? You're an engineer, who by circumstance has got funny abilities. A tag-along. You don't have a drive to be the best of the best? Be admired by all? Save the world? You don't want to impress girls?" He stops, thinks for a moment.

    "Or, boys?" He pauses for breath.

    "No?"

    "And, Higher Powers want me to forge you into a saviour of at least one world?" Roshi glares at me.

    "Yes?"

    I watch him, briefly, as he moves, repeatedly.

    "Please don't bang your head on the table. Yes, it's sturdy, but I'm sure your head is more so."

    ---

    I'm with Cyborg. We've been discussing the situation. We agree it's messy.

    "Raven shadow-touched Terra. There's something wrong with her. Physically, she's pretty healthy, but, something's out of balance." He sighs. I slump, a little.

    "I'm sorry, I just don't have the tools. I'd need at least an alch-tech medi scanner, and while, theoretically, I might be good enough to build one, that's more than five-weeks work, in a good enough workshop. Which I don't have."

    "So, tools to build the tools. And, I'm not convinced I'm skilled enough. Which you'd better be if you're messing with medical stuff. I certainly don't have the practical experience." I wave my hands, rather helplessly.

    We try, and fail, at simultaneous sighing.

    "OK. Sub-basement time." He claps his hands together, bounces to his feet.

    "We'll do everything we can to finish preparing for installing that alien medical system, on the assumption Raven can actually summon it. You push-on with build cell work on all the construction and support robots. I'll twist Robin's arm to help with cryptography for the secure systems, the comms links. If he can't do it himself he'll know who to contact."

    "But, he will help."

    And, we get to work.

    ---

    Raven's in a thoughtful mood. Today I'm showing her my dimension walking, even though I only discovered it a few hours ago. She's 'walking' me through the various local planes, the safer ones, anyway. Explaining how to avoid the dangerous, the deadly, possibilities. Listing some of the entities I'll need to know more about. Teaching me how to tune my senses, to feel where the next step would take me.

    Apparently I can still astral project, but, that's sort of folded itself into the more general power. She thinks if I go some places I'll leave a false body behind, a sort of place-holder, even though my physical body will travel. That, I'll often be leaving a trail others can follow, physically, if they hurry, maybe even if they don't have the ability to d-walk themselves.

    It's a whole new world, in more than one sense.

    Once or twice she reaches out, touches my robe, looks pensive. But, says nothing.

    By the end of the session it seems she's come to some sort of decision.

    "Please have, what for us, is an early night's sleep. We'll be working in the astral, again. I was unsure whether you, I, were ready, but I think we've run out of time."

    "Then, in the early hours, we'll wake, do purification rites, go down and attempt that summoning. The dimensional tides should be nearly ideal, and I've found a target that should work. But, we'll need to make some deals, promises."

    "Have a pleasant evening."




    AN: I guess you could say Geo's had an 'interesting' life, before coming here, even if a lot of events were things she observed from the sidelines...

    AN: I guess stream ciphers might interest... A one-time pad might be nice, but, past a certain point sneakernet doesn't tend to be a usable delivery mechanism...

    AN: Dimension walking, sounds pretty useful, doesn't it. Of course, there's a risk you might attract the wrong sort of attention. (Just to be clear, I'm not claiming this world is a Shadow in a Chaos-Amber multiverse, but, Amberites can be well-travelled...)
     
    Last edited: Jun 8, 2020
  27. Threadmarks: Dada, Gift and Fulcrum - Episode 27
    Ace Dreamer

    Ace Dreamer Questioning The Nature of our Realities

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    Raven Lunacy, Episode 27

    My evening'd been pretty quiet till Garfield came to call. A little light reading, mixed with meditation. Something Victor said, the other day, about everyone needing a hobby had struck a chord. His was tinkering with vehicles. And, I was trying to work-out what at least one of mine might be. Working all the time is bad for you.

    While some of my reading was fiction, the rest was advanced mathematics, 'bleeding edge' physics, technology. My dad's quite a good math-hacker, inventor, so, sue me!

    Garfield wanted to talk about Time, and Terra. Apparently he'd gathered we'd had visions of the future. And, wanted to warn me.

    "I said I'd memories of past decades. Something I try not to think about, too much. I died more than once. Went evil, for a bit. As did my friends. It's all really messed-up." He sighed.

    Sighing at the start isn't a good sign... I've a nasty suspicion my mind's about to be boggled.

    "Time. You're pretty clever, and I think from somewhere things are more normal. In this world you rarely get people talking about dates. Even what month it is. Except in fiction, tv shows. Time here isn't really broken, more really... stretchy."

    "If I try real hard I can remember being young, well, younger, in Africa, in the late 1950s. Caught a strange disease, my parents used... weird science to save me. That's where the green skin and the shape-shifting come from. Can also remember being a child several other times." He sighs, again.

    "No. This isn't reincarnation, that past lives stuff. This's all one, mangled, life."

    "Time is just a bit stretchy for most people, but things all tend to fit together. I'm different because I was in the Doom Patrol, we got mixed-up with the Brotherhood of Dada. Who were really, really, strange. That's why I can remember Time in such a mixed-up way." He looks thoughtful.

    "Bit of a curse, and I think it makes me easier to control, mentally confuse. But, yeah, the meditation is helping. Thanks, without you Raven wouldn't have pushed it on the rest of us."

    "So. What I want you to take away. Visions of the future. Steal ideas from them, don't trust them. If the past has changed the future is even less reliable. So, is Terra evil-evil? Mad-mad? Dunno."

    "Okay?"

    I just blink.

    ---

    I'd recovered from Garfield's visit, looked up 'Dada' in an encyclopedia, decided art wasn't going to be my main hobby. Settled-down, read some fantasy fiction Kori had loaned me. Dragons and the wizards that rode around on them. Nice story, if a bit 'light', a bit too heavy on the cliches.

    Managed the early night. Only took a half-hour of meditation and careful relaxation. I think I dreamed of flying, but underwater, with somehow no problems of breathing, and something about trying to find my lost car keys. Which, is a bit funny, because I don't own a car, and I've no license.

    This time I stepped-out of my body as Raven approached, astrally. If she wasn't trying to hide herself I'd got better at sensing (hearing?) her approach. She looked me over, nodded at my robed and booted garb, and, we started travelling.

    We'd stopped in an empty astral realm, I didn't think I'd visited before. I think it was pretty 'high', if that means anything. Good for private business?

    "I'd like to show you my vision", she makes a quick negative gesture.

    "No! There's good reasons those are private. Yes, you could manipulate our surroundings, replay the vision. But, there would be consequences. Possibly really bad ones." She looks me in the eyes. She didn't look angry, but, she was clearly very certain. Then, she relaxes a bit.

    "If you talk about the vision, that is usually safe. Avoid too much detail, try and concentrate on how it affected you. What you told us about Slade, the fallen Tower, I'm guessing that was OK for you to pass on."

    I think for a few moments. Something had been bubbling in my mind, for a few days now, and it'd finally come to the surface.

    "Raven? If we do it right, you could learn a skill from me, one I've carefully stripped-away all the personal context from? The reason I ask is that something's been troubling you, and, this might help..."

    ---

    I'd given Raven the skill, as a small, blue, pill. She'd looked at it, thought, briefly smiled, then swallowed it. Of course I agreed to what she asked next. I owed her so much. And she needed the help.

    Down, down, far into the depths. The depths of Raven. Her essence. Nothing as near-surface as our previous journey to the roots of her mind. Into her spirit. The lower boundaries.

    There were red tendrils, picking at her. But, they seemed uncertain, without a clear target. I provided a fulcrum, she with immense strain, shifted some of her flows, her fundamentals. Then, wove into place, other, ghost, parts, well-protected, but targets for the red attack. It hurt. A lot. In ways I'd never been hurt before. But, it felt right, worth it.

    Every so often, I caught her glancing at a tiny, blue, mirror. The gift I'd given her. The core of the self-analysis skill I'd been accidentally gifted, in turn, by my father. Not something I felt I could use, yet, myself, but it looked like she'd put it to good use.

    ---

    We're back in her normal mind-scape. It seems a more pleasant, balanced, place. I'd asked her if following the tendrils 'home', really, really, carefully was a good idea. She's started to say 'No', then, paused.

    "I'll have to think about it."

    "Something else I've been thinking about, Raven. Maybe a silly question, but, the whole third-eye thing. Seeing magic, other stuff. Got me thinking. What is magic, fundamentally? How does it work, at a basic level?"

    Again, she looks as though she's going to speak, but stops. Looks into the distance. Then, makes a small grin.

    "Really deep questions, tonight. Let's shelve those for the moment." Another tiny grin.

    “Not practical to actually go all the way there, with everything else we plan to do. But, we need some relaxation. I've got a mirror, over here. We can watch some of my favourite memories of the ponies. Are you happy with that?"

    "Sure!"




    AN: Recommended reading, anything by Richard Feynman.

    AN: Dada was a revolt against the traditional, claimed to be 'anti-art'. If you thought super-heroics is weird...

    AN: The film The Matrix is not known in this setting, and 'the blue pill' being Viagra might be a more likely association for the characters to make... except, that isn't known of either. I might recommend Dalmas's The Reality Matrix which out-boggles the film by quite a bit.

    AN: Seeing as it's not that common a word, fulcrum...
     
    Last edited: Jun 9, 2020
  28. Threadmarks: Pony, Wizard, Nurse - Episode 28
    Ace Dreamer

    Ace Dreamer Questioning The Nature of our Realities

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    Raven Lunacy, Episode 28

    Pony watching. Well, Raven's memories of such. She must've spent a lot of time, an invisible watcher, of their world, to get such a selection. Carefully not interacting, changing anything, so she could flit up and down their time-line.

    I think finding them had worked well for her.

    Now, after I'd returned to my body, asleep in my bed. Then, physically, to her room. Purification exercises. Sky-clad, of course. Made it quicker and easier. Meditation. Centring. Getting ourselves back in balance.

    The pain, the strain, of working with Raven, spiritually shifting, changing, the roots of her fundamental self. Now mostly faded, but, I suspected it'd be several days before it fully healed. Spiritual 'muscles', not something I knew I had, before coming to this world. I'd certainly given them a work-out, tonight.

    ---

    Sub-basement. Behind locked doors. Greatly improved by Victor and my work, these last few days. Wire mesh in the walls, floor, ceiling, a Faraday cage. Over a sensor mesh. Mixed with heavy-duty force-field emitters, not currently active, which we hoped would provide even better defences, as we enabled them. Hopefully all would work with the ritual defences that Raven had embedded, turn bad luck, evil forces, away from this place, preserve it from destruction.

    Inside, white ceramics, easy to clean, indirect lighting, glare-free, triple-redundant power systems. Well. Currently only double-redundant, but, the infrastructure was there. Still a lot of work to do. In the centre, a ceramic-lined pit, man-deep.

    Around the pit, our summoning circle. All the ritual elements, the tools, prepared. I thought I'd known, in general terms, what Raven planned. She'd shown me visions, of her earlier summoning, which fetched the mind interface. But, it appeared, this was going to be different. Very different.

    ---

    Dimension walking. Of a sort I've never done before. Through time. Into the recent past. Before we'd raised these defences. Then, a long way, cross dimensions, through deadly sub-worlds, to a place magic, not science, rules. A place considered fantasy in many worlds.

    A wizard. Female. Half dark elf, the rest giant spider. A 'drider' I'd been told, by Raven on our journey. Changed by magic thought by some a divine 'blessing', in this case a terrible curse. For political reasons.

    I'm wearing a Raven-gifted ring, that lets me speak the language. There's been a dealing, an agreement, the final part of something Raven did before. I'm... unhappy. Something is... wrong. But, I can't decide what it is.

    "We've agreed. I open the gateway, to the far world you want. Hold it open. Wait till you return, or, a night and a day passes. You return with your prize. Restore me to how I was, before this curse. Whichever, I destroy the gateway, so there's no future path. You go on your way, neither of us harming the other, directly or indirectly, for a year and a day. I..."

    "Wait!" I hope I'm not doing something terribly stupid.

    They both turn to look at me. I feel the terrible weight of their gaze.

    "Why does your pupil speak? You said she was here for instruction, not to interfere in our dealings!"

    Raven's gaze weighs me, rather than impales.

    "We should listen to what she says. Sometimes she shows unusual wisdom."

    I gulp.

    "You can never go back, to how you were. You can only go forwards. If you go back, completely, you will have nothing, not even memory, of how you were cursed, not the promise you are making. So, the deal, the promise, is invalid. You must agree to be transformed, into a shape that resembles how you were. Otherwise..." I wave my arms, a little helplessly.

    They stare at me. Then, Raven speaks.

    "She makes a good point. The agreement, as it stands, is subject to interpretation by higher powers. You made it quite clear you want to minimise the risk of that. I'd suggest we incorporate her suggestion."

    They discuss, for a while. Modify the agreement. Swear it. The wizard bows to me, a very strange movement, gives me a finger-ring, of dark metal. I can feel both magic and chi very strong in this.

    "For balance", she says.

    ---

    A world of science. I think. Floating in vacuum. Preserved by a bracelet Raven loaned me, strongly suggested I keep locked on my arm. Far between the stars. Moving towards a shape, which glows in my super-science-sight.

    We stop. There's a blue figure, I think about half-human height, standing on the object. I'm seeing it with psychic vision, there's nothing there, otherwise. We float forward, each under our own power. The object is a thing of high technology, looks ripped from a larger structure. There's a faint force-field, around it.

    Raven reaches out, touches my temple. A strange sensation, I'm half astral projecting. It... tingles. The blue figure resolves into a short woman, dressed in medical-looking whites. I think she's got blonde hair.

    "So, you're back. Physically, this time. That's impressive. Your probe was the only company I've had for decades, since the ship was destroyed. That you found me, could communicate with my lost spirit. Just that was impressive. This..." She shakes her head.

    Looking at the energy flows, mostly very weak, I can see the object is an auto doc. An advanced piece of alchemical technology. Complete with support devices, even emergency power. Just what we searched for, needed. And, there's a few, maybe at most a half-dozen, faint life-sparks within it. That's a complication.

    "I brought my pupil. She'll be your main liaison, co-worker. She's a doctor."

    I think Raven is stretching the truth a bit, there... But, I'll go along with it.

    The blue lady looks more interested. "I wondered how you were going to convince me of your good intentions. I'll destroy the medical module rather than letting it fall into the wrong hands." She looks at me, with penetrating eyes.

    "You're both little more than children, though your teacher hides it well. Come forward, child. Shake hands. We'll see if what left of the 'Seed of Life' has acquired a new owner."

    ---

    Not quite mental combat, though I felt... Nurse 'tasted' my spiritual self quite carefully. Decided she approved. That's probably why she indicated, a few hundred klicks off, another fragment of the ship, part of it's engineering stores. Suggested it might have usefully salvaged 'spares'. At best a distant, faint, spark to my vision.

    Raven concentrates, reaches out, and it warps itself to appear near us. All several hundred, maybe more than a thousand, tonnes of it.

    We've agreed to 'incarnate' Nurse, using her own facilities, in one of the servitor's stored within her. Raven seems a lot happier to hear we're not dragging any more beings out of this world, back to our own. I've found a tool-box. Advanced tools. Nice stuff to salvage.

    A-looting we will go!

    ---

    Back in the basement. Raven floating the module, salvage piled off to one side. I'm going round with a melder ('material welder', I think), trimming off bits of excess flooring, measuring things, lining up power connectors, data cables. Yes, I'm pretty tired, not really used to zero-gravity work. But, it's a good feeling.

    She's managed to keep that up, in the air, while plugging the potential ward-hole, stopping travel from the past, through our defences. I'd helped as much as I could. Though, I thought I saw sweat, on her brow, as we finished.

    Maybe another ten minutes work, and she can drop the thing into place. Then, we can start covering it with the faux 'healing beds', currently piled off to one side. Raven'd told Cyborg the required dimensions, for hole, and beds, but, as always, reality needs some adjustment.

    I'd like to think, a good night's work.




    AN: Possibly relevant, sky-clad.

    AN: Electricity, EM radiation, you mean you can cage it out?

    AN: Flora, or in this case, fauna; drider.

    AN: While Nurse is an OC, the 'Seed of Life' is not an original creation... (OK, I'll be fair, it's a 'Hawkwind' reference. :) )

    AN: "A-Looting We Will Go" is a repurposed version of the old song A-Hunting We Will Go - you might wonder where she learned it...

    AN: Friend or faux? (How to pronounce it.) Sorry about that. :)

    AN: Do you think that's too many Author Notes? :)
     
    Last edited: Jun 10, 2020
  29. Threadmarks: Hide & Seek, Smurf and Security - Episode 29
    Ace Dreamer

    Ace Dreamer Questioning The Nature of our Realities

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    Raven Lunacy, Episode 29

    Not really a 'grand opening', but, it seemed smart to ensure the whole team knew about the med-bay. Nice idea. Problem was, they didn't seem able to find it.

    No problems for Raven or myself. Cyborg was OK. The others...

    The rest, plus Terra, seemed to have forgotten there ever was such a place, if they knew in the first place. Thought the sub-basement was the bottom floor, both by stairway and lifts/elevators. Ignoring the submarine pen.

    A bit embarrassing, really. "Too good a job?", murmured Raven.

    I was pretty sure Master Roshi was secretly smirking, though, he kept a straight face.

    Raven and I looked at each other.

    We were both visibly tired, it'd been a long, hard, night. Though, a profitable one. But, there was obviously more work to do.

    ---

    A bit of magical research. My mage sight was generous enough to kick-in, so that helped. The place was still there, quite real, part of the universe, but people's minds seemed to slide off it.

    I'd talked to Nurse, now wired for sound. She found it quite amusing. Asked if we were planning to take the Tower, fly around in Space with it. Interestingly, she'd told me she was, originally, a high-grade AI, a fraction of her ship's AI, that'd grown, over centuries of operation, into a true intelligence.

    And, maybe, something more. AIs don't, generally, have a spiritual self. I think (though I do). Who knows how things worked in her universe of origin?

    The answer seemed to be, escort them down, introduce them to Nurse, have her say they were 'welcome'. How that applied to people brought-in unconscious was unclear. I guess we'd find out, in time.

    ---

    We experimented, a bit. Cyborg, not being obviously magical, seemed a suitable subject, and he took it in good spirit. He told Beast Boy about the med-bay, where it was, showed him maps, plans, of the Tower. Nothing. The same seemed the case with Terra, though we were a bit less thorough with her.

    Starfire said she could feel there was something she was having trouble thinking about, but, even with her training, that was the best she could do. Robin wasn't 'prepared to play games', and he wasn't happy part of the Tower had been magically hidden from him. We just didn't bother with Master Roshi.

    A bit more testing, I couldn't explain things to people so they could find it. Raven thought she probably could, if she tried hard enough, but was concerned about damaging the, still relatively new, wards. For the moment she thought it best not to tinker with them.

    I talked about it with Cyborg. We agreed it was the old balance between security and convenience. We might've managed 'so secure it was less useful'.

    ---

    While we'd been messing around, the construction robots had mounted a large screen, in portrait-mode, over the med-hub, in the centre of the 'star' of seven med-beds. Later, we'd put-up another couple, so there'd be three facings.

    Nurse put an image up, of her blue humanoid form, in her medical whites, so people'd have an avatar to be introduced to. Beast Boy, of course, declared she was 'Nurse Smurf'. And, everyone looked at him.

    Nurse thought for a few moments, with human body-language. "I should give a name, and 'Nurse' is more a job title. I'll use 'Nurf', if that doesn't offend anyone?"

    We look at each other, no one comments. So, I guess, sorta, a new team member. Though, currently a rather fixed location one.

    ---

    The actual demo. I lie down in one of the seven med-beds, fully-dressed, though I do take my boots off. The lid closes, and the air flow and faint flower smell, a faint hiss of sound, seem to help me from feeling confined. Cyborg's done a good job. We might mount a flat screen, for conscious patients to watch, I suppose.

    My super-science-sight (s-sight?) kicks-in, and I see faint energy flows around me, originating in the med-hub. They look good. And, with a moment's effort, through my radio collar, I also watch things using a temporary camera, on a construction bench, off to one side.

    On the big screen, where Nurse, I guess I should say 'Nurf', had her avatar, there's now a white on pale-blue human outline. Surrounded by readings, including heart rhythm, temperature, blood pressure, respiration, basic brain waves. I know this is all translated to match local medical conventions. And, will need 'tuning'. But, a good start.

    "I'm fully conscious, and not in any distress", I speak through the rig the camera is on. Terra jumps, looks back and forth tween bed and camera. The rest take it in their stride.

    "You should be able to see some medical readings above me, the sorts of thing a doctor would want to know, in a hurry. With a little scan time more detail could be shown, anything wrong with my blood, injuries, foreign objects, organs which look unusual. All sorts of things."

    "We've set the place up to keep medical details private, little things like what you look like without a mask, fingerprints, retina patterns, genetics. And, once Robin's expert comes through, we'll be making that even more secure."

    "I think you've seen this place is secure from casual inspection. Possibly more than we planned." There's a little laughter.

    "And, if you can't find a place, it's difficult to attack it."

    "So, anyone else want to see how comfortable the beds are?"

    ---

    Robin didn't try a med-bed. What a surprise. Neither did Master Roshi. But, seeing as he's dead, without a real physical body, probably not much point. The screen showed a blank for Raven, I'll have to talk to her about that. Starfire, and Beast Boy, were strange. Cyborg obviously massively injured, but stable. And, Terra... Further analysis was required.

    I'm facing a screen, in a room as secure as we can make it. Bar the telecoms link, which allows the green mask to show on the screen. Robin's contact. Oracle.

    An introduction, distorted voice. Someone who values their privacy.

    A good sign for an encryption expert...




    AN: Portrait vs. Landscape mode...

    AN: Body language is worth knowing about... One reason people want (or don't want) video, as well as audio, communication...

    AN: I'm guessing some people haven't heard of smurfs...
     
    Last edited: Jun 11, 2020
  30. Threadmarks: R&R, Oracle, Robin? - Episode 30
    Ace Dreamer

    Ace Dreamer Questioning The Nature of our Realities

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    Raven Lunacy, Episode 30

    While I was eager to get on with things, after the med-bay demo, Raven had other ideas. She looked me in the eyes, apparently seeing something I couldn't, took my pulse, in several different places on my wrist, then placed her hand on my forehead, while she concentrated.

    "Physically sound, mentally exhausted", was her diagnosis, "Go spend some time relaxing in the city, and, no using your radio to work on technology in the Tower". Unfortunately, she knew me too well.

    So, it was a lazy day, until late afternoon, wandering around shops, visiting Japantown, again, going to a museum. I'd asked if I could do some food shopping for the team, but, I was firmly told "No!". So, lazy day is lazy.

    Fortunately, no unusual incidents, though I felt itchy on the back of my neck, once or twice. Traditionally that meant someone was staring at me, but, I didn't spot any watcher. Maybe I needed to ask Robin for some street awareness training? Somehow, I'd always associated that with being untruthful, lying, probably because I thought of the 'following people' applications.

    Which, in retrospect, is a bit strange. There's probably something deeper.

    Next visit I needed to think about covering my tracks, better. Maybe 'arrive' at an airport, hire a car, practice navigating around the city? Those are skills I need to dust-off, get out of their storage box. Literally, in my case.

    ---

    I'm back at the Tower. Have had a snack, because I lunched in the city. Nothing too disastrous seems to have happened, so I've got away with it. And... Cyborg informs me Robin's contact is now available to talk, and, I'm 'it'.

    Costume-up. Prepare myself mentally. Notebook, etc. And... go.

    ---

    The green mask on the screen was a nice touch. I doubt it was designed to show emotions, but it did give something to focus on. Oracle. I've the impression Cyborg'd heard of her, and had some respect.

    "Welcome to Titan Tower, Oracle. You may call me Sugoi."

    "Glad to be here. Straight to business. I'm told you have a security problem, needing an expert with more skill than you have on-site."

    "Yes. There's one immediate problem, and a number of longer-term ones. Partly due to concerns about privacy, partly down to us currently being under attack."

    "Oh? I'm assuming you don't mean physically."

    "No. We know we're being attacked in multiple ways, including espionage, bugging, hacking attempts, and, mystically, though I'm assuming the last isn't your concern."

    There's a brief, electronically-distorted, laugh.

    "No. Information security is why I'm involved. If there's magical matters I'll leave that to others."

    A pause.

    "It sounds like you've not got a simple problem. Why don't you sketch-out the immediate issue, with any background I'll need to understand it?"

    ---

    We talk for quite a while. She, I'm pretty sure it was a human woman, or an AI designed to act as one, seemed intelligent and pleasant. As well as very, very, knowledgeable. It was good to talk to someone who shared my interests in problem solving. I also suspect that, maybe, she was a little lonely.

    I'd raised the matter of securing our medical data, locally, and off-site. She was pretty sure she could source some servers, of the self-destruct to avoid physical tampering, variety. I'd drawn on the security expertise that went into my style of robots, without mentioning its origin, and she seems quite impressed, described it as 'innovative'.

    The requirement to hide everything, data and meta-data, while it's not in active use interested her. Restrict access to data to those who needed particular items for particular purposes. Resisting traffic analysis, 'technopaths'. I didn't mention 'techno pagans', because they're almost impossible to stop, particularly if they combine distant viewing and retro-cognition.

    She laughed at the 'security fan dance' logic.

    Using PGP (Pretty Good Privacy) in an earlier project also interested her, as she'd heard of it, but commented that it wasn't, yet, in wide use. That I thought its static nature restricted it, for our purposes, and I wanted something dynamic, to do stream encoding, with multi-level, changing, keys, rather surprised her. As did my rude comments on certificate-based systems, and trusting the authorities who held them.

    I explained this was based on the work of a British academic who was a software engineer, interested in distributed meta-data databases, and had... rather controversial views. But, I couldn't locate any references to give her, so I was having to work from memory.

    "You do know you're stirring things up?" I was rather surprised by this comment.

    "Those chip designs, they're going to turn the cell phone industry on its head. And, there's talk going around, in tech circles, of the Teen Titans having an expert on robotics. Not whether it's a team member, or a technician, but 'someone'. I'm guessing that's you?"

    "Yes?" I guess we'd better check how that might've got out. I don't know of any press releases. Robin?

    He couldn't have been that stupid, could he?

    "You don't trust Robin?"

    Ah. Maybe I said something out loud?

    "I... think it's more he doesn't trust me. There's... issues about my skill-set. I just do my best to get on with him."

    "I see. Not really my business. You don't know what you should say to me, which, is quite sensible." An electronic cough.

    "I'm pretty sure we'll be speaking, again. I've some ideas about approaches which might work. You'll be receiving a book list, and references to academic papers, that you might like to check-out." I can almost hear a grin.

    "There will be a Test."




    AN: Is Raven using something like acupuncture? How would I know? :)

    AN: Metadata is a good start, traffic analysis may interest. 'Security fan dance' is an analogy with fan dancing with two large fans, and never quite showing anything... NSFW. Then there's PGP... A bit on certificates...

    AN: You probably know this, but there's solid security reasons to be concerned about technopaths. It's probably a bit early to be concerned with techno pagans, but, you never know...

    AN: If you want to read-up on these things, I recommend Bruce Schneier, and he's also got some excellent books.
     
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