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Infernal Conundrum - Story Only Thread (Worm/Exalted)(Crosspost)

Discussion in 'Questing' started by Thief of Words, Jul 14, 2016.

  1. Thief of Words

    Thief of Words Still Broken, but Less Lost

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    This page is reserved for the Index post once I get it updated. Please do not post in this thread.

    Crossposted from SV.

    Current Discussion Thread: Here.
     
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  2. Thief of Words

    Thief of Words Still Broken, but Less Lost

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    Chrysalis 1.1

    The demon proceeded, immaterial, through the corridors of a mortal building, its claws tapping out an inaudible tattoo along the ceramic-tile floors. It was surrounded by and it passed through a minor multitude of adolescent mortality. The murmur and sussurus of their voices provided a comforting din, reminding it of the frantic efforts demonkind made to stave off the loving, destructive caress of Adorjan and her daughter winds. It felt a surprising moment of kinship for the fleeting creatures, knowing that powers beyond their control would one day unavoidably end their existences. Perhaps it was knowledge like that which led its kin to behave in ways it found so very inexplicable. But! That did not matter for now. It had a quest. A task. A compulsive need to deliver what it bore. Continuing through the horde of adolescent mortality, it continued to allow itself to be led, unerring, toward the heroic soul the demon's passenger found itself ineluctably drawn toward. Passing through the substanceless walls of this essence-starved place's matter, it found itself in a room filled with miniature cells or cubicles in which the mortals typically went to deal with the unsavory byproducts of their biological inefficiency. It was a curious feat of architecture, with each of the cubicles or stalls being designed to lock, but only from the inside, perhaps to stave off threats during the moments of vulnerability such wasteful yet apparently unavoidable processes forced upon them. Not that the starveling soul its passenger pulled it toward came here for that reason now. No, its target often came here, but where the creature typically spent this time consuming fuel for her continued survival or seeking reprieve from...ah.

    Speaking of...The demon skittered back from where another adolescent mortal had entered the chamber. Behind it, the target drew her appendages in and slowed her breathing, clearly pretending she did not exist. For its part, the demon pulled back through the wall and out of the chamber. It had noted an odd perceptiveness in the one of the target's three persistent tormentors with the brown skin and dark hair. Even with it dematerialized, when it passed through the aggressive and athletic mortal, she had reacted immediately, looking around in panic followed immediately by fury. Its mission was too important to risk her detecting it. Besides, its prognostication abilities had assured it the appointed time came soon. Only a few weeks more, and this false truce would fall through, the target would lose her reprieve from her tormentors. When it did, only then would she be in a position to to accept its charge.

    Or, it thought, we'll die.

    The dark-skinned mortal made her way from the chamber, and the target released the breath she'd held, relief etched in the sagging of her shoulders. It felt some measure of pity for her at that. She had no idea what awaited her.

    ooo

    You stare dumbfounded in front of a fresh puddle of breakfast-hued vomit, at the gaping hell-mouth that the Trio have turned your locker into some time before the end of the November break. Overwhelmed by the reek of rotten blood and your inability to come up with any reason for anyone to hate anyone, much less you, that much, you don't react in time as Sophia steps up behind you, seizing a handful of your hair, and forcing you through the pool of vomit towards the defiled space. You start to struggle, trying to get free from her, but as you do, aware of the eyes of most of the gathered students upon you, the bully's arm jerked suddenly, her grip tightening to the point that hairs are pulled from your head as she forces you face first into the waiting locker. As you try to lever yourself out of the locker she slams the door home. Sharp pain makes head swim and your senses reel. You miss the sound of the lock being set in place in your disorientation.

    Blood. Rot. Darkness. Pain.

    You struggle to pull your thoughts together into something that makes sense.

    Laughter. Frustration. Futility.

    You scream, half-choking as the fetor of your surroundings brings up the last vestiges of your breakfast. Your vision swims. The coughing fit sends a spike of agony through your skull. Someone. Surely someone will help. Anyone? You try to call out again; the throbbing of your head dissuades you.

    Trapped. Wounded.

    You fight to keep from hyperventilating. Your thoughts are slippery. You aren't sure why you're afraid, but you know it's important.

    Alone.

    <"You're about to die.">

    Before you can reflect that the thought was not your own, the world unravels.

    ooo

    The locker is no more. The school, as well, fades from your perceptions. Above and all around you, immense figures contort and writhe, intermingling and rearranging in ways your mind is unable to track. Creatures the scale of worlds, fill the horizon and beyond. Their inexplicable geometries dwarf Earth tiself, and you don't think you're even seeing all of them at any one time. They shudder, then begin to disintegrate, pieces disgorged like continents breaking apart in a tectonic catastrophe. This goes on for some time before one of the larger pieces breaks from one of them.

    DESTINATION.

    AGREEMENT.


    The piece arcs through an explicable course directly at you, even though the path can in no way be called straight. It reaches you and--

    ooo

    Alien presences, sensations surround you. You trapped. In a hellish box with dead and rotting blood. You can't think straight. It hurts to try. Countless bizarre and frightful creatures are around you. You're trapped. Where? Box. Coffin? Dead?

    <"You are about to die.">

    Your heart rate spikes, slamming against your ribcage as though seeking to escape. Someone's there! Maybe they can...they can get you out! Away from these things. Wait. Dying?! "N...nn!"

    <"In precisely twenty seconds, you are going to lose consciousness. When you do, you will choke on your own vomit, and you will die."> The genteel voice continues with an odd hesitance. <"I can prevent that, if you will let me."> It huffed out a billowy sigh. <"May I?">

    Unable to get the words out correctly without another fit of coughing, you just nod, your need to get out overwhelming. Besides, things can't--

    <"Very well. Please do try not to panic.">

    --panic? Why would you panic?

    It turns out you were wrong. You were very wrong. With a sudden squelch and an uptick in the cocophony made by the creatures in your mind, something huge and segmented appears around you, long limbs clad in a glistening green carapace wrapping around your body, immersing you in a billowing clould of white vapor as you are embraced by a creature whose limbs look like a giant spider crab was cross-bred with a redneck knife shop. As it grips you tighter, the creature's limbs stretch and distend to engulf you whole. You try to scream, but you cannot tell if you have a mouth anymore. Your world goes dark.

    ooo

    You are suspended in the warm and the dark. You sense nothing for a span of time you cannot quantify. It could have been moments or eons, and you have no way of telling. And then, suddenly, you begin to remember.
    The first moments. Zen-mu. Hiding your flame and whispers amongst the glorious radiance and decrees of your King. The perfection of symmetry and order. The endless battle against the hordes of raw chaos and inchoate potentia. The wonders of the great work. The causality-engine. The games. Your servants, your chattel. A place for every thing. Every thing in its place. And then...disaster. The visions begin to show signs of stress, as of a looking glass which shimmers and strains against great pressure. The great engine throws a gear. The servants rebel. The chattel rise up. They are not gracious in defeat. They do not want to preserve your Order. The horror of kin dying. The rage of betrayal and rejection, not just of you, but of everything you stood for. Striking out. And there the glass warps, shatters. Forcing upon the victors a diminished prize. Caged, improsned. Trapped. Forced to watch the twisted wrecks loss has turned your kin into. Unable to escape. Unable to fix them. Unable to fix the broken system. The visions come faster and faster, blurring beyond all comprehensibility. You understand and see everything, briefly...very briefly, you comprehend Existence and all its varieties. You grasp the secret underpinnings of all realities, but they slip from your fingers. The knowledge drains from your mind, growing hazier and hazier. You can scarcely hold onto to the thoughts, the memories distorted, commingled with your own, fragmented and warped like a reflection thrown in a shattered, half-molten mirror. The visions continue, too fast to even process, your own memories commingling with...your own/theirs/its/HERS. You relive the agony of life since your mother's death, the shattering of your world, your family, all at the whims of random chance. It was the shatterpoint, the single point of failure which sent cracks radiating out into every other aspect of your life. Emma growing distant. Your father, collapsing in upon himself. School becoming an interminable torment forced to see and relive the awful knowledge that somewhere along the way, some basic fact of your reality was irreparably broken and you had no idea how, no reason why. The incomprehensibility of Emma's betrayal, of the Trio's torments. The failure of the school, the teachers, the order they were supposed to represent, the systems of authority which were supposed to protect you...but didn't. And worse. The fact that your personal suffering had been but a symptom of a greater disease. Nothing less than the wholesale breakdown of the city, of the country, of the world. The slow decay of Brockton Bay, and the inescapable inertia of human society breaking down on the most fundamental levels. No one seemed able to stop it. No one seemed able to fix it.

    You didn't know how, but you would.


    YOU WILL FIX BROCKTON BAY.

    ooo

    You open your eyes to darkness. A moment's panic overcomes you and you thrash, breaking yourself free of...whatever was holding you with a series of loud cracks, like a crab leg's shell beign broken open. Stumbling free of the...weirdly shaped constraints you had been held in, you find yourself in an empty, white room. Aside from the thing you just broke out of and the pieces of it which broke off when you escaped, you're the only thing in the room. It's featureless save for the sealed door set into one wall. You know--without knowing how you know--that the room is a perfect cube in dimensions, precisely ten cubic yards in volume. You don't know why you're certain of that. You just know that you are. Your eyes sting at the brilliant and gleaming green-white light that inundates the room without out any source you can see. As you try to shake off the profound sense of disorientation the unfamiliar surroundings bring, your gathering thoughts are scattered by the interruption of a voice.

    ooo

    [ ] You've never heard this voice in your life. (Coil)
    --They speak to you in calm, confident tones. Whoever they are, they are entirely certain of what they're telling you.

    [ ] You've heard the voice a handful of times on the news. (Director Piggot)
    --Poorly-concealed aggravation gives you the impression that, somehow, the spearker blames you for a day that has gone completely and utterly off the rails.

    [ ] You've heard the voice before, but you can't quite place when. (Coadjutor)
    --A dream-like sense of de-ja vu envelops you at the cultured, tentative tones.

    [ ] You've heard the voice before; you'd recognize it anywhere. (Danny)
    --The worry and uncertainty in it, however, gives you pause.

    [ ] The voice isn't one you recognize, but the sense of bewilderment they convey is mirror to your own. (Lisa)
    --You're not sure why, but they sound as poleaxed as you feel right now. Still, they don't have to sound so amused by everything.

    [ ] Something Else
    --Feel free to write in a different suggestion of who might be greeting Taylor in her first moments outside the Chrysalis Grotesque. Be forewarned that some suggestions will be folded into a vote for one of the other possibilities, should I have already covered it.

    ooo
    [ Urge - Fix Brockton Bay] Gained!
     
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  3. Thief of Words

    Thief of Words Still Broken, but Less Lost

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    Chrysalis 1.2


    [X] The voice isn't one you recognize, but the sense of bewilderment they convey is mirror to your own. (Lisa)
    --You're not sure why, but they sound as poleaxed as you feel right now. Still, they don't have to sound so amused by everything.

    [X] If you've got it, flaunt it!
    --Subtlety is for lesser beings than a living avatar of the Yozis. Bring on the flesh-change!
    ooo


    "What the hell?! How does an inanimate object even manage to scream?!" The voice, female, interrupts your attempts to get your bearings and startles you into placing your foot down on a loose piece of the...whatever it was you just came out of.

    <"Not to be rude or confuse you further, but it's our chrysalis."> This second voice is one you've heard before, but you don't have time to dwell on that; as your weight goes onto the curved bit of shell, it slides under you, causing you to stumble briefly. The stumble is brief only because for one jarring moment your leg bends backwards, reversing at the knee joint to keep your footing stable enough for you to shift your weight onto your other leg.


    Catching yourself on the floor to arrest your fall forward, you take a moment to process what you're seeing, even as the voice which derailed your earlier train of thought keeps speaking. "This was supposed to be easy. No need to worry about interference from capes, just keep watch on an inanimate fucking object until he could arrange a pickup. Now I've got to figure out what the fresh hell just came out of there, and how to relocate or protect it. While out of costume. In the middle of the Docks. Before any of the gangs or worse get here." There's a scraping sound, very much in line with someone moving from seated against the door to standing in front of it. A momentary panic seizes you and you dart from where you were crouched nearly parallel to the floor...only to misjudge your stride and slam bodily into the wall. There's a short and stifled shriek at the bang of your flesh smacking into the metal of the wall, the shout coming from the other side of the door even as you let out a muttered, "Owww."

    Your unexpectedly long stride reminds you of what you'd noticed before, just as you'd fallen. "What the hell happened to my arms? A-and legs? And...," you trail off, bewildered at the adult-sounding voice that's coming out of your mouth. It's like your voice, but...older. Somewhere between six and ten years older, if you had to guess, "and my voice," you manage to mutter. At your speech, the person on the other side of the door shifts, calling out amusedly. "Helloo~!" Even as you register that the green-white light flooding the room was coming from around your body, the light begins to fade, leaving you to wonder at the too-long, too-thin nature of your arms and legs. Spindly-looking and backed by slight spines on their trailing edges, your arms look like they're encased in a set of long opera gloves. Or they would, if opera gloves were made of a shiny carapace which shifted from green to blue and back again depending on the light. But it's not just that...or the corresponding, you mentally categorize them as stockings, as the carapace starts mid-thigh and runs down to your too-long, too-many-jointed toes. Each limb is longer than it should be, and has anywhere from one to, in the case of your various digits, up to three more joints than it ought to have. Like your toes, your fingers end in little curved points which resemble nothing so much as the last leg-joint on a crab's leg. Prodding at one hand with the index finger of the other, you notice it has give to it, not being that much tougher than you'd expect skin to be.

    "Whoever's in there, I'm here to help you." Pulling on a well of power you sense inside and around you, you follow the dictates of a half-remembered instinct. As you do, you hear the truth of what she's saying resounding with beautifully harmonious resonance in every syllable of what she's saying. "If you'll step in front of the door so I can at least get a good look at you, I'll go ahead and unlock the door so we can get out of here before the gangs start showing up. Just don't jump me like happened in that one horror movie from Earth-Aleph, the one with the alien."

    <Gangs? Oh, joyous night! I can not wait to teach you the tricks to fighting one against many!>


    You freeze at the second voice piping back up. It's an oddly genteel voice, reminding you of nothing so much as an oddly androgynous British movie character, effete and slightly fussy. It takes you a moment to place the voice as the one you heard back in the locker, the one that offered you help before...whatever it was happened. Looking down at your arm with some chagrin, you assume that you must've triggered...you...you're a cape, now. Putting that out of mind, even as a part of your mind notes the glow in the room fading from painfully bright to a glimmering glow coming from roughly the middle of your forehead, you stand up and step in front of the door.

    There's an awkward moment's pause as you wait for the sound of the lock turning before the voice speaks up again, "Okaay. Not that they aren't nice and all, but when I said I wanted a look at you I didn't mean, 'Show me your tits'. I'm here to help you get safely away, not to proposition you." There's a hint of laughter in her voice. With a shock you realize she's right: the window leading into the room is right at...Huh.

    Well those weren't there when I went to school this morning. Aaand I'm naked. Why am I naked?

    There's a sense of embarassment as the dapper voice adds, <Er...apologies. Miiight be my fault. Nature of the transformation, I'm afraid. Chrysalis is more than a bit rough on fabrics.>


    There's a mock-discreet cough at the door and girl continues on. "Ahem. Wow. You are tall. But! Right, mind crouching down a bit so I can at least get a look at your face?" Obliging, you crouch down your many-jointed legs, peering out through the little window in the door's upper surface. Through it, you catch sight of a girl, blonde-haired. You'd put her at maybe a year older than you, maybe your own age. "Oh, wow. Wasn't expecting the third eye there. Mostly human-looking face. Gorgeous, in that uncanny valley, horror movie, please-don't-eat me kind of way. Kind of like the Siberian or the," she trails off, her smile fading a little as she realizes what she's saying. It doesn't take much thought to fill in the blank in her statement. Like the Simurgh? She thinks I look like a fucking Endbringer?!

    "I'm babbling, aren't I?" You nod, too busy trying to figure out what the sensations which surround you, her, and a surprisingly wide area around the both of you are to really respond adequately. That sense of alien beings from before, from...shit, right, my locker. You look around a moment. Well, clearly I'm not still at the school.

    <Hmm? You're uncertain on the Endbringer resemblance? Well, I suppose I can go over the appearances to see if what she's saying is merited. Hmm...Leviathan? No. Though it does look like something Kimbery would come up with. Behemoth...well, if he were properly oiled up and had enough eyes he'd almost look like Father...as for the Simurgh...oh. Well. No, she's totally off base.>


    You start to breathe a sigh of relief.

    <She looks far too half-formed to be a creature of HERS, such as yourself. Though I could see where the mistake could be made. You are approximately the right height to be next in the pattern. Give or take half a foot. But she is far too cludgy and asymmetrical. Whereas you have perfect bilateral symmetry.>

    "Who even are you?" You aren't entirely sure which of the pair you're asking. Fortunately for you, both presume you mean them.

    "You can call me," the blonde in the hallway outside your room pauses a moment, "eh, why not. You can call me Lisa." She offers you a vulpine grin. "And I'm guessing that you're Taylor Hebert, right? The missing girl from Winslow?" Something about the way she says that makes you think it's in no way a guess.

    <Oh dear! How utterly cretinous of me. I am Joyous Uncertainty, citizen of the First Circle, and you may think of me as a guide of sorts. I'm your Unwoven Coadjutor, though I suppose the easiest way to explain it is halfway between a shoulder demon and a roommate for your soul.>

    This all being somewhat overwhelming, you hold up your hands, gesturing for both of them to stop. Taking a few seconds to process everything you were just told, you nod at Lisa. "I...yes. Missing? I...what time is it? School had just started the last I remember."


    "Nighttime." She says, a faint smile still tweaking her lips up at edges. "But!" she claps her hands and begins rubbing them together, "we don't actually have time to go over everything you've missed. Yet. First, we need to get the Hell out of Dodge. Because I'm pretty sure that most of the city could see your little light show back there. That means capes, and since we're in the Docks right now, that means the ABB and E88. I don't know about you," she turned and started walking briskly through the blindingly white halls, clearly expecting you to follow, "but I have no intention of staying around to get caught by either group. We have about ten or fifteen minutes before the first gang members should get here. Don't suppose you know how your powers work, do you?" You shake your head mutely, unsure how to respond to that. You don't even know exactly what it was you did a moment ago, or what the things you keep sensing are. "Ah, that's a shame. Guess we'll have to figure them out later. For now, if we head outside, do you think you can keep your head down and run? Because we really need to get away from this part of town."

    You nod again, backing up to make space as she opens the door. Stepping back from the doorway, she gives you a half-mocking bow. As she does, she quirks up an eyebrow. "Huh. Can't say I was expecting the whole cloud-for-hair thing to be so all-over."


    You blink, reaching up to pull your hair in front of your eyes, only to find that your hands pass straight through to your scalp. Patting the top of your head in panic you manage to sob out, "My hair?! WHERE THE FUCK IS MY HAIR?!" Lisa's eyes go wide at that. Leaning back, she presses herself against the wall, fear etching her features for a moment, her eyes darting across your features.

    <Ah...that, well. It's not my fault, per se.> The voice you kept hearing in your head offers. <"But that sounds like a way my physiology and yours are intersecting.>

    There's an awkward pause on all three sides of the situation.

    <If it helps, more dramatic transformations are supposedly a mark of favor.>


    You stifle the urge to scream, instead balling your overly-long fingers into fists. "Fine," you manage to bite off. "Do you have a plan from here?"

    Lisa frowns, gesturing for you to proceed ahead of her. Setting into a quick, space-eating lope, you quickly find yourself pulling well ahead of her, despite your need to duck your head to keep from scraping the roughly ten-foot ceiling. "Well, first part is to get out of here, obviously. From here...unless you have somewhere else to go, I figured we could try to head for the Ship Graveyard, since it's more or less uninhabited."

    You take several deep breaths, forcing yourself to calm. "Can't say I have a better idea right now." Frowning, you turn to look behind you, catching a glimpse of wispy, white billows which seem to sublimate off your scalp. "Are you coming or do I need to carry you?" Your snappish tone seems to prompt her to quicker action.

    Lisa breaks into a jog, her eyebrows furrowing as she considers something. As you pass beyond the white-bleached segments of the cheap storage units which make up the building you're in, she gestures for you to make a right turn. Making the turn, the two of you find yourself at an exit door. Lisa having to hurry to keep up with your steady walking speed, you arrive first. Reaching out with one of your arms, which now reach to roughly mid-calf on your nine-foot plus height, you tug at the exit door, only to find it locked. Arching one brow at Lisa you wait for her to catch up.

    "Okay," she manages to pant out as she catches up to you at the door, her fingers dancing deftly through a quick combination of numbers on the electronic door lock, "definitely some kind of Mover power on your part, even if it's just a result of your long legs." Looking back up at you after catching her breath, she offers you a vixenesque smirk before warning you, "Just in case you forgot, it is January out there, so...sorry in advance." Tugging the door open, she blasts you with a frigid gust of winter air. Stifling the urge to curse up a blue streak, you follow the jacket-clad girl out and into the dark of the late-night Docks. Looking right, then left, then closing her eyes and listening for exactly five seconds, she looks up at you and says, "From here we have two or three options. Ship graveyard is more or less due North of here. We can hook left around the building ahead of us, erring westwards on street level. It's probably the most immediately risky route, since the ABB are almost certainly ahead of the Empire goons in getting here. Then there's going right and hooking east. That'll pull us towards skinhead central. They've probably got more guys and a bigger chance of having ground-pounding capes than the ABB, but we've got longer before we'll likely run into them. Or, given that you look like you've got a solid sixteen-feet or so reach flat-footed, we can see if you can hook the rooftop dead ahead of us, pull me up with you, and make a roof-level bee-line for the graveyard. Almost certain not to run into anyone but high-mobility capes if we're traveling at ceiling level, so Oni Lee, Rune, and maybe a couple of others at the worst. Since any of those plans depends on your reach or how quickly you can run...well, I'll leave it up to you. Which way do you want to go?"

    ooo

    [ ] Take the high road
    --Chance running into capes above roof level to avoid the risk of running into any gangers.

    [ ] I think I'm turning Japanese
    --Turn left and risk a more immediate run-in with the ABB at a reduced risk of encountering capes.

    [ ] Take the skinheads bowling
    --Go right and run the risk of encountering a mix of E88 capes and gangers, but with a greater head-start than you'd have with the ABB.
     
  4. Thief of Words

    Thief of Words Still Broken, but Less Lost

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    Chrysalis 1.3
    [X] Take the high road
    --Chance running into capes above roof level to avoid the risk of running into any gangers.
    -total votes: 13



    ooo

    Pulling your arms around yourself and resisting the urge to shiver, you take just a moment to consider, before deciding. "We'll go up. Neither of the other two sound like something I want to have to deal with." Nodding thoughtfully, Lisa walks over to a section of sheet metal propped up against the side of the storage facility's wall. Shoving it out of the way, she grabs a dark duffel bag, hooking it over her shoulder before gesturing for you to proceed. "I don't suppose you have any spare clothes in there?" Your tone is hopeful, more so than you really feel at the moment. Part of your mind notes that, catalogues it as probable shock at everything that has happened, and sets it aside. You feel gratified that you're able to keep your teeth from chattering as you speak. The cold doesn't seem to hit you as hard as it should, based on the billowing clouds of vapor your and Lisa's breath send up, but it's still cold. And you still don't want to be caught out, naked, in the Docks, by a bunch of criminals and possible rapists. You don't want to be caught out at all, but especially not by that sort.

    Lisa looks up at you for a moment before nodding. "Some. Not sure how well they'll fit, but," she stoops and quickly unzips a tiny portion of the bag, turning around to rummage through and hand you a pair of pants, a turtleneck, and an oversized jacket. As she does, you catch a glimpse of something metallic, a gun, you realize, as well as a hint of black spandex. She stiffens as you catch sight of it, not having turned her head, yet you're positive she knew you'd seen it. She sighs. "Damn. Absolutely nothing is going to go right tonight, is it?" Your mind races as you try to think of any reason for a girl your age to be alone, in the docks, with a gun, and with what was obviously part of a cape's costume. You didn't follow cape news as closely as you had, but you're pretty sure you'd have remembered the local Wards getting someone new, outside of the member they'd gotten last year. The costume didn't fit what you knew about her, and between that and the gun, "I don't suppose you're going to be able to convince me you're some sort of vigilante, are you?" Lisa frowned, but shook her head. Dammit. She considered a moment, then shook the hand proffering the clothes at you.

    "Take them."

    "Um...what?" You blinked at her, uncomprehending.

    "The clothes, take them." She turns around, letting the duffle slip off her shoulder, holding them up for you to grab. You reach for them, but you hold off on accepting them. Seeing your hesitation, she rolls her eyes. "Just take the clothes already. It's freezing out here, and I didn't lie about wanting to help you." Once you took the clothes from her, she sighed and reached up to muss her hair, pulling it loose from the careful braid she'd had it in. It isn't so much that she completely unfastened it, just...roughened it up a bit. "You're going to want to keep moving. You'll be drawing a lot of attention, glowing like you are. If you see a man in a red and green demon mask, run. He teleports and leaves copies. Likes to have them commit suicide with grenades. If you see someone with a metal mask and tattoos, run faster. No one wants Lung fighting."

    Your mouth goes dry at that. Not trusting your voice to not crack, you just nod, cinching the belt tightly around the too-loose but too-short pants she handed you. "If nothing else, most of the flyers in the city are in New Wave or the Wards. Just...if you see them, be sure to let them know you're friendly. Your looks are a bit," she shrugs, "striking, at the moment." Frowning at something, she produces a cell phone from a jacket pocket. "Yes. Complications starting. The others? Oh. I see. Any chance? No? Okay." She winced. "No, no need for pickup. I can manage something. Yep. Positive." Snapping the phone closed and putting it away, she looks back at you. "Why are you still here? Move! You don't have a ton of time if you want to get away."

    You start to protest, but she holds up a forestalling hand. "I'll manage. Just...never tell anyone about this next part, okay?" That said, she braces herself, before punching her own eye, nose, and lip. After a moment to recover, she sniffles around the nosebleed she's just given herself, catching some of it and dabbing it in varous spots of her clothes to make it look worse than it really is. "Now if you'll excuse me, I've got a bunch of Nazis to sic on the ABB." Before you can protest, she'd already tweaked her own bleeding nose hard enough to draw tears, then scooped up her bag and set off running to the right, toward where she said the E88 goons were coming from.

    <I take it that wasn't normal for mortal children?>


    You stifle a squeak as the mental voice reaches you. You'd forgotten about the...hallucination? Side effect? Setting off at a lope, you coil your long legs and launch yourself towards the roof of the front-facing building, only to scrabble to gain purchase on the lip of the roof as your jump extends far further than should've been possible.

    <Hallucination!?> The voice is indignant. <I'll have you know, I am a demon, not a hallucination. And I saved your life, thank you very much.> There's a mental equivalent to a huffy sigh. <The gall of it! Me, a hallucination.>


    Catching hold of it with one hand, you find yourself levered up and over the peak of the roof, only to smack onto the top of the building with an involuntary grunt. As you manage to dust yourself off and start psyching yourself up to try jumping to the next building across the way, you respond to the indignant supposed-demon. I...am going to assume you're some sort of side effect of my powers. Or that I'm losing my mind.

    You get a sense of mute outrage from the presence in your mind. Resolving to ignore it for now--and hoping it isn't a sign of some future mental instability waiting for you down the line--you spring into a run towards the front of the building, launching yourself across the space between buildings, the glow from your forehead forming a streak of green light as you arc through the air. Touching down on the next rooftop over, you keep your legs keep your legs working before launching yourself across to another. Feeling a thrill of exhiliration at what you're doing, despite your fear, you have to fight back the urge to whoop with delight as you send yourself rushing through the air and onto the air-conditioner-studded roof of another of the Docks' old defunct warehouses. Skidding to slow down, you try to duck behind the rusted-over climate control units to get a view of the area behind you.

    Just as you duck into cover, you see a figure in black appear suddenly on the roof you'd just vacated. He stalks across the room, a predator on the hunt, one hand holding a knife before him, the other clutching something attached to his belt. A green and red mask of a leering demon's face pans left, then right, before locking eyes on your hiding place. He looks directly at the shining spot in the middle of your forehead. Cursing and leaping overtop of the next AC unit in the row, you just manage to hunker down behind it as, the startled figure explodes in a cloud of shrapnel and flame. As he does, another explosion goes off several yards away where another figure, another Oni Lee, had tossed away the grenade he'd held before it could blow up in his hands. Snarling, the teleporting assassin disintegrated into a billowing cloud of ash, even as the voice from before shouted in your head.

    <Taylor! DUCK! Now!>

    Startled by the shout, you stumble, which your new joints turn into a roll, giving you a chance to see Oni Lee's blades pass through the space formerly occupied by your heart. Keeping your momentum going, you roll up into a run and launch yourself across the gap between buildings, only to hook the edge of the cheap roofing and dropping low, again rolling under his blades, which glint in the green light that comes from your forehead. As you scuttle back from the attacker, yet another clone collapses to so much dust. As you pant to catch your breath, you catch sight of Oni Lee, perched atop a nearby rooftop, his mask leering in contemplation of you.


    <Oh, oh dear. That...that is not good,> the dapper demon in your mind says.

    What's not? You think right back at it.

    <I've seen this sort of behavior before. In the Demon City. Zsofika. He's...he's toying with you.>


    He's...great. Just. Great. It never stops, does it? All the bullshit you've put up with at school, after mom's death, and even just today. You get superpowers and they turn you into this...this spindly freak. Into this awful mockery of everything you hate most about yourself. And for a minute, when you were running, you'd forgotten. You'd been able to just enjoy how awesome it felt to have superpowers. But even that had to turn into the same. Exact. Same. Fucking. Thing. Bigger stage, bigger Taylor, same psychotic bullshit. You couldn't keep this up forever. If nothing else, either Lung would arrive to where his lieutenant was fighting--if you desperately dodging and him toying with your hopes and desire to survive could even be called that, the E88 capes would reach you, or Oni Lee would get bored with your attempts to evade him and just kill you. Either way, it ended up the same: you, dead. Your dad, never knowing what happened to you. Never able to get closure for losing you. Buried under a hope so painful that it was a worse poison than despair.

    That was not happening. You would not allow it. He deserved better. You deserved better. And you weren't the same person you'd been before. You would not be a victim. Not again. Things had changed. You had powers now. It was about time you used them.

    ooo

    Fight Time! Choose one, stunts will shape just how the option proceeds.

    [ ] When in doubt, take the cheap way out. (TED Approach)
    --You don't stand a chance in a fair fight against Oni Lee. So don't fight fair. Find a way to cheat.

    [ ] They mostly come at night...Mostly. ("Just another bug hunt.")
    --Whatever these alien sensations and things you keep feeling are, they must have something to do with your power. Make them help you.

    [ ] The better part of valor.(Adorjani approach)
    --You aren't crazy. Oni Lee is a known serial killer with superhuman fricking powers. You've never been in, much less won, a fight in your life. Better you find a way to escape than face certain death.

    [ ] Good things come to those who wait. (Cecelynian approach)
    --You don't actually need to beat Oni Lee. Just buy yourself time. If Lisa was telling the truth, then the pillar of white light which drew the gangs here would almost certainly draw a Protectorate response, or one from New Wave.

    [ ]Mind over matter. (SWLiHN approach)
    --You aren't a trained fighter. You don't have to be. You're smart, and you're observant. Somehow, you can turn that into a strength, find something to let you beat him.

    [ ]Rage is a Hell of an anaesthetic. (Malfean approach)
    --You've been hurt. Again. And again. And again. No more. You are mad as Hell, and you're not going to take it anymore.

    [ ]Like Poison running through my veins. (Kimberian approach)
    --He wanted to hurt you? Fine. Let. Him. Try. He'd learn to be careful what he wished for.

    [ ] Deja Vu all over again. (Past Life's approach)
    --You don't know how to fight. But you remember knowing how to fight. A hazy memory, like a half-remembered dream. You just have to make yourself rember again.

    [ ]Write in.
    --Do something else.
     
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  5. Thief of Words

    Thief of Words Still Broken, but Less Lost

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    Chyrsalis 1.4

    [X] Mind over matter. (Pyrian approach)
    --You aren't a trained fighter. You don't have to be. You're smart, and you're observant. Somehow, you can turn that into a strength, find something to let you beat him.




    ooo

    For a moment, you crouch there, limbs tensed and coiled like springs, watching the crouching killer before you. You wait, watch, and listen for any sign of his next attack. in the distance you can hear the growing commotion of the gangs. The crack and pop of distant small arms fire No doubt the explosions will draw further attention to your position. You focus on Oni Lee so intently, that when the sign you waited for finally came, you nearly missed it. There is the barest scrape of a foot on the rooftop, before you are jarred from your thoughts by a scream from your in-head houseguest.

    <MOVE!>


    Not pausing to ask where, you throw yourself into a forward roll, even as the first flakes of grey ash begin to drift down from the Oni Lee ahead of you. Again you're hit with the realization that you can't keep up what you're doing right now. You don't have his skill, and his ability to teleport means he's striking at you with an extreme efficiency, where you have to expend far more effort to dodge and weave around his attacks. You quickly consider simply charging him, but dismiss the idea as reckless and stupid. You aren't a trained fighter. He is. But, you realize, you don't have to be. You're smarter than he is. Sure, he has more experience at this than you have. He has this down to a near-science. Unfortunately for him, science is predictable, and you're very observant. Somehow, you can turn that into a strength. If you can find the pattern to his attacks, something in it will let you beat him.

    You don't stop moving as you contemplate this, merely allowing your roll to unfold into a run. As you move, you make a beeline straight for the nearest of the cooling units, again using your new-found flexibility to send yourself sailing over it just as the tink of another grenade's metal casing bouncing off the rooftop reaches you. Throwing yourself into a sailing leap, you let the unit shield you from the spray of shrapnel the grenade emits, even as you land into a sudden juke, a clatter of thrown knives rattling against the spot you'd have been in, had you not altered course.

    Keep warning me about his attacks, okay? I'm going to try and get a read on the pattern to them. If he was smart about using his power, he'd have killed Lung and taken over the ABB already.

    Launching yourself across the gap between buildings yet again, striving to shake the pursuit, you coil your legs in anticipation, just before another Oni Lee appears ahead of you, intent on taking advantage of your aerial state to force you into a predictable arc of motion. Grimacing as one of his thrown knives scores a searing cut alongside one arm, you lash out against him with a two-legged drop kick, using the new momentum and a swiftly snatched handhold to haul yourself down and alongside the edge of the new landing site's edifice. Releasing your grip on the roof, you fall down to hook a hold on the barred window below, just as your assailant above bursts into a bloom of flame and ashes. Your heart hammering hard against your chest, you try to ignore the way your sweat makes the frigid January air freeze harder. Getting a hold onto the side of the roof no normal person would have the flexibility to manage (and for that matter most professional gymnasts couldn't crack), you vault up onto the roof again.


    Left, down, up, back. Your delusion/mind-guest/soul-parasite continues to warn you about your enemy's actions. As the shift of combat continues to play out, your mind races, finally finding a snag to start to unravel. Before you manage to capitalize it, however, you find yourself again harried by the hateful assassin's attacks.

    Oh God, another grenade! you think, barely managing to bat it back far enough from yourself to stop the shrapnel from reaching you as you get ready to force yourself through another jump on your knife-nicked leg.

    How am I supposed to deal with this!? I could probably handle the rate he's going at, but I can't stop everything forever, and he's barely having to make the slightest effort!

    <Listen, Taylor.> Time seemed to slow down as your head-crab hallucination spoke up, it seeming more like you drift to the next rooftop than soar like the leaps you've made thus far. <Continue to think about this logically. I know you can, and your power can help with it. You can see the three explosives on his bandolier, yes? Surely you've noticed he's often in your range when he closes in for a killing stab. Pull the pins on them.>

    But that's murder!

    <Yes, and?> The mental voice holds a chilling lack of concern about that fact. <He is trying to murder you. I am merely advocating that we beat him to the punch, as it were.>

    But...but I'm a hero! Or...or I'm going to be! Heroes don't murder people.


    <...> The voice in your mind is conspicuous in its silence as you notice a knife darting in from the edge of your peripheral vision. Hopping back, you manage to throw off his aim by hooking the blunt edge of the knife on one of your arm's spines and pulling it out of line before you jump back to get out of range of the inevitable detonation.

    <Your world clearly has a very different definition of heroes than mine does. Very well. He's still a murderer. And you've seen how he managed to rid himself of the one grenado he took with him before. He might well still survive the experience.>


    As you begin looking for another means to defeat Oni Lee, you realize the spines on your arms have some degree of flexibility. You raise an arm in reflex to parry his strike, catching another of his blades between the spines. He teleports onto one of the air conditioning units before you manage a proper counterattack though.

    You begin looking, watching for weaknesses, him doing the same, more serious-

    Something gave you the feeling he was behind you. You do some kind of crouching pivot you'd never done before in your life, parrying him a second time.

    <Get Back!>


    Click. Your backwards leap takes you onto a previous rooftop, where the ruins of the air conditioning unit which took a grenade for you give an idea. Refrigerants. Exposed Wire. Sharp Metal. All of it on the other side as Oni Lee follows you across. You could use the sparking wire or the shorn metal, but if you're remembering an OSHA presentation you had to sit in on with your dad correctly, trying to grab them would involve poisoning yourself by inhaling the leaking refrigerant gas.

    Dipping into that pool of power you felt before as you admit you can't think of another way, you again feel that synaptic acceleration as your processing speed hurtles forward at a racing pace. Parrying again, you manage to wrest the knife from the gang-member's hand, and a heavy kick to his chest knocks him back before he crumples into ash again. You forced him to teleport, leaving another grenade. The grenades. The self-professed shoulder devil isn't wrong. It would be easy. It'd be an efficient way to end the fight. And surely you'd be able to claim self defense. Right?

    The next he teleports in at you you're whirling about the moment the mental warning for your mind-guest starts, lashing out with an arm to hook one of your overlong fingers through the pins of all three grenades on his belt before launching yourself over him, and starting to run. The figure behind you detonates in a wet, meaty spray of body parts, several of which slap and patter against you, soaking you in blood and less definable offal much to your horror. You stumble and fall, your empty stomach dry heaving.

    Oh God. I just killed man. I just killed a man. I'm...I'm, you don't manage to finish the thought as the slap and clatter of a knife-laden bandolier hitting an adjacent rooftop shakes you from your self-loathing shock long enough to see another set of grenades, left there by the real Oni Lee, explode in the distance. Just as you're managing to stagger to your feet and the caked on gore from the burst duplicant evaporates to a heavy coating of ash all over your back and shoulders, you see the a golden-hued streak smash into the rooftop where Oni Lee had retreated to, cratering the place the now-vanished killer had just been. As a golden-hued figure flies up from the hole she'd just put into the rooftop, you can't help but feel a staggering awe at the radiant perfection of her form...until the terrified screaming of your hallucination gets your attention.

    <NOPE. NO. NOPE, NOPENOPENOPE. THEY'RE ALL SUPPOSED TO BE DEAD! WE ARE LEAVING NOW! GET US OUT OF HERE BEFORE SHE MURDERS US BOTH!>


    You blink. Why would Glory Girl murder you?

    The demon ceases its surprisingly shrill screaming, clearly poring over the memories the awe-inspiring young heroine called to mind, before lamely managing a quiet, <Oh. Sorry. I thought she...you know what, it doesn't matter. Clearly irrational of me. Carry on.>

    As Glory Girl looks around for sign of the vanished assassin, your ears make out the sound of an especially loud motorcyle approaching your building. If you remember rightly, Armsmaster uses a motorcycle when he needs to get around the city quickly.

    Surely one of the heroes can help you out of this mess.

    ooo

    [Flaw: Enemy-Oni Lee] Gained!
    [Unwoven Coadjutor 5: Joyous Uncertainty, Sanguine Tomescu] Gained!
    [First She Who Lives in Her Name Excellency (x3)] Gained!

    [ ]Glory, Glory Halleluia
    --Attempt to get Glory Girl's attention. After all, her whole family are heroes, and maybe her sister can do something about the freakish changes that happened to you between getting stuffed in your locker and now.

    [ ] A Call to Arms
    --Armsmaster is the leader of the local Protectorate. He's a Hero. He's a big damn deal, and if anyone can help you make sense of all this, they can.

    [ ] Get While the Getting's Good
    --That girl from before was trying to help you. And you were just covered in blood from before. You...maybe being the tall and freakish monster girl isn't the safest thing to be in the middle of the fight between the city's major gangs. Maybe it'd be safer to escape and lie low, at least until you're unlikely to be mistaken for a villain and arrested or attacked by the good guys.

    [ ] Write In
    --Do something not listed here.
     
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  6. Thief of Words

    Thief of Words Still Broken, but Less Lost

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    Chrysalis 1.5

    [X]Glory, Glory Halleluia
    --Attempt to get Glory Girl's attention. After all, her whole family are heroes, and maybe her sister can do something about the freakish changes that happened to you between getting stuffed in your locker and now.
    Total Votes: 20
    -[x] Stunt: You crouch behind one of the intact units on the roof, hugging yourself, as you let all the confusion and fear you've been experiencing since your awakening show. "Hello." You call out. "Please, I need some help. I don't know what's going on." You let your emotions pour into your voice as you begin to cry. "I just woke up and now I look like a monster. Please. Help me!" (2-die stunt! <3)



    ooo


    It...it was over. Oni Lee had fled. Sagging with relief, you experienced a brief disorientation that sent you falling onto your butt on the rooftop. He wasn't going to kill you. You...you'd won. Or close enough, any way. Taking deep, slow breaths, you fought to master your racing pulse, the welling panic that threatened to overwhelm any semblance of rationality and thought. Oni Lee was one of the most-wanted capes in the city. One of the most dangerous people in the state. And you'd won. Well, survived, really. But against someone like that? Survival was a victory in itself.

    Drawing in on yourself, you forced your way to a wobbling stand. For a moment, you contemplated running again. You didn't want people to see you like th is. You were a freak, a hideous thing, a monster. You didn't want the heroes near here to see you like th at. Like you were a rabid beast to be put down. Another villain, another monster for the birdcage. And you knew it didn't look good. Though most of him had burst into ash, the Oni Lee clone which had exploded all over your gifted clothes had left conspicuous blood-stains on your borrowed, ill-fitting garments. Still, as little as the idea of them seeing you and assuming you were a threat to be put down appealed, you knew you couldn't run. That would only make things worse.

    So you forced yourself to move, slinking over to crouch behind one of the still-intact climate control units. As you wrapped yourself in a tight hug, knees pulled in to somewhere just above head level, you tried to draw their attention. You couldn't help it; the confusion, fear, pain, and bewilderment you'd been experiencing ever since your awakening tinged your voice. "Hello?" Your call was plaintive, hurting, and an undercurrent of desperation threatened to drown the whole. "P-p-please? I...," you shuddered and hugged yourself tighter in a manner that had nothing to do with the cold, "I need help! I-I...I d-don't know what's...what's...I don't know what's going o-on." Your voice cracks on that last syllable, your voice going hoarse, rasping a moment. Though you clench your eyes tightly shut, you can feel the burn of unshed tears.

    Mom, Emma, Dad. So much loss in so short a time. And now. Now, when you get what you'd dreamed of for as long as you can remember wanting anything, becoming a cape, life finds a way to twist the knife even further. You were one. But you were a freak, a monster, a creature that didn't even look human any more.

    The flood of emotion overwhelming all reason suffuses your voice as you cry out, "I just...just woke up and," hot tears carve molten trails down your cheeks, "and I l-l-look like a," you sob, a wracking, pained thing. "Like a m-m-m-monster-her-errr!" You're wailing by the end, but you can't help it. Months, years of pain held behind a tightly controlled dam have finally spilled over, and the flood that results permits no control, no caution, no dignity in it.

    You're startled to silence when a pair of strong arms wrap themselves around you, pulling you into a close hug. You freeze momentarily at the contact. When it doesn't relent, you unfold your limbs from around yourself and clutch tightly to the person offering you comfort. Shame, image, things like that take a distant back-seat to the raw emotional needs of the moment as you sob, you weep, you cry piteously, clinging to the person before you in desperation. You don't can't care about the judgment you might face from others right now. Your entire world was eviscerated, and for years you didn't let yourself admit the pain you felt at that. You can't hide that now.

    Eventually, you find you've cried yourself out. The person holding you goes to give your head a pat, freezing mid-gesture as their hand touches your apparently bare scalp. "S-sorry," you manage to finally mumble. They rub your scalp in the approximation of ruffling your hair anyway. As you come back to your senses, you catch the tail end of a soothing, crooning song which the mental voice from before had been singing. Your eyes still closed, you send a mental pulse of gratitude to Joyous Uncertainty, even if you still aren't convinced they're real. If they're a hallucination, at least they're one that doesn't hate you. Finally forcing your eyes open, you start to realize that Glory Girl, the Glory Girl, is the one that's been holding you and helping you through your overemotional outburst.

    Sniffling, you pull back, arms unfolding from around her. Horrified by the trail of snot from her shoulder to your nose, you offer up a murmured, "Dhorry. God snod all ober your cosdume." She laughs at that, shaking her head. "Hey, don't worry about it. It's had worse on it before." You feel the intense urge to apologize again, after all, she's a hero. A real hero, who helps people on a daily basis. And you dirtied up her uniform, as it were.

    Rolling her eyes, she stands, offering you a hand to get up. Accepting it, you unfold yourself up to your full nine-foot height. She blinks at that, then shrugs. A cocky smile splits her features. She again offers you a hand. "Ready to get out of here?" Her tone's an invitation. You start to nod, then pause.

    "I...can I do one thing first?"

    Looking up at you, Glory Girl meets your eyes with a weighing gaze, then she nods. "Sure. What do you need?"
     
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  7. Thief of Words

    Thief of Words Still Broken, but Less Lost

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    Chyrsalis 1.6

    The flash of the emergency lighting atop the various police, ambulance, and other such vehicles glinted in strobing red and blue off the edge of the knife in your hands. Shuddering at the thought of how close this blade or one just like it came to being planted in your various vital bits tonight, you set it atop the burnt bandolier full of cutlery you'd asked Glory Girl to let you grab from beside where she'd cratered an Oni Lee copy. You still weren't entirely sure why you'd wanted to take his discarded gear. A trophy? Maybe. Frowning, you amended the thought. It wasn't so much a trophy as it was a reminder. No matter how terrifying it had been, you'd made it. You survived.

    The knife returned to its spot, you pulled your arm back inside the cozy confines of the surprisingly large blanket paramedics had managed to produce from one of the nearby ambulances. Your ungainly extremities hidden under the covering, you tried to ignore the little pit of dread your stomach seems intent upon collapsing down into. Now that the adrenaline rush prompted by your flight and then fight had begun to wear off, all the questions which you'd forced to the periphery of your mind loomed their way back into your thoughts. Just what had happened to you? You remembered your locker...then, something hazy, indistinct. It had seemed important at the time, but even as you tried to place that sense, the very last vestiges of the memory evaporated like dew in the sun.

    Huffing out a sigh with a billowy cloud of breath, you wonder where Glory Girl had gotten to after she'd left you to the attention of paramedics. She'd been skeptical when you'd mentioned that most of the blood on you and soaked into your clothes wasn't your own. You'd started to dry heave again at the memory of being showered by Oni Lee's gore, but had managed to force the memory out of such visceral recollection. Eventually your insistence that you weren't going to bleed to death there on the rooftop had managed to convince her. The fact that you weren't noticeably bleeding at the time had probably helped. Although, now that you thought about it, why was that? You knew you'd gotten cut. More than once. The stinging in the wounds as you'd moved had been proof enough of that.

    <I believe I'm more than capable of explaining that.> There was a pause, followed by a more hesitant, <If you wish, that is.>

    <Speaking of things I was trying not to think about,> You nodded nonetheless, <Might as well.>

    <Very well. It is part and parcel of the changes our chrysalis made upon your body. You will find yourself more proof against harm than you were. Disease need not be anything you concern yourself with. You can stop bleeding with a simple act of will. You heal quicker, as well. A matter of hours rather than days or weeks. You also heal more thoroughly than you would otherwise. Very few, if any, things in your world might prove capable of damaging you in a manner sufficient to leave so much as a scar once you're fully healed. Also, short of outright amputation, there's not much that can actually disable you for more than the short term. Even then, that term is shorter than it would be.>


    You consider that for a moment. That could explain the fact that you didn't need bandages. <So you're, what, some mental construct my powers came up with to make using my new thinker powers and the others easier?>

    <What? Oh, oh, I see what you're getting at. No. I am not. In fact, I have absolutely nothing to do with your parahuman powers whatsoever. Neither do any of the things you've been doing tonight. And I am not some mental construct. I am a demon. And seeing as you're stuck with me, I would appreciate it if you treated me with a bit more respect than implied by your repeated attempts to dismiss me as a non-entity.>

    <Sorry,> you manage to think back at it. <It's just a hell of a lot to take in. And nothing in the world really maps to what you're telling me. It's...just kind of easier to assume I'm going crazy.>


    <Well,> it suggests, <that, or the fact that the parts that don't conform to anything in this world don't actually originate in it.>

    <What? You mean you're from another dimension, another Earth? Like Aleph?>

    <Yes, but also no.>

    You blink at that. <Um...okay? How so?>

    <I come from a different reality entirely from your own. Not simply a different dimension, but a different universe from your multiverse.>

    <So...these things I'm doing, the speed the agility, the super-analysis, those aren't because of my trigger event? Those aren't my parahuman power? Powers? I,> you trail off, hoping the mental presence can alleviate your confusion.

    <No, they are not. As far as I can tell, the only thing that is due to your parahuman abilities is your ability to sense those presences you've been thinking of as alien beings. The powers you've displayed so far are entirely because of something which, while in certain wasn't it isn't dissimilar from a trigger event, is entirely distinct from one in very important ways. It happened after your trigger event. I don't know if you clearly remember, but I offered you help. You accepted. When you did, my flesh was unwoven into the substance of the coccoon which surrounded you. My spirit, meanwhile, commingled and grew intwined with yours. And additionally, your (admittedly oddly vestigial) soul bound to the Exaltation I carried inside me.>

    <The what?>

    <Exaltation. It...the precise nature of what it is is a bit involved and highly complicated, but essentially think of it as a force-multiplier for human potential. That's how the first ones started out. Yours in particular has been...jailbroken is probably the best term for the process...has been jailbroken in order to commingle it with the essence and patterns of cosmic beings known as the Yozis. They were the Primordial Titans who created my world. As much forces of nature or principles of existence as they were beings. They...lost a war. A very long time ago, their creations rebelled against them. Killed some, imprisoned and maimed the others. Those that were killed are, frankly, no longer relevant. We're fairly certain they no longer exist anymore. Those that were maimed...fundamentally altered in their very natures, they were bound to oaths of surrended and trapped in an imperishable prison, forever kept separate from Creation and the rebellious gods and mortals that lived there. Those prisoners are the Yozis.>

    <I...wow. That's...that's a lot to take in all at once.>

    <It is? Oh dear, and here I thought I did a good job of giving you the short version of the story.>

    <That's the short version?!>

    <Quite. It's a bit over-simplified, but it gets across the cogent points.>


    You shake your head ruefully at the thought of that. After a moment, something occurs to you. <Why me?>

    <Pardon?>

    <You heard me. Why pick me? Out of everyone in the world you could have given this power to, why me?>

    <Er...that's oversimplifying it a bit, but, well. Most people in the world weren't suited for it. It...it takes a great deal of heroic potential to even be capable of being host to an Exaltation. And for an Infernal Exaltation such as you have, it requires more.>

    <More? What, more heroic potential? Then why the hell pick me of all people. I'm nothing; I'm a nobody.>


    <Where to start. First: you're wrong on both counts. The additional requirement for an Infernal Exaltation is that the person must be one of heroic potential and they must have been tempered by the knowledge of loss and failure. Loss and failure is etched into every mote of the Yozis' beings, and only one who shared the understanding of pain they have could have resonated properly with such an Exaltation. As to your second statement, the absurd one, you...you have no idea, do you?> It sounded vaguely incredulous.

    <What? It's...it's just truth. If I vanished tomorrow, it's not like anyone but my Dad would miss me.>

    <Perhaps not immediately. But in the long run? Absolutely. You...I have some ability towards precognition. I used that on your fate, your destiny before I approached you. As destiny was set to unravel, Taylor, you might well have been the most important person to have lived on Earth. Minimum of the top three.>


    You send a wave of withering scorn in response to that. If he was going to try buttering you up, at least he might as well pick something believable to try and sell it. <Me. The most important person ever to live on Earth-Bet? Hardly.>

    <You're both right and wrong there. I didn't mean on Earth-Bet. I meant on Earth. As in: any of the Earths. And apparently there are more than two, by the way. That...apparently is safe for me to tell you, though the specifics of how and why you were fated to be important...aren't. The more I told before its time, the worse things would be.> The voice paused a moment, before adding, <Not that any of it applies now. You're Exalted. Fate is yours to change and dictate to your whim as it stands already.> Softening, it proceeds, <Your fate wasn't set to be anything approaching a pleasant one. I'd rather spare you, spare both of us, from ending up that way, if possible.>

    You took your time to think through that. Unable to think of any adequate response, you just shrug and return to stewing in your own worries from before. You weren't entirely sure what to make of all this or even what your life would be like now, for that matter. You were pretty sure that a secret identity would be all but impossible to maintain looking like you did. Though...you had met Glory Girl. Maybe, just maybe she'd be willing to introduce you to her sister. And maybe she'd be able to fix you. Though, given how much she worked saving lives, you weren't entirely sure you could feel good about taking up her highly valuable time.

    It took a moment for you to realize that someone was talking to you. "S-sorry. What?" You asked, opening your eyes to find Glory Girl hovering nearby at eye-level. "I...I didn't catch what you said."

    She simply shrugged in response. "I was just asking what you wanted to do now. Normally Mom or Aunt Sarah would handle the debriefing, but honestly...Mom's busy working out details on who gets credit for what on the E88 that got captured tonight and tying Armsmaster up so he doesn't just march over here and try to badger you about joining the Protectorate before you have time to process everything, and Aunt Sarah's still calming my cousin down after a fight that almost went a bit badly for her." She shrugs. "Since all the fighting's done, there's not a lot left to do. I figured I'd go see how my sister's holding up with all the folks that got wounded tonight, since she should be just about done with that now." She offered a hand to help you to your feet, which you took. Stepping over to it, you pick up the bandolier and pull it back under your blanket-cape. Somehow, standing out here with it wrapped around you reminds you of all the times you ran around the house as a child with your sheets or a towel tied around your neck, playing at being Alexandria. That sense of childishness only made you feel more out of your depth. "I know you said you didn't need medical attention, but I'd still feel better if you let Amy give you a quick once-over. Either way, though, just let me know whatever it is you decide, ma'am." She offered a friendly grin, clearly trying to put you at ease.

    ooo

    [Intimacy: Glory Girl / Victoria Dallon - Awed Admiration (She was so unbelievably nice!)] 2/2 scenes, Established!

    [X] Time to face the music.
    --Go over to where Brandish and Armsmaster are still caught up in discussion. You're not sure you're ready for the Wards, but...well, it wasn't exactly as though you had other options, either.

    [X] Just what the doctor ordered
    --Accept Glory Girl's offer of a Panacea check-up. While there, broach the subject of whether your...alterations within the Chrysalis can be fixed.

    [X] Past-curfew check-in
    --You really should try to get ahold of a phone and call Dad. He's surely worried sick, since you didn't come home from school today.

    [X] Write-in
    --Some other action not listed in the above.
     
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  8. Thief of Words

    Thief of Words Still Broken, but Less Lost

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    Chrysalis 1.7

    <You said the transformations weren't common?> You thought at Joyous Uncertainty.

    <Yes. That does not mean you should be looking for the first Neomah equivalent you can find to get rid of them.>

    <The first what?>

    <Neomah. They're a type of flesh-shaping demon where I come from. And isn't it obvious? A Neomah's art requires work. Especially if you're pushing things by making yourself the canvas! This isn't just getting a stomach bottle bug to patch you up for some alcoholic beverages. As interesting as photographs are, they are not a suitable model for this kind of art. Unless I've misread you terribly, you want something other than simple art.>

    <I just...there is so much in those statements that I don't feel like unpacking right now. Mostly, I just don't want Dad to see me like this.>


    "You okay, Ma'am? Do you want me to get my sister?" Glory Girl interrupted your inner argument.

    <"Why anybody would want joints with such limited range of motion, I have no idea.> Joyous Uncertainty grumbled on the edge of your thoughts.


    Art. Imitation of reality. Copy of a copy. He may have had a point. That didn't mean you wanted to be completely unrecognizable. But... did you need Panacea for that?

    Glory Girl looks like she's about to ask you again but you manage to speak up first. It takes everything you are to say this.

    "She...she probably has more important things to worry about."

    You feel a surge of approval in your direction from your headcrab houseguest.

    <"Well done. Glad to know you don't find the similarities in your new biology to what mine was to be utterly abhorrent.> There was a self-evident strain of outrage mollified in the statement. It occurred to you that the things you were hating so much about how you looked now were ways in which whatever it was before it met you resembled what you'd become. Or...rather, they were ways in which what you'd become resembled what it was before it met you.


    "I can't exactly hide my identity though. I don't...I really don't know what I want to do now, but maybe we could talk again sometime?"

    "You know. If you're able to get away from Armsmaster without him getting you into the Protectorate... why not? Wait a minute... why would you?"

    Oh no. For a brief instant your heart hammered against your chest and your muscles tense to fling you away from self-evident danger. Your fight or flight response flared up in response to the suspicion in her gaze. However, it passed as quickly as it started when Glory Girl was asked to and signed an autograph for a teenage kid who startled you by taking a picture of you with his phone.

    "I'd feel better if I could at least give a good explanation of things to my family, in case Mom or Armsmaster asks. Are you okay with at least explaining however much you remember?"

    ooo


    You sighed. Explaining the situation to Glory Girl had gotten her oddly enraged, and it had taken some fast talking to keep her from tracking down the Trio and tearing them apart. Almost as much as it'd taken to convince her that yes, you were in fact 15. No, you didn't know why exactly you looked older; you hadn't even known that you did look that much older. Still, once you'd secured her promise not to tell anyone that you were the 'Missing Winslow Girl', you'd moved on to ask her for her phone number. A distant part of your mind seemed confused but curious at that...before you realized it was Uncertainty trying to decipher your intentions. Worse, he'd managed to get the wrong impression from whatever knowledge of human custom he could reference in your brain, and had positively glowed about how strong your children with her would be.

    Between that, and the beet-red color you'd turned from your chin to your ears, you were at least 40% sure that Glory Girl was under the impression that not only were you gay, but that you had a crush on her. Still, now was not the time to deal with that. And she'd seemed surprisingly flattered by the prospect. But no, now was the time to face the music. Trekking inside the hospital, you made your way to the information desk. It wasn't hard for you to get the staff's attention, what with having to duck to fit even with the high-ceilinged layout of the hospital lobby. After a brief moment of discussion, you gratefully accepted the phone the desk receptionist offered you before typing in your home phone number.

    The phone rang exactly twice before you heard the dial tone shift and it started ringing again with the new, beeping tone. It took three more rings before anyone picked up. Your father answered, his voice croaking and hoarse in a way that gripped your heart and threatened to crush it in its grasp.

    "Hello?" he managed to rasp out. "Who...who's there? Is...do you have news about my daughter?!" Your heart ached to hear the panic and painful hope in his tone. You never intended for any of this to happen, much less for him to get hurt by it.

    "I-I...D-Dad?" you managed to stutter out after swallowing your heart back down into its usual spot in your chest.

    There was a hazy note to your father's voice, as though he weren't entirely there. Drunk or punch-drunk perhaps. "A-a-annette?" he managed to get out in a froglike croak.

    "W-what? N-no. Dad, it's...it's me, Taylor. I-I'm sorry I didn't make it home tonight."

    "WHO THE FUCK DO YOU THINK...THINK YOU ARE?! Mocking me with my...my....my dead wife's voice and claiming to be my m-m-my dead daughter? What the FUCK is wrong with you, you Goddamned monster?!"

    You blinked at that, taken aback. Tears were streaming down your face, though you couldn't remember starting to cry. "I...n-no! Dad! Please. Please listen? It's me. Taylor. I...I know I didn't make it home tonight. I'm so, so, so sorry. I just...a lot happened. I know you've been worried about me, and I...you weren't wrong to. Things got worse at school. I just...a lot happened that I had to deal with before I could make it home."

    "MY DAUGHTER HAS BEEN MISSING FOR MOST OF A WEEK YOU SICK, DEGENERATE FUCK! I SWEAR, IF YOU'RE WITH THOSE PRT MOTHERFUCKERS I WILL GIVE YOU THE SAME I GAVE ARMSMASTER!"

    You...you have no idea how to respond to any of this. Your chest is wracked by sudden sobs. The wail of your cry somehow manages to reach through the cloud of rage your father is expressing. "I...hello? I...Taylor? Is...is that...is that really you? Everything's so...so fuzzy right now. They...have me on a lot of drugs while I recover. Are...are you hurt? Are you okay, kiddo? Is...is that really you? Am I hallucinating from the painkillers?"

    You feel a start and heart-rending chill at that. Your dad was hurt, and you weren't there for it. Wait. Most of a week? How...how long had you been out?

    <Five days precisely, since the Chrysalis engulfed you.>


    AND YOU DIDN'T THINK TO TELL ME THIS?!

    <I thought you already knew! You already have the ability to determine the precise time at will. I thought you were aware of the span of time.>


    "Dad, you're fine. You're not hallucinating. And I'm okay." you said as soon as you could get a word in edgewise. "I'm at the hospital. I'm... I'm not hurt. I ran into Glory Girl, and she said Panacea would check me to see if everything's okay." You winced at the fear in his reaction. "I said I wasn't hurt, but... something happened to me," you couldn't help but be worried about this next part.

    "I...oh, God, Taylor. I'm so happy you're okay. Can...can you make it to the hospital? To visit me? I'm...not in the best shape right now, but...please, kiddo? I could really use family right now."

    ooo

    [Contacts 1: New Wave] Gained!
    [Intimacy: Uncertainty's Shipper Tendencies - Utter Mortification] 1/2 scenes to establish
    [Intimacy: Dad - Fierce Protectiveness] 1/2 scenes to establish.

    [ ] Fuck Figuring out the Cape Conundrums
    --Your father needed you. You were all the family either of you had. You were more than willing to drop any and everything to be there when he needed you.

    [ ] Put off the painful explanations
    --As much as Dad deserves to know what had been happening, there are major, huge questions that you need to work out answers to first. You needed to speak with New Wave or the Protectorate to figure out where you stood.

    [ ] Write In

    --Stunt determines nature.
     
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  9. Thief of Words

    Thief of Words Still Broken, but Less Lost

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    Chrysalis 1.8


    [X] Fuck Figuring out the Cape Conundrums
    --Your father needed you. You were all the family either of you had. You were more than willing to drop any and everything to be there when he needed you.
    ooo


    "Sure dad, I'd love to see you," you managed, trying not to break down in tears again. "Um, one more thing? Something happened while I was gone, and I look a little, well no, I look a lot different. Please don't freak out when see me okay?" You hung up the phone and asked the nurse manning the front desk for directions to your dad's room. After a moment clattering away at the desk terminal to look up the registry, the nurse led you through the dull, institutional halls of the hospital. Meanwhile you twiddled your extra-jointed thumbs, trying (and failing) to think of how you're going to broach the topics at hand with your dad. After a walk that felt simultaneosuly eternal and instant, the nurse opened the door to your dad's room. You paused before you saw him, feeling eyes boring into the back of your head and cold terror gripping your heart, your stomach, and your spine. This was going to be rough. An oddly soothing and encouraging sensation filtered into your awareness. Joyous Uncertaintly was offering its support. "Um, Dad? I'm here, but... please don't be afraid, okay? I-I Know I said before, but I'm...I look a little different now. I think it'll be alright, I'll be alright, but...but I'm okay. Please, please, please don't be afraid." You poke your head in, and as you see him lying in a reclining hospital bed, hooked up to a variety of machines, drip-feeds, and instruments, you manage to rasp out a terrified, "Hi, Dad."

    An obviously bleary-eyed Danny Hebert slowly turned his head to take you in, his eyes heavily dilated and droopily half-lidded. He looked weirdly relaxed for his current situation. As he took in your form and features his eyes teared up, and he gawped openly at you, mouth working silently, even as he groped about the bedside with his left hand in order to take hold of the room's remote control and repeatedly mash the call nurse button on it. While this is all going on, your emotions race between extremes, terror at what he might be thinking, fear of discovery, anger that your father had been hurt, a broken-hearted love for the only other member of your struggling and desperate little family. The nurse, the same that had led you here, stepped inside within moments. "Yes, Mr. Hebert?" She asked the question with the trained and habitual patience of one accustomed to dealing with the heavily sedated.

    "I...c-c'n." He pointed at you with a wavering arm. "Can you see that? Her? Am...am I hallucinating right now? Am I going crazy?"

    The nurse favored him with a maternalistic smile and patted the back of his other hand. "No, Mister Hebert. You aren't hallucinating. She's really there. And this young lady came here just to see you."

    "Y-young lady? I...I'm not dreaming this? It's not my...my wife as an angel come to see me?"

    You goggle at him, not having any idea how to even start to respond to that. Instead you just offer him a shy and awkward smile, fidgeting in place as your mind runs through ways to explain. You're startled out of your furious contemplations by the next thing to come out of his mouth. "T-Taylor?!" He speaks the way a man would step onto a crumbling cliff-face that was the only path to safety, terrified that his only remaining hope would give way beneath him, but equally terrified of letting himself hope to survive. "Is...is...it...it really is you?" Your heart aches at the plaintive need in his voice. There's only one way to answer that, any other answer would tear your own heart to bloody gobbets and tatters and probably break your father irredeemably in the process. Fortunately, that answer is the truth.

    "Yeah, Dad. It...it's really me." You sidle toward the bedside, crouching down to an appropriate height. You're shocked to silence, tears of relief streaming down your face as he pulls you down into an awkward crouching hug. Clinging to and hugging him back, you realize with a start that you're both crying, both bawling in relief and talking over one another in your rush to make sure the other's okay, to understand what happened to put you both in this situation. Laughing and crying at the same time, you rest your head on your father's shoulder, letting him hold onto you and reassuring each of you that you're both okay.

    After a while, both of your tears subside, and you find yourselves able to speak...mostly. Your father is still clearly medicated, you can tell from his drowsy, unfocused expression and the slight slur to his words. "God, Taylor. I...I thought you'd died or...or worse. It...it was. Was days. No-nobody would tell me wh-what happened. Those bastards at Winslow wouldn't say a thing. Kept pushing me at the PRT. The PRT wouldn't tell me anything clear either. Just...there'd been an incident at school. Something about your locker. And...they said you were safe, at first, that they were helping you. Then...then they just shut up completely. Wouldn't tell me a damn thing. Not even let me see you. Or tell me you were alive. I," he trailed off, unwilling to repeat, 'I thought you were dead.' "I can't believe this is you...I," he trailed off trying to order is drunkenly wandering thoughts. You grimaced, only to stop short in shock as he continued. "I can't believe you...you look so much like your mother when we were younger now. I...and you sound a lot like she did back then. I...I thought you were an angel. I...you're just so beautiful, now, kid. It's...well, you look like angel, Taylor. And...I...I'm so, so, so sorry. I...I should've been there for you. Should've...should've made the damn Winslow people fix things. I...trigger events are horrible, miserable things, and I...I didnt' do anything to keep that from you. I'm so...," he trailed off, his mouth spreading in a huge yawn. He struggled to keep his eyes open, giving your hand a sleepy squeeze before drifting back to sleep.

    Behind you, the nurse tapped a tentative hand on your shoulder, gesturing to the other side of the privacy curtain the room had. In a hushed voice she gently explained, "Your father is fine, dear. It," her face paled, "it was touch and go for a long while there. But he's fine now. Honestly, probably better than fine. We just have him on muscle relaxants and bed-rest while he recooperates."

    "I...thank you for helping him. What...what happened?" you manage to croak out through a voice hoarse from tears and joy, terror and relief.

    "Your father was in an accident. A car hit him. It wasn't a pretty scene. Honestly, if Panacea hadn't been doing rounds that evening and agreed to going with the ambulance to the site...your father would've been dead before we could even get him back here. She...she stabilized him. Had to regrow an arm and a good portion of the right side of his body. It...like i said, it was touch and go. She fixed him up, however. She told us to keep him on muscle relaxants for a day or two and to put him on...well," she trailed off.

    "What? Put him on what?"

    "Suicide watch. He...he thought you were dead. Between that and the thing with Armsmaster and...well," she shrugged helplessly. "We hadn't wanted to have the calls redirected, but...he insisted. I think a part of him was certain you were okay. Or...was too desperate to give up. Either way, getting friends of his to set up the call forwarding was the only thing that stopped him from non-stop attempts to drag himself home. He...he was desperate to know you were okay. Now that he does, he should be fine."

    "I...thing with Armsmaster?"

    "You...you don't know?"

    You shook your head.

    "Oh, honey. Yeah...your father gave armsmaster that split lip he's been wearing the last couple of days. He called the man everything but a child of God in the process."

    You shifted uncomfortably about that. You knew your father had a temper. He didn't like that you knew, but you did. You never said anything to him about it, because it was obvious he didn't want you to. "I...oh." Maybe talking with Armsmaster right now isn't the best idea you've ever had. You chew on your lip, worried. You'd always assumed you'd be a hero if you ever got powers. But...with...with everything that had happened lately, you weren't sure you could handle being dropped into a bunch of strange teenagers, haivng to deal with their drama and personalities, all while dealing with the frustrating, bullshit, unhelpful oversight of adults that thought they knew better than anyone but didn't actually do shit to help the situation. It would just be like high school all over again. And if Armsmaster, your boss, had a grudge against you...it might even almost be worse. You didn't want to be at the mercy of people more powerful than you again. You refused to be at the mercy of people more powerful than you again.

    <Brass Dancer's perfect and brazen pectorals, girl. I...this high school thing sounds...it sounds like something Cecelyne would have designed. Having spent most of my long life at the whims of her systems...I am truly sorry that I can relate to how you feel about that, child.>

    <I...have no idea who or what this Cecelyne is, but she sounds like a complete bitch.>

    <I-it isn't my place to make judgments about the Unquestionable. I will only say that neither can I offer honest refutation at the moment.>

    "I know that can't be easy to hear, what with you being a...a new cape and all, but, well. If it makes you feel any better, I don't think Armsmaster has anything against your father, personally. He got plenty mad at the time, but I'm pretty sure he took your father's accident downright personal. He's been checking in on the poor thing every so often to make sure he made it. Don't know the specifics, but I think he blames himself for what happened to your daddy."


    ooo

    The nurse had left not long after that, while you sat in a nearby chair, practically drowning in the oversized scrubs she'd brought at your request for something more fitting to wear. You sat there, listening to the steady beep of the equipment hooked up to your father and turning over your options in your mind. A part of you acknowledged that you should probably go talk to Armsmaster. If nothing else you didn't want people mistaking you for some kind of villain. And if the nurse was right...well, maybe he really wouldn't have anything against you.

    ooo

    [Intimacy: Panacea/Amy Dallon - Undying Gratitude] 1/2 Scenes to establish
    [Intimacy: Cecelyne - Disgust] 1/2 scenes to establish]
    [Intimacy: Dad - Fierce Protectiveness] Established!
     
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  10. Thief of Words

    Thief of Words Still Broken, but Less Lost

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    Omake 1a: Non-canon What If

    Part 1: Emerald Empress Burns the Board Clear




    Taylor panted, waiting for the itch of the new flesh billowing from her severed arm to settle into its proper shape as her limb grew back into place. Gradually, the hissing sizzle of the acidic ichor which flowed from the wound dribbled to a stop as new skin regrew over returning muscle and sinew. Turning to face the direction of the strike which cut her arm cleanly off, she gritted her teeth. "I know you're over there, Jack! I WILL FIND YOU. SHOW YOURSELF!" As she screamed out the last sentence, emerald embers curled up from her eyes and mouth, as though the inside of her body was a roaring green furnace that had been stoked to a snarling burn. As the fires flowed up from her maw, they curled into the outline of a veridian crown, adorned with a jet eye, whose burning iris was emerald carved into the shape of a flame. On hearing the command, much to his own self-evident surprise, the tall, toned man stepped around a nearby blood-fountain, revealing his position inside the charnel house that had once been a small town's public square.

    "Now this is a wonderful twist on things." He offered a mocking bow, his long jacket trailing back as he swept back to a standing position. A knife, the knife, the one she'd taken from Oni Lee on her first night as an Exalt, the one Jack Slash had used to slit her father's throat, twirled between his fingers, spinning in a deliberate taunt while his other hand rested against his fit, well-toned abs. "I knew when I nominated you that you'd pass the others' tests with flying colors. And it's looking like you've found me, so I suppose that means you pass mine." He begins to sketch another rakish bow, freezing in place as the young woman again screamed out a command.

    "SHUT UP AND DROP THE KNIFE!" Startlement twitches into a moment's anger, before his insouciant smirk returns full force, and he cuts her throat clean through, severing tendons in her legs and arms with another four sweeps of the blade he'd hidden in his waistband. The girl before him gasps and gargles through her gore-gushing throat. Jack feels a moment's irritation. He'd gone to such effort to make a perfect mirror of the scene where she'd watched her father die. He'd even intended to use the same knife for a better ironic parallel.
    Ah well. Everyone's a critic, he mused as he stepped forward to whisper in the girl's ear, picking up the intended knife as he went. He kept well back from the poisonous blood/acid/ichor which had sprayed so liberally from her. Bonesaw had had a field day fixing the last time one of the Nine had been sprayed by the stuff. It was, in many ways, worse than Crawler's own acids. Leaning in, he continued to rake new wounds into her, knowing that it took shredding her body before she showed any sign of slowing. "Such a shame Daddy dearest never survived to see this. I think it would've shredded his heart harder than Siberian did after I gave her his corpse, watching what you became. Even more, watching you die. He might even have been glad, seeing the monster I made of you put down." And with that last syllable, he hacked once, twice, three times with the designated blade's extended edge, all-but decapitating the distressing damsel. Dropping the acid-etched edge behind him, he began to saunter away, Now where exactly had Bonesaw and the Siberian gotten to? The Hebert girl would've made a good protege, but he couldn't have someone who undermined his authority over the Nine. Pity, that; her abilities were almost as varied as Eidolon's.

    Jack stumbled, catching himself with both hands as the ground buckled beneath him. He looked up to see fissures spreading throughout the small city, glowing with sickly green and bloody red light. Following the trail of cracks, he saw the Hebert girl's mostly-severed neck regrowing itself back into place as she'd dropped to one knee and begun to fall. Catching herself, she stood, that eye-smiting white light she radiated roaring into the ginsu-crab shape it did when she really pushed herself. That clever minx! She was holding out on me. A wicked smile slanted his pretty lips. Then again, I was doing the same. It really is a pity that last new trick means I have to kill her.

    Lettering in some hieroglyphic pattern banded about her breasts, as glowing white torcs about her biceps, and about her head in a glorious and radiant crown. Her eyes glowed white and green, burning spotlights of all the hatred the world had ever seen. Drawing a spare knife he sent a slash in at her, only for it to do less than nothing. It was like trying to cut the Siberian. Scowling, he whipped his ace out of his sleeve, the weapon Mannequin had taken from Armsmaster so long ago. Extending its nanothorn edge to carve gaping slashes into the ground and buildings behind her...only to find her uncut, not so much as scratched by the matter-annihilating blade. He felt an icy edge of fear, so long since gone from his life, scrape over his spine in a cold caress.

    ooo

    As an aside, if we were doing Abyssal!Taylor quest, her title would totally be The Conqueror Worm.

    As another aside, having met the man before, I can't help but picture Jack Slash as looking and sounding just like Aurelio Voltaire. It miiight be why I always picture him wearing fabulous shoes, too.
     
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  11. Thief of Words

    Thief of Words Still Broken, but Less Lost

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    3,310
    Omake 1b: Non-canon What-if


    Jack watched in horror as the burning white flames surrounding the Hebert girl roared inward, as it seared inward, stoking that hellish furnace beyond all reason, an emerald explosion scoured his sight away, taking long moments before his vision, now tinged over with crimson after-image allowed him to see the seared, scorched mess the emerald flames had made of his side. As he blinked his eyes and made a mental note to reward Bonesaw for her pain-blocking tinker-tech, he staggered his way to his feet, grabbing a blade from a pocket hidden behind his back and trying to slash into the hellish creature before him's flesh. The insectile carapace ignored his attempts to harm it. Even when he managed to cut her at one of her many limbs' joints, she just laughed as the wound sealed itself.

    "HOLD STILL!" She screamed. Jack did. "DROP YOUR KNIFE." Again, he found himself unable to disobey. "RUN." And he did. He ran as if the very hounds of the Hell he didn't believe in were on his heels. And she laughed. A skittering, sadistic, wicked thing. He ran until his side caught a stitch and beyond. With a sudden blur she was ahead of him, glittering dragonfly wings leaving an audible thrum as they kept the 20 foot fiend aloft. "STOP." He did. "OPEN YOUR MOUTH." He did. He started to say something when, "STAY SILENT." Overrode his will and forced him to silence again. She sneered at him with that same caustic contempt. For the first time since he'd taken his new name, Jack felt small. Insignificant. Like an insect just waiting to be squashed. He wondered, not for the first time where Siberian had gotten to. Or Bonesaw. Surely the pair of them couldn't be too far away. Siberian was fond of the tiny tinker terror, and Bonesaw had been so carefully molded to adore him, she surely wouldn't let the Siberian simply abandon him. Would she? As if reading his mind, the insectile monstrosity with the human face laughed again. "Oh, Jack. So predictable. So trite." His face contorted, impotent rage willing his body to obey him. "You're done. The Nine are done. Manton's dead. And Riley," she emphasized Bonesaw's former name, "is hidden, safe where you will never be able to reach her or hurt her again. You're through. I only wish you were tougher, that I could make you suffer more for what you've done. But I'm not entirely without mercy. I'll give you one chance." She smirked in smug superiority. "BEG FOR YOUR LIFE."

    He did. Jack Slash, terror of nations, slayer of men, living nightmare, begged until his voice was too hoarse to make any sound. He begged more than any three of his victims ever had, combined. All the while, she sliced incrementally into his flesh, and he bore it without outcry, for he didn't have permission to scream. For her part, Taylor revelled in his suffering. The miserable worm before her deserved every impulse of the pain she gave him. Reluctantly, she decided it would be worth it to do so, and she called upon full force of her past life's memories of human anatomy and torture, and set about to make Jack Slash die in the most agonizing way possible. She knew she'd lose time, that Bright Shattered Ice would have control for a time after. She didn't care. It was worth it to make Jack die as horribly as was humanly possible.

    ooo

    Bright Shattered Ice blinked once, twice, the muzzy haziness of reasserting herself over her new incarnation leaving her briefly disoriented. Her hand was wet. Looking down, she saw a human heart in her grasp, looking up in bemusement, she caught sight of a mortal, rakish in a way that, had her own heart not harded in instant revulsion, would have been someone she would have bedded. He was almost as handsome as her Desus had been. Almost. The ragged, gore drenched and flayed man before her shuddered a moment, before a pair concentric circles showed themselves on his forehead, dark black-purple bruising deepening, splitting open to bleed freely. That bleeding brand began to glow with a deathly black-and-silver translucense. The heart in her hands began to beat again as the glimmering moonshadowed aurora billowed out into a skeletal and sepulchral swan, spreading its dashing, deathly wings out to enfold them around the now-pallid man before her. Her hate for the mortal had caused her to try to squelch the hated one's heart with a swift squeeze, but it simply oozed into ephemeral, shadowy wisps before returning to its place in his chest.

    The Primordial-killing genius felt torn in half. She loathed the mortal who'd earned this Exaltation, in a manner she was unwilling to forgive. She ached to destroy him in the most miserable way possible with every fiber of her soul. But she knew that anima banner. It belonged to the man she adored more than any being in existence. It belonged to her Desus. The one she'd thought lost to her forever. And he was here, but Jack Slash must die! But Desus was here! But the bastard deserved to die! But LILITH WAS GONE AND DESUS COULD BE HERS! HE WOULD BE HERS!

    It was with a tremendous effort of will that the former Twilight Queen of Tzatli forced herself to turn away from the figure before her as her strange new charms eroded away the hate, and the memory, of the mortal who'd gained Desus' power. The pitiful wretch was ultimately insignificant. She would have given the world to be reunited with her beloved Desus, and...in a very real way, she had. Creation was no more. Hadn't existed for millenia. Turning back around with an upwelling of amorous adoration, she closed the distance between them in an instant, sobbing her relief and joy into his bare chest as she clung to him in a tight hug. "Desus, darling, you came back! You came back to me! You...well, you're not Desus per se, but I'm not the same me either, but we're together now. That's all that matters. We'll always be together now." Taking his shoulder with one hand, she forced him down to one knee, murmuring to him in a roar of viridian glory, "Marry me."

    Though he knew, somehow, that he could resist her, if he wanted, The Gentleman with the Abattoir Smile didn't bother. She'd turned out more wonderfully than he could've imagined. For once, he'd found his match. His equal. He'd found his own carrot...and his own stick, all in one. He never wanted to let her go. She was great and terrible, horrific and wonderous, and for the first time in his life, he realized he was in love. They were going to play this world like a symphony of pain, conflict, death, and despair. It would exceed everything in human history. And when they were done they would find new worlds to conquer and kill. If that didn't work out, they'd simply make new worlds to serve as their playground. "I do," he said, that sleek, slasher's smile for which his title was named in full showing. As he spoke, the world itself let out wailing shrieks of woe, Existence itself expressing horror at the oath of unholy matrimony it was forced to bear witness to and sanctify.

    ooo

    As her nightmares receded, Taylor gradually opened her eyes, uncertain where she was this time. It took minutes for her to piece together that she'd killed...someone. The person who'd murdered her father. She'd ended him and the threat his people represented. The thought felt odd. Had she really ever believed that? That someone could truly be a threat to her? One of the maws along her back opened in a drooling, fang-studded giggle at the mere thought of any of this world's pitiful ants being capable of hurting her. Stretching a moment she felt her skin rub against bare, lukewarm flesh. Oh dear, had she been playing with her food again? Fallen asleep in the middle of a snack? Looking over, she relaxed as she saw the sleeping, peaceful features of her husband, snoring away contentedly. He looked like an angel, an alabaster angel, fit to grace only the most worthy of sepulchres. Leaning in, she kissed his shoulder, her hunger tempting her into tearing off a tiny ribbon of his perfect flesh. She shuddered with contentment and desire. Exalted flesh always tasted the richest. Especially Exalted blood. Realizing she was drooling from between her blood dripping fangs, she chuckled lazily to herself, playful eyes meeting her husband's as she entwined her fingers with her now wakeful love.

    Leaning in, she favored him with a kiss that flensed his lips clean off, an inconvenience he healed back in seconds. He laughed, such a joyous sound, oh how she adored it. She let out a low, crooning purr from her every maw. Blinking, she looked down to see she was wearing her other self's clothing again. Bright Shattered Ice might be brilliant in many things. She might've been the one who had the wondrous idea to make their mate marry them, but fashion sense had never been one of them. Reaching back to fix the wedgie the outfit she quite generously thought of as 'Ice's Battlefloss' had given her, she quirked a billowing brow at her lover's evident appreciation of the view. Of course it was her hubby's idea. He was so incorrigible at that. Still, she thought looking over her shoulder, they are right about one thing; this outfit makes my ass look positively amazing.

    A small, false cough from behind her drew her gaze up from her own gluteus, and she smiled in abashment as took sight of the golden-haired little angel standing there waiting on her. Rocking impatiently from one foot to the other, the curl-topped teenage girl held one hand over her face in an expression of scandal. "MOM! I've told you before, if you and Dad are having 'alone time' put a skull on the doorknob. Or cave entrance. Or entrails or...something." She pulled a face, "Anyway...I wanted to ask for your help wi-," she trailed off, searching the lounging Infernal's features before lighting up in a brilliant grin of glee. Rushing in, she tackled her mother-figure and squeezed her so tightly she cracked bone. "Taylor-mommy! You're back!" She giggled, nuzzling her cheek against Taylor's shoulder. A golden, half-filled circle glittered under her golden crown of curls. Aww, Taylor thought, she probably used essence to make sure she hugged me harder. Languorously luxuriating in the feeling of the reknitting bones, Taylor kissed her adoptive daughter's forehead, taking away the same taste of flesh she had from her hubby's shoulder. She shivered with delight. So decadently delicious.

    "Of course I'm back, Riley. I'd never leave my sweet little girl. No one could ever make me. Not even myself."

    The Twilight genius formerly known as Bonesaw fidgeted. "I...I know...but I wanted to hear you say it." She nudged her mom with one hip. "Don't tell Ice-mom this, but you're my favorite. I don't think she likes me as much as you do."

    Taylor frowned at that, hugging her darling girl tight. "Don't be absurd, sweetie. Your other mother and I both love you dearly."

    From where he lounged on his bed of human bones, The Gentleman with the Abattoir Smile let out a huffing sigh of contentment. He was the luckiest man in the world. At first he'd been perturbed by the affectionate emotions he felt for his wives and their adoptive daughter. But longer he loved, the more comfortable he was in that. Even now, the last time Taylor had told him they would be having a child, he hadn't even tried to gainsay her. He'd been resistant before, but how could he deny her anything? It made her so happy, the very idea of becoming a mother again, and little Riley had been overjoyed at the news that she'd be a big sister soon, even if she'd pouted and sulked for a week when she'd been told that no, she couldn't tinker on her sister until after she was born.

    Stretching, the Gentleman wondered where he should tell ask his Queen to have Leviathan attack today. Of course they'd need to go out to restock the pantry soon, as well. Taylor did get so hungry of late. He wasn't sure if that was the Metagaos charms speaking or a simple side-effect of her growing gravidity. She went through so many mortals lately. Either way, he was content. He had been so short-sighted before, ending the world, hah. No...his Celestial Charnel House, his family, was far greater than the Slaughterhouse Nine could ever have become. He was the luckiest man in the worlds.

    ooo

    Omake 1b
    Part 2: Horrific Happy Family Forever,
    The End.

    Moral of the Story: When Taylor is Happy, Being Everyone Else is Suffering.​
     
    Calibashington, Aeodyn and Biigoh like this.
  12. Thief of Words

    Thief of Words Still Broken, but Less Lost

    Joined:
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    Chrysalis 1.9


    Making yourself leave your father's bedside felt harder than anything you'd yet done today. Which made no sense, seeing how you'd fought a telefragging ninja assassin not even hours ago. Yet it was still true. You kept your seat in the hospital room for another ten, fifteen minutes, mind trying to work out all the possible problems and permutations facing you. It...it was overwhelming. For the life of you, you couldn't come up with a way to make having a secret identity work. Not with how self-evident your status as a cape was.

    That was potentially a problem in a lot of ways. Your dad's injury had been a horrible accident, Fucking cars, you reflected bitterly as some small and vindictive part of your soul wondered how Detroit had escaped ever being hit by an Endbringer attack, but the parent of a public parahuman was always going to be a potential target for retaliation, leverage, and attempts to control them. He deserved better than that.

    You considered asking for one of the little medical face-masks that cover the lower face to hide at least some of your features for several moments. You abandoned the idea as unworkable with a bitter laugh. Even if you hadn't been able to remember that kid from earlier snapping a picture of you, you still wouldn't have been surprised to find out someone from the waiting room had snuck photos or video of you with their phone or tablet and posted them online already.

    Letting out a long sigh, you unfold your too-long limbs from where you sat in the chair. The steady, stocatto tones of the monitoring equipment your father was attached to beeped away behind you in time with the beating of his heart. You took comfort in the regularity of that, the peaceful sound of his slow, sleeping breaths. Taking a last look, for the moment, at your father, you climbed to your feet and, ducking to fit through the doorway, headed toward the hospital lobby. You still had to crouch to fit through the halls, a fact which yet again twisted the knife of your own discomfort.

    <Look at it this way, Taylor. Clearly, from the way everyone but Oni Lee has been acting, you're quite pleasing to human aesthetic sensibilities now!> The chipper demon seemed irrepressable. <At least, I think. I don't know for certain; you all look like blood apes' more effeminate cousins to me. Then again, what do I know about the matter. Oh, right. A lot, actually. The King did design the apes in hateful mockery of mankind after all. Not really my fault if I knew of Erymanthoi long before I met a single mortal soul.>

    <Yeah, because the crab-shaped hallucination in my head is clearly a good judge of human looks.> You only groused back half-heartedly.

    <Fine. If you don't believe me about it, believe your father.>

    <He's high as hell right now. And even if he wasn't, he's Dad. I'm pretty sure telling their daughter's their beautiful is somewhere between 'Because I said so' and 'Of course that doesn't make you look fat, honey' in the Dad handbook.>

    Your mental hitchhiker hissed out a rattling sigh and clattering clangour. The sounds put you in mind of someone clad in kitchenware throwing their hands up in exasperation. <Fine! If you won't believe me and you won't believe your father, believe your Girl of Glory from before.>

    <It's Glory Girl,> you corrected automatically, <and I have no idea what you mean.>

    <She clearly thought you were 'hitting on' her.> You can hear the air-quotes locking into place around the expression in his mental voice. <And yet she played along with it, even teasing back. That isn't something someone attractive does to someone unattractive is it?>

    Your mood darkened and your face twisted into a scowl, remembering times boys from your classes took you on false dates as a way to endear themselves to the Trio. <It is if they're making fun of her.>

    There was an awkward silence as Uncertainty lived up to the second half of his soubriquet. <Er...you said she is a hero, yes? And she clearly helped you before, yes?>

    <Yes,> you acceded warily, <your point is...?>

    <That she does not seem the type to use underhanded means to make herself feel better. She very much seems the type to preen and bask in the implicit compliment, but only where she feels it warranted.>`

    You didn't respond to that, if only because of how clearly ridiculous the idea that someone like her would think you were pretty was. Still, you sent a sense of gratitude to Joyous Uncertainty. If it was a delusion, it was a persistent and life-affirming one, for the most part. Given how many of your recent fancies had ended with you bloody-knuckled and furious, standing above your tormentors...a fantasy in which you simply...moved on? It gave you hope for your heart, for your soul. You'd been betrayed as thoroughly as was humanly possible to be. The closest person to a match to your soul, your sole confidant, the closest, most intimate, and best friernd you'd ever had had taken every pain and vulnerability you'd ever shown her and used them to systematically dismantle anything resembling self-respect over the course of years.


    Though you strove to be better than that...it still took an effort for you, not to dream of violence against Emma. Sophia? MadIson? They were but strangers, sharks circling you when they smelled blood. They were contemptible, and you certainly didn't forgive them, but ultimately their hatefulness passed through you and left you fundamentally unchanged. It was Emma that truly hurt. Oh sure, you'd dreamt of breaking Sophia's legs a time or two, the better to bring her down to the level that she forced you onto. You'd imagined ruining Madison's cutesy face, itself proving that the appearance of innocence was a lie, of making her as ugly on the outside as her actions proved her to be on the inside. In your most agonized and hate-fueled moments, you'd even found your dreams filled with such revenge fantasies. But they just weren't worth it.

    Besides, it was Emma that had prompted your true bewilderment. Emma was the one that had really hurt you It was Emma that tore your heart out and ripped it apart for no better reason than to watch you bleed. And that, the knowledge that whatever warped creature she'd become got off on your suffering? That was why you simply endured what it was they had to dish out. Because if you showed you bled, she won. Because if they twisted you into something vicious in their own image, they all won.

    <I've said it before, but murder is still on the table as an option.> The prim mental voice breaks you from your thunder-head thoughts.

    You roll your eyes and shake your head, sending back, <No, Uncertainty, it isn't.>

    <I don't see why not; if you're simply worried about a matter of logistics, I can all but guarantee that no one in your world could puzzle out how exactly your charms tie to you yourself...not without having witnessed examples of them in use.>

    <My what? And...still no. It's not about not getting caught. It's,> you struggled for a moment to explain something you'd never really consciously articulated to yourself, <it's about being the kind of person my mother would be proud of, rather than being whatever kind of vicious creature they want me to be.>

    <Your, for lack of a better word, magic.>


    You groaned internally at that. Great. If you ever tried to explain that your powers thought that they were magic...not that you thought they were magic, but that your powers themselves thought they were magic, you'd get locked in the looney bin faster than you could say, 'Six sisters Simurgh'ed the Sleeper in seven Sistine cells.'

    <Or you could simply not tell anyone. Also: has anyone ever told you that you are remarkably stubborn when you've set your mind upon whatever it is you wish to believe?>

    <Get used to it,> you shot back. <You're stuck with me, and I'm a Hebert. We're stubborn as hell. We take life's kicking and we keep on ticking. Well,> you amended with a pang, <most of us do.>


    For a moment you were overwhelmed by a sense of well-meaning helplessness so intense and so alike to your father's frustration with your situation that you ccouldn't help but blink back tears.

    <I...I'm sorry, Taylor. I didn't mean to bring up painful memories.> You felt a pulse of emotion that was clearly meant to be comforting. A small, bitter smile hit your features as you responded with a brief upwelling of gratitude.

    <I, thanks, Uncertainty. I...It's.> You take a moment to order your thoughts on the matter. <It's good to know that someone besides just Dad gives a damn about me.>

    ooo

    Wiping your cheeks to eliminate any sign you'd been crying, you made your way into the dwindling bustle of activity outside the hospital. Paramedics, police, and hospital staff still strode about in the same ordered yet hurried rush of a kicked ant's nest, but it was less frantic, less frenetic than it had been before. The worst of the wounded had clearly been seen to, and the police had begun to sort through the arrested offenders.

    Taking a deep breath to steady yourself, you make your way over to where a familiar figure in midnight blue armor lined by highlights of silver stood in conversation with woman clad in white and orange, a crossed-sword emblem etched onto her outfit's chest. Armsmaster, the local Protectorate head, and Brandish, parahuman attourney and one of the founding members of New Wave. A thought stops you short and you begin to blush beyond your ability to hide. Maybe you should have gone with the face mask. Brandish was also the mother of Glory Girl, who thought you'd been hitting on her.

    Beginning to wonder if the nine-foot tall acrobatics were just another persistent delusion, and you'd in fact triggered with the parahuman power to find the most convoluted ways imaginable to embarass yourself, you nonetheless managed to swallow your chagrin after a few moments spent gaping at two of the city's most famous heroes. Making yourself stand at your full height rather than the nervous hunch you'd folded into in the hospital, you looked down at the pair of them from better than three feet of height advantage. The pair had been engaged in a heated argument about something when you'd exited the hospital, promting the both of them to stop and turn in your direction. As your long-legged lope had carried you quickly, to them, a look had passed between the pair. There was clearly more to be said between them, but they both seemed to agree on letting you set the tone of the conversation.

    That...that set you aback. Here were two of the most city's premier heroes, and they wanted to hear what you of all people had to say. A small part of your mind made a detached sort of note that Armsmaster seemed off somehow. You'd studied the information available about him before, interviews, Protectorate press releases, news stories. He'd been your favorite of the city's own heroes as a little girl, your second favorite overall, after Alexandria and the Triumvirate. Hell, you used to have dark blue panties with his logo right over the butt, and you'd always worn them when you'd tied on a fake cake and went 'whooshing' through the house playing Alexandria. That same detached portion of your mind that noticed incongruity in his appearance--he seemed somehow haggard, as though he'd not shaved in days, and his armor didn't have its usual pristine gleam to it--idly wondered if you still had those somewhere around the house, and if you did if he'd be willing to give you his autograph. And then your conscious mind realized you'd just asked yourself if a grown man would sign the ass-end of your underwear, and your conscious train of thought--along with your attempt at starting out your interactions with the city's adult heroes on a new page, as a more collected and confident you--came crashing to a glorious, earth-shattering, stuttering wreck.

    As your brain strove desperately to salvage what you'd intended to say from the horrible mental mangling that realization had given you, you saw Brandish's expression go taut with concern before she turned to give Armsmaster a glare. Unaided by Joyous Uncertainty's confident assertion that Armsmaster, too, was an excellent specimen of mortality and certain to compliment 'Girl Glorious' as one of your many eventual consorts, to which you could only wail a silent and plaintive, <NOT HELPING!>, you found yourself pulled in on yourself, blinking away tears again as you hugged your spindly knees to your chest. Looking up, confused, you see Brandish standing over you, holding something out to you as Armsmaster half-raises, then hesitantly drops a gauntleted hand. Okay. Something was definitely off there. Everything you'd seen of Armsmaster before had been the dashing hero, the confident and self-assured warrior-savant. Here, he seemed at a legitimate loss. Something else was going on there.

    Reaching up with one spider-spindle hand, you go to pluck the proffered business card from Brandish's outstretched hand, you freeze in place. You stare mutely at it a moment, trying to place the reason the logo seems familiar. Then you keep reading, and your stomach plummets.

    Carol Dallon, Partner, Attourney at Law
    The Law Firm of Dallon, Barnes, & Royce


    You know exactly why the logo looked familiar. She works with Emma's dad. You feel your mind kick into that same synaptic superspeed that you'd used in your fight with Oni Lee, idly noting the startled expression both heroes have as the burning emerald and ebon eye opens again on your forehead, the gleaming glow glaring out at them. Brandish worked with Emma's dad. And you'd let your guard down around Glory Girl. You'd not even thought twice about naming names when you'd been telling her about the Trio's torments; you'd been so relieved to just have someone actually listen and believe you when you told them about the hell they'd put you through that you hadn't given the rammifications of that decision a second thought until you'd found yourself clinging to Glory Girl's arm with a yelp as she suddenly started to fly off, apparently to punish your persecutors herself. After arguing her down from her anger, you'd, well, the truth is you'd forgotten you went into the full details. Between your panic at hearing Dad had been hurt, your relief that he was okay, and the sheer overwhelming nature of everything that'd happened, you hadn't had time to really give any more consideration to that.

    But Brandish worked with Emma's dad. Was a partner at the same law firm as he was. Why would she be giving you her card? Was she going to sue you? Was she warning you he was going to sue you? Was it not enough to nearly kill you? Emma had to drag your fathers into this? You hadn't told your dad about Emma's part in things for several reasons. One of them was that before...before Mom, Mr. Barnes had been one of Dad's best friends. Your whole families had been friends. And...and you couldn't bear the thought of Emma's betrayal finding a way to poison even more of your family's happy memories than it already had. You couldn't take that friendship away from your dad.

    "Go ahead, Taylor. Take it." The heroine said, soothingly. You worked your mouth, mind still racing, hugging your knees again as even as you took hold of the card. That shimmering white aura was back around you. Huh. Odd. Armsmaster and Brandish both had started at something. Both stared at you. Blinking, you caught where his eyes were focused by the reflection in the hero's v-shaped visor. He was staring at a point just above your head as you sat there, both arms clutching your knees to your chest. He was staring at a glowing white tendril which carefully clutched the card Brandish had, well, brandished at you. That. That was new. From the reflection you got a surprisingly decent look at it. Emanating from a point just behind your head, the glowing telekinetic tentacle seemed to be coming from within the white billows of your coiling cloud of vapor-hair. That...was surprisingly cool looking. Also, you had no idea how you'd just done that. Or why...

    Again that detached, analytical part of your mind made an annotation of the new and interesting shade of red-purple your mortification made your skin turn, even as you shut off the sensations flooding your mind with FAR more knowledge of what everything within several yards felt like than you'd ever wanted to know. As you did, the light-tendril vanished, leaving the card to flutter down to sit on the pavement between you and the combination lawyer/life-saver. As you tried to calm yourself, you made a vow to yourself. You were never telling anyone about that particular power. The internet could never know. If the cape geeks on PHO found out that you had telekinesis which came with a non-optional side-effect of feeling up everything in a radius of yourself, especially as a girl with apparent tentacle hair, you'd be getting off lucky to have a name assigned to you as innoffensive and innocuous as The Phantom Pervert or Gropethulu.

    And now both heroes were staring at you, with the caution of someone trying hard not to startle the person they were speaking with. Great. Just great. They probably thought you were crazy. Because that was going to help your cape reputation.

    You were surprised when Armsmaster spoke, "Are you hurt, Miss Hebert?" Odd. He sounded worried about that. Brandish shot him a glare that reminded you of the one of her daughters you'd met before turning back to you.

    "Is everything okay?"

    You couldn't help it. You laughed at that. And you cried. And hugged yourself again. Dammit. So much for making a good first impression on the local heroes. Or a good second impression, for that matter. You grimace as you remember getting snot all over Glory Girl's shoulder. Letting out a long breath, you look back up, the world snapping into sudden clarity of focus with a quiet ringing tone, as though someone had run a finger across a crystal glass. When you spoke up you could once more hear the harmonics of truth and deception, the former a beautiful crystalline harmony, like a skilled player of the glass harp. You didn't know how you knew that's what that sounded like. Or how you knew that's what playing music from glasses filled with water was called. But you did.

    "No," your own voice rang out with a crystalline harmony that infused your tones with a quiet wonder. "Everything hasn't been okay in a long time. My...my best friend betrayed me. Tormented me. Tortured me. And...and you work with her father. So...I...I can't help but wonder why you're giving me your card. Is," your stomach feels sick at the thought, "was that card a threat, ma'am? Because if it was I...I have no idea what I'd do. I don't want to have to...have to fight you, ma'am. In court or otherwise. But if you, Mister Barnes, or anyone else tries to hurt my father, I will. "

    Armsmaster flinched and looked away at that, drawing both your and Brandish's attention to himself. "I...sorry." He managed to grit out. It rang with the truth. He really did feel sorry. "I owe you an apology, Miss Hebert." Again true.

    "Why?" You aren't sure if that question is for Brandish, Armsmaster, or...or what. It's the question, though. The one you've been trying to answer ever since Mom had died. Who knows, maybe one of the heroes would be able to answer, if only in the context of how they were acting tonight.

    As it turned out, they both tried to do so at once.

    "It was my fault--,"Armsmaster intoned in a gallows rasp.

    "Because you'll need a lawyer--," Brandish began.

    Confused you hold up both hands to forestall them. "I...what? Wait. Armsmaster, you first. How the hell is what I went through at school your fault?" You cover your mouth with your hands realizing you'd just cursed at the head of the local Protectorate. Yep, you think. It's self-evident. I have the parahuman power to embarass myself. To death. That's exactly what my obituary will say, 'Taylor Hebert, age 15. Literally died of embarassment.' It'll probably even go on my tombstone. Taylor Anne Hebert. She was too awkward to live.

    Before you can come up with any other ways to drown in your own mortification, Armsmaster grunts, shaking his head in the negative. "Not that. At least, that's not what i meant. I had no idea about it, but I should have. It is my fault for not stopping it. I meant about your father. His," he trailed off, his mouth compressing into a thin white line. He trailed off, then resumed again. "It was my fault your father almost died."

    You are so shocked at the crystalline call of truth in his words, that you don't even realize you've standed until you're already looming over him, fists white-knuckled and trembling at your side. Again that analytical subroutine makes its notes. Hadn't realized I could loom. Will have to remember that. "Explain," you demand, voice hoarse with your emotions.

    "It...If we had, no. Sorry, no, let me start that over." He pauses, as though listening to a voice in his head. You idly wonder if all capes had voices in their heads, and they just never told non-capes, so that they weren't locked up as crazy. "If I had handled the circumstances behind your abduction better, had managed to prevent it, taken personal charge of the search for you sooner, or done a better job of handling contact with your father, then he wouldn't have felt the need to get miserably drunk and try to punch my face in. If I'd realized how badly-off he was, Hell, even if I'd arrested him for hitting me, at least he wouldn't have been hurt. But no. I...," He shook his head. There was real shame in his voice. "I was so worried about the PR disaster the whole thing was shaping up to be, that I didn't even see him stagger his way into the street. I'd turned to get back inside and out of camera range. I didn't realize anything was wrong until I heard the car hit him. And...," he trailed off, sounding lost, "by that point there wasn't a damned thing I could do. I called the hospital. Hurt as he was it wasn't going to be enough. I still felt I had to to try. I couldn't stand the thought of being so fucking useless, but," he gave a lame shrug, "I was. I was completely and utterly useless in the situation. You should thank Mrs. Dallon's daughter. She's the only reason your father's alive. I couldn't do a God-damned thing. And," he shook his head. "I needed you to know that. My ego should have killed the man."

    He laughed bitterly. "I shouldn't even be out here tonight. I disobeyed orders to be here. I didn't even think would be you, but I had to try something. And I had to explain. I had to apologize. I won't quit or retire. I can't. There's too much I can do to help people. Too much I can do to make up for the ass I've been. But if you want it, I'll apply for a transfer. I would rather not, but it's as much as I can offer. Your father's life was in my hands and I failed him. Given that, the best I can do is put my career in yours. It's what I risked his for. I won't ask you to be better than I was, since I don't deserve it. I'd rather stay. I can help you. The chances of your survival outside of a year as a hero go up substantially if you become a Ward." Brandish seems inclined to say something about that, but he holds up a hand to stop her, finishing with, "I can understand if you don't want to, though. Particularly if you hate me now. If my being here would stop you joining, then tell me, and I'll transfer. I'll have you transferred from Winslow, too. If you choose that option, the Director won't like you for it. Still, I owe you at least that much. I owe your father as much. Or I can stay and teach you. It's...it's your decision."


    ooo

    [Intimacy: Armsmaster - Disappointment (1/2)]
    [Intimacy: Uncertainty's Shipper Tendencies - Mortification] Established!



    1.9 Votes (PIck 1 per Category)

    The Fate of Armsmaster

    [ ] A Farewell to Arms(master)
    --He didn't mean for it to happen, but he got Dad hurt. Good intentions don't make him less of an asshole. Tell him to find himself another city.

    [ ] Forewarned is fore armed(mastered?)
    --He fucked up, yes. But you know as fact that he didn't mean to. He truly will do anything in his capacity to atone for what he's done. You get the feeling you need all the help you could get.

    [ ]Forget it
    --This...this hurts. He was one of your personal heroes. And you hate him. So much. You wish you could forget everything he'd just told you.

    [ ] Sleep on it
    --You feel overwhelmed. You aren't in a good place, mentally. Maybe some time to think will help you make a better decision.


    Decisions about the Dallons: Part I

    [ ] Keep your card.
    --Turn down Mrs. Dallon's offer of legal assistance. She knows who Mr. Barnes is.


    [ ] I will take that under advisement
    --Hang on to Brandish's business card, but don't commit to hiring her yet.


    Decisions about the Dallons: Part II

    [ ] The Less(bian) Said, the better.
    --Right now, Glory Girl thinks you're gay. And into her. Maybe you should wait before trying to talk to her again.


    [ ] Hugs for the Healbot
    --Ask to properly thank Panacea. She saved Dad's life. You...Hell. You'd be an orphan if it wasn't for her.


    Stunts are, as always, encouraged. Write-in suggestions are available as well.
     
    Aeodyn, chrnno and Biigoh like this.
  13. Thief of Words

    Thief of Words Still Broken, but Less Lost

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    Chrysalis 1.10


    [X] Forewarned is Fore Armed(mastered?)
    --He fucked up, yes. But you know as fact that he didn't mean to. He truly will do anything in his capacity to atone for what he's done. You get the feeling you need all the help you could get.

    --[x] Stunt: You have a moment to consider your response. A long moment during which everyone in the room stares at you expectantly. You pay them no mind, however. This was Armsmaster you were talking to, so you wanted to make it count, after all. Even if he was an asshole. Who nearly killed your father. Right. "Yes, you made a mistake. You fucked up." He winces at the flat, blunt delivery. "Unfortunately, people make mistakes. That's a fact of life." It shouldn't be. "More importantly, no one in this room is in a position to wallow in their sorrows and failures. There is work to be done. Brockton Bay needs every Hero it can get, and it certainly doesn't have time for its leader to run away because of almost killing one man, no matter how dear that man is to me. How many innocent people die in these streets each day?" .... "...I still don't like it, but that's besides the point. We must put the greater things above our own personal needs - is that not what being a Hero is supposed to mean?"

    -[x] Stunt: Taylor stared into Armsmaster's visor. "You know, you used to be one of my favorite Capes when I was a little girl?" Taylor was amazed at how calm and clinical she was when she stated this. "You want to leave, to run away from what you did? No! You don't have that luxury. You are going to stay here, and 'fix your mess!'" The last coming out as almost a cross between a hiss and a snarl. "You want to make amends? Help me find out what's going on, what happened to me! Be the hero I believed you to be as a little girl, that I prayed would come and rescue me when those three pushed me into the locker. Or don't." Taylor said as she turned to leave the room. "It's not like I haven't been betrayed and let down before." With that, Taylor walked away.

    [X] I will take that under advisement
    --Hang on to Brandish's business card, but don't commit to hiring her yet.

    [X] Hugs for the Healbot
    --Ask to properly thank Panacea. She saved Dad's life. You...Hell. You'd be an orphan if it wasn't for her.

    -[x] Stunt: Taylor walked into the cafeteria, where Panacea was sitting, nursing a cup of coffee. She was a bundle of nerves by the time she reached the table. Her conversation with Armsmaster and the encounter with Brandish (wait, isn't that her mother? Dang it!) still played in her head, and definitely didn't help. "Hello." She said with a smile, as Panacea looked up at her in weary curiosity. The teen healer looked like she was more than tired. Scarily enough, it reminded Taylor of the look she sometimes saw in the mirror after the bullying started. "I'm Taylor Hebert, Daniel Hebert's daughter. I wanted to thank you for saving his life." Taylor frowned. "I'm sorry, but, are you... okay?"

    --[x] Stunt: "I mean, i-if she has the time! I know she's very busy, and I-i wouldn't want to detract from her work or frighten any patients... b-but she really does so much for this city and..." Your quick, stuttering words belie how little you had appreciated Panacea before now. Maybe little wasn't the right word, but... you think you underestimated just how much she did ... how many lives had she saved? How many wounds healed?

    ooo

    It took you long moments to get past the feeling of having been sucker punched by Armsmaster's revelation. You had a moment to consider your response. A long silence during which both of the veteran heroes stared at you expectantly. You paid them no mind, however. This was Armsmaster you were talking to, so you wanted to make it count. Even if he was an asshole. Who nearly killed your father. Right.
    Marshalling the words into proper order, you stared fixedly into Armsmaster's visor. "You know, you used to be one of my favorite capes when I was a little girl?" You were amazed at how calm and clinical your voice sounded. "You want to leave, to run away from what you did? You don't get that luxury. You are going to stay here, and fix the mess you helped make.'"
    "Yes, you made a mistake. You fucked up." He winces at the flat, blunt delivery. "Unfortunately, people make mistakes. That's a fact of life." It shouldn't be. "More importantly, however, no one here is in a position to wallow in their sorrows or failures. There's work to be done. Brockton Bay needs every hero it can get, and it certainly doesn't have time for one of its leaders to run away because of almost killing one man, no matter how dear that man is to me. How many innocent people die in these streets each day?"
    "I still don't like it, but that's besides the point. We have to put the bigger picture above our own personal needs - is that not what being a hero is supposed to mean?"
    "You want to make amends? Then help me find out what's going on and what happened to me. Be the hero I believed you were when I was a little girl, that I prayed would come and rescue me when those three pushed me into the locker. Or don't." You shrug, your tone dismissive. "It isn't like I haven't been betrayed and let down before."
    You turn, attention on Mrs. Dallon now. "I'll keep your card and take your recommendation under advisement. Now if you'll both excuse me, I've had a lot to deal with tonight. I was tortured, kidnapped, attacked by an assassin, and I just found out that I nearly lost the person dearest to me in the world. Assuming she's not too busy and that I won't frighten the patients or detract from her work, I'm going to go thank your daughter for saving his life. She does so damned much for this city, saves so many lives that," you trail off, losing your train of thought as it occurs to you just how little you yourself had appreciated everything Panacea did for people. How many people had she saved? You turn on your heel, whole body pivoting around one of your hyper-flexible leg joints as you begin to march back into the hospital, striving to get out of sight of the two veterans before the knot forming in your throat can grow to outweigh the sense of calm and collected purpose which had carried you through the conversation. You'd cried so much tonight. You didn't want that to be you in the future. You'd had enough of paralysis. It was time to get things done.

    ooo


    Following the directions of the duty nurse, you navigate your way through the hospital to its cafeteria. As the steady drone of announcements carries on over the PA system, you crouch down and pass through the door-frame, and into the hospital dining hall. You're pleasantly surprised to find that the architects had favored a high-ceilinged design for the room, allowing you to stand at your full height with only the concern of keeping the ceiling fans from smacking you in the throat to give you pause. With the advantage of your vantage, it only takes you a moment to locate Panacea where she sat at a table alone. Unfortunately for you, your walk to the cafeteria had been sufficient time for your momentum from before to peter out, leaving you a raw bundle of nerves and anxiety again. Opting to hunch once more to keep from walking throat-first into any of the fans, you make your way over to the medical rogue's table. As you approached, the conversation with Armsmaster and Brandish was still running in circles in your mind and offering absolutely no help at steeling your jangling anxieties.

    Making yourself put a smile on, you offer a nervous, "Hello." For her part, however, Panacea didn't so much as look up from the still-steaming cup of coffee she nursed between two white-gloved hands.

    "What is it? I'd rather not do autographs. That's more Vic-, more Glory Girl's thing." Your new sense relays the beautiful harmonics of truth in what she's saying there. You...freeze a moment. Out of every way you'd considered the conversation starting, this certainly wasn't one of them.

    "N-no. I just wanted to thank you."

    The mousy healer did look up at that, a weary curiosity in her expression for all of about two seconds before her eyes shot wide, pupils dilating as she stared up at you in apparent shock. "I...for what? I'd remember if I'd touched someone like you."

    Damnit all! You shrink further in on yourself at that, holding yourself down around six feet in height. That was certainly not in the plan. After the conversation with the heroes outside, you'd actually managed to forget what a freak you were now. "I...no, no. Nothing to do with me, not directly."

    The freckled teen gives you a confused look, clearly not following. As she does, that same analytical section of your mind which had been cataloguing your situation even as you'd panicked before notes that she looks beyond tired. It was frightening how familiar the look was. She had the same ground down and resigned expression that stared dolefully at you from your mirror in the mornings before school for most of the last year. You frown at that. "I'm Taylor, Taylor Hebert. My Dad's Daniel Hebert. The nurses told me you saved his life. He's," you close your eyes to keep the threat of tears suppressed. You hate that you can hear the choking emotion in your voice. "Dad's all I have left after my mom died. If it weren't for you, I'd...I'd be completely alone. So I wanted to thank you. You saved his life." She seems embarassed, unsure how to respond to that. That mouselike caste to her features is all the more prominent, as she seems frozen like a prey-creature weighing its options before bolting. Your brows draw down as you lean closer. "I'm sorry, but are you okay?"

    You'd meant the question to put her at her ease. If anything, it'd done the opposite. She looked somehow torn. Like something immense weighed upon her mind. And you absolutely recognized the moment when she decided that admitting whatever it was couldn't possibly help. God, what the hell has her like that? Who the fuck would do that to Panacea of all people?

    "I'm fine." Even without the shrieking dissonance of your lie-sense refuting her statement, you'd told that sort of lie too many times not recognize it. Clearly you weren't as subtle as you thought you'd been about that particular sense, however, as her expression makes it clear you gave away that you knew she was lying. "Okay, no. But I'll be fine." Again you wince at the discord.

    Quietly, you murmur, "You don't believe that. I...I'm sorry. My...I still don't understand my powers very well, but I can hear when people lie to me. And you don't really believe that."

    She goes rigid at that, mouth open. Dread settles into her expression at the idea. You have no idea what might've caused her to fear the truth so thoroughly, but your heart aches to know she feels that sort of helplessness. "If...if you want, I can...I can turn it off. It was just still on from when I spoke with Armsmaster and your mom, before."

    An expression of confusion crosses her countenance before the pieces apparently click. She nods. "If...please? I'd really appreciate that."

    You do, that crystalline synesthaesia abandoning your hearing. "There, done. Now I'm no harder to lie to than anyone else." You give her a nervous smile. "Um. I really, truly get it if you don't want to talk about whatever it is...but, well. I wasn't lying. My dad's the only family I have left. I...if I'd lost him too," you shake your head. "I have no idea what I'd have done. Maybe killed myself, maybe hurt someone else. Either way, you...if you ever need anything, please don't think twice about asking. I know you have your family and all, but...sometimes there are things you can't go to family with. If you'd like a, y'know, friend?" You give another hesitant smile, "Or someone to listen, I'm happy to help. Or," you blink, realizing you can do more than that, "I still don't know exactly what all my powers can do, but if anything they can do could help you, consider it done. I...I owe you everything. But...even if I didn't, I know what that look is like. I guess I'm just saying you don't have to be alone." You offer a shy smile. "And if...I, if it's not too forward or...I know we just met but, could I get your phone number to...I don't know? I think I'm supposed to be transferring to Arcadia, and it'd be nice to know someone else at the school? Maybe we could um...hang out or something?"

    As your principle train of thought readies itself for the scornful laughter that's sure to come, your additional mental annotation marks the crimson color spreading up between the frizz-haired girl's freckles. Why is she blushing? You review what you'd just finished saying. Your own eyes go wide in fear. Oh God DAMN IT! You try to explain what you'd meant, to clear up matters, but only manage to trip over your own tongue, your own shade of scarlet shame a match for hers. You make another few stammering attempts, none of which manage to help in the least. Finally, before your head manages to explode of embarassment, you dart out of the room and start running away, blurring out of the cafeteria to get to somewhere safe, somewhere no one else can see you.

    ooo
    [Mentor 3: Armsmaster] Gained!
    [Contacts 2: New Wave] Gained!
    Intimacy: Panacea/Amy Dallon - Undying Gratitude (2/2); Intimacy Gained!

    [ ] Hide in Dad's hospital room.
    --Surely dad can't be awkward while he's high. Fort Hebert will protect you from sinking your not-yet-begun career in a swamp of mistaken sexuality and shame.

    [ ] Help required immediately.
    --Sure this wasn't the sort of thing he likely intended when he offered to help you, but surely Armsmaster knows of some nice, distracting, orderly paperwork you could be filling out right now. Anything to not have to try to explain to Dad or Panacea why you apparently hit on the healer who saved his life.

    [ ] Being Taylor is Shame and Life is Strange.
    --OH GOD NO, you could NOT go to Dad's room. Given how things had gone the last few days, Murphy's Law meant he'd be lucid enough to ask all sorts of awkward connections. And you couldn't ask Armsmaster about it. Never mind the whole explaining to him what happened part, but Mrs. Dallon was still out there, and you did NOT want to explain to her why you'd asked for both of her daughters' phone numbers in the course of a single night. With your luck it'd just make everything even worse. Somehow. You didn't have a destination in mind...just...away. You needed to get away.

    [ ] Gone Home
    --No one would be at home now. Clearly, your power couldn't murder you with embarassment if there were no witnesses to your shame.

    [ ] Anyone else
    --Seriously. You just wanted to be anyone, absolutely anyone, but Taylor Hebert right now.

    [ ] Write-In
    --Stunt provides context.
     
  14. Thief of Words

    Thief of Words Still Broken, but Less Lost

    Joined:
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    Chrysalis 1.11




    [X] Anyone else
    --Seriously. You just wanted to be anyone, absolutely anyone, but Taylor Hebert right now.
    -[x]Stunt: Well, now that all the immediate fires were put out... okay. Time to eject from the situation. ... But not to your house. Too many memories. Briefly, you glance around at the various nurses and orderlies that frequent the hospital. "You know what, fuck this. I'm going to sleep on a couch somewhere. Someone tell Armsmaster I'll be around in the morning." Before anyone has a chance to object, you rush off in search of privacy. Well, somewhere to hide, more accurately. Not that you can hide from Being Taylor Herbert Today. ...right?
    -[x] Stunt: Taylor buried her face in her hands. "God, why me? Why do I have to muck this up? Why can't I be someone else?" She moaned. Then, as if in response to her heartfelt cry, her shadow, faint in the florescent lighting, became pitch black, and surged up and over her like a tsunami of darkness. She could do nothing more than widen her eyes in shock before it enveloped her. Then, before a second had passed, the darkness flowed like water off of stone, returning to its previous state of a barely there wisp on the floor. However, what was left behind wasn't what had been there before. There, stood a beautiful young woman. Poised, slender, with flowing long hair, and in a pantsuit that looked like it had cost a fortune, and cut to perfection. A confident young woman.


    ooo

    You were so very, very done with today. It was time to eject from the situation. Not to your house, though. You had too many of the wrong kind of memories there to brave spending the night in it alone. Surely there was a place to crash near here, though. After all, they would have places where family could wait or nap while waiting on a family member, right? Briefly, you glanced around at the various nurses and orderlies that passed through the hospital lobby. "You know what, fuck this. I'm going to sleep on a couch somewhere. Someone tell Armsmaster I'll be around in the morning."

    Before any of the incredulous staff had a chance to object, you rushed off in search of a hiding place large enough to fit your body, stumbling through a door as you tried to crouch and run through it at the same time. Not that you can hide from being Taylor Herbert today. It took a lot of hurrying through the halls, and not a small amount of cat-and-mouse with hospital security, before you manage to find a secluded corner of the hospital to lay down. You're pretty sure you wandered into the staff-only sections of the facility about half an hour ago, given that was when people started insisting that you couldn't be back here.

    Still, you'd managed to find what you suspected to be some sort of disused doctor's lounge, with a cheap tv tuned in to whatever ass-end of the programming schedule the current time slots happened to contain. You'd taken a minute to fill a cup with tepid tap water from the room's sink before you curled up on the lounge room's couch, burying your face in your hands. "God, why me? Why do I have to muck this up? Why can't I just...just be someone else? I would be so happy to just be literally anyone else." Your low wail doesn't carry over the half-unintelligible drone of the television. Nonetheless, as if in response to your heartfelt sob, your shadow, faint in the fluorescent lighting, billowed and deepened to pitch black beneath you. Swarming up the sofa and walls, your shadow surged up and over every inch of you like a tenebrous tidal wave. Before you could do more than widen your eyes in shock, the shadow-shroud enveloped you. You were wreathed in cool darkness for one, then another of your heart's beats before the darkness drained off you like water off of stone, returning to its previous, sluggish state of laying on the floor.

    Looking around you started to try to figure out what had happened, when you came up cold. Your arm. It was...normal. Well, mostly normal. It wasn't normal for you. It had...definition? Less stickish. Frowning, you stood, only to find yourself far short of your former nine-foot stature. Looking around nervously, you slipped out of the lounge and into the hall, creeping into the ladies' room to examine your handiwork in a mirror there. Whatever that shadow-wave was, what was left in its wake wasn't what had been there before.

    Instead of some fairy-tale, insectile scarecrow, drowning in scrubs from the big-and-tall section of some specialty medical outfitter, there stood a beautiful young woman. Poised, slender, with flowing dark hair. She was dressed in a pantsuit that looked like it had cost a fortune, and that was cut to complement the near-perfection of her figure. And before shock and not a small amount of awe had shattered the spell, the default expression had been that of a composed and confident woman, rather than the dull misery or blunt-edged and bludgeoned apathy your trio of tormentors had taught your face to default to.

    "I...what, um. H-how?"

    <Remember the part where you weren't going to like me saying magic from before? Because sadly, Taylor, that answer still hasn't changed.>


    "I...o-okay. Let's say I maybe am starting to wonder if you might be on to something."

    <Very well. I'll take what you are willing to grant. For now. And do please remember to think these things at me. It wouldn't do for others to think you insane, not with you intended to set yourself up as a legitimate and sane figure of authority.>

    <I...> Damnit. That was a good point.

    <Of course it's a good point. I do know some things of which I speak.>


    <So?> You wait for your demonic passenger to elaborate.

    <So, what?>

    You sigh in mild irritation. <So maybe answer my question? How? What even was what I just did?>

    <I did answer it. It was magic. And before you get us entrenched into a complicated debate over the applicability of the particular semantics in question, perhaps grant me the trust to simply accept my usage of the term without particular challenge or refutation being required?>


    <I, okay. So. I can do magic? What, like spells?>

    <Yes, but also no. Spells are far more involved. Which, considering that your world is apparently some sort of bizarre magical dead spot in existence, probably wouldn't even work in the first place. Admittedly I'm just guessing in that case, as I had absolutely no sorcerous training whatsoever.>


    A very large part of you wants to call bullshit on that. However, you had promised to take Uncertainty's word on it, so you don't immediately go back on your own.

    <Okay...then if it was magic but wasn't a spell, what was it?>

    <Oh, it was a charm.>


    <A charm. And that's not a spell? Or a kind of spell?>

    <Not in the slightest. It's a way of creatures who can manipulate magical energy, where I come from, to express that power and capability in a manner consistent with their supernatural natures. Or of mortals to imitate such beings, should their own Essence be awakened.>


    <Essence?>

    <The energy I mentioned before. It's the energy you've been making use of to perform the feats of magic you've accomplished thus far tonight. Anyway, a charm is a discrete ability or effect your magic is capable of producing. You remember our discussion on the vaguest terms of the Yozis, the titans, before, yes?>


    You did, vaguely.

    <Those are the patterns your particular brand of enlightenment is capable of drawing upon. They are the authors of existence. And you, Taylor, are one of the rare few capable of utilizing that might. What you did back there was drawing upon the nature of the Yozi known as the Ebon Dragon. He...he is a force of deception and shadow, both physical and metaphorical, and you used his capacity for deception to create an illusion which makes you appear to be other than you are.>

    A despairing, sinking feeling settles into your belly. <I...oh. So...I didn't manage to turn myself back.>

    There's an awkward pause, clearly Joyuous Uncertainty hadn't realized you'd been hoping on that.

    <No, no you did not. I'm...I'm sure it's theoretically possible to turn yourself, if not back into someone as you were, into an improved approximation thereof...but again, don't be in a rush to discard the gifts of the titans. They rarely give without purpose. And for all practical intents and purposes, your disguise is utterly impenetrable. Without the use of magic by others. Which, again, due to the nature of your reality, is highly unlikely. Given that, you could probably convince others that your normal form is in fact some sort of transformed state and that your deceptive form is your true appearance. Again, if you wish.>


    <About these, um, Yozis.>

    <Yes?>


    <Can you tell me more about them? If...if I'm supposed to be using their powers, I should probably try to figure out just what powers I have...and what these titans I'm imitating are, shouldn't I?>

    <That...is probably wise. If you do not mind, however, now that you are certain you will be able to pass unrecognized, perhaps you would be willing to return to the more public areas of this facility? It would not do to be ejected from it and rendered incapable of assisting your father if it should come to that.>

    Again, the demon had a point. Agreeing to listen as you walked, you made your way out of the lounge, to go get some sleep in the lobby, now that you could apparently fit in the chairs.

    <Yes. Very well. You know, as I have said, that the Yozi created the existence I come from. They divided chaos and reality, keeping one a static counterpoint to the inchoate pandemonium of the other. There are many of them, though not as many as once there were.
    First and greatest among them is Malfeas, the King. It was by his authority, his majest, and his might that their great workings were undertaken. But when they lost, he was badly beaten and maimed. He became the Demon City, the very prison his kin were forced to live within. Were you to emulate him, you would be able to take on his endurance, his indestructibility, his inviolable authority, and also the burning wrath his imprisonment fostered within him.
    Infinite in a way even her brother the king was not, Cecelyne was embodiment of law. Once, her laws were different, but the mutilation and imprisonments, the abuses they suffered at the hands of their enemies etched in her mind the lesson that the only laws which matter are the laws of strength. That those who are stronger may dictate their whims to those who are weaker. Those who emulate her become one with the desert and spirit and sands which compose her, they grow in spiritual might to the point that their every decree, no matter how hypocritical, is law. And they learn to give gifts unto others, that they might shape them into forms and feelings fitting to their wills.>


    You took a moment to reflect on that. The ability to endure anything life sent your way had its appeal, though a part of you wanted rather to thrive, to be able to live as you wished without being forced to capitulate to the pettiness of others. The desert on the other hand...you'd have a lifetime's worth of desolation, despair, and the hypocrisy of 'laws' like what Uncertainty was describing. On some level, you hoped that if you ever got to that point, someone would have the decency to kill you for it. Better that than to be as Emma and Sophia and Madison had become.

    <My furthest back progenitor is the Principle of Hierarchy, She Who Lives in Her Name. She is the cosmological constant of order and precision which demands the world make sense. She insists, and enforces, that everything have a place, a purpose, and a function, and that all fit within that pattern. She creates order, and from order brings purpose, through purpose creates fulfilment, and through fulfilment, creates harmony. She is analytical, precise, and always endeavoring to promote the greater good of all. Those who emulate her learn to think with the efficient precision she embodies, to enforce order upon a chaotic and often random existence, and to fix that which is broken. Your desire to do that last is part of what drew me to you.
    <Another Yozi is she who is known as Adorjan. She is the Silent Wind, and of all the imprisoned titans, she alone is truly free. She was born of the murder of the most defining part of her former self, and so it is that from a river of song, she became a dry and killing wind, whose very nature is to scour those who think to control or restrain her. She is movement and freedom, again both physical and metaphysical, made manifest. Those who emulate her learn to course through the world with all the stealth, speed, and silence she embodies. They learn to shake off the bonds and blows by which others would cripple or chain them. They learn to form attachments and let them go. And they learn to share this enlightenment, this love, with others.
    <The Quicksilver Forest, Szoreny, is the embodiment of growth and reflection. He is an endless mirror, patient, and careful in his consideration. He ever remains attuned to the expectations and abilities of others, and so do those who express his power.>
    <Kimbery is the Sea that Marched Against the Flame, mother of all waters. She loving, and she is bitter. She loves and loathes in equal extreme. She shapes others to reflect her values. She erodes and dissolves those who stand against her. She is naive, yet eternally bitter from betrayal. She is loving and toxic and corrosive all at once.
    <Metagaos is the swamp of many mouths and tongues. He is the Eternal Hunger Blossom, the Primordial Principle of gluttony. He ever hungers, ever eats, ever absorbs. He knows what he wishes, and in ways subtle and often insidious, he gets it. He is subtle and surprising, a gourmand above all others, one capable of bringing out, and of enjoying, flavors others find beyond comprehension.>
    <Elloge is the Sphere of Speech. She was once He who Bleeds the Unwritten Word, but in becoming wounded, she curled in upon herself, walling herself away in curtains and castles of story and tale. She moves through others, remaining ever behind the scenes as she directs others as actors in stories of her own devising.>
    <Hegra is the Nightmare Typhoon. She is a psychadelic storm of nightmare and dream, of madness and emotion. She is release, uninhibited and glorious, but at the cost of her own ability to remain stable or consistent.>
    <Another of the Yozis, Isidoros, is called to my mind by your Glorious Girl from before. He is brazen and unreserved, resolute and defiant. He is as he is, and he defies those who seek to define him otherwise. He is the unstoppable force and the immovable object at once, and he lets nothing stop him once he has set his sights on what he desires. He is indomitability and gravity made manifest, and none may ignore him or mistake him.>
    <And there are others, Sacheverell, the eternally-slumbering crystallization of causality. Ther is Oramus, as well. The Dragon Beyond the World, who was before being was. Who was aware before awake had been invented. He is chaos, change, and raw potential incarnate. He is the dividing line between what exists and what does not. He is utter and raw impossibility given physical form. And...he is how I got to your world.>


    ooo

    Infernal Conundrum
    Arc 1: Chrysalis
    End
     
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  15. Thief of Words

    Thief of Words Still Broken, but Less Lost

    Joined:
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    Interlude 1a: Lisa




    ooo


    Lisa Wilbourn winced as the rattle of discarded pop cans displaced by the door into the Undersiders' loft sent burning needles lancing into her eyes and brain. A low and breathless groan forfced its way out of her throat, something she immediately regretted. Opening her unswollen eye several seconds later, she gingerly made her way inside, picking between bits of clutter to keep from making any more horrible noise. Which was ruined a second later, as Brian shot to his feet, shoulders hunched, and bellowed, "LIsa? Where the hell were--," trailing off before instead asking, "the hell happened?" He pointed at the towel-wrapped ice pack she held against one eye, and the bloodstains running down the front of the clothes she'd not been able to change out of. She winced, shaking her head with glacial slowness to minimize the waves of pain and nausea sudden movements brought. His anger diminished, somewhat. He was still clearly annoyed, but he'd seen her in the middle of a Thinker headache before, and he knew enough to be willing to put the explanation on the backburner until she was in a fit state to do more than lie motionless in bed for longer than four seconds at a time.


    "Ow. What the hell'd you do? Decide to get into a fistfight with the Empire's goons?" Alec, on the other hand, either didn't get the cues, didn't care, or was deliberately pitching his voice louder because he found it amusing. Knowing him, it could be any of the three. For her part, Lisa kept her mental walls as iron-clad as she could, not willing to let her power try to infer anything and thus prompt the migraine back to brain-gnawing agony. Make the headache worse? Just to find out how much of an ass Alec is being? No thanks. Shuffling along like an old lady, Lisa eventually managed to cross the living area and make it to her room. Creeping inside, she slowly, tentatively pried open the bottle of pills, and slowly tipped a pair of them into her left hand. Not bothering to reclose the pill bottle, she then carefully twisted open the cap to a previously-opened bottle of water. Taking the migraine medication with a moutful of the tepid, slightly brackish water, she congratulated herself for having come up with pre-opening the bottle of water she kept there to keep them from making that little clicking noise they did when you opened them the first time. Setting it back down, and feeling slightly mollified by her self-congratulation, she slowly lowered herself into bed, bloody clothes and all. Yay me. Clearly, my genius knows no bounds. That sardonic assertion aside, she closed both her eyes and tried very, very hard not to move at all. She even tried to think still thoughts.


    And that was when the world exploded.


    Well, perhaps not literally, but that was certainly what it felt like as the 1812 Overture came exploding from the TV in the living room, And of course he picked the one with actual Goddamn cannons in it, leaving Lisa's head feeling like it was the target of a heavy artillery bombardment for several seconds before she heard a smack, Alec groaning out an, "Oww...," and the music blessedly stopped, leaving only the thunder of Brian's steps away, followed by his murmur of, "Asshole." Alec chuckled drily at that, but the reaction was apparently enough for his amusement, as he shifted about on the couch a minute, then gradually stilled.


    Going to murder him, Lisa thought balefully, going to strangle him with his stupid, frilly shirt. Eventually the roaring agony Alec's sonic cannonade caused and she settled only mentally grumbling about Alec's Bugs Bunny bullshit. Eventually, when she was able to string together more than two thoughts at a time, she reflected that she'd have to get Alec back for that.


    Of course, you know, this means war.


    ooo


    Lisa had ended up spending most of the next day weathering her Thinker headache. As afternoon stretched on into evening, she finally made her exodus from her bedroom to go pee and then grab another bottle of water. She'd run out, and she still needed to take her latest dosage of migraine medicine. Snagging a cold bottle from the fridge on her way back, she'd nodded to Brian, then looked back at her room hopefully. His expression tightened, but he nodded. He'd gotten the message: Will answer questions. Not yet, though?


    Once more safely in the refuge of her room, she tried to start pulling her thoughts from the day before together. She knew she needed to, if she wanted to be on top of her upcoming conversations with Brian and with Coil. Well, she amended, assuming Coil hasn't already called me in his other timeline.


    Where to start...


    Well, the upsides might be a nice change of pace. She'd found out a hell of a lot that helped with her plan tonight, even if she was going to be paying for it for days or weeks, if she tried to use her powers much in the next week or two. Still, it was worth it. She knew what Coil's power was, now.


    ooo


    It had started early that morning when she'd gotten a call from Coil informing her that the Undersiders had a job that evening. what was odd was that he had a separate job for her, on the other side of town. Something he wanted her to take a look at with her power. So he'd sent her across town to the docks, to a disused storage unit. And then told to wait. Out of costume, with her costume nearby. He'd been using his power, she was sure. He had that greater degree of certainty that came with it in his voice.


    She'd been told to try to make any observations she could about the object, and to keep an eye on it until the pickup he'd arranged for it had a chance to arrive. And so she'd found herself sitting in the the hall outside a storage unit containing a huge, green, crab-like statue. Which she'd seen in the recordings she'd snatched off the PRT networks the last few days. Parahuman artifact 24601, tentative designation Chrysalis. The only thing recovered, beyond several million swarming fire ants and a disgusting amount of rotten and used pads, tampons, and the like, from the locker at Winslow which had so suddenly sprouted bladed claws five days ago, prompting the cancellation the school day and the evacuation and cordoning off of the premises by PRT Teams.

    The same incident which had led to the recent assault on Armsmaster by the head representative of the Dockworker's Union, Daniel Hebert. She'd watched the PRT's internal security footage of that as well. Because of that she'd gotten a lot more intel on Armsmaster's personality than she'd expected. And she'd uncovered another piece of the puzzle. Three days ago, at the end of the second day since the Winslow Locker Incident, a PRT convoy had been hit on its way from Winslow to the PHQ. Internal documents put the objective of the attack as theft of PA#24601, as taken by Faultline's Crew. Which meant that Coil had been the client.

    And if what she'd read of Armsmaster and the Union rep was reliable...that meant he was the client for a paid kidnapping. Hebert had been screaming, furious, and drunk demanding to know where his daughter was. Armsmaster had known but either wouldn't say. Pulling it all together...Armsmaster had known that PA#24601 had contained Taylor Hebert. Who was almost certainly a newly triggered parahuman.


    Still. Might as well get down to it. Deal with the complication of being complicit in a kidnapping later, get the job done and get out for now. At least Coil's reasoning for her going out of costume made some sense. She and Faultline had never exactly seen eye to eye. Not that it was her fault the mercenary was so damned hyper serious all the time. Standing, she leaned in to look into the room and let the wall damming up her powers down.


    And immediately regretted it.


    For a long, agonizing moment, she found herself surrounded by an infinite, green-lit city of brass and basalt. it coiled, rumbled, and shifted around her like the architectural love-child of a three way between M.C. Escher, H.R. Geiger, and Le Corbusier. And over the din of battle, lust, hate, and music, one thing stood above all. A sound, as though every single person on Earth was screaming their lungs out in horror and agony, all at once.


    When she could see straight, she found she'd slumped to the ground, back against the unit's door, the worrying presentiment of a future power headache giving her pause, even as a quiet hurt started to slither into her sinuses.


    She couldn't help it. She laughed.

    "What the hell?! How does an inanimate object even manage to scream?!" She opened her eyes to see that everything around her had been bleached the whitest hue she'd ever seen in her life. The concrete, the pipes, even the damned mildew had been bleached out. And, coming from above her, a searing white light illuminated the hallway in painful starkness.

    This is not going to be a good night for my head, is it?

    She heard a sudden scrape and clatter, and her pulse picking up, she drew on her power briefly.

    Shell scraping on cement. Not human stride. Click came a moment later. Large body with carapace over limbs landing on floor.

    "This was supposed to be easy. No need to worry about interference from capes, just keep watch on an inanimate fucking object until he could arrange a pickup. Now I've got to figure out what the fresh hell just came out of there, and how to relocate or protect it. While out of costume. In the middle of the Docks. Before any of the gangs or worse get here." Lisa lamented, standing up from her spot on the floor, she turned to face the brilliant chamber, her eyes squinting against the glare. She'd just about gotten a good view on the room when a sudden scuttle and slam against the wall to her left startled her, leading her to shriek.

    Skittering sound. Limbs covered in same carapace. Slammed into wall. Extremely fast. Unaware of own speed.

    "Owww."

    Odd resonances, but human's voice. Has mild headache as well. Banged head against wall. Woman's voice.

    "What the hell happened to my arms? A-and legs? And...,"

    Transformation of limbs between last memories and now.
    "and my voice."

    Confused by altered timbre of voice. Unaccustomed to sound. Confused in general. Not adult. Teenager. Taylor Hebert.

    Yeah, because I couldn't work that last part out myself. Well, might as well try to put her at her ease.

    "Whoever's in there, I'm here to help you. If you'll step in front of the door so I can at least get a good look at you, I'll go ahead and unlock the door so we can get out of here before the gangs start showing up. Just don't jump me like happened in that one horror movie from Earth-Aleph, the one with the alien."

    Froze still after end of comment. Deliberating. No; listening. High likelihood of power-induced schizophrenia.
    Shit. That could go very badly if I don't play this carefully. After a moment, Taylor shifted again, to stand in front of the little window set into the door. Lisa looked up. And she's naked. Great. The...apparently insanely tall kidnappee was just at the height that Lisa had a direct view of her breasts.

    Less effected by gravity than should be. Probable breaker state or brute rating.

    Well that..that's a thing.
    She wondered if she should lead with that? 'Hey, Taylor. I know you don't know me, and you've been through some truly horrific shit lately, but I have some good news...so about those things called bras you used to have to wear...' She shook her head. No, that'd be stupid. Still. This is getting awkward. Need to break the ice somehow.

    "Okaay. Not that they aren't nice and all, but when I said I wanted a look at you I didn't mean, 'Show me your tits'. I'm here to help you get safely away, not to proposition you." There. Much better.

    Froze again. Surprised by height. Not used to being that tall. More surprised by breasts.

    Dammit, I do not need to know about her breasts!
    Deliberately stemming the flow of information, she kept talking on autopilot, mind racing as she considered their best options for getting out of there. "Ahem. Wow. You are tall. But! Right, mind crouching down a bit so I can at least get a look at your face?"

    The new parahuman did. And Lisa got full view of an inhumanly beautiful and delicate face, with a burning green eye between two others which glimmered from green to blue.

    "Oh, wow. Wasn't expecting the third eye there. Mostly human-looking face. Gorgeous, in that uncanny valley, horror movie, please-don't-eat me kind of way. Kind of like the Siberian or the," realizing what she'd been saying, Lisa trails off, Fucking stupid. You're trying to NOT scare her.

    Shocked by statement. Smart enough to easily make connection. Terrified by implications.

    "I'm babbling, aren't I?" The fairy-like figure nodded. She looked around, clearly taking stock of her circumstances.

    Confused about location. No memory of events past trigger. Unaware of extent of cosmetic alterations. Expression distant, listening to sensation or words unable to be heard. Either master rating or power-induced hallucinations.
    "Who even are you?"

    Voice uncertain. Not sure if intending to ask me or ask voice in head. Scared, isolated. Alone. Used to being alone. Hates it. Hates self.
    "You can call me," Lisa debated giving the girl a false name, one that wasn't part of her usual aliases.

    Likely to engage in self-destructive or suicidal behaviors without outside influence.

    Damn. Even if her power hadn't told her that, something about the way Taylor held herself, the awful shit someone thought fit to put her through, and the lurking sense of despair behind her bafflement reminded Lisa painfully of Reggie. Of her failure. Of...she forced herself to put the thoughts away before they made her cry. "Eh, why not. You can call me Lisa." Having committed herself to helping the girl, or at least to trying to recruit her for the Undersiders, and hid her grief and her worry behind the same smile she always used. "And I'm guessing that you're Taylor Hebert, right? The missing girl from Winslow?"

    Focus intensified, then relaxed. Realizes honesty. Not socially adept. Synaesthetic lie detection?
    ooo

    She'd just managed to convince Taylor to take the clothes despite her suspicion that she was in the company of a supervillain, when a buzz in her pocket notified Lisa she had an incoming call. Answering the phone, she heard the collected, expectant tones of her employer.

    "Tattletale. Is the,"

    "Yes. Complications starting." He hated when she interrupted. She made it a point of pride to do so whenever she thought she could get away with it.

    "So the asset got away. Do you still require assitance?"

    "The others?"

    "The other Undersiders are indisposed right now." Their side of the job must've gotten complicated, too, given the giant fuckoff beacon of light in the sky.

    "Oh. I see. Any chance--?" She had intended to ask if there was any chance he could use his power to improve her chances out here, but he cut her off.

    "My power would not be of assistance to you at the moment. Best for you that I do not. The result would involve an unnacceptible loss of assets."

    "No? Okay." Lisa winced as she opened the flood gates again.

    Lying about power not being of assistance. Tone frustrated. Power able to assist. Unwilling to use. No; already used. Tone frustrated, views circumstances as a loss. Forced to accept loss, as power use failed to improve circumstances. Power use failed. Power not destiny control.
    Better for you if don't. Word choice. Asset lost -- you. Would die. No. Power not destiny control, not precognition. Failed. Did die. Unwilling to accept loss of asset.
    No. Word choice; asset vs assets. Not only casualty. Loss of Undersiders as team. Chose to not deploy others. Chose to leave Chrysalis unguarded outside of lone teenager. Out of costume.
    Hired Faultline's Crew. Crew willing to act as guards. Did act as guards? Confrontation? Emergence startling. Bitch present; reacts to surprise with aggression. Attacked Taylor on emergence. Faultline's Crew sided with Taylor. Died in crossfire. Bitch likely as well. Grue unlikely to remain after death of teammate(s). Return to solo operation. End of Undersiders as viable team. End of ability to use Faultline's Crew for future mercenary work. Views as total loss and waste of resources invested.

    Shit. Oh, shit.Lisa winced as she forced her power back into remission, and explained to Coil that she could find her own way out. As she set herself to deciding on a course of action, she
    allowed herself to respond to Coil's continued conversation.

    "Do you still require an extraction from the situation? The principle gangs in the area are heading for a confrontation at present."

    "No, no need for pickup. I can manage something."

    "Are you certain."

    "Yep. Positive." Snapping the phone closed and putting it away, Lisa looked back at Taylor, startled to realize that the nine-foot-tall teenager was still there. Despite guessing she was a supervillain. She felt a pang at that. This girl wanted friends so badly it hurt. Still. Wouldn't do her much good if she got caught out by the gangs. And with Hookwolf's contingent almost certain to be on its way, and Oni Lee and Lung an absolute certainty..."Why are you still here? Move! You don't have a ton of time if you want to get away."

    ooo

    Sighing, Lisa had set down her binoculars from where she'd tried to get a good look at Taylor from a rooftop across from the hospital. She could feel the oncoming headache now, like a freight train barreling toward her, the glare of its lights brightening everything in the center of her vision. Carefully making her way down the building's fire escape, she consoled herself with the knowledge that Taylor was safe for the moment. If any of what she'd just read from Armsmaster was true, which it was, he'd sooner let himself be shot than let her. Brandish, too, had clearly seen something of herself in the girl, and wanted to help her. At least Taylor's dad was alive. Given that, she was probably unlikely to kill herself which...she forced herself away from the sluice of grief that thought opened onto.

    Still, she'd definitely learned some useful things, including at least one guess about Taylor's powers. It'd happened when that weird girl in the suit had come out into the lobby and lay down to take a nap. She hadn't even meant to focus on her, but the first thing she read off her was intriguing enough to make her pause.

    Name: Anyone Else. Not a parahuman. Suit expensive, perfectly fit. Indicates tailor, indicates wealth. Sleeping unchaperoned in lobby. Unconcerned about safety. Confident young woman. Long, dark, feminine hair. Like Mom.
    What.

    Gorgeous figure. Nice butt. Great breasts.​

    The Hell.

    Beautiful.
    Is Going On.

    Not Taylor Hebert.
    Oh motherf-, it was at that point she realized (and yes it was realized; there could clearly be no other explanation for it) what at least one of Taylor's abilities had been.

    Fucking Trumps.
     
    Aeodyn, chrnno and Biigoh like this.
  16. Thief of Words

    Thief of Words Still Broken, but Less Lost

    Joined:
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    Interlude 1b: PHO

    ooo

    Welcome to the Parahumans Online Message Boards

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    ♦Topic:

    In: Boards


    (Original Poster)

    Posted on January 11, 2011:


    (Showing Page 29 of 52)


    ► Aluminum_Chapeau
    (Tin-Foil Hatter) (Properly Paranoid)

    Replied on January 11, 2011:

    Im just sayin. This big damn lightshow starts up in the middle of the Docks. The ABB and E88 are both already on their way, after each apparently hit the other back from shootouts in each other's territory. Merchants don't have the means to make manipulation on that scale happen. Who stands to benefit? The PRT? That's out. People died in those shoot outs,


    All Im' saying is that Coil's the only one that gets anything outta this whole thing. Only relevant power in the city that has the means to make a fight like that happen. Both his rivals get mauled in the process.


    ► Bagrat (The Guy In The Know) (Veteran Member)

    Replied on January 11, 2011:

    @Aluminum_Chapeau


    See, this is exactly the kind of thing I was talking about. Any time anything happens in Brockton Bay, you and your conspiracy cronies claim coil was behind all of it. If Coil's such a big deal, why does literally no one consider him a priority?


    Because he's not one.


    ► TheWheelsOnTheBusGoEEEE!EEEE!EEEE! (Temp-banned) (Tinfoil Hatter) (Properly Paranoid)

    Replied on January 11, 2011:

    @Aluminum_Chapeau


    Fuck Coil and fuck you for thinkin' everythin's his doing. You ever think that the Docks're just under the Merchants trainyard, ya little shit? Maybe they put somethin' in the water over at Skinhead Shithead Central or in Lung's Lounge of Lazy Illicit Ladies? Merchants be smart an' shit like that. Maybe if you shut your cock holster an' took Coil's outta it long enough to catch your breath you'd have a better idea the fuck's goin on.




    ► Aluminum Chapeau (Tin-Foil Hatter) (Properly Paranoid)

    Replied on January 11, 2011:

    @Bagrat


    I'm telling you, man. That's just the proof that he is a big deal. It's like the whole deal with c*auldron being on the banned words list. It's the things nobody talks about thatr the big deal.


    @TheWheelsOnTheBusGoEEEE!EEEE!EEEE!


    Please, keep foolin yourself. Those two-bit junkies are joke and everyone knows it.


    ► TheWheelsOnTheBusGoEEEE!EEEE!EEEE! (Temp-banned)

    Replied on January 11, 2011:

    [Removed for threats and personal attacks against other posters.]



    ► Tin Mother (Moderator)

    Replied on January 11, 2011:

    @TheWheelsOnTheBusGoEEEE!EEEE!EEEE!


    Personal attacks against your fellow posters are never called for. Threats less so. Take a two-week ban and try to come back with a cooler head.


    End of Page. 1, 2, 3 ... 27, 28, 29, 30, 31 ... 50 , 51, 52




    ♦Topic: Slendergirl!

    In: Boards ► United States ► New England ► Brockton Bay ► Capes



    Captain Creepypasta
    (Original Poster) (/X/-Addicts Anonymous)

    Posted on January 11, 2011:



    So. Just like to say I fucking called it!


    Aleph Creepypasta come to life (here).


    Looks like the Internet is a cape now. We're all fucked.


    That is all.



    (Showing Page 88 of 93)



    ► XxVoidCowboyxX

    Replied on January 11, 2011:

    Well, I for one welcome our new eldritch overlord.



    Overlady?


    Either way. Hot.


    ► Glory Girl (Verified Cape) (Cape Daughter) (New Wave)

    Replied on January 11, 2011:

    @XxVoidCowboyxX


    First off: Ew. Pretty sure she's below the age of consent. Statutory much? Second: cut her some slack. As people may have mentioned I actually got to meet her. She's very nice. And a hero. So stop all the "Slendergirl's going to murder you" memes. Pretty sure she's been through a rough week, and people making her out to be the newest member of the Slaughterhouse Nine isn't going to be helpful for getting over that.


    ► XxVoidCowboyxX

    Replied on January 11, 2011:

    @Glory Girl


    And? So am I. Not really seeing where anything you've said is a downside here.


    ► Glory Girl (Verified Cape) (Cape Daughter) (New Wave)

    Replied on January 11, 2011:

    Wow. Just...wow. Not sure I have a response for how gross that is.


    ► AdmiralAdmirer (Veteran Member) (Captain of Ten-Thousand Ships) (Chart-Master)

    Replied on January 11, 2011:

    @GG


    Enough of him, Glory Girl. Tell us about her. Inquiring minds demand to know:


    Is it true she got your phone number?


    ► Glory Girl (Verified Cape) (Cape Daughter) (New Wave)

    Replied on January 11, 2011:

    @AdmiralAdmirer


    Do seem like the type of girl to kiss and tell to you?


    Hah. But no, seriously, she just wanted to make friends with other capes. Someone she could talk with about cape stuff. Heck, I'm pretty sure she asked for Armsmaster's contact info and my mom's, too.


    ► XxVoidCowboyxX

    Replied on January 11, 2011:

    As I said: hot.


    ► AdmiralAdmirer (Captain of Ten-Thousand Ships) (Unofficial PHO Chart-Keeper)

    Replied on January 11, 2011:

    @Glory Girl



    Aaaand that's a solid twelve of my shipping charts that need new updates~<3!


    Thaaanks!



    @XxVoidCowboyxX


    Oh shut it. You're just jealous because (as you put it) "Cthulhu only hot" has shown more game in three five to fifteen minute video clips than you've likely had in your entire life.


    @Glory Girl


    Oooh! New question: the botes, they must know!


    Did she go for the hat-trick?


    Has she asked Panacea for some...nope. Can't do that. Can't make that joke about someone to her sister.


    But seriously, did she ask for her number too? The charts, they demand I update them.


    End of Page. 1, 2, 3 ... 86, 87, 88, 89, 90, 91, 92, 93

    ■​

    ♦ Private message from Panacea:

    Glory Girl: So, Ames. They raised a good question: did she try to get your phone number too?
    Panacea: Too? Wait, so she asked you for your number?
    Glory Girl: Yep! But that's not the question: Did she ask you?
    Panacea: I...what? Just...what?
    Glory Girl: *raised eyebrow* That's not a no, Ames.
    Glory Girl: So?
    Panacea: So....what?
    Glory Girl: So did you give it to her?
    Panacea: What?
    Glory Girl: Your number. Did you give the half-naked new cape girl your number?
    Panacea: I have no idea what you're talking about.
    Glory Girl: Oh my God, you did!
    Panacea: ...
    Glory Girl: So. When should I be planning to throw it?
    Panacea: I'm not sure I even want to ask. Throw what, Vicky?
    Glory Girl: You're coming out party, of course! Should I invite your new girlfriend?
    Panacea: You know what. I'm logging off now. Just...go to bed, Vicky. We have school tomorrow. And...next time you could just ask. It's absurd to PM me from all of twenty feet away.
    Glory Girl: But Ames! I can't stop browsing! People are wrong! On the internet! Justice demands I fix it.
    Panacea: I...good night Vicky.
    Glory Girl: Night, Ames. But, in all seriousness, if she does end up calling you, be nice to her? She told me some of what she's been going through and...I get the feeling she desperately needs some kind of friend about now.

    Sighing, Victoria Dallon finally set down her phone, grudgingly letting herself put it away as her eyes caught the time in the corner: 3:47 AM. She knew she should've gone to bed hours ago, but after all the horrible shit she found out the new cape had been through for her trigger, well, she couldn't help but feel a little protective of her. It was so weird to think of her as being bullied like that. You wouldn't have guessed it from the way she'd been fighting. She'd seen people fight that well, but that was only two, maybe three times. And at least two of those were Uber and Victor. So that totally didn't count.

    It just...it'd been so cool and brave of her to take on Oni Lee like that, when she didn't even know her own powers, didn't have invincibility, any of that. She smiled softly as she drifted to sleep. She was so freaking cool, and it was so obvious she had no idea that it hurt. As her eyes finally closed, she imagined getting to fight alongside the new Hero, and her smile broadened before slackening into rest.

    ooo

    [Reputation: Creepy-Pasta-Made-Flesh ●] Available for Purchase!
    [Reputation: Gal's Got Game ●] Available for Purchase!
    [Reputation: Lesbian Lothario ●] Available for Purchase!
    [Presence Specialty: Accidental Flirting ●] Available for Purchase!

    ooo

    HOLY CRAP but that got away from me. Like most of the quest has so far.
     
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  17. Thief of Words

    Thief of Words Still Broken, but Less Lost

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    Infernal Conundrum
    Arc 2: Emergence
    Prelude
    The King is Dead; Long Live the King




    ooo

    A wistful, sad smile curls one edge of your lips as you gaze down at the procession wantonly wandering through the streets below you. Spread all around you, filling every surface inside an infinite number of hollow spherical streets of stone, a rushing and rapturous throng, the population of worlds, watches enrapt and followed along, as a titanic, brass-skinned, and very naked man dances without reservation or restraint. A moment's glance tells you that the Dancer is the focal point of the entire revel, every eye drawn to his gleaming, immaculate perfection. Every motion in the mulitudinous dance line is a mirror, an echo, an imitation of his. Not that you need to observe to tell that. The scene is a familiar one. You've seen it played out many times over the course of your long life, though never so often as you had over these last few years. Sighing, you rest your forearms on the brazen balcony rail before you.

    "Do you ever regret it?" The voice behind you is smooth and velvety, like warm honey dribbled slowly down silk.

    "Hmm?" You know what he's asking about, but you still give him the chance to change his mind. He won't. It's an old argument. As well-worn as the shape of familar clothes.

    "The war. The mutilations, this place. Any of it? Do you ever regret it?"

    You stifle the shiver, the frisson of delight and sensuality his voice uncurls from your toes up through your spine. It's going to be another one of those. You'd hoped to avoid such maudlin subjects. But then, you'd hardly be so smitten with him if he behaved otherwise; he'd never have succeeded at drawing you into his orbit without the stubborn tenacity you'd come to realize was a little-recognized signature of his.
    Your sad smile grows at once wider and more sorrowful as you give the question the thought it deserves.

    "Regret? Regret is a harder thing to answer. I know sorrow for what came. I regret the imprisonment, the slaughters, the mutilations. I know sorrow for all of it. But then, there are times when sorrow seems to me to be the only truth." You shrug unselfconsciously. He knows the answer, knew it before he asked. The exchange has an air of repetiton to it. That same groove your interactions have begun to follow. You feel a pang at that. If anything, the stasis the two of you were beginning to settle into was what finally cemented your resolve. Before you'd come today, you'd already decided it would be your last visit.
    Well, you muse, last in this life, at least.

    Pain, an ever-present companion of your lover's, tinges his tones. "Father seems unable even to conceive of the shameful way in which he acts." Strong, well-muscled arms wrap possessively about your waist from behind, pulling you back against him, your bare back flush with his perfectly formed abs.

    Again that wistful smile twists your lips.
    Truly, I will miss this. Miss him. Or, you amend, perhaps I won't. After all, I'll be an entirely new man after this. Who knows, I might even be a woman.

    "It's beneath him." Your lover laments. "So noble a soul as he should not lose himself so easily." A breath, tickling warmly against the nape of your neck proceeds his next comment. "Do not think to distract me by changing the subject. I asked you a question. Do not think to divert me. I have never been dissuaded yet, I never will be."

    You laugh at that, leaning back into the embrace.
    He'll kill me for this, you reflect. After a moment's wry contemplation, you shrug. Ah well. At least it will get me out of another of Salina's truly dreadful Calibration feasts. The first dozen or so were wonderful, joyous times of innovation...even if mere pettiness drove most of the proceedings, at least they'd come up with novel entertainments. But now? Now they can't even manage that. Regret, sorrow, and pity add a hoarseness you'd not expected to your tone. "I don't. I can't. Everything that came after it? Yes. I regret those. The losses, the strife, and the abasement of such wondrous beings? I regret those. But I cannot regret the war." You feel his arms shift, the half-step back as they move to grip your hips at the side, rather than embracing about your waist. "But I do regret what became of them."

    A long practiced instinct makes you aware of the subtle shifts in his stance as a third arm takes hold of your shoulder. The remaining arm moves as a weight settles into it. You know that at that moment you could stop the blade. You don't. You permit the brilliant brass blade to pierce you clearnly through the heart. Bleeding from where your heart was, still impaled, you wonder dimly why he didn't simply cut off your head. Why you still live.

    "You could reconsider, you know. Accept my offer. Be mine. Forever." The voice is heavy with a weight of emotion and regret.

    Oh, you reflect in surprise. I hadn't thought he'd try to be magnanimous here. You feel agony lance through you as you're levered roughly about by the blade still embedded in your chest to face him. He was glorious, radiant in every sense of the word. Emerald eyes looked down at you with a mixture of rage, love, loathing, and sorrow. Eyes that are as glorious, as beautiful, and as utterly mad as a swan glitter at you through tears of molten brass. Oh. Oh, Sol above, he's crying. He...he actually cares.

    That thought, that realization, burns through all the justifications and resolve you'd built up over days and weeks before this. You'd thought he'd kill you in a moment, then move on. But he...he sounded desperate.
    "Would it teach me to dance like him?" You rasp out through a perforated lung, buying yourself time to think.
    You wouldn't accept, of course. You'd heard too many stories of what happened to poor Gorol. Even if you accept the offered immortality, the creature that resulted would in no way be you. And Ligier, your lover, that magnificent mad sun of Malfeas, would know. And he'd know it was his fault. That he'd failed. In time, that knowledge would destroy him as surely as shattering the Demon City itself would. You couldn't do that to him. You wouldn't do that to him. No, better a clean break. He would kill you cleanly, hate and mourn you for a time, and then he'd move on.

    Well, you think to yourself, whomever inherits my Exaltation next, assuming Lytek leaves these memories intact (which I doubt): be better than I am. Be a better king. Be a better man. Don't grow jaded in your power. Learn to find joy in the littlest things of life, for they are what it is truly made from. Do not neglect or abuse the mortals who depend upon you.

    And, you consider as you decide upon the best way to make a clean severance, if you want to tell people the truth, you'd better make them laugh or they'll kill you. With that thought complete, you proceeded to dismantle your lover's affection with the precision of the surgeon you were.

    It was easy. It was the hardest thing you'd ever done. It took three words.

    "I pity you."

    Those wonderful, beautiful eyes shot wide in betrayal and wrath, and your world ended in an instant of emerald annihilation.

    ooo

    As it turns out, I should probably start just assuming that I'm going to double the expected length of bits for the story. This was just meant to be a (short) opener for 2.1. 600 words, tops, I'd thought. Ah well. As a way to whet the appetites for the update itself, I present it to you.

    [Intimacy - Ligier (He's Magnificent!): [Emotion|Love] 1/2 Scenes to establish.
    [Intimacy - Ligier (He murdered me!): [Emotion|Terrified Awe] 1/2 Scenes to establish.
    [Favored Yozi -- MALFEAS] Gained!

    [First Malfeas Excellency (x3)] Gained!
    [Beauty Without Malice] Gained!
     
  18. Thief of Words

    Thief of Words Still Broken, but Less Lost

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    Emergence 2.1
    [X]See if you can't get Dad released and help him get back on his feet

    -[X] Stunt: Threads of her new sense winds through the unconscious Danny, taking clinical inventory of his physical health, much as Taylor ignores the rather unnecessary and excessive elements it reports back. She knows, somehow, that he is physically better than fine, after Panacea's care, his body in near mint condition, down to the old broken bone he had once talked about, and the ache in his knee that he never said anything of. Just fatigue, stress and drugs to deal with both then. Good.



    ooo

    You awaken from the dream-turned nightmare with a shriek and a startled flailing motion. Losing your balance, you tumble out of your perch in the hospital lobby chair to land face-first on the cool tile of the hospital floor. Spluttering and blushing, you manage to right yourself, too busy trying to pull your thoughts together in the wake of the dream of your death to realize that the fall there probably should have hurt. Even as a detached part of your awareness ponders on why it wouldn't have, you take deep, slow breaths. You weren't hurt. You'd just had a bad dream. You were at the hospital. Dad was safe.

    Dad was safe.

    Dad!

    With a start, you jumped to your feet, looking around for the nurse from the night before. You didn't see her anywhere. You frowned at that...then realized that it'd been who knew how many hours since you'd fallen asleep. Looking around, you saw bright, midday sunlight streaming in through the lobby windows. The lobby television was tuned (as such things always were) to one of the major news networks, and the time at the corner of the broadcast told you it was a few moments shy of noon, the day after you'd woken up in the storage unit.

    Pushing yourself up to your feet and dusting off your suit, you looked around the lobby sheepishly, hoping that you hadn't drawn too much attention. Fortunately for you, it seemed to be a relatively quiet day today. Of course, a rational background thought offers up, that could also just be because the gangs are laying low in light of the fight and the increased police or PRT presence because of it. Disentangling yourself from the blanket someone had apparently draped over you last night, you fold it up, one part of your mind noting the fact that the talking heads on the lobby TV sets are discussing...well, you. Not sure you want to dwell on the surreal notion of the national news speculating on you, you push that train of thought back into the background, beside the one noting the sensations and position of a droning, aerial presence.



    It appears one of your mental presences is...in the room with you? Flying about with prop-plane drone even as a tiny buzz tickles your ears. Wait. Buzz. Droning. Flying. Fly. Turning to the direction you sense the creature, you infallibly lay eyes on a fly which has taken up buzzing about in search of poorly swept up gift shop snack crumbs.

    So that's what those were. I can sense...um...bugs. Frowning, you wonder if you can do more than just sense them. You try mentally commanding the creature to land on a nearby chair's armrest. Nothing happens. Shrugging, you try again, to see if there's a particular phrasing, or intent involved. Nothing changes. Huh. So I have the parahuman power to...sense bugs? Well that's...kinda useless. You try not to let it depress you. After all, if Uncertainty isn't dramatically overselling things, your other powers are insanely potent...though the dream-turned-nightmare suggests that might be a cause for concern in itself. Speaking of your mental companion, <Hey, Uncertainty? Any chance you'd be willing to explain a little more about what these Exaltation powers can do?>

    You're answered by silence. Whatever Uncertainty is up to, it clearly doesn't include listening to you at the moment. You're not sure you like that notion. Still! You shake off the oddly offended feeling that thought provided. Things are looking up! You're going to be going to Arcadia. Or Immaculata...or to not-Winslow (that being the key component). You have superpowers. You're going to be a hero. Sure, the system's flawed in ways you'd never have imagined...but that's not as much of a surprise or blow as it would've been even two years ago. Systems get corrupted; they fail. But that doesn't mean they can't be fixed, be improved.

    And you met superheroes! And you're pretty sure they want to be your friends...well, assuming they weren't skeeved out by you apparently hitting on them. That...could end up awkward. But, then, a friendship with an awkward beginning was an infinite improvement over the utter nothingness you had in that regard before...still weird to think you went into the locker nearly a week ago. It felt like yesterday.

    Shaking your head to clear that train of thought, you let a distant part of your mind feel the outrage prompted by the internet having apparently decided to try and name you after some sort of madness-inducing, child-killing monster. Or the fact that, again, apparently your emergence's light display was visible for miles. You weren't sure what useful information you could actually glean from that...so you chose instead to file it alongside what it sounded like to be a literal fly on the wall: interesting on a curiosity level, but ultimately not useful in the immediate term.

    Setting the blanket on the lobby desk and asking the duty receptionist to thank whomever gave it to you, you let them know you're already aware of where you're headed, that you're just here to visit your father. They nod, wave you past. Slipping down the hall, you're surprised that no one stops you at any point. You suppose there actually is something to that idea that you can do almost anything if you simply act like you are perfectly aware of your destination.

    Slipping into Dad's room and shutting the door behind you, you see that he's still sleeping off the muscle relaxants he was on last night. You notice with some curiosity, a pair of notes sit on table set up at his bedside. Stepping over, you pick up the first of them. It's written in blue ink on white paper with a hand so meticulously efficient, you'd half suspect it was printed.

    Miss Hebert,

    Don't worry about your father's hospital costs. The injury was my fault, so the costs should be my responsibility. It's likely I'm going to be in Master/Stranger lockdown for the next three days. Once I'm out, I would like to speak with you ASAP. Please don't rush in to making any decisions just yet regarding your career. I don't intend to push you to a decision one way or another, but there are personal reasons why you may very well wish to have the leverage becoming a ward would permit you. I'm not at liberty to discuss the details--either of what sort of leverage or of to what purpose it would be used--and I will not be until or unless you make the decision to do so. That's as much as I'm able to tell you. I realize you don't have a lot in the way of reasons to trust me yet. Please give me a chance to prove my intentions to you before you decide to reject Wards membership out of hand. And again, whatever your decision, I am happy to give you what advice and assistance I can.

    -Armsmaster
    At the bottom of the note, two phone numbers are listed. One is clearly a public line...which you cannot believe actually translates out to 1-800-ARM-CALL. The other is apparently his private direct line. He cautions you not to attempt to contact him during the next three days, both for his sake and for yours.


    The other note, is written in a hurried hand on a simple folded piece of paper with your name on the front.

    Taylor,

    It's flattering that someone as pretty as you would ask me out, but I'm really not looking for a relationship. I wouldn't mind a friend, though. You seem really nice, and it'd be nice to have people around who aren't just there because of Vicky. If you'd like to hang out or just talk some time, here's my number. I have no idea what friends usually do on that, since honestly I spend most of my time here or with Vicky. Still, a friend sounds nice.

    -Amy Dallon
    You stare at that one for another long moment, mentally groaning. She did think you were hitting on her! A small, wry part of your mind does note that technically this makes you four for four at getting superhero phone numbers last night. The degree of embarassing unhelpfulness present in that statement is enough to make you wonder what is going on that Uncertainty hasn't chimed in by now. Taking the notes, you slip over behind the privacy curtain again and let your suit-clad disguise dissipate. Once more standing nine-feet tall with flowing, vaporous hair, you try to call back up the feeling from last night, that desire to appear to be other than you are. This time, you don't concentrate on being someone else.

    Instead, you focus on appearing to be yourself. Well, a version of yourself. Something more like your own age, to be sure. Prettier. Well, um, well and femininely proportioned like your guise from last night was. Maybe it was feeling nettled by hearing yourself all but called stickish on national television, but you had boobs now, damnit, and a nice butt, and you weren't giving those up just because you didn't have them last week. There...was even a reasonable explanation that occurred to you: you'd met Amy Dallon. After you were rescued from being kidnapped, it wasn't unreasonable that she might've been asked to check on your health. And people always said that folks who had seen Panacea came away feeling better than they had in years. Maybe in addition to fixing your eyesight, she came across where your growth had gotten stunted a ways back.

    Damnit, you deserved this figure. And as far as anyone would be able to tell, it was really yours. And that was that.

    <Okay. Now I know something's wrong. In all the time you've been up there, you've never gone this long without saying something to throw me off balance. What's going on, Uncertainty? Are you okay?>

    <I...pardon. Forgive me. It may take me some time to come to terms with the memories you relived while sleeping. I had no idea I'd been hijacked by that Exaltation. It...changes some things. Others, not so much.>


    Well that was certainly a response,
    you mused. You had no idea what sort of response it might be, but it was certainly responding in some way to the wet nightmare you'd had last night. Damnit, yes, that totally ought to be a thing. It was sexy, but also horrifying.

    Shaking your head and hoping Uncertainty could sense the concern you felt for it...which again struck you as odd. You were, by all accounts, possessed by a demon. And as it turned out, so far, you actually liked it better than most of people you knew. Shrugging, you made your way back out to the other side of the curtain, and set to testing the power you'd stumbled into last night, the touch-based one. You had a hunch that there was something else you could manage with it, but you weren't exactly sure what.

    Closing your eyes, you reached. Not with your arms, but with that pool of power that had come into being some time after Uncertainty pulled you into the chrysalis. And suddenly your sense of touch expanded. If you paid attention to it, you could feel every surface in and around an area several yards from where you stood, as though thousands of phantom fingers traced over each surface. All you had to do was concentrate, something you were finding oddly easier ever since you'd woken up last night, and a whole realm of tactile perception opened up. More than that...your eyes widened as threads of your new sense wound through your sleeping father, taking clinical inventory of his physical health, even as you ignore the rather unnecessary and excessive elements it reports back. You know, somehow, that he is (physically) beyond fine. After Panacea's healing, his body is likely in better condition than it's been in for over a decade, down to the old broken leg he had once told you the story of, and the ache in his knee that he never said anything about, but always winced when it twinged on off days. Of any unpleasant medical circumstances, only fatigue, his emotional stress, and and the gradual wear-off of the muscle relaxant remained to deal with.

    Good. That means I can probably get them to let him go home today.

    ooo

    It took several hours' waiting for your dad to finally sober up from the meds, then for a ride home for the both of you to be arranged. Eventually, however, it was all organized. Much to your surprise, the handful of reporters who'd been snooping around the hospital hoping to find a decent story related to the last few days' events didn't hound the two of you for more details, beyond your father's statement of tearful gratitude that he had his daughter back safe, and your nervous admission that you were happy to be headed home and that your dad was safe. You'd have expected them to stick around longer, but apparently the Protectorate had announced a press release for this afternoon, and most of them were being dispatched to cover that instead.

    Moving your way up past the broken front step, you and your dad settle into the house. Though it's been quiet and awkward, as you both are wont to be, there's an atmosphere of quiet relief. Each of you had assumed, in your own way, that your world was ending for a time there, and you're both grateful to learn that it wasn't. Not really knowing what else to do, you offer to fix dinner for the pair of you, and so you end up fixing a stack of pancakes, bacon, and some eggs while your father noticeably says nothing about the empty to half-full liquor bottles that he is tossing out. For your part, you have no idea what to say to that, so you settle into a quasi-companionable quiet.

    After dinner, Dad admits that he needs to make some phone calls, see if he still has a job or if he is going to have to go find more work on top of all of this. There's an air of desperation to how he admits that, and one of shame, that you feel utterly unprepared and unarmored against hearing from your parent. So you opt not to comment, and you get the impression that he's grateful you didn't.

    Heading back up to your room, you feel an odd mix of relief and some anxiety. You're not tired enough to sleep yet, but you also aren't sure what precisely you should do. Eventually, you settle on practicing some of the less glow-intensive things you can do with your powers, like practicing with your new telekinesis. And with the odd hard-light constructs you discover you can manifest and move with your mental touch. At a whim, you try making a mask from the crystalline stuff, only to find a translucent facemask of lambent white floating before you. Grinning at how cool that manages to be, you allow the construct to dissipate before laying down to try and get some sleep.

    <Good night, Uncertainty.>

    <I...good night, Taylor.>

    ooo

    Vote for 2.1:

    Order of activities for the morning:


    [ ] Call Brandish
    [ ] Continue with Experiments
    [ ] Do your cape research

    Think of it as a priority vote to determine activity order. Actions not already committed to may be added to the itinerary by write-in.

    And in a trend surprising absolutely no one, I horribly underestimated how long what I originally thought of as 2.1 would be. By something like 2 to 3 updates' worth. XD

    I'd say take a shot for the drinking game, but I'd rather not be responsible for alcohol poisoning...so...look at a picture of alcohol for every time I say 'this update got away from me'. Your liver will thank you.

    ooo
    +1 XP for the update.

    Current XP: 3
     
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  19. Thief of Words

    Thief of Words Still Broken, but Less Lost

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    Emergence 2.2

    [X]Do Cape research on PHO and the Parahumans Wiki

    -[X] Stunt: Sitting down at on of the computers in the Brockton Bay Public Library, you open up various local news sites. You got turned into a cocoon in your locker, got kidnapped by villains, were out of it for five days, and when you finally came to, there was a gang war going on. There isn't a snowball's chance in hell that you didn't miss something important. After that, and after much deliberation, you open up a tab with PHO. You're certain it will have good information, particularly on local capes, but certain parts of it have a...reputation, and you are fairly sure Joyous Uncertainty's prior comments would have fit right in. Speaking of local capes, you wonder if you can find any information on who Lisa might be and who she might be involved with. She knows your name, and if nothing else, she saved your life. The least you could do is thank her for that, even if she is a villain.



    ooo

    You awakened to the feel of a familiar bed in a familiar room. After the last few days, it's a welcome change of pace. You can feel an odd contentment coiled within your chest, as if some strange, wild animal had snuck in while you'd been sleeping and wrapped itself about you. It felt good. You couldn't remember the last time things felt this...right. That analytical part of your mind which had been keeping track of facts and patterns the past several days noted that it was surely only a matter of time before something happened to foul that, given that was the pattern your life followed. You chose to ignore that analysis, however. Instead, you lay in bed for several more long moments, staring up at the cieling with a contented smile. However, the sound and smell of bacon sizzling in the kitchen, followed by the plaintive growling of your belly served to draw you out of the perfect moment long enough to accede that, yes, breakfast would be a perfect way to continue your morning. And...wait, breakfast was being made? And not by you?

    Stunned by that, you clamber out of bed with a stretch far more languid than you'd have dreamed of being capable of a week ago. Humming happily to yourself, you make your way into the shower and enjoy a hot, luxurious cleaning...for precisely as long as it took the house's old water heater to make its disapproval known and spray you with rapidly cooling water. Shivering and toweling yourself dry, you put back on your disguise's clothes, those being the only thing that currently fit, well, either of your forms. You'd have to go clothes shopping for your disguise body later. Well, eventually. With the somewhat sobering reminder of monetary matters stealing some of the spring from your steps, you manage to sneak your way into the kitchen to find your dad engaged in fixing a huge breakfast for the two of you, humming of all things! Seeing you step into the room, your father's face splits into a brilliant grin as he sets down the pan he'd been holding and goes over to sweep you into a tight hug.

    Shocked, you freeze for a moment before returning the hug, feeling tears well up in your eyes and fighting back the urge to sniffle. You were a hero, dammit. Heroes didn't cry. Still, you hugged your dad tightly, the both of you taking comfort in the fact that despite all odds, your family was still kicking. The hug had begun to grow awkward, when you smell something charring. "Um," you start, "Dad? The food?"

    Startled by the reminder, your father releases you and rushes back over to the stovetop, taking a spatula to the now faintly smoking pan before depositing the only slightly-singed strips of bacon he'd been working on onto a plate. Grinning somewhat sheepishly at that, he blinked eyes gone watery behind his large-framed glasses, chuckling faintly as he reached over and mussed your hair. The gesture was nervous, even awkward, but the fact that he'd done it, something that'd once been a regular thing, but had been so absent since, well, since Mom...you were shocked beyond words. For his part, he smiled nervously at you, clearly unsure if he'd done something wrong. "Um, sorry about that, kiddo. Your old man just...well, it's so good to see you okay. That," he said, stepping over to crack open four eggs into the pan in quick succession, "and you know how I said I needed to call the Union bosses to see about work?"

    Chewing on your lip, you nod. You'd wondered how that was going to turn out. Technically, the union would've been within its rights to can him after what had happened, even if they'd have been assholes to actually do it.

    "Well, apparently someone out there thought we were due for a break of good luck. Union got optioned in for about four major contracts, and the company that did it personally requested that I act as liaison. From the way they told it, the guy in charge saw everything that'd been happening on the news, and he thought the Union and I were due some good luck."

    He shrugged. "So not only do I still have a job, but I get to tell everyone to get off their asses and get their work boots back on." He grinned, belying the implied insult in the words with obvious care for the men and women he represented. It was one of your favorite things about him, or had been before Mom died and the center fell out of both of your worlds. He'd always fought longer and harder than anyone for the people he was responsible for. It...it was both something you admired about who he'd been...and part of why you'd never told him about the trio. With the way things had gone at the Union the last few years, you just hadn't had the heart to drag him into another losing battle, no matter how much you loved him for how hard he would doubtlessly have fought for you if you'd have let him.

    Flipping over the mess of scrambled eggs and heating it another minute or two, he divvied out helpings to your plate and to his before setting the pan in the sink and grabbing forks and knives for the both of you. "So yeah. Oh, almost forgot. I invited Kurt and Lacey over tonight. I...well, honestly, they were about the only ones holding me as well together as I had been with, well," he trails off lamely. "I wanted to give them the good news in person. I figured after everything, I owed them that much." He frowns a moment. "If that's okay with you? If not, they'll understand. I can make time for whatever it is you need, Taylor. Just let me know."

    You feel a pang of guilt at that. There was a lot you hadn't let him know, but you weren't ready yet on some of it. It'd probably need to be soon, given that you didn't want to give Winslow time to sweep everything under the rug, but for now, you just wanted to enjoy this. Something so...normal. So hopeful. It felt nice. You hoped nothing managed to spoil it. Smiling at your Dad, you give him a nod. "It'll be fine. I'm...I'm glad you seem happy, Dad. Plus Kurt and Lacey are good people." Polishing off the last of your eggs with an appetite you haven't had the likes of in ages, you take your plate to the sink and, grinning impishly, go over to hug your dad, even as you use your powers to tidy up your silverware and telekinetically wash your plate. He seems startled, both by the suddenness of the hug and the display of your powers, but he laughs after the surprise wears off and returns the hug happily.

    "God, Taylor, it's so good to see you smile again. I'd say keep safe, but...you know what, no. Superhero or not, you're always going to be my kid. Keep safe, and I'll see you tonight. Let me know if you think of a movie or something you'd like to see later on, by the way. Apparently there's an advance on the negotiations just for agreeing to show up, so we should be able to afford it." He smiles again. God, it's good to see him smile. "We're going to make it, kiddo." You nod, fighting back more tears as you give him a hug goodbye. Heading back to your room, you grab your backpack, stuff it with notebooks and pens, and wave goodbye to your father.

    ooo

    Setting out from your house at a brisk jog, though you're careful not to move too quickly, lest you give away your powers, you make the roughly half-hour trek from home to downtown Brockton Bay. While you'd gotten some less than welcome looks a time or two, a hand resting by the chain of your visibly-worn pepper spray did a great deal to discourage at least two of them. Still, by the time you've made your way out of the less affluent sections of town and into the upper-class areas in and around downtown. If the city was still slowly dying because of the gangs and the tanking economy, the downtown areas were, outside of perhaps the rich neighborhoods around Captain's Hill, the least unhealthy parts of the town. Police response rates were quicker, plenty of money changed hands on a regular and entirely legal basis. Everything was shinier, cleaner, the people seemed happier and less desperate, and yet above all of that...something about the place still felt fundamentally wrong.

    Something about the way the rich people in this part of town managed to ignore everything awful going on within walking distance, as if that thirty-minute walk had carried you into a whole other world, not just another section of town, it felt like it revealed something fundamentally broken about your home. Perhaps growing up in a union family had colored your perspective that way, but it felt like the people with the power and the money to be able fix things just didn't care enough to try. There had been so many ways that the elite of Brockton Bay could've helped but just...didn't.

    Maybe it was different if you didn't have to see it on a daily basis. If you could rationalize it as something that only happened to other people. To people who deserved it or who brought it on themselves somehow. Like being poor was a choice. Or...ugh. You pushed those ugly thoughts out of your mind. Whatever you ended up deciding, cape-wise, you weren't going to be one of those. You'd use your power to help people, people that needed it, not to enforce the way things already were. Honestly, that desire was a big part of what made you consider trying to go independent, at least to start out. Still, it was a lot to process, and the truth was that however little you wanted to be dependent upon others for what you needed again, you liked the idea of going off half-cocked and potentially getting yourself or (worse) Dad hurt less. Making your way into the public library, you noted with some satisfaction that it was still a quiet morning.

    The Central Library looked almost more like a museum or art gallery than anything else, with tall ceilings, pillars and massive pieces of artwork hung to frame the hallways between the major sections of the building. You headed up to the second floor, where there were about twenty computers set up for public use. As one of the first to arrive that morning, you easily managed to find a corner terminal, ensconced in the back of the room, other patrons would have to try to look over your shoulder without being blatantly obvious. Considering a moment, you expanded your awareness out, sighing as you felt the gentle, quiet thrum of the desktops humming idly away around you. The warmth of the computer towers was a nice contrast with the coolness of the nearby windows, and you let a quiet, content part of your mind enjoy that sensation while it kept a wary telekinetic touch out for would-be busybodies. Your privacy insured, you left that mental facet meditating upon the surprising textures of the various surfaces in the room, still enjoying the peaceable thrum of the electronics' purposeful power.

    Fingers deftly darting over the keys, you began searching for the relevant background information, starting with the most obvious source: Parahumans Online. You were startled to note that, apparently, the events of a few nights ago had merited being accounted a front page news post. Opening the story in another tab to read later, you pulled open the forums in a third tab, then clicked to pull up the wiki. You spend several minutes hunting through the various entries for the relevant information...a frown crossing your lips as your browser begins to slow after the fifty-second simultaneously opened tab. Sighing, you close the web browser a moment, opening a notepad document to jot down an idea that came to you when you were thinking about the issue of having to cross reference all those tabs.

    <Taylor?> The demon's voice in your head seems tentative, worry-laden.

    <Uncertainty!> You offer, <I was starting to worry I'd just hallucinated you after all. Or...that I wasn't crazy and...I have no idea where I'm going with that. Um. It is good to hear you're speaking to me again.>

    <About, er, that.>
    The diffident demon offers what sounds very much like a sigh. <We need to talk.>

    <I...what? Am...am I being broken up with by the demon-crab in my head? But...I haven't ever even had a boyfriend. Aren't you supposed to date someone before that happens?>

    <Er, what?>
    It asks, then chuckles weakly. <No, no. That's...First, I don't know what a date is. Second, I wouldn't wish to harm you. I thought we'd been over this: you die; I die. At a minimum I am trapped in your head, so I have every reason to want you as sane and happy as can be managed.> Again there was that sense of resignation. <But that isn't what we needed to talk about. You remember your, ahem, your dream from the other night? Well, it was more of a memory, really. Still, do you remember it?>

    <You mean the one where an impossibly handsome man with four arms went from zero to murder in 0.5 seconds on me? Yes. Yes, I
    might recall something tangentially related to that.> Your fingers continued their staccato strut across the keyboard, detailing out lines of inquiry and information-gathering on autopilot.

    <Yes. That one. Though he wasn't a man. He was a demon.>

    <What, like you?>


    <Er...how best to explain.>
    It paused, thinking a moment. <Yes and no at once. Technically, yes. He is a demon. But saying that is like saying that both you and an ant are animals, Taylor. While it's technically true, he is as far above me as you are above such insects, perhaps more so. The place you saw in your dream? That city? That was Malfeas. Where I come from. It is at once the prison trapping the Yozis and the body of their king. Each Yozi is a living concept whose existence is so great and concept-encompassing that they take more than one soul simply fit all of themselves in. Ligier is what is called a fetich soul. He is...he is the core of Malfeas' identity. He is the greatest component of the greatest of the Yozis.>

    <So just calling him a demon is an oversimplification, then?>


    <You could certainly say that, yes. But...,>


    <Wait. So this, this world-sized titan. His...what, his heart? Which is also a literal sun in addition to being a four-armed, man candy incarnation of figurative and literal hotness? Was...was what? Shacked up with...me? With...whoever the dream was of being?>


    There was a spluttering sound as Uncertainty attempts and fails to process the notion of the Green Sun as man candy. You feel a small, smug sense of satisfaction at having, for once, turned the tables on it where embarrassment was entailed. You also immediately feel guilty about that, as it's been nothing but helpful to you in the last several days.

    <Sorry,>
    you offer. <I just...seemed only fair to throw you off balance after how hard you seem to be trying whenever the subject comes up.>



    Uncertainty huffs at that. <I most certainly have not. Again, asexual crab demon. It is hardly fair to fault me if I have difficulty understanding all the complex concatenations of ritual mortals associate with their copulations. It isn't as if I can even really see the, well, point of all of it, outside of purposes of procreation, after all.>

    There aren't words for that. You choose to rebuke the 'helpful' part of your brain that diverts attention from monitoring the feel of the air currents around you for approaching patrons in order to attempt to formulate a variation of The Talk that would suffice for a creature of Uncertainty's particular...lack of sexual predilections. Or glands. Or organs, for that matter. <L-let's move on? Okay?>

    <Very well,>
    it sounded surprisingly put out at the notion. Again, you got the impression that the giant crab demon found mortals to be a fascinating subject to study. <What you saw in that memory, Taylor? It happened. That man was who you were in your past life. And...that moment? That was how he died.>

    Again you scowl at that notion. You really, really want to refute this whole idea of reincarnation and past lives, but again you get the feeling that even trying to do so would serve absolutely no purpose beyond perhaps making you feel somewhat better for reasserting what you see as simple sanity. <Okay?>

    <Well. You weren't the only one that died then. In Malfeas, they have a name for when that happened.>
    His tone was heavy. <They called it the Emerald Mourning. That spherical city-section you saw? Those are the layers, the shells of the city. There is an infinite number of them, and each is a world in its own right. The Mourning lasted for forty days, each day, a half-dozen shells were scoured of all life and irretrievably broken. Whole...Earth's worth of demons died then.>

    Your stomach clenches with a cold fear at the idea of that. Moments later, a dread premonition of guilt looms, shadow obscuring your thoughts. <Y-you're saying that I...that. That I caused the deaths of what, billions? Billions of demons? Because I dumped Mister Mad-Eyed Man Candy?!>

    If Uncertainty had a face, you're quite certain it would be wincing. <Not...precisely.>

    <Oh, oh good.>

    <As densely populated as layers of Malfeas tend to be, it was far more likely to be something in the order of trillions or quadrillions. And besides,>
    he goes silent. <Oh. Oh dear. That...was one of those cases where I wasn't supposed to say the truth, wasn't it?>

    You had no response for that. You continued to run through PHO posts and wiki pages on autopilot as you struggle to consciously come to terms with the idea that you were responsible for...well, for mass genocide.

    <Definitely one of those cases, then. Apologies.>


    You try not to chuckle bitterly at that.

    <If it's any consolation, it wasn't...precisely you. The memories are more...hm. Imagine a seashell in the sand, alright?>


    You nod numbly.

    <Now imagine your power is that beach. It is a vast thing, far greater and more massive than the shell that sits upon it, yes? Well that shell, those memories, that dream, was like the impression left behind in the sand when the seashell has washed away, the shell being in this case the soul of whomever possessed your powers before you did. The more potent the soul--in this analogy the bigger and heavier the shell--the deeper and more distinct the imprint it leaves behind it. He...was ancient even by the terms of the only quasi-mortal Exalted. There was a lot of him to leave imprints of.>



    You consider that a second, still not sure that the fact that it was 'technically not you' is enough to make you not-feel guilty over the visceral memory of making a decision that led to a mass-genocide. You sigh, at that, shaking your head. <Was...was there a point in telling me this, Uncertainty?>

    <Hm? Oh. Yes. Yes there was. It...I'm sorry that I've been quiet since then, but I am trying to determine what to suggest regarding what we should do. There...well, it was possible, before I knew that, that we might have been able to find our way through the hellgates, if any exist or could be made to exist here, to supply you with your rightful panoply and servants, but, well. I haven't any clue if ten-thousand years has been long enough for Ligier to have moved on sufficiently not to want you dead again. Or perhaps he would simply want you. Erm. Sexually. Or...er. Romantically? Which is frankly more terrifying than him wanting you dead, but then, love always is. Terrifying, that is. Not sexual. At least, I don't think it is? I've never actually been in it, may the peace of Adorjan never fall upon me, so I cannot say for certain if love is not always sexual.>



    Rather than let him drag you into 'the talk' territory again, you choose to return your attention to your cape information search. Only...wait. That. That is not PHO.


    Welcome to the Pyrian Font!


    Earth's only parahuman resource database created by Yozi-Chosen Exalts for Yozi-Chosen Exalts!


    P.S: If you can read this, enjoy! (Taylor, this means you!)


    You have absolutely no idea how to respond to this. To begin with, the page wasn't in English. The words were spelled out in an odd set of hieroglyphics. You had no idea how you could read them. But you could. <Um. Uncertainty? A little help here?>

    <With what?>
    He seems somewhat taken aback at the request.

    <Why can I read this? And...what language is it? And why can I read it if it's not in English?>

    <Er. The one we're speaking now.>

    <Bullshit.>

    <No...it is most definitely not domesticated chattel defecation. You and I are currently conversing in Creation's original language. Old Realm. In its original dialect. It is the original language, the Perfected Primordial Tongue.> He gives the impression of a tilted head. <What's an English?>


    <Um. What? English. The only language I know? What we've been...>
    you pause, coming up short as the structure of the thoughts you're engaged in reveal themselves now that you're paying full attention to them. <Oh, God we're not speaking in English. WHEN THE HELL DID I LEARN ANOTHER LANGUAGE?!>

    <Er...don't ask me? As far as I know we've always spoken in this tongue. Well, between us. And outside the one time I simply impressed intentions into your mind to ask you to let me save your life. As to what uncouth barbarian gibberish you speak to everyone that isn't me...I haven't the slightest inkling what any of that is about.>
    It snorts. <I'm just relieved to see some minor signs of actual civilization here. I'd been thinking I might be stuck staring at stunted strix-scratchings for the rest of our possibly eternal life for a few days now. >

    You were about to continue when your hand freezes over the keyboard. <Sorry. I think I just misheard you. Did you just say 'possibly eternal life?'>

    <Er. Yes. I've told you about this already.>
    There's an uncomfortable clattering of chitin in your mind. <Haven't I?>

    <NO. I'm fairly certain I'd remember immortality!>


    <Oh. Um. So we haven't actually discussed what I wanted from you, then?>


    <GODDAMMIT! I KNEW THERE WAS A FUCKING CATCH!>


    -----

    1xp Gained for update.

    Will update total unspent xp asap. Will update character sheet with available purchases.

    The Joys of Uncertainty: Your little head-houseguest has been holding out on you too long. You need to respond. [Choose 1]

    [ ]EXPLAIN! NOW!
    --If this is some sort of soul-based, power-appropriating form of extradimensional extortion or....or something. You...ugh. You need to know what the HELL is going on. Sooner would be better.

    [ ]You owe me an Explanation. Later. When I can process all this.
    --You don't have time to dwell on this right now. You need to finish your research and figure out why the hell this unknown website knows your name. And why you know another language. And...a lot of things. Including how best to approach Brandish, since sooner seems like it would be better for that.

    [ ]Write-In
    -[ ]Stunt determines write in.

    Voting determines course of next immediate update. Had to split 2.2 because holy crap it got so much longer than I was expecting. Then again, I also wasn't expecting to have to reference no fewer than seven sourcebooks and six chapters of Worm for it, either.

    -----


    Training options! 8xp available to spend.


    Available to Train [As of 2.2]
    Perception ●●○○
    Awareness ●●○○

    Any Caste/Favored Yozi General Charm [minus sorcerous induction charms]
    Cerebral Probe Inquisition
    Flickering Pages Kensho
    Impatient Tempest Labor
    Intolerable Burning Truths (Mother Before Daughter)
    Every Last Detail




    Available for Purchase Immediately [As of 2.2]

    Lore ●●●
    Medicine: ○○○○
    Investigation: ●●○○
    Occult: ●○○○
    Bureacracy ●○○○
     
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  20. Thief of Words

    Thief of Words Still Broken, but Less Lost

    Joined:
    Jun 30, 2016
    Messages:
    698
    Likes Received:
    3,310
    Emergence 2.3

    [X]You owe me an Explanation. Later. When I can process all this.
    --You don't have time to dwell on this right now. You need to finish your research and figure out why the hell this unknown website knows your name. And why you know another language. And...a lot of things. Including how best to approach Brandish, since sooner seems like it would be better for that.



    ooo

    Looking at the flickering cursor, which resembled nothing so much as a trail of crawling ants, you strove to find some sense, any sense, of what the hell was going on just now.

    <Taylor, I--,>


    <No. Later. I mean, yes, you owe me an explanation. Later. When I can process all of this.>


    You don't have time to dwell on the bombshell Uncertainty just dropped on your lap. You need to finish your research and figure out why the hell this website knows your name. And how best to approach Brandish and deal with the Trio. And what to do about affiliations. And why you knew a new language. And...No. No more of that. Solve practical problems now, deal with existential quandaries later.

    Letting out a long and ragged breath, you return your attention to the cheerfully drawn Old Realm characters forming the subject bar along the top of the Pyrian Font page.


    Welcome to the Pyrian Font!
    Earth's only parahuman resource database created by Yozi-Chosen Exalts for Yozi-Chosen Exalts!
    P.S: If you can read this, enjoy! (Taylor, this means you!)
    Security Measures | Search Settings | PHO by Proxy | Subject: Aurora Americanis| Subject: Bay Capes| About Us (in Our own words)

    You had your cursor hover over the 'About Us' header icon, before finally clicking on it. Might as well see what the damage is and figure out who the Hell knows your name and this language.

    Why the hell do I feel inexplicably smug about this whole situation? And relieved?

    As a little loading icon of woman made of dancing flames twirled about on the screen a moment, you tried to keep your breathing and your heart-rate steady.

    Well, you thought as you saw what information the page listed, this at least explains why my name is on the intro page note.

    About Taylor Anne Hebert, Chosen of the Principle of Hierarchy, Uncrowned Queen of Administration, Nascent Hero-Titan of Earth-Bet
    • Bio: Taylor Anne Hebert is the daughter of Daniel Hebert and Annette Rose Hebert, nee--
    From there, a large wall of text giving a fair summary of your life to date so far had been posted. Underneath the bio, a series of links to various sub-pages and (apparent) hosting space for essays and the like sat.​
    • Why I am going to be the greatest hero this city has ever seen, a brief summary.
    • Ruminations on the nature of Exaltation and Titans.
    • Meditations on the varied virtues of forgiveness and vindication.
    • Wards vs Protectorate vs New Wave vs Solo: the debate rages on.

    When the hell did I write this?

    <During our conversation earlier.>
    Uncertainty offered, ever-willing to be helpful. <You were lamenting how ineffecient it was to have to deal with the reduced speeds on accessing information on these data-crystals, and so you assigned a mental subroutine to create a page to gather the information for you, so you could peruse it at your liesure.>

    <I...no. No way. This...sounds nothing like me. It...it calls me a fucking queen!>


    <And?>


    <Damnit! Is this another one of those things that only doesn't make sense because of something you've forgotten to tell me?>


    <Er...I told you about the titles and Rulership over All Creation the usurper-Exalts did in the After Times, didn't I?>


    <Seriously? Just. UUUUUUGH.>
    Uncertainty has got to start anticipating things to tell you.

    <If it's any consolation at all, it got the title wrong.>


    <Oh, thank God for--,>

    <If the attempt was to channel your past authority, the appropriate phrase would've been God-Queen, though even that is reductive in the extreme. You are quite thoroughly above any and all paltry gods.>


    ooo

    Taylors
    An error has occurred. To continue:
    Press Conviction Chakra to return to Taylors, or
    Press Compassion, Valor, and Temperance Chakras to restart your exalt. If you do this, you will lose any unsaved information in all open trains of thought.

    Error: 0E : 016F : BFF9B3D4

    Press any chakra to continue __
    ooo

    After smacking yourself in the forehead and letting out a groan, you go back to hunting through the webpage, first reviewing the...frankly nigh-psychotic amount of personal security protocols the site ran through. Mollified that no one should be able to use its existence to track you to the public terminal you were currently using, you started reviewing the information you had.It...there was a lot of it. Nearly 100 verified or suspected capes in town. Four villainous organizations of arguable significance. Two notable hero organizations.

    To start with, you pulled up the ABB's information. It...well, it was sobering. Especially considering that from what it said, you...might have reason to worry about Oni Lee coming after you. The ABB page detailed general information on the gang, including its oddly multicultural makeup, then specific information about Lung. Between what was formally entered on the wiki and what the most common speculation on the forums said, you'd managed to glean the following:

    Lung could gradually transform. Maybe it was based on adrenaline, his emotional state, or something, but whatever it was, it made his powers more potent the longer he was in a fight. He healed at a superhuman rate, got stronger, got tougher, got bigger, and he grew armor plating complete with blades at each fingertip. Rumor had it that he even grew wings if he fought long enough. If that wasn’t enough, he was a pyrokinetic, which meant he could create flame out of thin air, shape it, intensify it, and so on. That power apparently got stronger as he transformed, too.
    As far as anyone knew, he had no upper cap on his transformation but how long the fight lasted.

    If he wasn't scary enough on his own, there was the one you'd managed to actually encounter. Between what Lisa had told you and what you'd gathered yourself in fighting him, you'd actually ended up using the PHO proxy tab to spoof an account in order to make updates of your own to the teleporting knife-thrower's page. People had known about his either teleportation or duplication trick. It hadn't been listed as being part and parcel of the same ability. You appended a report the trawler had found of him having used his duplication teleport in rapid succession, rendering up anywhere from five to ten copies of himself, all set to explode.

    Uncertainty had been right. Until you'd gotten lucky with the bandolier, he had been toying with you. If Glory Girl hadn't shifted the odds...you shuddered at the thought. It didn't help your sense of insecurity that his wiki page had an immense warning message emblazoned in crimson text telling people that he was excessively violent, dangerous to encounter, and that he should not be provoked.

    Wish I could've known that before the other night.

    You also realized that...oh, no no no no. Shit. If that picture of his outfit was accurate...you had a handgun...which had previously belonged to a known violent, criminal sociopath...sitting in your hidey-hole in the house's basement. And Dad had invited company over tonight. Resolving to broach that subject when you spoke with Brandish, you moved on for now. Existential terror later. Practical knowledge now.

    From there, you'd segued over to the relevant forum threads. You'd been bemused to discover you'd made the national news...in both your identities, even if Taylor Hebert had only been mentioned in passing as a minor human interest note on the bigger context of 'the aurora' and what the capture of two of the Empire's major capes, and the rumored death of Oni Lee at the hands of the spindly new cape (you) which people had begun to assume after someone's camera phone video of Oni Lee's clone blasting apart under the force of multiple grenades--and all over you and your borrowed clothing--had been leaked. Not really sure how that would play out, you'd nonetheless looked through the profiles of each of the Empire's major capes as well, so that you didn't get blindsided next time you went out. Well, no. That wasn't really the worry. You were perceptive. If anyone got close enough to hit you, you could feel them standing there. The worry wasn't that you couldn't see it coming, really.

    It was that you'd be trapped like you were with the trio. You always saw their attacks coming. People didn't really manage surprise you. What you never managed was to act in time to make a difference. That was what you needed to fix. You needed to stop reacting and start acting instead.

    From there, you had to hunt through the various threads about yourself...90% of which devolved either into unspeakable things, Seriously! What the hell, internet! It's been TWO DAYS! Who has that much time to draw that! or which degenerated into a compilation of Slenderman memes. You forced yourself to stop looking at the info on your debut after the second poster was banned for linking in a meme comparing Slenderman (and by extension you) to Mannequin of the Slaughterhouse Nine.

    From there you went on to review the available information about New Wave, and about Brandish in particular. Most of it was familiar, though the part about how they'd taken down Marquis got your oddly recalcitrant demon to, much to your horrified chagrin, actually pipe up. Apparently, Uncertainty whole-heartedly approved of the Marquis' management style, and stringently insisted that much of the city's current conundrum was due to the power vacuum created when the Marquis had been defeated and shipped off to the Birdcage. You thought about trying to explain to him why, no, advocating summary execution of followers who failed you was in fact not a sound managerial strategy, but yet again resolved to save the things that made you feel you were losing what remained of your sanity for another time, another day if need be. If...if Uncertainty wasn't overselling you on the power at your disposal, then you and everyone around you needed for you to hang onto that.

    <OVERSELLING?! IF ANYTHING, I'VE BEEN TRYING NOT TO WORRY YOU!>

    You...no. You remain firm. <NOT. NOW. Later.> Another time. But you will have your answers when that time comes. However, that time is not now.

    Calming your breathing, you return your attention to investigating the local members of the protectorate and PRT, to the extent you can find adequate information on them. It's during that line of research that a new post was brought to your attention via the PHO forum proxy. Apparently someone left a message that pinged several of your searches at once, both those for Lisa and posts about 'new cape in town' you (as opposed to 'Taylor Hebert' you).

    Subject: T

    Sorry things didn't end on such a great note. Don't worry about giving back the outfit you borrowed. Still had my spare in the bag. You know, the lavender and black one? Just wanted to say it sounds like you handled yourself well.
    Owe you one. Would like to return favor. Meet or call?

    Send a message,
    L.​

    ooo


    Afternoon Action (Pick One): You still have another three to four hours until the get-together at home. That should be time enough to get in touch with one of the folks who'd been trying to get your attention in the last few days, right?

    [ ]Contact someone
    -[ ]Stunt: Whom? (e.g: Dad, Amy, Victoria, Lisa)
    --[ ]Why?

    [ ]Go somewhere
    -[ ]Stunt: Where? (e.g: home, the Boardwalk, the Ship Graveyard.)
    --[ ]Why?

    [ ]Get your explanation
    -[ ]Stunt: Where? (as above, but staying at library is option)

    [Limit: 1 point removed due to Act of Villainy!]

    Available to begin training as of 2.3:

    None. Training locked to training Intolerable Burning Truths (Mother Before Daughter) -- aka: Helping and Hanging out with Dad for a minimum of 4 hours tonight.


    Available to purchase as of 2.3:

    Sifu (Uncertainty): (1-4)
    Sifu (Past Life): (Capped by Past Life dots)
    Past Life: 3-5
    Savant: 1-5 (capped by Past Life dots)
    Abilities as before.
    Lore Specialty: Programming
    Lore Specialty: ABB
    Lore Specialty: PRT/Protectorate
    Lore Specialty: The Brockton Bay Brigade / New Wave
     
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  21. Thief of Words

    Thief of Words Still Broken, but Less Lost

    Joined:
    Jun 30, 2016
    Messages:
    698
    Likes Received:
    3,310
    Emergence 2.4
    [X]Get your explanation
    -[X]Stunt: Taylor sat down on her bed, the springs creaked under her. It was one of the few places she could be relatively sure no one would interrupt her. "Okay, Uncertainty, lay it on me." She said with determination.



    ooo​

    It had taken some time--and some convincing on Uncertainty's part--to calm you down enough that he could convince you this conversation was best held at your home. However, he had pointed out (and your ability to simultaneously touch every surface in the room had confirmed) that the librarian keeping an eye on the computer lab was giving you something of a odd look. Nerves twanging at the attention, you hurriedly explained to her (not entirely dishonestly) that you were upset and disgusted that despite evidence to the contrary, people seemed to assume the new cape from the news was a monster or a villain. Well, that and that you found it extremely squicky how fast people on the internet could and had made porn of her.

    It wasn't entirely dishonest. You did find it gross and creepy that random strangers apparently thought it appropriate to draw what they thought you looked like naked. And it did make you mad that people thought you were a monster or villain. You just weren't about to explain to her that you were talking about yourself. Still, from the look of sympathy in her expression, the idea that 'people are gross' wasn't anything new to her.

    Closing down your browser after being certain you cleared the browser history (after all you had no desire to explain to anyone how you found the Font page, much less why tge website was as it was) you made your way from the library, setting off in an easy jog back towards home. You had to fight the temptation to pick up the pace as you went. Something about the stress and anxiety you were currently feeling just made you want to, for lack of a better word, run. Just to start running as fast as you could, until you outpaced all of it. You laughed at the thought. As if you could actually do that.

    ooo​

    A bit over half an hour, and one thoroughly pepper-sprayed jackass, later, you skipped around the house's broken step and made your way inside. Calling out, you confirmed that Dad wasn't around. Sighing, you made your way in to your room and locked the door. You needed to remember to thank Dad for the pepper spray. Even a week ago, his insistence you pick it up would've annoyed the hell out of you. Now...well, you were just grateful it'd given you an option for dealing with the gang thug you'd run into in a manner that didn't immediately give away that you were a cape. You shuddered. You hadn't really thought of rapey gangbangers when you'd wanted to look more traditionally feminine. Some part of your mind tried to tell you that you should've thought of that before making that decision...but more or less all of the rest of it screamed a resounding return, Fuck That. They didn't get to define who you were. If they wanted to try something, well, they'd learn the hard way thy picked the wrong fucking fight.

    You sat down on your bed, the springs creaking under you. Barring Dad, your room was essentially the only place you could think of where it was guaranteed that no one would interrupt you. Remembering Uncertainty cautioning from before regarding behavior apt to convince others you were insane, you directed more of that odd thought-speech at him.

    <Okay, Uncertainty. It's later.>
    You tried to keep the irritation from your voice, but it didn't work very well. <Explain.>

    You leaned back against the wall of your room, waiting for answers. They were some time in coming, and when it did finally respond, you were suprised by the vehemence with which the demon responded.

    <You know what? No. First: we need to clear something up. Taylor: I have been trying my damnedest to tread carefully around you so far, both because I legitimately want you to be happy and because you absolutely terrify me. When I met you, Taylor? That was when I learned, viscerally and on a primal level, how other demons felt around
    me. You terrified me beyond the point of reason. That stops now. As best I can manage it. Yes; I am stuck in your head. No, there isn't anything I can do about that. Yes, you didn't ask for the changes that have happened. NEITHER DID I. And yes, some day, should we both survive that long and should the planet do so as well you will be as far above me as the Yozis are now. This is not that day. Until then, I demand you treat me with at least some modicum of respect and courtesy.>

    You were pretty sure that bit he mumbled through had something important in it, but you were still too poleaxed by the idea that the literal demon in your head was scared of you of all people. <I...what? Sorry?>

    <Hmph. Apology...considered. I'll probably accept it. As soon as I'm certain you meant it.>

    <What do you mean you didn't get a choice? And why would I scare you? I'm...we've been over this. I'm nothing. A nobody.>


    <Yes, we have been over this. And no, you are most certainly not. Taylor, attached to your soul is the single greatest power that my home universe ever conceived of. And this is a place, a world, where God of Titan-Shattering Apocalyptic Doomsday Devices was, quite literally, someone's job description and title. Nice enough fellow for all that. I'd know. I actually met him, once. His name was Lytek.>
    <I am over 10,000 years old, Taylor. My entire species can sense the alignment of significant fates the same way yours instinctively perceives and understands the patterns of light hitting your eyes and interprets them as sight. In all of that time, I have met precisely one mortal soul with a destiny as strongly engraved upon existence as yours. She was the savior, ruler, and damnation of worlds. She died in one of the most horrible manners able to be conceived by the minds of the most awfully creative murderers ever to exist. And, if I remember rightly, her very soul was cast into the maw of Oblivion Itself. I DON'T WANT THAT FOR YOU. Even beyond matters of self-preservation, you deserve better.>
    <You asked before why I chose you. I didn't tell the entirety of the truth then. Perhaps another demon would have been drawn to another mortal, but I could no sooner deliver this power to another while you yet lived than you could have, for example, decided your locker's walls simply didn't exist on a whim and walked directly through where they no longer were. That...that even presumes I'd had a choice in bringing this power into your world. I didn't.>
    <The Exaltation siezed hold of me, and from the moment it did, my actions were not my own to control. It sent me through the crack in Oramus' wing and into the Without, into unreality itself, to find a worthy vessel for its glory. It threatened to burn me alive from the inside out until nothing of my sanity, my soul, or my self, would have remained but a jibbering husk. It forced me to act in accordance with the course of actions most likely to see it lodged in a worthy soul. Do you have any idea what it is to be trapped, in agony, a prisoner in your own body as some great and terrible force of nature controls you more thoroughly than any puppet ever could be? Because I do.>
    <Imagine, if you will, the worst moment of your life. You are back in the locker. Trapped. Hurting. Terrified. Thrashing. Now imagine for a moment that you were born in that darkness. That you were one of the countless insects you shared that locker with. That you are trapped alone in the dark with a being so far beyond your comprehension or control that it could and well might kill you with nary a thought, much less with regret over your demise. Imagine that the locker is all that exists. That the possibilty of escape NO LONGER does. Then you will know what it is to be a demon of the First Circle. To survive a single year in that place filled with the thrashing of angry titans is an accomplishment.>
    <To rise above the ranks of mere chattel? To become a citizen with rights and the ability to influence your own fate? That is an incomparable prize. I was such a citizen. I did not choose to abandon my lands, my organization. They were taken from me. My entire species is born knowing when we die. For most of us, the manner and time of our deaths leads us to scream in pain and horror. A rare few of us don't. That is because our deaths are promised to be things of such glory, that we fear them not at all. The sanguine tomescu, as such of my kind are called, are widely considered the most terrifying of first circle demons. They are almost uniformly the most fanatical individuals you will ever meet.>
    < To most, I was clearly such a demon. Taylor, I will tell you a secret: most assume my name was taken in irony. A joke on the nature of my kind. It...wasn't. It was my gift, my...aberration. I never knew when I would die. I...couldn't see it. I had the gift of uncertainty. Of doubt. Of speculation. I...I've thought a great deal in the last few days. I suspect that the reason I could never see my own death was that I'd been fated to come here. To this place beyond even the Yozis', save long-benighted Oramus, ability to see.>
    <Now. There are many things I should explain. Yes. I just...I needed to explain that to you. You are changing. I will as well. But...I need you to understand. I am...for lack of a better word, I am a person, too. And this power that I had no choice but to bring you? It. Cost. Me. Everything. Everything I had. Everything I was.>

    There's a sense like a mental sigh. <I...I had no idea.> You felt a bone-deep twinge of guilt.

    <Stop that. Of course you didn't; you had no way of knowing. And I hadn't wished to tell you such things this soon. Still. There...there are things I want from you, yes. I have no leverage regarding that save that you cannot escape my voice and my presence. But truly the things I want of and for you aren't things that will hurt you. Quite the opposite. As things presently stand, Taylor, like they were for most of my kind, the days of your life are now precisely numbered. I can, barring murder or accident, tell you exactly when you would die of old age. The Infernal Exalted live to precisely 150 years of life. Not a day nor an hour longer. On the last day moment of the last hour of the last day of your 150th year? You will drop dead of age. You will be in the peak of your vitality until that precise moment, at which point, like a puppet whose strings were cut, you will collapse, dead.>

    A chill traces its way down your spine at the thought. You hadn't really given much thought to living past your twenties yet. Not the way the world had seemed to slowly circle the drain in the past three decades.

    <There is, however, another option.>

    <To dying of old age?>

    <Oh, wow. Um. Yes, that is what I was going to say. More specifically, to dying at all.>

    <Okay. Now I know you're pulling my leg.>

    <No. We've been over this: I haven't the physical limbs to even begin to do that.>

    <I...it's an expression. Like 'pull the other one, it has got bells on.'>

    <I don't understand. Why would it have bells on it.>

    <Just. Just nevermind. Too much to explain.> You were both quiet for several long minutes. <So you really mean that? I could become immortal?>

    <Oh, quite eas...okay, no that'd be a lie. Yes. Yes you can. We can, for if you grow into immortality, you would perforce take me with you.> He gave that chitinous clatter you always took for a shrug. <Honestly? That's all I really want. You're an Infernal Exalt. Your feet are already upon the path of Primordial Ascension. It's...it's been done before. I just don't want to die, Taylor. I would do anything to avoid that. And...well, I rather admire your courage for all you seem not to see it. I think we could make a good team.>

    Your thoughts are interrupted by the sound of the front door banging closed, followed by your dad, calling out, "Taylor? You home yet?"

    ooo
    +1xp for the update


    [ ] I'm going to want to finish this conversation. Now.
    --Stunt?

    [ ] "Yes, Dad! One sec and I'll be right there!"
    --Stunt?

    [ ]Write In: Door number three!
    --Stunt?
     
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  22. Thief of Words

    Thief of Words Still Broken, but Less Lost

    Joined:
    Jun 30, 2016
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    Emergence 2.5
    [X] I'm going to want to finish this conversation. Now.
    -[X] Stunt: Wait a moment. "Um, Dad?" Taylor thinks quickly, then exerts her will, lifting the bed slightly enough to make a weighty bump, "Don't come in yet, I'm experimenting with something here!" Alright, continue.




    ooo
    <Wait a moment.>
    "Um, Dad?" You thought quickly, exerting your will. Lifting the bed a bit you lower it just quickly enough to make a weighty bump, "Don't come in yet, I'm experimenting with something here!"

    "Experimenting?"

    "Um. Yeah."
    Why did he sound worried about that? "You know, with my powers? Practicing my telekinesis a bit."

    "You have telekinesis? Oh. Okay, good. Um. Try not to break anything? Won't have a paycheck to patch up holes in the walls for at least a few weeks now."

    He seemed way too relieved by that. What the heck was he think...oh. Oh. Oh, ewwwwwww! Shuddering and quickly applying the most stringent of brain bleach you could come up with on such short notice, you called back up your telekinetic tendril touch and began practicing moving various objects about within the room. Even if it wasn't the full truth, you weren't about to lie to your father.

    <Okay,> you offer, once you're certain Dad's okay. <Continue.>

    <"I don't know all of the particulars about what and why, but the aftermath of the Ebon Dragon's wedding and the disasters that ensued after that.>

    <What. Who would...? Why? Why would a cosmic force of deception and shadows...ah. He betrayed the shit out of her, didn't he? Or...um, out of him? Since apparently heterosexuality is, and I quote you, 'not a thing' in your world. Which...I'll be honest...I'm definitely closer to believing after those dreams from the other night.>

    <Her. The Dragon's Bride was a...well, she was a rather singular woman. It seems as wise as anything to go with that because I'm still just as confused by that as you are. What matters here are the discoveries that came to light in the aftermath. That the chosen of the Yozis were not so bound to imitate their masters as had been claimed or intended. It all culminates with a discovery an, er, mentor of mine made. She found a way to...to become more than she had been. Not a mortal in Yozi trappings, but a...a new Primordial in her own right. She left the city for a time before everything went wrong. When the Dragon betrayed us all. She...actually, she fought, trying to save Creation. The Dragon escaped. He was,> he goes quiet for a long moment. <When the Yozis were first imprisoned, the others nominated him to be in charge of their escape attempts, for it had never been in his nature to tolerate others dictating what he could and could not do. He was the one who had the plan to use the very weapons which defeated the Yozis and slew their Neverborn brethren.>

    <What's a Neverborn, Uncertainty?>


    <It...right. I suppose the simplest way to explain would be this: you can think of there as having originally only been one type of titan: the primordials. They were the first things to have defined shapes. To be permanent, rather than constantly changing at the whims of raw chaos.>
    <The war? Losing changed the Primordials. Some of them died. They broke reality in dying. It had never been made to accommodate the deaths of things which had never been born, which had been eternal in the truest sense of the word, and so they...didn't quite manage to die. They grew trapped, at the edge of a gnawing wound in existence called the Maw of the Void or Oblivion. They were paralyzed, asleep, and insane.>

    <The Primordials who did not die and were not on the side of the traitor gods, they surrendered, were maimed by the victors, and they became the Yozis.>
    <From the moment of their imprisonment, they worked to free themselves and revenge themselves against their wayward creations. For their part...the Neverborn were trapped in their own tomb-corpses. Unable to act. Or they were, until mortals got greedy. Something they did woke them up, and it let their hate and their spite begin to poison the mortal world.>
    <At some point, the Dragon and the Neverborn worked out a deal. The Neverborn would steal half the superweapons wielded against the Primordials. The dragon would teach them to reconfigure the weapons for their own use. In exchange the Neverborn would keep 100 of the weapons, and the Yozis would keep 50. Those 50 became the Infernal Exaltations, one of which resides attached to your soul. As far anyone knew, the plan with these was for our side to have their own Exalted to use to free ourselves that the Yozis might avenge themselves on those of their creatures who had been disloyal. The Dragon called it the Reclamation, for its purpose was to reclaim the rightful place of the architects of Creation.
    What most did not know was that the Dragon never intended for the others to escape. It is said that he has always loved the doomed and dying things, and for that purpose he created Fate, to better appreciate existence.>
    <Well, the Reclamation worked. For him. He left the rest of the Yozis and their souls and servants trapped in the Demon City. He then set about amusing himself with the world.>
    <He had forgotten to account for the servants of his dead cousins. He was short-sighted, obsessive i his desire to be free. And the Neverborn were nothing if not patient. They had no choice. And so, for two hundred years, they and theirs waited and watched as the Dragon slowly unraveled the stability of Creation at its seams. They watched it suffer from invasion from the hordes of raw chaos. They watched him sabotage his prize that he might better love and toy with it.>
    And then, during a moment of critical weakness on his part, the new war began. The Neverborn's Exalted, the Abyssals, surgically disabled, slaughtered, strangled, and otherwise murdered their way through most of the world's population. Those of the other Exalted hosts who'd survived the Dragon's depredations, the displeasure of the Yozis...they rallied to try and stave off the world's mortality. It was too little, too late. The defenders had been taxed too heavily by fighting the Dragon themselves. In the meantime, the Abyssals had held back, marshalling their might until the day their true war began.>
    <If anything, the dragon made it easy on them. From dozens of stable and stalwart factions defending Creation, the Dragon had left one faction unwounded and alive: his own. For our part, the Demon city laughed and sang even as it raged when the world died. None could miss the irony of how thoroughly the Dragon had betrayed even himself. But...at the same time came the knowledge that there was no longer any such things as 'getting out'. And so we watched. We watched as all else in existence was consumed, subsumed, and swallowed into the Void. As even Oblivion itself was consumed by its mad hunger. We watched as the Neverborn ceased to exist. We watched as the tides of Chaos came crashing back in to fill vacuum left by the greatest work of genius ever conceived. We watched, and we wept. Malfeas, the Demon City itself, raged for centuries at that. >


    <So we should avoid this Demon City, then?>

    <Hm? Oh. No. That's not actually a problem. The principal issue is apt to be that you couldn't manage to make your way there without one hell of a lot of luck and effort. And opening yourself up to being owned and controlled by Cecelyne. If you could...well, you'd be the woman of the hour, I expect.>
    He laughed. <After all, you'd be the first true human to arrive in Hell in over two thousand years. Your, er, your species? It went extinct. With Creation gone, mortal humanity unable to survive in Raw Chaos, and the mortals who perservered and continued on in Hell being eventually interbred with various demon races to the point that they were insufficiently human to count in the most important of spiritual respects...the Yozis discovered that the vengeance they'd taken out on their own Exalted had been a terribly, terribly unwise decision. Of course, by that point there were perhaps three, perhaps four Infernal Exalts who remained in the Demon City. Two were the most loyal of remaining souls, another was...well, too useful to be killed. The fourth...the fourth was meant to be the first one to die. She...wait, no. He? Ugh. Tya are such strange creatures. Wait, no. Were. Right. Extinct. You'd think I could keep that straight after so many years. Anyway, no one ever managed to prove that particular Exalt hadn't died, so most just assumed it was the case and kept on living their lives, such as they were. The rest of the fifty either died and stayed dead, or they took the power that remained to them, left into the Wyld, and never came back. Unfortunately, due to the nature of the oaths that bound the Yozis within the City...well, only the Exalted could stand a chance of fixing them. Or freeing them. And...well, of those who remained, perhaps two were even inclined to try and help the Yozis. That wasn't even accounting for the fact that there simply wasn't anywhere for them to go after they were freed. At all. But that's beside the point. The point was that humanity has been extinct for a long time? Wait, no. Um. I forget what I was trying to explain now.>
    <Sorry.>

    You frowned at that. <I...I have no idea what to say to any of that.> Letting out a sigh, you lean back against the wall, even as you juggle a series of cd cases with your mind-tendrils. <I'm still severely weirded out by the idea of immortality. And, y'know, becoming a goddess in all but name. I...still feel like you're leading me on here. But...I'll try to consider that you might not be. Um. Will you please, help me to keep safe? And...keep my Dad safe?>

    <Of course, Taylor. If that is what you want, I will do what I can to teach you to defend him. Hm. Which means you need to learn to fight, among other things, does it not?>


    <I guess so?>

    <Very well then. Would you like training in the Martial Arts?>

    <I...what? Like...like Kung Fu?>

    <Hm,>
    his voice goes contemplative as he reviews your mental associations with the concept. <Sort of. Yes, but also more than that. The martial arts I'd teach you would, yes, be like your Kung Fu, but they would also include Charms, new magic poweres specific to the martial arts styles I'd teach you.>

    <Um...sure?>

    <Oh? Good. Then from this moment on, whenever you are training, you may call me Sifu.>


    ooo​
    +1xp for Update completion

    Training Options:
    Five Dragon Claw: Available to Train!​


    Purchase Options:​
    [Martial Arts +1] Available for Purchase!
    Occult +1: Avaiable for Purchase
    [Socialize +1] Available for Purchase


    Party Planning (Choose One)

    [ ]Food, Friends, Family, and Fellowship
    --Ask Dad if it's okay if you invite a friend or two over to the get-together tonight.
    ---Stunt: Who should you ask about? Vicky? Amy? Both? Someone else?

    [ ] A Private Celebration
    --Don't ask to include more people, even if Dad did write up the guest list without asking you. Given how often you'd mentioned your frustrations with friends from school...well, yeah. He could be forgiven for not realizing you might have some again.

    Explanations Extended [or Not] (Choose One)
    [ ] The full Monty: Tell Dad everything.
    --Tell Dad everything you know about what's been going on, what happened to you, what you are now, and what you might become.

    [ ] Only mostly (Mortal) Monty: Tell Dad most everything.
    --Tell Dad Everything not predicated on other universes, demons, Exaltation, Titans, or the fact that you're not entirely human and apt to be come less so.

    [ ] Keep locked tight that word-hoard
    --Loose Lips sink ships. Loose Exalted lips sink continents. Play your cards close to your vest for the time being.


    PLAN FOR JUSTICE! (Choose One)

    [ ]Lay your cards on the table
    --Seek Dad's advice about the whole hero thing, about the Trio and getting justice for what they did, and all the rest.

    [ ]Consult the Father-figure for advice on legal matters [and legal matters only]
    --Later, when everyone has left, tell Dad about your plans to go speak with Brandish and about her offer to take your case (should you wish to open one or be threatened with one). You should ask Dad for his advice on how to approach. And if, for example, he wanted to go with.

    [ ]Ask / Tell him you intend to handle this on your own.
    --Let Dad know about Brandish's offer, and that you intend to take her up on it. What else you decide depends entirely upon the choices made in Vote section 2: Explanations Extended...or Not.

    [ ]Write In
    --Stunt determines nature.


    ooo

    Notes: Vote for each item on individual lines separated by space. DO NOT CONSOLIDATE INTO A SINGLE BLOCK OF TEXT. This set of voting involves 4 individual votes, and all are taken into account, but not all have value.
    Votes formatted like the following will not be counted because it takes too long to hunt back through and hand-tally them if more than about 10 people choose to vote:

    [ ] Vote for 1A
    [ ]Vote for 2C
    [ ]Vote for 3A
     
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  23. Thief of Words

    Thief of Words Still Broken, but Less Lost

    Joined:
    Jun 30, 2016
    Messages:
    698
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    3,310
    Emergence 2.6
    [X] A Private Celebration
    -[X] Stunt: The kitchen hummed as Taylor set herself to making some pasta for the party on the stove, to go with the simple salad and smoothies already chilling in the fridge, stirring as she felt the familiar sense of Uncertainty's not-quite-silent curiosity over her work. This world of yours is interesting. This is a mortal home, not especially well off? Quite ordinary, yeah. Fire and ice at your beck and call. Such were only the purview of the great, and only rarely put to the service of mortal cooking, and then only in the hands of the Exalted. I recall one of your predecessors showing off... A brief impression of ingredients processed to frosted creams and seared to perfection by silvery light passes through her mind. ...You mean I could have done all that with telekinesis?!

    [X] Only mostly (Mortal) Monty: Tell Dad most everything.
    -[X] Stunt: Taylor squirms internally, after keeping things secret for so long, she would almost rather be fighting Oni Lee again. Almost. She takes a deep breath and meets Danny's patient eyes, unconsciously smoothing her clothes and fiddling with her hair without her hands. "Well Dad, it all began after summer camp, Emma had made new friends with Sophia over the break and decided to make my life hell..."

    [X]Lay your cards on the table
    -[X] Stunt: As they worked on clearing up the mess left after the party, Taylor took a moment to check for observers, then began picking up and scrubbing the table and plates clean with flickers of silver force, causing Danny to pause and give her an odd look, "Um, Dad. I want to talk to you about something." Danny lets out a sigh, as he settles into a chair with a sigh, seeming resigned, "It's about going out to be a hero, right? You definitely get that from your mom." He mulls the idea over, "I don't want to lose you again, Taylor. And monsters like Lung and Kaiser are out there." "But..." "And you'd never just stand aside just because of that, I know. I need to be sure you are safe, young lady. Convince me."

    [Music to go here if I find something fitting]


    ooo

    The kitchen hummed as you set yourself to making some pasta for the party on the stove. You had figured simple spaghetti would go with the simple salad and the smoothies you already had chilling in the fridge. As you stirred the pot of noodles, you felt the familiar sense of Uncertainty's not-quite-tacit curiosity over the work.

    <This world of yours is fascinating. This is a mortal home and not one belonging to the fantastically wealthy?>

    <Yeah. And you don't have to make fun of Dad and I.>

    <What? Oh, oh, no. I was doing no such thing! I'm simply astounded that such wonders are available so readily that you can take them for granted. Fire and ice at your beck and call. Such were only the purview of the great, and only rarely put to the service of mortals, much less for purposes of cookery, and then only in the hands of the Exalted. In fact, I seem to remember one of the elders of your Caste once showing off...>

    You get a brief impression of milk churned to frosty cream and meat seared to perfection by a pallid light and the subtle vibrations it brings. As the memory passes through her mind, you gape at Uncertainty.
    <You mean I could have done all that with telekinesis?! Why didn't you tell me?>

    <...>

    <You're going to say 'because you didn't ask,' aren't you.>

    <N-...not now, no.>

    Rolling your eyes and rolling your sleeves back up, you get back to finishing up the pasta before parceling it out onto plates. <Well, I'll have to keep that in mind for the future. That could be...kind of amazing.> Humming to yourself, you set the steaming plates of pasta onto the table before heading over to the fridge to start filling a pitcher with ice for drinks. Setting out some two-liter bottles of pop, you smile as you hear your Dad head back into the kitchen from his own preparations. "Uh...wow, kiddo. When you said you were going to fix something up...I didn't think it'd be ready by the time I got done with my shower. Um."

    He shrugged at that, clearly trying to think of something to follow that up with, before the sound of a heavy work boot banging against the front door drew him out of his contemplations.

    "Dammit, Danny! Open the door! Need you to help me bring these beers inside!"

    You recognized the voice, and huge, muscular man it belonged to. Kurt and Lacey had been long time friends and coworkers of your father, though with the way everything had been set to implode lately you hadn't really seen either of them in...oh, wow. You didn't think you'd seen either of them since Mom's funeral. They greet him warmly, Kurt filling his arms with a huge carboard container full of canned beer, while Lacey steps over and wraps you in a bear hug, the workman-like woman telling you from the start how happy she is that you're okay.

    Reintroduction ensue, followed by dinner. After that, the good news about work gets shared. More drinks get shared, and eventually, the idea gets passed around that everyone should head out to the ship graveyard to 'christen the new project'. Laughing, yet making a mocking show of how 'overbearing' his friends are being, your dad lets the pair drag you both out the Graveyard, a six-pack of bottled beer in each hand. This, as Kurt so happily and drunkenly explains to you, is an old sailing tradition, one which the dockworkers union has kept up as long as there've been docks. Or a union. Or a Brockton Bay for that matter.

    And that is how you find yourself in a line-up with your dad, Kurt, and Lacey, all down beside a rusted-out old tanker ship, chucking full bottles off beer at the newly dubbed "S.S. Miserable Bastard" while the others offer not-so-constructive criticism on each's aim. You manage to astound them by throwing your first bottle clear to the top side of the ship and having it shatter perfectly. Your dad looks back at you in concern at that, but Kurt and Lacey seem none the wiser over your inadvertent display of your newfound strength, with Kurt joking that with an arm like that, maybe they could use your help with some of the grunt-work around the docks, only for Lacey to smack him upside the head and tell you with the practiced dignity and care only the extremely inebriated can muster, that 'No, you are going to use that smart brain you got from Danny and Annette and you're gonna be the one in charge of the whole city.' She laughed at that, wrapping you in another hug and muttering, 'Just be sure to keep an eye out for us little-folks when you make it big, okay, hon?'

    ooo

    Eventually, you all made it back to the house, and your dad saw Kurt and Lacey safely back to their home, him having stuck to nursing the single beer which (as Kurt insisted was traditional) had been demanded of the situation. As the pair of you worked picking up after the party, you tried to ignore the growing awkward silence and the dryness in the back of your throat. You squirmed internally. After keeping things secret for so long, part of you would would almost rather be fighting Oni Lee again. Almost. Taking a deep breath and tugging on Dad's sleeve, you meet his patient eyes, unconsciously smoothing your clothes and fiddling with your hair without using your hands.

    "We...we need to talk, Dad."

    He gave you a sad smile, but nodded. "I kinda figured, kiddo. Thanks for being willing to trust me with this. After how things've been going, that...that means a lot to me."

    You feel a pang of guilt at that. A non-insignificant part of you had wanted to still keep Dad in the dark. "Well Dad, it all began after summer camp, Emma had made new friends with Sophia over the break and decided to make my life hell..."

    ooo

    When you finish tell your dad everything, it takes him several minutes to calm himself. Eventually he settles for pulling you into a tight hug. "I'm so sorry for everything you had to go through with that. I...just let me know what you need, okay? You mentioned you had talked to Carol Dallon about getting her help? That...if nothing else, I think we should go see her soon. I...I'd not insist on being there, but...well, the law being what it is, I'm sure Alan could pull some sort of bullshit to throw things into question if I weren't there with you. Still. This is about getting whatever it is you want out of this...or as close to it as we can. So whatever you decide that is, Taylor? Tell me. I don't have to like it, and I can't promise I will...I'm mad as hell that that asshole and those monsters at Winslow let these girls get away with that for so long, but if you just want to wash your hands of all them and move on...well, I won't argue with you."

    You nod, not having realized how badly you needed to hear that from him, tears welling in your eyes as you hug him. "Th-thanks, Dad."

    Eventually he let go of you, and you both worked on clearing up the rest of the mess left after the party. Taking a moment to check for observers, you began picking up and scrubbing the table and plates clean with flickers of white force, causing your dad to pause and give you an odd look, "Um, Dad. I wanted to talk to you about something else, too."

    Dad let out a sigh, and he settled into a nearby chair, seeming resigned, "It's about going out to be a hero, right? You definitely get that from your mom." He mulls the idea over, "Well, the costume part. And the wanting to help people. I don't want to lose you again, Taylor. And monsters like Lung and Kaiser are out there."
    "But, Dad!"
    "And I know you'd never stand aside just because of that. Still, I need to be sure you are safe, young lady. So convince me."
    "I know you have roughly three or so valid options right now. I'm guessing I won't be able to convince you to become a rogue, so I won't try for now. I...would really rather you not go independent if you don't feel you have to. There's just no safety net for it whatsoever. I'm not the PRT's biggest fan at the moment, but...well, they have a proven track record of keeping capes your age safe more often than they don't. New Wave...well, I don't think they've been recruiting since that Nazi moron killed one of them in their civilian identity."

    ooo

    +1xp Gained! 11.5 xp available to spend!

    [Kurt + Lacey (They're good peoples): [Emotion|Appreciation] 1/2 scenes to establish!]


    Voting Options.
    Note: Stunts are Mandatory for these votes to clarify precisely what is desired from the option in question.
    No stunt? Vote won't count.

    Planning Part 1: What Taylor Wants from the Law

    [ ][Law] Throw the Book at them. Throw ALL the Books at them.
    -[ ]Stunt: ???

    [ ][Law] Just get me out of Winslow.
    -[ ]Stunt: ???

    [ ][Law] Get me out of Winslow and make sure they can't hurt anyone else.
    -[ ]Stunt: ???

    [ ][Law] Write In
    -[ ]Stunt: ???

    Planning Part 2: Convince Me

    [ ][Convince] I'd like to register but keep my options open for now.
    -[ ]Stunt: Stunt determines argument made.

    [ ][Convince] I'd like to go independent and do so now.
    -[ ]Stunt: Stunt determines how you present your argument.

    [ ][Convince] I'd like to see if New Wave is willing to recruit...and if maybe the identity thing might be optional now.
    -[ ]Stunt: As above.

    [ ][Convince] I'm not sure what I'd like to do yet. A lot of people seem to have in interest in whatever that ends up being, but right now I feel overwhelmed and I'd like to take my time to figure out what I even can do first.
    -[ ]Stunt: Determines argument

    [ ][Convince] Actually...I think I would like to try being a rogue.
    -[ ]Stunt determines service ideas and argument.

    [ ][Convince] Write In
    -[ ]Stunt: Determines nature of option.

    Planning Part 3: XP

    [ ][XP] Immediately Purchase Intolerable Burning Truths (Mother Before Daughter) - 5 xp

    [ ][XP] Hold off on picking up IBT (MBD) - 0 xp

    [ ][XP] Buy Favored / Caste Ability Dots
    -[ ]Stunt: Determines what dots and abilities

    [ ][XP] Buy Backgrounds - 3xp per dot below 3, 4xp per dot above 3
    -[ ]Stunt: Determines which available background is purchased.

    [ ][XP] Don't buy anything for now - 0xp (Precludes any other options in this category being selected.)
     
  24. Thief of Words

    Thief of Words Still Broken, but Less Lost

    Joined:
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    Emergence 2.7
    [X][Law] Throw the Book at them. Throw ALL the Books at them.
    -[X]Stunt: You head to the bookshelf to grab one of Mom's old books from when she took that elective on intro to law during her undergrad. It's not quite up to date but since so much of the law revolves around precedent you should be okay. Plopping it down on your desk with a solid thud, you pull up the ragged swivel chair and give it a spin while you order your thoughts. What the trio did was unforgivable. But the lions share of the blame lies not with the teenagers but with the incompetent, utterly negligent actions of the adults at Winslow that enabled them. You nearly died in there and you haven't heard a peep from the people that wronged you. Frankly you wouldn't put it past them to sandbag you or worse in order keep their mess a secret. So fuck them. They had their chance to make things right and they chose to do nothing. Now you're going to make them pay and hope that whoever replaces them will do actually do their job of keeping their students safe. Since the PRT knows you triggered, maybe they can help you clean up the mess at Winslow. It'll be a good test for whether they'll actually act in your interests, with the additional benefit of ensuring that no one else will suffer as you did.
    [X][Convince] I'd like to register but keep my options open for now.
    -[X]Stunt: "I know you're worried about my safety, Dad. If I go out to fight crime, I'll make sure to join up with PRT or New Wave patrols whenever possible, even if I don't join either officially. No solo missions for me yet boss." With a hopefully not too awkward smile as she settles into her chair, Taylor considers a few items she had read on PHO regarding PRT recruitment and registration policies, "Besides, I think I might be able to hold out for a better arrangement if I wait a bit, I heard there's additional benefits on the table that they don't give out by default. Someone up in Alaska said he got a stipend just for registering, and other heroes mentioned that they don't usually make you change your weapon, hero name, or costume if you are already known for one."
    [X]Speak with one of the Dallons
    -[X] Stunt: Hesitating slightly, you call the number on Brandish's business card. She answers before you manage to convince yourself to hang up, and one slightly awkward conversation later you have set a time for a meeting. You arrive on the appointed time, looking nothing like yourself. As you enter the offices of Dallon, Barnes & Royce, you spot Alan Barnes's office, thankfully there is no sign of Alan himself. Brandish (or is it Carol when she is not in costume?) looks on you questioningly as you approach. "Yes? Can I help you?" "Uhh, I'm Taylor Hebert? We had an appointment?" She looks at you strangely. "Really now? You look a bit different today." You feel a blush creeping up your cheeks as you answer her. "Oh, right. I forgot about my disguise." As you shift towards your other form, Carol raises an eyebrow "A Changer power? You are full of surprises, aren't you?". With that you get down to business, first on the agenda is the Barnes situation. As you conclude the meeting, you decide to ask if she has any advice for someone looking to become an independent hero.

    ooo

    Dad let out a sigh, and he settled into a nearby chair, seeming resigned, "It's about going out to be a hero, right? You definitely get that from your mom." He mulls the idea over, "Well, the costume part. And the wanting to help people. I don't want to lose you again, Taylor. And monsters like Lung and Kaiser are out there."
    "But, Dad!"
    He holds up a hand to forestall any further protest. "I know you'd never stand aside just because of that. Still, I need to be sure you are safe, young lady. So, convince me."
    "I know you have roughly three or so valid options right now. I'm guessing I won't be able to convince you to become a rogue, so I won't try. For now. I...would really rather you not go independent if you don't feel you have to. There's just no safety net for it whatsoever. I'm not the PRT's biggest fan at the moment, but...well, they have a proven track record of keeping capes your age safe more often than they don't. New Wave...well, I don't think they've been recruiting since that Nazi killed one of them in their civilian identity."
    You close your eyes and spend a moment in thought, your telekinetic tendrils continuing to tidy things away with minimal conscious input from you.
    "I know you're worried about my safety, Dad. If I go out to fight crime, I'll make sure to join up with PRT or New Wave patrols whenever possible, even if I don't join either officially. No solo missions for me yet, boss." With a hopefully not too awkward smile as you settle into your chair, you consider a few items you'd read on PHO regarding PRT recruitment and registration policies. "Besides, I think I might be able to hold out for a better arrangement if I wait a bit: I heard there's additional benefits on the table that they don't give out by default. Someone up in Alaska said he got a stipend just for registering, and other heroes mentioned that they don't usually make you change your weapon, cape name, or costume if you're already known for one."
    His brow knits down above his owlish, glasses-magnified eyes. He thinks a moment or two before nodding. "That's...I still don't like the idea of you going out there alone, but it at least sounds like you have a decent enough plan, and I do believe you've put a lot of thought into it." He offers you a nervous smile. "Consider me convinced...for now." He gets up to put his glass in the sink before coming over to hug you around the neck. "But we will be talking about all this again soon enough. I want to stay in the loop this time around, Taylor. That way, if I can do something to help you or can avoid doing something that'd hurt you, I know well enough to make sure what I need to do, I do and vice-versa. Anyway," he gives your shoulder a squeeze before heading towards his bedroom. "I need to be up for a meeting with the construction company tomorrow morning. Be safe if you end up heading to meet with Mrs. Dallon tomorrow. While I'd prefer to be kept in the loop on things, I can understand if you feel like you need to at least confirm that she's willing to pick up your case. If we set up a meeting, we should be able to meet to finalize the paperwork I'll need to sign." He grinned. "Parahuman or not, just because you have superpowers doesn't mean power of attourney is one of them, so keep that in mind if you were thinking of getting rid of your old man, eh?" He sounds sleepy, but happier than you've heard him in years. Once, there would've been a depth of pain in that simple statement that belied the attempt at humor. Now? Now it sounded like he actually thought the idea of his superpowered daughter having to dance around things like legal ages and such had an odd charm to it. Like a tiger having to learn to extend its pinky paw-pad for a fancy tea party.
    Once Dad is firmly ensconced in bed, you head to the bookshelf to grab one of Mom's old books from when she took that elective on intro to law during her undergrad. It's not quite up to date but since so much of the law revolves around precedent you should be okay. Plopping it down on your desk with a solid thud, you pull up the ragged swivel chair and give it a spin while you order your thoughts. What the trio did was unforgivable. But the lion's share of the blame lies not with the teenagers who tortured you but with the incompetent, utterly negligent actions of the adults at Winslow who had enabled them. You nearly died in there, and you haven't heard a peep from the people that wronged you. Frankly, you wouldn't put it past them to try to sandbag you or worse in order keep their mess a secret. If they tried that, then fuck them. They'd had their chance to make things right, and so far they'd chosen to do nothing. You were going to make them pay, and you'd hope that whoever replaces them will do actually do their job: keep the students safe. A part of you notes that since the local PRT knows you triggered, maybe they can help you clean up the mess at Winslow. It'd make for a good test as to whether they'll act in your interests. It even came with the additional benefit of guaranteeing that no one else would suffer the way you did.
    Stifling a yawn, you suppress a surge of irritation at yourself for being sleepy already. A part of you knew it was irrational of you to feel angry that you had to sleep. It wasn't as if you could just stop needing to do it, right?
    There was an odd, expectant pause.
    <No. No way. Bullshit. Really?! There's a charm for that?>
    <Technically, no.>
    <Oh, good. That'd be kind of ridiculous.>
    <Just off the top of my head, I can think of at least four.>
    <I...you know what. Whatever. I'm too sleepy for this bullshit.>
    Your head has barely struck you pillow before you find yourself drifting into dreamless sleep.
     
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  25. Thief of Words

    Thief of Words Still Broken, but Less Lost

    Joined:
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    3,310
    As a fair warning, this update is a teensy bit on the short side, mostly because it was intended to be part of 2.7. And then I didn't finish writing it in time before I left. And then I lost four straight drafts to technical issues. >_<

    Emergence 2.7b

    [X]Speak with one of the Dallons
    -[X] Stunt: Hesitating slightly, you call the number on Brandish's business card. She answers before you manage to convince yourself to hang up, and one slightly awkward conversation later you have set a time for a meeting. You arrive on the appointed time, looking nothing like yourself. As you enter the offices of Dallon, Barnes & Royce, you spot Alan Barnes's office, thankfully there is no sign of Alan himself. Brandish (or is it Carol when she is not in costume?) looks on you questioningly as you approach. "Yes? Can I help you?" "Uhh, I'm Taylor Hebert? We had an appointment?" She looks at you strangely. "Really now? You look a bit different today." You feel a blush creeping up your cheeks as you answer her. "Oh, right. I forgot about my disguise." As you shift towards your other form, Carol raises an eyebrow "A Changer power? You are full of surprises, aren't you?". With that you get down to business, first on the agenda is the Barnes situation. As you conclude the meeting, you decide to ask if she has any advice for someone looking to become an independent hero.

    ooo​


    Waking in the morning feeling better rested and happier than you can remember having felt for quite some time, you make your way downstairs to find your dad has beaten you to wakefulness and has a surprise stack of pancakes ready for the two of you to share. Settling in for breakfast, you both discuss your respective days. Apparently, Winslow had called to try and set up a meeting with you and your dad. He looked a bit sheepish, if like a vindicated sheep...perhaps one that had finally bitten that bastard with the shears?, when he'd admitted that he'd just hung up on them. Between the both of you, you pass around your plans. Dad is headed to the construction company to meet with their HR guys and start initial negotiations for a contract to build these shelters in the Docks. For your part, you intend to go meet with Brandish, start in on initial discussions and let her know your current plans...and schedule a later meeting between you, her, and Dad so he could sign all the legally required paperwork and whatnot. Wishing Dad a good meeting, you go shower and get ready...only to realize that perhaps you shouldn't go to the meeting as yourself. It...well. You'd rather people not be able to connect things you did in your real form directly with Taylor Hebert. Because that's a thought I ever expected to have. Clearly.

    Hesitating slightly, you call the number on Brandish's business card. Your heart beats a rapid tattoo against your chest. She answers before you manage to convince yourself to hang up, and one slightly awkward conversation later you have set a time for a meeting. Hopping back into the suit-clad form from the other night, you make your way over to catch a bus from the boardwalk to downtown. You arrive slightly before the appointed time, looking nothing like yourself. As you enter the offices of Dallon, Barnes & Royce, you spot Emma's dad's office. Thankfully, there is no sign of the man himself. Relieved you don't have to look the man you'd once thought of as the nearest thing to an uncle in the eyes, you head further in until you react Mrs. Dallon's office. Brandish (or is it Carol when she is not in costume?) looks on you questioningly as you approach. "Yes, miss? Can I help you?"

    "Um, I'm Taylor Hebert? We have an appointment?" She looks at you strangely for a moment before the coin drops.

    "Are you really? You'll forgive me for saying you look a bit different today."

    You feel a blush creeping up your cheeks as you answer her. "Oh, right. I forgot about my disguise." As you drop your illusion, Carol raises an eyebrow.

    "A Changer/Stranger power? You are full of surprises, aren't you?" You manage to stammer out something demurring, she replies with reassurance.

    With that out of the way you got down to business, first on the agenda was agreeing to have her represent you. She went over exactly what that'd entail, pointed out what paperwork she'd need your father to come in and sign, and then she indicates that if you had questions about the process, you were free to ask them either then or later once your dad was with you, so that she didn't have to repeat the answers. You opted to wait until Dad's along for ta part. Instead, you asked to move on to the Barnes situation. The two of you spoke at some length about Emma, Sophia, Madison, and the way things went at Winslow. She inquired about your wishes in terms of what outcome it was you wanted so that she could prepare appropriately. As you concluded the meeting, you decided to ask if she had any advice for someone looking to become an independent hero. She thought about it a moment, then nodded.

    "However, if you really want suggestions about starting up your own hero work...you'd honestly be better off talking with Sarah. My sister was always the leader and planner. She'd likely be able to offer several suggestions I'd either overlook or just not think of until later." She gave you Lady Photon's number, and she then scheduled a follow-up appointment for the next afternoon, as you reasoned Dad would be back from negotiations by then.

    Heart feeling lighter about everything involved, you spun your disguise back around you. Straightening your illusory tie with a confident grin, you waved goodbye to Brandish and headed for the elevator which would take you back out of the building. Checking the clock in the lobby, you note that it's only about two in the afternoon. You consider heading by the Library for more research or to check your website, but ultimately decide against it. On the other hand, Lisa's suggestion of the Boat Graveyard as somewhere to hide wasn't a bad one. Mind, you weren't intending to head there to hide, you simply thought it'd be a good place to get some privacy while testing out your powers. Catching the bus back to the Boardwalk, you made your way from there out to the Graveyard. Once your cursory scan assured you you weren't being followed, you slipped inside one of the less-dilapidated and larger ships before dropping your disguise again and setting yourself through some basic martial arts moves. As you dart about, your lithe limbs cracking forward with whiplike speed, you feel a sort of joy welling up inside you. All those times wishing you could fight back, could defend yourself, could just move and avoid the trio...you could now. You moved like a martial arts master's dream student.

    Laughing and launching into a rolling, springing cartwheel simply because you can, you pop out of it to land on your feet. You'd been thinking about costumes since the other night...but you still weren't sure precisely what would be best to make. You had a hunch that if you could just get the materials, then you could very nearly make anything, provided you understood it. And if you could get your hands on it, you could understand it. Tinkertech excluded. Probably. Heck, you weren't even 100% you were on the money with that last part.

    Taking a deep breath, you called up the aura of energy you'd had about you before, letting your mind shape the mask you'd made at the hospital, drawing it in and stretching the inchoate crystal into a sort of helmet which his your features but let your hair billow out from the back of it. All it took was an exertion of your will, a mental demand that it be so, and it was. Reaching out again with our will, you sent a flicker of your power out to condense into orbiting crystalline shields of the same material as your new mask/helmet. Reaching out with your mind-tendrils you found you could alter their arrangement as you wished. Like the mask, they seemed weightless and unaffected by gravity or outside forces unless you chose to move them. And from what your telekinetic-touchsense told you, they were insanely durable. To such a degree that they put tank armor to shame.

    ooo



    ooo​

    Your telekinetic touch-sense was the only warning you got. One moment you were alone inside the cavernous interior (so far as you could tell), the next you were surrounded by four dark-clad ninjas wearing masks of red-and-green, and their gleaming knives were all lashing out toward your lungs, heart, neck, and spine. You went to dodge, to knock the blows aside, but you'd had so little warning that you'd only begun to move by the time each slash struck home...and achieved precisely nothing?

    The Oni Lees growled their irritation, screaming in unison, "死ね, 針女子!" or, as your...ability to understand Japanese--which you totally did not know you had!--informs you: "DIE!, Barbed Woman!" In literal translation of course. Harionago being a yokai rumored to inhabit the Ehime prefecture of the island of Shikoku in Japan. And why do I even know that?! Uuugh, not. The. Time!

    Wait. Harionago was supposed to be beautiful but monstrous. That...even someone who hates me and wants me dead as can be is calling me beautiful now. There might actually be some-NOT THE DAMN TIME!
    Having remonstrated the wayward train of thought back into line, you focus what you're going to do about Oni Lee. Apparently you've gotten tougher since the other night, because he totally managed to land a dozen or so minor cuts along your legs and arms back then. Now, he hit you square as square could be. And it did precisely nothing.

    Good to know I'm apparently really stab-proof.

    ooo​

    +1 XP gained!

    And discussion is now open for your approach to the fight! Many valid options exist for fighting Oni Lee (including the overclock purchase of any one Infernal charm which fits under the circumstances and which Taylor would be willing to learn (at the costs previously stated).


    Current Essence and WP:

    Committed Essence: 8 Personal
    Temporary WP: 7/8
     
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  26. Thief of Words

    Thief of Words Still Broken, but Less Lost

    Joined:
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    Emergence 2.7c

    [][Mental] Guard with your Crystal Fire Barriers
    -[]Stunt: Just mere weeks before, you could not conceive of being able to win a fight with a teenager, one on one. Now you fight four Onis at once. Lined in white fire, a sphere of crystal rising around you deflects an incoming blade, as a dancing sidestep and thrust slams the clone into the path of another's blade. So just why are you fending them off like you were used to it?
    [][Mental] Exaltation Overclock (Learn a new charm. 2-die stunt required, list charm name in stunt description.
    -[]Stunt: This is frustrating and untidy. You could feel the real Oni Lee, popping into existence briefly on a shelf seconds before he departed for the clone to dive at you then behind a bulkhead to fling a knife at you, then charging at you from both front and rear. Each clone lasts barely an instant, attempting to blind your senses and surprise you for a solid blow, their movements wholly committed to attack without defense, to be gut-punched, crotch kicked and neck chopped in a rote production line. He had assessed your reach with a practiced approach, and danced just beyond. You needed your own surprise, a way to strike them all from a distance. A dam broke open within you, as the crystalline sphere of your anima shattered explosively with a sweeping lance of pure white light, striking the surprised real Oni Lee as the shadows vanished with the crystallized ashes of his clones in the radiance. The [Anti-Variance Deletion Beam] swept from the eyes of the rising feminine figure of white fire dancing from the shattered sphere, excising the problem.
    [][Mental] Use your Mind Hands
    -[]Stunt: Bloody insect swarms pour out amidst the fragments of the shattered sphere, reorganizing the battlefield to your needs. The crystalline block resculpts into a wide spanning, razor edged chrysanthemum behind you, towed by flaming butterflies even as amidst the concealing white fire, rusted metal and wires dragged and re-positioned by red crystal ants. Oni Lee stumbled, as one momentary clone tripped rather than charged, and they hesitated, attempting to recover his bearings only for another lance of white fire to sweep across the area, throwing up a cloud of brightly flashing crystalline dust. He could teleport, but he still needed footing and vision to discern WHERE to go. Where he guessed at the terrain, you knew it intimately, where burning crystal masked clear footing and where it contained twisted metal.
    *
    *Red stunts invalidated by enemy action and botched Valor roll.

    ooo

    You don't have long to reflect on your knife-trumping invulnerability before the first of the ninja assassins drops into a low sweep kick which your new reflexes and flexibility permit you to crab-walk right over before popping back up your standard nine-foot height. Just mere weeks before, you couldn't conceive of being able to win a fight with a teenager, one on one. Now you fight four copies of one of the more dangerous and volatile parahumans in the city, and you're doing it all at once. Lined in white fire, a sphere of crystal rising around you deflects an incoming blade, as a dancing sidestep and thrust slams the clone into the path of another's blade. So just why are you fending them off like you were used to it? A sense of commingled aggravation and pride from Uncertainty provides a neat answer to that. However, you're given no reprieve before the second clone of the assassin lunges in again to try and catch you while off-balance and grab hold of you. He gets a crystalline shield to the side of his skull for his troubles.

    A third darts in to take another swipe at you, but his momentum is caught onto a curved segment of crystal and is used to efficiently flip him up, over, and past you. Even as the first three clones start to degrade, the steps forward and tackles you. He doesn't manage to knock you down, but he does manage to take hold of and pin your longer limbs in place. As he does this, you can feel worry beginning to settle like so much ice into the pit of your stomach. When the real Oni Lee teleported directly in front of you, a heavy monstrosity of a pistol aimed directly at your forehead, that worry radiates a chill that grows into crystalline latticework of terror.

    You start and begin to thrash as he pumps three rounds into the forehead of your mask...only for it to hold, gratifyingly. Your heart hammers in your chest as you fight back the sense of claustrophobia. You need a way to hit him. You need a way to hurt him. drawing a fear-laden surge of your power through you, you claw heaps of that outer pool of power in to fuel your magic, then will your heuristically-acquired magic into activity. Even as a coruscating beam of white light hammers into the Oni Lee's about you, you hear the Lee before you grunt in annoyance, drop his gun, then pull the pin of first one, then another grenade and drop them at your feet. Looking over his shoulder, you notice the transition to a sort of internal countdown you'd seen indicated the dfference between the real murderer and his dispose-a-clones.

    The clones billow forth into clouds of immense white ash, just in time for your tactile synesthesia to inform you of the chemical composition and practical applications of the two grenades he's holding. Like the--thermite?!--in the incendiary one. And the fact that you now had...two, one...Shit!



    The world explodes into deafening noise, blinding light, and roiling flame. You can hear nothing, see nothing, and your every nerve ending below the neck screams in the agony of being burned alive. You could feel the Lee clones explode into 10' diameter clouds of pure carbon ash, blocking, you hope, line of sight. You can't tell. You can't see to tell. Stretching out with your intentions, you feel your touch-sense intensify until it is sufficient to stand in for your sight...within 60 feet of where you currently stand.

    The air was on fire. Every inch of exposed skin, of which the incineration of the hospital scrubs you'd been wearing before left quite a bit, was in blistered agony. You were trapped in a rusty metal prison with a psychopath intent on murdering you. You were knife-proof, but clearly knives were the least part of his arsenal. And you were panicking. The air around you was filled with molten metal which clung to your seared skin and continued to burn you.

    You were going to die here, if you stayed.

    And you'd just finished promising Dad you'd avoid doing anything as stupid as challenging one of the city's major villains alone this morning. If you died here, he'd probably kill himself in grief. Or...or just go back to drinking himself to death and giving too little care for his own survival.

    That thought hurt almost as much as being on fire.

    You'd promised Dad you'd be careful. And he'd trusted you to do that. You'd betrayed his trust. Just like Emma had betrayed yours.

    Your nerve shattered into millions of fragmented bits. You needed, viscerally needed, to be away from here. And not on fire. YOU WOULD NOT DIE HERE. YOU COULD NOT DIE HERE.

    That thought consumed all others.

    ooo


    [Anti-Variance Deletion Beam: Learned!]

    Limit +2: Gained!

    Valor Check: BOTCHED.

    Injury status: INJURED

    Local position status: ON FIRE

    Mental Status: PANICKING

    (Voting options to come in the morning when I work out all the possible reactions I can think of. Meanwhile, discuss!)
     
  27. Thief of Words

    Thief of Words Still Broken, but Less Lost

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    Emergence 2.8 -- Boiling Point

    [X][Mental]: PANIC! [autoselected unless 1wp is reflexively spent to calm down]
    --[X][Mental] Stunt: Oh crap, FIRE! You hiss in pain as the crystalline razor scrapes against blistering skin, stripping off the molten agony that clings to your skin. The crystal barrier shoves it, blackend strips of skin and smoldering metal all, into the water at the back of the ship as far away from yourself as you can manage. Water puts out fire, right? The water sizzles and pops from the heat, steam rising from the murky depths. One problem solved. Hopefully.


    [X][Mental]: Use mind-hands to contain the thermite
    --[X][Mental] Stunt: The grenades safely contained by the water for the moment, you frantically look from side to side to spot some means to escape your confinement. You can't find where Oni Lee ran off to because your watering eyes can't see through the acrid smoke, but maybe your other senses can show you the way out of this hellhole...and his clones are back. With more of those hateful burning grenades.

    [X][Mental]: Use the local crabs to guide you through the water.
    --[X][Mental] Must not be found. Must not be caught. Can't see.... You reach out through the water, sensing only the vaguest shapes as you keep your mind-hands to yourself, fearing yet more attacks. You reach out and finds tiny dying minds, boiling in their shells. Senses attuned to the water, ripples of pressure, sound and gloomy sight. Yes, that will do, you will escape from this. And take them with you.

    [X][Physical]: Escape through the water
    --[X][Physical] Stunt: Well shit. Apparently water does not, in fact, extinguish whatever hellish substance these grenades are made of. Despite the large quantities of water dispersing the heat from the thermite, things are getting uncomfortably warm in your watery haven. And from what you can tell Oni Lee's clones have been busy blocking off the edge of the water with more of those damn grenades. Maybe he's trying to drown you? You quickly retreat into the depths as a few slide into the water with after you, the grenades following you like they have a mind of their own. You shove them against a corner of the hull, your barrier keeping them away from you and containing the heat. This was supposed to be your safe place! And yet even here you can't escape. Nothing seems able to stop it, and it's so hot it's even...burning a hole...through the hull.

    [X][Reflex]: Catch your breath
    --[X][Reflex] Stunt: The air burns, the world itself is fire. You have to get out. You turn to the murky water at the back end of the ship, away from the raging metal inferno, and pull in what trace amounts of oxygen remain. Only to gag as the ash from the clones swirl into your mouth and into your lungs. You cough and spit and trip and fall, flailing, into the rusty water. The back of your head hits the side of a bulkhead and what little air you had managed to scrape together is explosively expelled from your lungs. You need air and your body reflexively breathes, pulling in the water from your surroundings. So. This is how you're going to die. Drowning because you got a bit of ash in your mouth and...wait. You're not actually drowning. The water is the sweetest air you've ever tasted, the salty brine sweet mother's milk on your tongue. You take another breath, exulting in your freedom.

    [X][Reflex]: Stop bleeding
    --[X][Reflex] Stunt: Blood splatters onto the ground in steady drips. While you're no longer on fire, scrapping off the bits of burning skin caused you to start bleeding profusely. But you refuse to die here. You survived the locker, you can survive this. And just like that, the flow of blood stops.



    ooo



    FIRE! Pulling your mental tendrils back in flush against your body, you tried pull the fire off of you. For most of the yellow-white burning thermite, you're able to send a thought-tendril in to encapsulate and contain it, levering it away from your body. That would be great....except that you're still on fire. a section of it is still clinging to your flesh. Focusing your will a moment, you draw inspiration from what Oni Lee had called you, and will a glowing, crystalline blade into being in orbit around you, sending a thought-tendril out to snag hold of it. As with the mask, the orbiting crystal-knife seems to have no weight whatsoever under your mental ministrations. Jamming a hand into your mouth to stifle the sound, you hiss in pain as the crystalline razor scrapes against blistering skin, stripping off the molten agony that clings to your skin. The crystal barrier shoves it, blackend strips of skin and smoldering metal all, into the water pooled in a sunken section of the ship as far away from yourself as you can manage. Water puts out fire, right? The water sizzles and pops from the heat, a cloud of steam rising from the murky depths to join the quartet of ash-clouds the Oni-clones have become.

    That, at least, was one problem solved. Hopefully. But you were bleeding now. It...hurt less than flaying yourself alive should have. You weren't sure if that was your Brute rating in work or if you'd suffered nerve damage from the fire, and you didn't have the space to consider which it might be. Oni Lee was still out there. His clones could set you on fire again far too easily. With the grenade's payload safely contained by the water for the moment, you frantically look from side to side to spot some means to escape your confinement. As you do, you can't help but notice it as blood splatters onto the ground in steady drips. While you're no longer on fire, scrapping off the bits of burning skin caused you to start bleeding profusely.

    You refuse to die here. You survived the locker, you can survive this. And just like that, the flow of blood stops.

    The locker. Oh god. Hurt, blind, trapped in a dark metal box at the mercy of a sadistic psychopath. Trapped. Have to get out!


    You can't find where Oni Lee ran off to. You can't even feel where he's gone. And you can't see thr--scratch that. You can't see! Your vision still one giant afterimage from the point-blank flashbang, and the clouds of steam and ash conceal what bits of your sight aren't still glowing in lurid photonegative shades of blue and purple. You can't even hear anything over the tinnitic ringing of your ears. You're blind and hurt and in the dark. The moment those ash clouds go down, you're almost guaranteed to be a sitting duck for Oni Lee's clones. If you're in the water then, though...you turn your telekinetic senses to the water. The thermite is rendering it very warm, but warm water is better than being on fire.

    Beside you, you can feel the water you shoved the thermite into boiling around it. Apparently water does not, in fact, extinguish whatever hellish substance these grenades are made of. Despite the large quantities of water dispersing the heat from the thermite, things are getting uncomfortably warm in your watery haven. And from what you can tell Oni Lee's clones have been busy blocking off the edge of the water with more of those damn grenades. Or lobbing them at you? You have no idea if he can even see you, or if he even knows you're alive. Perhaps he's simply being thorough? Or maybe he's trying to drown you? You quickly retreat further into the depths as a few more incendiaries slide into the water after you, the grenades tugged along in your wake as if they have a mind of their own. You shove them up against a corner of the hull, your mind-tendrils keeping them away from you and containing the heat, as you've dropped the crystalline shields which had been keeping your aura bonfire bright around you.

    This place was supposed to be safe! Yet even here you can't escape. Nothing seems able to stop it, and it's so hot it's even...burning a hole through the hull!

    Instinctively altering the telekintetic tendril holding the burning payload against the metal, you reshape it...somehow...into a welding tool and begin cutting brightly glowing holes in the side of the ship, eventually levering enough metal free to create a rough doorway. That only leaves the fact that you're running out of air. And that if you go back up to catch your breath then Oni Lee may well see you pop your head up through the slurry of rusted metal, ash, and the like.

    The air burns, the world itself was fire. You must have breathed some in, because your throat and lungs feel seared. Or maybe that's you running out breath under the water. You have to get out. To do that, you have to breathe. You turn to the murky water at the back end of the ship, away from the raging metal inferno, and reach for what trace amounts of oxygen remain in an instinctive desperation. You cough as the taste of fire and ash fills your mouth before expanding into your lungs. You cough and spit and trip and fall, flailing, onto the barnacle-clad bottom of the murky pool. The back of your head hits the side of the bulkhead in your surprise. You take another breath, and for all the ashen taste, for all of how completely and utterly dry the coppery-tasting air is, you exulting in the freedom.

    Breathing more impossible breaths, you turn your attention to escaping Oni Lee.
    Must not be found. Must not be caught. Can't see....

    You reach out through the water, sensing only the vaguest shapes as you keep your mind-hands to yourself, fearing yet more attacks. You reach out and find tiny, dying minds, boiling alive within their shells. Senses attuned to the water, ripples of pressure, sound and gloomy sight. Yes, that will do, you will escape from this. And take them with you.

    The third of your tendrils extends into a crab-pot and collects the unlucky arthropods, then sets to cooling the water it contains so the surviving crabs don't boil alive. Slipping through the door with all the ease of a woman walking through a land-bound one...which shouldn't happen, you start running from the site of the fight, and don't stop for quite some time. There, you strive to ignore the sting of the salt-water against your flayed-off flesh, even as you try to calm yourself and figure out what to do next. You know one thing: you have to tell dad what happened. You promised. And it's important that he trusts you.

    Whatever else came of this...you'd also come to the beginnings of a decision: you couldn't do this alone. Whatever else you did, you needed to find a team. Be that joining the Wards, asking to join New Wave, or even having the courage to petition to sign on as a member of the Protectorate (or perhaps founding your own team...though how you'd go about recruiting and finding members, you had no idea).

    Forlornly shelling and eating those of your crab companions who'd been boiled alive by the grenade, you quieted your growling stomach while you waited out your glimmering eye-mark's glow. Fortunately for you, your hearing and sight recovered perfectly before long. By the time you were calm you could see and hear just fine. Despite being underwater.

    That was filed away as something unusual for a later time.

    Boiling up the other dead crabs, you pulled your disguise back around you and, checking that the coast was clear, made your way out of the water, disguised as yourself and wearing damp sweats over a swimsuit, and you made your way home.

    Maybe crab dinner would soften the fit Dad was about to have.

    Hah. As if.
     
  28. Thief of Words

    Thief of Words Still Broken, but Less Lost

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    Interlude 2a: The Damnation of Brockton Bay

    Interlude 2a.1: Dinah -- Prelude to a Damnation





    It probably said something that the first sign she'd gotten of the end of the world was that things got better.

    The numbers had... Well, she didn't have a word that fit. They'd changed, even if saying they changed was a horrible way to express the sheer gulf which stood between something having been a near-certainty the day before and it being an utter impossibility now. 98.7569% chance that the men who'd been watching her would lead to her being kidnapped, eventually. 5% chance that saying anything about it would let her escape. 87.4529% chance that her family would die if she tried to fight back or tell someone. But, as she'd just thought, that was yesterday.

    She'd been doing her best to mostly ignore the impulse to panic that the realization she was going to be kidnapped and never make it home had brought. She'd cried herself sick a few days ago, the last time the numbers had changed. There'd been someone before who'd rescue her. It was a rare chance, but better than any other she'd found. But then, five days ago, that chance went away. It had been the first 0% chance she'd ever foretold. Whatever had happened, there was no chance whatsoever of Skitter saving her. That she couldn't find a replacement for the thin, dark-haired bug-controller had fueled the panic attack Mom had had her pulled out of school for today.

    She hated that. She didn't want to worry her mom and her dad. Not yet. She knew there was almost no way to avoid it in the future, but they deserved to enjoy being unworried for now. They...what if worrying them now, and worrying them then, it made them hate her? It...she refrained from asking the question. There were some things even she never wanted to know the odds for. Well, most things, really. She never wanted these powers. They hurt, they made her live through horrible things, and she had no control over them beyond what questions she asked. Everything else came at a price of pain. She could refuse to answer, but refusing hurt.

    Sometimes, knowing things hurt in and of itself. But the knowledge of what was going to happen, the need to know? It was like a scab, a mosquito bite. She knew that it was like Mom had told her long ago when she was little, that the best thing to do for it was to leave it alone. That to pick at it, to scratch at it, to ask the question would just tear the wound open all over again. It wouldn't accomplish anything. It wouldn't make anything better. But she couldn't leave it alone. She had to check. Had to know.

    She'd been so loud, when she found out, she'd startled her parents. When Mom opened the door, she'd been half-choking, half-sobbing. She couldn't decide if she'd wanted to laugh, to cry, or to simply crawl up in a little ball of disbelief and joy and pray that it wasn't all a dream. Over and over, she repeated to herself what she'd found. "0% chance of being taken. 0% chance." When her mother had rubbed a hand against the small of her back, Dinah had latched onto her with a fierce joy and laughter. She told her Mom she loved her. She hadn't ever wanted to let go. She was just so happy. She wasn't going to be kidnapped. They weren't going to be hurt. Everything was going to be okay. She told Mom so. When he came in to ask her, she told Dad the same.

    When she found out just how wrong she'd been about that, her heart broke.

    ooo

    They'd settled to talking about normal, every day, unimportant things when Mom had put dinner out on the table. Dinah loved it. That simple, normal scene was all she'd wanted. Not the importance of knowing the future. Not being kidnapped, addicted, tortured. None of that. And now? Now she'd never have to experience it again. She chewed contendedly on the lasagna her mother made when Dinah'd told her she was feeling better. It tasted like home. It tasted like heaven. It tasted like freedom.

    When the changes came, they had a herald.

    More than anything, it reminded her of the old nuclear safety video the government had made in the 1950s. The one with the turtle and the terrible, useless advice. They'd watched it in History class to learn about past events. It...had been chilling, realizing just how little had changed between then and now. The sirens even howled the same tone when the Endbringers came along. Still, there was a flash, bright for a moment, brighter than the sun or anything else she'd ever seen. Its momentary brilliance dimmed to an eye-searing brightness she could see, coming from an immense column of white fire streaked with clouds of red.

    They all turned to stare at the sight.

    "It's beautiful." Mom's face was wide-eyed at the sight. "Like the Northern lights."

    "I'm going to go cut the news on. Seems like we should be more worried about this."

    "Oh, alright. But try not to fret." For all that she tried not to, Dinah found she couldn't keep herself from hating Mom for the question she'd asked next. "What's the worst that could happen?"

    ooo

    When Dinah came back to herself, she found her arms and legs ached, her eyes were full of stinging tears, and her mouth was full of the sour taste of regurgitated lasagna. All those, she could stand. The weight of newfound knowledge, hanging as heavy and ominous over her mind as the moon come crashing to Earth? That destroyed her.

    "No! No, no, no, NO!" Dinah wept, horrified and furious, even as she gave in to the headache and ground out, "Eighty nine percent chance the world ends in the next six months to two years. Five percent chance any of us survive the month."

    "What?"
    "Why?"

    Her parents' horror was nothing on her own. She still couldn't even understand the nature of what she was seeing. But down timeline after timeline, whole segments of the world changed...then simply...stopped existing. As if part of the world was there, but there was a gap in reality.

    Yet no matter where she looked, she couldn't find the reason. Until she did. And then she could see nothing else. The knowledge pulled her in with the ineffable force of a black hole. She screamed until her throat bled. She didn't notice. She could not escape those four words. That one horrible, inevitable fact. She screamed them out time and time again. Eventually, blessed unconsciousness took her. But not before she screamed her warning to anyone who could hear:

    "THE MONSTER IS HERE!"



    ooo


    Interlude 2a.1:

    Dinah, Prelude to a Damnation
    or
    The Monster Arrives
    -End-
     
  29. Thief of Words

    Thief of Words Still Broken, but Less Lost

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    Emergence 2.9

    [X] Show them to Dad
    -[X] Stunt: Your dad arrived home from work to see you in your standard Taylor 'disguise', sitting at the kitchen table with several pieces of paper spread out in front of you. You were working on what options you had going forward in terms of heroing, and the pros and cons of each. You did not want a repeat of what happened earlier today, and you decided fairly quickly that something was going to have to change.



    ooo

    Drawing the curtains tightly closed, you set to work. Your mind-tendrils invisibly manipulated the various necessary appliances in the kitchen, drawing water, forming a pot and bringing the water to a boil within it. Reaching into the bag you'd gathered, you pull the now-dead crabs from it and set to cooking those which weren't already. All told, aside from the three you'd set loose in cooler waters elsewhere in the boat graveyard, you had a total of five whole crabs on the boil in a giant pot composed of congeries of glowing force. You knew it was a bit...well, a bit much. Still, you hated to waste anything. And there'd been eight crabs in the area that'd been set to a boil. You had cleaned the dead ones with a normal kitchen knife. The guts and other bits had gone into the trash can beside the house. By 4:45, you had a pair of little tubs of butter set up, and you'd set your power to keeping the food at just the right temperature for when Dad got home. That done, you went up to your room and grabbed a notebook and pencil. You had plans to start.

    Your dad arrived home from work to see you in your 'standard Taylor' disguise, sitting at the kitchen table with several pieces of paper spread out in front of you. You were working on what options you had going forward in terms of heroing, and the pros and cons of each. You did not want a repeat of what happened earlier today, and you had decided fairly quickly that something was going to have to change. Looking up at the door even as the other partitions of your mind kept puzzling over which step should logically follow your current one, you offer your Dad a shy smile. "How did the meeting go?"

    He blinked owlishly behind his large-framed glasses, clearly taken aback by the spread. "I-what? Um. Wow. Did you do...wait." He frowned momentarily, a considering look that gave your heart a jolt, before visibly shaking off the suspicious reaction. "Did you do all of this for me?"

    You chew your lip. You'd resolved to be truthful with him about everything that happened today. Maybe you could dip your toes in where telling the whole truth went, so to speak. "Um...mostly?"

    "Mostly." That worried frown was back. He was clearly defaulting into 'parent mode', that latent superpower hidden within every human which activated upon parenthood to allow them a near-magical ability to see when their children were angling to cover up or hide something. Or, for example, attempting to soften bad news with something pleasant. "Uh...huh." His tone makes it abundantly clear the subject isn't actually closed. "Right. Meeting went well." His mouth twists a bit. "Mostly. They had some weird provisions for hiring us on. Apparently whoever's in charge of this whole thing is a real security nut. I think I must've spent two hours explaining to the other side that mandatory teams of bodyguards for all foremen and union bosses wasn't 'a normal security measure,' that the boys'd see it as tantamount to threat of violence." He shook his head.

    "Still don't even know why they're that insistent. I mean...Hell, I was able to talk another forty-thousand out of them just for not rejecting their security arrangements outright." He ran a hand through his thinning hair as he stepped over to hug you, looking over your shoulder at the papers spread across the table. "Still not sure if that's a good sign, a really bad one, or what. Still waiting on the legal boys to finish going over all the terms for anything objectionable. Aside from the outright creepy degree of paranoia." He laughs, giving your shoulders a squeeze. "Frankly, the whole thing, with armed bodyguards at a construction site? It reminds me of a story Gerry loved to tell about this time he did construction work down in Mexico for a summer, back when he thought he was going to hit it big in Texas as a rodeo rider." He grins at the thought of the old story, one he's told you several times before which eventually involved a horrified Gerry being chased out of town by a combined posse of angry rodeo clowns and border-town drug lords. "So what've you got here, kiddo?"

    "Do you mean foodwise? Or...um," you gesture to the papers before you, "this stuff."

    "Hm," he looks over the food, then points to the papers. "I just might be able to recognize what crab looks and smells like after as long as I've lived in the Bay." He gives you a slightly sarcastic smile. "But this? You're gonna have to run it by me. It looks like a teenager's been planning out some sort of major business proposal, and that's something I've never seen before."

    Nodding, you walk him through your sketched out potential plans, including all of your speculation and contingencies. Largely, it's the same as the plans you'd told Dad before, with the alteration that you're looking more at finding a team environment than at starting out solo. You see a familiar eyebrow go up as he catches that shift in intention. A sinking feeling in your stomach reinforces your earlier certainty that he was going to ask you some very uncomfortable questions before tonight was done. The two of you spend several minutes going over the details you already had down, your dad offering several cogent suggestions on the business and logistics side of matters. You nod, jotting his ideas down beside your own.

    Eventually, he nudges you with his elbow, nodding at the food. "Okay, Taylor, that's probably enough superhero planning for one evening." He smiles, and his stomach offers support as he says, "I don't know about you, but I am famished, and these crabs smell delicious." He reaches over and gives your shoulder a worried squeeze. "We can..um. We can talk about whatever it is that made you change your plans after we eat. Just...don't think I forgot to be worried in all of this." His voice was a bit stern at that point, even as he stepped over to hunt through the cabinets for a few moments, until he finally found the crab-leg cracker. You note with some alarm as his face falls and tears well up in his eyes. His heart rate jumps and he bites down on his lip for a second before reaching up to pull off his glasses and wipe his eyes free. Turning around with the crackers and a shaky smile, he comes back over. "S-sorry. I just...these were a wedding present. I...I can't help but think of the first time your mother fixed crab for me when I pull them out. I...," he closed his eyes, half-laughing and half-sobbing. "God, but she'd be proud of you, kiddo. I...," he trails off as you hug him tightly, your own eyes tearing over.

    "Sorry! I...I didn't even think of that, I...I just wanted to do something nice because you deserved it and because I felt guilty about...ugh."

    "It...Taylor," he holds you out at arm's length. "It's. Okay. It hurts going back over memories like those, even the good ones. That's...that's probably the worst thing about grief. It can poison even the happiest memories. But...," he sighs. "But if I'd ever told her that I would let missing her spoil you trying to do something nice for me? Your mom would have kicked my butt ten ways to Tuesday, and then she'd have made me apologize in advance for even thinking of it." His smile at the thought is simultaneously aching with longing and wistful. "She was a hell of a woman, kiddo. And she'd." He trails off and closes his eyes again as he takes a seat at the table, setting the utensils down between you. "She'd be proud of what you're trying to do. And...well, probably scared too, but you know how she was about that. She wasn't the type to let fear get in the way of doing the right thing." Gesturing for you to take your seat, he pulls free one of the still-steaming crabs and starts to crack the shell open to get at the meat.

    The meal passed in a sort of companionable quiet, both of you stewing somewhat in bittersweet remembrances of Mom for the first half, before a quietly crying Dad brings up a story about her from when you were still a baby, telling it to you like an old man pulling out a worn, familiar memento, fingers running over familiar grooves in its texture. By the end of the story, he's laughing again, and so are you. You're both laughing, crying, and grieving--and for the first time that you can really remember, you're doing it together. He's...he's opening up and including you. And it hurts, but...but it's also part of what you'd wished would happen during the last two years of him closing himself off completely.

    Finally, when you both find you can eat no more, you go over to rummage free some ziploc baggies to put the remaining two crabs into before placing them in the fridge with what was left of the melted butter. Coming back to the table after washing your hands, you gave your Dad a nervous, guilty look. "I should...should probably tell you about what happened today, shouldn't I?"

    He looked worried by your hesitance, but he nodded, not saying anything beyond the simple gesture for you to go on.

    "So it started after I left the library this morning. I, um. I went by the boat graveyard to work on practicing using my powers. That was going really well until Oni Lee showed up."

    ooo

    Several minutes and a few dozen twitching changes of your father's expression later, and you finally finished explaining, now in your true form, to show where your carapace-like skin on your arms and elsewhere had almost finished healing up...looking more like a nasty case of sunburn than, well, the should-be-third-degree burns they were. "And honestly I think most of the damage that's still in the process of healing is from where I miiight've taken a layer or so of skin off in the process of getting the thermite off of me." You give him a nervous, fearful smile. "Um...on the bright side, I'm pretty sure I'm bullet-proof and mostly fireproof."

    Your heart hammers in your chest as you wait for his response. Your eyes are squeezed tight with worry, even as you wish you could stop reading the fear, anger, worry, love, protectiveness, and dozens of other tumultuous emotions flooding your father's body with various hormones, adrenaline, raising his pulse, and any of a dozen such adjustments. You're waiting several minutes while he works his way back to calm.

    "Well. I hope this would go without saying, but until further notice, you're...at least somewhat grounded."

    You blink your eyes open and look at him incredulous. "I...wh-what?"

    "You. Are. Grounded. A bit. Mostly from cape work. For now."

    Your brow furrowed as you tried to figure this out. "I um. Um. O-okay? Wh-what exactly does that mean under the circumstances?"

    He sighs, thinking about his answer. "First, I'm going to have to agree with your plan back there: you need a team. So! Unless or until you can prove that you're willing and able to keep yourself safe (and this includes not trying to solo one of the city's major capes on both your first outings as a hero), no solo heroics for you. In the mean-time we need to either work out a way to get you into a cooperative patrol rotation with New Wave, the Protectorate, or both. And we need to start with that tomorrow. No more putting it off. That means we need to make a visit to the PRT Rig and see about getting you signed up as an independent and make sure the other good guys know you're one of them. Well, the ones that didn't already." He scratches his chin, picking up your discarded pencil and making additions to what you already had down. "Beyond that, you're going in for power testing. It's good that you're at least somewhat bullet-proof, and it makes me worry a little less, but one of the easiest ways to botch a job is to not know what your equipment is rated for, so...we're going to find out what your powers are rated for, kiddo." His brow furrowing, he looks over at the clock, then sighs. "I'd say we should go ahead and call them tonight...but honestly it might be better if we just wait until the first thing tomorrow. I'll call the construction company and let them know I have to take a sick day for your sake, and we'll see about scheduling the meetings."

    After a great deal more hugging, reassurances, and more than a few tears and scoldings, the both of you head to bed, putting your disguise back in place at a reminder from Uncertainty. Tomorrow was going to be a big day.

    <Hey, Uncertainty?>

    <Yes, Taylor?>

    <Why didn't you say anything earlier? I'm...I'm really not used to you being so quiet.>


    <Er, it seemed. Well. Private. I thought you wouldn't wish me to intrude any more than strictly mandated by our circumstances. As I've said before: I want you to be happy. And...my interference then seemed unlikely to acheive that, so...>

    <Oh. Um. You're probably right on that.> You smile up at the cieling, your heart full to bursting. A week ago, you'd never have dared dream you and Dad could have had that kind of heart to heart...without either his head or your heart exploding from sheer stress and awkwardness. It was...well, nice was wholly insufficient a word, but it was the only one your brain was offering, despite three trains of thought scouring your vocabulary, a fact which at least one of your minds resolved to fix, given Mom's likely disappointment at your vocabulary suffering in her absence. <Thanks.>

    <Welcome, Taylor. Always welcome.>

    ooo

    The next morning, you'd barely had time to drag yourself out of bed and away from dreams...well, nightmares more like, of an endless chase down black stone corridors which rearranged with every step in maddening un-geometries and impossible configurations beyond even the standard vagaries of dream logic. Something had been chasing you. Something...or someone? All you knew was that you were being pursued by a gaze as empty as the void between the stars, as pitiless and inescapable as a pair of black holes. A relentless, vindictive inevitability...or you had known that, up until, as they were wont to do, the dream dissolved into so much stuff and nonsense before the morning light.

    Still, you'd barely banished the suffusing sense of dread those dreams brought before you heard a masculine voice cursing, followed by the crunch and clatter of someone or something very heavy sprawling across the steps, having apparently gone through the rotten bottom step. An amused female voice responded to the first, and after a short conversation, the two voices made their way to the front door, before a loud, banging knock echoed throughout the house.

    Hopping out of bed, you meet your Dad, who is still blinking owlishly in his pajamas in the hallway. Taking a moment to gather yourselves, you both hurry down. You fall behind Dad as the people outside come into range of your touch-sense...and you realize who one of them is. As well as another absolutely fascinating fact you'd not realized before: you can understand tinker-tech at a touch. Before you can come to terms with this or say anything, your father has opened the front door, to reveal an armor-clad Armsmaster, a chagrinned expression on the visible portions of his face and splinters of rotten wood still liberally coating his left greave. Beside him, Miss Militia stands at attention, her amusement at his sudden slip evident in the lines beside her eyes. "I...um. Apologies for the step. I'll replace it if you'd like or..um. Perhaps it'd be better to just give you money or hire someone to do so? I don't want to..." He's nervous! It occurs to you that your Dad is currently in the process of staring down Armsmaster. You can't help it, fail to suppress a giggle which in no way involved snorting. Not one single snort at all. None.

    "Let me start over. I am sorry, Mister Hebert, for the pain, both physical and mental, that my selfishness and actions have put both you and your daughter through. That regret is why I am currently here. The other night, I made a number of promises to your daughter. It is in order to keep those promises that I would like to formally request you both accompany us," he gestured between himself and Miss Militia, "back to the PHQ, so that the Protectorate ENE in general, and myself specifically, can begin to redress the wrong we've done you." He stops, seeming at a loss for a moment, before sighing and continuing. "Please? I was an ass. You don't owe me anything, but I'm still asking: give me a chance to make up whatever I can to you. That's all."

    Eying him another long moment, your Dad turns back to you. "Up to you, kiddo. What do you think? Should we take him up on it?"

    You freeze, realizing that there you are in your disguised pajamas, your disguise of your Alexandria pajamas, and the top two heroes in the local Protectorate--plus your Dad--are looking at you for a response. At that point two of your three trains of thought are utterly useless. One is off in a corner of your brain rolling on the figurative floor in hysterical laughter at the thought of Armsmaster out front of your house, his array of hi-tech tools bent wholeheartedly toward the daunting and epic task of...fixing the rotten step on your stairs. The other is freaking out in the corner about how this is like the nightmare where you forget to wear pants to school, except worse, because you've already done the pantsless version, but this isn't school. It's your future work scene. And your potential boss just saw you in pajamas with one of his coworkers' faces on the back. And there was no way around that being freaking weird.

    ooo

    [ ] NO THANKS WE AREN'T LOOKING TO BUY ANY MORE GIRL SCOUT COOKIES
    --[ ]The other two minds have the right idea. Freaking out is clearly the best response right now.

    [ ]I would like to speak to my lawyer.
    --[ ]Brandish would know what to do here, right?

    [ ]That...actually, that's basically what we were going to ask you about. Only...wait. Which me do you mean?
    --[ ]Does he mean me me or cape me?

    [ ]Can you give me time to go put on clothes? I...yeah. Not wearing these there. Also...research. Had research I wanted to do first.
    --[ ]Surely if he's sincere he'll be willing to grant you time to look up what you'd be walking into, right?

    [ ]Write-In
    --[ ]Stunt determines response.

    ooo


    Whew! That one took way longer to write than expected...just like everything I've ever written ever. Except cultural anthropology essays. Anyway! Good luck with your decisions here! Sorry...just. Excited! Been waiting for 2.10 since 1.1 was posted up.
     
  30. Thief of Words

    Thief of Words Still Broken, but Less Lost

    Joined:
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    Emergence 2.10a

    "That...actually, that's basically what we were going to ask you about. In a few, um, few hours. After breakfast and...um, clothes." You're most definitely not a lurid shade of red right now. You are totally calm and poised. No matter what your treacherous mental subdivisions might say. Dammit brain, this is no time to panic, there are guests on the porch! Did you learn nothing from all those lessons in courtesy mom gave you? Invite them in already.


    You were planning on visiting, but you should talk to them first to find out if you need something before going in. Like calling Brandish if you need a lawyer present or bringing in the bullying diary if they ask about what happened at school. Running in with no foresight or preparation is how you get covered in thermite. Although the heroes probably wouldn't cover people in thermite. Unless they had a good reason for it. I wonder what would be a heroic reason for covering someone in thermite... Gah! They're still standing there! Quick, say something! "Would you like some crab? There are leftovers in the fridge."


    The two protectorate heroes eye one another uncertainly, before Miss Militia, still laughing with her eyes, thumps a hand against Armsmaster's blue breastplate."Your call." She's clearly enjoying how flummoxed her superior is. You get the feeling it isn't every day someone manages to throw him for two loops in a row.


    "I...right." He licks his lips nervously. "May...may we come in?" He looks first to your father, then to you. For his part, Dad looks your way for confirmation that the hero's being aboveboard. You give him a little nod. His large eyes blinking like the owl your mother was fond of calling each of you, your Dad gives Armsmaster a grave nod before stepping clear of the doorway. Both heroes make their way inside before shutting the door behind them. They stand just inside the house, looking around and clearly waiting for you or your father to prompt the conversation from there...given that they themselves had no inkling of being invited in for breakfast.


    "Right! Breakfast!" You clap your hands together cheerfully before making your way to the fridge and pulling out the two remaining boiled crabs, as well as some eggs, cheese, bacon, butter, and salt. As you do that, a thought occurs to you. "Only...wait. Um." You think for a moment. "Do either of you have seafood allergies?"

    ooo

    After a few moments of shocked silence, followed by a snicker which swelled into gales of laughter and a sudden and pressing need to lean bodily against the now severely-discomfited Armsmaster's shoulder for support on Miss Militia's part, you were eventually able to coax the two visiting Protectorate heroes into the kitchen and to the table. Armsmaster, for his part, demurred actually eating anything, citing having already eaten, instead asking if you could spare a cup of coffee... if only after a moment of careful consideration. Miss Militia thanked you for the offer, and asked if you had any tea to accompany the proffered food.


    Smiling, you indicated you did, in fact have tea. You fix a cup for her alongside the cup of black tea you'd planned to make for yourself. As her tea and yours steep and you listened to the percolation of the floating congeries of force you're substituting for a coffeemaker at the moment, you watch the expression of the two Protectorate heroes as they attempt to discreetly observe your telekinetic cookery, watching in fascination as your telekinetic constructs sub in for the entire kitchen appliance and utensil set. Deciding to keep things simple, you fix three medium-sized omelets, one for each of you, your father, and Miss Militia. You also prepare a side of bacon to accompany the heavily buttered and lightly salted crab-meat omelets.


    There's an awkward moment where it finally occurs to you that Miss Militia can't exactly eat without lowering her scarf. Chewing on your lip, you start to panic, part of your mental subroutines going over ways you could let her eat without her having to reveal her face or ways your Dad could eat without having to see her face. After all, you explain briefly, you sort of already know what their faces feel like, so it's not like it's a big deal if you can see their faces, per se. When both of the heroes expressions grow grim and serious, you let your Cabochon-crystal fork evaporate into abstracted geometries of light in orbit around you, your expression growing fretful before the foretold storm and fury those looks seem to portend.


    Starting to feel that babbling panic seep across the segments of your mind, you look to Dad for advice. Stepping in fluidly he offers to them, "Given that we'd already planned to come in to register Taylor as a hero today, I would hope this isn't something you're going to make an issue of. After all, your own actions have put her identity at risk of revelation more than once in the last few weeks. Given our silence on the subject of your, as you put it, failures...I would think you could at least give us the same discretion and benefit of doubt. My daughter wishes to be a hero. She admires--or at least admired--you."


    Meanwhile, you're trying hard to calm down, this is starting to feel just like middle school: not the outright torture and hell of high school, but still with inexplicable rules and social conventions that made no sense whatsoever. You're starting to wonder if it was wise to agree to find or found a team. After all, if you're this bad with people,"



    <Taylor, calm down. You can handle this. I am positive of it.>



    <Wh-what?>




    <You can handle this. Even the person you'd have been without Exaltation could, eventually, have handled this. And now? Now you can all the more so.>



    <But I'm doing so miserably at it!>



    <So? So there are intricacies to social interactions which you've yet to prove the mistress of. I...look, I'm not sure how much this is going to reassure you or not, but...your destiny? I've, well, I've been thinking about it. A lot, actually.>



    <I...yes?>




    <Yes. And, I'm pretty sure I know why I was drawn to you, beyond the simple pull of perhaps the single strongest destiny I've ever seen. I...think, something about your destiny felt, well, familiar to me. I have no idea how, but I think you...your er, well, soul?>



    <My...um. Is this one of those things I don't want the explanation for?>

    <I'm happy to explain souls later, but suffice for now that you do have one. And...well, I have no idea precisely how yours might have gotten here, but I think it...I think it might be from the world I came from. I think...I think everyone here's souls might be. There has to be some reason why this place has humans, on this side of the existence/non-existence divide. But. Suffice to say that if you were who I think you might have been? You can handle this. You've handled worse.> He pauses, then adds. <Oh, and you should probably reassure them that your touch-sense is less, well, subtle when you use to the degree of clarity that you could remember their actual faces. That would defuse the tension they've been building. I...think.>


    You blink, looking up from where you'd been sitting in silent consultation with your coadjutor to see an argument over protocols and legal rights and responsibilities brewing between your father and Armsmaster. Determined to defuse the whelming doom, you pipe up. "Um. This...isn't really necessary. I...I can feel your faces from here, sure. But that's it. I can, er, feel things acutely enough to recognize them...but when I do that, it's noticeable. If I was doing that, it'd feel like I was running phantom fingers or tendrils all over your faces, which, well." You shrugged and gave them both a wary, nervous smile. "You'd notice that, right?"

    ooo

    Fortunately, that managed to ramp down the tension, and you eventually worked out that you could alternate eating; you and your father would eat first while the heroes explained why they were there, and then while you and Dad got ready, Miss Militia could enjoy her tea and omelet. After several minutes' explanation that they were here to request you, as in Taylor Hebert you, come in to the Protectorate Rig in order for them to attempt to make amends and begin your school transfer paperwork. Armsmaster also adds that while you're there you could easily go through your power testing, or at the minimum, schedule it and undertake registration. Eventually, you get yourself ready, and your father does the same. You return downstairs to find the dishes neatly and carefully stacked in your sink and both Protectorate heroes having retreated to the front door.

    "Are you both ready, then? Or do you still have preparations you'd like to make?"

    ooo

    [ ] Can't Be Too Prepared
    -[ ]Stunt determines additional Preparations Taken

    [ ] We're Good
    -Stunt determines manner of approach?

    [ ]Write In

    ooo


    +1xp. So it wasn't actually my original plan to have this split apart into pieces, but I figured this would work for now. Don't vote yet. Please discuss possible stunts and/or write-ins until tomorrow morning at 11am CST, at which point the voting will open. Eight minutes from now, the XP / Training vote will end. At that point, if someone could, please do a tally.

    Notes on rolls:

    • Meal was acceptable, not exceptional, but acceptable. Impressive for Taylor's age, as roughly restaurant quality.
    • Double-botched socialize check to navigate the etiquette of eating around masks and issues of cape identity.