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Occular (Worm x SWTOR)

Discussion in 'Questing' started by Aldsan, Jan 10, 2020.

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    Aldsan

    Aldsan (Mysterious Heroine)

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    Emma:
    [X]Let her inside to hear her out.

    Actions:
    [X]Homework. (x2)
    [X]Experiment

    Training:
    [X]Awareness (x2)

    I leaned my head against the wall, letting the hot water wash over me, easing the small aches and pains from the morning. I’d started incorporating push ups and crunches into my morning routine, and while my body was quickly adapting, it was still in the stages where I felt mostly sore afterwards. Still, it was nice to see the subtle tone of muscle building on my legs, the small paunch I had slimming into flatness. If it was happening abnormally fast, well, maybe it was a side-effect from having powers now? You didn’t see very many fat superheroes, after all.

    I felt my lips curl up into a small smile. I had powers now. I hadn’t figured out how to do much of anything with them yet, but I had powers now. I wouldn’t be useless anymore. I wouldn’t be helpless anymore.

    I closed my eyes, focusing on that feeling I’d felt back in the cemetery. A ripple in the lake. A web of threads, running through everything, connecting everything together. But it was more than that, wasn’t it? It was energy, pure and untamed. It was motion and light and life itself.

    It was Power.

    I knew it instinctively. Even though I hadn’t managed to do anything with it yet, I knew there was so much potential there. And there was more there than I even saw. I could feel it, like it was on the tip of my tongue. The tip of my brain. Variations on a single theme. Different expressions of a single form.

    Sighing, I shook my head, pulling away from the contemplation of whatever it was that my powers let me sense, and shut off the water that had long since gone cold. Gooseflesh pebbled my body and I quickly pulled a towel around myself to ward off the shivers running through me. Right. I’d have to try and avoid getting that immersed in things while in the shower. Especially in the middle of January.

    I stepped out of the shower, drying my feet off as I went, before moving to the sink to plug the blow dryer in. Idly, I looked up into the mirror.

    A stranger looked back at me.

    I recoiled, a shout escaping me as my back hit the wall. I sat there for a long moment, breath escaping in short little gasps, before picking myself up to look at the mirror once again. My face looked back at me. The same thin face, too-wide lips, and large eyes as always.

    A strangled laugh escaped me. I really must have been distracted to panic over nothing like that. It was a mirror. Who else would ever be in it other than me?

    ━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━

    The graveyard laid quiet and still, as it had each time I had visited previously.

    I wonder why it didn’t see more visitors. It wasn’t like the place was run down. Maybe death was just too common in Brockton Bay. People were too inured to it, to spend time thinking on the deceased. It’s not like I could blame them. It took my near death to start visiting again.

    Maybe I should invite Dad to come here with me.

    I settled down next to Mom’s grave, closing my eyes. It came a bit easier to me each time I did this. I saw that energy, that motion, that force that drove the Universe just a bit faster, felt it react just a bit quicker. I reached out, tugging ever so gently upon it, and opened my eyes.

    A pebble floated in front of me. I pulled on it. Left. Down. Up. Right. I tried to keep it’s motions smooth, responsive to my touch, but each movement came in little bursts of speed, jerking about before coming to just as sudden a stop.

    I frowned and tried to focus on making it move in a slow circle. The pebble slammed into my forehead.

    I let out a yelp of pain, slapping a hand to my forehead, and the pebble fell to the ground. I glared at it for a long moment before slowly making it rise once again.

    ━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━

    Welcome to the Parahumans Online Message Boards
    You are currently logged in, Littleowl BB
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    ■​
    ♦ Private message from Vista:

    Littleowl BB: Hello there. This is Taylor. We ran into each other the other day and you said it would be fine to message you on PHO?

    Vista: Oh! Hi!
    Vista: Honestly, I wasn’t sure you would take me up on that.

    Littleowl BB: I hope I’m not bothering you?

    Vista: Not at all.
    Vista: How’ve you been though? Everything with the transfer going okay?

    Littleowl BB: I’ve been alright. I’m supposed to be taking placement tests on Wednesday.

    Vista: You’ll have to let me know how you do. :)

    Littleowl BB: I should hope that the results will be halfway decent with the amount of preparation I’ve been doing.

    Vista: Well, you should have your English essays down at least, if that’s how you normally write.

    Littleowl BB: What?

    Vista: “I should hope that the results will be halfway decent”
    Vista: It’s a very… fancy way of talking.
    Vista: Taylor?

    Littleowl BB: Should I try to tone down how I write?

    Vista: No! It’s a little unusual, but there’s nothing wrong with that.

    Littleowl BB: Okay.
    Littleowl BB: Do you mind if I ask you a cape related question?

    Vista: Sure? Why wouldn’t I?

    Littleowl BB: I kind of figured that you probably got enough of that without random internet friends pestering you as well.

    Vista: Oh. Well, go ahead and ask. I can always tell you to stop if I do get annoyed.

    Littleowl BB: What made you decide to join the Wards after you discovered that you had powers?

    Vista: Honestly? I didn’t.
    Vista: I told my parents about my powers and they decided that the Wards were the best place for me. My opinion at the time didn’t factor in much.

    Littleowl BB: Would you have rather stayed as an Independent?

    Vista: Or maybe a villain. ;)

    Littleowl BB: Well, that’s a terrifying thought.

    Vista: Haha. But really, I always wanted to be a Hero, so I probably would have wound up here anyways. It just would have been nice if it had been my decision instead of my parents’.

    Littleowl BB: I think I get that. Do you like the Wards at least?

    Vista: Yeah, they’re pretty great. Well. Mostly.

    Littleowl BB: Mostly?

    Vista: I probably shouldn’t talk about it. PR doesn’t like when we say anything that could reflect badly on the Protectorate.
    Vista: Have to present a united front and all that.

    Littleowl BB: That sounds really annoying.

    Vista *New Message*: It definitely can be at times.



    I turned away from the computer screen and drummed my fingers on my desk. I had hoped that talking with Vista would help me what to do, but it ultimately just left me with more questions.

    Should I join the Wards?

    Vista didn’t outright say it, but it sounded like there was still a good bit of teenage drama involved there. Besides, more than wanting the title of ‘Hero,’ I wanted to make a difference, to actually help people. If I was constantly being hamstrung by the Protectorate’s PR department or being sent out for photo shoots, then how much would I actually be helping?

    Should I tell my Dad that I had powers?

    Vista had told her parents and they had taken the choice away from her. I’d like to say that Dad would be different, but I could see him forcing me into the Wards as well, if he thought it would keep me safer.

    I let out a frustrated breath, glaring down at the World History books sitting on my desk. I suppose the two decisions were connected. If I wanted to join the Wards, then I would have to tell Dad. If I didn’t want to join the Wards, then I couldn’t tell Dad.

    A knock came from downstairs, interrupting my brooding. It was probably for the best. I wasn’t really getting anywhere like this. I pushed my chair out, ignoring the sound as it scraped against the floor and headed downstairs.

    The knock came again, a bit quieter this time, and I yelled out, “Coming!” as I jogged my way down the stairs. I wondered who it could be, really. It was too early for Dad to be off work, and I couldn’t think of anyone else who would come visit. Maybe it was the mailman with a package for Dad or something. I undid the lock and pulled the door open, only to stare as I saw who it was.

    “Hi Taylor.”

    I froze. I think I might have even stopped breathing. For a long minute I just stood there inside the doorway before finally croaking out, “What do you want, Emma?”

    “Can I come in?” Emma Barnes, my once best friend smiled tentatively up at me, her red hair catching the afternoon light. She wore just enough makeup to accentuate her features, tight clothes hugging close to her curves. She was beautiful in every way that I wasn’t.

    I try to reach out, to feel my powers, to try and feel if this was some sort of trap, if Madison and Sophia were just waiting around the corner somewhere, but all of it kept slipping away from me. My thoughts were too scattered, unable to focus in the face of Emma suddenly showing up at my house. I do my best to glare at her, and I think I manage decently from the way she flinches back for a second, before asking in the firmest voice I can manage, “What do you want, Emma?”

    “I just… Can we talk, Taylor?”

    I felt my body tremble. With rage, I told myself, not terror. I almost even believed it for a second. Emma was here, invading my last sanctuary. “No.”

    “Please? It won’t take long.”

    I wanted to tell her to get lost. I wanted to slam the door in her face. Instead, I bit out, “Fine. You have five minutes.”

    I stomped my way back to the kitchen, shoving the door open and letting it bang off the wall, before yanking out a chair to drop down in, only to nearly miss as I hit the corner of the seat. My bruised ass complained, but I wasn’t about to show weakness. A moment later, I heard another chair scrape along the floor as Emma sat across from me.

    The silence stretched. Twenty seconds. Forty. A minute. It was awkward, but if she wanted to waste the time I had given her, I wasn’t going to stop her.

    Finally, Emma spoke up. “I’m sorry.”

    My lips thinned. “For what? Finally doing something that you couldn’t just cover up, Emma?”

    “No, I -- You weren’t supposed to get hurt, Taylor. Sophia said she would go back and let you out after a couple of minutes. It was just a stupid joke.”

    I felt something inside of me go still. I’d heard a lot of people talk about ‘seeing red’ or burning up with rage, but if anything, I felt cold right now. A sort of crystal clear clarity had sharpened my thoughts. “A stupid joke.” My voice came out flat, but I couldn’t bring myself to care about being more emotive for Emma right now. “You put me into a coma for a week, Emma. The doctors said I came close to dying. What about that is a joke to you?”

    Emma bit down on her lip. “That’s not what I meant.”

    “What did you mean then?”

    “I just -- Look, that’s not the point! I didn’t want to actually hurt you, Taylor.”

    “Really? Because you’ve spent the last two years finding ways to hurt me, Emma.”

    I saw her wince at that. On some level I wanted to believe it. That even if the locker was what it took, I would have my best friend back again. But I knew it was too good to be true. Oh, sure, she might feel guilty right now. That would fade in time though, and then we’d just be back to where we were before.

    I cut in before she could try to come up with an excuse. “Why did you come here, Emma? Why now?”

    “I... I heard that you were getting a transfer to Arcadia.”

    “Yeah, I am. Why should it matter to you? How did you even find out?”

    “Uncle Danny’s been over talking to my Dad about the lawsuit. Trying to get advice.”

    My blood ran cold at that. I hadn’t told Dad who was responsible for me being in the locker. Dad had been going to Alan for help because I told him to fight the school instead of taking a settlement. If I told him now… Dad would storm over to yell at Alan, Alan would fight back to defend his daughter, and we would probably lose the lawsuit.

    I took a deep breath, trying to steady myself. “You do not get to call him that. Not anymore, Emma.”

    She frowned at that, her brow furrowing for a second before smoothing itself out again. “If you say so Taylor. Look, I heard about how bad off you were in the hospital, and that you were transferring away, and I just… I knew this might be my last chance to try and talk to you. To not leave things the way they’ve been.”

    I stared at her for a long moment. She hadn’t been happy that I had put that distance there and had immediately moved to say something that she knew I would want. Slowly, deliberately, I replied, “You mean, you didn’t want to risk that I would escape you.”

    “No! God! Why are you always so difficult?! I meant what I said! I’m trying to apologize, but you always have to make everything into a fight!”

    I flinched, something instinctive in me shrinking back at the sound of Emma yelling. Like I was just waiting for something bad to happen. That didn’t make sense though. Emma had never used yelling to hurt me. Her barbs were always more targeted than that.

    She took a deep breath before continuing, “It’s the same thing with Sophia! If you’d fought back against her or submitted like a good little minion, she wouldn’t have given you a second glance! But no! You always have to pull this stubborn bullshit where you act like you’ll just weather out the storm, and that makes you a target for her! Something she has to fix!”

    I saw red. So she wants to blame Sophia, does she?

    How dare she? How dare she? Sophia wasn’t the one who went around telling the school I was a bigot, a whore, and a druggy every day. Sophia wasn’t the one who turned things around and got me in trouble every time I tried to report the Trio for doing something to me. Sophia wasn’t the one who knew how much my Mother’s flute mattered to me or how I cried myself to sleep after she died. Sophia didn’t use twelve years of friendship against me.

    “Get out.”

    “No, just listen to me--”

    “Get. Out.”

    My heartbeat drummed in my ears, drowning out whatever Emma had to say. My body shook, and I was certain that it was rage this time, as the house shook with me. Cabinets and drawers rattled, opening and slamming shut. I squeezed my hands tight, my nails biting deep into my flesh, and I heard something shatter behind me.

    “Taylor? What’s going on?!” Emma’s voice shook, eyes wide in sudden terror, and she stumbled backwards, her chair falling to the ground. “Taylor? Please stop, I didn’t mean to upset you, I didn’t mean--”

    A plate flew and shattered against the wall, near Emma’s head this time and she finally stopped talking. That was the final incentive she needed as she ran for the door, tearing her way out of the house.

    I let her go. I didn’t care anymore. I just drew my legs up to my chest and lowered my head to cry into my knees.



    My Dad found me there hours later, shivering in the cold. The front door still hung open, and broken plates still lay scattered about the floor. I told him the story about Emma coming over in halting sentences, though I explained the plates as my having physically thrown them.

    I’d certainly been angry enough.

    Through it all, a cold worry wormed its way through my gut. Emma knew I had powers. Emma of all people. If I ever tried to debut as a cape, she’d be able to hold my identity as her own personal blackmail. Hell, even if I didn’t become a cape and just kept to myself, she could still sell my identity to one of the gangs if she felt like it.

    I was fucked, plain and simple.

    I debated telling my Dad that I had powers now, but then he pulled me into a hug, let me cry into his shoulder, and I could feel the guilt and anxiety rolling off of him. He thought it was his fault for not being here. He thought it was his fault for not noticing that Emma and I had become distant. He thought it was his fault for not noticing the bullying.

    Telling him about my powers would just make him worry more. It would just add to his burden. I couldn’t do that.

    I eventually pulled away from him. “Sorry Dad. I just -- she said she came to apologize and to try and help out with everything going on, but I just got so angry with her.”

    “Shh. It’s okay. I don’t blame you for being angry at her, she probably deserves a good yelling at, all things considered.” He paused, and then his voice turned wry. “I probably would have preferred if you hadn’t broken our plates though.”

    A hiccuping sort of sound escaped me, half laughing, half crying. He still didn’t actually know that Emma was responsible for everything. He probably just thought that Emma had grown distant and was blaming herself for not protecting me or some bullshit. “I’ll try to avoid breaking any more in my future rampages.”

    “Future rampages? I’m not sure humanity will last.” I gave a small grin in response and my Dad went quiet for a moment. It gave me the chance to simply relax into his arms, to stop worrying and simply allow my mind to slowly turn over what had happened.

    I needed to get better at using my power. I needed to actually be capable of controlling it.

    And if Emma did use my secret against me?

    A strange knot untied in my stomach as I planned how to deal with my once best friend.

    ━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━

    “And time’s up.”

    I stretched, setting my pencil down. With this, I had finished the last of my placement tests.

    “If you bring your test up, I’ll take it and you can be on your way, Taylor. Or, if you’d prefer, you can wait a few minutes while I grade it, and hear your score ahead of time.”

    I handed my paper off to the teacher that had been assigned to proctor me and quietly said, “I’d prefer to wait, if that’s okay, Mr. Harrison.”

    “Of course. Just a minute then.”

    I nodded and sat back down, the class going quiet apart from the quiet scritch of Mr. Harrison’s pen and the occasional shuffling of papers. I suppose I had been lucky that my last test was almost entirely multiple choice -- it made it quick to grade.

    Finally, Mr. Harrison shuffled the papers back into order, and looked up at me. “Alright, that’s that. You’ve done excellent in just about every category, Taylor. I don’t think you have anything to worry about regarding your placement.”

    I was safe. I’d had a hidden fear that I would somehow screw this up and end up back at Winslow. That tension unraveled and I smiled in response.

    “One more thing before you go. The teachers weren’t exactly briefed about you, but rumors do still have a way of getting around. If anyone bullies you the way they did at Winslow, I want you to know that you can come to us. We will listen.”

    “I um.” I swallowed the lump that formed in my throat, trying to ignore how my eyes went blurry. “Thank you.”

    “Please enjoy the rest of your day, Taylor.”

    I smile and nod in response. Maybe things really would be different here.





    Now that Taylor is aware of her powers, she has a few decisions to make.

    Does she join the Wards?

    []Yes, join the Wards.
    []No, don’t join the Wards.

    Does she inform her Father?
    []Yes, tell Danny about her powers.
    []No, don’t tell Danny about her powers.

    As a reminder, even if you choose not to join the Wards, if you inform Danny about your powers he could decide to enroll you anyways.

    In addition, Emma now knows about Taylor’s powers. How does she deal with Emma?

    []Maybe Emma is legitimately remorseful and we can try to be friends with her again?
    []Emma probably isn’t legitimately remorseful, but we can still use it against her. With careful manipulation, we could make her into our follower.
    []Violence? Threaten Emma into being quiet.
    []Write-In

    You have 3 Major Actions to spend:
    []Invite Vista to hang out.
    []Sit down and talk with Emma a bit more calmly.
    []Spend time socializing and making friends at Arcadia.
    []Look into clubs at Arcadia and other extracurriculars.
    []Get a Part-Time Job.
    []Write-In!

    You have 2 Training Actions to spend:
    []Choose two available skills from the skill tree. Reminder that Awareness is at 4/6 xp, so you can choose it once, but the second choice will have to be something else (though that something else can be a tier 2 ability that Awareness leads to).

    Encounter Roll = 17; No Encounter
    Taylor Tests = 16 (+6 from Homework x3); Taylor passes all of her tests with flying colors.
    4 xp to Awareness from Training actions
    2 xp to Basic Telekinesis from Experimenting
    1 xp to Basic Telekinesis from Letting Emma Inside
    1 xp to Rage from Letting Emma Inside
    Whew. I think the reaction to this one should be interesting. I originally wrote a version of the Emma scene for the aforementioned Blind!Taylor version of this fic. Emma having an actual legitimate moment of remorse is probably easier to believe when she’s permanently crippled Taylor in a way that outright reminds of her time in the alleyway. That said, this Taylor came out of the locker a lot worse off than she did in canon, so it’s still somewhat plausible, I think.

    Assuming, of course, that you believe her when she says she is legitimately remorseful and it isn’t just an act.

    During the shower scene, I used a few descriptions of the Force that were inspired by Peace is a Lie, by inwardtranscience. It’s a pretty good one-shot of a Sith Inquisitor. My use of Darth Occulus differs quite a bit from theirs, but it’s still a good read if you care to take the time.
     
    Last edited: Mar 6, 2020
  2. Prince Charon

    Prince Charon Just zis guy, you know?

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    Hmm. Taylor hasn't got Basic Awareness up to the point where she can learn Empathy, yet, so right now she can't know if Emma is actually remorseful. That's something that should be corrected, IMHO. As for other decisions, they're connected. Killing Emma, for example, would create the risk of being discovered to have killed Emma, which would make things difficult if Taylor did join the Wards. Joining the Wards would very likely result in or require Danny learning that he daughter has powers, and as Taylor notes, telling Danny greatly increases the risk of being made to join the Wards even if she doesn't want to. OTOH, Taylor could decide not to join the Wards now, but still have the opportunity to join them, later, I think, and to tell Danny later.


    [X]No, don’t join the Wards.

    [X]No, don’t tell Danny about her powers.

    [X]Emma probably isn’t legitimately remorseful, but we can still use it against her. With careful manipulation, we could make her into our follower.

    [X]Invite Vista to hang out.
    [X]Sit down and talk with Emma a bit more calmly.
    [X]Spend time socializing and making friends at Arcadia.

    [X]Basic Awareness and Serenity
     
    Last edited: Jan 23, 2020
    ShadowStepper1300 likes this.
  3. Nioz

    Nioz Know what you're doing yet?

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    Prince Charon

    You raise some good points about most things, like the fact that we NEED empathy stat! In the mean time, perhaps we should try and not be incredibly influenced by the Sith in our head?

    The way to deal with Emma, your choice is probably the best out of the non-write ins as Taylor is too jaded to just forgive her like the first choice and killing her now would leave massive exposure possible, with all that entails. However, I still feel iffy at the whole “force her to become my friend, make her worship me!!!” bit. That kind of Mastering sounds like the beginning steps of a prime Dark Evul Sith timeline...
     
    Prince Charon likes this.
  4. Vanbers

    Vanbers I trust you know where the happy button is?

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    [X]No, don’t join the Wards.

    [X]Yes, tell Danny about her powers.

    While there's a risk of him forcing Taylor into the wards, if he doesn't know then he can fuck things up if Emma tells other people. Miscommunications are for bad dramas. That, and if he knows he can help in some ways, like not having to make up stupid excuses to go do things, or help find quiet places to practice her powers.

    That, and all the broken shit should make things pretty obvious that something's fucky.

    Plus, he can be guilt tripped into not forcing the wards issue due to the last time Taylor was around people her own age. Or at the very least delay him from trying to.

    [X]Emma probably isn’t legitimately remorseful, but we can still use it against her. If we grow skilled enough with our powers, we could possibly even force her to be our friend again. More, we could make her worship us.

    The first part is nice, I guess. The second part is lewd and could play into some Dark Lady of the Sith stuff later~

    You have 3 Major Actions to spend:
    [X]Invite Vista to hang out.
    [X]Sit down and talk with Emma a bit more calmly.
    [X]Get a Part-Time Job.

    This, Vista would be a cool minion mook sidekick love interest friend to have.
    The Emma thing is an immediate problem and needs to be dealt with. If she hasn't already, feeling threatened could lead to her turning to the only other person with powers she knows, and Sophia is one of the worst people to know she has powers.
    Cash Money is always nice. Especially since Taylor is about to become double poor due to the hospital bills and legal costs.

    You have 2 Training Actions to spend:
    [X]Basic Awareness and Serenity

    Neat quest, hope to see more
     
  5. Prince Charon

    Prince Charon Just zis guy, you know?

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    Was too tired to come up with a good write-in (and am again pretty tired), and I'm not sure how many would be willing to vote for something that just leaves out the second and third sentences.
     
  6. Nioz

    Nioz Know what you're doing yet?

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    I get the mind-state, 7am-4pm Electrician with a 1-2 hour commute each way, tired is me.

    But I was more thinking of adding something along the lines of trying to ascertain where she’s coming from, like, Taylor does not have enough empathy to understand Emma’s motivations, and thus she can’t predict them. Maybe adding something about trying that would fit? And if we are to be a self-respecting Sith (I personally feel we should head for mid-ground pre-split kinda force-user) we need to get our training in early so that our manipulations aren’t ruined by a plucky band of rag-tag misfits.
     
    Prince Charon likes this.
  7. Aldsan

    Aldsan (Mysterious Heroine)

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    So, voting isn't closed yet, but I am going to be working on getting the chapter written up. It might be a bit delayed compared to the last few, as I've been a bit under the weather. In the mean time, I wanted to reflect on a few things.

    I think I made a pretty drastic mistake as a questmaster with this last vote. I went to the utmost extremes of examples for each decision to do with Emma and it read as (Complete Forgiveness), (Mind Fuck), and (Murder) as a result. Honestly, I should have scaled it back a lot. Taylor isn't in the right head space yet for any of those options. They were meant to be more directional guidance towards her attitude. Instead, the options should have been closer to (Try to Honestly Mend Fences), (Manipulate Emma into being your follower), or (Violently persuade Emma to keep quiet).

    Honestly, it was a pretty big mistake, and a sign of my inexperience as a questmaster, I think. Faced with those original options, I'm not surprised that so many people wrote in to simply back off and ignore Emma.

    That said, voting will remain open for a little bit longer. If anyone wants to change their vote to reflect the somewhat toned down options, please feel free to do so, and I'll keep an eye out for edits.
     
    Nioz and Prince Charon like this.
  8. Prince Charon

    Prince Charon Just zis guy, you know?

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    OK, changed to the toned-down version of the middle option, mainly because I don't think Taylor is really in a good enough headspace to honestly trust Emma enough to mend fences before she can know whether Emma really is remorseful, but still has enough of the Taylor who was Emma's friend since early childhood to want her back in some form.
     
    Nioz likes this.
  9. Nioz

    Nioz Know what you're doing yet?

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    [X]No, don’t join the Wards.

    [X]No, don’t tell Danny about her powers.

    [X]Emma probably isn’t legitimately remorseful, but we can still use it against her. With careful manipulation, we could make her into our follower.

    [X]Invite Vista to hang out.
    [X]Sit down and talk with Emma a bit more calmly.
    [X]Spend time socializing and making friends at Arcadia.

    [X]Basic Awareness and Serenity


    EDIT:
    I like this change a lot, it feels less jarring/out of character for Taylor and to have these as guiding principles.

    I feel the middle option (that I vote for), is the one with the most potential as working on getting our Empathy up to snuff we can try to determine Emma’s motivations even as we manipulate her; just because an eventual master-minion relationship is based on deceit does not mean it cannot grow to become more than that, gaining extra supporting columns. Or we can just raze it if Emma’s being a cunt. Either way is win!
     
    Last edited: Jan 23, 2020
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  10. Thread Necromancer

    Thread Necromancer Douche

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    [X]No, don’t join the Wards.

    [X]No, don’t tell Danny about her powers.

    [X]Emma probably isn’t legitimately remorseful, but we can still use it against her. With carefulmanipulation, we could make her into our follower.

    [X]Basic Awareness and Serenity
     
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  11. Aldsan

    Aldsan (Mysterious Heroine)

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    As a general PSA, I'll be leaving voting open until the end of Friday and should hopefully have the next chapter out over the weekend. Probably Saturday, but we'll see. So again, if anyone wants to edit their choices, offer is still open.
     
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  12. Threadmarks: Slave 1.2a
    Aldsan

    Aldsan (Mysterious Heroine)

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    Wards:
    [X] Don’t join.

    Danny:
    [X] Don’t tell.
    This actually wound up as a tie. I tie broke it towards no. Taylor loses her nerve at the last minute. She can always tell him later. More about this in the Author’s note.

    Emma:
    [X] Attempt to ignore her and just cut ties.

    Actions:
    [X] Spend time with Vista.
    [X] Socialize.
    [X] Look at Clubs.

    I woke up to the taste of bile at the back of my throat. Wiping the tears from my eyes, I try to cling onto and remember the last fragments of an already quickly fading dream. There had been something there. A memory of an imagination. I push myself up and stumble out of bed and into the bathroom, ignoring the sudden sense of vertigo.

    What a way to start my first day at Arcadia.

    A quick shower and breakfast later and I find myself waiting at the bus stop in a set of baggy jeans and a hoodie. I guess I’d have to either get up earlier if I wanted to keep up with my exercise routine or start going after school instead. A few other kids shuffle into the area, but there’s a lot less kids getting picked up for Arcadia than there were for Winslow in this part of the city. When the bus comes, there’s plenty of space to find a seat, and I end up sequestering myself in the back.

    I stared idly out the window, watching the scenery go by. Something about my sleep still nagged at me, though I couldn’t remember what. A dream, which was not all a dream. The bright sun was extinguished and stars did wander darkling in the eternal space. I snort softly and shake my head. I was probably just overthinking things.

    The bus comes to a stop and I get up, forcing a smile onto my face. Time to face the new school. This time, I was sure, things would be different. I could simply move past Emma. I could make new friends.

    ━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━

    I picked at my food in the corner of the cafeteria. I hadn’t made any new friends. A transfer student was barely even a novelty at Arcadia. I’d had a few curious questions, but my transfer hadn’t coincided with any rumors about a new Ward, so interest was muted at best.

    It’s not that anyone was hostile or even cold, it’s just that… Well, after the initial curiosity passed, everyone already had their cliques.

    I caught movement out of the corner of my eye and looked up and -- One of the most beautiful girls I’d ever seen walked past. A bombshell of a blonde, who would have given even Emma a run for her money, settled at a table, a group of girls following her like planets orbiting the Sun.

    I found myself standing up, trying to swallow against a suddenly dry throat. I should go talk to her. Introduce myself. Maybe I could do something to impress her. I didn’t have a lot in the way of showy talents, but I could maybe levitate something...

    I flinch back. What I was I thinking? I didn’t want to out myself just to make friends. But without any sort of trick, why would someone as perfect as that want to be friends with someone like me? I settle back into my chair, wiping my sweaty palms against my jeans, trying to still the shivers running through my body. My breath came in short little gasps. No matter how quickly I breathed, I couldn’t seem to get enough air in.

    I had to get out of here.

    I fled the cafeteria, only stopping once I was sequestered in a girls’ bathroom two hallways down. What was wrong with me? None of my tormentors were here. No one had spoken so much as a cross word to me all day. Yet here I was, breaking down in the bathroom.

    I slammed a fist into the bathroom stall and felt a shudder run through me. How pathetic was I, that I’d been ready to give up my identity as a cape just to impress some girl I didn’t even know? Why had I even? Because she had been popular and pretty? Because she had reminded me of Emma?

    Maybe everything Emma had said the past two years had been true. Maybe I really was just a loser in the end. A failure. I wouldn’t ever really amount to anything. I -- took a deep breath and felt the wonder of the Universe around me. If I was unhappy with my current state, then I simply had to improve myself. Power alone is not enough. It is through passion, not mere emotion, but the drive to change things, that my chains would be broken.

    I blinked and stumbled out of the bathroom stall, feeling calm again. No, that wasn’t right. That entire ball of ugly emotion still sat in my chest, but instead of being immersed in it, I felt strangely detached, like an outsider looking in, able to pick up and examine each emotion without being invested in them.

    It made it easier, I found, to see just how strange my reaction had been. I turned the tap on a bathroom sink, washing my face as I contemplated what had happened. Why had I been so eager to impress someone I hadn’t ever met before? I chewed on the inside of my cheek, staring into the mirror. My face stared back, wan and pale, but there wasn’t much I could do for that at the moment.

    I had class to get to.

    ━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━

    The rest of the day went by in something of a blur. I’d been just as ignored as I had been during my morning classes. When the final bell rang, dismissing my English class, I happily started stuffing my books into my backpack, ready to get home. I needed some time to myself -- to vent, to figure myself out, to figure out what I wanted to do.

    Suffice it to say, I was rather annoyed when the teacher spoke up and interrupted my plans. “Taylor, could you stay behind for a bit?”

    I kept myself from sighing and instead forced a smile onto my face. “Sure, Mr. Harrison. What do you need?”

    “Well, a couple of things, I suppose. How was your first day here at Arcadia?”

    Kind of sucked. “Fine I guess? Better than Winslow ever was, at least.”

    “That’s good to hear. I’m sure any rough edges will smooth out as you adjust as well.”

    “I guess.”

    “By the way, were you in any clubs at Winslow?”

    “Erm, no. Not really.” No one would have let me join even if I had been interested. The Trio would have found a way to ruin things for them if they did. “Why’re you asking?”

    “Well, we try to encourage all of our students here to engage in extracurriculars. With your transfer, you kind of missed out on a lot of the various club promotions at the start of the year, so I asked one of our student ambassadors to swing by and show you around the different clubs.”

    “I, uh,” I stared at him for a moment. He had to have gone out of his way to arrange this. It was the first day, and he’d already shown more care about my well-being than any of the teachers at Winslow had in the two years I’d gone there. If only it weren’t so personally inconvenient this time. Any sort of after-school club would cut into my plans to be a hero. I tentatively asked, “I have to catch the bus though?”

    “It’ll be fine. We have buses that run later for students in clubs and I already called your Dad and got permission for you to stay late today.”

    I licked at my lips, trying to come up with another excuse, when a handsome, sandy-haired boy rapped his knuckles against the open door and poked his head into the classroom. “Hey there, hope I’m not too late.”

    “Not at all. Taylor, this is Dean Stansfield. He’ll be showing you around today.”

    I looked from Dean, to Mr. Harrison, and then back to Dean. Dean simply shot a sunny smile in my direction. I sighed and resigned myself to my fate. “Alright. Good to meet you, I suppose.”

    “You too, Taylor. I’ll do my best to keep this as painless as possible.”

    Mr. Harrison makes little shooing motions with his hands and I roll my eyes before following Dean out into the hallway. “I like how you don’t deny that there will be pain involved with the experience.”

    “Taylor, I won’t lie to you.” Dean stared at me straight faced and didn’t add anything to the sentence. After a moment, a snort escaped me, a small smile crossing my face. Dean immediately brightened at the sight of it. “But we should probably get started, it’s a big school with a lot of ground to cover. Were there any clubs or hobbies that you were interested in?”

    “Um. I’m not really sure what all is available, so maybe a quick run down? What club are you in?

    “I’m actually in a Work Release program, so I’m probably not the best person to use as a reference unless you’re planning on getting a job.”

    Huh, that wasn’t really a terrible idea really. Between the hospital bills and the lawsuit, we were kind of strapped for cash at the moment, so getting school credit and some spending money at the same time would help a lot. Of course, even a part time job would still be a serious time commitment. I wouldn’t be able to go out and do Hero stuff nearly as often.

    “Anyways, there’s the various sports teams,” Dean continued, “Though you’d need to try out for a position with them. There’s an Art club. Band, Orchestra, and Choir if you’re more musically minded. There’s a Literature club if you enjoy reading. There’s an Engineering club -- they’re gearing up for their robot battle tournament at the end of the year. There’s also a Computing club, but I think most of the members just end up playing games together. Drama, if you want to act; Debate, if you want to argue. And if you want to spend your time studying, there’s always the Academic Decathalon.”

    I blink at the wave of information. “Is that, uh. Is that all of them? What the heck is an Academic Decathlon?”

    “Nah, just the big ones, really; and AcDec is for the sort of people who really enjoy standardized testing.” He grinned at my sudden recoil. “Probably not for you then, huh?”

    “Yeah, I think I’ll pass on that one.”

    Dean let out a rich, full laugh, and I let myself smile in response. Even knowing that he was only doing this because I was his responsibility, that he probably wouldn’t give me the time of day otherwise, it was still nice talking with him. That he was handsome and a bit charming didn’t hurt things. Then, a familiar blonde flew around the corner and I felt my mood sour.

    Literally, flew, her feet weren’t touching the ground. She was beautiful and perfect, and more than anything I wanted to be her friend. Instead, I grit my teeth and strangled that desire. I knew who she was now.

    “Dean!” Victoria Dallon, Glory Girl, shouted down the hallway, before barrelling into him and wrapping him in a hug that lifted him off the ground. “I’ve been looking everywhere for you!”

    Dean wasn’t startled; he seemed more bemused than anything by the sudden embrace by a known cape. I’m sure the quick kiss that followed it would have ended any complaints that he would have had anyways, of course. Still held up in the air, he tilted his head after a moment and asked, “What’s up, Vicky?”

    “I was planning to take Amy shopping and thought I’d see if you wanted to come with. Maybe grab dinner together afterwards?”

    The two of them were looking into each other’s eyes, lost to their own little world, so I wasn’t too surprised when Dean murmured, “Sure. I’d love to go. I’m sure you’ll need someone to carry the bags, if nothing else.” And then he started, as he seemed to remember that he’d been escorting someone when Victoria had shown up. He glanced over at me guiltily, only for his eyes to widen as he took in my clenched jaw and shaking fists. His head snapped back to looked at Victoria and he hissed out, “Vicky! Aura!”

    “What?” Victoria looked confused for a moment, and then looked at me as though noticing me for the first time. A sudden flush of red invaded her cheeks and the urge to worship her slowly receded. “Oh God.” Dropping Dean, she rushed over to me. “Sorry! Sorry. Most people don’t get the Fear reaction to my aura.”

    “It wasn’t fear.”

    “What?”

    “It wasn’t fear,” I maintained, looking her in the eye.

    She looked confused, but fortunately Dean decided to intervene. “It’s fine, Vicky. Anyways, this is Taylor, she’s a new transfer I was showing around. Taylor, this is Vicky, my girlfriend.”

    Yeah, I wasn’t that oblivious. The two were pretty obviously involved. Still, I offered Victoria, a brittle smile. “Good to meet you.” Then, turning my attention back to Dean, I asked, “I guess we’ll do the tour of the clubs another time?”

    “Oh, uh--” He shot a guilty look towards Victoria.

    “I didn’t realize I was interrupting things, I could always come back and grab Dean later…”

    “Don’t worry about it,” I cut in. “It’s not like there’s a rush, right?”

    Victoria slowly nodded. “If you’re sure?”

    “Yeah, go ahead. Have fun, you two.”

    She stares at me a moment longer, and then suddenly I’m the one wrapped up in a hug, floating off the ground. I’m pretty sure my eyes came close to falling out of my head, I was so surprised. I fought to keep my revulsion from showing. Not with Victoria; she had been perfectly kind and the hug felt nice, a gentle squeeze. No, it was with myself; the girl so pathetic that even a simple hug was enough to give me this sort of contentment. But then Victoria smiled up at me and said, “Alright. But I’m helping Dean give the actual tour next time,” and I couldn’t find it in me to do anything but nod.

    Dean gave me a concerned look as Victoria set me down. “We’ll talk soon, alright?”

    “Sure,” I shrug. He give me another look, but turns away after a moment and I watch him and Victoria leave. I guess I’d have to give some thought to the whole Club thing between now and then. For now, I walked downstairs and out of the school building, only to let out an exasperated sigh.

    I’d missed my bus.

    ━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━

    “Hey there.”

    “Hey yourself.” Vista plopped down next to me on the edge of the roof (It had been a lot easier to climb up to than I had expected) and I gave her a small smile. She didn’t return it though. “You know this is a terrible idea, right?”

    “Uh. What do you mean?”

    “I mean, it’s one thing being internet friends, but I’m not exactly comfortable unmasking to you. That means any real-life hanging out we do would have to be with me in costume. Can’t exactly go to the movies or just grab a meal like that. And that’s without getting into the problems of being publicly known as a friend of a hero and how that can bite you.”

    “Oh. I hadn’t really given it that much thought. I just… wanted to hang out, y’know?”

    “I know. And I figured you probably needed to talk to someone or I wouldn’t have agreed in the first place. But try to keep it in mind, Taylor.”

    I ignored the flush that stained my cheeks and simply nodded, before drawing my knees up to hug them to my chest. “I guess.... I don’t know, things have just been a bit overwhelming for me lately. Between the lawsuit and the new school and everything else.” And powers, I didn’t add.

    “Yeah, I hear you. I was pretty withdrawn for months after I joined the Wards. Even though everyone was nice enough at the time, and I looked up to them all, it was still a lot of new people and I wasn’t really able to hang out with my old friends as much any more.”

    “Yeah... “ I went silent for a moment, staring out down the street. “...Have you ever had a friend who did something that really hurt you?”

    “Um. Not really no. I mean, sometimes the other Wards will piss me off, and I wouldn’t say Shadow Stalker was ever my friend, but no one really hurt me.”

    “Oh. I uh… She came and apologized to me recently. And part of me just wants to forgive her, to let things go back to how they used to be. But I’m not really sure that I can.”

    Vista shifted uncomfortably, and after a moment, just set a hand on my shoulder and squeezed slightly. “I guess that’s up to you, Taylor. Sometimes, it’s better to just move on and let old things fade.”

    “I suppose.” I let my attention wander for a moment, turning the issue with Emma over in my head before finally setting it down again. “Thanks for being here, Vista. It means a lot to me, and I know you didn’t have to be.”

    She smiled in return. “Hey, what are friends for?”

    ━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━

    I quietly stepped into my house. There’s the sound of TV coming from the living room to my left, so I guess Dad was already home. I take a deep breath, before stepping that way. “Hey, I’m home.”

    “Taylor!” Dad’s head immediately snapped up at the sound of my voice. “I was starting to get worried. When they said they were going to ask you to stay after school, I didn’t expect it to run this late.”

    “Oh, uh. No, that whole club thing sort of got interrupted. I was actually hanging out with a new friend of mine.” Even after my emotional outpouring over Emma, Vista had hung around and chatted for awhile, and we’d eventually moved onto lighter topics. Vista had seemed especially curious about Dean showing me around the school earlier, but I guess she was at the age to want to know more about handsome boys.

    In any case, she wasn’t really the sort of friend I could show off to Dad, not without some awkward questions about how we met. Still, he brightened up after hearing about her. “That’s great, Taylor. Everything go well?”

    “Yeah, I think so.” I stared at him, for another moment after that, a more important topic on my mind. I had been agonizing over whether to tell my Dad about my powers, but each time, Vista’s story held me back. Even if he didn’t sell me out to the PRT… Dad looked so tired these days. How would he deal with having a daughter who was putting herself in danger every day, on top of everything else? I opened my mouth -- and felt the words die on the tip of my tongue, as they always did. “Anyways, how was your day?”

    “Oh, uh, it went pretty good, I guess. I did invite Alan and his family over for dinner on Saturday though. I’m sure you’ll enjoy that. It’ll be just like old times, right?”

    I went still, feeling like ice water had run down my back. “Yeah.”

    “Just like old times.”





    We have a few decisions to make:

    What club do you want to join?

    []Work-Release. Find a part-time job.
    This will get Taylor some spending money for any expenses that might come up, but it’s a bigger time commitment than most clubs and could cut into heroing time.
    []Sports (Write in a particular flavor of sport)
    Taylor has been trying to exercise more lately, and this could help with that.
    []Art
    Taylor does still need to design her costume and might be able to get supplies to help with that. Plus, she enjoyed drawing back before things went down with Emma. It might be nice to pick the hobby up again.
    []Music
    Taylor’s never been all that into playing music herself, but her mother used to play Flute. Maybe she could learn.
    []Literature
    Taylor’s Mom was an English professor, so Taylor practically grew up on books. At the very least, she’d be in her element.
    []Engineering
    Who doesn’t love building robots?
    []Computing
    It sounds like the sort of place Greg Veder would have hung out…
    []Drama
    If you’re going to be a cape, this might help you act the part.
    []Debate
    Get to be a better speaker -- and a better arguer when someone disagrees with you.
    []Write-In

    Taylor needs to start coming up with Cape Names.
    []Write-In. Names I like or that are popular will be gathered up for a cut down second vote.

    Taylor needs to start coming up with Costume Ideas.
    []Write-In. Costumes I like or that are popular will be gathered up for a cut down second vote.

    You have 2 Major Actions to take. (1 is dedicated to touring clubs with Vicky and Dean).
    []Write-In.

    You have 2 Training Actions to take.
    []Write-In.

    Encounter Roll = 7; No Encounter
    Socialize Roll = 4; Taylor fails to socialize and instead has a panic attack. Take a point in Serenity as consolation.


    Potential Danny roll = 9; Danny doesn’t report Taylor to the Protectorate, but does become severely overprotective and watchful of her activities.
    2 xp to Awareness from Training.
    2 xp to Telekinesis from Training.
    1 xp to Serenity from Taylor’s freak out.
    “A dream, which was not all a dream. The bright sun was extinguished and stars did wander darkling in the eternal space.” A reference to the poem, Darkness, by Lord Byron for those curious. Literary references seemed rather in line for Taylor’s thoughts.

    So, we had a tie vote on telling Danny, with 21 votes for and 21 votes against. I broke the tie towards No, as a last minute back out on Taylor’s part. I also did a dice roll just to see what would have happened. We got a 9. Danny passes the DC5 which would have seen him try to force Taylor to join the Wards. He would not have passed the DC10 however, and as a result would have been severely overprotective. He would have forbidden cape activity and been watchful for any signs of it.

    I did warn that this was risky -- and even pointed out that Taylor doesn’t have any real positive modifiers in her favor that could increase her odds. She doesn’t have a partner to watch her back. Her abilities so far consist of a weak danger sense and an even weaker telekinesis. She just got out of the hospital from being in a coma for a week. Nothing to exactly inspire confidence in a worried parent.

    You escaped this time, due to extremely close voting and Questmaster fiat, but this won’t be the only time a risky decision comes up. (Nor was it the only risky decision you made this round. We’ll have to wait and see how the Emma thing turns out). Don’t be afraid to Write-In actions that you think will increase your odds of future success.
     
    Last edited: Mar 12, 2020
  13. Nioz

    Nioz Know what you're doing yet?

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    “Just Like Old Times”.

    Yeah, with Taylor barely containing her panic as Emma and her family is in the same house as her.

    them feels, oof
     
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  14. ZiPeppe

    ZiPeppe (⌐■_■)

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    [X] Costume
    [​IMG]

    [X] Name: Ceridwen

    [X] Training: Rage
    [X] Training: Basic Telekinesis

    [X] Engineering

    I'm a bit unsure on the major actions.
     
  15. Nioz

    Nioz Know what you're doing yet?

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    Heh, I don’t mind that sith look! Long as we don’t have to be an “Evul durp” one.


    Personally I put Telekinesis and Empathy on a higher prio than Rage, and who doesn’t love engineering for that eventual Lightsaber?

    For major actions I feel we need to find a solution to the GG problem, it won’t do to be positively paralyzed whenever we stumble on to her, or she on to us.

    [X] Costume
    [​IMG]

    [X] Name: Ceridwen

    [X] Training: Empathy
    [X] Training: Basic Telekinesis

    [X] Engineering
     
  16. Its_a_cauldron_plot!

    Its_a_cauldron_plot! ( Or is it Simurgh?)

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    [X] Costume
    Spoiler

    [X] Name: Ceridwen

    [X] Training: Empathy
    [X] Training: Basic Telekinesis

    [X] Engineering
     
  17. ZiPeppe

    ZiPeppe (⌐■_■)

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    Occlus should not be a member of that particular club, so if there is a push for that I don't think it will come from that angle.
     
  18. Nioz

    Nioz Know what you're doing yet?

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    This is pleasing news you bring! Gladdens me much it does!
     
  19. Aldsan

    Aldsan (Mysterious Heroine)

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    Okay, so the chapter's probably going to be a bit delayed compared to previous chapters, but I've started working on it. In the mean time, however, I decided to collect up some costume suggestions, along with some art searches of my own.

    So here's how this is going to work. Choose your top 3 picks. List it as your favorite [3], second [2], third [1]. These are the "points" you're assigning to each choice.

    Again, this is to narrow things down. Keep in mind, a lot of these images look very techy or armored -- Taylor won't have access to that sort of stuff initially, so it'll likely be worked in over time. Also keep in mind that colors aren't reflected by these images. That's a separate vote.

    So first things first: Cape Names.
    []Oracle
    []Warlock
    []Conduit
    []Seeker
    []Zenith
    []Write-In
    (Yes, still taking any interesting write-ins people might have)

    Second: Costume ideas
    []Layers of Cloth, for the Refined Hobo
    []Body Armor with Half Skirt. Hood and Scarf w/ Mask.
    []Overcoat with Bandanna to hide face.
    []Armor/Dress, split for movement. (Assume additional mask)
    []Practical leathers w/hood and cape.
    []Armor with cloth decoration -- skirt and hood.
    []Armor with full cloak.

    Third: Colors
    []Primary Color (Write-In the main thematic color for the outfit)
    []Secondary Color (Write-In the secondary color used for outfit highlights)
     
    Last edited: Jan 29, 2020
  20. Prince Charon

    Prince Charon Just zis guy, you know?

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    Cape Names.
    [3]Oracle
    [2]Seeker
    [1]Zenith

    Blanking on which costumes to vote for, other than 'not the pointlessly-skimpy one.'

    Not sure about colours, either.
     
  21. Nioz

    Nioz Know what you're doing yet?

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    [1]Oracle
    [2]Seeker
    [3]Zenith

    for costumes, eh, dunno...

    Colours on the other hand, doesn’t White and Red have a fine tradition?
     
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  22. ZiPeppe

    ZiPeppe (⌐■_■)

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    [3] Oracle
    [2] Warlock
    [1] Ceridwen

    <_<
    >_>

    [X]Armor with cloth decoration -- skirt and hood.

    :D :p

    [X] Primary Color: Black
    [X] Secondary color: Gold
     
  23. CatOnFire

    CatOnFire Magically Malicious

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    [X] Plan Queen of Magic

    [X]Warlock
    [X]Zenith (best pick)
    A big no to Oracle because claiming any level of thinker power just puts a target on your back.

    Second: Costume ideas
    [X]Armor with cloth decoration -- skirt and hood.
    Classy yet futuristic.

    Third: Colors
    [X] Primary: Black (Armor)
    [X] Secondary: Royal Purple and Gold (the cloth and the glowy bits are Purple but the designs are Gold)
     
  24. Threadmarks: Slave 1.2b
    Aldsan

    Aldsan (Mysterious Heroine)

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    I idly twirled my pencil between my fingers, trying my best to listen to the teacher, while keeping an eye on the ticking clock. It was easier than I expected, really. Mrs. Miller wasn’t the most thrilling of teachers, but she was still more engaged than anyone at Winslow had ever been, and I didn’t have to spend the entire class watching out for spitballs in my hair or girls dumping pencil shavings across my desk.

    Honestly, it was even easier than when I’d been self-studying for Arcadia’s placement tests. I wasn’t really sure why exactly. The actual material was more difficult than what I’d been studying, and having a teacher on hand to explain it didn’t actually do that much for me -- I was pretty used to having to reference a textbook to get anything out of class at this point.

    My mind immediately leapt to my powers, but it wasn’t as though I suddenly had an eidetic memory. No, I just seemed to… learn and absorb the information better than I used to. Maybe it was just a side effect of the sort of concentration I had to put into using my powers; making my brain stronger by regularly exercising my mind.

    Well, it’s not like I had proof either way, and it wasn’t like I was about to complain if it were the case. It just would be nice if I knew a bit more about what I could actually do. I instinctively knew that there was more to my powers than just a bit of weak telekinesis and… Well, it had to be a precog ability that had saved me from that car, right? But I hadn’t really had anything like that since then, so maybe it was limited to just sensing stuff that would be dangerous to me. Even if I knew that there was more than those two abilities though, it’s not like I knew what else I could manage beyond that.

    I wonder if any other capes had this much trouble getting used to their powers. Maybe not someone like Glory Girl, but surely a tinker like Armsmaster had to spend the time to figure out how to make things and didn’t just have everything in his head after triggering? I could only imagine how much trouble Eidolon had with his constantly changing set of powers.

    On the other hand, it would be entirely typical if everyone got a handbook to go with their powers except me.

    I let out a quiet sigh and glanced up at the clock again. A minute until the end of class. I started shuffling materials into my backpack.

    When the bell rang, I was ready, and out the door before the rest of the class. This had been my habit for the past week -- getting down to the bus stop before anyone could intercept me.

    I didn’t particularly like doing it. It reminded me of Winslow, of dashing out of the class so I could hide from my bullies during lunch time without being tracked down. It wasn’t to avoid bullies however, no matter how much it made me think of Winslow. It was to avoid Vicky and Dean.

    They had both tried to talk to me during lunch the day after Vicky had pulled Dean away for their date. They had invited me to sit with them, and instead, I gave them the cold shoulder. Since then, I’d seen them looking for me a few times, but I’d done my best to avoid their notice.

    I wasn’t even entirely sure why. It’s not like I disliked them. It wasn’t even that I was afraid of being in Glory Girl’s aura. No, that wasn’t true. I knew exactly why I was avoiding them. On some level, I was afraid of making friends again. That somehow, I would screw things up and everything would go the same way it had in the past.

    I stepped outside and saw Victoria waiting near the bus stop, floating just high enough that she’d likely be able to see over the crowd. She spotted me after a moment and waved. I bit down on my lip before waving back.

    “Hey there,” she said, drifting over, “You’re a hard girl to catch. I was starting to wonder if you were avoiding me.”

    Her tone was casual, but I could still hear the implied question, the unstated hurt. I winced and looked down. “I -- Sorry, I just… I didn’t have a lot in the way of friends at Winslow, and I just wasn’t sure--”

    Vicky’s face softened, and she interrupted me by wrapping me up in a hug. I forced myself not to stiffen. God, how fucked up was I that a hug was enough to make me start looking for an escape? Vicky thankfully only held it for a moment before letting it go and pulling back. “It’s fine, Taylor. I know I probably didn’t make the best first impression the other day.”

    “No, it’s not that.” I sighed and ran a hand up into my hair. “It’s my own hangups. Really.”

    “It’s not me, it’s you?” Vicky grinned.

    There was a teasing lilt to her words, but it wasn’t cruel. I gave her a smile and shrugged, “Yeah, sorry to let you down before you could even ask for a date.”

    “What a shame. I suppose I shall just have to content myself with Dean instead.”

    “He’s a pretty good consolation prize, I suppose.”

    “He is, isn’t he?” Vicky giggled softly, her gaze wandering as she presumably distracted herself thinking about Dean. She quickly refocused however, and leaned in to take my hand. “Are you ready for your tour then?”

    “Are you even qualified to give me a tour? I’d think with all the Cape stuff, you wouldn’t have much time to spend around the clubs.”

    Vicky shrugged and the two of us started walking back into the building. “You’d be surprised. I’m probably the most active member of New Wave right now, and even then, I mostly patrol in the evenings and weekends. It leaves me time to occasionally drop in on a club -- though, I wouldn’t say I’m a dedicated member either. These days, I mostly hang around the Literature Club so that I have something to talk to Amy about. But! I also used to play basketball before I triggered, so I could probably answer any questions you have about the sports program here as well.”

    “I guess they don’t let superpowered people play?”

    “No, though given that most capes conceal their civilian identities… I suppose it’s always possible that there’s a parahuman or two hiding on the teams somewhere, but I didn’t get that option.”

    “Huh. So Literature Club then? You said your sister was a member?”

    “Oh, no, she isn’t. Amy usually goes to the hospital after school. But she likes to read in her off-time, so I figured I could connect with her that way.”

    I tilted my head, studying Vicky’s face from the side. Trying to find common hobbies to connect with someone usually meant that there was some distance in the relationship -- or at least, maybe Vicky thought there was. On the other hand, maybe she was just trying to be a good sister. I didn’t know her and wasn’t nearly good enough at reading people to tell either way.

    “Anyways,” Vicky continued, “Were there any clubs you were particularly interested in checking out?”

    There were. I’d briefly considered the Music and Art Clubs. Music represented a connection with Mom, a chance to learn to play the flute, like she used to. Art was a more… personal connection. I’d used to enjoy drawing back before Mom died, but hadn’t really touched the hobby since everything happened with Emma.

    In the end, practicality won out over nostalgia. There was the possibility that I might need to build myself the occasional tool for my career as a hero. Stealing junk from the Trainyard might work get me the supplies, but it was risky, especially when I could get probably get better stuff from the Engineering Club without anyone noticing that our stock was maybe a bit lower than it should be.

    I chewed on my lip, considering. Was it really okay for me to join a club just to steal their supplies? I shook my head. I hadn’t committed yet. I could at least check things out.

    “Let’s start with the Engineering Club and go from there. Everyone loves robots, right?”

    ━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━

    I stepped off the bus, glancing up at the setting sun, before beginning the walk home.

    The Engineering Club had been… disappointing from a purely social standpoint. It had been all boys and they’d spent almost the entire time we’d visited drooling over Vicky. Not that I could blame them too much -- Vicky was definitely attractive -- but it’d still been annoying, and I could easily foresee actually engaging with the club being an exercise in aggravation. Not that it mattered, I suppose, if I was just using the club to build things.

    We’d visited the Art Club shortly after, but had mostly watched quietly as they worked on perspective drawing, before finally ending up at the Literature Club. Unlike the Engineering Club, the Literature Club had been almost entirely girls. Monica, Sayori, Natsuki, and Yuri had all been nice girls, and it was clear that Vicky knew them pretty well from how easily she meshed into their conversation.

    If I was being honest, I would probably enjoy Literature more than Engineering, but… Well, Engineering would be more useful to me as a cape, wouldn’t it? Even discounting the supplies I could use, it was an actual skill I could develop. Meanwhile my knowledge of Oscar Wilde wasn’t likely to help me against any supervillains.

    I let out a frustrated sigh. Whatever my answer, I would have the weekend to ruminate on it. More concerning to me right now, was the fact that there was an extra car parked in our driveway.

    I stepped carefully over the broken step and quietly slipped in, taking a moment to scan the house. Muffled voices were coming from the kitchen. Tilting my head curiously, I walked down the hall to peek inside.Dad and Alan were seated at the table, thick sheaves of papers spread out around them. Fuck. I’d forgotten this was happening today.

    Dad was busy reading something, but Alan spotted me and smiled. “Hey there, Taylor.”

    “Uh. Hey. What’s all this?”

    Dad looked up, and even though he smiled, he looked bone weary. “Oh, just stuff with the lawsuit, Taylor. Nothing you need to worry about too much. Alan and I have things handled. Emma already went upstairs to wait for you in your room, why don’t you go say hi to her?”

    My heart clenched, but I was careful to keep it from my face. Emma, my once best friend. Emma, my tormenter. Emma, who knew my secret. I’d half-resolved to ignore her and hope she would stop trying to interact with me now that she knew I was a cape. Instead, she was here, in my room.

    I forced a smile onto my face for Dad’s sake. “Sure. I’ll go do that.”

    The walk up to my room felt like it took longer than the entire trip from school had. I stopped in front of my door, taking a moment to just get my breathing under control. I wouldn’t let Emma get under my skin. I opened the door.

    Emma was there, near my desk, the light catching her red hair in a way that seemed to set it ablaze. She was holding the picture of me, her, Mom, and Anne, a strange sort of half-smile on her face. The door hit the wall with a quiet thump and Emma looked up, carefully setting the photo back on my desk. When she spoke, it was a quiet thing, a small utterance.

    “Taylor.”

    I didn’t dignify her with a response. Instead I simply closed the door behind me and set my backpack down, unloading my things while ignoring her entirely.

    “Taylor. Talk to me, please. At least look at me. Don’t--” Emma bit down on whatever she was about to say, grimacing slightly.

    “Don’t what?” I snapped, still not quite looking at her. “Go ahead and say what you were thinking, Emma.”

    Emma’s lips puckered, as though she’d tasted something sour. After a moment of hesitation, her lips thinned down to a line and she said, “Don’t be a coward, Taylor. Stop running away every time you’re faced with something you don’t want to deal with.”

    My nails bit into the palms of my hands and I spun to face her. “I am not running away from you!”

    “Yes you were, Taylor. You do this every time -- you retreat into your shell and hope that by ignoring the problem it’ll just go away. You never do anything to change it, never try to fight back.” I squeezed my eyes shut, as though by blocking off the sight of her, I could push away her words as well. “You’re doing it now. You did it the entire time we were at Winslow. You did it… You did it when your Mom died. You just hid away and nothing I did ever seemed to get through to you or help you.”

    I forced myself to look at Emma. There were tears in her eyes. Did that mean anything? I’d seen her fake crying to a teacher before. Her make up was more messed up now than it had been then. Did that mean it was genuine? Or was she simply more committed to the role this time? I asked, my voice little more than a quiet rasp, “So what? The last two years were supposed to ‘crack me out of my shell,’ or something?”

    “No! Maybe. I don’t know, it didn’t really start that way. I was angry and Sophia had some weird hang up with you. Later on...no, even if there were reasons, it’s still not an excuse for what happened.”

    A part of me wanted to simply hit her. She wanted me to fight back, after all. I could do that. I could give into that violent impulse that I’d spent the last two years restraining.

    I strangled that part of me.

    Up until the locker, I’d never really been afraid of the Trio. What could a bunch of high school bullies do, after all? I’d hated them, but I’d never truly feared them. No, I’d always feared what I would do in response if I allowed myself to lash out. I’d feared what I would become.

    “But I can try to make it up to you,” Emma continued. “You’re a cape now. I can help you. I can help get you equipment, provide an alibi so people don’t wonder where you are…”

    “Emma, I can’t--”

    “Please, Taylor.” She lifted a hand, pressing her fingers gently against my cheek. They were warm, hot even, and I flinched back from the touch. There was something bright about Emma’s eyes, a fervor so intense that I couldn’t believe it to be feigned. “I know you can’t trust me. Not yet. Maybe not ever, even. But let me at least try to help? To show that I’ll do better for you?”

    I stared at Emma for a long moment. Could I believe her? She stood there, staring into my eyes, waiting patiently for my answer.

    I opened my mouth to reply.





    There’s going to be a fair bit of discussion on alternate ways this scene could have gone in the author’s notes. Please check it out.

    In the meantime, this took place on the weekend, so no Training or Major Action votes yet, but we do still have some stuff to go over.

    Emma:

    []Tentatively accept her help.
    []Reject her completely.

    Clubs
    We had two in the lead, time to choose one:
    []Engineering
    (Little to no social benefits, gain positive modifiers when making Mechanics checks, easy access to “cheap” materials)
    []Literature
    (High social interaction, likely to spend time with Vicky when attending)

    Cape Name:
    []Warlock
    []Seeker

    Costumes
    Again, two in the lead, time to consolidate:
    []Body Armor with Half Skirt. Hood and Scarf w/ Mask.
    []Armor/Dress, split for movement.

    Colors
    You guys really made things difficult with this one. Primary is an exact three-way split between Black, Gray, and White. Secondary has Blue far in the lead. So:
    []Black Primary, Blue Secondary
    []White Primary, Blue Secondary
    []Gray Primary, Blue Secondary


    Encounter Roll(DC17) = 4; No Encounter

    Emma Rolls:
    Ignore Emma (DC10) = 7; Taylor fails to simply ignore Emma and shut down the conversation
    Insight Emma (DC10) = 3; Taylor seriously fails to figure out how genuine Emma is being.
    Restrain Urge to Hit (DC10) = 19 (+1 from Serenity, -1 from Rage); Taylor avoids smacking Emma.

    Basically, for those of you who don’t want to even talk to Emma, the dice were seriously not in your favor this time.
    I kind of like looking at the ‘road not travelled’ sometimes and showing what could have been. So that’s what we’re going to do here. First, let’s start with the different clubs and see what their “bonuses” would have been.
    Sports - Low social, gains to Reflexes and Equilibrium
    Art - Relaxes Taylor, meets Theo Anders
    Music - Low social, gains to Force ability Inspire
    Literature - Hang with Glory Girl
    Engineering - Bonuses to Mechanics checks
    Computing - Bonuses to Slicing checks
    Drama - Helps make Taylor more confident, especially in her cape persona. High social.
    Debate - Bonuses to Persuade checks.
    As for Emma:
    So, I can imagine that people are probably going to be upset that they voted to ignore Emma then got fucked by the dice. So I thought I’d go over some of what the other options would have led to.

    []Maybe Emma is legitimately remorseful and we can try to be friends again?
    Only option without an initial dice check, since it’s basically just Taylor choosing to trust Emma, which is what Emma wants. Not a whole lot of conflict there (though there could be later on, down the road). It’s also the route with the highest chance of Taylor recoiling and going full Sith if Emma does anything that even resembles betrayal, regardless of whether she intended it or not.

    []Emma probably isn’t legitimately remorseful, but we can still use it against her. If we are careful, we can manipulate her into being our follower.
    Initial roll would have been a DC10, but it’s a dangerous game to play and Taylor would have had to keep stringing Emma along with successive checks as the story continued. Funnily enough, Drama Club would have helped with these checks.

    []Violence? Threaten Emma into being quiet.
    The hardest option. Under DC8 is total failure, Emma gets freaked out and spills your info just to protect herself. Between 8 and 15, Emma would keep your info… mostly. Sophia would find out. DC15 to successfully threaten her into keeping quiet. Someone might still notice when Emma starts turning into a shut-in and trying not to leave her room unless she has to though.

    Honestly, this was kind of tough to write. Emma is supposed to be strong socially, good at manipulating people, and she knows Taylor’s buttons better than basically anyone else at this point in time. At the same time, it’s hard to switch from “Nemesis” to “Remorseful” in a short amount of time, so Taylor’s reticent to believe it, no matter how well Emma presents herself.

    As for how genuine it is… Well, that’s for you readers to find out later.
     
    Last edited: Mar 6, 2020
  25. readingpanther5

    readingpanther5 Know what you're doing yet?

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    [X]Plan Balanced Hero
    [X]Tentatively accept her help.
    [X]Literature
    [X]Seeker
    [X]Armor/Dress, split for movement.
    [X]Grey Primary, Blue Secondary
    We need to talk this out at some point. We also need to keep ourselves grounded to reality. Human interaction helps with that. I'm worried about how people would react if we named ourselves Warlock. It doesn't exactly have positive implications. Other than that, I just like the Armor/Dress option and think that Grey and Blue is a nice combination that also makes for decent stealth ability.
     
    Its_a_cauldron_plot! likes this.
  26. cl20

    cl20 Not too sore, are you?

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  27. tertius

    tertius drunken shitposter extraordinaire

    Joined:
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    Emma:
    [X]Reject her completely.
    fuck right off

    Clubs
    [X]Literature
    hail vicky

    Cape Name:
    [X]Seeker
    attention bad

    Costumes
    [X]Armor/Dress, split for movement.
    movement is good

    Colors
    [X]Black Primary, Blue Secondary
    the way of coffe and of soul
     
  28. Nioz

    Nioz Know what you're doing yet?

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    Emma:
    [X]Tentatively accept her help.
    We need to find out what the fuck she’s up to. This gives us a chance to do exactly that without making her do something drastic. See how she’s calling Taylor out on her “turtling away” from issues? If we don’t get rid of that trait it near certainly will kill us. The fact that Emma-time will mean plenty exercise for restraint/serenity/rage is pretty great :D

    Clubs

    [X]Literature
    (High social interaction, likely to spend time with Vicky when attending)
    i’m swapping to Literature. If we hang with Emma we’ll need the destress, and hanging with Vicky in a non-confrontational environment might net us some insight/gains for them mental resistance rolls.

    Cape Name:

    [X]Seeker
    Hero Name errytime.

    Costumes

    [X]Armor/Dress, split for movement.
    Would’ve gone for the other if the mask hadn’t bothered me so much, lets use a half-mask for this one that reveals our lower face! KOTOR2 Mira-marr FTW!

    Colors

    [X]Gray Primary, Blue Secondary
    Middle-path Force User, Middle-path Colour User :p
     
  29. Silverbladestar

    Silverbladestar Making the rounds.

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  30. Its_a_cauldron_plot!

    Its_a_cauldron_plot! ( Or is it Simurgh?)

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