1. Due to issues with external spam filters, QQ is currently unable to send any mail to Microsoft E-mail addresses. This includes any account at live.com, hotmail.com or msn.com. Signing up to the forum with one of these addresses will result in your verification E-mail never arriving. For best results, please use a different E-mail provider for your QQ address.
    Dismiss Notice
  2. For prospective new members, a word of warning: don't use common names like Dennis, Simon, or Kenny if you decide to create an account. Spammers have used them all before you and gotten those names flagged in the anti-spam databases. Your account registration will be rejected because of it.
    Dismiss Notice
  3. Since it has happened MULTIPLE times now, I want to be very clear about this. You do not get to abandon an account and create a new one. You do not get to pass an account to someone else and create a new one. If you do so anyway, you will be banned for creating sockpuppets.
    Dismiss Notice
  4. If you wish to change your username, please ask via conversation to tehelgee instead of asking via my profile. I'd like to not clutter it up with such requests.
    Dismiss Notice
  5. Due to the actions of particularly persistent spammers and trolls, we will be banning disposable email addresses from today onward.
    Dismiss Notice
  6. We have added another rule, please check the Rules post for more information.
    Dismiss Notice
  7. Due to some issues with Freenode, the QQ IRC Channel is moving. See here for more information.
    Dismiss Notice

Starry Eyes [Worm/Lovecraft Mythos]

Discussion in 'Creative Writing' started by helnae, Mar 5, 2014.

Loading...
  1. helnae

    helnae How delicious~

    Joined:
    Jan 15, 2014
    Messages:
    165
    Likes Received:
    2,007
    Starry Eyes
    Where a girl finds true friends when she looks within. And where friends see what lies beneath the surface.

    Yep. It's Worm, in a crossover/fusion/whachamahoogie with the Yog-Sothoth Cycle. Or, if you prefer the more modern names, the Lovecraft Mythos or the Cthulhu mythos.

    Some of you may recognize this from Spacebattles or from ff.net. I claim temporary insanity.

    This is the first piece of fiction I've ever really written. Ever. Really.
    I have been assisted by the SB'ers Brimstone and Agayek, who have beta'd for me and helped me out with ideas and such.


    Index

    Connections
    1.1 | 1.2 | 1.3 | 1.4 | 1.5 | 1.6 | Interlude (Vista)

    Jaunt
    2.1 | 2.2 | 2.3 | 2.4 | 2.5 | 2.6 | 2.7 | Interlude (Laserdream)


    Omakes (of dubious canonicity)
    Lawn Gnomes
    Yamada

    Fanarts
    I Think They Are Cute by Renu from SB

    As a side note, while the summary I've got up top there works, if someone were to provide me with a better summary I would be most appreciative. I am terrible at summaries.
     
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2015
    Velk, IdrisXY, Twilight666 and 11 others like this.
  2. Threadmarks: Connections 1.1
    helnae

    helnae How delicious~

    Joined:
    Jan 15, 2014
    Messages:
    165
    Likes Received:
    2,007
    Connections 1.1


    I awoke in an unfamiliar room to a chorus of angels.

    White walls, white floor, white sheets. Wires led from my hand to a beeping monitor. An IV (Morphine? Some kind of painkiller, if the fuzziness of my thoughts was any sign) dripped away into the tube in my arm. A nearby window framed a dark, overcast sky.

    A hospital? Why am I... oh. The locker.

    Winter break had just ended, and I had hoped that the bullying campaign led by my former best friend Emma would cool down as well. But when I reached my locker I found it filled with used and fermenting pads and tampons. The smell alone made me vomit, and someone, probably Emma’s compatriot Sophia, took the opportunity to shove me into the mess and lock the door behind me. I had waited in there for hours before someone finally let me out, and those fucking bitches were probably going to get off without even a slap on the wrist. And there-

    There was the chorus again, a dozen feminine voices singing in near perfect harmony. But even though it sounded rather close I could not see its source. Hesitantly, I said, “Hello?”.

    The voices paused for a moment. “It can speak?

    “Um, yes?” I looked around the room for the source of the voices, but I didn't see anywhere it could come from.

    "It can understand?" The voice sounded even more ecstatic.

    “Of course I- Where are you, anyway?”

    I am right next to you, silly. I have never found a talking spatial distortion before, this is so exciting!

    Well. This was weird enough that it was probably a dream. I didn’t want to think about the possibility of it being a hallucination, and what that would say about my mental stability. And hopefully my tormentors wouldn’t have been able to set up a prank in here.

    This wasn't their style, anyway, so I decided to treat it like a dream- go along with it and try to enjoy the ride.

    “So, do you have a name?”

    Tekeli-li? A name? I might have had one, maybe more! But I cannot remember. Does it have a name?

    I frowned. “My name is Taylor. So you don’t have a name, then?”

    Oh, that is a nice name! And yes, it has been so long that I cannot recall if I even had a name.” The voices paused. “Then again, the passage of time is somewhat subjective here.

    “Well, it’ll be a pain if I don’t have anything to call you by. Let me see if I can think of something.” Her voices were almost musical, so maybe... “How does Aria sound?” Probably not, maybe something el-

    Oh, that is a wonderful name! Thank you!

    Ah. That works, too, I guess.

    I must go tell my sister about this! And then I’ll bring her to meet you, too. Be sure not to wander while I am gone!

    “What? Wait, I... and you’re gone, aren’t you.”

    .o.o.o.

    In the morning, I awoke to see my father sitting beside my bed. He smiled down at me, and I gave a small one back. After a short hug, he sat back down, and we talked. Mostly, he just wanted to make sure I was okay, but eventually, the conversation drifted... elsewhere. After telling me that I’d been here for a couple of days, he trailed off and clenching his jaw. We both sat in silence for a while, but eventually he seemed to calm down, and he continued.

    I never liked seeing him like that.

    Apparently he had been able to get some money from the school after the... incident. Enough to pay the hospital bills, with a little bit extra, but even so it was rather blatantly hush money so we wouldn’t go causing problems for the school. Dad wanted to sue the bullies, but no witnesses were coming forth. Without hard evidence we really didn’t have the money for the lawsuit.

    Dad was furious, but the news just made me feel depressed. I wanted to go home.

    .o.o.o.

    The doctors wanted to examine me once more before releasing me, but we were able to get me released a little after noon.

    The school was allowing me a week off to recuperate. At the very least I didn’t have to deal with the trio for a while. Unfortunately, Dad had to work, so I was left alone for most of the time.

    The next day I was cutting a cucumber to use in my lunch. I’d probably go to the library later, since I’d read most of the books I had over the winter break. Sighing, I propped my head up on my left arm, letting my other arm (and the knife) rest on the counter.

    Hello there! Did you miss me?

    The unexpected shout made me twitch, violently and involuntarily, sending the knife straight into my arm.

    ~~~
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 30, 2014
  3. Threadmarks: Connections 1.2
    helnae

    helnae How delicious~

    Joined:
    Jan 15, 2014
    Messages:
    165
    Likes Received:
    2,007
    Connections 1.2


    Ohgodohgodohgodithurtsithurtsithurtsit...

    ... Doesn’t actually hurt all that much?

    Huh.


    I stared at the knife buried in my forearm. At the distinct lack of any blood, and the unblemished spot on the other side where the blade should have exited. The pain was there, but it felt distant, almost like it was happening to someone else and I was just observing.

    Come to think of it, that was how my general sense of touch had been since I’d gotten out of the hospital. And on the subject of the hospital, the fact that the imaginary voice had returned didn’t really say good things about my mental health.

    So I managed to find my sister in order to show you to her, and tekeli-li how you’ve grown and bloomed! If it weren’t for the fact that you’re the only thing in the area aside from us, I would have thought you were something else entirely.” Aria paused for a moment. “You are Taylor, right?

    “Yeah, that’s me,” I said, taking a grip on the knife in preparation to pull it out.

    Great! If it wasn’t you that would’ve been... what’s the term? Embarrassing? Yes, embarrassing. Though anything is better than just floating around in this empty place and oh my you’ve got a spot of actual color!

    “What, what?” I said wittily as I yanked the knife free. The wound, which should have been bleeding quite profusely, was instead a clean black hole within which I could see... Are those stars?

    The odd points of light were suddenly blocked as something green poked through the knife wound. I froze as it wiggled around before what appeared to be a jade-colored eyeball formed on its tip. My vision seemed to distort as it swiveled around, until its gaze settled on the sliced cucumber, at which point the tendril formed a toothy mouth and lunged.

    Food!

    .o.o.o.

    The tendril had managed to inhale the cucumber, devour the wooden cutting board, and was gnawing on the plastic handle of the knife before I managed to react.

    “Hey!” I shouted reaching for the tendril with the intent to pull it back. Before I could do so, the tendril suddenly recoiled from the counter and released the knife. The resulting airborne cutting implement narrowly missed my face and landed on the floor, skittering for a few feet before stopping.

    Um, Taylor? I seem to have lost control over the bit I stuck into you.

    What.

    I turned and grabbed a chair, pulling it out from the table. I noticed that the tendril was grabbing the back of the chair next to my hand, but I ignored that in favor of collapsing into the seat.

    “So. This is a part of you?”

    Yes, so could you give it back, please? This feels weird.

    “Hmm. I must say, you don’t look anything like what I’d imagined.”

    I sat there for a moment, wiggling the tendril and looking around the kitchen with its eye. Then the realization hit me like a sledgehammer.

    I was seeing through that eye. I was moving the tendril with my thought.

    This is real. I have powers.

    I’m a cape.


    .o.o.o.

    “So what exactly are you? And why’d you try to eat everything just then?” I asked as I let the tendril return through the knife wound.

    Thank you, that felt very odd.” The last of the tendril passed through, revealing the star-like lights once more. “Anyway, I don’t rightly know what I am. Must be one of those things I forgot like my name. We’ve been here for so long...” Aria trailed off briefly.

    As for the eating? It’s one of the great pleasures, one I haven’t been able to indulge in such a long time. Nothing here really needs to eat, but it’s nice to do so. There’s been nothing in the general area aside from my sister and you, and I’ve had a number of reasons to not eat her. So when I saw edible stuff, I guess I lost control.

    “Alright then.” I sighed. “So who’s this sister you’ve been mentioning?”

    Oh, right! I guess I forgot to introduce her. Say hi, sis.

    H-hello,” she said, in a single voice as opposed to Aria’s many.

    “Hello, there. And let me guess, you don’t remember your name either, and want one, right?”

    Y-yes, that is the case.

    “Alright, fine. Give me a minute.”

    A little more than a minute later, I sighed. “Aria’s name is something to do with music, so maybe we could go with something similar. How does Melody sound?”

    Oh, i-it’s-

    It’s great! I love it!” interrupted Aria. “Isn’t it great, big sis?

    Y-yes. Thank you, Taylor.

    “Wonderful. Now, if we’re done with that, I’d like to clean up here and actually have some lunch.”

    ~~~
     
  4. Threadmarks: Connections 1.3
    helnae

    helnae How delicious~

    Joined:
    Jan 15, 2014
    Messages:
    165
    Likes Received:
    2,007
    Connections 1.3


    Since Dad wouldn’t be home for a few more hours, I decided to use the time to do some testing with my newfound powers. Examining how my body had changed seemed like a good place to start.

    It appeared that everything beneath my skin had been removed and replaced with a portal to whatever starry space the sisters lived in, though apparently my mouth still connected to my esophagus.

    It seemed that the portal would allow almost anything I tried to put through it in, the exceptions being my skin, hair, and nails, This made a certain amount of sense, as I would be rather unhappy if my skin were to collapse into the portal.

    While wondering how I would conceal the numerous cuts I had made on my skin during my examinations, I managed to stumble upon my healing ability. Apparently, if I focused my attention on a wound it would heal much faster. Holding cuts closed helped shorten the healing time for wider cuts. If I cut out a portion of skin it seemed to slow down the focused healing process, though reattaching the removed skin was fairly easy.

    As an experiment, I cut out a one inch circle of skin containing half of an old scar I had on my hip. Healing it without replacing the removed skin took about fifteen minutes, but the end result was an unblemished, scar-free patch of skin. The results were the same when I removed the rest of that scar and the other scar on my knee.

    Huh. I could possibly fix my eyesight with this.

    .o.o.o.

    “Alright, I’ve seen that Aria can extend those tendrils through me. Those’ll be very useful. Now, Melody, could you send something through, please?”

    Ah, okay.” I felt a soft poking from the other side of one of the cuts on my arm. “It would be most helpful if you could make this one somewhat longer.

    I extended it to about four inches in length. “How’s that?”

    Ah, longer would be nice.

    I added another couple inches.

    Still not long enough.

    Another couple of inches.

    Getting there.

    Fuck it. I opened my arm from wrist to mid-bicep and held it straight.

    Ah, g-good, that will do. Hold still for one moment.

    Something large and black as night forced its way through the incision. It unfolded until its motion was arrested by collision with the ceiling, narrowly missing the light.

    I now had a huge, black, bat-like wing extending out of my arm. Which was also pointing the wrong way for use.

    In the resulting silence, Melody said, “You were right, sister. This does feel weird.

    “... Yeah. That’s going somewhere else.”

    .o.o.o.

    Throughout my examination, Aria and Melody mostly stayed silent, watching through the cuts and occasionally asking about things they saw. They seemed particularly interested in seeing my reflection in the mirror once they noticed it. This led to me standing in front of my mirror in various poses so they could see what I looked like, though it quickly devolved into me trying to explain the concept of clothing to them.

    S-so you cover your b-body with bits of crafted dead plants and-slash-or dead plants, even when it does not provide protection and thus is unnecessary?

    “I already told you, society dictates that we wear at least a certain amount of clothing in order to be decent. Also, sometimes you can use clothing to appear prettier.”

    Waste of food if you ask me.

    Yeah. They didn’t really get it.

    .o.o.o.

    “Look, girls. You got to see what I look like, so it’s only fair that you let me see what you look like.”

    Okay.

    I pulled off my shirt, then pulled my belly taut as I carved a roundish flap into it. I stood up and let the flap flop down as I walked over to the mirror.

    With the larger viewing port, the starscape beyond the hole was spectacular. Countless stars stared back at me. Most were white. Many were yellow. Some blue. A few green. One red.

    “Alright, could you go to the large hole that just opened up and stand a bit back from it.” I considered the hole for a bit. “Or I guess you could just float a bit back from it since there doesn’t seem to be any ground to stand on.”

    Hehe, alright, give us a bit.

    Soon enough two shapes started blocking out the stars, and it was readily apparent which was which sister.

    “So the large one with all the mouths must be Aria,” I said. It was rather difficult to judge size without anything to compare against, but Aria was larger than a car at the very least. She was an orb-like mass of beautiful forest-green gel, peppered here and there with tendrils, fang-filled mouths of varying sizes and orientations, and jade-colored eyeballs, which also varied in size and almost seemed to glow.

    “Which means that the other one is Melody.” Her body was black as night, like her wing was. She was dark enough that I could really only perceive her as a starless patch of the void, though the stars were plentiful enough behind her that I got a pretty good picture. She seemed to be a gaunt, winged humanoid, with inward-curving horns upon her head, clawed hands on long arms, taloned feet at the ends of digitigrade legs, and a long, barbed tail.

    She was also, at least from my perspective, upside-down.

    So, do you like what you see?

    “Yes, you are both quite pretty.”

    Aria rippled in what I assumed was her version of preening. Melody just sort of hung there, slowly turning.

    I glanced between them for a moment, before saying, “I assume that you are not of the same species.”

    That is true,” replied Melody. “Aria here was barely sapient when I first found her floating around in the void, so very long ago. I sort of adopted her as my sister once she stopped trying to gnaw on me.

    Hey! You didn’t have to tell Taylor that part!” Aria squawked indignantly.

    Melody and I chuckled briefly as I looked for a little while more. Then I pulled up the flap to heal it closed.

    .o.o.o.

    The only problem I found with the focused healing was that it actually hurt, unlike the distant pain I experienced when I made the incisions. The pain wasn’t that bad, well within the range of bearable, but the fact that it wasn’t a step removed made it rather distracting. Unfortunately, I had made a number of incisions in easily visible places, and I had to heal them all before Dad returned home. There was no need to worry him further.

    .o.o.o.

    It would probably be easier to keep track of this stuff if I recorded it somewhere. I should probably go pick up a journal tomorrow.

    .o.o.o.

    At this point it was getting rather late. I quickly healed all my remaining cuts and went downstairs to gather the ingredients for dinner. Dad had insisted that I leave the effort of preparing dinner to him until he decided I had gotten enough rest, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t make the task easier for him.

    Suddenly, what I’d been doing for the past few hours hit me. I fell against a nearby wall, then slid down to the floor, where I started shivering. 

    My body had changed so much so quickly, my new friends were apparently inhuman monsters who were far nicer than any actual human I knew, and to top it off I had spent the afternoon engaged in extensive self-mutilation.

    And that wasn’t the worst part. The worst part was that none of it bothered me much at all. I was, perversely, more disturbed by my lack of disturbance than by the things that should be causing me to feel disturbed. It was almost ludicrous.

    It was certainly ludicrous enough to draw out a laugh from me that admittedly was more sob than chuckle.

    Ah, are you well?” came Melody’s query.

    I took a deep, shuddering breath before I replied.

    “I’ll be fine, it was just a little freak-out. I’ll be fine in a little bit, so don’t worry.”

    Oh. Okay. So long as you are well.

    I leaned against the wall for a moment as I collected myself, before getting up to go wash my face and carry on with my task.

    ~~~
     
  5. Threadmarks: Connections 1.4
    helnae

    helnae How delicious~

    Joined:
    Jan 15, 2014
    Messages:
    165
    Likes Received:
    2,007
    Connections 1.4



    Dinner was a dish of pork and vegetables in a sauce, served over rice. It was pretty tasty, as Dad’s cooking tends to be when he puts some time into it.

    Dinner was also rather quiet. Neither of us seemed to know what to say. As a result, the atmosphere was a little tense.

    In the end, Dad was the one to break the silence.

    “So. You’ll be returning on Monday. To school, that is.”

    I jumped a little when he spoke. Then I swiftly finished my mouthful so I could respond.

    “Yes, I will.”

    “You know, you don’t have to go back so soon. I could go to Winslow, have them give you a few more days off,” he said, his eyes tinged with worry.

    “No Dad, it’s alright. I’ll be fine.” I lowered my eyes. Of course I’d be fine. This time I had two new friends, ones Emma couldn’t subvert or coerce.

    “But what if something like that happens again?”

    “I’ll be fine, Dad.”

    “You sure?” I nodded. He sighed, and said, “Well, alright then, kiddo. I just wish you would confide in me more, is all.”

    We ate in silence for a little while after that.

    Once more, Dad was the one to break the silence. “You know, you seem... different than you were this morning.”

    “R-really?” I stammered, worried that I’d left some trace of my earlier experimentation. No, all the cuts had healed, so what could it be?

    “Yeah, you seem, I don’t know, happier, I guess.”

    “I do?”

    “Yes, you do. It’s nice, seeing you happy.” He paused for a bit, before continuing. “So what happened while I was gone? Did you,” his eyebrows rose, and a little smile played across his features, “meet a boy?”

    I sputtered, “N-no! It’s not a boy!”

    His smile grew wider. “Really? Because it’s a father’s duty to be highly suspicious of any boy his daughter meets.”

    “No! That’s not it, I didn’t meet any boys!” They were girls! Moreover, they weren’t human, and I wasn’t likely to develop romantic feelings towards either of them.

    And now the smile had given way to a full-blown chuckle. “Well, whatever, or whoever, it was,” his eyebrows resumed their raised position, “remember that you have my full support.”

    I looked down at my plate, my cheeks burning... Huh. My cheeks weren’t burning. This lack of a blush probably warranted further testing.

    In any case, I stared down at my plate, waiting for Dad to stop laughing. I felt a smile twist my mouth, and a few bursts of laughter escaped me too.

    When we had calmed down, Dad said, “Well. In any case, tomorrow is Saturday, so I’ll be around if you need me.”

    “Oh, yeah. I’ll be going out some time tomorrow.”

    “To meet this not-boy, I suppose?” He grinned.

    “Da-aaad! Stop it!” I whi– protested. I protested. And he started laughing again. “I’m just going to go to the library, and maybe do a bit of shopping.”

    “Well, alright then. Do you have enough money?” I nodded. “Good.”

    We continued eating, but the atmosphere was noticeably less tense.

    “Taylor?”

    I looked up, my full mouth preventing a response.

    “Aren’t you cold?” I shook my head. “It’s twenty degrees outside. I’d think you would be chilly in that t-shirt.”

    I swallowed. “It doesn’t feel that cold to me.”

    “Well, you’re certainly making me feel cold,” he said, with a hint of a grin.

    Huh. This should make designing my costume much easier.

    ~~~
     
  6. Threadmarks: Connections 1.5
    helnae

    helnae How delicious~

    Joined:
    Jan 15, 2014
    Messages:
    165
    Likes Received:
    2,007
    Connections 1.5



    The next day’s outing went without incident for the most part. Once I had entered my chosen store I found a good, cheap journal fairly quickly. As I was going to purchase it, I decided to snag some hair ties and hairbands, since they might help with a disguise.

    The library trip was similarly successful and uneventful, with the return of the read books and the acquisition of some new ones. I considered using a computer to look up the local capes, to see whom I might meet once I began my career as a hero, but I decided against it for a couple of reasons. For one, right now I needed to figure out the ins-and-outs of my own power first before I could consider my debut. For another, all the computers I could see were occupied, and I did not want to waste time waiting around for one to be vacated. Besides, I would have plenty of time to use a computer later.

    .o.o.o.

    “So, let us record what we know of this power,” I proclaimed as I sat at my desk, my newly purchased journal open in front of me. One of Aria’s tendrils extended from a cut I had opened just above my wrist and was currently occupied with an apple.

    Note to self: take some time to learn a number of synonyms for “cut.” It is getting a little tedious thinking the same word so many times.

    With the sisters’ assent, I began listing out what we knew about my power so far.

    .o.o.o.

    “So there’s something I’ve been wondering,” I said once the notes from the previous day had been recorded.

    What’s that, Taylor?” asked Aria.

    “Well, from what I’ve seen through the holes, your end of the portal appears to be in outer space. Is this true? Are there no nearby planets or things like that?”

    This time Melody was the one to answer. “You, Aria, and I are the only things in this area, and it’s quite a distance to the nearest object.

    “Then there shouldn’t be any air there. Probably. So why haven’t all the cuts I’ve made turned into vacuums? And how... Wait. I think I know a way to test that,” I said as I got up and left the room.

    When I returned I had with me an empty plastic water bottle. I sat down, then cut a flap large enough to stick the bottle through; I did so, with half of it remaining outside of the portal.

    “Could one of you remove the cap from this? It’s the whiter bit at the tip.”

    I felt the bottle wobble a bit before suddenly crumpling in on itself. I looked at it for a moment before realizing something.

    “Wait, that doesn’t make sense. If the portal isn’t letting air through normally, then it should either have not sucked up the air in the part of the bottle on this side, or it should have refused the bottle altogether. Unless...” I sighed.

    More testing?

    “Yes. But later, ‘cause this raises a few questions. Like how are you two moving around over there.”

    That should not be too difficult to answer,” said Melody. “We just move through the aether-

    “Aether?” I interrupted.

    That is the name I use to refer to the ambient gas around here. In most areas it is spread extremely thin, or is just not present, but occasionally it clumps together in relatively dense clouds. They are dense enough to push against and move around that way. It is a slow and time-consuming method of transportation, but we really have nothing but time here.

    Now, there is an aether cloud around you, and one of the densest I have ever seen, but the pressure it exerts is practically nothing compared to the pressure I felt on my wing when I stuck it through you.

    Yes, it’s quite the novel sensation,” Aria chimed in.

    “Huh.” I jotted down a few notes from that. “So I guess my easy prisoner transport idea won’t work.”

    Transport?

    “Oh, yeah. I haven’t told you two yet.” I probably should have informed them, but given that it had been just a little over a day since I had learned I was a parahuman I couldn’t really fault myself for getting distracted by learning about my new powers, and my new friends. “I want, hopefully with your assistance, to become a hero.”

    There was a brief silence.

    Um... What’s a hero?

    .o.o.o.

    Surprisingly, it was quite a bit easier to explain the whole parahuman situation to them than explaining clothing had been. And they seemed quite happy to assist me, which was nice. Once I had explained my transportation idea, I managed to convince Aria to practice leaving nearby plastics and similar materials unsampled.

    However, by then it had gotten rather late, so we decided to stop there for the evening. I left the ruined water bottle from earlier on their side so Aria could practice. I also put a few cookies through, since she’d been so sweet about the whole thing. She fell asleep soon after consuming the last one, or so Melody reported.

    As I lay in bed that night trying to fall asleep, I remembered something that had been nagging at me from the back of my mind for a while.

    “Melody?” I asked.

    Yes?

    “Aria seems to eat anything that is organic, and she loves trying new foods. But you’ve never asked for anything to eat. In fact, I don’t think I saw a mouth on you when I saw you yesterday. Why is that?”

    Ah. This explanation may take a little while.” She sighed, and I could almost feel her leaning up against my closed other side. “First of all, there is something you must know about living on this side of you. Nothing living here requires sustenance, though we retain the ability to eat should we wish to. In all the time I have been here, I have never found so much as a clue as to what is causing this phenomenon. And speaking of time, I am nearly certain that I have been here for quite a bit longer that the normal lifespan of my species lasts; long enough to forget a great many things, including my name; and you shall have my eternal gratitude for granting me another.

    “Aww, don’t mention it.” A smile crossed my features, though it was soon chased away by a frown. “So something in there has made you immortal and made you no longer need food water or air.”

    Indeed. And while this space we are in is enormous, there is nothing here but those of us living here, some aether, and a few stars, and there are borders to it that we cannot cross.

    “That almost sounds like a prison,” I said.

    I confess that I have had similar thoughts about it, though, of course, I cannot remember even coming here, much less a reason for doing so. But now you are here, and I am certain you will only make this place better.

    A smile blessed my face once more, and if I could still blush I would probably have done so.

    Melody continued, “But we are getting a little sidetracked from your question. You were not mistaken about my lack of a mouth. My kind do not eat material food; instead, we consume emotions from other creatures.

    My eyes widened with alarm. “Wait, you suck the emotions out of people?”

    No, it is not possible to ‘suck’ emotions, as it were. Creatures experience emotions, emotional energy is released, and we graze on that energy. There are various methods for... encouraging the production of more enticing emotions, but in the end there is little harm done.

    Now Aria, as you noted earlier, is very much geared towards eating material food. From what little I remember of her species, she would normally be driven to consume a very large amount of food to fuel her huge body, and only once she had eaten that much would she be able to refuse more. But thanks to the sustaining effect this space has on all of us, she is never hungry and thus can act more rationally.

    I giggled a little. “That hasn’t stopped her from pouncing on nearly everything she might find edible so far. Though then again, I am glad she hasn’t tried to eat my desk or anything else here made of wood.”

    Given that it has been so long since she had eaten anything at all, she is probably reveling in the relative novelty of all the possible flavors,” Melody said, with what sounded like a smile in her voice.

    “Indeed. So, let’s try coming up with some ideas for my hero costume tomorrow. Good night.”

    And a good night to you as well.

    ~~~
     
  7. Threadmarks: Connections 1.6
    helnae

    helnae How delicious~

    Joined:
    Jan 15, 2014
    Messages:
    165
    Likes Received:
    2,007
    Connections 1.6



    “Aaaaand done. See if you can reach those comfortably.”

    I wore a satisfied smile as the claws extended through the holes I had made in my fingertips. The costume idea was working pretty well so far.

    I was sitting in the middle of my room without a shirt or bra on. With Aria’s help, I had managed to cut a pair of slits into my back, from which extended large, black, bat-like wings. Below them, a black, barbed tail lay coiled around my legs, and the aforementioned claws extended from the tips of my fingers. Unfortunately the claws were better adapted for catching and gripping than for ripping and tearing, so I would still need to use a knife to make a good hole in myself, but they would be useful for other purposes.

    Luckily Dad was out buying groceries, so there was no risk of him walking in on me in this state.

    “You doing alright there, Melody?”

    Yes. It is actually rather comfortable,” she replied.

    “Excellent. You can withdraw when you want to.”

    I couldn’t test the wings out inside the house for the obvious reasons. Flight was one of the tests I would have to perform outside, and I was eager to do so. However, I wanted to have some sort of costume together before I started using my powers in public. And now that I had proven that borrowing from Melody would work, we could design the costume around it.

    At first I had been thinking of an armored and concealing costume, but I quickly scrapped the idea as it ran counter to what I knew of my powers so far. Melody had suggested that we test out borrowing her wings and tail in useful places, i.e. my back (of course), and then go from there.

    It was readily apparent that a backless shirt would be a necessity for the costume. Since I only had so much of my allowance remaining I couldn’t use any expensive materials, and I didn’t want to beg more money from Dad as he would probably get a little suspicious.

    For the bottom portion of my costume I decided to just go with some jeans and tennis shoes. I had thought about springing for some hiking boots because the ankle support might be necessary, until Melody pointed out that my ankles as they were now would probably not benefit much at all from additional support.

    To round out my costume, I decided to include a belt with pouches on it. Not only was it an alternative to swapping out the jeans for cargo pants (pockets and pouches were useful), they also gave the costume a bit more of a “cape-y” feel.

    Aria suggested that we get costume pieces that were dark green, or just a dark color when dark green wasn’t available. Melody and I both concurred.

    I would also need to get at least one knife, since the little kitchen knife I had been using just wouldn’t cut it for actual heroing.

    The only part I hadn’t decided on yet was the mask, and there were a few obstacles to that decision. For one, I didn’t know what I really wanted the mask to look like. For another, I didn’t really know how to go about making my own mask without attracting attention. Also, the only place I knew that sold masks was a halloween shop, which could probably give me a good price on a plastic piece of crap.

    I informed the sisters of the difficulty I was having with the mask, hoping they would have some ideas. I had been able to decide on the rest of my costume quite quickly, so I felt that I needed to decide on a mask today instead of slowly considering it over the next week or so.

    So you just want to make it so nobody can see your face, right?” asked Aria.

    “Yes, that’s right.”

    So why don’t you just cut your face off?

    The idea seemed so obvious I was surprised I hadn’t thought of it myself. It would serve double duty in preserving my identity and providing an access point for Aria.

    Not only that, if I did this I was pretty sure I would be unique among capes. The vast majority of capes wore masks to conceal their identities; some capes, like the members of New Wave, didn’t bother with masks, instead exposing their identities for all the world to see. But I would likely be the only one to remove my face and use what it concealed to conceal my identity.

    I wanted to try it out immediately. I turned so I was facing my mirror, removed my glasses and set them on the desk, grabbed the knife, and got to work. Start at the chin, cut up and out to the cheekbone, then up and in to the forehead, then down to the other cheekbone before ending at the start point.

    It wasn’t until I was staring down at the face - my face - in my hands that I realized how insane the idea had been.

    I... I just cut off my face. And I’m holding it in my hands and looking at my eyes and it’s kinda floppy and oh god this is really creepy and how am I seeing without eyeballs and I don’t think I’m breathing and oh god oh god oh god...

    I took a deep breath – or would have if I hadn’t apparently stopped breathing – and attempted to calm down. I leaned back in my chair, and in doing so I caught a glimpse of my handiwork in the mirror. I would likely have gasped, if I had been able to.

    Through the slightly uneven hole countless stars shone forth, their light sharp and beautiful. Though predominantly white, stars of every color and shade twinkled and flickered innocently and irregularly in the void. They swirled together in clusters and nebulae of all shapes and sizes, though all but a few were relatively small.

    Actually, if I looked at them right some of the larger clusters seemed to form a sort of face, albeit one that was crooked and didn’t have a nose. Two rounder clusters in the upper portion of the hole could serve as the eyes, their swirled forms like galaxies, though they were of slightly different sizes and weren’t exactly level with one another. The larger of the two, occupying the left part of my face hole, was also higher up than its counterpart, and had a clockwise swirl and a nice yellowish tinge. The other was more oval-shaped and tilted inward slightly; it had a counterclockwise swirl and a grayish coloration. Below them a long, thin nebula curved in shades of pink, looking almost like a crooked mouth giving a half-smile.

    “Okay, then,” I said, and then started slightly at the changed sound of my voice. It bore similarity to my normal voice, but was hollow and echoing. A chorus of resonating tones accompanied it, some so low I could barely hear them. Of course, this paled next to the fact that I could speak without a mouth or breath.

    I was startled from my musings by the sight of one of Aria’s eyes on the tip of a tendril peering around the edge of my face hole. “Is it working well?” she asked.

    “Yes, it just fine.” I paused. “Actually, no, this isn’t fine at all.”

    Is there something wrong?” Melody asked, concern coloring her voice.

    “The face removal idea is doing well,” I said. “My vision seems to be nearly perfect, I can speak just fine, and although I seem to not be breathing I don’t feel anything bad happening because of it. The problem,” I continued, leaning forward a bit, “is that I cut off my face so easily.”

    How’s that?” asked Aria, her tendril continuing to drift across my face.

    “This power of mine needs me to cut myself up in order to use it. Now, I know that this doesn’t actually hurt me all that much and the damage can be fixed relatively easily, so I’m pretty sure the act of doing so isn’t actually self-destructive. Despite that, I’m pretty sure that I should be feeling at least somewhat squeamish about all this. I’m sure that if I spent enough time using my powers I would eventually reach a state of mind where I would be perfectly fine with the self-mutilation involved, but I’ve only been doing this for about three days, and aside from a single freakout I’ve been fine the whole time.

    “That’s not even counting the current situation. I just cut off my face and with it almost all of my major sensory organs. That itself was an extremely stupid thing for me to do, since I could have been left blind, mute, and suffocating, and it would have been rather complicated reattaching my face properly without being able to see it. It turned out alright in the end, but I had no way of knowing it would be when I was doing it. I just went ahead and cut it off.

    I sighed and leaned back in my chair again. “I guess what I’m trying to say is that my powers seem to be messing with my mind.”

    How... Oh. I see,” said Melody.

    So basically, your powers seem to have influenced your mind to make you more mentally able to use it, and you’re not sure how else it is influencing you?” asked Aria, her voices sober. “That’s actually kinda frightening. I’m sorry I suggested cutting your face off.

    “No, don’t worry, it’s fine. You helped me recognize that this was a problem,” I said, trying to comfort her.

    So what are we going to do about this?” asked Melody.

    “I don’t think there’s anything we can really do about it,” I sighed. “We’re pretty much limited to knowing that the influence is there. Examining every thought I have and every action I take to see if they’re being influenced would probably lead to counterproductive levels of paranoia, so we should probably not worry about it too much.” The sisters voiced their assent.

    I looked back down at the face in my hands, which I had apparently rolled up while speaking.

    .o.o.o.

    My vision without my face on seemed to be perfect, though from what I could tell it wasn’t in the realm of the superhuman. I saw from two apparently invisible spots on the border between my side of the portal and the other side, which were placed about where my eyes normally were. I was curious if I could move them around, or make more of them to see through, but I wasn’t able to do so. Still, a single day’s failure didn’t mean that it was impossible, so I made a note to practice with it in the future.

    I also practiced using the various appendages Aria and Melody passed through me. Mostly I used Aria’s tendrils, since they were much easier to pass through than Melody’s bony limbs. As always, when they passed through I knew they had instantly, though they retained control until I took over. Taking control was pretty easy, as was releasing it, and both could be done instantaneously. I also seemed to have instinctive knowledge of how to use them while in control, which was helpful when Aria had me practice forming various organs on her tendrils (mostly eyes and mouths).

    Since I could share the senses of the things I was controlling, I tried having Aria put forth a bunch of eye endowed tendrils so I could try having all-around vision. The resulting mess of vision angles was rather confusing, and it was hard to interpret what I saw unless I only used a few at a time. It seemed like something I could get used to if I practiced, so I made another note.

    As I finished writing down my notes, I said, “I’ve told you girls that I’m going to school tomorrow, right?”

    Yes, and that we shouldn’t speak to you unless you tell us it’s safe to.

    “Great.”

    .o.o.o.

    Dad insisted on driving me to school the next day, even though it would make him late for work. “They’ll understand,” he said. “Now, be sure to tell me if anything happens, okay?”

    “Okay, dad,” I said, even though I probably wouldn’t.

    .o.o.o.

    I had made certain to wear a long-sleeved shirt and a hoodie despite my new resistance to cold temperatures, though judging from what my fellow students were wearing it was cold enough for a couple more layers. I got a few odd looks for how lightly I was dressed.

    I managed to avoid Emma and her lackeys for the most part that morning. However, Madison, the third member of the trio that included Emma and Sophia, managed to spot me as I made my way to my computer class. As I walked she followed behind me, trading insulting comments about me with her little posse.

    “Ugliest girl in the school.”

    “No, I think the locker improved her complexion a bit.”

    “Maybe if she got shut in another ten times she wouldn’t be nauseating to look at.”

    Bitches.

    Lucky for me none of the girls shared the class with me, and since it would be suspicious if they went in I was able to escape them.

    Computer class was one of the few parts of the school day I didn’t usually dread, since not only was Madison not in it but neither were Sophia or Emma. The teacher, Mrs. Knott, usually gave the advanced students in the class assignments and then focused on the rest of the class. As one of those advanced students, this suited me just fine, and I was usually able to complete my assignments fairly quickly. Today was one of those days.

    I decided to use the rest of the class gathering information on the parahuman community I would eventually join. First, I decided to check whether any of the cape names I had been contemplating had been taken.

    Apparently Eldritch was the name of an extremely minor and ineffective villain out in the midwest. Apparently almost every crime he had ever attempted had been easily foiled, and nobody took him seriously anymore. His power was...

    I stared. How the hell could he be so ineffective with the ability to induce auditory and visual hallucinations?

    I sighed, and searched for the second name on my list. Lucky for me, it appeared to be untaken.

    .o.o.o.

    That afternoon I went out combing through various shops to find the various components of my costume. It was fairly easy to find a couple pairs of jeans in appropriately dark colors, but the backless shirts proved a bit more elusive. However, when I did find a store that had some in stock they turned out to have three halter-necks in an almost perfect shade of forest green. They were also on sale and marked down quite a bit, likely because no one wanted to wear a backless, sleeveless shirt in the middle of winter. Naturally, I snapped them up. Spares would be very handy.

    .o.o.o.

    The next day at school I was able to avoid my tormentors for the most part. However, Sophia managed to catch me as I was walking down a flight of stairs on my way to my next class. She apparently decided to sneak up behind me and push me down the last few steps.

    Thanks to the pain resistance my powers granted me the fall did not hurt me very much at all. Sophia seemed rather disappointed by my minimal reaction.

    .o.o.o.

    That afternoon found me shopping once more, this time for the non-clothing items. I was able to find some belt pouches and a nice folding knife in the same store, and after purchasing them I found I had enough money left for a few odds and ends.

    And thus, I had my costume. It wasn’t anything special, but I hoped that my faceless mask would be unique enough to make up for that. I was really excited at the prospect of flying, but I managed to restrain myself to making sure all the parts of my costume worked and did not break. It was Wednesday, the following day, when I would actually go out.

    .o.o.o.

    Snow crunched beneath my shoes as I entered the local park. Nobody would be present at this time of night, so I had the entire place to myself.

    But despite the wide open space it provided and the lack of witnesses, it wasn’t nearly isolated enough for one of the tests I wanted to perform, not to mention how close it was to my actual home. It was, however, a great place to stash the hoodie I was wearing, and to practice flying.

    Underneath the hoodie all I had on was my costume. I could feel that it was cold, though the presence of snow and the fact that it was in the middle of the freaking winter had already told me that, but it didn’t bother me at all.

    My hoodie was stashed away. A hairband and a few hairpins had been made use of, securing my curls and hopefully making me harder to identify. My face was removed, rolled up, and placed in one of my pouches, as were my glasses; the incisions for Melody’s wings and tail were made. I ended my preparations by opening my fingertips for her claws, and then I put my knife away.

    I stood at one end of the grassy field that was more than two thirds of a block long and made up most of the park.

    Allow me to help you through the steps,” said Melody as I prepared to take off.

    I tensed, readied her wings, and leapt forward.

    .o.o.o.

    To be honest, I had not expected you to succeed in taking flight as early as your ninth attempt. Well done,” Melody congratulated me, openly pleased at my accomplishment.

    “Thanks, although I would hardly call my call what I’m doing ‘flight,’” I said as I silently clawed through the air with my borrowed wings.

    One of the first things I had discovered about Melody’s wings, and the rest of her for that matter, was that they were completely silent no matter how they were used. I was quite thankful of this fact, as I’m sure if it were not so the noise of my ungainly flapping would have woken up the neighborhood.

    Of course, it was nothing I couldn’t improve with a little practice. Which was why I went back to the field and practiced taking off a few more times.

    Once I had finished with that, I took wing and set my sights on the area I intended to perform my next experiment in: the Boat Graveyard.

    .o.o.o.

    No capes crossed my path as I flew, nor did I see any crime as I went. This suited me, as I would much rather practice with my powers and my friends for at least another week or two before I debut.

    Huh. Now that I noticed, there were hardly any people below me on the path I was flying. A boy, all bundled up against the cold, made little snowmen under the watchful gaze of his mother. A couple embraced on the sidewalk in front of a house. A few people ran through the snow, laughing. None of them heard me, so none of them looked up.

    I heard Aria and Melody whispering to one another, but I ignored them in order to focus on flying. Despite the lack of obstacles at the height I was flying at, I couldn’t afford to be too distracted, especially at my low level of skill. That said, I could see a few of the areas where I was making the most obvious mistakes. Upon correcting them, I found my flight becoming smoother, swifter, and easier. I was still nowhere near the level of grace and speed I was certain these wings could reach, but I was making progress.

    And then finally I reached my destination. The Boat Graveyard consisted of many abandoned boats and ships, most in the water but some of them beached, in some cases completely out of the water. Nobody ever came out here as far as I knew, especially not at night or when the temperatures were well below freezing.

    I would have all the isolation I needed for my power testing.

    .o.o.o.

    So what do you plan to do here, Taylor?” Aria asked, looking around through my face. Melody was quiet, and I wondered if she was worn out from the flight.

    “Well, there are two things I want to find out. They’ll be easy enough to test together, and you’ll be necessary for both of them.” Aria’s tendrils swiveled around to look at me. “First, we’ve established quite thoroughly that you girls can stick bits of yourselves through me. I just want to find out whether or not all of you can go through me. And since you’re rather amorphous...”

    I see,” she said. “This will probably go faster if I had a larger hole to squeeze through.

    “Okay, give me a second,” I say as I retrieve my knife and pull up my shirt. Soon, most of my abdomen is opened up.

    Alright then, here I go.

    A piece of Aria larger than any we’ve used before squeezed through the hole.

    And continued squeezing through.

    And continued.

    And continued.

    Eventually, the tail end of Aria passes through, confirming the idea that they could pass through in their entirety while also confirming that I had severely underestimated Aria’s size.

    Before, without anything to measure her against, I had estimated that she was a bit bigger than a car. Now it was apparent that her size was more comparable to that of a train engine.

    “Um,” I eloquently stated.

    So you said there was a second part to this, right?” asked Aria, snapping me out of my surprise.

    “What? Oh, yes, the other part. Sorry, I was just surprised by how big you are.” A few of Aria’s mouths giggled at this. “Anyway, since we know I can take control of the bits you shove through me, I was wondering if I could still take control if you were all the way through me, and if I could, how far my control extends.”

    Hmm, that sounds reasonable. Let’s do it.

    So without further preamble, I took control of her. I quickly ignored the input from the vast majority of her eyes. Also, I noted that she had apparently eaten a small bush that had probably been blocked from my view by her bulk.

    “That was easy enough,” I said as I had her start moving away from me. After about a hundred feet or so I started to lose control of her, an event she confirmed for me vocally.

    “Alright. Let’s do that a few more times just to make sure,” I called out.

    And we did so. A few times we introduced a few variables (like controlling through blocking terrain without sight of her, which turned out not to affect anything) just to be thorough. Once we were done, Aria went off a little ways and began playing in the snow.

    I took a moment to finish jotting notes down on a little notepad I had brought with me. I would transfer the notes to my main notebook once I returned home. Once that was finished, I turned my attention inward.

    “How are you feeling, Melody?” I asked.

    I am doing alright. A little weary from flying, perhaps. I will be recovered by the time you wish to return home.

    “Great,” I said. “And thanks again for letting me use you wings.”

    Do not worry about it.

    I turned back towards Aria to find that she had somehow, in defiance of all physics, snuck up on me. The portion of her body facing me had been cleared of mouths and eyeballs and such, leaving a smooth surface, flanked by a pair of similarly smooth tendrils.

    Alright,” she muttered, “I think this is how it goes.

    She then wrapped the tendrils around me, pulling me up against her body. I struggled against my bonds, of course. “Thank you!” she trilled. “Thank you so much for letting me play here. Before I met you, I thought we would be floating in that place forever.

    Oh, I realized as I ceased struggling. She... She’s hugging me. It’s been so long since anyone but Dad hugged me.

    ... it feels nice.


    .o.o.o.

    Over the next few days I fell into a routine of practicing with my powers. On Wednesday I had flown out to the Boat Graveyard to practice. The following day, Thursday, I stayed home through the night, doing small-scale practice and getting a good night’s sleep. The next night I was back at the Graveyard, and so on.

    To be honest, a good portion of the time I was “testing” was actually spent playing with my friends. Most of my outings to the Graveyard ended with me playing in the snow with one or both of them joining me, and a couple of the nights I was home we ended up putting together a puzzle together.

    On Thursday the twentieth I decided to do a bit of walking around in costume through alleys and such to start familiarizing myself with the local layout. A good grasp of the terrain would be invaluable for a hero such as myself, so it would be a good idea to study it.

    Of course, just walking through here once won’t imprint the map of the city into my head. I should find some reason to walk around the city, in addition to the flying above it I’ve been doing. Maybe I should take up jogging or something?

    My musings were interrupted when a nearby voice shouted, “Give me all your money, bitch!”

    I stopped, then turned toward the voice. It apparently belonged to a short man in a battered blue jacket. In his had he held a combat knife which he was pointing at me, and his face was shifting into the expression of someone who was seriously regretting a great many of his life choices.

    ~~~
     
  8. Threadmarks: Interlude 1.x
    helnae

    helnae How delicious~

    Joined:
    Jan 15, 2014
    Messages:
    165
    Likes Received:
    2,007
    Interlude 1.x



    A young woman strode down a night-darkened street with a confidence fully earned. None could prevail against her might. Her enemies feared her, her allies respected, nay, admired her! All wished they could be as great as she, and none would even consider dismissing her as a child as–

    As Kid Win’s loud yawn jostled Vista out of her daydreams.

    “Ugh. Do you have to be that loud, KW?” She grumbled.

    “Sorry, sorry, but I can’t help it. It’s dark and so cold! I’m even walking instead of using my hoverboard to try and warm up.” The young tinker shivered slightly.

    “Weren’t you bragging earlier this week that you had made a new heating system and installed it in your winter suit? What happened to that?”

    “The power cell didn’t last as long as I thought it would.”

    The patrolling Wards members crunched their way through the thin layer of snow in silence for a little while.

    “Y’know, these are the absolute worst conditions to be patrolling in. Almost makes you wish something would happ–”

    Both Wards members froze, Kid Win slapping his hands over his mouth. A few moments passed, and then Vista rounded on her partner.

    “Dammit, KW! You know better than to jinx us like that! ‘The only good patrol is a boring one’ is written on the meeting room wall for a reason.”

    “Wasn’t that because Clockblocker lost a bet?” Kid Win asked, before quailing under his partner’s redoubled glare.

    The two stood still for a few seconds, listening. Finally, they relaxed, and Vista said, “Well, I guess we’re fine this ti–”

    A high-pitched scream split the night air. It was followed almost immediately by the sound of Vista’s glove meeting her visor.

    “The rest of your stuff is charged, right?”

    “Of course.” They turned toward where the scream had come from. “Do you want to call it in or should I?”

    “I’ve got it.” Vista raised her hand to her earpiece. “This is Vista and Kid Win, we just heard a scream north-north-west from our position. Permission to investigate?”

    ”This is Dispatch. Permission granted. Armsmaster and Miss Militia are patrolling near your location and have been notified. Reinforcements are on standby.”

    “Well then,” said Kid Win. “Let’s go.”

    The Wards members hurried over to where the scream had come from, which was the opening of an alley across the street. The alley ended in a T-intersection a couple dozen feet in, and from around the left corner whimpering could be heard, likely from the person who had screamed.

    Vista and Kid Win glanced at one another; Kid Win readied his laser pistols and Vista prepared her space warping abilities, and then the duo moved forward to investigate. Upon turning the corner they found it ended in a dead end. Against the far wall a man cowered, panting like he had run a marathon. When the shadows cast by a light behind the two heroes fell over him, he flinched, crying, “No! Please! Don’t kill me!” He raised his arms to shield his face, blood dripping from where half of his right hand should have been. Both of the young capes flinched at the sight of the wound. Vista put a hand over her mouth out of nausea, and when she glanced over at her partner she saw that his lips were rather green. After a moment the man peeked around his arms and, upon seeing the Wards, said, “Oh thank god you’re not that thing.”

    Kid Win walked towards the injured man, holstering his pistols as he approached. When he reached the man he knelt down so he was at the man’s eye level. “Hello, I’m Kid Win, of the Wards, and she’s Vista, of the same. Can you tell me what happened?”

    “There, there was – oh god – there was this thing,” the man sobbed. “I, I thought it was a girl, easy mark, but its face! Where was its face?!” He trailed off, tears flowing freely down his cheeks as he stared off into the distance with unfocused eyes, silent but for occasional whimpers and nonsensical gibbering.

    Kid Win made a noise that might have been a muffled curse. “Can you tell us anything else?” he asked as he retrieved a first-aid kit from his belt. He grabbed some gauze out of it and held it against the man’s wounded hand, causing him to yelp.

    The man whispered, “Bit my hand off... so many eyes... oh god, it’s coming...” and then returned to staring at nothing.

    Thoroughly unnerved, Vista activated her earpiece again. “Vista here. We have an injured man here, and from what he says he was probably attacked by a parahuman. Please send backup and an ambulance; The parahuman involved may still be in the area.”

    “Copy that, Vista. PRT squad is on its way with an ambulance, ETA eight minutes. Armsmaster and Miss Militia have been alerted and are headed your way now.”

    “Damn it,” Vista muttered under her breath. Eight minutes is too long. Armsmaster had better be close.

    “Armsmaster here, ETA two minutes. Any information on the parahuman?”

    “Oh thank god. Uh, I mean, Vista here, he said something about them not having a face and that it bit his hand off, and something about a bunch of eyes. He doesn’t seem likely to say much more about it, but it sounds pretty freaky. So, uh, could you try to get here qui–”

    Vista froze at the sound of something landing in the alley behind her. A huge shadow had swallowed up her own. Flashes of light gave a hint of its form, a mass of squirming, writhing... things, like snakes or tentacles. The man moaned in fear as he pressed himself into the wall, a steaming pool spreading around him. It went unnoticed by Kid Win, frozen as he stared past Vista at the horror behind her.

    Oh god, it’s here. I should have been keeping watch. Why wasn’t I keeping watch? Stupid, stupid, stupid...

    “Vista? Vista, come in! What happened?”

    “It’s here,” she whispered. Her voice came out high-pitched and thready between her suddenly tight jaws. “It’s got us trapped.”

    “Shit! We’ll be there soon. Get out of there if you can.”

    Vista’s hand fell from her earpiece as she turned to face the thing behind her.

    Her first impression was tentacles. So many tentacles, like those of an octopus, the lighting changing whatever color they were to black. But where an octopus’ tentacles had suckers, these were studded with dozens of eyes. They varied in size and even pupil shape, but each was a bright, vibrant green and seemed to glow. Scattered among the eyes were a number of mouths, differing greatly in size and shape, but each was filled with a disturbingly large number of teeth in many shapes and, in a few cases, additional eyes. Every eye present focused on the three people before the beast, each bearing a hungry gleam. The mouths opened, and from them issued a hellish chorus of gibberish.

    The same gibberish from another voice cut through the chorus. The new voice was, at its core, recognizably female, but it was hollow and echoing, as if its owner were speaking in a crypt. Countless resonating tones accompanied the voice, some high, others so low Vista heard them not with her ears but with her bones, all gnawing at the back of her mind, feeding the fear that had taken root.

    Moments after the terrible voice had sounded, the tentacles ceased their writhing and began to retract to a single point, revealing the rest of the creature they had concealed.

    The first things Vista noticed were an imposing pair of wings, like a bat’s but with too many fingers in odd places, and so dark it was difficult to tell where the wings ended and the shadows began. A body was revealed next, that of a normal, if tall, girl, clad in dark colors, but its human form only served to accentuate the inhuman portions. Behind the legs a long, sinuous tail with barbs down its length and a color matching the wings undulated gracefully. Hands tipped with viciously curved talons of the same color hung at the creature’s sides, bearing objects. In one a knife was gripped by its blade; the other held a gobbet of meat, dripping red onto the trod-upon snow. The tentacles retreated to where its face would be, revealing a head crowned in dark, curly hair, restrained in a ponytail by a hairband and some hairpins. And once the tentacles had fully withdrawn, Vista felt mounting hysteria as her thoughts began repeat the fear-crazed words of the man behind her.

    Where is its face? Where is its face?!

    Where the identifying features or a cape’s concealing mask should have been was a hole in reality, a mockery of a human face. Thousands of stars burned in an endless void, galaxies and nebulae swirling in the black. Looking closely, Vista could almost swear that some of the stars and galaxies formed a face, crooked and leering.

    Is it a Case Fifty-Three? Vista thought as she hyperventilated. And why does it feel so wrong?

    A glance behind her revealed that Kid Win had managed to snap out of his frozen state and was scrabbling for his pistols. Her gaze returned to the monstrous thing before her, which had begun to slowly saunter towards them.

    She took a deep, steadying breath. Calm down. It’s not a monster. It’s probably just a cape, and I can’t just stand frozen like this while it can attack us. She felt around the area with her power in preparation to repel the cape, then froze once more as the edge of her power brushed up against it.

    It feels sort of like a person, but beyond it there’s so much within and beyond it and, and it feels so wrong and... oh god.

    Vista clapped her hands over her mouth and bent over a little as a wave of nausea rolled over her.

    The footsteps stopped. Surprised, Vista looked up to find the cape had halted in its approach, its head slightly cocked.

    Are you alright?

    It took Vista a moment to realize that the frightful voice had asked her a question, and a few moments more to realize that the cape had been inquiring after her welfare.

    The cape turned its – no, her – head to Kid Win, who had both his pistols in hand and was pointing them at her. “Could you put those away, please?” she asked. “I’m not an enemy.

    He started a bit when she addressed him, but then shifted his stance slightly, his pistols still pointed at her. She sighed, if a sound like the screams of a thousand damned souls could be called a sigh, and turned back to Vista. “Vista... It’s Vista, right?” Vista nodded. “Great. So anyway, are you alright? You look like you aren’t feeling very well.

    “Um,” Vista began, but was interrupted by the sound of squealing tires outside the mouth of the ally, followed by two pairs of hurried footsteps approaching them. Around the corner came Armsmaster, clad in his blue armor and pointing his halberd at the cape. Behind him was Miss Militia in her fitted army fatigues and American flag-patterned sash and scarf. Her weapon had taken the form of a shotgun, which she was pointing at the ground.

    “Don’t move, villain!” Armsmaster barked as he held his halberd steadily pointed in the cape’s direction, presumably lining up one of the gadgets he’d installed in it.

    Wait, what? Hold on!” The cape protested. “This is all a big misunderstanding. And I’m a hero, not a villain!

    .o.o.o.

    So that guy tried to mug me, threatened me with that knife,” the cape said. “I don’t know how he didn’t realize I was a parahuman at first, but he certainly did when I turned to face him. I guess he panicked, because he tried to stab me. I tried to catch his knife hand, but I accidentally bit him–

    “Bit him?” Miss Militia asked, glancing at the cape’s lack of a face. In her hand was a recording device she was using to take the cape’s statement.

    “Her power,” Vista piped up from where she was leaning against an opposite wall. “She’s got tentacles, some of which have mouths.”

    “Ah.”

    Yes, um, I tried to catch his hand, but I accidentally bit some of it off. I intend to practice that some more so that doesn’t happen again. So then he ran away. I chased after him, since he had tried to commit a crime and had to be taken to the police, and because he was injured and needed to go to a hospital. I would have called for an ambulance myself, but I don’t have a cell phone. I made sure to bring the piece of his hand along.” She pointed to the item in question, which was in a plastic bag in the hands of an EMT. “From what I understand doctors can reattach it, even without Panacea’s help. Then I found him in the company of the Wards, and you know what happened from there.

    It’s a shame her power makes her so scary, Vista mused, and that it interacts poorly with my power. She seems like a nice person, if a little creepy.

    “Alright, we’re done with that,” said Miss Militia as she shut off the recording device and pocketed it. “Do you have any way for us to contact you that won’t compromise your secret identity?” The cape shook her head. “In that case, here’s a pre-paid cell phone. We’re the only ones who know its number, so if it rings, answer it.”

    It was difficult to tell, since the cape didn’t have a face, but Vista got the impression that she was looking at the offered phone with apprehension. “Will you be able to track me if I have that?

    The corners of the Protectorate cape’s eyes crinkled a bit, as if she was smiling behind her scarf. “Don’t worry. We wouldn’t do that.”

    Well, alright,” the cape said, accepting the phone.

    “There are a couple things I would like to ask you before you leave,” said Miss Militia. “First, would you be able to stop by the PRT building on Saturday? If you intend to become a hero, it would probably be a good idea to get to know the other heros of Brockton Bay.”

    The cape nodded. “That’s fine. Saturday works for me.

    “Good. Now, my second question is if you’ve decided on a cape name yet.”

    The cape shifted a bit. “Well, I’m sort of in the process of deciding still, but for now I guess you can call me Starfield.

    ~~~
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 30, 2014
  9. Threadmarks: Jaunt 2.1
    helnae

    helnae How delicious~

    Joined:
    Jan 15, 2014
    Messages:
    165
    Likes Received:
    2,007
    Jaunt 2.1



    “But for now I guess you can call me Starfield,” I said.

    Many capes chose, or were given, names related to their powers. I had used the concept to compile a list of possible cape names for myself, though I’d had to remove names that had already been taken or had sounded too villainous. Soon after, I came to the realization that the less that was known about my power, the less able potential enemies would be in countering them, and so the more revealing names were also purged from the list. As it stood now, the list was rather short, with Starfield sitting at the top.

    The sisters hadn’t had much input on the name issue. Aria had proposed ‘Tekeli-li’; I couldn’t really see myself ever using it, but I just couldn’t bring myself to strike it from the list.

    But back to the matter at hand.

    “Very well then, Starfield,” Miss Militia replied, a smile crinkling the corners of her eyes. “We’re done here for now, you’re free to leave. Don’t forget to swing by the PRT building on Saturday, and if you find yourself in trouble don’t hesitate to call. The relevant numbers are already in that phone.”

    “Sure.” I looked down at the phone in question, which I was currently holding in my hand. I couldn’t quite remember the last time I had held one. Ever since Mom had... had died, because of one, Dad hadn’t wanted any in the house. It had worked out alright, since the only person I would have called was Emma... and then there was no one for me to call.

    But that had very little to do with this cell phone, really. Miss Militia had said that they wouldn’t track me through it, though I noted that she had not said that they couldn’t do so. But Miss Militia was a hero. She had been one of the first capes, having triggered some time around 1985, and had been a hero ever since. I wanted to trust her, at least on this. If You couldn’t trust the heroes, who could you trust?

    “Could you hold on to this, Aria?” I asked.

    Sure!” her many voices cheerfully chirped.

    Miss Militia, who had apparently been turning away to attend to something else, turned back to me, saying, “Did you say something?” She looked at me just in time to see one of Aria’s tendrils snake out of my face, grab the phone, and dart back in.

    She stared at my face for a moment, then glanced at Vista, who shrugged. “Like I said, tentacles,” the younger hero explained.

    “I see,” Miss Militia said, returning her quizzical glance to me. Then her face cleared, and she nodded to me before walking off.

    It was my turn to glance at Vista, who was leaning against the wall opposite me, and a few feet down, as if she was trying to put as much distance between us while remaining close enough to to be included in the conversation. She was wearing her winter costume, a thicker, more covering version of her normal costume. Said costume had a skirt, and was covered in wavy, swooping lines that alternated between white and forest green, the same color as the shirt portion of my costume. Body armor had been worked into her costume, the breastplate having been molded to give the illusion of a chest, and a green visor topped off the ensemble.

    From what I had read on the Parahumans Online wiki she wasn’t much older than thirteen, the youngest member of the Brockton Bay Wards, but had been a member for longer than any of her fellows.

    She seemed to have calmed down considerably from the fright I had accidentally given her earlier, and her nausea seemed to have cleared up. She still showed signs of lingering unease, though. I certainly hadn’t expected to cause so much tasty fear in any of the people here. That was certainly something to think about later.

    Wait, tasty? Where did that come from?

    “I like it.” I jumped a little as my thoughts were interrupted by a voice, which turned out to belong to her. “Your name, that is. Starfield. I think you should keep it.” She gave me a smile which seemed to grow a little steadier as I watched.

    “Thanks,” I replied.

    “I’ll be at the PRT building on Saturday, like the rest of the Wards,” she said, standing up from the wall. “We’ll probably see you then.” She waved goodbye to me, then walked off after Miss Militia.

    The night was a bust, so I didn’t see much point in not returning home. As I exited the alley, I passed Armsmaster, who nodded to me. I returned the nod, then walked down the street to a less crowded road. Once there, I ran and took wing, flying off into the night.

    .o.o.o.

    Ah, Taylor? There is something I have been meaning to ask you,” Melody said once I had landed in the park. She retracted her wings, tail, and claws as Aria passed a rolled-up sweatshirt through my face.

    “Yes, Melody? What is it?” I asked as I focused on my fingertips to heal them. Once that was done, I put on the sweatshirt, then started healing my back.

    You were speaking with those people, correct?

    “Yes?” I replied, wondering where this was going. Once my back was mostly healed, I reached into one of my pouches for my face.

    Neither Aria nor I could understand what they were saying, nor could we understand what you were saying to them.

    “What?” I froze, my face raised almost into place.

    We have not been able to understand anything you say that is not said to us,” she said. “I, ah, suppose we should have mentioned this earlier?

    I sighed, then sat down at a nearby picnic table, my left hand holding my face and my right hand holding where it should go. “It’s been two weeks, Melody, and I’ve spoken with people every single day of it. What took you so long to mention this?”

    To be fair, the novel sensation of not being bored is rather distracting.

    That teased some laughter out of me. “I suppose you have a point there,” I said. I raised my face into its proper place and started healing. “Ancient amnesiac aliens knowing how to speak modern english did seem a little strange. I guess my power is translating what we say to each other.”

    That seems to be a reasonable assumption. I would take offense to you calling me ‘ancient,’ but since I did float around in here long enough to forget my own name...

    “Heh.”

    I rose from the table and began to make my way home. “Well,” I said as the snow crunched beneath my feet. “I’m sure it won’t be easy, but I’ll find a way to teach you two how to speak english. Somehow.”

    You would? Really?

    “Of course. Friends help each other out, and there’s no real reason to keep you entirely dependent on me. Of course, I don’t really know how I’m going to go about getting you lessons, but we’ll work something out.”

    That is wonderful! Is it not wonderful, Aria?

    Hm? Oh! Ah, yes, that is wonderful,” Aria replied, using fewer voices than she usually did.

    Apparently Melody and I both picked up on the distracted quality of Aria’s response at the same time, but Melody was the first to speak.

    Is there something troubling you, Aria?” asked Melody, concern writ large in her query.

    Aria let out a symphony of subtle sighs. “Well, it seemed that Taylor wasn’t very satisfied by the way things turned out back there.

    Oh.

    The memory of the night’s events rose in my mind. Turning towards the source of the demanding shout and seeing a man with confidence draining from his face, replaced by fear, panic, and deepest regret. The knife stabbing towards me, and me calling for Aria to stop it as I reflexively flinched back, even though any damage it could do, I could heal easily. Grabbing the hand, surprised as unexpected teeth carved through flesh and bone with near equal ease

    And through our shared senses, the taste. Oh, that taste. Delicious, so much like pork, and so juicy, too. This would be a great way of getting rid of bodies... Wait. No. Bad brain, stop thinking about that. Get back to answering Aria.

    “I’ll admit that I would have preferred to grab the guy’s hand instead of biting it off,” I said as I turned a corner onto my street. “But that’s no reason to feel sad about it.”

    No, no, that’s not quite it,” she replied. “I was somewhat sad about messing things up at first, but then I realized that we’ve only used my eyes, mouths, and tendrils. I’m pretty sure there’s more that I can do, so I’ve been thinking for a while, trying to remember what I can do.

    A curious “Oh?” came from Melody just as I said, “Really?”

    It’s actually kinda frustrating. I feel like I already know this stuff, but it’s floating just out of my reach. But I did manage to catch one thing already!” she exclaimed with glee. “It’s that the mouths don’t have to be shaped like mouths.

    “Oh?” I say. The mouths don’t have to be mouth-shaped? Why does she consider... wait, if its shape can be changed, then... and maybe... which means... oh. “Oh yes.”

    A savage grin adorned my face as I quietly unlocked the door to my house.

    .o.o.o.

    The following morning found me, of course, back at school. As had become the usual these past couple of weeks, most of my time between classes had been absorbed in dodging my tormentors. When I found myself unable to escape them, it was usually either Emma, Sophia, or Madison on their own or with some lackeys, though on a couple unhappy occasions they managed to catch me together.

    Sophia was more physical in her contributions to the campaign of misery the trio waged against me than Emma, who preferred verbal assaults, or Madison, who tended towards childish pranks. The deadened sense of pain that my powers left me with helped me withstand all the pain she tried to dish out to me. My resulting lack of reaction to her attacks seemed to leave her feeling frustrated, and my long and painful experience with the trio informed me that growing boredom or frustration were eventually channeled into harsher attempts to make my life worse. I had tried faking reactions to Sophia’s assaults with the experience gained from real reactions I’d had in the past, but Sophia’s still increasing frustration and aggression indicated that I was not very skillful in my attempts.

    Towards the end of our lunch break I was exiting the school restroom. Or rather, I was attempting to exit, as I found myself interrupted by the door slamming into my face.

    Thanks to my power-granted durability, I wasn’t dazed by the blow, though my lower lip had been split. It was a matter of moments to heal it, though, as I lay sprawled on the tile floor. That done, I looked up at the person who had opened the door.

    I felt very little surprise as I saw Sophia enter the restroom. As her eyes fell on me they lit up with a familiar malicious anger. She quickly glanced around to make sure we were alone before crouching down beside me. One hand grabbed my wrist and the other shoved my shoulder back against the floor.

    She leaned in close and, in a low tone, said, “You’ve been getting rather uppity lately, Hebert. First you’re ignoring me, which is bad enough, but now you’ve started mocking me. It almost makes me think you don’t enjoy my company.” Her expression became an obviously fake pout, malice still glinting in her eyes, before it twisted into a nasty little smirk. “But I’m feeling generous today, so I’ll teach you a little lesson.”

    Before, I would have likely cast my eyes downward and waited for her to stop beating me, but that was when I was alone. Now I had friends, who were kind and fun and supported me, friends that couldn’t be taken away and turned against me. They accepted the names I had given them and let me borrow their abilities.

    This new me looked Sophia in the eye and asked, “And what lesson might that be?”

    Sophia seemed a bit startled by my odd behavior, but apparently disregarded it before answering. “The one where you learn you place at the bottom of everything.” The hand she had on my shoulder tightened its grip, the pressure growing to an amount that was once painful.

    I grabbed her hand and, still staring her in the eyes, firmly told her, “I don’t need any lessons from you, so get your hands off of me.”

    This startled her enough for me to extricate myself from her grasp, get up, and swiftly walk away. Once I was out of the restroom, I started running and didn’t stop until I had reached the bus stop.

    .o.o.o.

    Dammit, that was so stupid of me. Now they’ll just find some way to get back at me. I should have... Argh...

    I unlocked the door to my house and went inside. Dad was at work and wouldn’t be home for hours. I dropped my bag next to the couch, which I more or less fell onto.

    Taylor?

    I shifted. “Yes, Aria?”

    It was Melody who asked, “What happened back there?

    I sighed. I didn’t want to burden our friendship or make them worry with the knowledge of the bullying. “It’s nothing. Don’t worry about it.”

    Taylor,” said Melody, “we may not have understood anything that was said, but it did not seem to be nothing, to them, to you, or to us.

    We’ve heard voices that sounded sorta like that before, and they make you unhappy,” added Aria. “We don’t like it when you’re unhappy, so please tell us what’s wrong.

    I let out a quiet non-committal grunt as I turned over from my prone position.

    Taylor?” prompted Aria.

    Another sigh left my lips. “It’s... It’s complicated,” I finally said. Melody hummed in interest, so I hurriedly added, “It’s a human thing.”

    Aria made a sound tinged with mild annoyance. “I suspect that you are trying to avoid answering our questions,” she said as I sat up. “Please stop it. What kind of human thing is it that makes you unhappy, and why would you do it?

    “I,” I began, but I trailed off. I didn’t really have an answer for that, and any attempt at explanation would have to include the very topic I was trying to avoid. I blew out a long, tired breath as I slumped back into the couch. “I don’t want to talk about it.”

    But they were making you feel sadness,” pressed Melody. “Please, Taylor, tell us. We want to help you.

    “I said I don’t want to talk about it!” I shouted. I stopped myself before I could say anything else and took a deep, calming breath. “Look, I’m sorry I shouted at you two. I just... Can we just not do this today? Please?”

    The three of us were quiet for a few moments. Then Melody’s voice broke the silence.

    Very well then,” she said in a level tone. “We will stop asking about it for now.

    What? But sister-!” Aria protested, only to be cut off by Melody.

    No, Aria. Our friend asked us to stop, so we will stop asking for today. But Taylor?” I could almost feel her attention turning from Aria to me. “We will not ask you any more today, but we will ask again in the future. I could tell that whatever this is, it is not some minor issue. Please tell us soon, Taylor, so we can help.

    I sat up once more and put my arms around my knees. “Fine. Can we talk about something else now?”

    .o.o.o.

    Saturday arrived, and with it my meeting at the PRT headquarters. I dressed in my costume before leaving the house, and I put a sweatshirt on over it. I might not be bothered by the chill anymore, but the temperature was low enough that Thursday’s snowfall still hadn’t melted, and walking around with my arms, shoulders, and back exposed would draw far too much attention.

    The bus ride over to the PRT building was uneventful. I got off a stop early, then made my way through a nearby alley. Once i had reached a point where I was fairly certain I wouldn’t be seen by people or cameras, I removed the sweatshirt and folded it up tightly, then retrieved my knife and cut off my face. After rolling up my face and putting it and the knife away, I passed the sweatshirt to Aria, who then gave me the hoodie and baseball cap I had given her earlier. After putting them on, I exited the alley at the end opposite the one I had entered from, then walked the remaining distance to my goal, keeping my head down so my hat would conceal my lack of a face.

    The building used by the local division of the Parahuman Response Team didn’t really stand out much from the rest of downtown Brockton Bay. It, like all of its neighbors, was covered in windows, and was reflective enough to mirror the sky above: a mostly clear, blue sky, though with dark clouds blowing in on the horizon. The only thing that made it stand out from its neighboring buildings was a shield logo bearing the letters ‘P.R.T.’

    As I entered the lobby I found only a light crowd of people occupying it, mostly various employees in suits hurrying in and out of the building. I made my way to the receptionist at the end of the front desk.

    “Hello,” she said looking up at me with a wide, friendly smile. “Welcome to the Brockton Bay branch of the Parahuman Response Team. Is there anything I can help... you... with...” She trailed off, her smile having frozen on her face as she stared into the space where mine should have been.

    ~~~
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 30, 2014
  10. Threadmarks: Jaunt 2.2
    helnae

    helnae How delicious~

    Joined:
    Jan 15, 2014
    Messages:
    165
    Likes Received:
    2,007
    Jaunt 2.2


    I stood there for a moment, feeling a bit awkward as the receptionist stared into my face with eyes that were beginning to glaze over.

    “Um, excuse me? Ma’am?” I said. I glanced at her name tag. “Ah, Margaret?” A general cessation of conversation around me caused me to glance behind me.

    It appeared that everyone within earshot had stopped whatever they were doing and turned to stare in my direction. As I looked, I saw more than a few pairs of eyes widen, presumably after seeing my face. Some of them were edging away from me. The security guard nearest to me had tightened his grip on his grenade launcher, his other hand going to his bandolier of special grenades.

    Well, there go my hopes of an uneventful meeting. I knew my voice was different without my face on, but is it really that strange?

    I turned back to see that one of the other receptionists had wheeled her chair over next to Margaret, and was poking her in the shoulder. She turned to me with accusation in her eyes, her gaze fixed firmly on my chest in an obvious attempt to not look at my face. “What did you do to her?” she asked.

    I held my hands up in what I hoped was a nonthreatening gesture. “Um, honestly? I didn’t do anything. That’s never happened before.” Of course, I haven’t shown this face to very many people, so...

    She continued to scowl at my torso. I peeked at her name tag, which read ‘Vera.’ “So what are you here for, anyway?” she asked.

    “Miss Militia asked me to drop by. I’m Starfield, by the way.”

    Evidently curiosity won out against caution, and she glanced up at my face. She paused for a moment, then said, “Huh. That’s kinda pretty.”

    “...Thanks?”

    She turned back to her coworker and shook her shoulder, and finally got a response. “...Full of stars,” Margaret mumbled as she jerked upright. She glanced around for a bit as she wiped her mouth with the back of her hand, then turned to Vera and asked, “What just happened?”

    Her coworker sighed and shook her head. “You looked at the cape lady’s face and spaced out,” she said, gesturing to me. “She says she didn’t do anything to you, so I guess it’s just you being you again.” She ended her statement with a wry little grin and a poke to the shoulder.

    Margaret shot her a halfhearted scowl, then turned back to me. “I’m sorry about that, ma’am,” she said, her eyes carefully at my chest and not at my face. “So is there anything I can help you with?”

    I would have raised an eyebrow if I had one. “I was asked by Miss Militia to stop by here. I’m Starfield.”

    She clicked through some things on her computer for a few moments, before saying, “Ah. There’s a note saying that you’d come by, though it says something about wings...” She paused for a moment, then shrugged. “In any case, I’ve notified them of your arrival. Someone will be here shortly to escort you.”

    “Thank you.”

    I moved to the side so she could help the next person. Vera stared at my face for a little while, then rolled back to her place at the counter.

    Hardly a minute passed before I heard a woman’s voice call out, “Starfield!” I turned towards the source to see Miss Militia waving to me as she approached. In her other hand she carried a briefcase that had an American flag charm hanging off its handle. Her weapon appeared to have taken the form of a large combat knife hanging from her belt. “Thanks for coming so early. Come, I’ll show you where we need to go.”

    She led me to a meeting room in a section of the building that I didn’t think was open to the public. “First,” she said, “we’d like you to give us a more thorough statement of what happened during the incident, as well as answer a few questions. It shouldn’t take too long. After that I’ll take you up to see the director, and once that’s done you can go meet the Wards. Is that alright with you?”

    I nodded. “Sure. Let me just get out of this hoodie first.”

    She gave her assent, and I took of my hat and the garment in question, which I rolled up tightly.

    “Would you like some place to put those?” she asked.

    “No, thank you,” I said. I then quietly asked Aria to take the items of apparel, which she did.

    Miss Militia stared for a bit, then visibly shook herself and said, “Ah, yes. You did the same with the cell phone I gave you. That seems rather useful. Now let’s get started then, shall we?”

    .o.o.o.

    “Was Thursday your first night out?” Miss Militia asked.

    “Um, yes and no.”

    The older cape raised an eyebrow.

    “Well, you see, I hadn’t been planning on making my debut then. My house isn’t really the best place to practice some of my stuff, so I’ve been flying out to the Boat Graveyard every now and then. I hadn’t really seen anybody below me the previous times I’d flown, probably because of the weather, so I decided to walk part of the way there on Thursday. Then that guy tried to mug me.”

    I sighed, then noticed the other cape twitch in response. Huh. I guess my sighs sound weird to other people as well.

    “I honestly don’t know how he didn’t notice that I was a cape,” I continued. “You’d think the huge wings coming out of my back would have tipped him off.”

    “So where are those wings now?” Miss Militia asked. “Pardon my interruption. It would be rather difficult to miss their absence. I noticed that there doesn’t seem to be any indication of their presence on your back. And I believe you had a tail as well?”

    I nodded. “Yeah. I didn’t want to attract too much attention when I came in, so I didn’t bring them out. Though I guess I attracted a lot anyway.”

    “I see,” she said, making another note on her notepad. She then motioned for me to continue.

    “Where was... Oh, yeah. Anyway, when the guy freaked out and tried to stab me, I panicked a little and attempted to grab his hand. I meant to just grab it with a tendril, but I accidentally used a mouth and ended up biting off half his hand. That’s one of the things I want to work on before I actually debut.”

    “I see,” the cape sitting across from me said once more. “Now, I have a few more questions. First, have you experienced any significant cases of amnesia, and do you have any tattoos anywhere on your body?”

    I paused at the odd and unexpected combination of questions. “Um, I’ve never had any form of amnesia, and I don’t have any tattoos. Why do you ask?”

    “I am trying to see if you are a Case 53,” she replied as another note was added to her notepad. I started to ask her for an explanation of the term, but she answered me before I even said the first word. “‘Case 53’ is the term given to a certain category of parahuman. They have no memory from before they appeared in this world with their powers, and each of them has a certain symbol tattooed somewhere on them, or otherwise inscribed if they cannot be tattooed. In addition, every Case 53 cape to date has had his or her body altered in some way by their powers.”

    “Oh, I think remember now,” I said. I read about them on Parahumans Online. “They’re the so-called monstrous capes, right?”

    “I wouldn’t use the word myself, but essentially, yes.”

    “So you thought I was one of these Case 53’s?”

    “From what we saw of you the other night, we felt it was safe to assume you were a Case 53, had a Changer power, or both. Since Case 53’s tend to not have civilian identities or even homes or families to return to, we would have to be ready to provide special accommodations If you were to join.”

    Wait, join? I haven’t decided to join anything yet, really. “Ah, yes. I have a civilian identity and all that.”

    “Excellent. Now on a somewhat related topic, are you below the age of eighteen?”

    .o.o.o.

    Miss Militia had been right when she said that the session wouldn’t take too long. It took only a little over twenty-five minutes, and as such didn’t have the time to become boring. When we had finished, Miss Militia put the notepad and pen she had been using away in her briefcase, then led me out of the room. “We’ll go and see Director Piggot now,” she explained.

    She led me to a set of elevators that were obviously of tinker origin. The ride was so smooth I could barely tell that we were moving. Once we got off, she led me to a room containing a desk, behind which sat a woman who was presumably the director’s secretary. As we entered, the secretary looked up and quickly glanced over us until her gaze fell upon my face, where it stopped as if entrapped. She stayed like that without moving, not even to blink, for a number of seconds until Miss Militia cleared her throat pointedly, the sound startling the lady out of whatever state she was it.

    “Ah, s-sorry about that,” she stammered. “No idea what came over me. So it’s Miss Militia and, ah, Starfield, correct?” We nodded in response. “I’ll just let the director know you’re here.”

    As she notified the director, Miss Militia glanced at me with a raised eyebrow. I shrugged in response.

    “Director Piggot will see you now.”

    Upon entering the office I saw the director of the Brockton Bay branch of the PRT standing behind a large desk, windows behind her showing the clouds crawling across the sky. She was a heavyset woman with a bob haircut, and a small frown on her face that gave me the impression that she didn’t like me very much. In fact, she seemed to have similar distaste for Miss Militia as well. The frown was quickly replaced by a polite little smile that did not reach her eyes.

    “Please, come in. Have a seat,” she said, gesturing to a couple of chairs in front of her desk. I sat in one of them, but Miss Militia chose to stand against the wall beside the desk. The director lowered herself into her own leather-bound chair.

    “As I am sure you have no doubt gathered, I am Director Emily Piggot of this city’s PRT branch. You are Starfield, I presume?” I nodded. She directed her gaze to where my eyes would normally be, but showed no sign of freezing up like the two women from before. “An apt cape name.” She turned her head to look at Miss Militia.

    “She’s under eighteen and she’s not a Case 53,” the Protectorate cape said.

    Piggot nodded, then returned her gaze to me. “Starfield,” she said, “I would like to offer you a position in the Wards program.”

    If I had had eyes I might have blinked them in surprise. I had known that the offer was a possibility, and Miss Militia had hinted about it fairly strongly in our earlier conversation, but I hadn’t really expected it, at least not this early in the meeting. Surprise quickly turned to uncertainty as I thought about the offer. I had considered joining the Wards a couple times before, but both times I had decided against doing so. Most of my reasons for becoming a cape, for becoming a hero, involved it being an escape from my situation at school. Joining up with a group of teenagers didn’t seem like the best method for escaping a social situation. Not to mention that, as a more-or-less complete unknown with no achievements to my name, I would find myself at the bottom of the totem pole. And if one of the Wards was another Emma, another Sophia, that I would have to deal with outside of school? Ha. Forget dealing with it, I’d probably snap on the spot.

    But it might not be completely terrible. I had my friends Aria and Melody, and their companionship could make things more bearable. When I met them on Thursday, Vista seemed nice, and Kid Win was... loyal, I guess, though I hadn’t seen much of him. And from what I remembered all the Wards attended Arcadia High, so if I joined up I might get accepted there and be able to escape my tormentors.

    Piggot’s voice cut through my musings. “The Wards program exists for people like you. It’s designed to help you figure out your powers and make sure you have the support you need. If you join you will receive a stipend, and the PRT will put together a trust fund for you that you can access once you reach majority. In addition, unless you are already attending or do not wish to attend, you will be transferred to Arcadia High.”

    The confirmation about the Arcadia transfer was nice, but it felt like she was leaving something out.

    “Are there any requirements for joining the Wards that I should know about?” I asked.

    She grimaced a bit, but answered. “You would have to inform us of your identity, and since you are still a minor your parents or guardians would have to come by and help you with the paperwork.”

    Dad. I flinched slightly at the thought, then froze. I... I didn’t really want to tell him. I had seen it in how he hovered over me after the locker incident, his worry so visible it almost physically pained me to see it, outstripped only by his rage at the ones who had attacked me and at his own inability to help me. Its severity had lessened as I recovered, but it was far from gone. If I told him that I was a cape, it would only add to his burden.

    Piggot observed me as I sat in my chair, thinking. She suddenly asked, “Do you know what a trigger event is?”

    The apparent non-sequitur startled me enough that I lost my train of thought. “Huh?” I responded wittily. “Oh. Um, a trigger event is the time that a parahuman gets their powers, right?”

    “It’s the worst moment of our lives,” Miss Militia interjected. “When we’re pushed to the edge, fight or flight responses pushed to the limit, or even beyond.”

    “Thank you,” Piggot said as she inclined her head toward the lady cape before returning her attention to me. “Was your trigger event the result of abuse?”

    “Yes?” Where are you going with this?

    “Was it the result of parental abuse? Because if it was, we have ways to help–”

    “What?!” I interrupted, my voice shrill with outrage. Both of the women in the room with me flinched at my tone. “No! Dad would never do anything like that to me!”

    Piggot held up her hands in a placating gesture. “Alright, alright,” she said. “It was a little difficult to read your body language, and I am required to ask if there is even the slightest possibility of child abuse.”

    I deflated, saying, “Oh. Okay.” I sighed to help calm myself down, then asked, haltingly, “Can i... Can I take some time to think things over before I decide whether or not to join?”

    “Certainly. Take all the time you need. I cannot force you to join,” she said, before muttering under her breath, “Much as I would like to in a certain few cases.” She then pulled out a cell phone and started typing out a message. “If you want, you could spend some time visiting with the Wards members.”

    It seemed like a fairly transparent ploy to help convince me to join, but I didn’t really see any harm in it, so I said, “Sure.”

    She finished her message and sent it off. A reply came within a minute. After reading the reply, Piggot said, “Vista will be up momentarily to escort you to their area of the building, if you’ll wait out in the hallway for her.”

    .o.o.o.

    The door closed behind me, leaving me alone in the hallway. I took a few steps down the hall, then turned to lean my back against the wall.

    After less than a minute of waiting I spotted Vista approaching me at a much faster speed than her sedate walk should have allowed for. She stopped warping about twenty feet away from me and completed her journey at a normal walking pace.

    “Hi there, Starfield! Glad you could come today,” she said, a smile adorning her face as she came to a stop about five feet away from me. She gestured to the direction from whence she had come. “The Wards HQ is over that way, so if you’ll follow me?”

    I returned the greeting and we started walking in the indicated direction, though Vista did not use her power to shorten the journey. I noticed that she maintained a gap of a few feet between us.

    “So,” she said. “Are you going to be joining us Wards?”

    “I haven’t actually decided whether I want to join or not yet,” I replied.

    “Oh. It would be nice if you did join so we’d have another girl on the team. It’s nearly all boys as it is.”

    “Isn’t Shadow Stalker a girl?”

    “Eh. She doesn’t really count,” she said, waving her hand dismissively as we rounded a corner.

    We walked in silence for a little while, and then Vista said, “Oh, yeah. I was going to give you this.” She thrust her hand into a cleverly hidden pocket in her costume’s skirt. “You visit Parahumans Online, right?”

    I nodded, and the younger cape said, “Great.” She pulled out a folded piece of paper. “I spoke with a few of the mods on the forum, and they were able to make a verified cape account for you. It’s got a temporary password on it, so be sure to change that when you log on.”

    Surprise and uncertainty mixed with gratitude within me, though a shade of suspicion darkened it. When was the last time someone other than Dad gave me a gift? “Oh, th-thanks,” I stammered. “Was there something you wanted for that?”

    The little space warper looked shocked at the suggestion. “What? No! There’s no need for anything like that. I just wanted to be friends with another female cape, is all. Besides, it didn’t really take much effort to get this.” She altered her path so she ended up next to me and pressed the paper into my hand. Once I was holding it she swiftly returned to her previous distance from me.

    I would have frowned at that. “Is there a reason why you don’t seem to want to get near me?” I asked.

    “Oh, that.” She rubbed the back of her head. “Our powers don’t seem to interact very well. If my power touches you it makes me feel nauseated, and it’s easier to not touch you with it if there’s some space between us. I don’t blame you or anything, though.”

    “Ah.” That... was unfortunate.

    “So yeah,” she said as we stopped in front of an elevator. “Please don’t be offended if I keep a little distance between us.”

    “Alright.”

    I cast my gaze down at the paper in my hand. I guess it couldn’t hurt to try.

    “Aria?” I murmured.

    Sure! Let me get that for you,” she chirped, reaching a tendril out to snag the note. “I’ll just assume you don’t want this eaten. Ooo, symbols!

    I looked up to see Vista, unsurprisingly, staring at my face. “You did that with the phone Miss Militia gave you the other night,” she said. “Do you have a pocket universe in there or something?”

    “Something like that.”

    “Huh. Interesting thing to use as a mask.”

    Any response I might have made was cut off by the elevator doors opening. We stepped inside and Vista punched one of the buttons. The interior was a bit fancier than that of the elevator I had taken earlier with Miss Militia, and the ride was so smooth only the button Vista had pressed told me we were descending. The ride was fairly brief, and once it was over we exited into a long corridor of chrome steel.

    As she led me up to a security terminal at the far end of the corridor, Vista said, “Kid Win and I decided not to tell the others much of anything about you, mostly because we want to see their reactions.” With that said, she stood up on her toes to let the terminal scan her eyes. With a metallic click and a barely audible whirr, steel doors whisked open and allowed us entry.

    The room she led me in to was roughly dome-shaped. Walls were present, but they seemed like the type that could be easily dismantled and moved. A number of doors were set into various walls, some of which presumably led to sectioned-off parts of the main room, while others likely led to other rooms entirely. On one side of the room was a networked series of computers with large monitors surrounded by a number of chairs. Some of the monitors were occupied with screensavers, while others displayed camera images of key locations in the city. In the middle of the room were a number of comfortable-looking couches and chairs arranged in a rough semicircle, their occupants rising as we entered.

    Kid Win’s red and gold costume and red visor were similar to the same-colored body armor he had been wearing on Thursday, though I spotted a few differences. Like almost all tinker capes, Kid Win’s costume was subject to frequent changes as he added and replaced bits of tech he designed.

    Beside him stood someone wearing what could only be described as the offspring of a pulp science fiction hero’s suit and a medieval knight’s plate mail, in silver and gunmetal. From what I remembered this was Gallant, a cape who could fire emotionally-charged bolts of energy.

    Across from them stood a boy in a skintight white bodysuit with glossy white body armor. Images of clocks in dark gray adorned the armor, some animated to float around its surface while others had ticking hands. A smooth, featureless helmet covered his entire head, a clock’s face ticking away where his real face would be. The plentiful imagery indicated that the guy was Clockblocker, a cape who could freeze objects and people in time with a touch.

    The final occupant of the room was Aegis, the current leader of the Brockton Bay Wards. He was large and tan, and wore a rust red helmet that matched his costume. Both had silvery-white trim, and a shield emblem adorned his chest. His powerset was a version of what was known as the “Alexandria Package”; strength, durability, and flight. His variant was somewhat different from most instances, but I could not recall if the Parahumans Online wiki had said how it differed.

    Kid Win greeted me with a nod and a smile. I was glad that he didn’t seem to bear me any animosity from our previous encounter. Or he’s good at hiding it, a little voice in the back of my mind said. I squelched the thought, as well as the subsequent train of thought of how deep in my head the back of my mind was now.

    As I reciprocated Kid Win’s greeting with a little wave, he frowned, though not with anger. He then shrugged and turned his attention to the other guys. I redirected my attention similarly.

    They had each frozen in the manner I had become rather familiar with over the course of the day. Honestly, it was becoming mildly irritating. Due to their masks, the only one whose eyes I could see was Aegis. To my relief, it did not seem that his eyes were in any danger of glazing over. He straightened and said, “Well. I must admit when we were told a new cape would be visiting I didn’t imagine anything quite like that. It is rather pretty.”

    “Oh, um, thanks,” I said. The three started slightly at the sound.

    “Interesting voice,” Gallant murmured.

    “Introductions are in order, I suppose. You’re Starfield, right?”

    “That’s a nice name, by the way,” Clockblocker said. “Though it makes me think of a joke–”

    “No, Clockblocker,” the rest of the Wards interrupted him in perfect unison.

    I mentally blinked at their synchronized response, then said, “Yes, I’m Starfield. I’ve already met Vista and Kid Win, which would make you Gallant, you Clockblocker, and you Aegis.” I pointed at each cape as I named them, and they nodded in response when I named them correctly. “I don’t see Shadow Stalker here, though. Where is she?”

    “Shadow Stalker is a bit busy right now, but she’ll be back in an hour or less if you want to meet her,” Aegis replied.

    “I might as well,” I said.

    “In any case, this is a little awkward,” the leader of the Wards said. “Since it’s getting close to noon, I thought we could all have lunch together, but, ah...”

    I tilted my head for a moment before I realized what he was referring to. “Oh, is it the mouth thing?” He nodded. “Don’t worry. I can eat lunch.” He seemed to relax a bit at that.

    “I was wondering why you two went to so much effort to convince us not to read the reports from Thursday,” said Clockblocker. “Were our reactions to your liking, Kid?” he asked, his voice implying a raised eyebrow.

    Kid Win wiggled his hand in front of him. “Eh. So-so. But then, you didn’t get the full experience.” He turned to me. “Where are your wings and tail, anyway?”

    “I was wondering the same thing,” said Vista. “I don’t see anywhere for them to be on your back, either.”

    “Well, I didn’t want to draw too much attention when I visited, so I decided not to have them out. Do you want me to get them out?”

    “Sure, if it’s not too much trouble.”

    It didn’t seem like it could hurt. “Alright. Is there somewhere private I could do it, preferably with no cameras or anything?”

    Vista’s expression seemed to soften. “Shy about your powers?” she asked. She gestured to one of the many doors. “The bathrooms are through there.”

    I thanked her and made my way to the indicated door.

    .o.o.o.

    “Aria? Could I borrow a few tendrils?”

    Sure thing,” she chirped, and a couple feet of her passed through the lower part of my face.

    I maneuvered the tendril around to my back and trifurcated it, then bifurcating each of the resulting tendrils. I formed eyes on the tips of three of the tendrils, and paired each of them with a tendril tipped with a single, wafer-thin tooth. “I’m going to make the slits for what we usually do, Melody,” I said as the teeth sliced open my back.

    Alright,” she said. “It would be nice to feel what is going on out there. And on a side note, Taylor, what happened a little while ago that made you so angry?

    “Oh, that?” I replied as I reformed the tendrils to slit open my fingertips. “I was asked if my father had abused me, which he would never do. The question offended me, but since the person who asked the question was required to ask it and didn’t mean to offend me there wasn’t much point in remaining angry. And no, it didn’t have anything to do with yesterday’s thing.”

    I never said it did,” she said, her wings and tail emerging from my back. “But since you mentioned it, don’t forget that you are going to tell us about it at some point.

    “I know. Just, not now,” I said as I watched her claws emerge through my fingertips. “Also, Aria? I’m going to have lunch soon, but since I’m like this you’ll get to eat it.”

    Yay!

    .o.o.o.

    “–to my little friend!” Clockblocker was saying as I returned to the main area. The other Wards either groaned softly, held their face in their hands, or did both. While I was gone they had all taken seats.

    “Do I want to know?” I asked as I approached. Vista looked up at me.

    “KW just had to ask what Clockblocker’s joke was,” she replied. “So no, I don’t think you want to know.”

    “Aw, come on, guys!” protested Clockblocker. “It wasn’t that bad.”

    “I suppose that’s true,” Kid Win said, removing his hand from his face. The white-clad cape turned to the tinker, likely with a hopeful expression under his mask. “It wasn’t painful to listen to. It just wasn’t funny.”

    Clockblocker slumped in his chair with a sigh. Then he shrugged and turned his attention towards me. After a moment of staring he said, “Nice wings.”

    “Thanks, I guess,” I replied.

    “I think they’re pretty cool,” said Aegis. He then rose from his seat and said, “Well then, everyone. Let’s go get lunch.”

    “Where are we eating?” I asked.

    “There’s a cafeteria up in the PRT building that’s pretty good,” came the reply as the rest of the Wards stood up. “Is that okay with you?”

    “Yeah, that’s fine,” I replied as I followed them out the door.

    ~~~
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 30, 2014
  11. Threadmarks: Jaunt 2.3
    helnae

    helnae How delicious~

    Joined:
    Jan 15, 2014
    Messages:
    165
    Likes Received:
    2,007
    Jaunt 2.3



    As we made our way down the steel-clad corridor, idle thoughts of our destination turned my mind to the sensations I was receiving from my borrowed wings and tail. Their passive emotion grazing allowed me to experience an interesting mix of flavors, though since I lacked the knowledge to match flavors to emotions that was all they remained. Sweet and savory, sour and bitter; some pleasant to taste, others less so.

    I had considered asking Melody to teach me to read emotions from the flavors, back when I had started borrowing from her, but the thought had slipped my mind. The current situation was swift to remind me. Admittedly, it was close to impossible to tell who was contributing what to the muddle I was sampling, but even without that a general emotion sensing capacity would likely prove useful. And in the meantime, I could probably work something out with Melody to interpret the emotions for me.

    My musings were interrupted by the sound of Aegis’ voice, followed by what seemed to be a response from Vista, but I missed what they said. “Sorry, what was that?” I asked.

    “I asked if you had already filled out all the paperwork to join us in the Wards,” Aegis replied, “but Vista told me you hadn’t.”

    “Oh,” I said. “Yeah, I haven’t decided whether I want to join or not.”

    “Really?” Kid Win said as we paused in front of the tinker-made elevator. The doors slid open almost immediately, and we all boarded. “I suppose they’re hoping that we’ll charm you into signing up.”

    “If that’s the case, it’s probably a good thing that Shadow Stalker is out for the moment,” said Clockblocker.

    “Why’s that?” I asked.

    “Well,” Clockblocker replied, “she’s kind of a huge b-,” Aegis gave him a look. Clockblocker cut himself off with a cough. “Ah. Um, she’s rather abrasive.”

    I mentally frowned at that. That doesn’t sound good. Hopefully she isn’t another Sophia. Aloud, I said, “Vista said something earlier about Shadow Stalker not counting as a girl.”

    “Ah, that,” said Aegis. “Vista’s been hoping for more girls to join the Wards ever since Ermine was transferred away and the gender ratio got the way it is. Shadow Stalker apparently doesn’t work, right?” He inclined his head at Vista, who nodded.

    “Yeah,” she said. “She’s not exactly the kind of person I can talk about girl stuff with.”

    The name Ermine felt somewhat familiar, but I couldn’t remember anything about a cape by that name. I made a mental note to look her up later, if only to satisfy my curiosity.

    My thoughts were interrupted by the opening of the elevator’s doors. I’d barely felt it begin moving, much less coming to a stop. We exited, and I followed them to our destination.

    .o.o.o.

    It was long enough before noon that there was hardly anyone in the cafeteria when we entered. Of the handful of people scattered about the tables, most began staring in our direction. I felt like all the stares were focused on me; logic agreed that as I was a new, erm, face, as it were, in a familiar group, the majority of their attention was likely on me. The resulting discomfort made me shift my borrowed wings from their folded position on my back to hugging my shoulders, and I was silently grateful that we’d come before the lunch break.

    I suppose that’s another point against joining. The staring crowds.

    .o.o.o.

    Somehow the Wards managed first to convince me to let them pay for my meal, then to get more than just what was cheapest. I ended up getting a slice of pizza, a brownie, and a soda. Then the transactions were completed and off we went to the Wards’ private table, which was in an out-of-the-way corner, mostly out of sight.

    Before we could begin, Gallant and Clockblocker had to rearrange their full-face masks so they could eat. Gallant slid the lower portion of his helmet’s face forward, then upward to rest atop his head. Clockblocker just removed the lower part of his mask and set it aside. The clock that occupied the face of his mask was split in two by this, both halves continuing to tick.

    I was just about to inform Aria of the meal when I noticed that no one else had started eating. Curiosity led me to look up, where I found them looking at me. What I could see of their faces seemed to bear varying levels of curiosity.

    “Um, why are you all looking at me like that?” I asked.

    Most of them broke off their stares at that with a faint air of embarrassment. Aegis coughed slightly and replied, “Well, we were waiting for you to move your mask so you could eat before we began.”

    “I was wondering how you keep it on in the first place,” said Clockblocker, the only one who didn’t avert his gaze. “I don’t see any straps on it or anything.”

    “Ah, that,” I said. “I can eat without having to move it.” Out of the corner of... whatever I was using to see, I saw Vista’s expression shift from confusion to realization to bemusement. “Besides,” I continued, “moving it would be a bit difficult, since it’s not really a mask.”

    While they mulled over that for a few moments, I took the chance to quietly inform Aria of the immanent meal. “Alright!” she chirped in reply.

    “So wait,” said Clockblocker. “How is that not a mask? Or am I just missing something and Jesus Christ what is that?”

    “That is how I’m going to be eating,” I said, referring to the pseudopod Aria had provided. I moved it to the general area of where my real mouth would sit, and then began to shape and move teeth within it to form what I remembered of human dental anatomy. A more human mouth would probably go over better than a more alien mouth in this situation. “And while this,” I continued, gesturing to my face, “does serve the same identity preservation purpose that masks do, among others, in other respects it is pretty much the opposite of a mask.”

    Once I deemed my mouth to be close enough to what I wanted I lifted my slice of pizza to my lips and took a modest bite. It was delicious, and from the sounds Aria was making I felt it safe to assume that she agreed with me.

    “That didn’t exactly answer his first question,” said Vista. I looked up to find them still looking at me. They had yet to touch their food.

    “In fact, it raised even more questions,” Clockblocker added.

    I sighed. “Look, I’ll give you all some actual answers after we finish lunch, okay?”

    Across from me, Aegis nodded and said, “That works for me.” He picked up his fork. “Besides, we wouldn’t want our food to get cold.” The rest of the Wards began to work on their meals as well.

    Conversation for the rest of the meal was mostly small talk. A couple times they recounted a few of their past adventures to me, which I found rather entertaining. I found myself smiling internally quite a lot. I tried smiling with my borrowed mouth at one point, but a few hastily hidden flinches caused me to stop. I made a note to not try that again until I could practice it in a mirror.

    Talking with them was fun, but I found that just sitting and watching them interact with one another was fairly nice as well. Far more than mere teammates, it was clear that they were very close friends. In fact, it might not be inaccurate to say that the Brockton Bay Wards were something of a family. They reminded me of the relationship I’d had with Emma, before, well...

    “Starfield?”

    The sound of Vista’s voice broke through my musings. I turned my gaze to her and replied, “Yes, Vista?”

    “Well, since we’ve all finished with our lunches we thought we’d return to our base and continue to hang out there, if you want.”

    “That sounds fine,” I said. I saw the others gathering their plates and such on their trays and moved to do the same. As we walked to the tray return area I noted that we seemed to be leaving at a good time, since what seemed to be the beginnings of the lunch crowd were just entering the cafeteria.

    .o.o.o.

    “So what is it that’s up with your mask? Or opposite of a mask. I still don’t get that,” said Clockblocker as he leaned back into the couch.

    We were all sitting in the common room of the Wards HQ. They had taken seats on the couches and armchairs. I was sitting backwards in a regular chair with my arms leaning on the backrest, since sitting in one of the couches would require that I retract my borrowed wings and tail. Melody had told me a while back that having her wings and tail out like this made it easier for her to observe my surroundings. I had no idea how an apparently eyeless being saw things; I wouldn’t be too surprised if she did something through the aforementioned appendages. I didn’t see any real reason to deprive her of whatever she was observing, so I’d taken the chair over the couch.

    In any case, the question. I suppose I did promise some answers, I thought, and sighed silently. Out loud, I said, “Alright. So you guys know how you conceal your faces by putting on your masks, right?”

    Everyone before me nodded.

    “I conceal my face by taking it off.”

    Silence filled the room for a few moments until it was broken by Kid Win. With a rather strained tone in his voice he asked, “I don’t suppose it just pops off, does it?”

    “Nope,” I replied. “I need to cut it off every time. And before you ask, my face is currently in one of my pouches.”

    Another silence followed my words.

    “Not gonna lie,” said Kid Win, “I’m kinda glad we put this conversation off until after lunch.” The others gave murmurs of assent.

    “I thought you guys would ask a bunch of questions about my powers and such and we wouldn’t get started on lunch for a while, so I delayed,” I said. “Also, I was afraid you guys would find the whole mask thing to be kinda weird. Which apparently you do.”

    “‘Weird’?” said Clockblocker, a mite hysterically. “Christ, girl. You said that instead of putting on a mask you cut off your face and stuff it in your pocket, and you’re worried that–”

    “Clockblocker.” Aegis’s voice headed off what might have grown into a rant. “Don’t be a dick, man.” He turned back to me. “But yeah, it is a bit more than just ‘weird’.”

    “How did you find out you could cut off your face?” asked Vista, her expression a mix of concern and horror. “Because seriously, that’s all kinds of disturbing, and I feel like I might give myself nightmares imagining it.” A moment passed before realization spread across her face, followed by... shame? She stuttered, “O-oh! But if you d-don’t want to talk about it, that’s fine to...”

    I cocked my head. “What were you imagining?”

    “I thought it might have had something to do with your trigger event, or that you’d been attacked or something. Something you might not want to talk about and would be rude to ask about.”

    “Oh. Well, I didn’t learn I could do it from anything like that. I did while I was doing a little experimenting with my powers.”

    “Oh, good. That’s good to hear,” she said, relief crossing her features. It was swiftly replaced by concern once more. “But what made you do it, then?”

    I shrugged. “It seemed like a good idea at the time?”

    “What.” The single, flat word was uttered nearly simultaneously by Vista, Clockblocker, and Kid Win.

    I sighed, briefly noting the flinches that followed the sound. “Look, I know it sounds like a crazy thing to do; in fact, I realized that right after the first time I cut it off. But nothing bad that could have happened actually did happen. I can somehow see and speak without eyes or a mouth, and it’s useful for concealing my identity and to access my tendrils. Besides, it doesn’t really hurt when I cut it – or anywhere else on me, for that matter – and it’s pretty easy to replace my face and heal it back on, so it’s not like I’m doing any permanent damage to myself.”

    Faces and postures began to relax. I noticed Aegis nodding to himself a bit.

    “Also,” I added, “as far as I know there aren’t any other capes who take off their face instead of putting on a mask, so I’d be unique.”

    That got a few laughs out of them, and the tension in the room dropped a little further.

    “So wait,” said Aegis. “If I’m understanding what you said right, you can do what you did to your face anywhere on your body, correct?”

    I paused for a moment before answering. “Um, I don’t think I actually said that, but yeah, that’s right.”

    “So basically you’ve got a pocket universe in you that you can only access by breaking your skin,” he concluded. “That... actually, wouldn’t that mean that any attack that breaks your skin would go into the pocket and leave you with minimal damage? Because if so that’s a great defensive power.”

    Huh. He’s rather quick. “Yeah, as far as I can tell it’s pretty much impossible to hurt anything beneath my skin, assuming I’ve still got that stuff.”

    “Oh, so that’s why you wanted privacy when you were getting out your wings!” Vista exclaimed. “They’re normally in that pocket universe thing, and you didn’t want to start cutting yourself in front of us to get at them.”

    I nodded to her and, in a wry voice, said, “It wouldn’t exactly have made the best first impression.” She giggled at that.

    “So what’s up with those things, anyway?” she asked. “Why do you get big wings and a tail when you cut your back and tentacles with mouths and eyes when you cut off your face?”

    Ah. This question. I had anticipated them asking about Aria and Melody. Since Vista, Kid Win, the Protectorate capes and the various PRT personnel at the other day’s incident had gotten a pretty good look at me, questions about my borrowed parts were pretty much inevitable. By the same token, there was little point in trying to keep my friends completely out of sight. However, I did want to keep the fact that they were separate beings from me a secret for as long as possible. Even though I found the girls to be beautiful and friendly, I wasn’t blind to the fact that most people would look at them and just see a couple of monsters, like something a cape like Nilbog or Bonesaw could make. I would much rather be seen as a slightly creepy cape than have my friends reviled.

    But yes, Vista had a question.

    “I don’t know why my powers work the way they do, but I’m certainly not complaining about being able to fly,” I said. “Besides, having wings and a tail come out of my back makes more sense than having them come out elsewhere.”

    Vista made a face and said, “I know that about the wing placement. It’s pretty much the only part of the power that makes sense. I just...” She sighed and rubbed her forehead. “Why am I trying to work out why a parahuman power works the way it does? No one knows that.”

    “I guess mine is just one of the weird powers,” I said

    “All parahuman powers are weird,” Clockblocker interjected, affecting an air of wisdom. “They just fall somewhere on the weirdness scale depending on whether they’re less weird or more weird.” Vista snorted.

    “Speaking of weird...”

    Everyone looked with surprise at the speaker, Gallant. He’d barely said a word the whole time I’d been hanging out with the Wards. I shook off my surprise, curious about what had caused him to break his silence.

    “You guys know how my power lets me sense other people’s emotions, right?” he said. The other Wards nodded, but this was news to me. If it turns out this was listed on his wiki page and I missed it, I’m going to feel rather silly.

    “Anyway,” he continued, “when I feel Starfield’s emotions I find something that’s rather strange, and I’ve been trying to make sense of it.”

    Oh dear. This might be bad. Out loud, I said, “That ability seems rather invasive,” and wrapped my borrowed wings around me in a sort-of hug.

    “Sorry,” he said sincerely. “I can’t exactly turn it off. I’d have to leave the Wards HQ to stop sensing what everyone here is feeling.”

    “Will you just spit it out already?” said Clockblocker.

    “Alright, alright. Sheesh.” Gallant seemed poised to speak, then stopped. He looked at me and said, “This is about your emotions, so if you don’t want me to I won’t say anything.”

    I sighed. “Just say it already. You’ve gotten us all curious.”

    “Alright,” he said. “So when I sense Your emotions it feels like there’s more than one person in you, but none of them seems to be in the right location in you to be your emotions. And something is muddling up everything I’m getting from you, so it’s pretty hard to determine what any one emotion is without focusing on it. Stronger emotions are easier to read, though. So yeah, it’s pretty weird.”

    “Huh,” I said. “Maybe our powers are reacting poorly with one another, like mine have been with Vista’s powers.”

    “That might be it,” he agreed.

    Silence fell over the Wards HQ.

    After a couple minutes Aegis broke the silence, saying, “So Starfield, have you been in many fights using your powers?”

    “What?” I said, a little startled. “Oh. No, not really. The thing on Thursday is pretty much the only one, and it wasn’t even a real fight. Why?”

    “I was wondering if you wanted to have a spar with me,” he said as he rose from his seat. “Experience is always good, and we might be able to give you a few pointers.”

    I considered his offer for a moment before saying, “Sure, why not,” and getting up off my chair to follow him.

    ~~~
     
  12. helnae

    helnae How delicious~

    Joined:
    Jan 15, 2014
    Messages:
    165
    Likes Received:
    2,007
    Omake.01



    Contessa leaned back in her chair in the Cauldron HQ break room, following her path to getting as much enjoyment out of her scheduled break as she could. Before she could conclude her nap, she felt the Plan shift. New steps had appeared.

    She stood up, and, turning to Doctor Mother and the other occupants of the break room, said, "If you'll excuse me, I must be off to steal two hundred and fifteen lawn gnomes."

    Everyone stared at her in silence as she strode out of the room.

    Doctor Mother rubbed her eyes and got up to open the liquor cabinet. "Fucking Path to Victory," she muttered as she poured out a very stiff drink.

    ~~~
     
    Velk, IdrisXY, Xjado and 11 others like this.
  13. Selias

    Selias Well worn.

    Joined:
    Mar 2, 2013
    Messages:
    5,199
    Likes Received:
    9,360
    [img width=437 height=600]http://i944.photobucket.com/albums/ad283/SeliasK/_OldManHenderson_zpsc322fe26.jpg[/img]
     
  14. Nekraa

    Nekraa Nekraa Moderator

    Joined:
    Mar 2, 2013
    Messages:
    6,096
    Likes Received:
    21,254
    Amusement.
     
  15. kinglugia

    kinglugia A Randy Avian

    Joined:
    Oct 3, 2013
    Messages:
    20,615
    Likes Received:
    32,403
    Interesting.
     
  16. Peanuckle

    Peanuckle Versed in the lewd.

    Joined:
    Jan 15, 2014
    Messages:
    1,680
    Likes Received:
    6,725
    Just as good as reading it on SB, but I'm curious about why you're reposting it here.
     
  17. Larekko12

    Larekko12 Connoisseur.

    Joined:
    Feb 19, 2013
    Messages:
    15,488
    Likes Received:
    30,957
    The white hurts my eyes on thelight background.
     
  18. Biigoh

    Biigoh Tanuki Moderator

    Joined:
    Feb 19, 2013
    Messages:
    25,132
    Likes Received:
    81,141
    Me wee men? Not Old Man Defiant!
     
  19. Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

    Joined:
    Feb 12, 2014
    Messages:
    6,459
    Likes Received:
    44,220
    One wonders if Contessa sometimes does weird shit just to screw with Doctor Mother's head.

    "Path to Victory, really."
     
  20. helnae

    helnae How delicious~

    Joined:
    Jan 15, 2014
    Messages:
    165
    Likes Received:
    2,007
    Omake.02



    There was a knock on the door.

    Jessica Yamada looked up. “Come in?”

    The door opened, and a tall young woman paused in the doorway. She was dressed in civilian clothing, but her face was occupied by the star-speckled hole that had become her signature.

    You aren’t the therapist that was here last week,” she said, her voice hollow and echoing. Jessica did not react to the sound.

    “Protocols require that we rotate,” Jessica replied. “But please, come in.” The young woman closed the door behind her. “Would you rather me call you Starfield or Taylor?” Jessica continued.

    Taylor will do,” she replied.

    She extended a hand and Jessica shook it.

    .o.o.o.

    The explosion consumed much of the U.S.’s eastern shore, as well as some of Canada’s. The subsequent effects would go on to destroy nearly all life on the planet.

    Leviathan was caught by the blast and found itself flung into the sky, where it soon crashed into the moon.

    Scion received some damage, but was ultimately just left naked and more depressed.

    Cthulhu woke briefly, grumbled blearily, rolled over, and went back to sleep.

    The Simurgh’s hair was thoroughly messed up, though she did not notice as she was holding her face with both of her hands and one of her wings.

    ~~~
     
    Xjado, Twilight666, Sub[0] and 8 others like this.
  21. Threadmarks: Jaunt 2.4
    helnae

    helnae How delicious~

    Joined:
    Jan 15, 2014
    Messages:
    165
    Likes Received:
    2,007
    Jaunt 2.4



    “Hey, Aria,” I said as I leaned against the bathroom counter.

    Yes, Taylor?” she chirped. “Oh! What were those things we ate earlier? They were delicious!

    I chuckled a bit, the cheer in her voices teasing a smile out of me. “The larger thing was pizza, and the smaller, sweet thing was a brownie.”

    Can we have them again?

    “Maybe later. In any case, one of the heros here, Aegis, has offered to have a friendly spar with me. I just wanted to make sure you knew that eating him won’t be allowed, since that would be bad for our relationship with the heros in general.”

    Aww. Not even a little?

    “No.” I considered. “Well, maybe a nibble, if circumstances are alright. But I’ll be the one to make the decision, okay? No munching on him just because you feel like it.”

    Fine,” she said, and for a moment I imagined her puffing out her cheeks at me. The mental image made me giggle a little.

    Aegis is the one who has redundant biology and can fly, is he not?” Melody interjected.

    “Yes, that’s him,” I replied. “The specifics of his power had slipped my mind, so thanks for reminding me.”

    It was not a problem,” Melody said, sounding faintly pleased.

    “So we’re gonna go fight him now, right?” said Aria.

    “Yeah,” I said, pushing off from the counter. “Let’s go do that.”

    Yay!

    .o.o.o.

    The first thing I noticed as I entered the gym was that it was freaking huge. The height of the ceiling combined with the breadth of the room provided more than enough room for the average flying cape to practice in. In fact, even with the constraints that using actual wings to fly placed upon my aerial maneuverability I felt confident that I could flit around in here without too much risk of crashing.

    That... We’re underground, right? How far down are we? I thought. Alright, not thinking about this anymore. There might be a logical explanation for all this, but for now I’m just going to blame this on Tinkers.

    I shifted my attention to the rest of the room. A number of exercise machines were lined up against one wall along with a rack of weights. Another wall was lined with mirrors, and yet another was host to what could only be described as an armored observation booth; from its open door issued the sound of an active microwave.

    The floor in the center of the room was covered by a number of mats. Beside these stood Aegis, who, upon spotting me, smiled and waved me over.

    “So how is this going to work?” I asked once I got close.

    “Straight to the point, eh?” he said, cocking an eyebrow as he hooked his thumbs into his belt. “Well, since I’m a Brute, and I’m assuming you are as well, a straight-up brawl probably wouldn’t work.”

    “Brute?” I said. “What’s... Oh, yeah. That’s that power-rating category, right?”

    “That’s right,” giving another one of his easy smiles. “I take it you know the system, then?”

    “Not exactly,” I admitted. “I read a bit about it online, but not all of it is returning to me.”

    “That’s fine. There will be plenty of time to learn it later,” he said. “The system gives a general estimate of threat to a team, and Brutes are capes whose powers make them stronger or more durable. A full-force battle between durable Brutes like the two of us would probably drag on for a while and-slash-or end with one or both of us getting hurt. That isn’t such a big deal for me, and maybe for you depending on how your powers work, but the non-injury consequences might end up being something of a pain. So yeah, we’re not doing that.”

    I stared at him for a moment. “Okay, first, I have never heard anyone actually say ‘and-slash-or’ before now. Second, what is it that we’ll be doing instead?”

    “Instead you’ll be practicing nonlethal takedowns and such with the most durable Wards member – namely, myself – acting as a living practice dummy.”

    “Oi!” Aegis and I turned to see Clockblocker leaning out of the booth’s door, a bag of popcorn in his hand. “You two gonna start fighting soon or what?”

    Aegis and I glanced at on another, and I tilted my head in lieu of a raised eyebrow. He shrugged and said, “Might as well get started. Nonlethal attacks only, ‘kay?”

    “Sure,” I replied as we began walking to opposite sides of the mat. I reached my end first and whispered to my friends to get ready.

    “You ready?” Aegis called out as he began to turn towards me, only to be caught flatfooted by the torrent of tentacles that burst forth from my face. The flood of Aria washed over the startled cape, eliciting a yelp of surprise as his limbs were bound and he was lifted bodily into the air. My grip shifted so that each of his limbs was held away from his body, while another tentacle moved to support his torso. Other tendrils were visibly on standby, waiting to pounce should he break free of my grasp.

    The entire sequence had taken but a few seconds.

    I would have been blinded by the thicket of tendrils occupying my face were it not for the diverse multitude of eyes Aria had helpfully included in the portion of herself she had proffered for this fight. With them I was treated not only to the sight of Aegis held spread eagled in the air but also the reactions of our little audience. Vista and Kid Win had flinched back a bit, while Gallant had backed up until he was pressed against the wall. Clockblocker had frozen, a handful of popcorn halfway to his mouth and a phone in his hand, presumably recording the fight. I frowned a bit at that, and made a mental note to speak with him later about not releasing the video.

    “I think the opening act went rather well,” I said to my friends.

    That was fun! Are we gonna do it again?” Aria asked eagerly.

    “Oh, most definitely,” I replied, a smile playing across a few of the mouths present.

    Aegis swore in a slightly shaky voice as he began to struggle against his bindings, weakly at first but steadily gaining strength until I was nearly certain he was using his flight for additional force. I added a few more tentacles to the tangle for good measure.

    “Having second thoughts, oh fearless leader?” Kid Win called out to the trussed-up Ward.

    “Possibly,” Aegis replied. He kept struggling for a bit before finally letting himself fall limp. “Alright, I’ll admit that it’s rather effective. Could you let me down now, please?” I complied, releasing his legs first before gently lowering him to the ground.

    I then began retracting the tentacles. Our audience watched as the multitude of emerald appendages retreated into my face until only four remained. These four moved to the edges of the opening so as to not obstruct any further assistance from Aria. Two curled down and began wrapping themselves around my body, crossing my back above and below Melody’s wings before coiling around my legs. The other two did the same with my arms. Tooth material gathered near my wrists, and on the outward-facing portions of the tendrils a multitude of slits began to appear. These soon opened to reveal a great many eyes, the majority of which began to move as I allowed Aria to look about the room.

    The tendrils grasped me firmly, yet gently, and I was reminded of the hug Aria had given me. I flexed my various joints to see how much the coiling tendrils were interfering with my movements, and was pleased to find that what little interference there was was easily dealt with. That done, I gently took control of most of the eyes from Aria and turned my manyfold gaze to Aegis.

    The object of my attention was standing still, a finger raised and his mouth open as if he were about to speak. After a few moments he closed his mouth and lowered his hand, before saying, “So, there’s something I need to ask...”

    “Go ahead.”

    “Are you deliberately trying to be creepy as all fuck? Because if so, you’re doing a pretty good job of it.”

    Wait, what? “No? I’m not trying to be creepy. How am I being creepy?” I asked.

    “Well, first of all there’s your not-a-mask...”

    “Oh. But I told you guys about that a while ago.”

    “Yeah, but it’s still creepifying. Next there’s the whole tentacle bum rush attack which was at least ten different kinds of terrifying, though I will give props for its effectiveness.”

    “Thanks, I guess.”

    “And now you’re wrapping yourself up in those same tentacles, which are now pretty much covered in eyes for some reason.”

    “Hey, lay off,” I said a mite indignantly. “They’re pretty useful. How is it creepy?”

    He gave me a flat look. “You have eyeball pauldrons.”

    I narrowed every one of the eyes in question and crossed my arms. “I think they’re cute.”

    Aegis stared at me for a few moments, then laughed. I could almost see tension draining from his posture. “Well,” he said, “if you like it then I guess I shouldn’t criticize you for it.” He started to turn away. “In any case, we might as well start round two. This time I’ll try to not get caught by the first attack.”

    I watched as he made his way to his side of the mat once more. Huh. That... was a bit odd, but I guess it could have gone worse.

    “Alright, then.” Gallant’s voice surprised me, and I spared some attention for the eyes looking at the booth. Inside, the armored cape was standing at some sort of control panel, his finger depressing a button that I presumed activated a hidden speaker for him to speak through. “Second round,” he continued. “Hopefully this time I’ll get to start the countdown before the fight ends.”

    Aegis laughed. “Just press the damn button already,” he said, before turning back to me. “Once he presses it, there’ll be three beeps and then the signal to begin will sound. You ready?”

    I nodded. “Ready,” I said, before notifying my friends.

    First beep. The tension grew. All the eyes on me that could turned to look at my opponent.

    Second beep. I crouched slightly, ready to react when he makes a move.

    Third beep. Had I still been breathing, the anticipation might have made me hold my breath.

    “Begin.”

    Before I could begin to act Aegis had already covered half the distance between us. I flinched back, my arms raising reflexively to protect myself. Then I was stumbling backwards, a distant pain in my forearm telling me where my flesh had been crushed between his fist and the unyielding surface of my portal.

    My many eyes found my foe nearly instantly, focusing on where he hovered a few inches above the ground. I watched for any sign that he was about to attack again as I steadied myself. I would not be caught off guard that badly again.

    “You alright?” he asked.

    I paused. “What?”

    “I know we’ve more or less concluded that you’ve got a Brute rating, but I wanted to make sure I’m not hurting you too badly.”

    “Oh.” I glanced at the patch of discolored skin on my forearm. Hmm. I might have to cut that out and grow some new skin if that doesn’t heal quickly.

    Out loud I said, “It’s fine. Don’t worry about it.”

    “If you say so,” he replied, then zipped to the side as I sent more tentacles his way.

    The rust-colored cape narrowly dodged the next few grasping swipes I made at him before flying up towards the ceiling. “How good are you with those wings?” he called down to me.

    Not as good as I could be, I thought as I withdrew most of my tentacles, transferring some of their mass to the ones wrapped around me. Most went to the tendrils around my legs, which grew thicker and covered more of me. I crouched and then, in a sudden surge of motion, jumped, the tendrils’ strength flinging me into the air towards my opponent. My wings flared open and with each powerful, silent beat the distance between us grew smaller.

    Of course, the fact that I flew using wings and he didn’t meant he had much better maneuverability than I did. So when he zipped out of my way and let me sail on past him I wasn’t particularly surprised. I managed to slow myself enough to land on the wall I was headed for instead of crashing into it.

    As I clung shakily to the wall with the claws on my hands and wings I hastily made some adjustments to the tendrils wrapped around me. I redistributed mass to improve balance and made a few additions while I was at it. Tiny, round mouths inspired by the suction cups of squids and octopuses, were something I had come up with yesterday. Making a number of them at key points on me made holding on to the wall much easier, and could probably be used on Aegis as well.

    My attention turned to the rust-clad cape, who was floating nearby, either thinking about what he’d do next or waiting for me to make the next move. Might as well humor him, I though as I tensed, then launched myself in his direction.

    He obviously anticipated the attack, as he dodged out of my way much as he had before. He did not, however, anticipate the tentacles that slapped into his face and chest, then dragged him down with me.

    I dove, Aegis trailing behind me as we drew closer and closer to the ground. Then, right before impact, I pulled up sharply, allowing Aegis to slam heavily into the mat.

    I landed lightly on the ground as he staggered to his feet. He grabbed the tentacles attached to him and started pulling, straining until he managed to rip them off of him. I noted a few spots of blood forming on his cheek, probably where some of the suckers had held on a little too tightly. I ignored the taste of what had come off for the moment as he charged at me. This time I was ready for it, and his charge was halted by the large tentacle that slammed into his gut. He recovered fairly quickly, but I had enough time to coil the tentacle up tightly, then let it uncoil. It scythed through the air and slammed into his side and knocked him off his feet as he tumbled across the mat until he impacted the booth the other Wards were in. He slid down the booth’s window until he sat slumped at its base.

    I slowly approached, tentacles at the ready, then halted as he raised a hand. “Alright,” he said in a slightly pained voice. “You win. I think I’m gonna have to sit this out for a little while. Good fight.”

    I relaxed and said, “Alright. It was fun.” A pause, then, “I didn’t hurt you too badly, did I?”

    Aegis laughed and replied, “Don’t worry about it. I’ll be fine in a few minutes.” He started to rise, and I held out my big tentacle to help him up, which he grabbed.

    Once he was on his feet I withdrew my big tentacle and wrapped the others back around my arms. The booth’s door opened and the other Wards poured out. Gallant helped Aegis to a chair while the others approached me.

    “That was awesome, Starfield!” Vista exclaimed.

    “Well done,” said Clockblocker.

    “Thanks,” I said. “Actually, since Aegis is going to be down for a little while, could you guys help me out? I had an idea I want to test.”

    They paused and glanced at one another. Then Kid Win said, “Alright. What do you need?”

    .o.o.o.

    With a whisper to Aria two large tentacles extended from my face. A groove spiraled around nearly their entire length, from their tips to just outside their source. After giving Aria a murmur of thanks I calmly approached my foe, tentacles at the ready.

    “So what’s with the spirals?” asked Clockblocker.

    Instead of answering I uncoiled and struck. The tentacles split along their grooves like the elongated mouths they were, revealing dozens, no, hundreds of blade-like teeth. Smaller than a grain of rice, as long as my index finger, and every size in between, they gleamed in the light like razor-edged shards of ivory. Even as they uncoiled, these ribbons edged with teeth whipped forth. In the blink of an eye they bit into my target’s torso in the most literal sense, shearing clean through it.

    The clatter of the bisected practice dummy’s torso falling to the ground was the only sound to break the shocked silence that followed.

    The first person to speak was Clockblocker, who, in a somewhat shaky voice, said, “Well, I guess that answers my question.”

    “So where should I put this now that it’s damaged?” I asked as my ribbon tentacles began picking up the pieces. Before anyone could answer I heard one of the doors open and someone enter. A few of my eyes moved to observe this newcomer.

    “Alright, I’m finally here, dorks,” said a strikingly familiar voice as Shadow Stalker strode into the room. “What did I miss?”

    ~~~
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 30, 2014
  22. Biigoh

    Biigoh Tanuki Moderator

    Joined:
    Feb 19, 2013
    Messages:
    25,132
    Likes Received:
    81,141
    Dun dun dunnnn! :3
     
  23. Prince Charon

    Prince Charon Just zis guy, you know?

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2014
    Messages:
    7,275
    Likes Received:
    24,868
    Odd how cute Unintentionally Creepy Taylor is.

    Evil cliffhanger.
     
  24. Peanuckle

    Peanuckle Versed in the lewd.

    Joined:
    Jan 15, 2014
    Messages:
    1,680
    Likes Received:
    6,725
    Unintentionally Creepy Taylor is Best Taylor.

    I love the descriptions you put in. Taylor's shoggoth-armor needs to be her default combat equipment. If she does go Wards, the PR department is going to have a hell of a time marketing her.

    Shadow Stalker! What perfect timing for you to come in and ruin everything. She comes in to see a face-full of tentacles, and not in the porny way either. Should be funny.
     
  25. Threadmarks: Jaunt 2.5
    helnae

    helnae How delicious~

    Joined:
    Jan 15, 2014
    Messages:
    165
    Likes Received:
    2,007
    Jaunt 2.5


    Shadow Stalker was fairly easy to recognize for anyone who paid the slightest bit of attention to Brockton Bay’s cape scene. With a dark, hooded cloak, paired crossbows, and a mask shaped like the face of a stern woman, the image she presented differed quite a bit from her more brightly-clad fellow Wards.

    She seldom spoke in public, but that was no barrier to recognizing her voice. After all, I’d been exposed to it often enough by its owner, Sophia Hess, one of my main tormentors and the bitch that Emma had abandoned me for.

    No. No way. There’s no fucking way the fucking heroes would let a bitch like her join them. I... I must have misheard her.

    And yet, if I wasn’t wrong and Sophia really was a Ward, everything made a certain sick amount of sense. The way the school had never done anything no matter what I did or said; the way the teachers never so much as lifted a finger to help me, even when I was being tortured right in front of them; the way everything, even the locker, was so readily swept under the rug. It made sense, if they did it to protect their precious pet hero.

    Any doubts I had were quickly lost as she strode further into the gym. Someone far more charitable than I might have said she walked like a wannabe predator. I’d learned to spot when Sophia was walking like that quite quickly, as it always appeared when she had thought of a new torment to inflict upon me. And once I knew to look, I saw her body betray her identity in a hundred little ways.

    There was no denying it. Sophia was Shadow Stalker, and the school’s administration and the PRT, who should have protected me, had as good as given their blessing to all she had done to me.

    You!” The word, heavy with rage, tore itself from me as I spun around to face her. A fury greater than any I could have imagined before flared up within me, threatening to fill me to bursting.

    Everyone flinched in surprise at my sudden outburst, especially Gallant, but I hardly paid them any notice. Melody squawked in alarm and started saying something, though I wasn’t listening. All of my attention was focused on Sophia, who had stumbled back a few steps, cursing. “The fuck is your problem?” she shouted. “And the fuck is up with... your...” She trailed off, her eyes locked with where mine should have been.

    I could just kill her, I realized. It would be so easy. I’ve already got these new ribbon-saw tentacles out, and she’s well within my range. And to top it off, she’s doing that thing those other people did when they saw my face. All it’d take is one swipe, and she’d never bother me again! And then–

    Suddenly, something hit me in the side of my head, breaking my focussed gaze and disrupting my train of thought. A quick glance around showed me that the source of the projectile was the top half of the training dummy I’d bisected, held in a literally crushing grip by my tentacle. The glance also showed me that everyone had been startled anew, and that Sophia had been shocked out of her daze.

    I took the opportunity the surprise had provided to rein in my rage and contain it. I slowly unclenched the fists my hands had made, drawing claws out from where they had pierced in my palms. I still seethed inside, but if I did not restrain my fury it would just lead me to make more decisions as idiotic as trying to kill a Ward in front of all her teammates while inside the PRT building.

    I remembered, then, why I was going to be a hero, why I refused to just go Carrie on my tormentors. I was going to help people with the power I had gained and make Brockton Bay, and maybe even the whole world, a better place. And above all else, I was determined to be better than Sophia, Emma and the rest. Of course, none of this would be possible if I was thrown in prison or tossed into the Birdcage.

    There was, however, one decision I would not change or discard once the rage was no longer clouding my judgement. I would never join the team that had made Sophia Hess a hero.

    The broken dummy fell to the ground with a clatter as my bladed tentacles retracted. I began moving towards the exit.

    “Hold it.” A hand closed around my arm and I looked down at the stern face of Sophia’s mask. “The hell did you just do to me?” she demanded shakily. She seemed about to continue, but a wing slammed into her side, breaking her grip and sending her sprawling to the ground.

    “Don’t touch me,” I hissed, then continued to stalk out of the room.

    “Woah, wait! Starfield!” Aegis called out as my hand grabbed a doorknob. I paused briefly to let him speak. “Where are you going?”

    “Somewhere that isn’t here.” And with that I left.

    .o.o.o.

    I’d made it most of the way down the steel-clad corridor when the eyes on my back spotted Vista running after me. She was catching up to me fairly quickly, and I suspected she was making use of the space warping trick I’d seen her use earlier to close the distance. “Starfield, wait!” she called.

    I considered continuing on, but if I knew her at all, she would probably stay on my heels until I stopped and let her have her say. Besides, she’d been nice to me so far, and while I was still rather angry with the Wards team and the PRT as a whole I could probably make myself act civilly towards her. As carefully as I could make myself bother to, I paused and tightened my grip on my rage, then turned to face her as she came to a stop about a dozen feet from me.

    She took a few seconds to catch her breath, then asked, “What happened back there, Starfield? Why’d you leave so suddenly?”

    I sighed and said, “Basically? I refuse to join any team that bitch is on. And since I won’t be joining, there’s really no point in me staying.”

    Her expression grew a bit more distressed. “Gallant said he thought you were about to attack her.”

    “And I probably will, if I see her again any time soon,” I said darkly. “That’s probably another good reason for me to leave now.”

    A strangled laugh slipped out of her. “Yeah, I guess so,” she said, the distress giving way to resignation as she slumped forward a little.

    I began to turn away again, but I stopped and said, “Oh, yeah. I might as well return this.” I brought my hand up to my face and asked Aria to retrieve the item I wanted, absently noticing as Vista’s face grew distressed once again. It turned to relief when she saw that I had pulled out a cell phone.

    “Give this back to Miss Militia the next time you see her, okay?” I said, then tossed it to her. She fumbled a bit but managed to not let it fall.

    And with that, I left.

    .o.o.o.

    Somehow I managed to not encounter anyone as I walked from the elevator to the lobby. I suppose I should be grateful for that.

    I opened the doors to the lobby upon reaching them and stepped through. The crowd in the lobby was smaller than the one I had seen when I first arrived, though there were more civilians present than PRT employees this time. The path to the front doors was unimpeded, so I swiftly strode forth.

    People turned to look as I passed through. I heard a few shrieks and gasps, presumably from the more easily startled people present. Others might have been backing away or pulling out cell phones, but by then I wasn’t paying all that much attention to them. I soon reached the front doors and passed through them.

    Outside was dark, so dark that the street lamps were on despite it being not so long after noon. A glance skyward showed the cause of the midday gloom. The storm clouds that had hugged the horizon earlier had rolled in, dark and heavy with snow. They threatened to storm, and I had no intention of being caught out in it. I leaped into the air and began flying off towards home.

    .o.o.o.

    I stumbled slightly as I landed, falling to my knees on the frozen grass. The park I’d chosen was clearly in need of some attention. What foliage I could see was in need of a trim. The sidewalks were cracked, and the fences could use another coat of paint. Before me in a copse was a bench that bore the scars of extended exposure to the elements. The trees around it probably hid it most of the year, but with winter here in force it was in plain sight. Storm clouds grumbled overhead, something I felt a little grateful for. When combined with the park's state of disrepair, it meant I was alone, and I needed that right then.

    Yeah, I thought. I don’t need anyone getting concerned about the girl in the backless shirt walking around outside in the middle of fucking winter.

    Something about that was hilarious to me, and I couldn't stop the laugh that forced its way out. I kept laughing as I got to my feet and staggered over toward a tree, then planted my forehead against its trunk.

    Then the laugh cut into an incoherent shriek. Every single one of the mouths on me started screaming almost in unison as I attacked the tree with all of my strength. All of my eyes burned, their vision wavering, but I had already stopped trying to see anything anyway. I hit and clawed at the trunk, cracking and gouging the bark with every blow. The cacophony of my assault on the tree and my ongoing screaming grew louder as if each was trying to drown out the other as I struck over and over and over again.

    Sudden, violent cracking sounds the tree toppled away from me, landing with a crash on the battered bench. I stared dully at the wreckage with the only eyes I had not blinded by tears as I felt my rage drain away, leaving a great empty hollow in its place. My strength seemed to follow my rage and I fell to my knees, then slumped forward, planting my forehead on the stump I had made.

    “The fuck?” I asked nobody in particular as fresh tears welled up in my eyes. “This, this isn’t fair. Why...?” Something between a strangled laugh and a sob slipped free from me as I realized that the only eyes I had that could cry with were everywhere but on my face, and even then they weren’t mine to begin with. Then I stopped thinking and just cried.

    Taylor?

    I started at the unexpected voice. “Y-yeah?” I asked haltingly.

    Oh, good. You’re finally responding,” said Melody. “Are you... no, of course you are not doing alright.

    Um, Taylor?” Aria asked hesitantly. “Could you give control of my body out there back to me?

    I felt something pressing tenderly against most of the inside of my skin. I relinquished control of the tendrils wrapped around me, which rearranged themselves to provide a similarly tender pressure by embracing me. Melody’s wings and tail took the opportunity to gently wrap themselves around me as well. I sighed as I relaxed ever so slightly in their hugs.

    After a minute or so of rather nice hugging Melody spoke up. “So, ah, what exactly happened back there?

    I paused, thinking about what I could and couldn’t tell them. A grimace would probably have appeared on my face had I been wearing it. Finally I said, “Things happened, and we won’t be joining the Wards.” I winced internally once I had said it. It was pretty obvious that I was leaving out more than a few things.

    Oh, Taylor,” Melody said. “This has something to do with what occurred yesterday, does it not?” I stiffened at her words, and she sighed. “I thought so.

    How did... Oh. Right. I scrounged up a bit of reproachfulness and halfheartedly sent it her way.

    She chuckled. “I cannot exactly turn it off, you know,” she said.

    I seem to be missing something here,” said Aria.

    She is a mite miffed that I read her emotions to obtain an answer she might not have wanted to give,” Melody replied. Then her voice grew serious. “Taylor, I am sure you have worked this out by now but I will say it anyway: Aria and I both want you to be happy. You are our savior, and though we have only known one another for a relatively brief time you are our beloved friend.” She paused. “Normally sadness is tangy and yummy, but the sadness of friends and kin is as bitter as apathy. I told you before that we want to help you, so please, let us help.

    I felt a flash of irritation. “Didn’t I say that I don’t want to talk about it?”

    Yes, you did, and Aria and I backed off before because I thought you would warm up to the idea of asking for our help after a while. I felt that, even though it was clearly not a minor issue, we could take our time and focus on being your friends. But this?” I could almost see Melody shaking her head. “You were so full of anger that I was certain you were about to kill that girl right then and there. I may not have much experience with your world, but I do recall you telling us a number of times that killing people is wrong and unheroic. Anything that makes you almost violate that rule cannot be good. Add to this the fact that that girl and the person from yesterday had the same underlying flavor, and I find myself to be very concerned.

    The naked concern in her voice stifled the angry retort I had been forming before I could voice it. I sighed, feeling the irritation within me drain away to be replaced by guilt and shame. “I just... I didn’t want to make you worry about it, I guess,” I said. “And I didn’t want to burden our friendship with it.”

    Oh, Taylor,” Melody sighed. “I already worry.” She gave a wry chuckle. “But you should not worry so much yourself; nothing you bring to us will ever be a burden.

    Taylor?” One of Aria’s voices spoke from in front of me, and I looked down in mild surprise to find the source. I found that one of the tendrils she was hugging me with had drawn away from me a bit, the mouth near its tip the obvious source of her voice. As I watched, a large eye rolled over next to it and started gazing soulfully at me. “It hurts when you feel sad,” she continued, “and it hurts more when you won’t let us help. So, please?

    How the hell is she so expressive with just one eye? I thought. Just by looking at her I felt the hollow feeling within me lessen, even if only by a little. I laughed softly as I brought a hand up to pet the tendril. “Alright, alright,” I said. “You win. I’ll–”

    I cut myself off as something landed on my hand. I looked up to see the beginnings of snowfall. I twitched slightly as several flakes fell through my face.

    “I’ll tell you, alright?” I continued. “But we should start heading home before it really starts snowing. Oh, and could you pass me my hoodie?”

    ~~~
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 30, 2014
  26. Biigoh

    Biigoh Tanuki Moderator

    Joined:
    Feb 19, 2013
    Messages:
    25,132
    Likes Received:
    81,141
    Poor Taylor. So full of don't wanna trust you.
     
  27. Prince Charon

    Prince Charon Just zis guy, you know?

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2014
    Messages:
    7,275
    Likes Received:
    24,868
    I rather think Sophia isn't going to wiggle out of this. Her actually being punished in a way that Taylor is aware of might get Starfield to reconsider joining the wards... or not.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 30, 2014
  28. helnae

    helnae How delicious~

    Joined:
    Jan 15, 2014
    Messages:
    165
    Likes Received:
    2,007
    I've already posted this teaser on SB and SV, so most (if not all) of you have probably already seen this teaser. Buuuuut~, there's nothing stopping me from posting it here as well, is there?

    ~~~

    A sudden shout of surprise from Melody broke my concentration. “What’s wrong?” I asked, concern rising within me.

    Something is coming this way, fast!” she exclaimed.

    “What?” I stood quickly, knocking my chair over in my haste. “Where’s it coming from?”

    Aria cried, “It’s coming from our si–” Then she went quiet.

    Barely a moment later, before I could even react properly, snow surged forth from the holes in my skin. With shocking swiftness it poured forth to swirl and tumble and fill the room.

    Then all was silent.


    ~~~
     
    Trilonias likes this.
  29. megrisvernin

    megrisvernin Well worn.

    Joined:
    Sep 30, 2013
    Messages:
    9,610
    Likes Received:
    12,967
    Dun Dun Duuuuuuun
     
  30. Threadmarks: Jaunt 2.6
    helnae

    helnae How delicious~

    Joined:
    Jan 15, 2014
    Messages:
    165
    Likes Received:
    2,007
    Jaunt 2.6


    And you’re sure you don’t want me to eat them for you?” Aria asked for the umpteenth time.

    “Yes, Aria, I’m sure,” I said as I closed the door to my room behind me. Dad was still out at work, and with the the storm outside going on he would probably be rather late getting home. I had quite a lot of time to talk with my friends without having to worry about him catching me, though I would probably have to prepare my own dinner. And speaking of, well, speaking...

    I’d managed to tell my friends everything. At first I’d been rather hesitant about telling them such things out in public where anyone could overhear me, so I tried to hurry home. Then I remembered that whatever the language was that I used when speaking with Aria and Melody, it certainly wasn’t English. Besides, it was doubtful that any sensible person would go outside during a snowstorm. With my excuses for hesitating gone I found my self talking, haltingly at first, but it wasn’t long before I was telling them about the bullying, Emma, the locker, even... even my mom’s death. It was as if a dam had broken within me, releasing a deluge of words I doubt I could have stopped even if I tried.

    Of course, there were a number of things I said that my friends didn’t understand or lacked context for, but they held off on asking questions until I had finished. They were, understandably, rather angry with my tormentors, though I managed to convince them that murder wasn’t an option.

    It is unfortunate that we cannot solve this problem the simple way,” Melody sighed as I began to change out of my costume. “I do have a decent grasp on Sophia’s base flavor, so I could probably alert you if she approaches, but I cannot do the same for the other two or their followers without learning their flavors. I am sorry I cannot help you more.

    “Don’t worry about it, it’s fine,” I replied, laughing softly. “You girls are helping out plenty just being my friends.” A thought struck me. “Say, Melody...”

    Yes?

    “I forgot to mention this the other day, but I think I can taste emotions like you can when I’m using your wings and tail. The only problem is that I just get a jumble of flavors and I can’t tell what they all mean. Could you teach me?”

    Oh, Taylor, I would be happy to teach you,” she replied happily.

    “Thanks.” Heh. I guess that means we’ll be trading languages then, in a sense. I really need to figure out how I’m going to be teaching them.

    Something caught my eye as I was stripping off my jeans, making me pause. Long, livid bruise-like marks coiled around my legs like snakes, reaching from hip to ankle. They’re just like the patches of crushed skin on my forearm and knuckles, I thought. I guess they’re from when I used Aria’s tentacles to help me jump.

    I had discovered a limitation to my healing ability as I was walking home. Cuts in my skin could be sealed up in seconds as always, and missing skin could be regenerated, but for some reason the bruises refused to heal. The state of my legs and arm wasn’t too great a concern since people were expected to wear concealing clothes in the middle of January, but my knuckles presented a problem. Not only were they likely to be seen, the bruised skin that would not heal had also been split, revealing the starry void that lay beyond for all the world to see. I had to get rid of the bruises, and lucky for me the solution was fairly obvious.

    I finished getting changed and hiding my costume, then got out my knife and sat down at my desk. With a few quick slices my knuckles were laying in front of me. On a whim I rolled up my sleeve and cut out the bruise on my forearm as well. Then I focused on healing.

    A sudden shout of surprise from Melody broke my concentration. “What’s wrong?” I asked, concern rising within me.

    Something is coming this way, fast!” she exclaimed.

    “What?” I stood quickly, knocking my chair over in my haste. “Where’s it coming from?”

    Aria cried, “It’s coming from our si–” Then she went quiet.

    Barely a moment later, before I could even react properly, snow surged forth from the holes in my skin. With shocking swiftness it poured forth to swirl and tumble and fill the room.

    Then all was silent.

    .o.o.o.

    True silence does not exist anywhere in a city like Brockton Bay. Wind whistling between buildings, the low din of traffic, the waves breaking upon the beaches, even the sounds of your own body; all come together to form a background noise that banishes the silence. You grow accustomed to it and learn to ignore it, but it is always there.

    In the wake of the snow pouring from me, true, deafening silence filled the room.

    “Aria? Melody?” I called out; or rather, tried to call out. Even my own voice could not be heard over the deafening quiet. I felt a stab of worry for them for a moment before shoving it to the back of my mind. I can’t check on them unless I can talk to them, and since this snow is obviously the source of the silence I have to deal with it before I can talk. I just hope it’s a swarm of little creatures that I can control and not a creation of something that’s still on the other side.

    I laughed, the sound consumed by the silence. I guess there’s only one way to find out. I reached out with my power and–

    –soloudsoyummyoneinmanyClarity.

    The swirling snowflakes stilled as I solidified my control over them. No, I realized. Not them. It. Her. All of this snow is a single being.

    Through my connection to her flowed the din of the city, but instead of hearing it I tasted it. This creature wasn’t just nullifying all sound in this room; she was devouring it, guzzling it down like a man dying of thirst who has stumbled upon an oasis. And the sounds didn’t taste half bad.

    But enough was enough. I made the creature draw the rest of herself out of me then gather herself on the other side of the room. Once she had done so I found that even when her flakes were concentrated enough to completely block my view of the wall behind her she still took up over half the room.

    “Aria? Melody?” I called. “You two okay?”

    Yeah,” Aria replied. “Whatever that was didn’t seem to even spare us any notice, much less try to hurt us. It went straight for those holes you were healing up. What was that, anyway?

    “It looks like a bunch of snow, but it’s a single creature. And I think it’s a she,” I said. “She eats sound, which is why we couldn’t talk to each other earlier.”

    That is interesting,” Melody said. “She seems to be frightened and anxious at the way you are controlling her, but she is being distracted from that quite a bit by her joy at her new surroundings.

    I chuckled a bit. “I suppose that’s a good thing,” I said. “By the way, how did she get so close without you noticing?”

    She laughed sheepishly and said, “Well, we were rather focused on you, and there is never anything going on in the space behind us.

    “That’s alright,” I said, then turned my attention to my guest. “So what might you be? Do you have a name?”

    She stirred a little and made a noise that sounded like a mix of sounds from the storm outside, with a questioning tone towards the end.

    “So you don’t have a name then?”

    “Name?” she asked, except the voice she used was mine.

    I blinked, then said, “You know, a word used as an identifier?”

    She made a sound of comprehension. “Don’t have name,” she replied, again in my voice.

    “Do you want a name?”

    “Want!” she exclaimed.

    I suppose we are going to do this for every being that we encounter from this side,” Melody remarked, amusement in her voice.

    Aria joined me in giggling at that. “It looks to be that way,” she said.

    Alright now, what to name her... I’ve got a bit of a musical theme going with the names I’ve already thought up. Maybe something to do with silence, something like... “Rest,” I said. “How do you feel about the name Rest?”

    She hummed for a bit before making a happy burbling sound. “I suppose that means you like it,” I chuckled.

    “Like!” She confirmed, then laughed as well.

    ~~~
     
Loading...