Masks: A New Generation of Heroes

Game Master Cwethan

Playbooks
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Character Bible


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Female Altered Human

"I went through an experiment," Whippoorwill informs Alexis. It wasn't a great secret, so she freely tells him. "It was an underground power broker not too different from the programs that created Wingblade and you managed to escape. They made us to be weapons, but it's possible to escape and become heroes."

She gets a serious expression when she considers the safety of Shayera's apartment. "I think so. They've made their presence known, so they've lost the element of surprise. And let's not forget that this is Halcyon. They prefer to operate in a city where there isn't random powered beings around every corner."

She gets a faraway look over Alexis' shoulder. "They're playing a longer game."


[X] [X] [X] [X] [ ] Labels: Da: 1 Fr: 0 Sa: 0 Su: 3 Mu: -1 | Conditions: Insecure, Angry, Guilty
Influence:
PCs: Alexis, Shaun; NPCs: Odysseus

Cassie smiled as she let Bronwyn take the lead and followed eagerly as her friend began to pull her into a quicker, more complex dance. At first the two were hesitant - slightly out of step but as they moved arounf the dance floor she felt their movement synchronising. Taking Bron's hands in her own she let the other girl pull away and then pull her back in a spin towards and past her, pirouetting beneath Bron's raised arm and then pulling back as, for a moment they brushed against each other. Cassie could feel the energy of their dance shift and increase as they moved more quickly, their movements becoming more synchronous as they shared the dance's energy and fed off each other's movements, each minor shift of form or touch indicating the next step, the next twirl as the other dancers seemed to fade into the background, the rhythm became more urgent, more physical and it seemed there were only the two of them, sharing in the rhythmic dance of the bacchanalia...


Labels:
Danger +1 Freak +3 Savior +0 Superior +0 Mundane -1
Influence:
Wingblade, Bronwyn, Shaun (Rival), Alexandra (Love), Cassie, Kaoru
Conditions: Angry, Afraid, Guilty, Insecure | Potential 0/5 (4A)

Alexis could only nod, as he knew that the only reason that the Triakosia hadn't come for him yet was that those above them were plotting on other lines. That didn't mean that he could put his guard down. They could be working other angles to get him back into the fold.

"...Is there someone you would trust that I could...talk to, about my brain?" He asks quietly while spinning in time with the woman on the floor. He seemed to be getting the gist of how the motions needed to go, though he let her continue to lead. It felt better than being in charge.


Female Altered Human

Mercy's question snaps Whippoorwill's attention back to him. She definitely didn't want the Man in the White Coat getting his hooks in him. "You can come by Defender HQ tomorrow, have Matrix run some scans. Or, are you talking more like therapy? There's a counselor I can recommend you go talk to. She's worked with... others who have had similar experiences to yours."


Labels: Danger: -1 Freak: 0/3 Savior: 2 Superior: 1 Mundane: 3/1| Conditions: Insecure
Influence:
Influenced by: Thor Girl, Bioshock, Wingblade, Silver Shadow. Influences: Thor Girl, Bioshock, Wingblade, Kaoru, Mercy, The Kilt, Whipoorwill

She could smell peat-smoke and taste the sour tang of good, thick feast-wine at the back of her throat. The music faded into the back of her mind and was quickly overtaken by blasts of the carnyx and the piping of hand-carved flutes crying above the rattle and clangor of bells.

The thrill of a stolen dance flooded through Bran, undimmed by the knowledge that Creirwy's mother would not easily let them be wed. No matter. Some deed or quest will show the truth of my worthiness and our love. It was time. He would need a queen some day, when his Father gave over the rule of the Isle of the Mighty, and already his brothers Manawydan and Efnysien needled him for his courtship of a 'mysterious maiden.' Only Branwen knew the true name of his beloved, but even her smiles were growing tinged with exasperation.

He smiled down at Creirwy as they spun together. "Tomorrow," he promised in a rumble more easily felt than heard, "I will speak with your mother tomorrow. But tonight? Tonight is only for our lov-"

Bronwyn's eyes jerked open, and she let go of CreirwyCassie! with a spasm.

Eyes wide she started walking away, gaze sliding and bouncing off of Cassie as she headed for the coat check. "This was a bad idea. I've gotta- I need to get out of here. I- Sorry!"

***

Bronwyn's eyes were shadowed, her lips thin where she sat huddled in her blood red coat against the back of her unlit forge.

She started when the Daughter appeared, eyes fixing to the mask that hid her face, before she lifted her gaze as though she couldn't bear to look at it anymore.

"What happened? Why are you just getting here now?"


Influence:
I have influence on: Bran the Blessed, Mercy, Kilt
Conditions: none
Labels:
Danger +2, Freak +2, Savior 0, Superior +1, Mundane +1. Potential 4/5

"We're sorry," the Daughter says, actually sounding contrite. She moves through one pool of light to get closer to Bronwyn, smoothing out her dress. "We were given a job, and this was the only way we could do both. We don't move as fast without wings, so it took longer for us to get here."

She shrugs her shoulders, then they slump. "Sorry."


Labels:
Danger +1 Freak +3 Savior +0 Superior +0 Mundane -1
Influence:
Wingblade, Bronwyn, Shaun (Rival), Alexandra (Love), Cassie, Kaoru
Conditions: Angry, Afraid, Guilty, Insecure | Potential 0/5 (4A)

"...I don't know. I've never seen a counselor before." Why would he have needed one? When they had problems, they talked to each other. That's how you survived in the barracks. Your comrades were your bunkmates and the people you shared your fears with when you needed to do so.

And yet.

Alexis hadn't told any of them he was planning to run.

"I'd like to try it. And the other thing." He stopped, realizing that the song had ended a few moments ago. He glanced at Hex, noting that Bronwyn had run off somewhere. "...I'm going to go with Hex now. Let me know how to get to the Defenders," He requested, moving over to the young witch. He placed a hand gently against her elbow, looking at her.

"You want to go home now? This party hasn't been fun for me." He seemed to pout, and for a moment it was like his previous form was there in his mannerisms. "I'm ready for the weekend."


Influence:
I have influence on: Bran the Blessed, Mercy, Kilt
Conditions: none
Labels:
Danger +2, Freak +2, Savior 0, Superior +1, Mundane +1. Potential 4/5

The familiar slump of her shoulders hit Bronwyn like a fist to the gut. "Take off the mask." Her words were flat, emotions kept in tight rein.

The Daughter takes a step back. "But, then you won't be speaking to us," she says.

"You don't get to blow me off and pretend you're not. If there's something else more important, it's more important."

A hand reaches up towards the mask, but it pauses halfway. "It was him. He needed a package flown to Bayside. That's too far; we couldn't be back in time. We didn't want you to wait."

"If that's more important, it's more important. But you could've told me! I don't want a consolation prize here Shay- What do I even call the hivemind?"

The expressionless mask tilts in a sign of thought. "We are... us. The Daughters of the Tiger. We know this is not how you wanted to meet, but this keeps the secret from him. We thought you agreed?"

Bronwyn started pacing back and forth, "Okay, you're right. You couldn't call, you couldn't comm me... You should have just sent whoever this is to tell me. I don't want this. Shayera and I are in love. That's not something to share."

The Daughter looks down at her feet. "We don't share in that way. Those parts of our lives are our own."

Bronwyn's face twisted in revulsion, "I'm not talking about kissing or-- Don't you get it? You are where she should be. You're sharing me right now. This moment that should have been private, you're doing it right now."

She again reaches up and grasps the mask at its chin. "Do you want us to take off the masks?"

"Yes, let me talk to your sister."

There's the briefest moment where the hand touching the mask trembles, like it was struggling against an unseen force. Then the mask is pushed up, revealing Yin Ying's face. Her stance shifts as she takes the artifact off and tucks it under one arm. "Hello, Bronwyn." She holds up her hands to forestall any anger at her. "Xiu Ying's idea. Promise."

"I know." There's a drawn out moment of silence beween the two girls. "Let me ask, do you know what He is? What kind of person, I mean?"

Yin relaxes a little bit. She saunters over to an old spool and leans against it. "You mean our client? Xiu Ying's father?" She shrugs. "What about him? He's wealthy. He pays us well. Doesn't ask for too much and gives us good intel before a job."

Bronwyn nodded sadly. "What did you do before this? Before you were a Daughter?"

Yin Ying looks at the mask in her hands for a moment and runs her fingers along its ancient surface. When she looks up, she meets Bronwyn's eyes. "I was an orphan in Guangzhou. One of millions of unwanted daughters thanks to the 'one child' policy. My orphanage was too close to a research lab. It exploded one night. Everything went dark. But the darkness was different. It had... what's the word? 物質. Umm, substance? Like, it was thick. And all of us were lost in it.

"I was one of the lucky ones. I found my way out, into the light again. Some never did. Other girls who came out were turned to shadow. When the sun rose, they faded away. The rest, the government came and took them away. Except, I got away. I figured out what I could do. I could go into a shadow and come out of a different one. i stole for a living until I found out I could steal for others. The Daughters actually recruited me," she says, finishing with a look of pride.


Labels: Danger: -1 Freak: 0/3 Savior: 2 Superior: 1 Mundane: 3/1| Conditions: Insecure
Influence:
Influenced by: Thor Girl, Bioshock, Wingblade, Silver Shadow. Influences: Thor Girl, Bioshock, Wingblade, Kaoru, Mercy, The Kilt, Whipoorwill

"I'm sorry." Bronwyn's forehead creased in concern. "Believe me, I get how good it feels for others to see what makes you special, and for them to value the ways you excel. I'm sorry that was the the way it happened for you."

Empathize: 6 + 6 + 3 = 15

She stepped closer, hands down flat, poking out of her coat's sleeves. "If I told you that Shayera's- that your client saw her as a tool, something useful, but ultimately disposable if he needed to sacrifice her or trade her away, would you find that surprising?"

Yin taps the mask against her leg and looks down again. She rolls her shoulders slightly, a faint echo of the way Shayera does. She shakes her head, still staring at the mask. "That's the life of a mercenary. You never trust your clients." She looks away, then back at Bronwyn.

Her voice was gentle as she replied, "That's not how things are between me and Shayera though. Or between her and Whippoorwill. You've felt that, right?"

Yin Ying rises, not breaking eye contact with Bronwyn. She takes several steps closer until she's standing directly in front of her. She holds out the mask. "We've all felt that."

Bronwyn's heart thudded against her chest. As soon as she'd seen Shayera arrive to the Gala without a bag or anything big enough to hold the mask, a part of her had been certain that Shayera had gone back on her word, that she wasn't actually going to let Bronwyn see what spells had been wrought. When she'd sent a sister instead, it had clinched it.

"Are you... Can I hold it?"

Yin nods, offering the mask. "Yes. Here."

Bronwyn's hands trembled slightly as she touched the stylized tiger mask and opened her senses. The instant she did, however, her special Sight was seared by the intensity of the magic held in her hands. Like Gae-Dearg, the mask is a vessel of storied, ancient magic. But unlike the one-of-a-kind spear she carries, this artifact has community. Her mind strained, nearly ripped apart as she felt the powerful connection between it and its three sisters. She felt herself hurtling through the cold night air with familiar speed, and sensed the two unworn ones resting in lacquered wooden boxes. She felt her strength and stamina drawn off, traded, and shared between the masks. Not being attuned, she realized she could lose her gifts entirely! With a desperate push, Gae-Dearg flaring angrily at her wrist, she severed the connection and dropped the mask to the ground!

Unleash: 1 + 1 = 2


Influence:
I have influence on: Bran the Blessed, Mercy, Kilt
Conditions: none
Labels:
Danger +2, Freak +2, Savior 0, Superior +1, Mundane +1. Potential 4/5

Yin is staring wide-eyed at Bronwyn. "I thought you were going to just look at it!" She bends down and scoops it up, not appearing overly concerned about its well-being. She just dusts it off. "Americans."

"Yeah, me too."

Yin reaches out a hand to steady Bronwyn, though she's still not sure what had happened. "Are you okay?" She helps her over to the spool so she can sit down. While Bronwyn is recovering, Yin recalls something. "Oh, I'm supposed to let you know Xiu Ying'll be back in Halcyon in--" she pulls out her phone and checks the time -- "about four hours."

She was shakier than she wanted to admit, and gratefully took the hand. "Thanks. And... I know you know this, but I really wasn't mad at you for being here tonight; I know you were just helping her out, and... look. You know how your client thinks of you, just... make sure he doesn't hurt Shayera. Please."
(From Psyche): Gently she put her hand on Ying's arm, "And if you decide you want more in your life than masks and clients... Well, you've got my number, right? Anything I can do to help. Really."

Yin Ying stares at Bronwyn with a measure of disbelief on her face. She shakes her head slightly. "You think we'd let him hurt her? Like, what? If his next job was to do something against her, we'd do it?"

She stands up, brushing off Bronwyn's hand. "I think you're thinking you can help, but you don't understand. We don't need saving. Xiu Ying doesn't need saving."

Bronwyn shook her head, mouth twisting sadly. "I never said I could save you. Just that there's more out there if you want it. Shayera does need help though. He's not stupid, He wouldn't send you to attack her, but He's done things to her mind to force her to trust Him. You get how that's a knife at her throat, right?"

Yin Ying folds her arms while her mouth twists in distaste. "Is this where you make her choose between you and him? She worries very strongly about it, and it bleeds through. I'm very tired of it. What can we do?"


Female Altered Human

Whippoorwill gives Alexis a reassuring smile. "Defenders HQ is a major landmark. You'll find it. And I'll find out when the therapist can see you, let you know."

She watches him leave with Hex, then goes join her team before leaving as well.


Labels: Danger: -1 Freak: 0/3 Savior: 2 Superior: 1 Mundane: 3/1| Conditions: Insecure
Influence:
Influenced by: Thor Girl, Bioshock, Wingblade, Silver Shadow. Influences: Thor Girl, Bioshock, Wingblade, Kaoru, Mercy, The Kilt, Whipoorwill

Bronwyn set her jaw, her weakness forgotten as her eyes blazed. "I'm not making her choose. I'm not lying to her about what I've seen, or the monstrous callousness he's chosen to show me, but I'm not making her choose. He's using her as a shield against me; it's working. Fine. There's a lot of evil in the world, and a lot of people who need help in the meantime.

"But the only reason she doesn't see it is because he's tinkered with her brain; I knew her before he got his claws on her again, and his memory alterations aren't that subtle, but they run deep. I've seen her nearly tear herself apart whenever they're confronted by the truth. Honestly, I'm surprised that doesn't worry you too. He'd do the same thing to you all if he could. And I don't know how the masks work, maybe he can.

"What would it take for the Daughters to leave him?"


Influence:
I have influence on: Bran the Blessed, Mercy, Kilt
Conditions: none
Labels:
Danger +2, Freak +2, Savior 0, Superior +1, Mundane +1. Potential 4/5

"We deal with vicious men all the time. They're all over the world, not just here in Halcyon."

The shadow 'porter gives Bronwyn an uncomfortable look. "We could always go back to China. Honestly, I wouldn't mind going back, but we're not in agreement. Working for him makes us money, and gives us a reason to stay. Without him..." She leaves that statement hanging in the air.


Influence:
I have influence on: Bran the Blessed, Mercy, Kilt
Conditions: none
Labels:
Danger +2, Freak +2, Savior 0, Superior +1, Mundane +1. Potential 4/5

Outskirts of Bayside

The package delivery had gone smoothly, but Shayera's thoughts were anything but.

Her wings beat hard, pushing herself to her maximum speed to try to shorten the time Bronwyn would have to wait for her arrival at the scrapyard. Her idea to use the masks as a means to communicate with her while she flew her father's device to Bayside didn't go over well with her clandestine girlfriend. It didn't help that the merged consciousness didn't allow for Shayera's personality to dominate; instead it was a combination of both hers and Yin Ying's. It wasn't long before Bronwyn demanded that the connection be severed.

This left Shayera in a near panic, worried that their fake breakup would actually be a real one. Still, she couldn't bring herself to cut her father's errand short and turn around. She saw it through. She's a good daughter.

On her flight back, she'd texted Yin Ying to see if Bronwyn was going to wait on her (though couched in the fiction that she wanted to join her sisters in their clubbing activities). The coded text indicated that everyone was heading back home and she should as well.

Shayera didn't feel like slowing down, so she continued to streak back to Halcyon at her top speed. The cool night air cut into her body stocking and made her eyes water, but she didn't mind the discomfort and instead used it to drive her on. With her wings working on their own, her mind whirled around over the events of the Gala and the words of Mary-Beth.

Embee was right, Shayera concluded. She was being crazy. Bronwyn was going through so much, and she wasn't helping. Even when they had a nice moment together -- like their dance -- it ended up causing Bron pain because of their pretend breakup. It complicated everything. And more, if -- if -- her father was a villain, then she just delivered a package for a bad guy.

That thought haunted her on the flight back, her mind warring between insisting that she was a good daughter and that she was a bad girlfriend for not believing Bronwyn.

By the time she lands at her apartment, exhausted both physically and mentally, she had made a decision.

I'm going to have a talk with Dad.


Labels:
Danger +1 Freak +3 Savior +0 Superior +0 Mundane -1
Influence:
Wingblade, Bronwyn, Shaun (Rival), Alexandra (Love), Cassie, Kaoru
Conditions: Angry, Afraid, Guilty, Insecure | Potential 0/5 (4A)

The next day, Defenders HQ

Alexis sat in the office that he had been led to by a rather cheerful robotic assistant after he had filled out what seemed like twenty pages worth of survey questions. He'd been told that it would help Dr. Brighthop understand what he wanted to talk to her about. He had thought that this would have taken less than an hour, but it seemed like this was going to be linger than he expected.

He at least had the benefit of diversions here in her office while he waited. There was a low table filled with sand and a bunch of figurines you could set up them. So when Dr. Brighthop finally came in, he had already set up a classic battle where two triceratops led an army against several yellow construction trucks, terrain marked with elevation lines since he couldn't pile the sand up properly.

"Hi there, Alexis. It's nice to meet you. I'm Dr. Brighthop. I'm sorry that I kept you waiting." She looked over the scene that had been staged on the sand table, and Alexis wondered if she recognized it. But he didn't think that she would. He had come to understand his previous education was different from what he was taught in the new school.

Dr. Brighthop took a seat in a comfortable chair, gesturing for Alexis to do the same. "So I want to start us off by letting you know about how these sessions are going to work. Everything we talk about here is between us. You can give me permission to talk about what we discuss to your guardian if you want. Would you like that?"

Alexis thought about that for a moment, his eyes wandering and resting on a painting of a mountain stream, with elk sipping from the rocky bank. "That's okay."

"You're giving permission for me to talk to Whippoorwill about our sessions?"

Alexis blinked and nodded. He had said so, hadn't he?

"Alexis, I don't want there to be any misunderstandings between us. I'd appreciate it if you used yes or no when I ask important questions. But if you're unsure, I'll assume that you want to keep your privacy for now. Do you understand?"

Alexis started to nod again, before catching himself and replying properly. "Yes, ma'am. I understand. I want Whippoorwill to know what we talk about."

"Thank you, Alexis. Know that if there's anything that you don't want me to tell her, you can say so and I will keep it between us."

Alexis nodded but kept his eyes on the painting. He wondered if it had been done by memory or if the painter had been there when the elk came to drink. "I understand."

"I appreciate that. Whenever you feel like it, we can start talking about anything you want to discuss."

There was a very quiet minute as Alexis considered what he wanted to talk about. There was a lot. But he decided to go with what had happened yesterday. That was worth discussion, and he was certain it had happened.

"I didn't feel comfortable at the gala."

"I'm sorry to hear that. Can you describe what made you uncomfortable?"

"I thought that...I wish that I could have been there as a girl. But I went as a boy and it felt wrong." He squeezed his fists.

"Why do you feel it was wrong?" The doctor asked, pen in hand and writing on a yellow office pad. His focus moved to the motion of her jotting down notes.

"Because I'm not a girl anymore. She died and now I'm different."

"She died?"

"She burned and now I'm here." He struggled to find a way to make her understand. "When I die, I change. Sometimes a little, sometimes a lot. I am the same person, but also a different person."

"All right, I think I understand that. But you felt that you wanted to be a girl at the gala."

"Yes. But doing that meant I would have to die. Even I did, I might not be a girl. But I wanted...I wanted to wear something nice like Hex and Wingblade, and I wanted to dance with K- um, Machina."

"Why couldn't you dance with them as a boy, though?"

"Because he doesn't like boys. His friend came from before we met, and she's pretty and nice and he really likes her. And I didn't like her, because she was so close to him and I wanted to be that close." Alexis' voice breaks slightly. "I don't know what I really want anymore..."


Influence:
I have influence on: Bran the Blessed, Mercy, Kilt
Conditions: none
Labels:
Danger +2, Freak +2, Savior 0, Superior +1, Mundane +1. Potential 4/5

Saturday

Shayera wakes up uncharacteristically late, but her nighttime flight from Bayside and back had wiped her out. The sun is high behind an overcast sky by the time she drags herself out of bed. Famished, she starts preparing herself some breakfast.

She was just finishing up when a trio of figures in Chinese step out of the shadows beneath her stairs. <We have to talk,> they say in unison. Yin Ying, Shu Zi, and Yu Hiu all take off their masks, revealing scowling faces.

Xiu Ying holds up her hands. <Look, I'm sorry I used the masks' powers, but I didn't-->

<Not about that,> Yu Hiu interrupts.

Yin Ying takes a step forward. <I spoke with Bronwyn last night. At length.>

Xiu Ying swallows hard. She obviously knew they had, but something in Yin's tone has her stomach doing contortions.

<First rule of mercenary work: Do not trust your clients,> Yu Hiu says.

<Huh?> Xiu Ying starts in confusion, but then realization dawns. Of course Bronwyn would have tried to turn her sisters against her father. Light explodes behind her eyes and she balls her hands into fists. <He's my father! He's not-->

<He's a client,> Shu Zi says harshly. <Clients hire us, give us our tasks, and pay us. Were you paid for the job you did last night?>

<...No.>

The three girls step closer, leaning in. Even without their masks, they speak in unerring unison. <Who are you, Li Xiu Ying? Are you our sister? Are you a Daughter of the Tiger? Or are you the daughter of that one man?>

Xiu Ying sinks to the floor, stunned by the questions. <I--> She can't bring herself to answer.

The three girls pull their masks back over their faces. <We will be returning to China soon. You will be joining us.> Without waiting for a reply, they step back into the shadows and fade away.

======================

It was a long time before Shayera stirred from where she sat on the floor. Her mind was a mess of anxiety and worry as she felt everything coming apart at the seams. Through the storm of guilt and shock and doubt, she had one crystal clear thought. I need to talk to Bronwyn.

She suddenly remembers the events from last night and is on her feet. She drops into the chair before Abacus and pulls up her new social media profiles. J.P. Phat apparently knew what he was doing, because overnight Wingblade has a social media presence across seemingly all platforms. Apparently she was trending. She takes a few moments to throw up some posts on the major sites based on recommendations from her new publicist -- mainly greetings, shout-outs, and compliments on the gala.

With that out of the way, Shayera skims through her followers until she finds what she was looking for: the photos of her outside the museum at the Gala. She soon finds the shots of the man with the scar over his eye in the background of the selfies and other pix in which she was tagged. Blowing up the best images, she sets Abacus' forensic algorithms and facial recognition software to work IDing the man.

She also sends a still of just the man's face to Bronwyn. She thinks a bit more, and makes sure that Kaoru and Alexandra are included in the text message.

李秀英: Hey all! Our big buddy was asking about this guy last night. Do U want to meet today?


Danger -2 | Freak +3 | Savior +1 | Superior +3 | Mundane 0
Influence:
Influence on: Alexandra, Alexis, Bronwyn | Influenced by: Alexandra, Bronwyn
Conditions: Angry, Insecure | Potential: 1/5 | Team: 2

It had taken a little bit of persuasion and a promise from Chloe to stop her teasing to get Kaoru to come out from under his pillow. It probably would have gone quicker if Chloe hadn't immediately broken her promise, causing Kaoru to retreat again and restarting the entire process. But eventually she was once again draped over the left side of his body, head resting on his chest. "So, the Alexis we met in the clothing store, that's the same Alexis that asked you out, isn't it."

"I got asked out by a girl Alexis."

"He told me he used to be a girl when we danced."

"You danced with him?"

"That what one does at fancy galas: try to dance with as many people as possible. I think I managed to tag everybody on your team. Plus a lot of other people, of course. But you're avoiding my question. I'm right, aren't I."

Kaoru was quiet for a moment. There wasn't really a point in hiding it. "Yeah, that was him. But that was before. As I said, he was a girl. He doesn't like me like that anymore."

"Are you sure about that?"

"Of course! He's a guy. And as far as he knows, I'm a guy. Plus it's not like he's made any moves on me since he turned."

"I dunno...he was definitely acting like he still has a thing for you. When he came up to dance with me, he said something about not liking me and wanting to bury the hatchet, more or less."

Kaoru felt flames of anger lick at his chest. "And did he apologize for knocking you over -- knocking us over -- during this dancing heart-to-heart the two of you had?"

"No...but that's ok! Really! Neither of us were hurt."

Her words did nothing to ease the tightness in his chest. He held her a little closer, a fierce feeling of protectiveness invisibly wrapping itself around her, as if that would somehow protect her from the dangers of the world. "He's got fking super strength. He needs to learn how to control that before he kills someone. Not everybody has the freakish ability to heal from all wounds like he does. What the hell is wrong with him. Maybe-"

Chloe cut him off. "Kay, I'm fine. Really. He didn't mean any harm by it."

" 'I didn't mean no harm, George. Honest I didn't.' "

She was silent a moment before lightly nudging him. "Don't be morbid, Kay. I doubt he's that bad. He just still thinks we used to date. So it makes sense that he wouldn't like me."

"Oh, so you're just saying he's dumb and can't control his emotional outbursts. That soooo different."

"I didn't say he was dumb!" Chloe sat up to glare at Kaoru.

"Well he is. You tell him something simple in small words, and he still doesn't get it. An inability to learn is basically the definition of stupidity." He let out a humorless bark of laughter. "You know, he even brought me a rabbit." Chloe continued to frown at him. He met her gaze unflinchingly. He was damned if he was going to let someone get away with treating her like that. The fact that she was willing to forgive and turn the other cheek just meant he had to try even harder to look out for her. He slowly sat up. He voice was quiet but held an edge to it. "You did nothing wrong. He doesn't get to treat you like that just because he's some emotionally stunted jackass. It'd be bad enough if he was just some regular guy, but his super powers make it a million times worse." He ground his teeth slightly. There was more he wanted to say but he couldn't quite find the right words.

Chloe's blue eyes registered surprise briefly. Then something else. She shook her head and the look was gone. "Anyway, it's pretty late. We should probably actually get some sleep." She leaned over to turn off the light, tugging Kaoru down and positioning them, so that he had his arms wrapped around her from behind.

He tried to quell the anger in his heart enough to fall asleep. The feeling of Chloe warm and safe next to him helped. If he thought about it, he had enjoyed most of the evening. He had also spent most of the evening playing games rather than with his 'team'. In fact, arguably the worst moments of the night had occurred with them. He sighed softly, shaking his head of those thoughts. Only two more weeks and I can wash my hands of all of them. ...well, *most* of them anyway. With that thought in mind, he drifted off.

Grow away from the team. Alexis loses influence.


Labels:
Danger +1 Freak +3 Savior +0 Superior +0 Mundane -1
Influence:
Wingblade, Bronwyn, Shaun (Rival), Alexandra (Love), Cassie, Kaoru
Conditions: Angry, Afraid, Guilty, Insecure | Potential 0/5 (4A)

"Alexis, if it's all right, I'd like to talk to you about an incident that Whippoorwill told me about from last night. Is that okay?"

"I think so."

"What can you tell me about it?"

"This woman from a charity was angry because I broke something that was worth a lot of money. She wanted me to apologize to the people who were going to benefit from selling it. She wanted me to pay for it. But I don't have money. So I did my best to apologize."

"What did you break?"

"A chair. A folding chair. Only it wasn't just a folding chair. I don't know why it was there. It was apparently really valuable but just lying around."

"That's unfortunate. You must have had a reason for breaking it, though."

"I was trying to cheer up my friend, Hex. She'd just left the ballroom because another hero was being mean to her. I thought that we could break things people wouldn't care about for fun."

"Did it work?"

"...No. I don't know. Another hero had been lecturing me about me becoming a villain if I kept making threats. I was angry at him then. So I wanted to break things for myself."

"So then, did you break the chair to cheer Hex up, or to cheer yourself up?"

"...I think both? I'm not sure anymore."

"It's okay if you don't remember all the details. Emotions can be complicated."

"Anger isn't complicated. If I feel angry, I break something. Or I let it out when I need it. There are acceptable targets."

"...do you want to elaborate on that?"

"Fighting bad guys. Or hitting punching bags, or trees, or things which no one will mind if it's broken."

"Who are the bad guys?"

"...They're...you know. The people that commit crimes or hurt other people."

"People who destroy things that are precious to others?"

"..."

"I understand that it can be hard to not use violence. It's easy to use, and you've been trained to use it. But it's important that you understand that it's also very easy when using violence to be seen as the bad guy by others. But I don't think that you're a bad person, Alexis. We just have to help you find other ways."

***

Saturday Afternoon

Alexis' head was still buzzing from unanswered questions. He liked Dr. Brighthop, even though she made him think about stuff that he didn't want to think about. Asking himself about why he was the way he was and what parts needed additional tools to help him function.

He was also glad that despite the long session, she never asked him about his life with the Triakosia. He wasn't ready to talk about that. Certain things were making a little bit of sense for him though. He was looking forward to trying some of the tools he'd been given.

Grow Into his own image of himself. Lower Danger, raise Mundane.


Labels: Danger: 0 Freak: 1 Savior: -2 Superior: 2 Mundane: 3 | Condition(s):None|Potential 0/5
Influence:
no-one

Alexandra is woken earlier than she would have liked by her family. She hadn't even made it to her room before the exhaustion, emotion, and/or whiskey knocked her unconscious, in the living room.

Have fun at the Gala? Gillian says Oh dear lord, did your little boyfriend realize you had-

I told him.

Did you get dumber when I wasn't looking? 'Cause there's bad ideas, and then there's "Tell your boyfriend you catfished his ex and his best friend"

Alexandra flips her off before turning her phone on before replying. Friend actually came around. figured out it was me. was gonna BS my way out, but it didn't work out that way she says

Could have threatened her. She lives in a small town, start some rumours.

Not viable in the moment. and... I shouldn't do s&!+ like that. Neither should you.

God, Xan, don't you go white hat on me.

Aexandra shakes her head as she turns back to her texts. a few new messages, since she sent her last one.

< I don't really have any plans, so I'm free pretty much whenever.

>Sure. Let me sober up. Your place or Monument?


Danger -2 | Freak +3 | Savior +1 | Superior +3 | Mundane 0
Influence:
Influence on: Alexandra, Alexis, Bronwyn | Influenced by: Alexandra, Bronwyn
Conditions: Angry, Insecure | Potential: 1/5 | Team: 2

Kaoru woke up at his usual early hour. With his free hand he grabbed his phone. Still no messages. That didn't really surprise him given the time; even Chloe was still asleep, and he was pretty sure she hadn't been drinking. It did nothing to ease the pit of anxiety though. He needed some way to take his mind off of things. Which seemed difficult given that a certain redhead was currently using him as a pillow. Not an entirely unusual experience, though since moving to Halcyon it had only really been Shadow who had done that.

Where *is* Shadow? He craned his neck up as far as he could without disturbing his bedmate. A quick glance around revealed the cat was sitting on his pillow by the window, glaring at him. He snapped his fingers, hoping to lure the cat closer, so he could pet him. Shadow, however, was clearly displeased that an interloper had usurped his position and expressed it by simply standing, turning in place a few times, and then laying down again with his back to Kaoru. That meant kitty cuddles were out of the picture

Kaoru let out a quick huff of air. He did have that projector at the head of the bed. And if he recalled, his one-handed chording keyboard should be next to it. Carefully he reached up and behind, feeling around until he was able to flip the on switch and grab the input device. He could distract himself with some coding. The only real question was what to write.

Well, he supposed there was probably one thing he should do. Once the projector was warmed up and displaying a computer screen on the ceiling where he could see it, he quickly logged into his compromised server, composing a quick message before encoding it. Still easily breakable, but short enough to require brute-forcing. Or...ok, so brute forcing isn't even required since they already have the key. But I suppose if someone *else* were to look at it, it would require brute forcing. He left the text in a simple README file before logging out from the remote server.

fbgtkdpldhkweyzsxhgtyfalbrgkwhffbsclxymesbgfhrggyzhyq(>sdynh||>scnnxh )mbfg hxeh ldhkw

His desire to keep it short meant it was vaguer than he would have liked. But he supposed if they weren't smart enough to figure out his meaning, it didn't matter anyway.

That done, he worked on a few ideas for useful tools and comms improvements until Chloe woke up. His friend was then able to distract him until Alexandra finally responded. He almost immediately shot back > Monument followed by some coordinates for a specific location he had picked out while sifting through some of the data from his recording devices in the area. He then quickly began gathering his things.

Chloe snorted. "Just like that, you're ditching me?"

He froze. He hadn't really thought about that. He gave her a deer-in-headlights look for a few more seconds before she finally showed mercy and smiled.

"Just kidding. I can check out some of the cafes and stores along the border of the park while you have your srs bzns talk." She stood up, putting her hands on Kaoru's shoulders. "Just remember, be empathetic and put yourself in her shoes, but still stand up for yourself and what you want. Regardless of what happens, you will still have other people who love and support you and want you to be happy." She smirked at him. "And if you do break up, we could always date." She leaned in to place a quick kiss just slightly to the side of his mouth before moving to gather her own things, leaving a surprised Kaoru to blink a couple of times in confusion before shaking it off.

*****

The spot Kaoru had picked was in a part of the park not often used. While he was hardly the only visitor, there definitely weren't the crowds of people lounging about that might be found in other, more popular areas. There was an old fountain nearby: a monument to a hero apparently not important enough for the maintenance crew to keep track of, making the statue at its center unrecognizable. Moss and other vegetation had taken firm root, starting to push the stone slabs apart, and it was surprising that water even managed to spurt up and out of their designated fixtures anymore.

What wasn't a surprise was Kaoru's chosen location. He was sitting on a blanket he had set out underneath a tall oak tree, backpack next to him. He alternated between gazing up at it and looking around for any sign of Alexandra approaching.


Labels: Danger: -1 Freak: 0/3 Savior: 2 Superior: 1 Mundane: 3/1| Conditions: Insecure
Influence:
Influenced by: Thor Girl, Bioshock, Wingblade, Silver Shadow. Influences: Thor Girl, Bioshock, Wingblade, Kaoru, Mercy, The Kilt, Whipoorwill

Her run home hadn't gone well.

Even with her strength and stamina at low ebb, it would have just been a long run, not an impossible one, but in heels and a nice dress that really wasn't hemmed for it... And after as long as she'd been waiting at her forge while Shayera put together some half-baked attempt at a substitute girlf- Okay, okay. Okay. She knows how much you hated that. She gets it. Or she'll get it at least. Breaaaathe it out...

Still, she'd been waiting long enough that there wouldn't be another bus heading this direction for an hour and a half, and even if she'd been able to get back in her closet to get the dress and everything... her card was still cancelled. No Lyfts for me...

Shoes dangling from one hand she scrolled through her phone with the other. MB's totally asleep by now... Who else even has a car and would be up this late? Huh. Well she was the one complaining I didn't call her...

***

A surprisingly short time later, a glowering Gabriela pulled up in the hybrid sedan their parents had traded up from a few years ago

"Why so crabby, Gabby?"

"Oh shut up and get in the car. You are maybe forgiven if you need the ride to get to somewhere worth that outfit." Gabby looked at Bronwyn's dress and down at her PJs then glowered again. "Nevermind. No forgiveness."

"No, it's the end of the night for me. Just looking to get back to a bed. And hey, sue me for figuring you'd be out tearing it up or whatever. I was just hoping you'd be good to drive."

"Don't give me that crap, miss all-dolled-up and dropped off in the middle of Rustside for whatever boy- or umm. Whatever. Actually, wait, yeah, what the hell are you doing all the way out here? And why didn't you just call Anna if you were so worried about me being wasted?"

"Umm... I kinda thought you'd ask fewer questions? Anna's basically a mini-mom - I didn't want some lecture from her about being out late."

Gabby laughed, "Not her fault Lucas and Camila are basically your age."

"As if! They're still in junior high! I'm thinking about colleges and-"

"Yeah but you've been thinking about colleges and stuff since you still had baby-teeth."

"Still. We are not the same age."

"Sure thing Bronnie."

Bronwyn glared

"Whatever this was... you are being safe right? Like, your ex's archnemesis or whatever didn't kidnap you? Or... Oh S%#%! Were you at the Gala?"

"Umm..."

"You totally were! Ohmygod you b$@$+ how did you even get a ticket?! I need to see pictures and- Wait, are you back together with Wingblade then?"

"No, but... it's complicated."

"Ah, complicated. Sooo you guys made out in a bathroom?"

"No!"

"Danced up on some other cutie to make her jealous?"

"No! I wasn't trying to-"

"Sure suuuuuure. You weren't trying. Did it work though?"

"...I don't know what you're talking about."

Gabby rolled her eyes, but Bronwyn's gaze just got firmer.

"Gabby, seriously. Complicated really does mean complicated. Like, supervillains and crazy cults and- Why are we at Mom and Papá's house?!"

"You said to take you home!"
"Well I meant Mary-Beth's! What, did you think you fixed everything with a single awkward closet raid?"

"See Bronwyn, this is why things are 'complicated' for you with Shamalama, you never bend on anything. Sure mom and dad are being a@%@!#!s. Get over it! How is this helping and- Could you look at me while we're talking?"

Bronwyn held up her hand to shush Gabby. "Did you see that? I think someone's in the sideyard."

Can't be any of the Daughters... they'd know I'm not here. Probably Him too...

A sickening shiver ran through her. Scythe?

She'd opened the car door before she realized what she was doing, staying low as she crept towards the sideyard. What a great time not to have my strength...

Bronwyn? Bronwyn?! Oh the hell with this!

**HONK HONK**

The flash of Gabby's brights seared through the sideyard, only Bronwyn's giant-sized silhouette still remaining in shadow.

"Hey a&+&$&$! Get the hell out of here, I already called the cops!"

**HONK HONK**

Bronwyn whipped her head around, furious, and then almost immediately dazzled by Gabby's plan, but by the time she was done blinking the spots out of her eyes... They were gone.

But there were two of them...


Influence:
I have influence on: Bran the Blessed, Mercy, Kilt
Conditions: none
Labels:
Danger +2, Freak +2, Savior 0, Superior +1, Mundane +1. Potential 4/5

By the time the texts were sent, Abacus had a result. Shayera sets her handheld aside and scrolls through the information displayed on the screen.

"Let's see what we've got. Dane Giras, ex-Coast Guard. Dishonorable discharge. Has a record. Ooh, multiple counts of assault, drug possession, and DV. Pled down to misdemeanors. Huh. Henched for Wrecking Ball until Haden put him away."

Shayera gasps as his non-conviction arrest history comes up. "Arrested for B&E at the Halcyon Museum of History. That date--!" She cross-references it to be sure, but the date of his arrest at the museum coincides with the first appearance of one Bran the Blessed.

Balor... Shayera mulls, as she pulls up Giras' last reported address and known associates.

She grabs up her handheld and is about to send another text, but she pauses. No one had responded to her earlier text yet. Though to be fair, she only sent it a few minutes ago. All right; I'll give them a few minutes.

She starts pacing around her apartment, wings twitching. It's just one lone henchman. I don't need the whole team for this, she debates. And it's not like he'll be at his home. I can just do some preliminary work while I wait for the rest of them to finish whatever it is that they're doing. That's just being efficient.

Decision made, Wingblade suits up, puts on her domino mask, and pockets her Abacus handheld before diving off her balcony and heads toward Switchbank at her best speed.

=============================

Wingblade circles over the row of seedy apartments, looking for the car she had spotted Dane driving last night. Not seeing it, she drops from the sky near the apartment building where Giras had last told his probation officer he was living. She heads to the door and knocks several times.

A woman who looks way too old for her true age opens the door a crack and peers out. Wingblade catches the lingering scent of several narcotics as soon as the door opens, but only says, "Hi. I'm looking for Dane Giras."

"He ain't here," the woman says, and tries to shut the door.

Wingblade is ready, and puts a few bladed pinfeathers into the gap before the door shuts all the way. "Yeah, I know that. That's why I said I'm looking for him. Where is he?"

The woman struggles with the door for a few moments. She gives up and lets the door open a bit wider. "I don't know where he is. So you'll just--"

Wingblade cuts her off. "Look, lady, I-- Wait. You're Cathy Hooper, right? Don't you have a restraining order against him? What are you doing in his place?"

Cathy takes a step back and looks defensive. "We made up. I don't need that no more."

Wingblade shakes her head. "It's still on file with Halcyon PD. And you don't get to decide. A judge has to lift that. You living here, with him, that puts him in trouble. But I'm not looking for him for that. Where is he now?"

Scowling, Cathy folds her arms and shakes her head. "I said, he ain't here. He hasn't been here for the last week or so."

"Then where has he been staying?"

Cathy shrugs. "It ain't here, that's all I know."

Wingblade narrows her eyes. "Has he been henching for anyone?"

The woman recoils, shaking her head vigorously. "No! He don't do that no more."

"Then how'd he get that scar? That's a henchman's mark for a new player in town."

Cathy grows white. "He told me Jimmy Canyon gave that to him after he caught him cheating at pool!"

Wingblade rolls her eyes. "Riiight." Feeling the interview was about over, she sniffs one more time. "All right; thank you for your cooperation. I doubt Dane will be coming home soon, but in case he does, I'd make sure the gentleman you've got with you is gone."


Influence:
I have influence on: Bran the Blessed, Mercy, Kilt
Conditions: none
Labels:
Danger +2, Freak +2, Savior 0, Superior +1, Mundane +1. Potential 4/5

Strike one, Wingblade tallies as she flies away from Switchbank and banks towards Gammatown. Jimmy Canyon had been on Dane's list of known associates, and Cathy Hooper's mention of his name in put him first on the list for her to check out.

Canyon was out on bond for an arson charge and better yet, on a GPS ankle bracelet, so Abacus was able to bring up his exact coordinates. His signal was coming from a pool hall in Gammatown, so Wingblade dropped in.

The interior was dingy and stank of booze, cigarettes and worse. Wingblade's eyes adjust quickly to the dim lighting, aided by the features of her domino mask, and the HUD spots Jimmy after a quick scan of the patrons.

Wingblade's presence in the pool hall gets everyone's attention, and the regular sounds of billiards crashing into each other immediately cease. Her bladed wings twitch as she strides through the hall ignoring the glares and inwardly smiling at the acrid scent of fear rising off some of the patrons.

She walks straight up to Jimmy. "Hi. I'm Wingblade. I'm looking for Dane Giras. Word is, you've seen him lately."

Jimmy has one of those faces set in a perpetual scowl. It doesn't lessen as he looks down at the young girl with the bladed wings. "I don't know anyone named Dan Gear-ass." A few in the hall chuckle.

Wingblade sighs, then turns to look at the frosted over window at the front of the pool hall. "That's not who I asked about, and you know it. We can step outside if you like. Or I can throw you out of that nice window. What would you like it to be? More to the point, what would this place's owner like it to be?"

She glances over at the man behind the bar. The burly, bearded man gives her a hostile glare, then points toward the back exit. "Go on and take your business outside."

Wingblade smiles sweetly. "With pleasure. Come on."

Jimmy goes where directed, but mutters, "You wouldn't talk so tough if you weren't Whippoorwill's little b!!&#."

Shayera sneers, "Oh, I talk tough because I have metal wings and come back after I die. So, why don't you quit your posturing and tell me where Dane Giras is?"

"I don't know."

"Not good enough. You know him, and what's more, he's been saying that you gave him that scar. You two henching for the same guy? Big nasty fellow? Stinks like rot and has a third eye?"

Jimmy throws up his hands. "Hell no! What? He said that? No, he came to me, saying that he got a new gig. Someone who could give him real powers. Had a fresh scar over his eye, like real nasty. So I'm like, pass. No way."

Wingblade folds her arms, sensing that he was telling the truth. "All right. Did he give you a way to get in touch with him? In case you changed your mind?"

Jimmy suddenly gets cagey, looking for an exit. Wingblade disabuses him of that, her wings flaring out. "You can't outrun a flier. Don't think about it. Talk. How would you get in touch with him?"

Jimmy sighs. "Fine. Look, you gotta understand, he's not a bad guy, all right? He missed his chance to get super powers with the Coast Guard, and it messed him up pretty bad."

Shayera frowns. Coast Guard giving out powers? I wonder what that's about? Eh, something for later. "Okay, but this big bad he's joined up with? Real bad news. He rots people from the inside out. Chances are, whatever powers he might get from this guy is going to kill him in the long run. Or, more likely, short run. Where can I find him?"

After a long pause, Jimmy finally relents. "Skylark Florist and Greenhouse. On the East Side. I don't know. I thought that rotting smell was, like, compost or something."

"Thanks," Wingblade says earnestly. "I'll do what I can to get him away from that cult."

Wingblade takes off from the back alley and pushes herself into the sky. She pulls out her Abacus device and checks for messages from her teammates.


Danger -2 | Freak +3 | Savior +1 | Superior +3 | Mundane 0
Influence:
Influence on: Alexandra, Alexis, Bronwyn | Influenced by: Alexandra, Bronwyn
Conditions: Angry, Insecure | Potential: 1/5 | Team: 2

Forgot to post this earlier to follow up on the ripple effects of that Empathize miss

Alexandra and I guess Mary-Beth:
On Saturday morning, as was to be expected, the Heroes Gala had an article in about every major newspaper and several of the minor ones. In particular, a number of the papers, admittedly the more sensationalist ones, have taken quite an interest in both the altercation between Bran and an unknown man and Odysseus' subsequent calling out of the giant and the unusual happenings involving some unknown, for lack of a better word, illness and the newer addition to the heroing scene: Hex.

For now the more reputable papers seem to be trying to stick just to what people witnesses and potential hypotheses about what was going on with promises for followup, likely after they've had some time to do proper research. Papers less concerned with backing their stories with evidence, however, have very clearly started picking sides. The pro-Bran side seems to be leaning heavily on his past deeds, with a strong emphasis on how he helped save Whippoorwill at the aquarium. The anti-Bran side, on the other hand, compare Bran's record to that of Odysseus, pointing out the much larger impact the statue has done in a much shorter time. They ask why Bran seems to be so much less present in the heroing community than his accuser. What is he spending his time doing? Why have all his adventures recently seem to come with a great deal of collateral damage? And why, when he was called out by Odysseus, did he fail to speak a single word in his own defense unless the accusations were true?

While the articles themselves at least have managed to remain civil, the comments section of the online articles are anything but. While Bran has a strong following in the cape-watcher community, their words of support are undermined slightly by a small group of very vocal Bran-fanatics, who seem intent upon yelling down anyone who would dare even think of questioning the will of such a divine spirit. The haters, meanwhile, keep demanding the Bran supporters to explain why a "hero" would attack some random man at a social function, many suggesting that his newest team with their penchant for carelessness is a negative influence on him.

Not sure either Alexandra or MB would have read this, but just in case.
There also seems to be an article in the Inquiring Minds (Think Halcyon's equivalent of those real life magazines that have articles like, "Elvis Living with Molemen!" or "Woman Pregnant with Alien Baby! Pictures on Page 7") that states in no uncertain terms that the argument witnessed between Bran and Odysseus was, in fact, a lover's quarrel over a young, dark haired witch. Witnesses confirm that shortly before the altercation, the woman in question was seen casting a love spell over the statue. The woman was, in fact, Penelope, the original wife of Odysseus, hoping to rekindle the flame she thought had died millennia ago upon the death of Odysseus' human body. Little did she know that other witches, wishing to harness Odysseus' tactical genius for themselves, bound his spirit to a stone effigy of him, where he remained trapped until the Battle of the Bones (which, dear readers, you will of course remember was when there was an event scheduling conflict between a group of zombie Civil War re-enacters and a those who had come to perform in a Rocky-Horror-esque movie screening of Land Before Time) accidentally set him free. At which point, Bran, realizing that Odysseus posed a threat to the relationship he had started with Penelope, knocked the statue's head off, giving him a concussion and causing him to lose all memory he had of his original life with Penelope. Penelope, however, quickly heard of Odysseus' heroics and snuck into the Hero's Gala to undo the damage her former-lover had done, leading to all out knock down brawl witnessed by so many.


Labels: Danger: 0 Freak: 1 Savior: -2 Superior: 2 Mundane: 3 | Condition(s):None|Potential 0/5
Influence:
no-one

Alexandra approaches, her eyes downcast. she wears a dress today, No place to conceal anything, not practical. Goes against the power's will. Maybe I can shut it up temporarily. She thought as she chose it. it had been a gift from her maternal grandmom, who never really understood Her or Gill's styles.

She takes a seat beside Kay before she speaks, wishing she had something to do with her hands. I was kinda surprised you returned my text. she says


Danger -2 | Freak +3 | Savior +1 | Superior +3 | Mundane 0
Influence:
Influence on: Alexandra, Alexis, Bronwyn | Influenced by: Alexandra, Bronwyn
Conditions: Angry, Insecure | Potential: 1/5 | Team: 2

Catching movement out of the corner of his eye, Kaoru turned his head away from the leafy canopy and watched as Alexandra approached. She was dressed differently, though he couldn't quite place in what respect. True, the only other time he had seen her in a dress had been the night before, but it wasn't just that. He remained silent, simply watching as she closed the distance between them and took a seat on the blanket he had laid out.

He remained facing forward as she started to talk. Now was not a good time to lose himself in her eyes. He gave a half shrug at her comment. "What was I supposed to do? Ignore you all weekend, ignore you Monday and every following day at school, and then ignore you at every single team meeting?" Normally the words would have an edge of humor to them but instead they were really just an excuse to get his mouth moving. He hoped getting the ball rolling, as it were, might ease the nervousness he felt in his stomach. He had tried to figure out what he was going to say. He had tried to understand Alexandra's words, how she didn't want to "hurt him." He had listened as Chloe had tried to explain what she had said to her the previous night. He had tried to understand the "why" behind it all.

"I'm not angry, if that's what you think." It was true. He wasn't exactly sure what he was feeling besides kind of confused. But he wasn't angry. Anger was a feeling he was familiar with, and this wasn't it. "I just...I don't really understand why you didn't just ask me. Did you think I would lie?" No, that couldn't be it. She would be able to spot a lie, wouldn't she? He would know that, and she would know that he knew that. "Did you think that I wouldn't answer you?" That was a definitely possibility. Talking about Jack wasn't exactly comfortable, but it wasn't like he had never mentioned the guy to her. And while he hadn't had a chance to look at what exactly Alexandra had asked Chloe, Chloe had seemed to think that she hadn't tried all that hard to push for details about him. Meaning the amount of detail they had covered probably wasn't anything that he wouldn't have just told her.

"There's an SCA file on you, you know. I thought about looking at it, but I didn't." He blinked, looking at his hands. Why exactly had he blurted that out? He chewed on his bottom lip as he thought. "I want to get to know you better, but...I dunno. I wanted you to be the one telling me things. I didn't want to just look stuff up or see what was out there on the internet." He paused as some of the dots started to line up in his head. "There's something nice about people opening up to you, isn't there? Or, at least, I think so. That feeling that they trust you enough to let you know them." She sensed your wavering heart. She didn't think you would trust her enough to let her in. "I want that. I want you to feel like you can talk to me about anything." You need to show her that you trust her.

He turned one hand over so it was resting on his leg, palm up. With his other, he reached over to take the closer of Alexandra's hands, gently wrapping her fingers around his wrist until her index and middle finger rested firmly against his slightly elevated pulse. Given her abilities, he didn't really think she needed this extra lie detection aid, so he wasn't sure why exactly he had done it. Was it a purely symbolic gesture? Or did he just wanted an excuse for the physical contact? He twisted his upper body slightly until it was facing her. "So, what else do you want to know about me?"


Labels: Danger: -1 Freak: 0/3 Savior: 2 Superior: 1 Mundane: 3/1| Conditions: Insecure
Influence:
Influenced by: Thor Girl, Bioshock, Wingblade, Silver Shadow. Influences: Thor Girl, Bioshock, Wingblade, Kaoru, Mercy, The Kilt, Whipoorwill

Bronwyn blinked awake at the buzz of her phone. nngh What time is it? Blearily she blinked as she tapped open the screen. Sheesh, when sleep debt gets a chance to punish you it sure takes it

李秀英: Hey all! Our big buddy was asking about this guy last night. Do U want to meet today?
Bronwyn: Yeah, we probably should.
Bronwyn: Did you get anything on him after last night?
Bronwyn: Bran said he was a Balorite
Bronwyn: Balor's Witness?
Bronwyn: Balorina?
Bronwyn: Whatever, he's gonna be bad news.


Influence:
I have influence on: Bran the Blessed, Mercy, Kilt
Conditions: none
Labels:
Danger +2, Freak +2, Savior 0, Superior +1, Mundane +1. Potential 4/5

About an hour goes by before Wingblade responds to Bronwyn's texts.

Bronwyn: Whatever, he's gonna be bad news.
李秀英: Not necessarily. Found our Balorina. (LOL)
李秀英:Im staking out skylark florist. His car's outside

Wingblade pockets her Abacus handheld after sending the texts. She had perched herself on a road sign directed to the nearby highway bypass. It gave her a good view of the greenhouse, though she couldn't tell what sort of activity was going on inside. Cycling through the settings in her mask, she finds a thermal imaging that gave her a vague count of the people inside but not much more thanks the the heat of the greenhouse's interior.

She knew she could take the four inside, but didn't want to move on the site in case Balor was actually there in the greenhouse. Last time they had fought, it had taken Bran, her and Atoms to take him down, and they currently were down one ultra-powerful energy being.

This is the smart play. Observe. Wait for backup. Don't make a move unless--

Wingblade's train of thought is interrupted when an old-model sedan pulls into the back of the greenhouse. She clicks over to a zoom function of her mask to get a better view of the faces of the people getting out. Two bruisers get out, plus a third rail-thin fellow. They open the rear passenger door and pull out a woman whose body language says that she does not want to be there.

Wingblade zooms in as much as her mask will allow, fighting with the device to work in concert with her already superior ocular gifts. It's dizzying and for a moment she almost loses track of the whole group, but right before the trio escorts the woman inside she manages to get a good look at her. Shayera recognizes her.

==================

About ten minutes after her last text, there comes another.

李秀英: They got Ten. Im going in.

==================

Wingblade silently glides to the roof of the greenhouse. It takes her only moments to find a glass panel that she can pop open with her wings and slip inside.

The warm, humid interior hits her senses and makes her pause to adjust, but she's able to immediately catch the conversation echoing through the greenhouse.

"--out. I'm done. I don't want any part of this!"
"You know there's no backing out. You were a vessel to the Master! You were touched by his greatness!"
"Greatness? You have no idea what it's like. What he'll do to you! Get out. Now, while you still--"

The woman's voice is cut off by a smacking sound.

Wingblade moves through the upper rafters towards the voices. She quickly spots them around several stacked crates of fertilizer. Gliding deftly above them, she braces herself against the back of the greenhouse's exterior wall and the stack of pallets.

"The Master's time is at hand," says someone that just might be Dane. "You weren't strong enough to contain him, but that's all right. You can still contribute. All we need is your eye."

Ten of Hearts whimpers and struggles. Wingblade doesn't hesitate, putting all her strength into pushing at the stacked fertilizer. The topmost pallet slide off, plummeting down to the greenhouse floor with a crash and sending the Balorinas scattering.

Wingblade grabs another bag of fertilizer as she takes flight, dropping it with a thud on one of the goons trying to get up from the surprise attack. She lands behind the two who were holding Ten's arms. She gives them each a pair of kidney punches followed by nerve strikes to their necks.

Ten's eyes go wide. "Wingblade!! I thought you were dead." She takes advantage of the save and gives one of the Balorites a kick.

"Got better. I thought you were in jail." Wingblade chops up a rake that one of the thugs had grabbed.

"Made bail. Not that I don't appreciate this but what are you doing here?" She picks up one of the pieces of the rakes handle and gives it a twirl.

Wingblade points to Dane Giras. "I'm after him. The rest are just bonus." Dane reacts to her by balling his hands into fists and coming at her with an attack that she easily evades.

The scrawny guy from the car holds up a red crystal and speaks some sort of invocation. "Rwy'n bwrw'r pla ffyrnig arnoch chi!" A reddish beam lances out, striking Wingblade and sending her flying across the room. She crashes into a large water tank, slicing it open with her wings.

It hurt. She could feel her whole system taxed from whatever magic the beam possessed. Water gushed out over her, countering the fever that she felt. She pushes herself up and strides forward. "Lemme guess. Some little imitation Balor blast? Dude, I took a full beam from the Eye himself. So don't bother."

The thugs start scrambling away, not wanting to continue the fight. The scrawny fellow, disbelieving, holds up the crystal and screams, "Golau Balor!"

A reddish pulse of light blasts outward, overwhelming Wingblade's senses for a moment. When she blinks them away, the cultists had managed to flee leaving her and Ten alone in the greenhouse.

She checks on the Busted Flush Mob member, noticing that the Baloric energy had done a number on her. Ten coughs and gasps, looking up at Wingblade. "I think... your guy's... getting away."

"I doubt it," Wingblade responds with a smirk. She heads out the back and spots Dane Giras discovering that all four tires of his car had been slashed.


Labels: Danger: 0 Freak: 1 Savior: -2 Superior: 2 Mundane: 3 | Condition(s):None|Potential 0/5
Influence:
no-one

Alexandra keeps her eyes on the blanket as she proffers a matcha drink to Kay. Honestly? Kinda thought B or Wing might swing by later to tell me 'you have been voted off the team, wasn't even a close thing. next time we see you out there, we have to arrest you.' or something on those lines.

She pats Kay on the leg, but still doesn't meet their eye. Wouldn't you have? or just frozen up? I don't like doing that to you, you know. She says I didn't Know Jack's name, until I investigated. I just... it seemed easier. she says

She didn't make eye contact, honestly tried to have Kay in as few senses as possible. I can do this. just be human for one conversation.

I... Why didn't you? I read the files on all of us. she says, suddenly kinda confused. you just... I'm not as like that, I guess... I think it comes with the territory, being a detective. everyone is biased about themselves, and I was trained to try to minimize Bias. she says. it's a lie, Kay can tell it's a lie.

I don't know,... Hpw about "What happens if you decided to ignore Delphi?" she asks. A question at the back of her mind for some time.


Danger -2 | Freak +3 | Savior +1 | Superior +3 | Mundane 0
Influence:
Influence on: Alexandra, Alexis, Bronwyn | Influenced by: Alexandra, Bronwyn
Conditions: Angry, Insecure | Potential: 1/5 | Team: 2

Kaoru accepted the matcha drink, pulling out a drink of his own and handing it over to Alexandra. "Oh, I forgot. Here. I have coffee as well, but I wasn't sure how much you drank, so I thought I should maybe bring something high in electrolytes in case you were hung over or something. That's what the internet said should help, anyway."

He shrugged at her question. "Lied? Unlikely. At least to you anyway. Avoided? Possibly. Frozen up? Not likely to have happened from just a question. But all those depend on what exactly you asked. I mean, I never mentioned Jack by name because...well...why would I? It's not like you know him or that the name would really mean anything to you. If you had asked for it, I would have told you though." He took a sip from the drink she had given him. "As to why I didn't read your file, I already told you: I want to find out about you from you." He frowned slightly, trying to figure out what he was feeling. "I dunno. I guess it just seems like the information itself is less important than the process by which I get it. It's not like I need it or anything. You're not some mission I'm gathering intel for or whatever. The goal is just...to get to know you better, I guess. And that's not something I can really rush or get just by seeing what information is out there on the web. Sure, I might be able to find out, say, your general family structure. I may even be able to infer some of your relationships with different people. But it's going to be a pretty limited picture that ultimately tells me very little. You talk about trying to minimize bias, but the bias is part of the picture. Without it, you're missing an important part of the story."

He was a little surprised that she picked Delphi as the first real question she was going to ask. He had expected something...well...something harder. "They haven't been super specific on the what. I think it's one of those 'I could threaten you. But you'll come up with much worse ideas if I leave it to your imagination' kind of things. The important thing is that they have the tech chops to pull off probably about whatever they wanted. The real question is how far are they willing to go to keep me in line? And that's not something I know the answer to. I have no doubt they could ruin my life in at least a half dozen different ways. But it's not like they've been super specific about what they want me to do either. We've only exchanged words a handful of times. I kind of think I might just not be that high of a priority." There's a slight tinge of bitterness to the last statement.


Labels:
Danger +1 Freak +3 Savior +0 Superior +0 Mundane -1
Influence:
Wingblade, Bronwyn, Shaun (Rival), Alexandra (Love), Cassie, Kaoru
Conditions: Angry, Afraid, Guilty, Insecure | Potential 0/5 (4A)

The Brainscan

Alexis would wade into a battalion of pig men, or fight mute assassins in the dark, or walk across a river of lava without fear. But somehow laying still in this cramped tube as mechanisms clicked and whirred mafe him feel small and frightened. If he didn't trust Whippoorwill as he did, he would have bolted the moment they told him he would go into the machine. He constantly reminded himself this was to make himself better for the team.

The voice of Matrix came over the speakers. "We're almost done here. Just a few more minutes." He wasn't sure what to make of Matrix. Mostly because he hadn't a chance to physically be in the same room as them.

"Have you found anything out?" He asks. Hoping for some insight. Matrix's reply is quiet, and he can hear the uncertainty in it.

"I won't know anything until I have had a chance to properly analyze the data. I can say though that looking at the 3D image of your brain, there is no physical abnormality that might be contributing to your memory problems.
"

"...can I ask a question?"

"Of course, I'm here to help."

"Can you tell the difference between a girl brain or a boy brain?"

"Ah. Hmm." Matrix takes a moment to compose an answer. "I could probably tell you the assigned birth sex of a person examining the brain. Hormonal changes can probably be detected. But as to a person's gender, that's like trying to figure out a person's religion or political views by examining their brainwaves."

"...Can you?"

"No. A person's identity can't be so easily quantified. There are no datasets available for that. It's something everyone has to figure out for themselves."

Alexis sighed, staring at the cream plastic curving above him. "I wish you could tell me."

"That's more a discussion with Dr. Brighthop I think."


Labels: Danger: -1 Freak: 1/3 Savior: 1 Superior: 1 Mundane: 3/1| Conditions: Guilty, Afraid
Influence:
Influenced by: Thor Girl, Bioshock, Wingblade, The Silver Shadow. Influences: Thor Girl, Bioshock, Apex, Hex, Wingblade, The Kilt, The Silver Shadow, Shadowboxer, Jusker

Dane Giras was a big guy, but he seemed much smaller tied to one of the hideously expensive chairs that decorated Shayera's penthouse. Still, the crude scar that ran through his left eye was all he needed to make it painfully clear that this was no laughing matter.

The scar faintly pulsed to Bran's eyes with the simmering heat of iron that was just on the brink of reddening. Hot enough to sear your flesh, not hot enough to warn you.

"Nothing really 'active' going on with the scar, but I can practically taste how it was done."

Bronwyn suppressed a shudder, and tightened her grip on Gae-Dearg. Just in case.

Bran cast his gaze across his teammates, making sure that he could quickly bring his spear to bear if any of his friends required a bulwark.

"Do you have any further words to speak on your master's behalf, Dane Giras? In any case, I am afraid that this time, courtesy will require that you remain until our conversation is quite finished."

"You're wasting your time. Balor has your brother, soon he will have a new host, and Balor's Hands will be wreathed in power. We will all be bedecked in splendor, and death will be a stranger to the loyal!"


Influence:
I have influence on: Bran the Blessed, Mercy, Kilt
Conditions: none
Labels:
Danger +2, Freak +2, Savior 0, Superior +1, Mundane +1. Potential 4/5

"Yeah, he's been saying stuff like that." Wingblade says over her steaming cup of tea. Her voice comes across as nasal and stuffy.

She sets her cup down and blows her nose. "Weird, huh? I got hit with a ray that was subbosed to give be the plague or sobething. This bust be what a cold feels like."

She plops down in another chair and curls her legs underneath her. She picks up her tea and cradles it in her hands as she sips the herbal remedy. Abacus had the place on lockdown, with the windows tinted so Dane had no frame of reference to where he was.


Danger -2 | Freak +3 | Savior +1 | Superior +3 | Mundane 0
Influence:
Influence on: Alexandra, Alexis, Bronwyn | Influenced by: Alexandra, Bronwyn
Conditions: Angry, Insecure | Potential: 1/5 | Team: 2

Kaoru was only half paying attention to whatever the group was doing with this Dane guy. No one had really explained beyond the bare basics who he even was, and he wasn't entirely sure why they weren't just handing him over to the Defenders. At least someone had told him they were keeping the guy captive in Wingblade's penthouse, which at least gave him enough of a heads up to just dial in remotely to the impromptu meeting. That way he would neither need to deal with that dumb elevator nor risk some random villain henchperson attacking him or trying to figure out his identity. Though he honestly wasn't really sure why he had even been included. He gathered Wingblade had already done a background check on the guy with her supercomputer, and he had no idea what, if anything, they were actually trying to find out from him. Besides, it wasn't like interrogation was his forté anyway. So given that he was completely useless in this situation, he could only assume they had only asked him to join in as the "team leader" or whatever.

He typed in a quick message, letting the text-to-voice program read it out for him across the secure channel. Given Chloe's relatively close proximity, he had decided that was probably a better way of communicating than using normal voice modulation. It also meant he could continue talking with her without their conversation getting transmitted. If Hex cannot perform some kind of compulsory 'answer us truthfully' spell, we could try a chemical approach via thiopental or something similar. Or perhaps just get him very drunk.

"So Kay, I swapped out your Axe body wash and deodorant with something nicer but still suitably masculine. And...I got you these!"

He looked at Chloe and immediately stifled a groan. She was holding up a pack of Halcyon Hero boxers. Nevertheless, he dutifully took the pack from her and looked over its contents. Inside were a pair of purple boxers with silver magnifying glasses, white ones with golden fists, black ones with silver 1s and 0s, and dark red ones with reddish-brown cracks all over them. "These are...uhhh...nice. Thanks."

"Try them on!"

He started to protest, but one look at Chloe bouncing up and down on the balls of her feet changed his mind. With a sigh, he grabbed the black and silver boxers and headed to the bathroom to put them on, making sure to take his headphones with him, so he could continue to monitor the Dane situation.


Labels:
Danger +1 Freak +3 Savior +0 Superior +0 Mundane -1
Influence:
Wingblade, Bronwyn, Shaun (Rival), Alexandra (Love), Cassie, Kaoru
Conditions: Angry, Afraid, Guilty, Insecure | Potential 0/5 (4A)

Whippoorwill:
A file was sent to Whippoorwill's communicator for reading at her convenience by Matrix regarding Alexis' brain scan:

To be honest, it is impossible to determine any difference between Alexis' new brain from the old one before his alteration, simply because there's no data on his old body. But given what I know of baseline human physiology, I can say that Alexis' brain shows no indicators of any loss of function or impairment. There's no foreign matter or tumors, and brainwave patterns are consistent for someone of his age. A slightly larger than average cerebellum region and smaller than average thyroid glands. If there is any fault in his memories or behavior, it is nothing wrong with his body. I recommend he continue therapy sessions to try and discover the causes.

"...Do you often see patients so many times at once?"

"Normally I like there to be time between for you to reflect on what we talk about, and build up trust. I know that it's not easy telling someone you've just met all of-"

"I trust you. Whippoorwill said I could."

"Her trust in me is that important to you?"

"She's mentoring Wingblade. Wingblade helped me get off the streets. So she helped me. So I'll trust whomever they tell me to trust."

"Do you see them as being in command of you?"

"Yes."

"I see. So how did Wingblade ceding her authority to...Machina make you feel?"

"It was my fault. I blew the mission and got people hurt. She shouldn't have lost her command because of me."

"It was out of your control. You can't blame yourself for that."

"...I hurt her. And Alexis. And then I died. I saw the video..."

"What video?"

"The one on the internet. Of the former me getting blown up and hurt. I hated seeing that."

"What was bad about it for you?"

"...People were afraid of me."

"Because you were being hurt?"

"...Because I wasn't killed when someone else would have been."


Labels: Danger: -1 Freak: 0/3 Savior: 2 Superior: 1 Mundane: 3/1| Conditions: Insecure
Influence:
Influenced by: Thor Girl, Bioshock, Wingblade, Silver Shadow. Influences: Thor Girl, Bioshock, Wingblade, Kaoru, Mercy, The Kilt, Whipoorwill

While the cultist continued to rant, Bran withdrew his phone from the pouch at his belt and held it up carefully into the midst of the group.

"Were you able to apprehend his words, Acolyte?"

The voice that came through the speaker phone was muffled and indistinct, clearly the result of a much cruder modulator than Machina used. "Oh yeah, sure. So for those who haven't done the reading: Balor's a dark god in search of a host. We think he started out as a physical being, so he's a lot weaker without a body than when he's relying on ghosty goodness, and there's a lot of factors that can make someone a better or worse host.

"Now this stuff about the Third probably has to do with Big Bran's little brother, Manawydan fab Llŷr - or just Manannan if you don't grok Welsh pronunciations. He took over as a the big sea-god head honcho after Bran died, and sometime before or maybe after that, he's the one who helped get Balor killed.

"So capture Manannan to get some revenge, right? Well, it's probably worse than that. See, Manannan was kind of an enabler. When Bran, Branwen and Efnysien were all getting themselves killed in the Mabinogion, Manannan was there, but he wasn't really the doer of deeds. What Manannan always has though, is a basically unending stash of powerful relics.

"Just about every god or hero wandering around ancient Celt-dom had some kind of spear, or sword, or helmet, or death-ending cauldron that came from Manannan, and there's never any sense he's running out. So if Balor's got him, it stands to reason it's because there's some kind of treasure trove that only he can access. Or something like that."

Bran's eyes pierced into Dane's as he rumbled, "Is that what is to come? Is that why you and yours will be 'bedecked in splendor'?"

The cultist gave a fixed grin in response. "As our master has one eye, so do we only gaze upon that which we must. I have given you Balor's words, O accursed crow. Tell me, have you dared to sleep and let your host be free? You would be wise to keep him on a short leash, a specimen like him would find great rewards in a new master's service."


Influence:
I have influence on: Bran the Blessed, Mercy, Kilt
Conditions: none
Labels:
Danger +2, Freak +2, Savior 0, Superior +1, Mundane +1. Potential 4/5

"Wow, you really drank the Kool-aid," Wingblade says after blowing her nose. "You have friends, Dane. People who care about what happens to you. Are you turning your back on them for facial scars and dark gods?"

Pierce the Mask: 2d6 + 1 ⇒ (1, 2) + 1 = 4


Labels: Danger: -1 Freak: 1/3 Savior: 1 Superior: 1 Mundane: 3/1| Conditions: Guilty, Afraid
Influence:
Influenced by: Thor Girl, Bioshock, Wingblade, The Silver Shadow. Influences: Thor Girl, Bioshock, Apex, Hex, Wingblade, The Kilt, The Silver Shadow, Shadowboxer, Jusker

Miss noted

Dane's grin stretches even wider, but the look in his eye is hollow.

"He made me strong when I was weak. Even his shadow was more than you could withstand. This world only has winners and losers; I won't be a loser again."


Influence:
I have influence on: Bran the Blessed, Mercy, Kilt
Conditions: none
Labels:
Danger +2, Freak +2, Savior 0, Superior +1, Mundane +1. Potential 4/5

Wingblade folds her arms and shakes her head. "All right. Noted."

She sets Abacus to privacy mode, which surrounds Dane in a sussurus of white noise so the team can speak freely. "We might not be able to get much out of him. But we've got other options. I picked up the license plates of the other Balorinas at the florist and I can run a facial recognition on them."

She gives Bran a serious look. "And then there's Ten of Hearts. They kidnapped her; said they needed her eye for some reason. She was in close proximity to the beam that tagged me. I helped her get to a hospital since she looked sick."


Labels:
Danger +1 Freak +3 Savior +0 Superior +0 Mundane -1
Influence:
Wingblade, Bronwyn, Shaun (Rival), Alexandra (Love), Cassie, Kaoru
Conditions: Angry, Afraid, Guilty, Insecure | Potential 0/5 (4A)

"Alexis, I was hoping we could talk about your life before you were homeless. Anything you want to discuss about it. I'm sure there are things that may have made sense there that don't out here."

"...I..."

"Take your time and think about it. Whatever you're comfortable bringing up."

"...I thought I understood who I was better."

"How do you mean?"

"...at the barracks, my team...when we were a team, it didn't matter. My gender. Or anyone else's. I was always changing bodies. So I thought that I was always the gender my body was. Others were different. But when we all put on the armor, we were one and the same and beyond any identity but the team."

"So what changed for you?"

"...the ball. The gala. It felt wrong. Like I should have been a girl then. I was not comfortable. I was angry."

"Have there been other times that you felt uncomfortable with your gender?"

"...When Kaoru didn't believe I was me."

"Kaoru?"

"I...no, I mean...please don't tell him I said that."

"This whole session is for you. Nothing you say will be repeated out there."

"...He already hates me. And he's right."

"No one is right to hate someone else. You especially shouldn't hate yourself."

****

Alexis felt rather empty as he tried to clear his mind after finishing his sessions. Not clean, but raw along the inside trying to come to terms with his feelings.

He didn't know what else to do today, so he found himself trying to reach Shayera. Maybe she would be able to help him make more sense of his head.

Alexis: I was talking all morning at defender HQ. Still confused. What are you doing?


Influence:
I have influence on: Bran the Blessed, Mercy, Kilt
Conditions: none
Labels:
Danger +2, Freak +2, Savior 0, Superior +1, Mundane +1. Potential 4/5

Alexis gets a response to his text after a few minutes.

Alexis: I was talking all morning at defender HQ. Still confused. What are you doing?
李秀英:Sorry 2 hear that. We're at the apt w/ a 'guest' friend of Bran. Y don't U come by?


Labels: Danger: 0 Freak: 1 Savior: -2 Superior: 2 Mundane: 3 | Condition(s):None|Potential 0/5
Influence:
no-one

Alexandra blushed, and looked away I... have trouble not knowing... And Trusting people she says It's a problem I have. I told you about the locker room incident, right? She asks.

Okay. Delphi makes vague threats. good to know what leverage is there... I think that makes it your turn, but, after... where do you want to go to college? what for?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~

Alexandra stood by as they interrogated Dane. she doubted she could break him better than B and the big guy.

Okay. so This guy's appeared a few tines. with the Busted flushes too, if memory serves... and catching a body-hopper like Balor ...Or Bran, Or Branwyn. would take some mojo. Is Balor capable of that, or anyone in the flushes? she asks

Or, are we dealing with Circe in addition to all that?


Danger -2 | Freak +3 | Savior +1 | Superior +3 | Mundane 0
Influence:
Influence on: Alexandra, Alexis, Bronwyn | Influenced by: Alexandra, Bronwyn
Conditions: Angry, Insecure | Potential: 1/5 | Team: 2

"I'm pretty sure getting to know someone is about building up your trust in them. You start with something small and then gradually work your way up. It's why getting to know someone is part of the process. By asking someone else about me, all you're doing is putting your trust in that other person instead of giving me a chance to prove myself to you. That other person is arguably even less likely to tell you the truth, and their perspective is going to be just as biased as mine. Just in a different way." It was weird; Kaoru had never really thought about things this way. Yet here he found himself with these words spilling out of his mouth. While they weren't exactly planned, they did at least make sense to him. He shrugged slightly, taking his free hand and gently squeezing Alexandra's forearm. "Sorry, I don't mean to lecture or anything. I just still don't really understand what the benefit was. And no, I don't think you told me about this locker room incident." He paused, trying to stop his mind from automatically going to the worst possible place imaginable. Which was ridiculous because Alexandra knew martial arts and stuff and would totally know how to defend herself. Which still wouldn't stop him from destroying anybody who dared try anything against her.

He blinked, frowning slightly as Alexandra said it was 'his turn'. His turn for what? Was he supposed to be asking her questions? He hadn't been expecting that, so he instead decided to tackle the easier question. He gave a slight snort. "Colleges? Why don't you ask Mother? I'm sure she has a list. One of those top-tier schools everybody's heard of. Probably MIT, maybe CalTech. I'm sure Harvard and Yale are on there somewhere as well. I always figured I'd go for CS or something. Maybe dual major CS and one of the engineering disciplines. But I dunno...after we talked last time, I might look into something more bio-comp. Medical nanites might be kinda cool, but then, more engineering skills would probably be a plus. Maybe I'll just get stuck perpetually an undergrad and study everything." He smirked slightly at the joke.

He paused as he tried to figure out what to ask her in return. The easy answer was to simply tack on an 'And you?' at the end. It seemed a little uninteresting though. But maybe if he tweaked it.... "If you woke up tomorrow morning and there were no more super villains and no more need for superheroes, what would you want to spend your life doing instead?"

*****

Kaoru had only really gotten the vaguest gist of what Bronwyn was saying. Whatever she had been doing had made it almost impossible to hear her clearly. That was possibly something he would need to find a way around if he wanted to work remotely. Hopefully it wouldn't be important for him to know the exact details. Or if it was, maybe she should have talked more clearly into the phone. Rather than request a repetition, he simply typed in Did you find anything interesting on his phone? Messages? Commonly called numbers? It was probably too much to hope for that he used that app that tracked your location and mapped your routes for you. Especially since he couldn't even remember what BS use the app had marketed itself for.

He walked out of the bathroom sporting his new boxers to the somewhat predictable hoot and wolf-whistle of Chloe. He rolled his eyes at her antics but couldn't help smiling slightly at them all the same.

"Lookin' snazzy, Kay. Now you can fight crime in style." There was a slight pause before Chloe asked. "By the way, how long have you been passing for male?"

He frowned, puzzled by the sudden shift in conversation. "Maybe a month or so. Why?"

"You realize guys don't typically shave their legs, right?"

He followed Chloe's gaze down to his smooth calves before looking away and shrugging. "Some guys do."

"Swim team guys, you mean." There was some movement out of the corner of his eye and then Chloe was taking the laptop out of his hands and placing it on his bedside table before wrapping her arms around his neck. Her next words were soft and gentle. "I think it might be a little hard for you to pass as a member of the swim team right now Kay. Even though you love swimming." Still refusing to look at her, he shrugged once more. "Have you talked to your mom about surgery at all?" She must have felt him tense as she quickly continued. "I swear I won't say anything to her, and it's no big deal if you haven't. It's not even like it's a thing you ever need to do. I just thought if you ever wanted to go swimming as a guy, that might be a way to do that. And I've read articles from people saying how liberating it was to have a body that more closely mirrored how they felt on the inside."

He tried to surprise the sick feeling inside him all of a sudden. Surgery, no matter how routine, always came with a risk. And a very large bill. And for something that wasn't going to, like, save his life or anything, it just felt sort of...unnecessary. More importantly, once done it wasn't something he could easily take back. Once done, he would be committed. He couldn't go back to wearing dresses or make up or...whatever. Not that he particularly wanted to, but it was kind of nice knowing he still had the option to do that if he wanted. If he woke up tomorrow and realized this was all some horrible mistake. It was probably something he was going to have to do eventually though. Alexandra hadn't brought it up yet, but their relationship also wasn't especially physical yet either. It probably wouldn't be an issue until then. Meaning for now, he could safely ignore it.

He pushed aside the knot of anxiety in his gut as he also pulled away from Chloe and grabbed his laptop again. "It's not a big deal; I just don't really like hairy guys. It's pretty gross when you see an otherwise attractive dude lift up his arms and there's just this mass of fur growing from his armpits. But anyway, the group was talking about next steps, so I should probably make sure to listen in and stuff." He pulled his headphones on again, so he could continue to listen in on the conversation about...dancers? Clearly he had missed something. But at least for now, this was probably the safer conversation to be part of.


Labels: Danger: 0 Freak: 1 Savior: -2 Superior: 2 Mundane: 3 | Condition(s):None|Potential 0/5
Influence:
no-one

Alexandra nods as Kay talks. Oh, no, nothing like that, Kay... I... well, I was pretty convinced B had powers, and kinda... well, stalked is such a strong word. But eventually I confronted her... and to keep her from getting all squirrely... I elected to do it in the locker room. From a position in front of her clothes. it went poorly, I think she still still holds it against me. she says

I didn't say where your mom wanted you to go to college. I asked where YOU want to go. she chastises

she thinks on that You'd have to get a life. Find a job. You'd have to find a way to be a person, not a cape. eventually, she shrugs. I guess I'd go after guys like Wong's dad, people the law can't or won't touch. Then, I guess I'd have to be a PI for normal matters. It's a weird thought, not being a hero. she says

If you could disappear for two weeks, and be somewhere else, under a different name, would you, and where?


Danger -2 | Freak +3 | Savior +1 | Superior +3 | Mundane 0
Influence:
Influence on: Alexandra, Alexis, Bronwyn | Influenced by: Alexandra, Bronwyn
Conditions: Angry, Insecure | Potential: 1/5 | Team: 2

"Did you apologize to her? Bronwyn wears that crucifix, and Christians are all about forgiveness and turning the other cheek. Plus, or perhaps because of, she's also one of those optimistic types. I doubt she'd hold a grudge if she thought you were sincerely sorry for it." Kaoru started lightly tracing some of the veins faintly visible on the inside of Alexandra's wrist.

"For colleges I want...I'm not sure. Something with good professors who know what they're talking about, obviously. The kind that are actually good teachers and mentors, that is, not just the kind that are brilliant but don't know the first thing about the non-research side of things." He paused, briefly chewing on his lip. "There's actually this really tiny college near LA that sounds pretty cool. It has a great reputation among people who know science and engineering, but it's not as well-known to the general public like MIT or CalTech are, which I'm not sure Mother would be a fan of. It specializes in STEM fields, but it's right next to, like, four other colleges that specialize in different things, if you want to take some other types of classes. That sounds kinda cool."

"You do realize you don't need super villains or powers to be a hero, right? I mean, what about firefighters or other first responders?" He pointed out.

He grinned, expression taking on a distant look as he immediately responded. "Absolutely. As to where...maybe some place remote and tropical? Ideally, remote enough not to be surrounded by tourists but connected enough to have all the modern niceties like indoor plumbing and wifi. I prefer hot to cold but would want a dry heat. Some place with nice, clear blue waters and colorful fish. Bonus points for abundant fresh fruit that you can pick yourself."

"What's your relationship with your mother like? You don't talk about her much."


Labels:
Danger +1 Freak +3 Savior +0 Superior +0 Mundane -1
Influence:
Wingblade, Bronwyn, Shaun (Rival), Alexandra (Love), Cassie, Kaoru
Conditions: Angry, Afraid, Guilty, Insecure | Potential 0/5 (4A)

Alexis: K b there soon

Later, the apartment

Alexis had opted to go for a comfortable sweatshirt and jeans today. Not that he didn't like his fitted shirts and suitwear, but after the gala he wanted to wear something more conventional. He stepped off of the elevator into the apartment proper.

"Anyone here? Bran? Wingblade?" He called out, a bit nervous. He hadn't been back for a few days. He hoped that was enough time for the Triakosia to stop their active surveillance.


Influence:
I have influence on: Bran the Blessed, Mercy, Kilt
Conditions: none
Labels:
Danger +2, Freak +2, Savior 0, Superior +1, Mundane +1. Potential 4/5

"Over here," Wingblade calls from the upper level. The apartment was much darker than usual because the windows were tinted. When Alexis joins them, he can see that Wingblade is wearing her domino mask and action outfit. Bran is there, and a man with an ugly scar over one eye is tied up and seated in one of Shayera's comfy chairs.

"Mercy, meet Dane Giras. Dane, Mercy. He's a henchman for the dark god Balor, and he was just about to tell us where they were going to summon him. Weren't you?"


Labels: Danger: -1 Freak: 1/3 Savior: 1 Superior: 1 Mundane: 3/1| Conditions: Guilty, Afraid
Influence:
Influenced by: Thor Girl, Bioshock, Wingblade, The Silver Shadow. Influences: Thor Girl, Bioshock, Apex, Hex, Wingblade, The Kilt, The Silver Shadow, Shadowboxer, Jusker

The skin around Dane's scarred eye twisted and puckered, obscuring whatever he might truly be feeling as he spoke, "Balor does not yet walk this earth, but his shadow already lies upon it. The heavens themselves move closer together, and when the barrier is thinnest, and the Third is bound to him, the Chosen will accept Balor's might, and the Fomorian King will walk once more."

A tear of blood welled up in Dane's remaining eye, slowly carving a coppery trail down his cheek as his voice rose to a fevered pitch.

"My brothers and sisters will complete their hunts and bind the Third in pliant mortal clay, for even you cannot watch over them all. The Evil Eye looks upon you all, and finds you wanting!"

The vessels in Dane's eye all burst at once; only the black of his pupil looks out from a pool of blood as the cultist's voice rises in triumphant agony!

What do you do?


Labels:
Danger +1 Freak +3 Savior +0 Superior +0 Mundane -1
Influence:
Wingblade, Bronwyn, Shaun (Rival), Alexandra (Love), Cassie, Kaoru
Conditions: Angry, Afraid, Guilty, Insecure | Potential 0/5 (4A)

"...He's bleeding," Alexis unhelpfully pointed out as he looked at Dane's hemorrhaging eye. That didn't seem to be something that should be happening with the man. He didn't see anything that he could do to help with the situation though. So he stepped back and let Wingblade take care of the situation. If she needed him to do something, she would tell him.


Labels: Danger: 0 Freak: 1 Savior: -2 Superior: 2 Mundane: 3 | Condition(s):None|Potential 0/5
Influence:
no-one

Alexandra looks down again I apologized... but it was a very rough conversation. Forgiveness is nice, until someone is a jerk to you...

That sounds really nice. Somewhere quiet. Do you miss quiet? she asks.

Well, difference between Capital-H and lowercase-h hero. the capitol-H is almost in the ancient Greek sense, someone beyond human capabilities. that's the thing I mean. She says, her left arm replacing her right in Kaoru;'s grip, as her left starts slowly Gliding up his back, tracing patters along the way. the lowercase-h heroes don't count less, but... Qualitative differences. So I suppose I should say it's weird to think of myself as anything but a capital-H Hero.

So, the Caribbean, maybe? Or the coast of Africa. Southeast asia maybe... lots of factors. but a nice tableau, regardless.

She breathes in, and stalls a moment. Mom is... well, we used to be pretty close. she was the fun parent, Dad just didn't have as much time for us, but mom made sure she did. Even took us out with her to go bowling with her Boyfriends or whatever. dad would never have his kids 'Cramping his style' on dates. So gravitated toward mom as a result.

But, she... well, puberty hit, and she saw a lot of my dad in me. including traits you don't want to see in your teenage daughter.and she started trying to reign me in,. Curfews, Homework checks, demanding check ins. I... well, we started fighting a lot. and since I was, like, 9, dad had been trying to train us in what he did. and so, she and I didn't talk much for a couple years. we're getting better now, but... well, I'm afraid of the day we start fighting again. if it gets as bad as it did, we might be like her and her dad.

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