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Charm Learning Shard (Worm/Exalted) (COMPLETED)

Discussion in 'Creative Writing' started by Daniel Snuts, Apr 24, 2022.

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  1. Threadmarks: T.01
    Daniel Snuts

    Daniel Snuts Know what you're doing yet?

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    An important note before we begin, considering the venue: THIS IS NOT PORN. THERE IS NO PORN HERE. You can let go of your dicks. It's delicious grimderp all the way down.

    ===

    Your name is Taylor Hebert, and your life sucks.

    Oh, it started out well enough, in a typical white middle class fashion. You had parents who loved you and a best friend who did likewise, and you never went hungry or had to deal with any other poverty-related issues. The worst privation you ever suffered was some of your peers occasionally getting slightly more extravagant birthday gifts.

    Then your mom died, which of course sucked. But you know what? You could handle that. Sure you cried for a week straight, and you never stopped feeling sad that you'd never see the most important person in your life ever again. Your dad took it worse than you did and just stopped... caring about anything, really. In a slightly melodramatic sense it was almost as if you had lost both your parents, but you got over it, you coped. Life was still worth living.

    Then your best friend decided that she'd rather be your worst enemy. That... that hurt a lot, and you still don't know why she did it. And of course she always popular in school, much more than you, so when she suddenly set out to make your life a living hell pretty much every single one of your classmates went along with it. You never figured out why the teachers also seemed okay with it, but after a while you gave up on trying to do anything about it.

    Oh, after a year and change it seemed like they were starting to grow tired of it. Gradually you started getting fewer and fewer emails speculating about your sexual preferences and personal hygiene. People started to make do with hurling insults at you as they passed by, instead of trapping you in jeering crowds. They hardly ever spit on you anymore, and you could go days without get tripped or shoved or pushed down the stairs. You could eat your lunch in public without it ending up on the floor. You even started storing things in your locker again, and they didn't get stolen or vandalized or anything.

    You were so hopeful. You started thinking that maybe you could get one foot off the lowest rung of the social ladder. You thought you might even start making some new friends. Because apparently you're stupid.

    Of course they were just lulling you into a false sense of security. Of course the whole point was getting you to start using your locker again. Because on your first day back after Christmas, the- thing happened that you don't like to think about, because of the blood and the smell and the puking and thescreamingand-

    Okay. It's okay. You got this. You specifically picked a bench facing out towards the bay when you decided to sit down and reflect on your life, so that no one would be able to see the tears.

    You woke up in the psych ward. You weren't physically hurt, they explained, but you wouldn't stop screaming until they sedated you. So they were going to keep you there for a few days for observation. The way you stared blankly at them couldn't have done their opinion of your mental health any favors. Did they think you'd have a relapse of being shoved into- no, don't think about that.

    Also, what the hell did they mean, not physically hurt? Yes, you did feel fine. Better than fine, even. No scrapes, no bruises. You felt strong and fit and not at all like you were dying of infection. Which you by all rights should have been, because you remembered beating your knuckles bloody while covered in filth in the darkness and some of it went in your mouth-

    It's fine. You're fine. It's over. You can stop hyperventilating now. As you were saying, at this point you suspected something was up. But you were stuck in the psych ward, and typing 'did I get superpowers?' into a search engine on a hospital computer would probably raise all kinds of flags.

    Luckily you had a roommate. A girl, you forget her name, about your age, who had been admitted after a suicide attempt. Well, the kind of suicide attempt that her parents probably called 'a cry for help', but could more accurately be termed 'a cry for attention'.

    Seeing as she craved attention, you gave her some. You exclaimed over the dreadful wounds on her wrists (you lose more blood on a monthly basis than could possibly have seeped from those shallow scratches) and commiserated over her unbearable life (two parents, several friends, boyfriend cheated on her). In exchange she let you borrow her expensive cellphone so that you could go online. Or to more accurately describe the way she acted: She graciously bestowed her marvel of technology on the benighted, destitute underclass who couldn't afford the miracle of perpetual connectivity.

    So you did some research and it turns out that yes, when you suffer the absolutely worst thing that could ever possibly happen to you, when your mind snaps and cries out for something, anything to help, to make it stop, please, anything... sometimes you get superpowers.

    (Unless your parents already have powers, then it's much, much easier. Glory Girl, for example, apparently got her powers when she was hit in the face with a ball in gym class, or something like that. You were shocked to find out how much you could hate someone you'd never even met, who'd never done anything to you)

    You also found the blog of a nice doctor who explained how being 'held for observation' worked. It was not that most people needed it, or were even helped by it. It was just the hospital covering its ass. There wasn't even anything wrong with you, you just had a perfectly reasonable reaction to... things. Suicide girl had her attention, she wouldn't go back to that well for a while. And the guy in the next room over, who kept screaming all night long, every night? It wasn't as if he was going to be better by the time they tossed him out to make room for new people. And the less said about his roommate, who suffered from acute anxiety, the better.

    But. If some mentally unstable person was sent home right away, and did do something regrettable then and there, there would be lawsuits like you wouldn't believe. So the doctors had to balance '98% chance everything will be fine' vs. '2% chance I lose my job and house and life savings', and opted for observation every time.

    As promised, after three days they let you out with a pat on the back and advice to the tune of "try not to go crazy again, there' a good girl." You thanked them for their concern, hurried home, and grabbed a knife.

    Not to do anything regrettable with! You just needed to test your powers. You very, very carefully tried cutting yourself, and you weren't cut! Excited, you tried again a bit more forcefully and promptly started bleeding all over the place. But the blood stopped flowing on its own remarkably quickly. Apparently you were as knife-resistant as someone wearing a thick sweater, and as bleeding-resistant as someone with a roll of gauze in their purse.

    You also tried lifting heavy things, and yes, you were much stronger than before. Why, though you had the body of a scrawny fifteen year old girl, you had the strength of... a sixteen year old boy.

    And the worst thing was, it made sense. According to the internet, people generally got powers that could somehow deal with the unbearable situation they found themselves in. And you were now protected from minor cuts and bruises, (presumably) resistant to infection, and strong enough to beat up any fifteen year old girls who tried to bully you. It was exactly what you needed.

    Other people in your situation would have gotten steel-rending claws, or teleportation, or something. Glory Girl, the insufferable cunt, got invulnerability. And flight, and an aura that makes everyone love and/or fear her. But of course you would get the most well-calibrated powerset in the world. You could just envision your future in the Wards:

    "Go out on patrol? Why don't you just stay here at base with your amazing Brute 0 powers and work on your homework? We note that your academic results have gone to shit over the last two years, you really need to make up for that."
    Now, you might think that once you ended up in the hospital, something would finally be done about the bullying. You might think that, if you were somehow born without any pattern recognition skills whatsoever.

    "Did you see who did it?"

    "Not specifically who shoved me in there, no, but it was almost certainly either-"

    "Ah, so you don't know. A shame, that. Nothing to be done, then."

    Yeah, it went pretty much like that, except with a lot more screaming and insincere regret, on your part and theirs respectively. Then of course you had to go back to school. And now Operation: Get Taylor To Use Her Locker Again was finished, and things were back to normal.

    One class. You managed to make it through one class before you were cornered in the corridor and shoved to the ground. Above you stood your greatest tormentors, the people you thought of as the Trio: Sophia, the psycho bitch jock who loved physical abuse; Emma, the psycho bitch traitor who still knew you better than anyone else and loved emotional abuse; and Madison, the psycho bitch vanilla flavor, who had to make up for her lack of natural advantages with effort and inventiveness.

    The details are not important. Emma was saying mean things, Sophia was technically-not-kicking-you nudging you with her foot, and you were desperately looking for a way out when the world... shifted. Everything became both darker and at the same time more colorful. The people around you seemed somehow hollow, but you couldn't understand how or why. Except Sophia. Sophia was glowing, and you instinctively knew that you were looking at another parahuman.
    Brockton Bay is positively lousy with parahumans, but when you limit it to black, female, teenage parahumans there's exactly one option. Shadow Stalker, of the Wards. One of the good guys. Haha, of course your vision of life in the Wards was born of downright retarded optimism:

    "Go out on patrol? Why don't you just stay here at base with your amazing Brute 0 powers and work on your homework? We'll have the entire staff of the PRT march past on your lunch break so you can check for parahuman infiltrators, but we note that your academic results have gone to shit over the last two years and you really need to make up for that. We'll assign Shadow Stalker to help you study."

    "Of course I'll help, we're old school buddies after all. But I gotta warn you, Taylor has a history of ignoring her homework and accusing random people of stealing it when confronted about it."

    "Thanks Shadow Stalker, you're the best!"

    And there was one last niggling mystery resolved. The internet had also said that you were supposed to get mental powers from mental trauma, and you certainly had some of that to go along with your cuts and bruises and probable infection. And there was your mental power, the ability to spot dangerous people, a good defensive tool. Except parahumans weren't the goddamn problem.

    Or were they? You had come up a number of theories about how the bullies kept getting away with everything. Did Emma's lawyer dad make threatening noises about unfounded accusations and slander-related lawsuits? Was Madison just that much of a teacher's pet, and you that much of a social outcast? Was Winslow High such a gigantic shithole that as long as you weren't wearing gang colors and literally stabbing each other it didn't count as a problem? As of last week, none of them seemed plausible any more. It had to take more than that. And yes, apparently it was the superheroes all along, telling the school administration to cover up anything that might reflect badly on them.

    With this last revelation added to the dung heap that was your life, you couldn't take it any more. You had to get out. You managed to get your feet under you and made a dash for the exit. In your blind rush you managed to knock Madison over with your Brute 0 powers, and you knew that if/when you came back you'd pay for that thrice over. But at the time you didn't care, you kept running right out of the school and didn't slow down until several blocks later.

    You were never coming back. Why did you even bother? Your life was never going to stop getting worse. Fuck everything. You might as well end it right now.

    Oh, you knew the cliches. You were just in the psych ward, and you got the whole spiel by proxy, from the doctors who talked at your roommate in your presence. 'You're not thinking clearly.' Aren't you? 'Think of the people who love you.' Yeah? Like who? 'There's so much to live for.' Yeah? Like what?

    Not depressed, not crazy. You just rationally concluded that there would be no point in living any more, and the all-consuming despair you were feeling was just a natural response to this realization. Even then, you promised yourself that you'd sit down and think things through calmly before taking any drastic action. Which brings you to now, and this bench.

    And after due reflection, nothing has changed your mind. You need to-

    You blink as a steaming paper cup is shoved in front of your face.

    "Tea? You look like someone who could use a cup of tea."

    ===

    Blah blah blah, it's an Alt!Power Taylor. I tried to make it at least somewhat readable, for everyone who has read it 100 times before.

    Also, please do not be alarmed by all the second person perspective happening here. This is not a misplaced quest. I love the second person for its own sake, and think it's criminally underused in regular fiction. Well, be the change you want to see, right?

    tfw when you exalt and only gain a single dot each in strength and stamina (you didn't actually exalt, you triggered with the parahuman power of 'I can't believe its not exalt' - it matters, in some regards)

    At least you get a whole bunch of residual exalted bullshit too: Healing factor, disease resistance, bleeding control, lethal soak equal to half stamina rounded down (in your case, 1).

    No wonder you think you're a shitty Brute. If only this was a Gamer fic and you could see the juicy fives elsewhere on your character sheet. Your life would be a bit less suffering that way.
     
  2. Threadmarks: T.02
    Daniel Snuts

    Daniel Snuts Know what you're doing yet?

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    You turn to look at the person holding the cup of tea in front of your face, and see a girl maybe a few years older than you. She has freckles across her nose and blonde, shoulder-length hair poking out beneath a rather unflattering beanie. She looks serious and concerned.

    Your eyes narrow with suspicion. A stranger offering a random act of kindness? To you? A likely story. The world shifts once more, and the girl is glowing.

    You jerk away from her, almost spilling hot tea all over yourself. So, quick mental calculation: There is exactly one young female hero in town whose identity is not known to you, and Vista is what, twelve? Ergo, the girl next to you is a supervillain.

    You're backing away from her when the glow filling her being pulses.

    "You're parahuman?" she exclaims. Wait, what? That's your line.

    "You're a supervillain," you shoot back. You stop backing away, but you keep the bench between you. It's enough to keep you out of range of a sudden lunge by a normal human, and if she has super speed or laser eyes or whatever running further wouldn't help anyway.

    "Yeah, you got me there." She grimaces. "Doesn't make me a bad person, though."

    "Really."

    Her glow- her power pulses again. It's... telling her something? Wait, how could you tell that?

    "So, you think being a superhero makes someone a good person?" She looks smug, as if she knows she just won the argument. Her power must have clued her in to your recent discoveries re: heroes.

    "What's your power?" you ask.

    "What, you can't tell? With your own power, I mean."

    "Perhaps I'm just testing you to see if you'll tell the truth."

    Another pulse. That would be her finding out that it's a little of column A, a little of column B, probably.

    "I'm psychic."

    Ah, now she's testing you.

    "No you're not. Your power never reaches outside yourself when it feeds you information. Try again."

    "Damn." She grins, not at all upset at being caught out. "You got me, I'm actually super Sherlock Holmes."

    That... fits. You nod. "So what do you want with me, Holmes? Recruiting for your villain team?"
    She holds up her hands. "I didn't even know you had powers until just now. I just saw you sitting there and my power told me you could use a cup of tea. And a friend."

    God dammit. You're unreasonably sure that her power does not offer that kind of advice. Rather, it must have said something along the lines of "holy shit look at how clearly suicidal that girl is", and this supervillain-who-is-not-a-bad-person decided to stage an intervention. God fucking dammit. Just what you didn't want, pity.

    On the other hand, a small treacherous part of you whispers, you kinda want a friend right now. Like, a lot. Uh, not such a small part, really. You, you might be outvoted here.

    You startle as you feel a hand on your shoulder. "Let's go get another cup of tea, yeah?"

    You nod silently and allow yourself to be led.

    ---

    The conversation doesn't resume until you've ensconced yourselves at a nearby cafe and gotten your drinks. Your new friend takes a sip of her elaborate coffee-based beverage and smiles at you again.

    "So, let me guess: You're pretty new at this whole thing?" Not actually a guess, most likely. You caught her power pulsing again just before she asked. Why no, you didn't stop monitoring her just because she appears to be both friendly and harmless. It's called learning from experience.

    "Just found out today." You neglect to mention your Brute 0 powers, which you discovered last week.

    "Okay. So, most important thing. With your magic spy powers you're going to find out secret identities left and right just walking down the street. Whatever you do, don't act on the information, or even let on that you know."

    "Why not?"

    "It's a whatchamacallit, an unspoken agreement. No one wants to go out and fight a villain in the afternoon only to come home to find his kids burnt to the ground in the evening. Or have the heroes try to arrest your wife as an accessory, or whatever. As long as we don't unmask each other we can avoid that whole can of worms. Keeps things civilized."

    You nod along. It seems reasonable enough. Especially since it's going to leave you with an unfair advantage, a trump card. Not that you'd break the rules except in the utmost extremity, but-

    "On that note: I'm Lisa, but don't tell anyone." She extends her hand to you and you shake it.

    "Taylor, likewise." You frown as you recall something she said earlier. "Magic spy powers, really?"

    "Well, aren't they?"

    "It's silly. If you insist on calling it magic, at least be a bit more dignified about it. 'All-encompassing sorcerer's sight', maybe."

    She snorts. "That's dignified, and not silly?"

    "Shut up."

    Her power has been lit up like a Christmas tree the whole time you've been bantering. Is she using superpowers to make sure she doesn't sass you too hard in your fragile emotional state, the considerate bitch?

    Is still using her sensor power on me. Sensor power can be toggled, is deliberately keeping an eye on me.

    Yep, figures. I did just admit to being a villain.

    Is withholding details about her power.

    No big surprise there either, I wouldn't trust myself either at this point in our relationship.

    Left out details because she's embarrassed. Thinks her power is weak, pitiful.

    It seems pretty good to me. Low self esteem would fit her profile, though.

    Is wrong. Hasn't discovered everything her power can do.

    Iiinteresting.

    "Fine. Then tell me, o wise Merlin, what doth thy Sorcerer's Sight reveal when you look at yourself?"

    Huh. That's great idea, and you're ashamed that you didn't think of it yourself. But you still reflexively reply "Don't you mean 'when thou lookest at thyself?'" and Lisa sticks out her tongue at you.

    You look down at your hands. They glow. Well, duh? But that's all you can tell. You cross you eyes as you try to look ins-

    -ide your own head. You're floating in darkness, and you can't tell if you're looking at yourself, or the universe. Is there a difference? Luckily you're distracted from pondering such matters. There are... stars in here? Faint golden stars. One of them is pulsing. You focus your attention on it, and it fills your vision. Up close(?), what seemed like a star turns out to be an incredibly intricate web of golden light. It's... why, it's sorcerer's sight, of course. You'd recognize it anywhere.

    There's where it draws power from- you feel dizzy. From things man was not meant to know, clearly. Here's the part that monitors the emanations given off by powers, this part analyses the results, here's where it hijacks your optic nerve, and here some feedback goes back into, uh, into the unspeakable. Yes of course you can tell how it works, you're using it right now. Something feels off about that logic, but it's inarguably true.

    It's rather similar to what you saw of Lisa's power, now that you think about it. Not the sensor, but the analysis module and the structure of the power conduits... You absently sketch golden lines in a nearby patch of void as you ponder. Hm, no, you got the angles wrong. The conduits won't be stable. And indeed, the lines twist in on themselves and fade away. You'd have to-

    Your eyes fly open and you're back in the real world.

    "I can learn to do what you do," you whisper. Lisa's eyes go wide, and wider still as her power goes off and presumably backs you up on this.

    "Yes, like that. Do that again." You lean forward and stare intently at your new best friend. She complies.

    "Again."

    "Whoa, slow down. Is this going to take long? I can't keep this pace up forever, you know."

    "Sorry." You do your best to remember what you saw, and mentally sketch it out. But after a minute or so you admit defeat and look back at Lisa imploringly. She sighs and rolls her eyes, but uses her power again.

    ---

    The rest of the day passes in a flash, though to an observer it would look incredibly boring. You stare intently at Lisa for a few seconds, then stare off into space for several minutes. Then you do it again. And again. Lisa initially tried to share amusing anecdotes involving what she discovered about the people passing by, but it was just distracting you so you asked her to stop.

    ---

    Lisa is shaking you by the shoulder. You blink and look around. When did it get so dark?

    "You'd better get home before your dad starts to worry," she says.

    You realize that you haven't eaten anything since breakfast and it's- seven PM, really? Now that you're paying attention again, your bladder is quick to add its own set of complaints. A quick glance tells you that Lisa isn't doing so hot either, but she didn't say anything until now.

    "Wow, uh, yeah. Where did the time go?" You don't even react to the way she said 'dad' rather than 'parents'. She's been sitting there doing nothing but figuring things out all day, after all.

    "So, how close are you to done? When do I get a super-sleuth buddy?"

    "Oh, that. Uh..." You consider what you've learned so far. "Twenty percent? Ish?"

    Lisa can't quite hide a flinch. "It couldn't be easy, could it?"

    "So, uh, same time tomorrow?" You can't quite bring yourself to meet her eyes as you say it. It belatedly occurs to you just how hard you're riding the pity train right now. But you can't stop now. Not when you're this close to getting a real power that doesn't suck.

    "Yeah, ok. Let's remember to eat lunch next time, though."

    ---

    Turns out that your estimate of twenty percent was a bit optimistic, and you weren't quite done by Friday. Just making an exact replica of her power didn't work - whenever you tried, things would just twist away from you and collapse. Different brains, or something. You had to start rebuilding things to fit you, which of course required a lot of pondering and experimentation.

    You wanted to keep going just one more day, but Lisa put her foot down. She didn't become a supervillain in order to work on the weekend, she declared. You conceded the point, and left her to drink champagne on her private yacht, or whatever it is supervillains do to spend their ill-gotten gains.

    Fuck sunlight. Fuck traffic noise. Fuck sensory input in general. Fuck my power, fuck Thinker migraines, fuck everything.

    Fuck Taylor. Why couldn't she just lock herself in her room and listen to sad music when contemplating suicide, like a normal person? But nooo, she had to do it in public. Never sparing a single thought for how she'd be dumping shitloads of guilt on any innocent psychics that happened by, the inconsiderate bitch.

    Fuck me, for thinking I could fix everything by making friends. Girl talk, shopping, all that good stuff. No, of course she turns out to have the least convenient parahuman power in the world, because fuck my life.

    And if I don't show up on Monday for another marathon power abuse session, she'll just jump off a bridge right then and there.

    Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuck.

    You're not a supervillain, though, so you had no qualms about working on the weekend. You spent the whole time at a computer in the library, trying to find out more about powers and parahumans. You had already read all the relevant material provided by the 'official' source of all things parahuman, ParaHumans Online, during your stay in the psych ward. But the problem is right there in 'official': As official as Youtube or Wikipedia - the first, the biggest, an archetype, a de facto monopoly, whatever you want to call it, it's still owned by an unaccountable private entity with an agenda. PHO showed clear signs of twisting in the iron grip of moderators, so you decided to widen your search.

    Unfortunately you quickly discovered that the only people who hosted content outside the 'official' site were the people who had been kicked out from there - and most of them had been kicked out for very good reasons.

    Among other startling things, your off-PHO trawl taught you that Scion is the second coming of Jesus, that Scion is the devil pretending to be Jesus to lead people astray, and that Scion is a remote-controlled animatronic puppet run by the CIA, who are lizard people. You also learned that both the president of the United States and the chief director of the PRT are actually Eidolon, using Changer powers to secretly run the whole country.

    Eidolon is also Scion, and Legend's husband. Or maybe the husband is real, and Legend is just cheating on him with Eidolon. You learned so many things about Legend's love life. The Endbringers aren't real, the government made them up to cover up nuclear and/or mind control tests on civilians. The Endbringers are demons, everyone is already dead, and this is hell.

    As fun as all that was, you did learn some real things as well. You think. You learned that parahumans are born as well as made - that is, unless you're born with certain specific mutations in your brain, you will never get powers no matter how bad your life gets. There are several papers on the subject, complete with MRI images (that you lack the expertise to interpret, but no one seems to refute). Yet there is no mention of this on PHO. This fact is considered too undemocratic for public consumption, apparently.

    You already knew that you can't deliberately give yourself a so called 'trigger event', nor can anyone else trigger you if you know that's what they are trying to do. No one knows why that is the case, but the PHO wiki warned about it in very big letters. What you didn't know about was the multitude of things done to more or less willing subjects by various government agencies before people figured this out, and frankly you could have done without that knowledge. The released documents contain more black bars than legible text, but still manage to make your stomach turn. When the page starts describing things that are still being done by various African warlords today, you decide drop that line of inquiry.

    But there are also a lot of rumors, individually easy to dismiss but collectively convincing, of an organization, or villain team, or single villain (accounts differ on that part) that can give people powers on demand. How they do it is anyone's guess. Maybe there's a cape out there that can give other people powers permanently, maybe it's some sort of surgery or drugs to activate the previously mentioned mutant brain region, or maybe they are just that much better than anyone else at torturing people.

    You also figured out who Lisa is. Apparently no one else even knows what her power is, but you were able to find her through a process of elimination: Every other possible match had known powers that didn't match Lisa's. You're pretty impressed, actually. 'Tattletale is allegedly a supervillain operating in Brockton Bay', that's the entirety of her wiki entry. She must be very new, or very clever. Oh right, she is literally superhumanly clever. Speaking of which, it's time for your final training session, then you can be superhumanly clever too! You walk right past Winslow, as you have done every day for the last week, and continue on towards the boardwalk to meet your friend.

    ===

    If you ever meet the sunk cost fallacy you should give him a big sloppy kiss, because he just saved your life. If Lisa had known from the start how much of an effort saving you would be she would have walked away and eaten that guiltsicle without a moment's hesitation.
     
  3. Threadmarks: T.03
    Daniel Snuts

    Daniel Snuts Know what you're doing yet?

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    The golden web twists in your grasp. Not again! You were sure you had it this time. What did you miss? But rather than fall apart, like it has done the last, oh, fifty or so times you tried, it seems to settle in. You gingerly release the construct and there's golden flash in your minds eye as it sears itself into the fabric of your soul and/or reality.

    You let out a shuddering breath. "I did it," you say softly, hardly daring to believe it. "I finally have a real power."

    "About time, isn't it?" Lisa tries to keep a light tone, but you can tell that she's pretty fed up with the whole thing too. "Go on, show me. Deduce something about me, Holmes."

    Ok, you will. Dear new power, why is Lisa wearing so much makeup lately? She wasn't wearing any at all when you first met, but now she's practically slathering it on. You try to activate your new power the same way you do sorcerer's sight, but nothing happens. It seems to be stuck somehow? You frown.

    "It- it's not letting me turn it on."

    "Seriously? Are you sure-" Lisa's power activates, and she winces. "Yeah ok, I can confirm that you really have it."

    "How do you use yours?" you ask.

    She shrugs. "It just happens on its own when I want it to. Or sometimes when I don't. It's never been difficult." This is clearly your cue to make a joke about some bodily function or other, but you're too distracted to come up with something funny.

    "Are you still using sorcerer's sight? Maybe you can only do one thing at a time."

    You turn off your magic eyes and try again. Please work, please work...

    "What's my favourite color?" Lisa asks. You shake your head. "When is my birthday?" Nothing. Not a single glimmer of intuition.

    "Can you really tell someone's birthday?" you ask.

    "To the nearest month, sure. Let's try something else." Lisa rolls up her sleeve and puts her hand just below the table. "How many fingers am I holding up?" You realize that you're supposed to figure it out from looking at the tendons in her wrist, but it's not working.

    She's starting to look worried. You can only imagine what your own face looks like right now. You could feel it becoming part of you. Why isn't it working?

    "Maybe it just won't turn on its wielder. How about that guy over there? Tell me something embarrassing about him."

    You glare at the poor innocent bystander and hammer at your new power, to no effect. Come on, come on... You realize that you've been clenching your jaw so hard that you're starting to feel a headache coming on. It hasn't been helping. You slump in your seat, defeated.

    "Nothing." You hide your face in your hands. No. No no no no-

    Lisa wants Coil dead.

    "YES!" You jump out of your seat and pump your fist in victory. "Yessssssss!"

    "Uh, Taylor? You're spooking the normies." Lisa says softly. She's smiling, though.

    You look around, and realize that a number of other people in the cafe are staring at you. Also, that you're doing a victory dance. "Sorry," you mutter, and sit down again. But you're still shaking with adrenaline, and you can't keep a grin off your face.

    "So, dish. What did you figure out?" Lisa asks.

    Oh, that. "What do you have against Coil? Isn't he-" Lisa is making frantic shushing motions. She looks scared, now.

    "Come on, let's go for a walk," she says.

    You're confused. She has been perfectly fine with discussing your respective powers and the finer points of supervillainy in the cafe, but now she's worried. Well, maybe it makes sense. The powers that be seem to be unreasonably lenient towards costumed crime, after all, but you just graduated to discussing regular old-fashioned murder. Apparently.

    You end up back at the bench where you first met.

    "First up, you're never going to say that name again," Lisa says after looking around around to make sure that no one is nearby. "Second, you're going to tell me exactly what you just found out. Third, we're going to talk about the importance of pretending that none of this happened."

    You frown. "Ok, so about... Pancakes. I was going to say, isn't he the guy who's LARPing as a villain?" From what you read online Coil has been seen in costume and surrounded by minions, but no one has ever caught him, or them, actually using a power or committing a crime. "Obviously not, from your reaction."

    "Hell no. Pancakes is the real deal. Easily the scariest guy in town. No one has anything on him because he's just that good."

    "Like you, then," you note.

    "I'm nothing like him!"

    You hold up your hands placatingly. "I just meant that no one knows anything about your power either, Tattletale." She gives you an 'I see what you did there' look as you casually drop her cape name.

    "Oh, that. Yeah, I've been trying to keep out of the spotlight. But the Undersiders are going to become a lot more well known in the next few months. We're the hottest up and coming villain team you'll ever see." She flashes you her trademark smile.

    You grin back. You figured out her name, yes, but you didn't know she was part of the Undersiders.

    Lisa shakes her head ruefully as her power tells her this. "Well played," she says. "But we're getting off track. Exactly what did you find out about Pancakes?"

    "You, uh, really don't like 'em." You scratch at the back of your neck and look away. There is really no nice way of putting this. "Like, you prefer your Pancakes to not be alive."

    "Shit! And you thought birthdays were hard? How the hell did you get that one?"

    "I don't- well, hmmm..." You do kind of have an idea, but it needs testing. "Wait here, I have to try something."

    "Where are you going? We're not done talking!" Lisa tries to grab your arm, but you shake her off. You have science to do. Your new power didn't activate until you gave up and stopped trying to interact with Lisa. So, interaction first, power second.

    There's a middle-aged lady coming this way. She looks safe. You walk towards her while looking out towards the bay, and bump into her slightly as you pass each other.

    "Sorry." / "Sorry."

    No insight. Probably needs more interaction. You notice that Lisa has been following you. Fine, she can be your assistant. You spot a likely next test subject: A well-muscled young man around twenty or so, wearing a short-sleeved shirt in January. Yeah, wringing some interaction out of this guy won't be hard. You grab Lisa by the arm and approach him.

    "Excuse me? Could you help us settle a bet?" you say.

    "Yes?"

    "My friend here," you indicate Lisa, "claims that you must go to the gym five times a week to look that good. I said three times a week was enough."

    "Ah, I'm afraid that your friend has the right of it." The way he smiles and subtly but visibly flexes as he answers makes you giggle. That's ok, being giggly increases the verisimilitude.

    Lisa reaches out to squeeze his bicep, causing him to abandon subtlety and adopt a strongman pose. "See, I know these things," she says. Her tone is appropriately light, but the glare she shoots you tells you that she has opinions about the little roleplaying scenario you dragged her into.

    You're not quite sure that was enough interaction, so you steel yourself for the next logical step. You're only going to want to melt into the pavement and die for a brief moment.

    "So, uh, do you want to grab a coffee?" Fuck, that stings. The way he looks at you in response clearly communicates 'I enjoy the attention, but I'm so far out of your league it's not even funny'.

    "Perhaps another time," he says diplomatically. You nod silently, trying to contain your blush. As he leaves, you activate your power again.

    Muscle dude wants to go on a date with Miss Militia

    Lisa puts a hand on your shoulder. "Don't feel too bad about it, Taylor. He prefers older women."

    "I know," you say, grinning like a maniac. This must be how Lisa feels all the time.

    "Ah, so you figured out how it works."

    "Yeah. It's more limited than yours. I need to talk to people, and then I know their soul's price."

    "You know their what?"

    "You know, their deepest, most heartfelt desire? The thing that, if provided to them, would make them loyal to me."

    Lisa's eyes go wide. "You turned Sherlock Holmes into a Master power!"

    "It's not a Master power," you object. "It's called gratitude."

    "Nuh-uh. My power says it's a Master effect. Check it with your sorcerer's sight, I bet you'll spot a little seed left in his brain that's going to make it really hard for him to be ungrateful." A look of disgust crosses her face. "Hell, check my brain."

    You turn your sight back on and look after muscle dude. He's pretty far away, but you can still make out a tiny glowing speck in his otherwise hollow aura. Yeah. He may have turned you down for a date, but you still put a little bit of parahuman inside him.

    It's harder to tell with Lisa. The glow of her own power makes the seed stand out less, but now that you know what you're looking for you can tell that it's there. You also notice another form of feedback, from your new power reacting to the seed it planted. "I'm standing next to a person whose soul I know the price of," it says. Don't you mean 'of whose soul I know the price?' you respond, and it sticks out its tongue at you. Ok not really, but you're trying to distract yourself from the sudden guilt.

    "Sorry," you say.

    "I guess it doesn't do any harm," she admits. "After all, that seed is never going to blossom. Because you're going to promise me to never mess with, uh, Pancakes, and I'm going to check to make sure you mean it."

    "If-"

    "Because if you don't," she continues, "we're both going to end up dead. Also your dad, and your favorite teacher, and your dog if you had one. I repeat, Pancakes don't fuck around."

    Holy shit.

    "Didn't you say earlier that the unwritten rules-"

    "Pancakes don't give a shit about the rules, Taylor. Until and unless you copy a power that makes you - and your friends, my ass is on the line too - immune to snipers, don't even think about it."

    "Yeah, I promise." You are being 100% sincere, avoiding Pancakes seems like an excellent idea. Lisa looks intently at you, then nods.

    "Speaking of copying powers, exactly how does it work? How long can you hold on to it? Can you hold more than one at a time?" She pauses, then asks what you suspect is actually foremost on her mind: "If you need it again, will be faster the second time around?"

    You shake your head. "It doesn't work like that. It's part of me now, exactly like sorcerer's sight." Lisa opens her mouth to speak, but you hold up your hand. "I don't think there's a limit, either. When I look at them, they are like tiny stars in an infinite void."

    Lisa just stares at you for a moment, then snorts. "And this is the girl who was going 'boo hoo, woe is me, my power sucks?'" She looks thoughtful, then adds "As much as it pains me to admit it, you really should join the Wards."

    "Fuck the Wards," you respond automatically.

    "No, seriously. Go to the PRT and introduce yourself as the lovechild of Dauntless and Eidolon. They'll keep you safe from everything and give you new powers to eat all day, every day, forever. Then by the time you graduate you and Dauntless Original Flavor can form the second Triumvirate together. Just the two of you, a second Triumvirate, because you'll be that strong."

    "Perhaps I didn't speak clearly enough. Fuck. The. Wards." Lisa tries to say something, but you keep going. "I bet if you came to them as a Thinker... seven-ish, whatever, they would keep you safe and give you lots of interesting things to think about too. Yet here you are. Do you think I want to sit around being treated like a combination house pet/nuclear weapon? To hang out with assholes and be bossed around by cunts all day long, forever?"

    Did she think the prospect of free powers would make you forget about Shadow Stalker, and what her superiors let her do? You'd rather join the Slaughterhouse 9 than the Wards.

    Lisa holds up her hands. "Fine, forget I said anything. But if you go independent you're going to have to keep a low profile. The lowest. If the truth gets out everyone will be after you. At the same time, you need to get more powerful fast. You're still a pure Thinker in a world full of Blasters and Brutes."

    "I can handle myself, thanks." You're a Brute too. Barely.

    "Not saying you can't, not saying you can't. There's just, uh, I have this friend who I could probably be convinced to let you study their power, who'll keep their mouth shut about it. Do you-"

    "I said, I can handle myself." No, you're not being unreasonable or unfair to your only friend because you're angry at someone completely unrelated. Shut up, tiny voice.

    "At least take this." She hands you a cellphone. "It's just a cheap burner with my number on it. In case anything comes up, or if you want to brag about your exploits, or whatever." When you inevitably get in trouble and need my help, she doesn't say, very loudly.

    You nod stiffly and accept the proffered phone, because you're being reasonable. It's not like you need ever use it.

    You exchange farewells, and you don't even flip the bird over your shoulder when you hear her mutter about how she's 'not letting all that effort go to waste'.

    ===

    This is where I head off Taylor joining the Wards, which would make for a non-story, and Taylor joining Coil, which would make for a light-hearted comedy. I need something juicier and more grimderp.

    With the introductory chapters out of the way, expect another 10-15kB per day, five days per week. Or rather don't expect that, because it's a fan fiction writer telling you they'll keep to a schedule. Expect it to end suddenly and disappointingly.

    This is also where I reveal the basic conceit of CLS: You have your one starter Charm, and the only way to gain more is to use it to study other parahumans. All charms count as out-of-caste and cannot be learned without a 'teacher', but also ignore all prerequisites.

    Charms:
    Taylor: All-encompassing Sorcerer's Sight
    Tattletale: Know the Soul's Price

    Quests:
    John 'Test Subject' Doe: Wants a date with Miss Militia
    Tattletale: Wants Coil dead
     
  4. space turtle

    space turtle Know what you're doing yet?

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    Now I know this will go down as well with you as it would with Taylor.
    But yeah, Lisa is 1000000% correct that she should join the wards. It’s not even funny.

    I’m not even being hyperbolic when I say that if she asked for Sophia’s head to mount on her wall, a rectangle would open up in space shortly after SS “accidentally” walked into a HV transformer.

    So for the sake of story imma wait and see what happens and assume Contessa either went blind or also fell into a HV transformer.
    But once Taylor gets a bit more grounded this will require revisiting if only to hear her justification of why she won’t work with the “heroes” knowing her own value versus SS.
     
    Tycos, srg, Ragura and 11 others like this.
  5. Akuma-Heika

    Akuma-Heika The Devil Exists Within

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    Is there going to be descriptive gore, or should we request a mod to move this to the SFW forum?

    Forgot to thread mark ch3.

    So far so good. I have seen a few WormExalted fics (maybe only 6 or so that were longer than 10K words [a couple that were over a 100K]), but they have all died. This definitely has a different twist though! Only other one with as massive a twist was the Lord of Heaven Taylor one.

    Does Taylor have any innate anima powers?
     
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  6. Daniel Snuts

    Daniel Snuts Know what you're doing yet?

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    No, I'm with you there completely. She really should join the Wards. But that would prevent all the things I want to write about from happening, so I can't allow events to play out that way. Hopefully I can pull that off without ruining the story for too many people.

    Dunno how descriptive it's gonna be, but since I'm pretty sure Bonesaw isn't going to be the worst thing that happened to someone by the time it's done I decided to err on the side of caution.

    I don't think I've seen this "Lord of Heaven" fic. Unless it's the one where she's a spirit rather than an exalt?

    Since she's got the lethal soak and suchlike, she logically should have, right? I wonder what anima powers you would have, if your schtick is learning other people's charms...
     
  7. naarn

    naarn I trust you know where the happy button is?

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    Seems like an old-school Eclipse/Moonshadow/Fiend. Although, with All-encompassing Sorcerer's Sight her sole native charm, she could just as easily be Twilight.

    She doesn't seem to have to worry about essence motes or willpower.

    And you never know about the Wards. The PRT and/or Wards could manage to screw things up just as bad as other routes. Odds are probably better going the government route, but I sure wouldn't want to have to bet on it.
     
  8. Anor

    Anor Know what you're doing yet?

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    I'm a simple man. I see Lisa, I press like.:D

    But seriously, this looks promising.
    Of course Lisa couldn't pass by indifferently. Taylor is unknowingly pushing all her buttons right now.
    So she can't instantly copy someone else's power. Good. Otherwise it would be too easy and the story would be less interesting.
    So she doesn't get a perfect copy of someone else's powers. It's even better.
    I couldn't have put it better myself.:D
    Lisa may not be a hero to everyone, but she's definitely acting like a hero right now...well, or like a good friend. I guess the difference between a friend and a hero sometimes isn't that big, huh?
    Yeah..On the one hand, it's not a bad idea to seek help from a government organization. On the other hand, seek help from a government organization when you live on Earth-Bet (in Brockton Bay, no less)...I'm not sure it's still a good idea...
     
  9. KonradC

    KonradC I trust you know where the happy button is?

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    It's cool idea, will be watching
     
  10. Mastersgt

    Mastersgt Experienced.

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    Genuinely always bothered when Taylor(or her dad, or a friend of the family, or ANYONE really) does not try and go higher up the ladder to report what happened with the Locker. Since it is just so ridiculously extreme and exaggerated that there is NO WAY that heads won't roll when you notify people outside of Brockton Bay... What with BB authorities almost always being corrupt or incompetent. Like, Calling up the CDC, the FBI, etc... etc... With people like Nillbog, the Slaughterhouse 9, etc... There is no way the alphabet agencies would ignore idiots getting THAT out of hand when it comes to ignoring crimes being committed. Even if just to stop someone triggering and going insane. Like, pretty sure the Locker was legit bioterrorism, and I REALLY doubt the school did remotely enough to clean that up. Then there is the attempted murder piled on top of the campaign of assault, harassment, and bullying.
    Can't ignore the fact that the NDA, contract or whatever that Danny signed would be illegal regardless, as you cannot cover up a crime like that...

    I dunno. It just REALLY bothers me when no one tries reporting what happened to anyone beyond just the local(City/state) level. When I just KNOW that if they did things would start gathering actual traction.

    Always felt weird in Canon what with Danny being such a big deal with the DWU and yet he apparently has zero critical thinking skills or the ability to ferret out that a contract might be illegal, or something is fishy, etc...

    Sorry about the mini-rant. Nothing against your story, nothing really wrong with it(pretty much ALL WORM stories do this), I just needed to get that off my chest.
     
  11. Threadmarks: S.01
    Daniel Snuts

    Daniel Snuts Know what you're doing yet?

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    You have time to cool off a bit on the way home. Lisa was just trying to help, you realize. You should probably apologize for biting her head off like that. It's what a good person would do. Yet, it seems that you really don't want to. Guess you're not a good person.

    Even that aside, alienating someone so resourceful and potentially helpful - who appears to be loyal even without soul's price shenanigans - is just stupid. A simple text message saying 'sorry' would do it. Five letters and you're done. Hell, three letters would do.

    Your new cellphone remains in your pocket. Guess you're not a smart person either.

    Another worrying thought hits you as you enter your house. You haven't been to school in a week. You didn't even consider it an option, not when you could be getting a new power instead. Now that you have it... you're not regretting your choices, not for a moment. It's just that you've started to consider consequences again.

    Your dad hasn't said anything. Surely he must know. The school must have called. You barely even talk to each other anymore, but he's still very protective. He'd especially want to protect you from yourself. Probably because he's learned firsthand how bad things can get when you just stop caring about things, you think sourly.

    Yet this evening passes like any other, in that familiar uncomfortable silence, broken only by token queries and formulaic answers.

    Maybe... maybe there's been a mixup at school. You only went back very briefly last Monday. There was that one roll call, yes, but maybe they think you were marked as present by mistake. After all, you didn't show up for any other classes that day. Or that week. They might think that you're still in the hospital.

    If so, that's... nice, but it's going to blow up in your face any day now. But you're not going to let that bother you now. You have a brand new power itching to be used. Tomorrow is the first day of your new career.

    ---

    A fresh new day, and you already have a plan. It's simple really, it goes something like this:

    1. Find parahuman, know soul's price
    2. Do huge favor, gain loyalty
    3. Request favor in return: Let me study your power

    You don't worry about the tiny bit of mind control that's going to help said loyalty along. Gratitude is good! The world could use more of it. Sure, someone who really wanted to could paint what you're setting out to do in a negative light, with cackling and world domination and 'all shall love me and despair'. But that's not what you're about. Yes, you're going to discover people's deepest secrets and use your knowledge to control their behavior. That sounds bad. But you're going to do it by helping them get the thing they desperately want. It's like the opposite of blackmail.

    Yes, you're going to be a hero. Or, an anti-villain at worst. Slightly Morally Ambiguous Santa Claus. Though you're going to need a better cape name than that. Or, ideally, you wouldn't need one, because if everything goes perfectly no one will even realize that you're using a power on them. Hah. Yeah, you're not going to rely on everything going perfectly.

    But if it does... why, everything is just going to get easier and easier as you go along. Pretend for a moment that the random dude from yesterday had been a cape. Then as soon as you helped Miss Militia, you could simply ask her to go an a date with him. Boom, two powers for the price of one.

    Which is not to say that there won't be challenges to this, uh, reverse blackmail scheme. First problem: Actually interacting with people to learn their secrets. You're hardly about to walk into ABB territory and announce "hi, I'd like to have a brief conversation with Lung," you're not sui- you're not stupid.

    Even heroes present a problem. You're not going to be joining the Wards (fuck the Wards), so you'd have to find some other way to get to them. You could try walking around alone in the bad parts of town at night, and hope that someone shows up to save you when you inevitably get robbed and/or raped. This is clearly a terrible idea. You could also try robbing people yourself, and then banter with the heroes when they show up to stop you. Also a terrible idea.

    No, you're going to have to catch them in their civilian identity. Which in and of itself is not hard, everyone knows the Wards all go to school at Arcadia. You know better of course, but most of them probably go there. All you have to do is hang around outside Arcadia with sorcerer's sight on and you'll pick them out in no time at all. You're even too young and female to be arrested for creepily lurking outside a school all day.

    But that still leaves the issue of the approach. You're going to need some extremely plausible deniability each time you do it. If they just tell to fuck off, they're busy people, that's a best case scenario. Worst case they begin to wonder why you're accosting them specifically - didn't their teammate mention that they were also being stalked by an ugly brunette the other day? - and then you wake up in an interrogation room surrounded by angry people with superpowers.

    ---

    You spent most of high school being flat broke. Because literally everything that you brought to school would eventually end up either stolen or destroyed. Including clothes and school books. So you had to keep buying replacements. But since the... the...

    The locker. You don't have to be afraid of the word any more. The locker was good. The locker gave you powers. Good powers. Deep breaths.

    Since the locker plan involved several months of not ruining your shit, you were able to accumulate some modest savings. Of course nothing you stored in the locker was salvageable, but since you're not going back to school you don't need to worry about replacing it either.

    First up, contact lenses. Who has ever seen a cape with glasses? You get a month's supply of disposable one-day lenses to start with.

    Next, weapons. Until you get real combat powers, you'll just have to shore up your Brute 0 durability with ordinary weapons. No guns, though. Even disregarding the issues of finding someone willing to sell to a gun to a fifteen-year-old, you noticed that capes don't tend use guns. Even though cops have them and - this is the really strange part, now that you think about it - a regular handgun is actually better than the powers of several successful heroes. Another unwritten rules thing? You'll have to ask Lisa.

    Instead, you end up settling for a small canister of pepper spray. You should probably get a knife as well. Problem is you don't know anything about knives.

    You size up the guy manning the register. Exactly the kind of man you'd expect to see running a survival/sporting goods/self-defense store. He clearly loves the constitution, especially the second amendment. Maybe not so much thirteen through fifteen. You figure a direct approach would be best.

    "Perhaps you can recommend me a good knife," you say.

    "What would you be using it for?"

    "If the pepper spray doesn't work, I'd like to be able to stab my attacker in the dick."

    He nods approvingly at your attitude, but seems concerned about your competence. "Do you know how to use a knife?" he asks.

    Turns out that 'pointy end goes in the bad guy?' is not considered sufficient expertise. So you get a lecture on the history, philosophy and morality of self defense and the act of carrying a deadly weapon. Also a brief digression on the unbearable embarrassment inherent in being stabbed to death with your own knife after the bad guy wrestles it away from you, and a scrawled note with the phone number of a guy who gives lessons in knife fighting.

    Those formalities out of the way, he shows you several combat knives, discussing their relative merits at length. You end up just picking the cheapest one, though. Good knives are more expensive than you thought! You're pretty much broke again.

    No matter. Perhaps you'll- holy shit is that who you think it is? It is! What are the odds? You're not even using sorcerer's sight to scan the crowd for random capes, because you thought it was too unlikely to succeed. You're not going to question it, though. You figure the universe owes you a few hundred lucky breaks.

    Don't stop, don't stare. Pretend you didn't notice, circle around. You need a plan. You can't just approach directly, because a) it won't work, celebrities don't just stop and chat like that, and b) you can't be seen deliberately approaching any cape, even one with a public identity. You must avoid that pattern of behavior entirely.

    Okay, you've got this. You have a plan.

    ---

    Oh god, this is the worst plan. You can't believe you thought this was a good plan. But you have to keep going. There's your target, and there's a car, right on cue. You'll never have a better chance.

    You step into the street. For a brief moment your world is full of car horn and screeching tires, then it's full of pain and you're flying through the air. You have to protect your head, she can't heal brains, you have to protect your head but you have no idea which way is up and you can't seem to move your arms properly.

    By pure luck you land mostly on your butt. Your new purchases dig into your back as your backpack 'cushions' the impact, and your head hits the pavement relatively gently. The more impressionable bystanders have started screaming. You just lie there with your eyes closed, waiting for the pain to go away. Someone gently touches your neck, and it does. See, perfect plan. You don't know what you were fretting about earlier.

    "Oh god, is she going to be all right?"

    Your eyes snap open and fasten on an old man standing next to you, wringing his hands and generally looking terrified and miserable. Oh wait, you recognize him. It's the driver, you caught a brief glimpse of him before you became airborne.

    "She just appeared right in front of me, there was nothing I could do. Please tell me she's going to be all right."

    All of a sudden you're filled with guilt and shame. This wasn't part of the plan. You never considered to feelings of the driver of the car you were going to use as a prop. Or to be more precise, it didn't even occur to you that you might encounter a non-asshole who wouldn't just yell at you for denting his car with your clumsy body.

    "Please-" There's a lump in our throat. "Please forgive me."

    He seems taken aback. "Young lady, I-"

    "It was entirely my fault," you interrupt him. "I did not watch where I was going. I deeply regret subjecting you to such a traumatic experience. Please, may I have your forgiveness?"

    "She's going to be all right," Panacea interjects. "She was hurt pretty badly, but it's nothing that I can't fix."

    "Was you car damaged?" you ask. "I, I can help pay for repairs." 'You totally can't, you're broke!', a small voice inside your head screams.

    "No, no! There's just a bit of, uh- it wasn't damaged."

    "Then please, don't let me take up any more of your time. I'm fine. I'm being tended to by the greatest healer in the world-" You break off as you realize one element that you had forgotten to account for in your plans. Panacea can only fix people. But a quick check reveals that your glasses are still on your face, still intact.

    "-and I didn't even break my glasses," you finish. "If you could put this shameful incident entirely from your mind, nothing could make me happier."

    Did you really just say that? Perhaps you scrambled your brains a little bit after all, because apparently your speech patterns regressed several centuries in an attempt to convey the intensity of your feelings. At least the driver seems to take it at face value. He nods awkwardly to you before returning to his vehicle.

    Panacea, on the other hand, is giving you a somewhat skeptical look. "All done," she announces. She grabs your hand to help you stand up. "On your feet, victim girl."

    Well, at least the unexpected genuine guilt was good practice for the next step of the plan.

    "I'm so terribly sorry," you tell her. "I know you work so hard to help those in need, and here I go wasting what little free time you have with more work." Panacea still looks skeptical, but maybe a little pleased, too.

    "It's no trouble", she says, "I could hardly have left you dying in the street."

    "Still, I feel terrible about it." You don't actually feel terrible about it. Panacea is a second-generation cape, she can deal. "Can I make it up to you somehow? Buy you dinner?"

    She shakes her head.

    "A coffee, at least?" you try.

    "Thanks, but I really have to go. Just try to be more careful in the future."

    Panacea wants her sister to reciprocate her romantic feelings

    Wow. That's, uh. Wow. Luckily, no one will think it odd if you just stand there for a while, staring after your savior like an idiot. Because that's what you're going to do.

    That, that sure is a can of worms. No, you're not going to mindrape Glory Girl, that's not the issue. But if you someday got a power that could, the most ethical thing might actually be to mindrape Panacea into being less of a deranged pervert (and then reapply soul's price for a second try). After all, if there is such a power out there Panacea could try to get it from the original source, and that is Not OK.

    Irregardless (you feel a need to compensate for your earlier overly formal language), that's a problem for another day. You turn away and lose yourself in the crowd.

    You regret that you didn't catch her healing you with sorcerer's sight, but you couldn't risk turning it on. With every function of your body laid out for her inspection, the very last thing you wanted to hear from her was "what's going on with your optic nerve? Are you a cape?" You had to gamble on her not noticing your Brute 0 powers as it was.

    You seem to have dodged that particular bullet, but you have to face the really glaringly obvious flaw in your plan that you really should have seen coming: These are people with superhuman powers you're targeting. Whatever it is that they want, that they don't already have, is going to be fucking difficult to acquire.

    Especially since you entirely lack powers to help with step 2. You, uh, you should probably call up Lisa, apologize to her and ask her to hook you up with that friend she mentioned.

    No! You can't just let a single setback demoralize you like that. If reverse blackmail isn't working, what else can you do? How about, reverse vigilantism? Where you patrol the streets at night, trying to not stop crime. Where instead of hunting criminals, you hunt heroes hunting criminals, and secretly study them with sorcerer's sight.

    Ok, so what are the glaringly obvious flaws that you really should have seen coming with this plan?

    1. Dangerous. Without combat powers, it's basically a thinly disguised version of your rejected "get mugged, hope for heroes" plan.
    2. Fights don't last very long. A few minutes at most. It took you something like 50 hours to copy Lisa's power. Maybe it will be easier next time, but not that much easier.
    3. Capes with Mover powers will use them for the entire duration of their patrol. But the whole point of Mover powers is that you, the (mostly) baseline human, can't keep up with them.

    Yeah, you sure are glad you saw those glaringly obvious flaws in advance. So what else can you do? Why, you could infiltrate one of the existing cape groups in the city. Then you could hang out with them, and spar with them, and challenge them to power using contests. All the while, unbeknownst to them, using sorcerer's sight!

    Yes, this seems like an excellent plan. Now, how to go about it?

    ABB
    -get combat power
    -be asian
    --get Changer power

    Merchants
    -get combat power
    -be addicted to drugs
    --drugs are bad for you

    Empire 88
    -get combat power
    -be white ✓

    Coil
    -nope nope nope nope
    --pancakes are bad for you
    ---staying the hell away from pancakes is not just a good idea, it's also a promise

    Faultline's Crew
    -get combat power
    -just hire them, they are mercenaries
    --get money (what do mercenaries even cost?)

    The Undersiders
    -choo choo all aboard the pity train

    Uber & Leet
    -become fake gamer girl
    --have tits
    ---get Changer power

    Wards
    -fuck the wards

    New Wave
    -get combat power
    -reveal identity
    -be part of the Pelham/Dallon extended family
    --marry Shielder?

    Wards 2, Arcadia Infiltrationist
    -get transferred to Arcadia
    --reverse blackmail school administrator

    Protectorate
    -get combat power
    -be 18+ years old
    --get Changer power
    --new persona must stand up to government scrutiny
    ---identity theft
    ----stop making plans that hurt innocents

    God dammit, more glaringly obvious flaws! Fine, you'll bloody well call Lisa and apologize and ask for her help like a goddamn adult. You get your phone out, but hesitate with your finger over the call button. You still really don't want to do this. You'll text her like goddamn teenager, you decide.

    > Sorry about blowing up on you yesterday. I'd like you to introduce me to your friend.

    < k, will get bck 2 u w/ deets

    Clearly you have some things to learn about texting like a goddamn teenager.

    Still, it's done. You've got a line on a new power to help with step 2, or infiltration, or whatever it turns out to be. Yes, you're back on the pity train, but at least you didn't buy a first class ticket. All it cost you was a piece of your soul- ok, fine your actual soul has golden stars in it. A piece of your self-respect. You weren't using it anyway.

    =====

    Yes, Panacea now knows you're a parahuman. But she's not entirely sure whether you know, because all she saw was an active Gemma and the weakest Brute power in the entire world. Can people trigger without noticing?

    Quests:
    John Q. Randomguy : Wants a date with Miss Militia
    Tattletale: Wants to kill her boss, but you don't know that part yet
    Panacea: Wants to get in her sister's pants
     
  12. Valkor

    Valkor Not too sore, are you?

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    Then why it it in the NSFW section?
     
  13. Daniel Snuts

    Daniel Snuts Know what you're doing yet?

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    The other kind of 'mature themes'. You know, the non-sexy ones?
     
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  14. Windborne

    Windborne Devourer of Stories

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    You should be putting this in the Questing section not creative writing since it’s pretty obvious this isn’t going to be traditional fiction. And if there’s no smut it doesn’t deserve the NSFW tag or categorization because grimderp isn’t NSFW, just for mature audiences. There is actually a difference there, just like there’s a difference between a story and implausible instruction manuals (aka Quests). There are reasons there are conventions for writing a story. This has broken a ton of them, PoV and Tense in particular. You did follow the most important one which is that you use Sans Serif font for digital formats, but that might just be because you’re lazy and ignorant instead of informed.
     
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  15. Valkor

    Valkor Not too sore, are you?

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    Those themes are perfectly acceptable in the sfw section. Hell, people bitch about SB and SV being sanitised but you have a lot of stories that have some dark shit there.
     
  16. Cubbyhb1

    Cubbyhb1 Theoretically Capable of Sleep

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    Can Taylor spend willpower to ignore UMI?
     
  17. Daniel Snuts

    Daniel Snuts Know what you're doing yet?

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    Ah, I didn't know that. If some mod wants to de-tag and move this then, that's fine.

    Uh, no? It shouldn't go in questing, because it's not a quest. The way I'm not holding votes is a bit of a tell.

    As for using second person present tense, I admit that it's unconventional and perhaps not to everyone's taste, but it's a deliberate choice and I don't think I've slipped up anywhere (the first chapter deliberately starts in past tense until it catches up to the 'present', as a literary device).

    That is part of the exalt package.
     
  18. Anor

    Anor Know what you're doing yet?

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    No, no, this is a slippery slope, Taylor..
    But something tells me that you wouldn't want to be on the other end of the stick.
    Lisa! Lisa, where are you? Taylor is going to do something stupid, please stop her!

    One small mistake and people will know that you are a walking violation of unwritten rules, Taylor.
    Jesus Christ, Taylor...
    And why the hell didn't that thought occur to you before you decided to throw yourself in front of a car?
    I'm starting to suspect that your shard really has a lot of influence on your decisions.
    Oh thank God! Seriously, I was already beginning to doubt whether she had any common sense. I mean, yes, Taylor canonically may not have been the perfect model of sanity, but still...
     
  19. Akuma-Heika

    Akuma-Heika The Devil Exists Within

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    I called it Lord of Heaven, because I cannot remember the proper name for it, and in it, Taylor triggers either with a different Shard entirely, or QA absorbed/subjugated another Shard created when Zion ate a Demense in Creation (as revealed by the author as to the origin of the power). Worked it into a Shard, but it was judged a failure/worthless since it pretty much only converted power on an equal basis (and thus might have delegated it to QA to see if it could be useful). He couldn't find any way of generating more power than used, thus unable to prevent Heat Death. Taylor gets said power, and it turns her into a god, and since Earth Bet/its universe doesn't have a Celestial Order, she is automatically made the head of her Universe's Celestial Order (but no where near as powerful as any of the Celestines, let alone Ignis Divine), but her powers include all default powers of gods, along with some Spirit Charms, and most importantly, she could create new gods (and collect a prayer tax just like Ignis Divine does).

    Edit: I think it might have been called Celestial Bureaucracy on SB (which is a big part of why I haven't read it in awhile -_-)

    The thing is, prayer allows for generation of energy (Essence) and matter (Quintessence and Ambrosia) without equivalent exchange; Zion/Eden just didn't realize that (if they could even comprehend it).

    Based on what Charms she had learned by this point )and the golden stars in her soul [plural was making me wonder if she was a fusion of Solar castes though...that could be various levels of BS :p]), I assumed she was a Solar (or more specifically, her Shard was made after studying Solars/their Keter souls), especially since she wasn't recreating other powers as Charms. If not, Eclipse Anima power is split into two active effects and one passive, with one of said active effects being learning Charms of foreign beings
     
    Last edited: Apr 27, 2022
  20. Daniel Snuts

    Daniel Snuts Know what you're doing yet?

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    Um, this seems to have acquired an "exalted 3e" tag all of its own. Can whoever did that undo it, please? This is exalted 2e, for the record.
     
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  21. giodan

    giodan Well worn.

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    This kind of slow start.... it make me think of cast in gold.

    Ok I got big hopes for this one!
     
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  22. Threadmarks: S.02
    Daniel Snuts

    Daniel Snuts Know what you're doing yet?

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    When you get back home you find your dad waiting for you. From his expression you can tell that yeah, that thing you thought could blow up in your face at any moment? You were right.

    "Taylor," he says, "I got a call from the school today."

    You nod. "I thought you might." You don't bother trying to deny anything.

    "Why?" he asks. The word is plaintive, a plea for understanding.

    "Did you think I had a good time at school?" you snarl. "You saw what they did to me, and you ask me why?"

    "You can't just drop out!"

    "Of course I can! People drop out of school all the time!"

    He turns away from you, his hands squeezing into fists. After several deep breaths, still staring at the wall, he manages to ask "What have you been doing all day for the last week?"

    You've been... hah, that's funny. "I've been studying with my friend Lisa."

    Your dad turns back to you, incredulity overcoming his anger. "Studying?"

    "Honest to god, I've never studied so hard in my life."

    "You've been skipping school so you could study in peace." He shakes his head in disbelief and sits down on the couch. "Oh, Taylor. Annette would be so proud of you. And even angrier than I am! It doesn't work that way. Life isn't that easy."

    "Yeah, I know." You sit down next to him, and for a while neither of you knows what to say next.

    Oh right, you have powers now. There's no reason not to know his soul's price.

    Danny wants you to be happy.

    That- that makes sense. In retrospect, it's not even the least bit surprising. He's your dad. Of course he's prepared to sell his soul for you. That's just things working as intended.

    Oh goddammit, you're crying now. That's not good. That's the opposite of what you're supposed to be doing. You're supposed to be happy, for your dad's sake. The knowledge that you're fucking it all up just makes you cry harder.

    He's hugging you now, and making soothing noises. He's also clearly panicking because he has no idea what to say to you beyond that.

    You snort, and hiccup. Things dad is prepared to do for you: Sell his soul, yes. Have a real conversation, no. That's funny. A little bit funny, and a whole lot sad. Also, if you're being honest with yourself, clearly a hereditary trait. Could you please be an adult for once?

    "I- I'm sorry dad," you manage to get out. "I know you want me to be happy, but I, I don't think I can do that right now. Can we just be sadbuddies instead?"

    He makes a noise halfway between a laugh and a sob. "Sadbuddies," he agrees.

    "I promise I'll go back to school tomorrow," you say. "I'll try to work things out." It's not that he's convinced you of the merits of school contra the anti-villain dropout lifestyle. You were just reminded that you can use your powers on regular people too. You're going to go to school and wait for Emma to interact with you, and then you're going to figure out what the fuck her problem is.

    ---

    Ah, Winslow. Coming back instantly fills you with anti-nostalgia.

    But at least you were missed, right? "Welcome back, Taylor," Julia says sweetly as she steps out in front of you. When you try to go around her, she shoves you back. "How rude!" she exclaims in mock horror. Then she leans forward and very carefully and deliberately spits in your face. "Civilized people respond when someone greets them, you know."

    You forcefully shove her aside and wipe your face on your sleeve as you walk away. She calls after you, something about you having STDs? Whatever. She's not Emma, this is not the interaction you are here for.

    ---

    "Taylor, you don't have your books," the teacher says.

    "Tough," you respond. The teacher moves on with nothing more than a mild glare. Yes, you're one of the Problem Kids now, not worth the effort. Thanks for noticing.

    ---

    Finally. Fucking finally you're curled up in a fetal position, surrounded by people hurling abuse at you. Took them long enough. Sophia is kicking you for real this time around, because you've been sassing them back. Interaction is a two-way street, after all. Now you just need to wait for them to stop.

    Sophia is the first to turn away, maybe her leg was getting tired?

    Sophia wants to be able to leave the Wards without going to prison.

    You can't help but to laugh. She isn't even a real hero. She's a fucking felon that they are blackmailing into fighting for them. And they're still covering for her. Fuck this city and fuck the Wards. Sideways, with a cactus.

    Emma stares at you. "You're broken, Taylor," she declares. "There is something deeply wrong with you." With that rather weak finish, she too walks off.

    Emma wants you to fight back, so you can be friends again.

    Jesus Christ, you have got to stop being flabbergasted at every other soul's price you uncover. You almost missed Madison leaving as well.

    Madison wants to marry a rich, handsome man and live in a big house and have lots of beautiful children.

    It's all you can do to stop yourself from running after Madison and hugging her. Such a normal, well-adjusted desire, what is she even doing here? You do feel brief pang of worry, though. Well-adjusted people are going to be fucking impossible to reverse blackmail. A corollary of sorts to the 'can't con an honest man' rule, you guess.

    Good thing that well-adjusted people appear to be few and far between. Literally 0% of the parahuman population examined so far qualify, yourself included. Which makes sense given, you know, trigger events. Though Panacea is second-gen, her trigger should have been hardly traumatic at all. Hm. You'll need to collect more data points before you present your scholarly thesis: Parahumans be fucked in the head, yo. Presented by Dr Hebert, capefuckedologist.

    Speaking of fucked in the head, good thing also that your reputation around these parts is already zero. Because you sure aren't doing it any favors by lying on the floor and giggling to yourself like this.

    Seriously though, what the hell Emma? What is even going on in that psycho bitch brain of yours? That shit is so fucked up, you may have to declare her an honorary parahuman. No matter how you try, you can not make sense of it.

    This is going to require more research.

    ---

    Emma lives in a much nicer part of town than you. 'Unofficial Empire territory', jealous people call it, because it's populated almost entirely by rich white people. Because of this, and because it's so far from the bad parts of down (insulated by, for example, your own neighborhood) it's very safe. So safe that a young girl would think nothing of taking a shortcut through a park on her way home, even after dark.

    Which is not a very safe thing to do at all. Who knows what dangerous people might have been following her, waiting for a chance to strike?

    "Taylor? What- oof!" Emma lands badly when you push her down and has the breath knocked out of her. When she tries to sit up, you kick her as hard as you can in the stomach. She rolls over on her hands and knees, retching.

    "Is this what you wanted?" you ask. She doesn't answer, she just tries to crawl away from you. You throw yourself on top of her, driving her into the ground. You find yourself filled with an unexpected, savage joy. You're finally using your Brute 0 powers for their intended purpose: Beating the shit out of a fifteen year old bully.

    Her struggles are entirely futile. You seat yourself on her back to keep her in place, and twist one of her arms back to make her behave.

    "Am I fighting back hard enough?" you ask.

    "What are- I- you- aaaah!" She doesn't seem interested in behaving, so you twist her arm harder. She doesn't make much sense, either.

    "I have a knife, you know," you remark. Emma finally goes still, except for the trembling.

    "Please explain to me how this works," you continue. "You wanted me to fight back, so that we could be friends. But you don't seem very friendly yet. Do I need to fight back harder? Do I need to beat you down until our positions are completely reversed? Until you are the ugly one that everyone hates? Should I mark up that pretty face of yours? Should I cut off your ears, or maybe your nose? Please tell me, Emma, because," you lean down and whisper in her ear, "I would really like to be your friend again."

    "Oh god, please- I'll be your friend, Taylor, please, just- forgive me, I was wrong, oh god please forgive me!"

    Well. It's good that you are friends, but she still doesn't make much sense. The crying doesn't help, maybe you should ease up on her a bit.

    "What were you wrong about, friend?" you ask. You don't get up from her back, but you do release her arm.

    "You were- I-" she takes a long shuddering breath. "Sophia, she said you were weak. She said I was weak too, but I could learn to be strong. I just needed to practice. To fake it till I make it."

    "By preying on the weak," you supply.

    "Yes! But I knew, I knew you were strong, stronger than me, you'd fight back, she'd see you were strong, and then we could all be friends."

    "Only I never did."

    "No! I, I started to doubt. I thought I had been wrong. I started to hate you for being weak, Taylor, for letting me down. Please forgive me! Deep down-"

    "You always held out hope. Yes, I know. I could tell." Holy twisted fuckballs, you actually understand where this girl is coming from now.

    You understand very well indeed.

    "Do you understand why, now? Why I did it?" you ask.

    "N-no..?"

    You sigh. "Look at yourself, Emma. You're pathetic. You could never be strong. But you were my best friend. I played at being weak, so that you could play at being strong."

    "No!"

    "All that time, Emma. Every day. You wouldn't have lasted a month, in my place. Would you?"

    "...no."

    "But the locker was a step too far. So I decided to stop playing. I gave you one and a half years of pleasant dreams, Emma, but it's time to wake up now. And like that," you snap your fingers, "the illusion is shattered and the natural order restored. You see that now, don't you?"

    "...yes."

    You stand up, and help Emma do likewise.

    "I'm glad we had this talk, old friend," you say.

    She stares at you, then bursts into tears again. "It'll never work," she sobs. "It's been too long. Sophia would never understand. The three of us can never- never-"

    "No, that's true," you agree. "But if you could go back, would you want to change it? To do it the other way around? With Sophia realizing what you are, and me by her side?"

    "No." She shudders. "Thank you for sparing me that, Taylor."

    "Sophia is troubling," you admit. "I won't have any more trouble from you, or those you influence-" Emma fervently shakes her head at this "-but you could not stay her in her course. Alas, there can only be one apex predator, and I do not wish to kill her. She must be allowed to keep dreaming, for now."

    At the mention of killing Emma draws back from you, her face pale. "I- I should be getting home," she says.

    You step forward and lay a hand on her shoulder. "One more thing before you go, friend. I require a favor."

    "Of course, anything!"

    "I'm going to need your books."

    "My books?"

    "Yes, your school books. You see, mine were all ruined in a curious accident."

    If Emma was looking scared before, now she looks like she's about to throw up from sheer terror. It's a good look on her, you decide.

    "If you come to school early tomorrow, I'll have them all for you," she says, stumbling over the words in her rush to get them out.

    "That would be excellent. Thank you, old friend." You let go of her shoulder, and she flees into the night. When you turn on your sorcerer's sight, you manage to catch a glimpse of a nice healthy Loyalty shining inside her.

    You have to admit, when you told your dad that you would go back to school and work things out, you kinda thought you were lying. You can't wait to get home and tell him the good news.

    =====

    tfw when you exalt and gain four dots of manipulation

    Quests:
    Tattletale: Really hates Pancakes
    Panacea: Wants some family fun times
    Shadow Stalker: Wants to leave the Wards without going to jail

    Minor quests:
    That one guy, what is he even doing in your quest log: Wants a date with Miss Militia
    Danny Hebert: Wants his daughter to be happy
    Madison: Wants a good husband and many children

    Completed quests:
    Emma: Wanted you to fight back, so you could be friends again
     
  23. wigg55

    wigg55 Not too sore, are you?

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    Ah, good'ol mindrape aggressive friend makeing Solar Diplomacy.
     
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  24. ryuan

    ryuan The guy who can't write smut for shit

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    Bold of you to assume this isn't a kink of someone in this site. :p

    It's good to be prepared and post here, but I think differently from SB or SV the you can post more stuff in the SFW section.
     
  25. MaeHartchenko

    MaeHartchenko Know what you're doing yet?

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    Wow. That was a delightful chapter.
     
  26. space turtle

    space turtle Know what you're doing yet?

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    Negotiator! I see the shadow you cast upon the world.
    So nice to see the kinda/sorta/almost bud/charm thing taking after its father/mother in such a horrifying way!

    Lisa would be so proud! (I expect her to go absolutely wtf, and I can't wait!)
     
  27. Daniel Snuts

    Daniel Snuts Know what you're doing yet?

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    Thank you. I had conflicted feelings about this one: On the one hand I too found it delightful, on the other I couldn't help but feel that it could have been more delightful in the hands of a better writer.

    This isn't me backhandedly fishing for praise, I promise. I'm quite aware of where my strengths lie, and it's decidedly not in evocative emotional things - and this chapter is all about them juicy emotions. I'm glad it sufficed.
     
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  28. Akuma-Heika

    Akuma-Heika The Devil Exists Within

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    I thought only the OP could add tags too their threads (or alter them).
     
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  29. CollectionHL

    CollectionHL Versed in the lewd.

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    I liked the chapter. Very satisfying to dominate Emma, in every way.

    I hope that later on Taylor will tell Emma to call her Mistress when they are in private.
     
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  30. passislisk

    passislisk Know what you're doing yet?

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    Everyone has room to grow, no reason to feel bad. I like the fic so far and the writing quality is good. Maybe a little more show don't tell on actions / emotions, like I noticed the crying scene seemed a tad flat.
     
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