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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. eeda

    eeda I trust you know where the happy button is?

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    Kek, fair enogh and a little more to worry about for Taylor if she ever get to study Purity, Grue not sell because of darkness and Purity not sell because she is to bright, ironic.
     
  2. Threadmarks: S.06
    Daniel Snuts

    Daniel Snuts Know what you're doing yet?

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    For the second time you feel a power slot into place in your soul. Probably the third time really, but you have very patchy memories of anything that happened in the locker. It felt easier than last time, and tallying up the time spent you get a number closer to 40 hours than 50. You hope that means you're getting better, not just that monster dogs are easier than information processing.

    Now you have a real power, and can finally get serious about your plans. Yes, you thought that last time too, but this time you mean it. Look out Brockton Bay.

    ...After you handle a few administrative details, that is.

    "Thanks Rachel," you say.

    Rachel frowns. "For what?" she asks.

    "For letting me study your power."

    "Oh." Rachel is quiet for a while as she mulls this over. "You won't be coming back?" She looks... sad? Did she think you were becoming friends or something? You barely spoke ten words to each other on any given day.

    Which admittedly seems to be a quality Rachel looks for in a friend.

    Ok yeah, maybe you were becoming friends a little bit. You even started to appreciate the dog rides from hell. But you're going to be super busy, and besides you'll be able to make your own dog rides now. Speaking of...

    "I'd like to adopt Bubbles, if that's alright with you?" You know exactly who you want as your first monster. You can't even imagine any other choice.

    Rachel smiles at that. "Thought you might." She finds a leash for him and hands it to you. Then she bends down in front of Bubbles, cuddling him and explaining that he's your dog now. You're not sure how much of this he understands, but he certainly seems eager to go for a walk with you, at least.

    "Treat him well, or I'll kill you myself," those are Rachel's parting words. You just nod. That sort of went without saying, really.

    ---

    You don't go very far. You just need to find someplace away from prying eyes, where you can try out your new power. Bubbles keeps darting back and forth in his eagerness to explore, trying to pull you along with him. When you tell him to heel he obeys - for several seconds at a time. Being out for a walk with his best friend is just too exciting for him to handle.

    There's plenty of abandoned buildings to choose from. That one looks good, for example. Thick walls, slim doorways. It looks like it could contain an overexcited monster dog if it needed to.

    You head inside and wait for Bubbles to calm down a bit.

    "Sit. Sit. Hey, listen to me. Sit. Sit and stay. Stay. Good boy."

    He's looking at you expectantly, his tail wagging furiously. You don't think he's going to be disappointed. You remove his collar - it would break otherwise. You then lunge forward and gather him in a hug as he tries to make a break for it.

    "Stay. Okay? Good. Listen. I'm going to make you big, like Brutus and Judas. Would you like that?" No, he probably doesn't understand any of this either, but it's not like he would refuse you anything even if he did.

    You try to channel your power into Bubbles. To your relief (and slight surprise) it works right away, unlike the drama you went through with soul's price. Bubbles startles a bit at the sensation, but you hug him close and make soothing sounds.

    ...it's working, but it's not working quickly. You can feel some sort of indescribable energy leaving you and gathering in him, and sorcerer's sight confirms what you're feeling. But nothing seems to be happening physically. One of Rachel's dogs would be the size of a small pony by now, but you don't notice any change whatsoever in Bubbles.

    He's getting restless too. Experimentally you let go of him and discover that, just like Rachel, you don't actually need to be touching him to keep the power flowing. You begin a game of fetch to keep the both of you occupied.

    ---

    Two hours later, you decide to call it a day. It's not like nothing has been happening. Bubbles is very slightly larger than he used to be, and his coat has grown out and turned from yellow to grey. His general build is changing a bit too. Is he turning into a wolf? You're pretty sure he's turning into a wolf. His ears are growing more wolf-like too, you suppose, but they are currently in a halfway state that can best be described as 'hilariously floppy'.

    There's also this feeling growing inside you, that if you were to translate it into English would be something like 'I'm standing next to my spirit-tied pet'. Sure he's not very impressive right now, but you can tell that you're nowhere near the limit of what your power can do. One wrinkle is that it's an exclusive feeling - Bubbles is going to be your first and only monster. That's fine too.

    Oh and unlike Rachel, what you're doing is permanent. Which complicates things considerably. Your original plan was to bring Bubbles home and have both of you make puppy-dog eyes at your dad until he agreed that you could have a pet. But if he's going to be a monster full time you can't do that. It would give away your secret identity, dad wouldn't allow it, and he wouldn't fit through the door anyway.

    You're still going to go through with it. Duh. You didn't get this power in order to not turn it up to eleven, and 'my magic wolf is too awesome' is a problem you are okay with having. You just have to rethink some things. Worst case you can always come clean to Rachel and let him move back in with her.

    You'll also have to spend the whole day tomorrow pumping him up, at the rate this is going. You really should try to do something more productive than playing fetch while you're at it, too. Like making a wolf-themed costume. The materials for which you'll buy, with the money that you don't have. And before that, you have to figure out what to do with him tonight.

    So many problems. Well, that's what minions are for. You call Emma and tell her that you need her help. No villains involved, you promise, just wholesome adventures straight out of a Christmas movie. Oh and also you're broke and she needs to loan you some money.

    Yes, you are aware that if anyone found out about that last part you'd never live it down. Sponging money off your minions, how pathetic is that? No amount of protesting that you're actually Mastering and robbing your enemies would help, either. If it ever got out you might as well change your cape name to Debt Crisis and be done with it.

    It'll just have to stay your little secret. Except of course that the next time you interact with Lisa she will instantly figure out everything you're trying to hide. But if you start avoiding her, she'll just become motivated to figure out why.

    You sigh. Psychic friends suck.

    "Come on Bubbles, let's get you something to eat."

    Bubbles perks up instantly. He understands that much English, at least.

    ---

    Bubbles can still pass for an ill-advised husky-labrador crossbreed, so you don't have any qualms about being seen with him in public yet. You spend the last of your money on dog food and feed him in the alley behind the store. Then it's off to home.

    True to your word, the planned caper is sickeningly family friendly. This poor doggie needs to stay with you overnight, but dad mustn't find out ("Why can't he stay at the dog shelter?" "You said you didn't want to be involved in that stuff, friend."). Emma goes to distract your dad, while you tell Bubbles to be very, very quiet before letting him in the back door and sneaking him up the stairs. You take care to wipe off his feet first so he doesn't leave a trail of muddy paw prints leading to your room. You've seen this Christmas movie before.

    It goes off without a hitch. Not that you would mind much if it didn't, you feel confident that you could puppy dog eyes your dad into letting the funny-looking dog stay for one night. And by this time tomorrow Bubbles will hopefully have gone full wolf. Completely unrecognizable and no threat to your secret identity, in other words.

    ---

    The feel-good hijinks continue the next morning as you have Bubbles hide under the bed, pretend to go to school and sneak back home after your dad has left for work. Then it's off to spend your ill-gotten gains.

    You go on a shopping spree entirely confined to second-hand clothing and hobby stores, then you top it off by buying a mask from a dollar store. Very stereotype, much cape. If you hadn't been paying cash for everything you would no doubt have set off all kinds of red flags in dubiously legal monitoring programs.

    You smile as you spot Rachel's mask on the wall next to the one you picked. Looks like you get your clothes at the same store.

    Then you find another abandoned building to spend the day in, this time one that a monster dog can get out of. Man, how embarrassing would that have been, if your power had been faster and Bubbles would have been stuck there yesterday until you could widen the doorways?

    You settle in for a full day of measuring, cutting, sewing and riveting. And pouring magic into your dog.

    It's funny, the first skill an independent cape must learn is not martial arts, or first aid or law, but arts and crafts. Luckily you're very good at this part of the Parahumans 101 curriculum. Almost... too good? Everything you do turns out exactly the way it appeared in your head, which is distinctly different from what you remember happening in art class and home economics.

    Oh goddammit, are you a Tinker 0 as well? You... You guess you don't mind. It's just weird, is all. You're both the greatest Trump and the shittiest grab-bag cape. And that's OK. Yeah. You smile as you realize that you're truly OK with everything. No trace remains of the power-self-image issues that plagued your first days as a parahuman.

    You talk to Bubbles as you work. Telling him your whole sad life story, reminiscing about the good times with your mom before she died, and Emma before she became an evil bitch/brainwashed minion, that sort of thing. Perhaps you misjudged his grasp of English, because he sure seems to act like he gets the gist of it, wagging his tail at the happy bits and nuzzling you comfortingly during the sad ones. Though your tone of voice probably gives a lot away.

    All the time, he is growing and turning more wolf-like. By the end of the day he'll almost match Rachel's monsters in size, you estimate. You still wouldn't bet on him in a fight against one of them, though, because to all appearances he's just becoming a big wolf, not an abomination of bone and muscle.

    Fun fact about abandoned buildings: They are not very well heated. Your fingers soon start hurting from the cold and the unfamiliar work, but you ignore it, buoyed by the feeling of crafting something and having it come out right. You also start to feel a bone-deep weariness that you've never felt before. Soul-deep? Yes, you're overusing your new power as well. But you keep going, just a little bit longer, and a little bit longer still. You can feel it, the upper limit of your power. You're almost there, and you're not stopping until it's done.

    With a final push you pour out the last dregs of your aching power. Bubbles, by now fully wolfed out and monster-sized, lets out a startled yelp and vanishes. Shit shit shit shit, did you accidentally your dog? Was the maximum limit actually a safety limit?

    No, the feeling of connection is still there, stronger than ever. When you activate sorcerer's sight, you see a semitransparent Bubbles standing right where you left him, looking rather confused. You made an invisible monster wolf! Bubbles sniffs at your improvised work table, and his nose goes through it. He recoils, then tries again, putting his entire head through the table. You made an intangible monster wolf. That's sooo coool.

    Also, convenient. You can just keep him with you at all times, and no one will ever notice. For once the universe seems to be giving you a-

    Shit. You know how this part goes. Sighing with resignation, you pick up a loose board from the ground and hold it up.

    "Hey, Bubbles? Can you still bite material things?" you ask, already knowing the answer.

    Your loyal wolf looks up from where he was experimentally sticking his his head into the ground (how does the floor hold him up, if he can do that?) and obediently lunges for the board. His jaws phase through it harmlessly, as expected.

    "Fucking figures," you mutter and toss the board away.

    Bubbles lunges again - this time turning solid halfway through the motion! He catches the board in midair and bites it in half! A squeal of delight escapes your lips as you throw your arms around his neck and hug him tight.

    Mmm. Turns out he is not only strong and fierce, but warm and soft as well. You could cuddle this doofus forever and not even mind that he's drooling chewed wood chips down your back.

    Your wolf is amazing. Perhaps you should try being less pessimistic? Ha, no, good try there, universe. You're going to test things very carefully.

    "Can you turn back into a ghost?" you ask. Then you stumble forward and almost fall over as the target of your hug vanishes.

    You back off a bit - sticking your head inside translucent wolf guts is weird and unsettling. Rachel may make beasts that are dependent on her power to stay alive, but you created a beast made entirely out of power. Somehow.

    "And materialize again?"

    Bubbles tenses, but remains transparent. He keeps trying until he's practically vibrating in place, before finally giving up and treating you to a look of infinite sadness. He knows that he's not being a good dog right now, and he's very sorry about it.

    "It's alright," you quickly reassure him. "Do you know what's wrong?"

    He lies down and yawns theatrically.

    "Oh, you need to rest before you can do it again?"

    He nods.

    "For how long?"

    That's probably a shrug, as interpreted by canine shoulders.

    Hang on a second. "You understand English now!?"

    Another nod.

    You made a selectively intangible, sapient monster wolf (that high-pitched noise in the background is you squealing with delight again). You pull out your phone and call the only number on there.

    "Yeah?" Lisa answers on the third ring.

    "You know how you said to call you if I wanted to brag?"

    ===

    The charm Spirit-Tied Pet creates a familiar bond. Familiars start out at one dot, power level 'literally just a dog that likes you'. You can then add up to two dots each of 'big, dangerous' and 'smart, magical'. Vanilla 'magical' lets the familiar act as a tiny essence battery, but when your juice comes from a direct connection to a staggeringly vast fragment of an alien god rather than conventional essence pools, that would be useless to you.

    I've always felt that the solar Familiar background needed buffing anyway, so this improved version of Spirit-Tied Pet borrows from the sidereal charm Spirit-Shape Companion, with that last dot turning the familiar into a spirit.

    The 'Tinker 0' thing is simply how Taylor interprets/describes her not-exaltation's generic stat buffs including dots in Craft.

    Charms:
    Taylor: All-encompassing Sorcerer's Sight
    Tattletale: Know the Soul's Price
    Bitch: Spirit-Tied Pet
     
  3. eeda

    eeda I trust you know where the happy button is?

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    Very good familiar, do the wolf became stronger over time? What happens if the dogo dies, seek new dogo or just wait to resummon?
     
  4. Daniel Snuts

    Daniel Snuts Know what you're doing yet?

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    wigg55 gets a cookie for predicting the good boi future.
     
  5. passislisk

    passislisk Know what you're doing yet?

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    Goodest boi acquired.
     
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  6. Vealie

    Vealie aspiring overpowered amazon

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    Good writing
    Gooder pacing
    Goodest boy
     
  7. Idoneior

    Idoneior Getting out there.

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    SPIRIT-TIED PET

    Cost: 10m, 1wp, 1xp; Mins: Survival 3, Essence 2; Type: Simple (Dramatic Action)
    Keywords: Combo-OK, Touch
    Duration: Instant
    Prerequisite Charms: Friendship with Animals Approach​
    Since the First Age, the Lawgivers have forged magical bonds with their chosen beasts. The target of this Charm must be an animal loyal (see p. 175) to the Exalt. Normally, the Exalt wins this loyalty through persuasion and the use of the Friendship with Animals Approach. The Exalt can only use this Charm if he has no familiar, and using it on a new animal for the first time removes his Familiar Background entirely. This Charm is a dramatic action requiring several hours of interaction with the target. It increases the Exalt’s Familiar Background by one dot, to a maximum of five. When the Exalt’s Familiar Background reaches a sufficient level to have the animal as a Familiar, it becomes his familiar. For example, a tiger requires three applications of this Charm to become the Exalt’s familiar, and two more to give the Exalt the abilities conveyed by Familiar 5.
    My interpretation here is that the link to the familiar is reflected in the Familiar Background. Since using it on a new animal removes any pre-existing Familiar Background, that means doing so drops the connection to any previous familiar entirely. Unclear whether any upgrades to the old Familiar remain, or whether it even just dies or somehow ceases to exist—since an abandoned familiar is supposed to no longer be a factor in gameplay, that sort of detail isn't spelled out.

    My vague understanding of "Background" in Exalted is that it must normally be purchased with experience. As such, it's supposed to represent a trait that isn't quite "fiat-protected" but generally will never be lost lightly, without giving the player plenty of opportunity to prevent or reverse this. If part of your background is an artifact weapon, that weapon will never be irretrievably stolen or randomly destroyed by some enemy's attack, but you may still intentionally sacrifice it to perform some great feat, or it may be damaged in such a fashion that it is possible to fix it through a quest.

    For a familiar then, I would guess some sort of limited "fate-based" protection against the familiar dying exists, but e.g. it would still be possible for Bubbles to sacrifice his life to save Taylor's own.

    Though this all comes down to GM judgement and it isn't clear how much applies in this story.
     
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  8. Daniel Snuts

    Daniel Snuts Know what you're doing yet?

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    No, it's Grue in particular. Illumination isn't a problem, because Taylor doesn't need to use mundane sight to study powers, only sorcerer's sight. But even prior to his second trigger Grue's darkness came with a mild power-countering Trump effect (it's why Shadow Stalker hated him). Mild, but enough to block sorcerer's sight (says I, the storyteller).

    In Exalted, familiars die when they are killed. In DnD too, now that I think about it. I can't actually think of a non-videogame ruleset that lets you resummon dead familiars.

    Bubbles won't grow stronger in any noticeable way, being plenty buff already and closer to a 'magic item' than a 'character' in mechanical terms.
     
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  9. Prognostic Hannya

    Prognostic Hannya Knight of the Yuri Crusade

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    I love this fic, and can't wait for the next update!

    Just one question: why does Taylor keep going out of her way to call Emma "friend". I know it's to reinforce her conditioning, but just hanging out with her should do that. Bc constantly adding a title on the end of sentences makes Taylor sound like a Game of Thrones character.
     
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  10. Daniel Snuts

    Daniel Snuts Know what you're doing yet?

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    I/she enjoy/s the way it makes simple statements sound paradoxically threatening.

    "You said you didn't want to be involved in that stuff" -> "I'm taking your feelings into account"

    "You said you didn't want to be involved in that stuff, friend" -> "You'll drop that line of inquiry if you know what's good for you"

    "Calling someone 'friend' isn't a very friendly thing to do at all" - Terry Pratchett, I think.
     
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  11. Threadmarks: S.07
    Daniel Snuts

    Daniel Snuts Know what you're doing yet?

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    "I believe the boat graveyard is traditional for such things. I'll bring lunch. Ok, see you."

    I pocket my phone and return to the common room. Brian and Rachel turn towards me expectantly. They know what a private phone call usually signifies. Alec, of course, remains focused on his video game.

    "New job?" Rachel asks.

    "No, just a friend who wanted to have lunch together. Your new minion in fact."

    Rachel's face clouds over. "She quit," she says.

    Taylor would have cut ties as soon as she got what she wanted, my power informs me. I really should have figured that out on my own, and kept quiet. But the way Rachel said that...

    "You miss her," I realize. Out loud. Dammit.

    "Fuck you!" She reacts exactly as expected. This is why I try to keep my mouth shut around Rachel.

    "Aw, the big bad Bitch is a cuddly-wuddly little softie on the inside," Alec observes.

    Rachel stands up and leaves without another word. But the set of her jaw - and the way she slams the door behind her - makes it clear that she's genuinely upset, even to mundane observers.

    "Don't worry, I won't tell anyone you ran off to cry," Alec calls after her. But he does it quietly enough that she won't make out the words through the door, because he doesn't want to to get mauled by dogs.

    Brian glares at him. "You're not helping," he says.

    "Wasn't trying to!" is his cheerful response.

    I sigh. Sure, as friends go Taylor leaves a lot to be desired, but it's not as if I'm spoiled for choice.

    "Dad, is it alright if I sleep in the basement?" You wring your hands and look suitably embarrassed about making such a strange request.

    Your father looks suitably confused. Everyone is behaving as they should, how nice. "Why?" he asks. "It's a mess down there."

    "I'll clean it! It's just..." You look down at your feet. "It would make me feel safer." Boom, right in the fatherly instincts. You suffered severe mental trauma not all that long ago, remember?

    He sweeps you into a hug in response. "Taylor. Would it help if you could talk to someone? A therapist? We could afford to find one for you."

    You're pretty sure that last part is a lie, actually. Dad doesn't like to talk about work much (or about anything, really), but it's glaringly obvious that it's been a bad couple of years for the Dockworker's Union.

    "Dad, no. It's no big thing. I can cope. But-"

    "-you'd cope better in the basement," he finishes. "Alright. There should be sleeping bags somewhere down there. Let's go find them."

    You spend the next couple of hours cleaning the basement together. Much more thoroughly than would be needed just to create a sleeping space, but you both agree that you may as well do a proper job of it while you're at it. There's fond reminiscences when you uncover artifacts of your childhood, and painful silences when you come across mom's stuff. As always, it hits your dad the hardest. You remain relatively cheerful throughout: You can't help but smile whenever your gaze happens across the translucent wolf dozing in the corner.

    Then you set up a makeshift bedroom: A sleeping bag on a pile of blankets, a night light and your alarm clock on a box nearby.

    As soon as your dad has wished you good night and closed the basement door behind him, you call softly to Bubbles and ask him to materialize again. You initiated this whole thing because you didn't think the floor upstairs could take his weight in solid form.

    You sigh happily as you cuddle up to a thousand pounds of lean muscle, sharp fangs, warm fur, unconditional love. You weren't lying. You feel super safe right now.

    ---

    Of course you had to set your alarm extra early to make sure you would wake up and shoo Bubbles back into the spirit realm before your dad could come down and check on you, but you don't mind that at all. You take the opportunity to get breakfast started, and greet your dad with bacon, eggs, a hug and a kiss on the cheek when he comes down.

    "You're up early," he notes. "Did you sleep well?"

    "It was lovely down there," you assure him.

    Soon enough it's time for him to leave for work, and you for school the boat graveyard. Ok, so you're lying to your dad a little bit, but soon enough your transfer will come through and you'll start going to school for real. Instead of books, your backpack contains your half-finished costume. With any luck you'll get it done today, and then you have plans. Brilliant plans.

    ---

    The boat graveyard. A monument to Brockton's economic situation. Once things started going bad, some genius decided that blocking off the main harbor was a good form of protest. Long story short, they did it a little too well. Now the coast is a mess of rusting and half-sunken hulks, and the surrounding docks abandoned to the point that not even the gangs are interested in the territory.

    According to Lisa, it's also where new capes go to test out the less subtle aspects of their powers. It offers relative privacy, and no one gets upset about property damage. You don't really care right now, one abandoned building is much like another. You find a relatively intact warehouse by the waterfront and set up shop. You notice that one of the walls has several neat holes punched out of it. Rune's telekinesis, maybe, or Skidmark's acceleration fields? Or some sort of Tinker cannon, whatever.

    Bubbles claims to remember Lisa ("the girl who came with me the day we first met"), so you set him to patrol, keeping a lookout for her while you resume work on your costume.

    ---

    Bubbles predictably returns to report success around lunchtime, and you carefully stow your costume and equipment before you go to meet your friend. Rather than getting used to it, your fingers are cramping up even worse than yesterday. But you're almost done.

    Lisa is carrying a plastic bag, presumably containing the promised lunch. As soon as she sees you, her power goes into action. There's something you're hiding, check. You mastered someone, check. Something you did to that person-

    "There's something more important you really should be focusing on," you say, derailing her.

    Her eyes instantly fasten on the patch of empty air that only you can see contains a giant wolf. "We're not alone here," she says. "Invisibility?"

    You whisper "come forth" and Bubbles appears, tail wagging and eager to greet a new friend. Turns out that fending off a friendly dog that wants to lick your face is pretty difficult when it's taller than you are.

    You smile at the antics, but eventually take pity on your friend. Also, Lisa's power was telling her something there, but a magic wolf was blocking your view so you couldn't make out what it was. "Bubbles. Lie down, roll over, and the nice lady will give you belly rubs."

    Bubbles obeys instantly, but Lisa takes a while to stop sputtering and wiping at her face. "If she doesn't come through with the belly rubs, you are allowed to resume licking her," you add.

    Lisa shoots you a dirty look, but kneels down and fulfills her part of bargain. Once more giving you an unobstructed view to read out what her power is telling her. Things such as...

    "He understands English. You created a human-level intelligence!"

    "I know, right? He's awesome." Bubbles' tail speeds up even more at the praise, kicking up dirt as it sweeps back and forth along the ground. The way Lisa is using her power to give a better belly rub isn't hurting either.

    "Well, more or less human-level," she amends. "He's not exactly the sharpest knife in the drawer, is he?"

    "Hey!" Is she badmouthing your magic wolf? "Enjoying a good belly rub has nothing to do with intelligence or lack thereof. Bubbles, demonstrate."

    "What are you- no, stop!" Bubbles rolls back to his feet and springs up, knocking Lisa over in the process. He then proceeds to nuzzle the everloving shit out of her stomach, eliciting a storm of shrieks and giggles. "Don't- aah, tickles! Bad wolf! Eeeee! No, stop! Bad touch, bad touch! I'm sorry, ok? I'm sorry I- ahahaha- I'm sorry I called you stupid!"

    Bubbles stops and looks back at you questioningly, and you motion for him to back off. Lisa gets to her feet, red-faced and panting.

    "Holy shit," she gasps, "he's terrifying. And he turns invisible- wait, intangible too? Fuck me."

    "The phasing is strictly limited," you protest. "Besides, don't you Undersiders ride around on monster dogs all the time? You should be used to it."

    "Yeah, but I never truly appreciated how scary they would be when you're on the receiving end." She shakes her head. "And this guy can use his definitely 100% human-level intelligence to plan ambushes, and leap at you out of nowhere when you least expect it? Trust me, terrifying.

    "Well, except maybe the name," she adds. She holds up her hands placatingly when Bubbles huffs and starts advancing on her. "It's a perfectly good name! Just not very scary, you know."

    "I've got a new name in mind for him," you say. "But I can't tell you what it is right now, because then you'd figure out all my plans."

    Then she figures out all you plans anyway, because Thinkers.

    ---

    Lunch turns out to be takeout Chinese. And one can of dog food.

    "Sorry Bubbles," Lisa says, "I expected you to be able to shrink down like Rachel's dogs."

    "Oh, Bubbles doesn't need to eat anymore," you say. One of several inconvenient biological functions that ghost wolves no longer have to worry about, you established last night.

    "Need, no. Enjoy, yes," she responds. And her power backs her up on it. You feel a lump forming in your stomach. When you asked him if he needed to eat and he just shook his head, he must have heard the worry in your voice. He was being a Good Dog.

    You jump up and hug him. "I'm so sorry," you whisper. "I'll make it up to- uh..." Shit, shit, shit! "Actually I'm super broke right now, but as soon as I have some money you'll feast like a king, I promise! Ok?"

    He gently shakes you off and backs up a bit, and for a moment you are terrified that he's rejecting you. But then he licks your face and everything is alright with the world.

    ---

    "There's one thing I don't understand," you say.

    "Only one?" Lisa counters instantly. "Sorry, reflex. Ask away."

    "Cape fights."

    "What about 'em?"

    "How do they even exist? With the huge range of power levels, and the fact that most capes are glass cannons, and, you know..." You make vague hand gestures to indicate your confusion. "The odds of any given confrontation not being over instantly is tiny!"

    "One on one, sure, it's often quick and unfair. It's when you have big teams facing off against each other that things get interesting," she says. "Defensive powers, offensive powers, odd power interactions. That's when you get a proper fight, and cleverness can turn the tide. And believe me, everyone is trying to be clever. When you put on a silly costume and go out looking for a fight, you are admitting that you want to be the protagonist in your own comic book."

    You nod. Thus the sandbagging, too. So you can reveal your true power level and save the day when dramatically appropriate.

    "Ok, but how are the losers not wiped out, regardless? There's lasers and explosions and people getting punched through walls and, and huge monster dogs biting people, and stuff. Lethal stuff."

    "Ah." She nods sagely. "The old 'why doesn't Hookwolf just kill everyone' question. To answer that, you need to answer another question: Why don't you kill people? You could get your hands on a gun, with some effort."

    "Not an amoral psychopath?"

    "And?"

    "And... I don't want to get shot by the police," you say slowly, realization dawning. "Just like Hookwolf wants to avoid PRT airstrikes."

    "Yeah. Hookwolf actually has a pretty inconvenient power, because he has to be so careful when not fighting high-level Brutes. Don't get me wrong, he's racked up quite the body count over the years. But he doesn't kill people indiscriminately-"

    "-you can tell by how there are still some left," you finish for her.

    "Right. He's careful enough that the heroes are still trying to capture him and send him to the Birdcage. No kill order."

    "So the best power for winning fights would actually be something less lethal, like... farting knockout gas?"

    "Well, kind of. But once Roland the Farter makes a name for himself, everyone is going to wear hazmat suits when they go to fight him. And then he really wants to be friends with Hookwolf, who can carefully cut their suits open, and we're back to team fights and synergies.

    "But anyway, everyone pulls their punches, and retreats early if things start to go bad." She grimaces. "Less so in Brockton Bay than elsewhere, because the heroes have Panacea, the Empire has Othala, and the ABB is Lung, so injuries are usually a lot less lethal or career-ending here. Which is not super great for those of us who are not heroes, nazis or dragons."

    You shake your head. "People still die though, as you said. On both sides. Accidents, carelessness, deliberate malice, whatever. But the heroes still play along?" You pause and consider the words that just came out of your mouth. "No, never mind the heroes, heroes are assholes. What about the police? Politicians? The military?"

    "Two reasons for that. No, three. First off, consider our fair city. Famously cape-heavy, notoriously villain-dense. But run the numbers and you end up with roughly one villain per ten thousand people." She leans back and gestures grandly. "The forces of law and order love us. Our effect on the overall crime rate is negligible, but we're celebrities. And when they catch a celebrity criminal they look really good to the public, completely out of proportion to the effect they're actually having."

    Ok, yes, you knew heroes were assholes. But, um. Yeah. You're going with 'um'. Lisa kindly waits for your worldview to stop spinning before she continues.

    "You know pre-Scion comic books?" she asks.

    "Not very well."

    "Well, they basically predicted the current situation almost perfectly. And a lot of nerds criticized that. They claimed that it was ridiculous, that you couldn't possibly give so many people random superpowers and have society remain the same except for a light sprinkling of people occasionally dressing up and shooting lasers at each other. Super unrealistic." She grins at you.

    You snort. "Boy were they wrong."

    "No," Lisa says, all traces of mirth suddenly gone. "They weren't. It is ridiculous. But when powers started appearing for real, well. The people in charge, the real movers and shakers, they didn't like it. If the world changed too much, why, they might end up not being in charge anymore. Luckily for them there was a model for how things could stay more or less the same, already embedded in the public consciousness. A self-fulfilling prophecy of sorts.

    "You would not believe the effort that goes into maintaining the status quo," she continues, stabbing the air with her chopsticks to emphasize her point. "Parahumans that decide to commit flashy crimes are subtly encouraged by lax law enforcement and insecure prisons, and parahumans that try to go into politics or business are brazenly shut down by blatant legislative and judicial corruption. The whole hero versus villain thing is a charade, designed to prop up a society based on the notion that all men are born equal in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary."

    Once again you take a moment to process things. Sure, it sounds like a crazy conspiracy theory. But. Only a very few people are born with the potential to become parahuman. This is well known and apparently uncontroversial in the scientific community, yet you've never seen it mentioned in any form of media or school book. You yourself only know because you went looking for cape facts in the weird corners of the internet.

    Hell, you read most of a 150-page thread on PHO speculating on the source of powers. It had all sorts of theories that would be instantly debunked by this one simple fact, and it was never brought up once. It was like watching a bunch Flat-Earthers discussing the best way to launch a satellite. There is clearly some heavy-duty social engineering going on somewhere.

    "What's the third reason?" you ask with some trepidation.

    "It's worth keeping us around just on the chance that we help out against the really bad stuff. Can't fight S-class threats if you're in prison, you know? We get to live in a comic book, as long as we die in an Endbringer fight."
     
    Last edited: May 16, 2022
  12. OldSpartan

    OldSpartan I trust you know where the happy button is?

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    Lisa spreading her wisdom around it always a nice scene. Sure there are probably other reasons why society is the way it is, but she hits most of the major points.

    Just thought of another Cape power that Taylor might be able to grab somewhat easily. Parian. She uses her powers for business or entertainment. She is one of the few capes that Taylor can somewhat easily view using their power in public. Also, Taylor does have some pretty good Arts and Craft skills as the last chapter pointed out. Maybe they can help one another out in some way or come to an agreement.
     
  13. Prognostic Hannya

    Prognostic Hannya Knight of the Yuri Crusade

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    This is a fantastic exploration of just why the government is so invested in keeping the general structures of cape society going in the Wormverse, besides just "Cauldron did it".

    Granted, it's not one I actually agree with, but it's a very well-formed argument nonetheless, and one of the best attempts I've seen of going from our world to Earth Bet without too-heavily relying on Cauldron meddling like canon does.

    In the world of Earth Bet, the primary functions of capes in society is to form a parallel structure of the criminal/police dichotomy. There's ordinary criminals and the ordinary police that catch them, and the super-criminals and the super-police that catch them. The thing is, using Parahumans as a policing force relies on an assumption that their use as a military force unneeded. The military, after all, is more fundamental to the structure of American society than the police, as demonstrated by the fact that the military can step in to do the police's job, but the police can't step in to do the military's job.

    So this organization of Earth Bet is only possible if the military strength and national cohesion of the United States of America is guaranteed, or otherwise, capes would end up fighting in military conflicts, rather than comparatively minor domestic disputes. If you want an example of this, look how the centrist, pro-EU Ukrainian government—normally the single greatest opponent of Ukraine's neo-nazi far right militias—immediately declared a ceasefire to focus on the Russian threat. It's natural in every society: it's better the devil you know than the devil you don't, after all.

    I just don't think that type of enforced international stability would be a thing wihtout Cauldron meddling: all it takes is one nation to get their hands on an S-Class cape and they start conquering their neighbors in a way that no amount of conventional military strength can stop.

    If we think about the uneven emergence of capes, this is almost a guarantee. Capes appeared much more slowly in the very first days post-Scion, and were much more isolated, and therefore weak. At this point, the mundane army (and even police in some cases) had more than enough options, if through sheer variety than nothing else, to put down all but the strongest of new triggers, who would be unsupported, alone, and without any other recourse.

    In other words, for the first few years post-Scion, the mundane government still holds superior military power to any parallel cape organizations, simply because no parallel cape organizations exist.

    This means that the government gets to set the stage for what they want society to look like, and if they're smart, they'll focus on maintaining the integrity of the government itself rather than channeling parahuman effort into pointless street theater.

    And since this is the case, well... especially in a country as intensely militaristic as America, at some point the generals have to think to themselves... "why am I listening to this weaselly little nerd in a suit, when we have all the power? All the one-man WMDs are loyal to us, not them, so why the hell are we still taking their orders?"

    And that's how America Bet becomes a military dictatorship. There's a reason almost every Roman Emperor was a general with their own personal legion.

    Even if we start at canon, military rule would happen anyways without Cauldron intervention (and really, isn't just Cauldron a para-military in itself?)

    As we see the breakdown of the highly-regimented, orderly society necessary for the functioning of modern-day neoliberal capitalism, we're seeing by 2011 a similar phenomenon to Germany in the Weimar Era: a total social collapse leading to the rise of extremist leaders and movements that promise solutions to the problems. Since capes actually make the development and existence of socialism less likely (the existence of single, absurdly-powerful individuals practically mandates extensive hierarchies based around that power), most places will inevitably break apart and descend into squabbling petty fiefdoms (like China), or remain cohesive and develop the only other alternative to the crisis: fascism (like Germany).

    You can see this in many wormfics, where the MC's plan for "fixing" Brockton Bay inevitably ends up turning into them becoming a pseudo-feudal warlord with their own petty fief within the city. The political and economic situation of the Wormverse means that unless you want to make your MC a fascist, there's pretty much nothing else they can do in order to help their society.

    Sure, they could always join the heroes and drive all the villains out of town, and that would work for a while, on the small scale of a single city... but eventually Brockton would end up in the exact same place, this time because of the breakdown of larger society turning everywhere into how Brockton is in canon.

    Everything will eventually break down, and return to a baser politics of force and violence, leading to an imposition of military rule anyways.

    Sorry for the long comment, I just love when stories try to explore sociopolitical trends in the societies they take place in.
     
  14. eeda

    eeda I trust you know where the happy button is?

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    Nice expansion on Lore, love when stories try (imposible to go all the way, but still trying is great)

    So who is goin to be the first hero to cry Hellhound the moment they see Taylor in her cape persona?
     
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  15. Krule

    Krule Not too sore, are you?

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    Hmm, ironically enough I think the best folks for her to train with to learn solar charms are Uber and Leet. One can get her craft charms , the other excellency’s in just about any ability
     
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  16. Threadmarks: S.08
    Daniel Snuts

    Daniel Snuts Know what you're doing yet?

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    You've figured out the problem with your plans. When you come up with them they are entirely brilliant, because it's up to Future Taylor to carry them out. But when the time to act finally rolls around, Future Taylor still hasn't shown up to take over from you.

    You're currently dressed in your new costume. Most of it is fairly mundane: Riding breeches, boots, gloves. The thing that took so much work was the chest piece, a black 'leather scale mail' that you assembled from several old jackets. It's almost entirely useless as actual armor, being more of a really thick t-shirt. But between the bronze-colored rivets holding the scales in place and the curly decorations you made from scraps of copper wire you could pass for a Viking warrior, if the warrior in question was working as an extra in a B movie.

    Really, the only historically accurate part of the outfit is the knife and purse on your belt. Well, the sheath at least. The knife is very modern (the purse also contains pepper spray).

    Your cheap plastic mask depicts an insufferably smug man with a thin beard and mustache, and your head is otherwise bare. You also, er, padded your costume a bit in the front, to suggest the presence of a bust. Also in the, uh, in the area around the hips. It's not vanity! Obfuscating your stick-like figure will help protect your secret identity! Also, you didn't want anyone look at the male face on the mask and draw the wrong conclusions. In case your long curly hair wasn't enough of a clue. Or your voice.

    Alright, fine, it's vanity. Moving on.

    It's still February, and walking around in a glorified t-shirt is fucking cold. But that's all part of the plan. That way, when you raise your arm to greet the three skinheads in front of you, your skin color is readily apparent. Well, you assume they are all skinheads: Two of them are sensible enough to wear hats in this climate. One of the hat-wearers has a walkie-talkie, and is speaking into it.

    "Number two patrol, reporting," he's saying. He listens to something you can't make out, then continues. "Encountered unknown parahuman, appears non-hostile." Another garbled communication. "Roger that. Out."

    He returns the walkie-talkie to his belt. You can't exactly say that he turns his attention to you, because all three of them have been watching you warily the whole time. But he raises his arm to return your greeting.

    "Can we help you, miss?" See, he correctly identified your gender before you opened your mouth. This totally validates the padding! The speaker wears an expression of polite indifference fitting his query, the guy on the left glares at you suspiciously, and the guy on the right looks faintly annoyed. Though to be fair he looked annoyed even before they spotted you, and hasn't changed expression since - he might just be annoyed that his ears are cold. They are very prominent.

    "I'd like to join the Empire," you say. The three of them relax somewhat.

    "I'll call it in. Your name?"

    "Low Key." You picked your name and costume specifically for this moment. Nazis: For all that they loudly proclaim to hate faggots, they are every single one of them gay for Norse mythology.

    "I'm Mike. This is Sven and Alex." He shakes you hand, then gestures to each companion in turn. "Excuse me." He turns away and raises the walkie-talkie again. Sven-the-suspicious and Alex-the-annoyed offer you handshakes as well.

    "Pretty sure Loki was a guy," Alex observes.

    "Tell that to Sleipnr," you say.

    He nods thoughtfully. "Piece of advice, though: People who fuck horses don't get to join our club."

    "I'll keep that in mind," you promise. See, he got the reference! You totally called it, gay for Norse mythology.

    Mike finishes up his conversation on the walkie-talkie and turns back to you. "Kaiser will meet you at the foundry. Alex will guide you there."

    Sven passes his headgear to Alex. It's like a badge, you realize: At least one shaved head per patrol must be visible at all times.

    "Why me?" Alex asks.

    "Because I trust you to be diplomatic and not scare off the new recruit before she even gets to Kaiser. Sven not so much."

    "At least I can be trusted not to marry a jew!" Sven counters.

    Mike turns to face him. "Really, we're doing this? You'd do this to me? In front of the new brass? Fight me!" He puts up his hands in a boxer's stance and throws a punch - a slow, playful punch clearly not intended to connect.

    Sven puts up his dukes and deflects it, before responding in kind. They get really quite into their footwork as they continue to not-quite-shadowbox against each other. You and Alex flee before the sheer amount of male bonding in the air reaches toxic levels.

    ---

    You and Alex walk in silence for a while, until finally you can't keep a lid on your curiosity any more.

    "Did he actually-"

    "Tragic story, really," Alex says. "Got married before he found out about the JQ, then he was trapped between the vows of matrimony and the fourteen words."

    At this point you realize your mistake: You thoroughly researched the nazi capes, but completely neglected to study their technical vocabulary. Yes, like every other Brockton Bay native you are aware that the '8's in 'Empire 88' refer to the eighth letter of the alphabet, and that the resulting 'HH' stands for 'Heil Hitler' (the whole thing always struck you as a bit silly, a 'no girls allowed in my treehouse club' level of secret code). But that's all you know, and you didn't even consider that there would be more of that sort of stuff. Which, in retrospect, is somewhat like trying to infiltrate the Merchants without knowing the street names for heroin. Which probably also prominently feature the letter H now that you think about it.

    No, focus. You need to take this more seriously. Right, uh, J is another easy letter, must be jew-something-or-other, and the fourteen words are probably something like 'fuck niggers and kikes, the holocaust didn't happen but I wish it did'. Was that fourteen? You understood the gist of his statement, at least. You hope.

    "So what happened?" you ask.

    "Tried to hide his wife from his friends and his politics from his wife," Alex says. He shakes his head sadly. "That shit never works long term. Always gets out sooner or later. She divorced him, of course. Huge scandal too, almost got him thrown out of the Empire." He pauses, looking thoughtful. "Some people still think he should have been."

    "But not you?"

    "Nah, honest mistake. Guy ended up in a bad situation, no good way out."

    You nod along, doing your best to appear calm. His conviction that secrets inevitably get revealed is not exactly doing wonders for your peace of mind right now. But there's no turning back. You'll just have to make sure that by the time you get found out, you'll have nicked enough powers to make it out alive. Gotta step up your game.

    On that note, what is your soul's price, Alex the Surprisingly Reasonable Nazi?

    Alex wants to secure the survival of his people and a future for white children.

    Hm. After due consideration, you'll have to reluctantly file him in the 'too well-adjusted to Master' bin. Unfortunate.

    ---

    Turns out that 'the foundry' is not the name of a club or a pub, nor is it an abandoned industrial property turned villain lair. It's an actual, active foundry, full of workers and molten steel and everything.

    The sudden heat is quite welcome, since you apparently lack the sense to dress yourself properly. You still stop in the doorway and blink in surprise as the true import of what you're seeing dawns on you, though. Non-bankrupt heavy industry, in your city? Either the fascists really do make the trains run on time, or Kaiser is using gang money to prop up an otherwise hopeless business for reasons of his own. Putting the socialist in national socialist, as it were.

    Then you blink again. The sight of molten steel is filling your brain with all kinds of ideas. The wonders you could forge, if you had a magma smelter, and- You shake your head to get rid of the images. Ok, so you're a Tinker >0, that's cool and all, but not what's important right now.

    You're led to a secluded section in the back, where Kaiser is waiting for you. He sits on a metal throne behind a metal desk, wearing an ornate suit of metal armor covering his whole body. It seems to fit him perfectly, and you marvel at how each joint of his gauntlet moves as he raises a hand to beckon you closer. You could make even better armor, if- no, focus.

    Kaiser has the power to create and control metal. The message behind him holding this meeting mere yards away from several tons of molten steel is not lost on you. Nor are his bodyguards: Two tall, blonde valkyries. And by tall you mean roughly 12 feet (by 'valkyries', you mean that they are wearing viking-themed outfits considerably more expensive than your own, but just as historically accurate). Fenja and Menja, twins who apparently shared the same trigger event.

    That they're only double human size right now is also a message. If they were regular unpowered criminals they would have their guns in hand, but pointing away from you, with their fingers off the trigger.

    "Low Key, was it? I'm told you wish to join us." Kaiser speaks up. His is the voice of a man completely confident in his position. Yes, he could kill you in three different ways right now, but if you were in his shoes you'd be at least a little bit worried about a parahuman with unknown powers standing so close. Guess that's why you're not a gang leader.

    "Yes, sir," you reply.

    Kaiser puts his hand on his chin and tilts his head, a deliberately exaggerated motion to make up for his full-face helmet. "With that name... Let me guess, Thinker?"

    "No." You shake your head.

    "Stranger?"

    "No."

    "Master, then."

    "Yyyes, but not in the way you're thinking."

    "Then by all means, demonstrate!" He bows slightly in his seat and indicates that the floor is yours with another exaggerated gesture.

    "Come forth," you whisper, and the room contains significantly more wolf. Fenja and Menja both startle, but if Kaiser reacts at all it is subtle enough for his armor to hide it.

    "Meet Fenrir," you announce calmly. Conjuring a giant wolf out of thin air is no big deal for you, clearly. Unfortunately the wolf himself rather undermines the impression you're going for with his wagging tail, panting grin and general air of being delighted to meet new friends. Hmph. Next time you'll explicitly tell him to look aloof and threatening. It might even work.

    One of the Enjas - the one with the spear, not the sword, you can't for the life of you remember which is which - cautiously approaches the wolf, shooting questioning glances at both you and her boss. When neither of you object, she reaches out and runs her hand through Fenrir's fur. Tail wagging intensifies. Encouraged, she proceeds to scratch behind his ears, and the situation quickly degenerates from there. Before long Fenrir is flat on his back, accepting belly rubs and assurances that he's a good boy.

    You and Kaiser share a look. Even with both your faces completely covered, the sentiment is communicated clearly. 'Fucking minions, am I right? No sense of gravitas whatsoever.'

    "Do you have snake as well, for Fenja to fawn over?" he asks with a certain asperity. Menja completely fails to get the hint.

    (Also, still called it. Every one of them, gay for the norsemen)

    "'Fraid not," you say.

    "A shame. You may dismiss it now. Menja, do try to control yourself."

    Menja reluctantly gets up and resumes her position at his side, and you whisper "begone". Fenrir takes the time to give you a wounded look before he dematerializes, but obeys. He is a good boy, after all.

    There's no reason be more nervous now than before, you tell yourself. Kaiser can still kill you in three different ways, the fact that Fenrir won't be able to materialize again for several hours makes no difference.

    "You power appears adequate," Kaiser notes. "How is your martial arts?"

    Oh. Clearly your sweet Viking costume has convinced Kaiser that you've already mastered the first required cape skill, so he goes straight to asking about the second. Which might be a problem.

    "...nonexistent?"

    "Hookwolf holds classes. You will attend those until he judges your skills sufficient. We don't expect you to take down Armsmaster in single combat, but we do expect you to be able to hold your own against a Ward. Do you know first aid?"

    And there goes the third skill. You shake your head.

    "Well. It's almost time for the annual refresher course anyway. We'll hold it a bit earlier than usual."

    "Don't you have Othala for that?" you ask.

    "Othala can't be everywhere," he says, his disapproval clear in his voice. "Everyone who gets injured in the line of duty will be treated by her, but someone may need to keep them from bleeding to death until she arrives, and that someone may be you."

    "Understood, sir."

    "It's quite early still. I think we'll send you on the introductory patrol right away."

    "Oh. You should have said earlier, now I can't."

    "Explain."

    "It's my power, see. After I dismiss Fenrir it takes quite a while before I can call him back."

    "How long?"

    "I'm not sure, it seems to vary," you answer honestly. "I'll definitely be ready by Monday," you continue, still truthful but considerably less honest. But it's what's expected of you as a cape. ABS: Always Be Sandbagging.

    "Unfortunate. Very well. Monday and Friday patrol, Tuesday and Thursday martial arts, Wednesday first aid - make a note, Wednesdays for the refresher course - to be replaced with more patrol on completion, your power permitting. Schedule subject to change in case of unusual circumstances, e.g. jailbreaks, gang wars." Kaiser does not lose his businesslike, faintly bored tone as his spiel meanders over to felonies and grave risk of bodily harm. "You're still in school?"

    You nod.

    "Untrained, working part time. Your salary will be one thousand dollars a month. With bonuses for parahuman combat, the size of which will depend on danger and results."

    "You expect me to break people out of jail for a thousand bucks a month?" you scoff. "The Wards make more than that, once you factor in the scholarship fund."

    "And if you cared more about money than about doing the right thing, you would be joining them instead of us," Kaiser counters.

    You turn away from him and lock eyes with Menja. "Can you believe this shit?" you ask her. "The Kaiser is jewing me."

    She bursts out laughing, then quickly claps her hands over her mouth. Even Kaiser is chuckling softly as you turn back to him.

    "Very well," he says. "I will cover your college tuition as well, assuming you remain with the Empire that long."

    "Because giving my boss an incentive to make sure I become part of the cape longevity statistics sounds like an excellent idea," you say. "Tell you what, why don't you take advantage of the fact that I'm young, foolish and broke and instead offer me a generous - but ultimately much smaller - signing bonus?"

    Kaiser chuckles again. "You drive a hard bargain, miss Low Key. Are you sure you're not a Thinker?"

    No, you're a Tinker, as you found out just now. You have a brain full of ideas, and getting them out of there and into the real world is going to cost a fortune.

    ===

    This story is a work of fiction and any resemblance to real nazis living or dead is a coincidence.

    On an unrelated note, did you know that 'coincidence' is nazi slang for 'jewish plot'?

    Minor quests:
    Muscles McExtra: Wants a date with Miss Militia
    Danny Hebert: Wants his daughter to be happy. Clearly did not read the source material
    Madison: Wants a happy and unassuming life, the bitch
    Alex the Friendly Skinhead: Wants to secure the survival of his people and a future for white children
     
  17. ungodlyone

    ungodlyone Making the rounds.

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    You deserve something for this line. Its a great line.
     
  18. Cerillian

    Cerillian Making the rounds.

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    . . .

    You don't say.

    Very entertaining juxtaposition there.
     
  19. MejaisBlack

    MejaisBlack Know what you're doing yet?

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    Taylor, no. Taylor, what are you doing?

    Well, at least this Taylor can make her way through social interactions, at least short term ones, without imploding, so nothing will go wrong, right?

    Right?
     
  20. KonradC

    KonradC I trust you know where the happy button is?

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    Is Taylor going for high inteligence manipulation low wisdom wits/perception build?
    Because she's absolutely hilarious.
     
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  21. Prognostic Hannya

    Prognostic Hannya Knight of the Yuri Crusade

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    God damnit why am I laughing I'm Jewish
     
  22. eeda

    eeda I trust you know where the happy button is?

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    Really Taylor? Really?!!!! You prefer to go "undercover" to the fucking Nazis un place of play along with the Undersaiders, or just go talk with New Wave? Hell you can go with Faultline and tell her you want temporal job... Scary Taylor is holding the idiot ball until proven otherwise
     
  23. MejaisBlack

    MejaisBlack Know what you're doing yet?

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    This Taylor seems to be trying to rationalize her totally not mind control powers as something positive all the time, it wouldn't surprise me if she decided to infiltrate the nazis because she doesn't care at all about them and wouldn't feel guilty betraying them.

    It's basically what she wanted to do with the Undersiders, but totally failed to do because Lisa is bullshit and Taylor got attached.
     
  24. eeda

    eeda I trust you know where the happy button is?

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    Ok you have a point but doing so un the first power she have to defend herself? She could go see Parian shows and get one free (slow but free) Miss Milita always have her power in use so goin solo for a pair of months and just stalk or directly talk with her. Even just go see if afilated Thinker/Tinker give her acces to see Kid Win and/or Armsmaster tinker and get the Protectorate to clasify her an independent hero is less risk than go full "infliltrate the E88"
     
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  25. Chaosglory626

    Chaosglory626 Know what you're doing yet?

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    It wouldn't be a Worm story if Taylor wasn't speedrunning poor life choices.
     
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  26. miserable coward

    miserable coward Know what you're doing yet?

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    I don't see the rampant emotional and personality issues capes tend to have jiving with military discipline at all. Use of capes on the front lines is almost certainly more trouble than it's worth. Having a Thinker doing strategy or logistics at HQ sounds better, until you remember that most thinkers aren't even one-hundredth as reliable as Dinah or even Lisa, who both rank among the most powerful Thinkers in the world simply by dint of having powers that give legible returns instead of vague "today feels purple" bullshit. Having a Thinker around the brass is also a massive risk to the security of military secrets. A military that isn't already a shambles likely wants nothing to do with capes.

    Likewise, adding cape bullshit to fascism makes it even more self-sabotaging than the vanilla version, which already has a notable tendency to collapse under the weight of its internal inconsistencies and ideologically-mandated institutional ineptitude. Throwing in cape nonsense is just a speedrunning strat for getting to the inevitable end point. People would absolutely do it, don't get me wrong, it's just that none of the attempts would last even twenty years before flaming out even if not besieged by a superior military power. The Gesellschaft is a dog chasing a car from the front.

    Capes don't make socialism any easier, but the challenge they pose to it is actually less severe than the one they pose to bourgeois democracy. Socialism must merely contain parahumans and regular humans in the same universal class: citizen. Liberal democracy will attempt to relegate working class capes into subservience to the ruling class, powers be damned. This isn't unmanageable by any means, but it should actually require more work, not less, than incorporating parahumans into a classless system.

    Fascism must either make parahumans a persecuted minority or incorporate them as objects of veneration in the state death cult and thereby wielders of political power. Either way, their presence hastens the system's destruction. Liberal democracy and socialism, as systems, are by contrast not bound by their nature to react to parahumans in a way that massively alters their historical trajectories. That would be human error on the part of the ruling class or the citizenry, respectively, not a matter of inevitability.

    Warmly awaiting the beginning of Taylor's Dark Triad deathmatch with Kaiser. May the worst Machiavellian narcissist win.

    (When they find out she's going to Arcadia will they try to use her to identify the Wards? How long will it take them to figure out where she lives and who her father is? How will this play out for her friendship with Tattletale if Grue finds out? Shit, if Bitch finds out--the Empire does dogfighting! Amazing plan, really. A paragon of teenage decision making.)
     
  27. Threadmarks: S.09
    Daniel Snuts

    Daniel Snuts Know what you're doing yet?

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    You make your way home, your backpack containing not only your Low Key costume, but also phat stacks of cash. Kaiser hinted not so subtly that trying to run off with your signing bonus would be a tremendously bad idea. You were not fazed in the least. When the Empire eventually comes howling for your blood, money will be the last thing on their minds.

    In addition to the money, your new boss also unwittingly provided you with his soul's price. Shockingly, it turned out to be both morally acceptable and potentially doable. Sort of. Maybe.

    Kaiser wants his son to become a worthy heir.

    All you have to do is to discover Kaiser's secret identity to find his son, figure out what's wrong with the kid, and get some sort of power that can fix it. It's a long-term project, okay?

    Your loyal companion, The Wolf Formerly Known As Bubbles, is not at your side. Since he won't be able to re-materialize for several hours yet you sent him off to lair territory to scout out a good place for a Tinker workshop. He's much better suited to it than you: He can just walk through walls and fences instead of having to figure out a way to break into each disused property. If he finds something matching the criteria you gave him he'll just guide you right there tomorrow.

    God you love having a sapient magical wolf for a friend.

    ---

    You come home to find the kitchen table full of empty beer cans. As is the coffee table in front of the TV, and several window sills.

    "Dad?" you call out hesitantly.

    "Taylor!" Danny's cheerful voice comes from the basement. He comes bounding up the stairs, then stops as he sees you staring at the Great Beer Massacre of 2011. "It's not what it looks like," he says sheepishly. You sort of guessed that much, given the way he's still conscious. "I used the beer to lure in a herd of wild dockworkers, and fooled them into doing physical labour! Come look!" His voice regains its enthusiasm as he goes, and he beckons you into the basement.

    You follow him and crane your neck to see- oh. Gone is the pile of blankets and makeshift nightstand. In their stead, your entire bedroom has been transplanted into the basement. Just because you said... he went to all this effort... You feel tears coming to your eyes. Danny wants you to be happy.

    You hug your dad with great enthusiasm, causing him to sway dangerously on the stairs. There's also a certain quality to his breath that you can't help but notice at this range.

    "Skittish creatures, dockworkers," you note mischievously. "They wouldn't trust the beer unless you demonstrated that it was safe to drink first, yeah?"

    Danny chuckles. "Something like that. I- I did the right thing, didn't I? You said-"

    "It's perfect," you interrupt him. You take a step back up the stairs and use the height advantage to muss his hair. Then you pause and purse your lips. "Almost. Hang on."

    You locate a screwdriver and remove the legs from your bed, letting the mattress rest directly on the floor. Danny helps you without making any wisecracks about monsters hiding under the bed. You make sure to hug him again before you turn in for the night.

    Despite the assurances you gave, you spend some time tossing and turning, drifting in and out of sleep. But at some point during the night the bedsprings make a sound of protest as your bed becomes full of fur and safety, and you drift off peacefully.

    ---

    While discussing plans last night Bubbles/Fenrir assured you that he's a light enough sleeper that he would notice your dad approaching in time to dematerialize, so you didn't bother to set an alarm this time. Instead you wake up from the sun streaming in through the one small window, but simply turn over and go back to sleep with a contented sigh. This repeats itself several times as you exult in the fact that it's Saturday and you don't need to pretend to go to school, but eventually the smell of frying bacon lures you out of bed.

    After enjoying a thoroughly unhealthy breakfast (more of a brunch, really) you finally start getting ready for the day. Being lazy is nice and all, but you also have things to do that will help you not die.

    "Heading out?" Danny asks as you leave the basement with your backpack.

    "Yeah. Gonna take a walk, do some shopping, maybe visit the library."

    "When will you be back?"

    "Dunno. Don't wait up for me?"

    Danny looks pained. "I don't like the way you've been staying out late at night lately. It's not safe. Not in this city."

    "Dad, I-"

    "Look, I don't want to- are you still working at the dog shelter?"

    No. Yesterday I met the most powerful neo-nazi in North America and called him a jew to his face. He was so impressed he offered me a job. "Yes."

    "I don't want to stop you from doing something you enjoy. But-"

    "Dad. Listen. I know it's not safe. That's why I got this." You show him the pepper spray you bought. You don't show him the knife though, you don't think that would actually make him any less worried. "I also signed up for self-defense classes starting Tuesday."

    Danny smiles ruefully and places an identical can of pepper spray on the table. "Looks like you're way ahead of me as usual, kiddo."

    "No, no, this is great. Now I'll be twice as safe." You snatch up the second can and start dashing around, making 'pssshhht' noises as you pretend to pepper spray invisible assailants all over the kitchen. Once all enemies have fallen to your might, you holster (pocket) your weapons with flourish. "See?"

    "I'm convinced." Danny nods solemnly. "Have fun out there." He's clearly still worried about you. But he's pretending everything is fine, which is close enough in this household.

    ---

    "Well, did you find anything good?" you ask the empty air next to you as you get off the bus. "That's great, show me!" Some people look at you oddly, because they didn't see the empty air nod. You hurry off. You should probably get a hands-free set for your cellphone and wear it conspicuously, so that people just think you're an asshole, not a crazy person.

    Fenrir guides you to a particular building. It's locked up, so it hasn't been completely given up on. Someone is feeling unreasonably optimistic about the future of the Brockton Bay real estate market, it seems. But not all that optimistic, because a closer look shows that the building has been broken into at least once already - and rather than replace the busted lock, the owner just welded a pair of steel rings to the door and stuck on a padlock. Clearly no one would mind (read: notice) if you borrowed the place for a while.

    Making sure that no one is around, you take a set of heavy bolt cutters from your backpack and attack the padlock. Good thing you cleaned the basement recently, or you'd never have found these.

    Inside, you find everything you could have hoped for: A skylight and a glass blowing furnace. The room is a mess, with ceramic trays, metal rods and oddly shaped tools strewn all over the floor. Not much of a black market for glass blowing equipment, you guess. The furnace is going to need some maintenance too - it may have been too big to steal, but they ripped out the gas burner meant to heat the thing. Nothing Tinker 0 powers can't handle.

    Still, there's other equipment you need to borrow as well. Yes, borrow. You're going to put it back when you're done. You turn to Fenrir.

    I wait expectantly as she looks around. It was really hard to find this place. There were a great many houses with roof windows, and some with big ovens, but this was the only one with both. I hope she is pleased.

    She tells me that she needs more things, and starts explaining about strange machines. That means she is pleased, right? I am good at finding things, that's why she wants me to find more things. I listen very carefully to the descriptions. I am a Good Dog.

    I don't remember any machines like the ones she wants from last night. She tells me that a good place to search is half-done houses like the one where I lived with all the other dogs. But newer, without any grass growing in them. I'll have to go further away then. All the houses around here are very old, with much grass.

    ---

    She was right, of course. I find both machines in a small house next to a big half-house. I know she doesn't want me to materialize on my own, but I have a great idea. I just know she's going to like it. Since there is no one in there, no one will be able to tell. Unless she asks me to materialize soon and I'm too tired to do it. Oops.

    Oh well, too late now, already materialized. I spend some time convincing the machines to come with me. They are not very talkative, but don't seem opposed to the notion. I touch them both while I dematerialize and they come along without complaint. Now I can just take them with me through the walls!

    Both machines have wheels, but I don't think I can grab them both at the same time. I don't want to make two trips either, the roof window house is really far from here. Maybe... The smaller machine has a convenient handle, and if I grab that with my mouth (bleh, tastes like oil and metal), I am able to lift it off the ground. Then I climb up with my front paws on the bigger one and gently set it down on top of it. Clank! Wow, that was really loud. Maybe I was not so gentle. But only dematerialized people would be able to hear it, so that's okay.

    ...I hope I didn't break anything. Ah, but I'm sure she can fix it if I did. Yep. Nothing to worry about.

    ---

    Navigating properly while walking backwards and dragging strange machines around sure is hard! But I can walk through walls when I back into a building, and the cars just zoom right through me when I stray onto the road. The powers she gave me are the best! She is the best!

    After giving Fenrir his instructions, you catch a bus back downtown to begin another shopping spree. First a hardware store, for spare parts and tools that you couldn't find in your basement. And a new lock, you don't want anyone else waltzing in. But mostly a whole bunch of hollow section steel bars, to serve as the framework for the focusing array.

    The store does not usually offer home delivery, but you're able come to an arrangement where you pay a relative of the owner for the use of his private vehicle. It means one person who can tie your appearance to the location of your lair, but you could not possibly lug that much steel across town on your own. The lair's only temporary, anyway.

    You make small talk as he drives, enough to get an idea of his character, and also the price of his soul.

    Geoffrey wants to become a professional baseball player (and make millions of dollars).

    Considering his thinning hair and prominent gut... you just keep reaching for those stars, buddy. Not something you can fulfill, but he seems like a reliable sort otherwise.

    So you pay him extra to lug everything inside for you while you replace the lock.

    "This place is a mess," he remarks. He does not make any comment about the broken lock or ask for proof that you're the rightful owner of the building. You knew he was reliable.

    "It's a bit up a fixer-upper," you agree. "Can I call you if we need more things delivered?" He agrees, and gives you his number.

    Speaking of the focusing array though, why do you even need natural sunlight anyway? Couldn't you just get an UV lamp or something? Nope, says your power. Suck it up and buy mirrors. At least mirrors are pretty cheap when you don't care about shape or size or pretty frames, just price per square foot.

    The optics are another matter. Even if you could afford to order custom-made lenses, you can't wait for them to be ground. You're on a schedule here. Instead you end up buying a bunch of cheap toy binoculars to disassemble. It will have to do.

    Your deliveryman does raise an eyebrow when you have him pick up all those mirrors, so you raise his hourly wage. "The boss appreciates a man who doesn't ask awkward questions," you say. Understanding dawns in his eyes, and he mimes zipping his lips shut.

    That's the sunlight taken care of - or it will be, once you assemble everything. But then there's the magma to consider. Why, power, why? The magma won't even touch the metal, how could it possibly have an effect on the process? Because fuck you, that's how. Now buy some magma. Luckily you're able to find a gardening store selling magma by the pound (though the receipt calls it 'decorative basalt gravel'). You make yet another trip back to the forge, with a backpack full of rocks.

    Next order of business is fuel for the furnace. Annoyingly, your Tinker power insists that the heat should should be provided by the volcano you're obviously getting your magma from, and gives you no idea of how much fuel you'll need. You jot down the manufacturer and serial number from a faded sticker. Off to the library to look up the specs online, then.

    The bus to the library passes by an invisible wolf, weaving slightly as it drags an invisible set of oxyacetylene tanks perched on top of an invisible portable generator down the road. Huh. You didn't know he could do that. Who would have thought that the sneakiest cat burglar in town would be a guy without opposable thumbs, who can't even fit through regular doors?

    You smile. He really is the Best Dog. You spend an enjoyable few minutes contemplating the counterfactual exploits of Dog Burglar, gentleman thief. It's a shame you're going to be too busy nazi-ing around to make it reality any time soon.

    Then you frown as you realize that you were thinking of committing crimes because it would be neat. That's not cool. You're infiltrating the Empire to steal their powers. To make yourself stronger. You're borrowing this equipment for the same reason. But just stealing things for fun? No. Sure you'd fucking kill yourself before joining the Wards, possibly literally, but you're not a bad guy.

    Uh, yeah, about that... This project is going to eat through most of your advance, and you still owe Emma money. Which means that you still won't be able to feed Best Dog properly, as you promised to do. Yes, he'll forgive you. He's forgiving you right now, and you haven't even asked him yet. That's the thing about undeserved unconditional love. Doesn't stop you from feeling like a heel.

    Looking up the specs of the furnace and the relevant melting points paints a bleak picture, economically speaking. You'll have to run it around the clock to keep the magma molten, and keep the glory hole open all day to let the sunlight in. Yes, yes, 'keeping the glory hole open all day' is something Emma has previously accused you of doing. You're simply going to ignore all the double entendres there, because you're pretty sure glassblowers invented the term first. The point is, that's going to let heat escape as well. It'll add up to hundreds upon hundreds of dollars worth of propane by the time you're done.

    At least propane is something of a household good, and modestly-sized tanks of it can be bought with no questions asked. When you first started having metallurgical Tinker ideas you were worried you'd have to somehow track down coke dealer. The kind of coke that goes in a blast furnace, you mean, not the kind that goes up your nose. You imagine the latter kind would be fairly easy to find around here.

    By the time you get back Fenrir is resting next to his intangible loot, gathering energy to materialize it and himself. Once your deliveryman has unloaded your propane and left you make sure to inform Fenrir as to your opinions re: the identity of Best Dog. Also your intentions towards said entity, should he become tangible enough for belly rubs.

    In the meantime you repair the furnace, rig up some lights, and buy gas for the generator to power them. Between it, the furnace and the welding torch you'll be burning three separate hydrocarbons, which seems sort of... suboptimal? If you were Armsmaster, you'd no doubt have come up with some brilliant contraption that siphons waste heat from the magma to power the blah, blah, blah. You're not Armsmaster, you're some sort of weird inconvenient alchemist-metallurgist.

    As soon as the welder has been returned to the material realm, you give copious belly rubs. Because you promised. Then you start working on the focusing array. First you cut and weld together a framework of steel, then you carefully break the mirrors apart, angling the pieces to create a parabolic reflector as you glue them to the framework. Well, mostly parabolic. Parabolic-ish. It's not perfect, but it's no worse than the shitty plastic prisms and lenses you'll use for the final focusing stage.

    Yes, it's terrible, but it's the best you can do on a shoestring budget. By the time you've rigged up a frame for the first mirror and gotten the optics set up correctly the sun has already gone down. Can't test it until tomorrow. No problem, you'll have to let the magma melt overnight anyway. You load the furnace up with gravel and fire it up. The empty shells of a dozen gutted binoculars crunch under your feet as you leave.

    Only one thing left to do today, which is to recruit a minion. Someone has to wake up in the middle of the night and switch propane tanks, and it's not going to be you. Nor would Emma's parents agree to perpetual 'sleepovers'.

    Luckily lair territory doesn't just contain lairs, it also sports a fair crop of naturally-occurring minions, aka homeless people. Now most capes would spurn this resource, reasoning that if they were in any way reliable they probably wouldn't be sleeping on the street in the first place. But that just means that you're hitting an untapped market. A bit of Loyalty will fix that reliability issue right up, you figure. They can't have ambitions all that lofty, either, and they are unlikely to object to a brief conversation in exchange for spare change.

    ---

    Good lord but interviewing the homeless is depressing. As it turns out, quite a few souls have prices you are not able to meet.

    Pete wants to see his kids again.

    Hilda wants to stop coughing up blood.

    Believe it or not, that's only the second most depressing category. By far the most common prices are alcohol and heroin. Not, mind you, a lifetime supply. These people will sell their soul for the next hit. Even if you were prepared to offer that, you don't think even Loyalty would be enough to make those people reliable.

    Your latest candidate is not off to the most promising start either as he introduces himself as Funny Jim, 'because of the voices, see.'

    "Do the voices tell you to do things, Jim?" you ask.

    He nods. "But I don't do what they says. They are right assholes, they are." He suddenly whips his head around and addresses the wall to your right. "Like that! I'd never do that! This poor girl never done anything to me!"

    You take a step back and grab your pepper spray, but he calms down quickly and offers you a reassuring(?) smile. Wow. If you were him, your soul's price would be a trip to the dentist. Wait no, the pharmacy. Definitely antipsychotics over dental work.

    "Are you all right?" you ask.

    "Yeah. Yeah. No problem. That's the funny part, right? When I argue with them. Real funny..." He trails off, muttering to himself.

    Jim wants somewhere warm to sleep.

    Okay. Despite the rocky start, this guy is clearly your best bet so far, and it's getting late. Beggars can't be choosers, even when they are choosing among beggars.

    "Come along, Jim," you say. "I have a place for you to sleep, if you help me out a bit."

    ===

    Technically you just did what Lisa told you not to do, and attracted Coil's attention. From his 'misc notes' document:

    Theft of equipment from building site above base, lock not forced. Parahuman related?

    I'd say it's slightly below 'alphabetize record collection' on his list of priorities, except everything he owns is already perfectly alphabetized. Not that he has OCD, but sometimes he has nothing better to do while waiting for events to play out in the other timeline. And whenever his plan falls through, it stays alphabetized.

    Why was Fenrir trying to talk to inanimate objects back there? Inborn spirit instincts.

    You can only bring items you personally own along with you when you dematerialize. In Creation (the Exalted setting), ownership is determined by what the spirit of the object thinks. So any thief who wants to dematerialize with his swag first needs to convince the spirits of the stolen objects that he's their rightful owner (how euphemistic 'convince' becomes in this context is up to the individual thief).

    It's a lot easier on Earth Bet. Fenrir is the only spirit in the world, so every incorporeal heist just works by default.

    Quests:
    Tattletale: Wants Coil dead
    Panacea: Wants the same thing quite a lot of people who've met Glory Girl want
    Shadow Stalker: Wants to go back to those carefree vigilante days
    Bitch: Wants a friend who is like a dog, but not actually a dog
    Kaiser: Wants his son to become a worthy heir

    Minor quests:
    Seriously, I'm going to remove this guy, you'll never meet him again: Wants a date with Miss Militia
    Danny Hebert: Wants you to be happy. Is... actually doing pretty well in his effort to achieve this? Huh.
    Alex the Friendly Skinhead: Wants a future for white children. Genocide of the untermenschen strictly optional
    Madison: Also wants a future with white children, but has a more concrete plan for how to go about it
    Delivery NPC #1: Wants to become a baseball star.
    Whole bunch of homeless people: You know what, let's just stop tracking minor quests at all.

    Completed quests:
    Emma: Challenged you to a 'crazy bitch'-off, lost
    Jim: Wanted somewhere warm to sleep
     
  28. Omnomimous

    Omnomimous [Verified Hungry]

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    Noooo lol

    You did the tabletop game mistake of introducing a character with a relatable character trait as a one-off NPC and now I'm disproportionately attached to him. I love seeing Fit Guy Who's Into Miss Militia in the post-chapter summary. It's like the only reason I open it.
     
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  29. Alucard 109

    Alucard 109 Not too sore, are you?

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    Although, with that Soul's Price, he could be replaced with literally any heterosexual male lol
     
  30. Rerororororororororo

    Rerororororororororo I love dogfighting

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    On one hand morality and doing the right thing, but on the other, Dog Burglar, gentleman thief. The choice is obvious.
     
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